HC Deb 17 January 1974 vol 867 cc904-5
15. Mr. Rost

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now propose tax relief for suitably approved expenditure by householders on improved thermal insulation, in the interests of long-term savings of national energy resources.

17. Mr. Redmond

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will consider allowing tax incentives to encourage improved insulation of industrial and commercial premises with a view to fuel conservation.

Mr. Higgins

I have noted my hon. Friends' suggestions.

Mr. Rost

While that is at least an encouraging answer, may I ask the Treasury to bear in mind the deplorably poor insulation standards of our buildings which are costing hundreds of millions of pounds to the balance of payments? If the Government are serious about the conservation of energy and helping the balance of payments, may we have some co-operation between Government Departments to ensure that the proper incentives are provided to improve domestic thermal insulation standards?

Mr. Higgins

I understand my hon. Friend's point, but there is, of course, co-ordination between Government Departments on such matters. It would be wrong to suppose that the tax system is necessarily the best way to achieve this objective. My hon. Friend will appreciate that as a means of encouraging domestic thermal insulation it would not help those who were below the tax threshold and similarly, unless a limit were imposed, the benefit would be greater depending on the rate of tax paid.

Mr. George Cunningham

Will the Minister reject these suggestions because they would mean only a subsidy to wealthy people on undertaking this expenditure and very little or no subsidy to the less well-off?

Mr. Higgins

As the hon. Gentleman appreciates, that would depend on the exact form in which the relief was given.

Sir J. Rodgers

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a motion on the Order Paper which suggests that thermal insulation should be made grant-allowable both for existing houses and to new houses in order to save fuel?

Mr. Higgins

The question of grants is not for me but for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.