HC Deb 07 March 1988 vol 129 cc10-2
10. Mr. John Garrett

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make it his policy to support the European Commission's proposed directive on energy efficiency surveys of buildings for sale.

Mr. Michael Spicer

No. Sir. The United Kingdom Government share the view of most other EC member states that it is not appropriate to require the householder to spend between £100 and £200 of his own money on a mandatory home energy audit.

Mr. Garrett

Is the Minister aware that the former Secretary of State for Energy was an enthusiast for such a scheme, that experience in Denmark is that for every £1 of survey costs there are £4 in private investment, that the European Commission is promoting the scheme and that the British Government alone are resisting its introduction? Given the abysmally low level of domestic energy efficiency in Britain, which the Secretary of State has admitted, why not introduce the scheme? Why is there no reference whatsoever to energy efficiency in the White Paper on electricity privatisation?

Mr. Spicer

There are two fallacies in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. First, it is not true that all other Governments are backing the scheme for mandatory auditing. Nor is it true that the Danish experience has been particularly successful. The scheme is subsidised by the Danish Government and is mandatory, but the take-up rate had been only 50 per cent. We believe that it is much better to deal with the problem through direct grants to those who need the money. We have spent £20 million on household loft insulation in about 500,000 households, and 400,000 houses have been draught-proofed, at a cost of about £45 million. It is much better to do that for those on low incomes.

12. Mr. Moss

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he has any new proposals to improve national energy efficiency.

Mr. Parkinson

The Energy Efficiency Office is consulting outside bodies with the aim of developing programmes in the most economically attractive areas. We are also examining how the contribution from companies which benefit from the Department's programmes can be increased. I hope to announce the outcome of this work before the summer recess.

Mr. Moss

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. I know that he is aware of the energy study in the north-west that was undertaken by the March Consulting Group, and I am aware also that he recognises one of the conclusions of the study, namely, that in the north-west industry and commerce could save up to 15 per cent. of energy demand by using known technology. Does he agree that the CBI would be better employed exhorting its members to seek to obtain that saving of 15 per cent. than simply whingeing about electricity prices increasing?

Mr. Parkinson

It is true, as I said earlier, that there are substantial savings to be made by using energy more efficiently. The Department has been sponsoring a number of projects — I hear Opposition Members making sneering remarks—that have resulted in more than 90 per cent. of lofts in Britain being insulated. By the end of the year we shall have insulated the homes of over 700,000 pensioners. We are making real progress in helping those on low incomes to save energy. It is important that we continue to make progress.

Mr. Home Robertson

How can the Secretary of State talk about national energy efficiency when the Under-Secretary of State has been talking about the substantial investment that has been made in the Scottish coal industry and the Secretary of State for Scotland is idly standing by and allowing the coal industry and coal-burning power stations in Scotland to be scrapped?

Mr. Parkinson

I realise that the hon. Gentleman wanted to make his point about the coal industry, but I genuinely think that he has chosen the wrong question on which to do so. This question is to do with the more efficient use of energy in homes and by industry. We are talking about the end user. We believe that there is substantial scope for savings, and so did the March group, whose report I endorse.