HC Deb 13 May 1981 vol 4 cc754-5
6. Mr. Carmichael

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the uptake of domestic insulating grants in Scotland; whether he plans a further advertising campaign during the summer; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Rifkind

Despite extensive publicity last autumn, the uptake of domestic insulation grants in Scotland has remained relatively low. However, the extension of the scheme in August 1980 to provide 90 per cent. grant for the low-income elderly, and a small increase in the maximum rate of grant for other applicants, has resulted in some increase in the number of grants given in 1980–81 over the previous year. I shall certainly wish to consider further publicity later this year.

Mr. Carmichael

Has the Minister thought about using youth employment to help old people to insulate their lofts and their houses generally? Does he realise that any false economy in insulation would be silly, in view of the cost of electricity, gas and other fuels in Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

We are willing to consider anything that would enable a greater take-up of the resources that are available. Local authorities implement these proposals, and in the current year we were able to give them every pound that they asked for this purpose.

Mr. Russell Johnston

Surely the Minister should consider making a 100 per cent. grant to the low paid and elderly people? Is it not true that those people cannot meet the 10 per cent. difference? Would it not be socially and economically desirable and desirable in every way if domestic insulation were widely increased?

Mr. Rifkind

I note what the hon. Gentleman says. He will recall that it was only in August last year that the proportion that can be paid was increased to 90 per cent. At the moment, there is no reason to believe that people find it impossible to pay the remaining 10 per cent. If the hon. Gentleman has any evidence to prove what he says, we shall be happy to see it.

Mr. John MacKay

Has my hon. Friend read disturbing reports about some cavity wall insulation products, which suggest that in the long term they are not entirely safe? Will he undertake that the Scottish Office will look into the matter before giving grants for cavity wall insulation material which may have a damaging effect on the health of the people who live in the houses?

Mr. Rifkind

The Government continually monitor the products that are used to see whether they are safe or whether they create any problems. If there were any reason to believe that any product is not safe or has become unsafe, we would give the matter our urgent attention in the advice that we give to local authorities and others.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the Minister accept that Scotland has one of the lowest levels of energy efficiency in the domestic sector in the northern European countries? As more and more people are finding it difficult to pay their electricity bills when they are heating the outside environment as well as their homes, will he give increased urgency to the Government's programme alerting people to the grants that are available, increasing them, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) said, and mounting a major campaign to improve the standard of energy efficiency?

Mr. Rifkind

I agree with the hon. Gentleman's objectives. That is why we made a number of changes last year, which we hope will lead to a greater uptake. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are constrained by the sums that are requested by local authorities. We have allocated to local authorities the total amounts that they have sought. We hope that the changes that have already been made will lead to a greater uptake this year, and we shall be happy to look at any means of facilitating that process.