HC Deb 20 March 1978 vol 946 cc964-5
17. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy for how long the encouragement and promotion of energy conservation measures within existing housing have been under general consideration by the Government, and when he expects to arrive at conclusions.

28. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a report on the progress achieved on the energy conservation programme.

Dr. John Cunningham

The Government's first energy conservation measures were announced in this House on 9th December 1974. The White Paper of July 1976, Cmnd. 6575, announced further action and more measures were announced on 26th September 1977. The programme announced on 12th December 1977 substantially strengthened the Government's policy. As my right hon. Friend made clear last December, our energy conservation programme is a continuing one, and we shall bring forward further measures as and when necessary.

Mr. Hannam

Why are the Government taking so long in applying the energy conservation measures to the private sector of housing? With specific regard to the Department of the Environment's building regulations affecting the design of the outside shell of buildings, what role is the Department playing in the drawing up of new building regulations concerning the size of the area of windows in these buildings, as there is an input of heat and a saving of energy and lighting through the use of glass windows?

Dr. Cunningham

Within the terms of the 1976 White Paper, it is possible now to obtain assistance to insulate houses in the private sector. I wish that Conservative Members, when pressing us to get on with these things, would remind their right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, who are continually pressing us to reduce public expenditure, that they should decide which way they would like it to be.

As for the more detailed question on building regulations, I cannot answer that, but I will draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Rost

Does not the Minister yet appreciate that energy conservation can reduce public expenditure, because it produces savings in public expenditure? How can the Minister be taken seriously with his energy conservation programme until he sets some specific target over a specific timescale?

Dr. Cunningham

The Government are well aware of the advantages of public expenditure. What I am saying is that the Opposition cannot have it both ways. It is already clear that anyone who insulates his own house will save his own money, and be paid back very quickly, whether he lives in a council house or in a private house.

I am not convinced of the arguments for setting long-term targets. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, this is a very disaggregated problem, which needs painstaking and detailed proposals in order to get to grips with it.