HC Deb 27 January 1986 vol 90 cc630-1
3. Mr. Greg Knight

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement about the progress being made by industry and commerce to reduce their energy bills.

Mr. Peter Walker

There has been an enormous upsurge of interest, which is now leading to action. Membership of energy management groups has increased by 70 per cent. and the number of firms appointing an energy manager has more than doubled. Savings of £160 million a year have been identified in 5,000 surveys conducted under the energy efficiency survey scheme, and I expect the monitoring and targeting programme to lead to savings of £100 million a year. The energy efficiency office's demonstration scheme has also exceeded its target.

Mr. Knight

I welcome that reply. Does my right hon. Friend agree that much could and should be done? Do not some estimates indicate that up to £7 billion could be saved by commerce and industry through increased energy efficiency? Are not the potential dividends enormous?

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. There is no doubt that this is only the beginning. I can think of no other sphere in the British economy where there is more potential to improve our performance than in energy efficiency. The potential saving involved in improving energy efficiency is about £7 billion a year.

Mr. Evans

Is the Secretary of State aware that effective insulation can play a substantial part in reducing energy costs and that major producers, such as Pilkingtons in St. Helens, require a long-term, Government-backed programme if they are to achieve a proper return on their capital and provide full employment for their workers?

Mr. Walker

I agree that that is of immense importance. Firms such as Pilkingtons are delighted with our energetic campaign. I am also delighted at the considerable expansion of voluntary organisations helping to provide insulation in the homes of lower-income families.

Mr. Neil Hamilton

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways for industry and commerce to reduce energy costs is to encourage more competition in coal production and to press the National Coal Board to keep its costs in line? Does he also agree that the best way to do that is to raise the limits on opencast production by licensed operators?

Mr. Walker

Opencast operators produce a substantial volume of coal. The delays which adversely affect them are caused by planning procedures rather than by anything else. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Orme

Does the Secretary of State support the view that the dramatic fall in oil prices is good for Britain, particularly the energy bills affecting British industry and commerce? Is that the message that he will convey at the meeting he is to have with Sheikh Yamani in the near future?

Mr. Walker

I have no meeting planned with Sheikh Yamani in the near future. The question of oil prices is complicated and is certainly not dealt with under this question.