HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1022-3
2. Mr. Jim Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the planned expenditure in the current financial year on the Green House programmes to promote energy efficiency work in local authority housing; and what is the planned expenditure in each of the next two years.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)

A total of £45 million is being spent on this demonstration programme in 1992–93, and £5 million is available to complete the programme in 1993–94.

Mr. Marshall

Does the Minister accept that early results of the programme show that it can lead to substantial energy savings and be of direct advantage to the environment? Should not the conclusion be that, instead of running down the programme, we should develop a nationwide strategy which would be to the long-term financial advantage of the domestic energy consumer and the physical environment? Does the Minister intend to bring to the House revised building regulations to take into account the lessons already learnt from that programme?

Mr. Baldry

The results of the demonstration programme are, indeed, exceptionally good and show that reductions in fuel costs of up to 40 per cent. and in carbon dioxide emissions of up to 50 per cent. can be achieved. However, it was a demonstration programme and now all local authorities must learn the lessons and ensure that they take them into account in their mainstream housing renovation programmes. In the coming year they will have a wonderful opportunity to do so because they will not only have the money from mainline housing investment programmes but the opportunity to invest the proceeds of their capital receipts. Their estimate—not ours or the Treasury's—is that they will this year raise £1.75 billion in capital receipts, well over £1 billion of which they can invest in housing. I hope that much of that investment will go on renovating and maintaining their stock.

Yes, we are introducing new building regulations. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday announced proposals that will substantially improve existing building regulations.

Mr. Ward

Does my hon. Friend agree that this country still lags a long way behind some of our continental friends. and that it would be a good investment if, when he introduced new building regulations, he looked ahead 10 or 15 years and introduced the energy efficiency regulations that we think might apply then, so as to avoid large capital expenditure on improvements in the future?

Mr. Baldry

The proposals that we announced yesterday do exactly that. We estimate that the total effect of the whole package will be a 25 to 35 per cent. improvement on current building regulations in terms of energy performance. That is a substantial improvement.

Ms. Short

If the Government would move in this policy area, it would benefit everyone. If we go for a big national insulation programme that will generate jobs, cut people's bills and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, that will be the right thing for the country. The Government are cutting the small programme that they had, and proposing new building regulations of a low standard.

Mr. Baldry

Clearly, the hon. Lady has not listened to a word that I said. The demonstration programme proves that local authorities can make substantial savings in terms both of costs and of improved energy efficiency. I hope that local authorities will take their opportunity this year for a substantial housing investment programme, using the released capital receipts to invest in their housing stock. The hon. Lady's city of Birmingham owns about 3,500 commercial properties—I still wonder what it is doing owning those. I hope that Birmingham will consider its asset base, decide what can be realised and apply some of the capital receipts to the city's housing stock.