HC Deb 30 March 1987 vol 113 cc748-9
6. Mr. Knox

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received in the past six months about the adequacy of existing energy conservation schemes.

Mr. Peter Walker

I am announcing today a 33 per cent. increase in the administrative funding for community insulation projects from £296,000 to £391,000. Total funding will increase from £32 million in 1986–87 to £45 million in 1987–88, an increase of 41 per cent.

I hope that in the coming year 200,000 homes in the lower income groups will be insulated, and 8,000 jobs provided.

Mr. Knox

Can my right hon. Friend estimate the savings that will be effected by the improvements that he has announced?

Mr. Walker

No, I cannot, because of the diversity of housing concerned. However, we know that in the 300,000 houses that this programme has already tackled, there has been, not only a substantial improvement in cost savings to the families concerned, but a substantial improvement in their comfort. It is the combination of those effects, together with the jobs created, that makes the scheme so attractive.

Mr. Bruce

The Secretary of State is obviously anxious to put a good gloss on the record that he has achieved. However, does he acknowledge that that record falls a long way short of the 20 per cent. saving that he, his Department and the EEC predict can be achieved through energy conservation? What will he do to plug that gap?

Mr. Walker

This scheme has made a 3,000 per cent. improvement on the record of the Lib-Lab Government.

Mr. Hardy

While any improvement is to be welcomed, will the Secretary of State confirm that, even with that improvement, our position will still be by far the worst in western Europe?

Mr. Walker

Whereas our position became worse and worse under the previous Labour Government, it has become better and better under this Government.

Mr. Rost

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with his colleagues in other Government Departments to ensure that the public sector, such as the Health Service, does a little more to cut public expenditure by improving energy efficiency?

Mr. Walker

I am glad to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has personally pursued a major campaign with the regional hospital boards to ensure that the colossal savings that can be obtained by them are achieved. Likewise, my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Defence are doing the same in their Departments. Those are three areas of big energy usage and I am glad that there are signs that considerable improvements in their performance will be achieved.

Mr. Rowlands

Will the Government's proposals not reduce and remove grants from millions of householders who do not have effective or adequate standards of home insulation? Is the Secretary of State aware that, in another Government Department, the MSC is cutting some community programmes that will affect the viability of some of the community energy projects, on which the Government, and all of us, depend?

Mr. Walker

No. The time should come when, if there is a dramatic improvement in a programme with which hon. Members on both sides of the House agree, Opposition Members should pay tribute to it, instead of carping. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman goes back and looks at the appalling record of the Labour Government.