HC Deb 21 July 1980 vol 989 cc9-12
4. Mr. Watson

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with his Department's activities to encourage conservation.

20. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is satisfied with progress being made in the United Kingdom on energy conservation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. John Moore)

I am satisfied that our energy conservation policy is effective. As part of this policy, and after completing the statutory consultation procedure, I have today laid an order before the House reducing the maximum heating limit in non-domestic buildings to 19 degs. centigrade. This order will come into effect on 1 October, and I estimate that the energy savings resulting from this reduction could be about 1 million tonnes of oil equivalent a year.

Mr. Watson

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer and for the conservation measures that the Government have taken over the past year, but what attempt is the Department of Energy making to assess the cost effectiveness of conservation measures as against investment in additional generating capacity?

Mr. Moore

My hon. Friend will be aware, through his membership of the Select Committee on energy, that it has addressed that important question to the Department, and work is being undertaken on that at present.

Mr. Hannam

As one who was in danger of overheating in Government offices last winter, will my hon. Friend accept that I welcome that reduction in the maximum heating limit? The overall objective is to reduce oil consumption. What are the latest figures on the consumption of petroleum and motor spirit, which in previous months showed signs of increase over last year's figures?

Mr. Moore

On the latest figures available for the three months from March to May 1980, United Kingdom petroleum usage was down 14-8 per cent. Motor spirit increased in usage by over 6 per cent. for the first quarter. Happily, for the past three months it is up by only 0-3 per cent., which is almost no increase.

Mr. Palmer

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I had a most unsatisfactory answer from the Department of Energy about the energy saving in absolute and percentage terms in each Government Department? Will he accept that the Department refused to give me the figures and that I was given only an overall figure of 3 per cent.? Is that lack of information fair to the House?

Mr. Moore

The answer came from me, and I trust that I would not give an unsatisfactory answer to any hon. Member. The figures were based on usage by the Property Services Agency, which controls most energy usage in the Government sector, and the Ministry of Defence. I felt that my answer gave the information that was requested.

Mr. Jessel

Does my hon. Friend accept that double glazing to protect people from loss of heat also shuts out aircraft noise and, therefore, brings a double benefit? Can he, therefore, see what can be done, in co-operation with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade?

Mr. Moore

The House will be aware of my hon. Friend's long and dedicated service to his constituents in regard to aircraft noise. There have been great advances in double glazing, particularly through the promotion of the double glazing industry in the past few years, which will have helped my hon. Friend's constituents in their tribulations.

Mr. Hooley

Is the Minister aware that it is universally recognised that investment in fuel efficiency is of far greater economic value than investment in new capacity? Why, therefore, are the Government proceeding with a lunatic programme of £ 25 billion investment in nuclear power stations?

Mr. Moore

Moderation in all things is desirable. There are arguments on the demand side and on the supply side. As for demand, we are addressing ourselves to the basic way in which fuel efficiency can be obtained through the intelligent use of the price mechanism.

Mr. Freud

In view of precedent and the need for Members of Parliament to be an example to the nation, would it not be a good idea for the House of Commons to aim for 5 per cent. less than the maximum heating limit? Will the Minister announce whether that should be fahrenheit or centigrade?

Mr. Moore

I shall draw that remark to the attention of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, who is responsible for the operation of the heating limits in the House. I am sure that we should all like to see less steam generated in the Palace of Westminster.

Forward to