HC Deb 02 April 1984 vol 57 cc630-2
3. Mr. Orme

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the benefits to the domestic consumer of the activities of the energy efficiency office.

4. Mr. Cowans

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what further proposals he has for improving energy conservation in domestic households.

7. Mr. Ray Powell

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the benefits to the domestic consumer of the activities of the energy efficiency office.

21. Mr. Rowlands

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the benefits to the domestic consumer of the activities of the energy efficiency office.

Mr. Peter Walker

A major energy efficiency office objective is to generate a climate in which householders are able to use energy in the home more efficiently, thus obtaining better value for money spent on fuel.

Mr. Orme

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that, because it would appear that everything has been concentrated on the industrial scene. What has happened to the working party on energy conservation in low-income households, which was set up by a junior Minister previously in his office and about which we were promised a statement before Christmas? When will we get that report?

Mr. Walker

First, we have arranged for 90 per cent. grants to be available to low-income households. I am encouraging voluntary insulation groups and I am glad to say that there are now 80 of them employing about 1,000 people, and they have insulated about 80,000 dwellings. I am also pleased to say that annually 350,000 to 400,000 homes are being insulated which is, of course, a considerable improvement on the figures in past years. As the right hon. Gentleman knows from recent debates, the Government are also spending about £380 million on helping low-income families with their energy costs.

Mr. Cowans

Is the Minister aware that the United Kingdom is one of the few European countries that offer no tax incentives to instal energy-saving devices in their homes? Is he aware that, apart from loft insulation, no other incentive is available, and that even the loft insulation grant is becoming a rariety because of the cuts in local government expenditure? When will he remedy this state of affairs and give householders some real incentive to save energy?

Mr. Walker

A whole range of grants are being made available. For example, in 1982–83, £11 million was spent on grants to elderly and disabled people, and £2 million currently is going to finance voluntary insulation projects.

Mr. Ray Powell

Is the Minister aware that a 15 per cent. tax is to be imposed on the insulation of properties? Is he aware that the insulation of an ordinary semi-detached house costs from £300 to £400 now, but that that figure will increase by nearly £100 because of the tax? Does he believe that that is an incentive to householders to insulate their properties?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman exaggerates in that, as he well knows, a considerable volume of insulation is on a do-it-yourself basis, and, of course, that is not affected.

Mr. Rowlands

What sort of energy efficiency office is it that does not know, for example, that the Secretary of State for Wales has frozen and stopped every home insulation grant? Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Secretary of State for Wales, and other Government Departments, about expenditure on such grants?

Mr. Walker

I suppose that it is the same as the people on the Opposition Benches who are unaware that, for the coming year, the Secretary of State for Wales has substantially increased the budget in this area.

Mr. Rost

When will householders have the opportunity to benefit from the energy labelling scheme for domestic appliances which many European countries have already instigated?

Mr. Walker

I cannot give a direct reply to that question. I can say that at present the marketeers that I appointed to look into energy efficiency have made a number of suggestions in this sphere, including a proposal for some form of grading relating to the energy efficiency of individual houses, from particulars given by building societies and estate agents. All these matters are being looked at urgently.

Mr. Wallace

Following the imposition of 15 per cent. VAT, does the Secretary of State agree that the lump sum £69 grant under the home insulation scheme has effectively been devalued, and does he propose to take any steps to maintain its value in real terms?

Mr. Walker

We shall certainly continue to review the incentive given under the scheme. I repeat that, on home insulation on a do-it-yourself basis, the tax base has not changed.

Mr. Madden

Is it not daft that the Minister's efforts to conserve energy are being undermined by other Government Departments, which have seen fit to reduce home improvement grants and to impose a new tax on home improvements? Is it not about time that the Government realised that launching a co-ordinated national conservation campaign would not only help people to keep warmer more cheaply, but would make a major dent in unemployment?

Mr. Walker

I agree that the whole range of energy efficiency proposals, which are taking place on an increasing scale, are of assistance in providing employment. In housing, a whole range of measures have been taken which will lead to more money being invested in such sectors.