HC Deb 14 May 1984 vol 60 cc3-5
3. Mr. Haynes

asked the Secretary of State for Energy which local authorities have expressed a firm interest in the development of energy conservation areas; what action they are now taking; and with what involvement from his Department.

14. Mr. Barron

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what progress he has made in the establishment of energy conservation areas.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

Dudley, Newcastle and South Glamorgan have expressed a firm interest. Dudley is embarking on its project following recent approval for grant-aid under the urban programme, and Newcastle is awaiting a final decision for urban aid funding. The energy efficiency office has strongly supported both these applications. South Glamorgan is currently considering a similar project in Cardiff.

Mr. Haynes

Is the Minister aware that that is a shameful reply to my question? His Department has done nothing since April 1983. When will the Department live up to its responsibilities for energy conservation and give the local authorities the support that they need to get stuck into programmes? It will not be long before the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box in haste to talk about increases in prices, yet on energy conservation he appears to be half asleep.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

If I were the hon. Gentleman, I should be ashamed that I had not listened to the answer to the question. I said that we had supported these programmes directly. Work is well ahead on them. All the Department's various schemes on conservation are available in these areas when they get off the ground, and the Department has to do a great deal in terms of initiative in getting them under way.

Mr. Hannam

What success is being achieved in the appeal to industrialists to conserve energy?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

There has been an extremely good response. As my hon. Friend knows, we have been conducting the campaign in a number of centres throughout the country. We are now following up some of those original campaigns. We are enormously encouraged by the response and by the action being taken by industry as a result of my right hon. Friend's initiative.

Mr. Barron

The Minister says that his Department has been shoving for these energy conservation areas. Can he say how much money has been spent directly by his Department on setting them up? As I understand it, the present position about these areas involves nothing but words from the Department.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not listen to what I said. Money is available under the urban aid programme. In addition, when schemes are set up, there is the total availability of other energy conservation schemes. The purpose is to make better and fuller use of the available schemes in a co-ordinated manner. That is precisely what is happening.

Mr. Rowlands

After all those words, I understand that only three authorities have approached, applied or inquired in any serious fashion. Does the Minister intend to take any further initiative to arouse interest among local authorities? May it not be that, as a result of all the cuts imposed upon them, local authorities feel that the Government will not support them?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Gentleman. Thirty-nine local authorities have expressed interest. The Labour party is not prepared to acknowledge the Government's success.