HC Deb 22 July 1974 vol 877 cc1027-9
13. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what action is being taken by the Government to promote conservation of fuel and energy following the Rothschild Report on the energy situation.

Mr. Varley

In a recent public speech I outlined the Government's programme for action. It covers a wide cross-section of energy consumption, such as industry, building design and construction, energy efficiency in the public sector, and motor vehicles, as well as research and development and international co-operation. This is just a beginning, and the Government's aim is to build up a long-term programme which can be sustained over the years.

Mr. Hannam

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a great need for action in the short term in this respect? In America and other countries there are intensive campaigns by Governments to educate people about the seriousness of the fuel situation and the need for conservation and adaptation. No action seems to be being taken by the present Government in this respect. Will the right hon. Gentleman do something about this immediately?

Mr. Varley

Certainly we want to turn our attention to this matter as quickly as possible. I agree with a good deal of what the hon. Gentleman said. He will know that we have set up an Energy Advisory Council, under an independent chairman. I hope to get the other members appointed fairly quickly, so that work can begin.

Mr. Roy Hughes

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, irrespective of the Rothschild Report, the discovery of oil around our coasts is the biggest boost that the British economy has received for a very long time? Does he further agree that there would be grave resentment in the country if there were any intention on the part of the Government to sell out our oil interests in order to gain some paltry concessions in the renegotiation of the terms of entry to the Common Market?

Mr. Varley

There is no intention of selling our interests in the North Sea.

Mr. Patrick Jenkin

Do the Goverment accept the EEC's target for conservation of a 10 per cent. saving of energy by 1985? If so, how do they intend to achieve it?

Mr. Varley

We intend to achieve it by the programme which I outlined in my speech on 26th June. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of studying that speech. If he does not have a copy, I shall send him one.

Mr. Palmer

Apart from the conservation issue as such, what is the exact standing of the Rothschild Report—which is an interesting report, although many think it to be somewhat eccentric?

Mr. Varley

I do not think that it is an eccentric report. It is an extremely good one, which contains many valuable suggestions. I think that the Government should be given credit, because this is the first time that a Central Policy Review Staff document has been published.