HC Deb 10 March 1986 vol 93 cc647-9
2. Mr. Tony Lloyd

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what specific action he is taking in the winter to promote energy efficiency measures in the homes of poor households and to secure the necessary investment.

Mr. Peter Walker

My energy efficiency campaign provides advice for all households on how to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. In addition, the Government-funded voluntary sector insulation projects continue to expand very rapidly, and the 90 per cent. grants under the homes insulation scheme are specifically targeted on low-income households.

Mr. Lloyd

Is the Secretary of State aware of how many of my constituents have approached me this winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes or have had to do without other things in order to heat them? As home insulation is not specifically targeted in Energy Efficiency Year, will the right hon. Gentleman approach the Department of the Environment and urge it to put back the money that has been cut from the home insulation grant scheme and, in fact, to go further and make sure that we have an adequate scheme to prevent people from dying in other severe winters?

Mr. Walker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will inform his constituents how much better the position is now than it was a few years ago when the Labour Government were in power. This Government introduced the 90 per cent. grant and massively expanded the voluntary movement. The Government's record in this sphere is so much better than that of any previous Government that we are rather proud of it.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate all the officials who last week came to the Upper Waiting Hall to promote Energy Efficiency Year? Does he agree that if all the local authorities took up the relevant packages that have been prepared, all council houses, not just the poor ones, could benefit from energy efficiency? Surely that is the way to be fair to those who, as the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) said, are suffering a little.

Mr. Walker

Yes, Sir. There are currently 200 projects in the voluntary system on which a whole range of Government Departments are collaborating as never before to achieve real action, and 130,000 homes have benefited from that already. We are likely to be doubling that number in the near future.

Mr. Freeson

The Secretary of State may well give us some grand and eloquent rhetoric on this matter, but is he aware that the Government have cut sharply the budget for the home insulation scheme? Whatever the 90 per cent. grants may be, if the total budget is cut grants are not available to people anyway. Is he further aware that there has been a massive cut not only in the number but in the standards of properties rehabilitated by housing associations? Plug-in fires are now having to be put in instead of decent central heating and insulation.

Mr. Walker

The rhetoric comes from the right hon. Gentleman, while the action comes from the Government. As a Minister in a previous Administration, he should be ashamed of that Government's record. The £26 million worth of improvement grant this year dwarfs anything that come from the Labour Government.

Mr. Baldry

Is there not still scope to expand the community programme to carry out loft insulation and draught proofing schemes, particularly for the elderly?

Mr. Walker

Yes, that is a good sphere of activity. It is labour-intensive and provides jobs for young people and help for old people.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is not turning off the heat in cold weather the least efficient method of preserving energy? Will the Secretary of State have a word with the Secretary of State for Social Services to make sure that the heat is not turned off?

Mr. Walker

I am glad to say that, as a result of consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, we are spending £140 million more in real terms than when we took office.

Mr. Rowlands

After the bluster, will the Secretary of State take note of the fact that the DHSS is considering the abolition of single payments for draught improvements for the elderly and for the poorest households? Would it not make a mockery of Energy Efficiency Year if that were to happen this year? Will he make sure that the Secretary of State for Social Services does not do that?

Mr. Walker

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would take careful note of what has happened. As he knows, it has been announced that the present single payments will continue for a further two years. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has also made it perfectly clear that whatever changes eventually take place, it is his intention to see that the remarkable momentum that we have achieved continues.

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