HC Deb 24 November 1986 vol 106 cc5-6
5. Mr. Maples

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is his estimate of the aggregate annual savings generated by energy efficiency schemes undertaken by Government Departments; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy (Mr. David Hunt)

It is estimated that Government schemes are currently leading to savings of more than £500 million a year in industry and commerce. Nearly 3 million homes have also been insulated or draught proofed, leading to significant savings and greater comfort. Following my right hon. Friend's initiative, all Government Departments have appointed energy managers, and I shall be meeting their energy managers group next month, when I shall be reviewing progress so far.

Mr. Maples

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the result of the programme? Will he say what percentage of energy costs this represents and how the Government's performance compares with that of the private sector?

Mr. Hunt

We calculate that £2 billion could still be cut from the annual energy bill of British industry and commerce. I have not yet received a calculation from the energy managers of what Government Departments have saved and what will be saved in Energy Efficiency Year. I shall write in detail to my hon. Friend as soon as the energy managers' report has been received.

Mr. Bruce

The Minister has accepted that much more can still be achieved, even though progress has been made. Will he consider revising the capital allowance programmes of public departments and agencies with a view to exempting some energy-saving schemes from them which offer short-term paybacks? There is evidence that many public authorities which would like to introduce energy efficiency schemes are prevented from doing to because of budgeting methods.

Mr. Hunt

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is aware of the initiative that my right hon. Friend has taken on contract energy management, which is having a significant impact already, espcially on local authorities. As for hospitals and the Health Service, my Department is pursuing an effective joint initiative with the Department of Health and Social Security and nearly 20 per cent. of the extended energy survey scheme applications have been for hospital sites, There is movement, but there is still a long way to go.

Mr. Hannam

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on the establishment of the new telephone hotline, which has been established with neighbourhood energy action? It will help the disabled, the elderly and others on low incomes to receive assistance in keeping warm this winter. Will he ensure that all citizens advice bureaux are made aware of the hotline, they being in the front line in dealing with these problems?

Mr. Hunt

I, too, pay tribute to the citizens advice bureaux in this crucial area. It is a fact that the disabled on low incomes and the old are only a telephone call away from receiving help on how to keep warm this winter. I hope very much that the telephone hotline will be greatly used. By telephoning 0800-234-8000, callers will be put in touch with their nearest neighbourhood energy action project.

Mr. Rowlands

Does the Minister recognise that the greatest savings can be made in the health sector? I am encouraged by the figures that he has given, but is he aware that many health authorities are having to worry about their budgets, and that in many instances capital projects that could produce the results that he is talking about are being pushed aside by other areas of expenditure that inevitably are given priority?

Mr. Hunt

I am not aware of any examples of that sort, but if the hon. Gentleman has details, will he please give them to me? Only last Thursday I visited Withington hospital in the area of the South Manchester health authority. I was impressed with the authority's action plan, especially with the feeding through of savings, to the benefit of patients in local hospitals.

Mr. Rost

When will the Treasury relax its restrictions on third-party financing so that the private sector can invest in energy efficiency in the public sector on a shared benefit basis?

Mr. Hunt

My hon. Friend will know the commitment that my right hon. Friend and I have to contract energy management. We are still in early days, but we are unaware of the serious restrictions which my hon. Friend mentions, although we are monitoring the position very carefully.