§ Mr. Robert B. Jones
We expect more than 400,000 homes to be insulated under the home energy efficiency scheme in the coming year, bringing the total number of homes insulated under the scheme to more than 2 million.
§ Mr. Welsh
Will the Minister explain why he has cut the home energy efficiency scheme budget by £31 million in direct breach of a Government and ministerial promise to everyone involved? Is he aware that that will lead to the insulation of 200,000 fewer houses next year, the loss of 1,000 jobs in the small business sector and the loss of £12 million to manufacturing industry? In view of the economic, health and other effects of his decision, will the Minister now reconsider?
§ Mr. Gallie
My hon. Friend the Minister has anticipated the point that I intended to make. The home energy efficiency grant for last year was linked to the VAT increase. On that basis, given the uptake of the award, should the Government not be congratulated rather than criticised?
§ Mr. Jones
My hon. Friend is clearly in favour of that excellent scheme. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) failed to appreciate the fact that we have protected the most vulnerable groups while continuing to offer a substantial discount to those people who do not qualify for the free service.
§ Mrs. Helen Jackson
How can the Minister justify a 20 per cent. reduction in energy efficiency in homes around the country when, as Chairman of the Environment Select Committee, he recommended increased expenditure on home energy efficiency schemes? Was it not a cynical exercise to increase expenditure for only one year in order to justify the imposition of VAT on home heating, which has hit the poorest and the worst off in our community?
§ Mr. Jones
That is clearly not the case, as we have protected vulnerable groups and increased the scheme considerably over the years. I remind the hon. Lady that there was no such scheme under the last Labour Government because they did not care about energy efficiency. We are determined to ensure that homes become more energy efficient in the coming year through a variety of measures, not least through the Home Energy Conservation Bill, which will encourage local authorities to make sure that people take up those schemes.