HC Deb 19 May 1980 vol 985 cc16-9
13. Mr. Hannam

asked the Secretary of State for Energy to what degree the energy conservation policy of Her Majesty's Government is proving effective.

24. Mr. Chapman

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he is satisfied with progress in his energy conservation campaign.

Mr. John Moore

There is evidence that consumers are responding to our energy conservation campaign. The downward trend in energy consumption seen towards the end of 1979 is continuing in 1980.

Mr. Hannam

I accept that the previous Administration's energy conservation programme did not work as effectively as it should, but can my hon. Friend give further details of the results of the measures implemented in the last year?

Mr. Moore

In looking for short-term results, we must try to recognise the nature of the long-term changes. I do not wish to hang statistics on the few months that we have been in office, but primary energy consumption early in 1979 was rising compared with 1978. In the last quarter, seasonally adjusted and temperature corrected, it was lower than in the year before. Oil consumption in the last quarter was 4.7 per cent. down. These trends are continuing markedly into 1980.

Mr. Chapman

Does my hon. Friend consider that his energy conservation programmes are having an effect on the private motoring sector? Alternatively, as reported in the national press, have petrol sales to private motorists gone up by 7 per cent. in the past year?

Mr. Moore

I was talking about seasonally adjusted figures. Today's papers talk of petrol sales being on the upswing. If one examines the statistics, as an ex-London School of Economics graduate should, one finds that although the figures are not yet seasonally adjusted, motor spirit represents only 22 per cent. of all oil products.

The figures for all oil products for the first quarter are not seasonally adjusted, and are down 15 per cent. That is a clear indication of the effective working of the Government's energy conservation policies.

Mr. Stoddart

Is not the drop in demand for primary energy due more to the recession than to any Government measures for conservation? Will the Minister confirm or deny that the Department of Energy is under pressure from the Prime Minister to spend even less on energy conservation than is being spent now?

Mr. Moore

The Labour Party has more experience of recessions than I do. If one examines the data carefully, one can see the radical reductions in prime energy consumption in areas where adjustments can be made. We are talking about a long and difficult job. For example, gas-oil used by industry for space heating in the first quarter of this year was down 16.3 per cent. There is no point in going into the gutter area of leak politics. We must deal with facts.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith

Today, or later this week, will my hon. Friend have a word with the Department of the Environment about speeding up new building regulations which can help to conserve energy? Does he agree that that is one of the weaknesses of the programme, although he sets an exemplary example?

Mr. Moore

The House will welcome the Department of the Environment's consultation document and will recognise the valuable part in conservation that the new building regulations can play. The proposals are for minimum limits. Consultation is taking place on the 80mm suggestion and the Department of Energy's request for 100mm to be considered. When talking about minimum regulations and consultation, we should see what the final conclusion is before we make up our minds. We are talking about a 50 per cent. increase in the Department of the Environment's minimum recommendations.

Mr. Hardy

Is the Minister aware that the cuts in the housing investment programme for local authorities will drastically reduce their capacity to help? Does he recognise that the fecklessness displayed by his right hon. Friend this afternoon, in seeking to encourage motorists to drive around in the forlorn hope of finding cheaper petrol, will not help? Is he aware that rural residents and those who use motorways are grossly disadvantaged by the policies of the Conservative Administration?

Mr. Moore

In reply to your constant requests, Mr. Speaker, I shall answer the first part of the question, which relates to the supposed reduction in the housing insulation grant allocation. There have been allocations matching the take-up of last year. I should have thought that those concerned with reductions in public expenditure and with the wise use of public money would regard that as a rational and sensible way to spend public money.

Mr. Forman

Is my hon. Friend aware that a helpful move in energy conservation in the commercial sector would be to amend the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act 1963 to reduce the minimum temperatures required by statute?

Mr. Moore

As my hon. Friend knows, the Department of Energy is in the midst of consultations on that subject.

Mr. Ashton

Is the Minister aware that at the beginning of this month many cities changed political control? Does he recognise that one of the reasons for the poor take-up of insulation grants last year was that Conservative councils would not spend the extra cash? We now have Labour councils that will spend the cash. Will he make more money available to the councils?

Will the hon. Gentleman stop saying that there is a conservation policy simply because energy consumption has fallen due to unemployment, a mild winter and priee increases, which do not add up to a conservation policy?

Mr. Moore

The hon. Gentleman continues to make the fundamental mistake of failing to recognise that conservation success is judged not by changes in Government-spend programmes, but by long-term changes in people's attitudes to the demand for energy. Those programmes are succeeding, and their success is baffling to the Opposition. The fundamental policies of the Government are succeeding in reducing primary energy consumption.

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