HC Deb 30 January 1957 vol 563 cc999-1001

3.33 p.m.

Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for the thermal insulation of industrial buildings; and for purposes connected therewith. It will not be disputed in any part of the House that the national fuel and power position in present circumstances gives rise to grave apprehension. The fact is that our coal production has been almost static during the last five years, and our oil supplies are now precarious, notably our supplies of fuel oil for industry. Energy demand is rising by 10 per cent. per annum, arithmetical progression, and doubling every decade. Finally, though much more roseate hopes have been held out in certain quarters, I think that even if we double our atomic programme for energy purposes it is unlikely that by 1965 we shall be able to supply more than about 10 per cent. of our total energy needs from nuclear sources.

That is a situation which must surely give rise to grave apprehension in every quarter of the House. Moreover, there is no division of opinion that a prosperous national economy most largely depends upon a progressive expansion of productive industry in this country, year by year. In view of the current and prospective fuel and power situation, to which reference has been made on many occasions in the past, it is of supreme importance that our resources of fuel and power must be used and employed with the utmost efficiency. That is not the case in industry today.

I was responsible, in concert with right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, for initiating legislation two years ago for clean air, essentially because it was a policy for fuel efficiency. What I am seeking today is exactly complementary to that clean air policy. It is concerned with industrial buildings and the retention of heat in them; heat which has been generated as a result of raising steam for productive, processing and heating purposes within the building. Many millions of tons of coal and fuel oil are used annually in British industry, for heating purposes. An uninsulated building loses through leakages anything up to 50 per cent. of all the heat that is fed into it for heating purposes.

It follows, therefore, that there is a very grave wastage of our fuel and power resources. I do not wish to be dogmatic about the extent of the wastage. In certain circumstances, owing to the structure of the building, the age of the building, the geography or situation of the building, it may be only a 20 per cent. wastage, but in other circumstances it can be as high as 50 per cent.

What I am seeking to establish this afternoon, in what must be necessarily a very short survey of the position, is that here is a grave wastage of fuel, a wastage which ought to be remedied by Her Majesty's Government, supported by the combined efforts of all hon. Members. To put this matter in its correct perspective, I might add that in the last calendar year, 1956, we put up a record acreage of new industrial buildings. It amounted to no less than 41 million square feet. In the previous year, 1955, we put up 41 million square feet of new industrial buildings, and in the six years between 1951 and 1956, inclusive, we erected 215 million square feet of new industrial buildings.

The significant factor is that out of that 215 million square feet of new industrial buildings, I am advised that no more than 10 per cent. were thermally insulated against heat loss. Thus, 90 per cent. of the buildings were uninsulated and in the whole such 90 per cent., a vast acreage of industrial buildings, we dissipated valuable supplies of fuel and power, amounting to between 25 and 50 per cent. of the fuel consumed for heating purposes.

The present Conservative Government, the previous Conservative Government, the last Socialist Government and the Socialist Government of 1945–50 all gave recognition to this fact in various statements. I will quote just three examples. In the Finance Act, 1956, it is significant that investment allowances were largely withdrawn but were retained on certain classes of fuel efficiency equipment for industry. Most significant of all, under one subsection, investment allowances were retained for the cost of insulating industrial buildings.

As a second example, Her Majesty's Government gives special loans to industry for fuel efficiency plant and equipment and included in that is the cost of insulating buildings. The third example is that the National Industrial Fuel Efficiency Service, which is a quasi-Government body responsible for the promotion of fuel efficiency in industry, has stated that up to 6 million tons of coal equivalent a year are lost as a result of our failure to insulate thermally our industrial buildings.

Perhaps the imagination boggles at those figures. I will put them into a form which every hon. Member will understand. If one takes the output of a coal miner as being 300 tons per annum, a loss of 6 million tons of coal represents the productive effort of 20,000 miners a year. That productive effort is being dissipated by our failure to pay attention to this simple process of insulating thermally our industrial buildings, which can be carried out almost entirely with indigenous materials, or the products of British industry made from materials produced entirely in this country.

In this preliminary venture, I think that I have said enough this afternoon to demonstrate to the House that this is a worthwhile proposition. The Bill which I am seeking leave to introduce is one which, if the House agrees to the Motion, will be sponsored by six Socialist Members and six Tory Members. The only exclusion is the Liberal Party, and I hope that at a later date Liberal Members will join me in this proposition.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Nabarro, Mr. Stokes, Sir Lancelot Joynson-Hicks, Mr. Ellis Smith, Major Tufton Beamish, Mr. Hobson, Sir Albert Braithwaite, Mr. Philips Price, Mr. Gilbert Longden, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Russell and Mr. George Darling.