HL Deb 10 February 1976 vol 368 cc1-4

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will consider what incentives, financial or otherwise, could be given to encourage owners of uninsulated houses to install roof insulation, and whether they will ask local authorities to send out information on the benefits of doing so with the rate demands.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, roof insulation can normally be expected to pay for itself fairly quickly in reduced fuel costs, and money spent on improving property in this way increases its value. No grants are available generally for thermal insulation, it being the view of Her Majesty's Government that home owners already have sufficient incentive and that the resources available are better deployed in tackling the basic defects of substandard homes. The Government are however anxious to make home owners aware of the advantages which will accrue to them, as well as to the country, from installing roof insulation, and there has been a series of Government leaflets, as well as publicity campaigns on the radio, on television and in the Press, explaining the position and advising home owners how to install effective insulation.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for that reply, may I ask whether I am correct in believing that in the last 18 months the Government have spent £5 million on publicity for saving energy? Why is it that a measure which I propose in the Question—a measure which would cost virtually nothing and would bring the saving to the attention of all ratepayers—should not be put into effect? Alternatively, why could not this kind of notice be put out with the bills for gas and electricity?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, the Government have indeed spent a lot of money on giving publicity to this matter. They have produced very useful leaflets and booklets on the subject, but local authorities are their own masters as to what they send out with their rate demands. So far as the Government are concerned, they would be very happy to produce leaflets if the local authorities wanted such things to send out with their rate demands, and the same would apply if the gas or electricity boards want to do this. It is up to them to ask the Government and it is not for us to insist that they send out this material.


My Lords, surely the Government can indicate that this would be an acceptable thing to do, as they have done in many other areas. Finally, does not the noble Baroness think that some small incentive—which might have to be at an almost negligible final cost—would promote home insulation? If the Government arc spending these vast sums of money on publicity, why do they not give more serious consideration to this?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, the Government always give serious consideration to ways in which we can save energy. We have already asked local authorities, and we have provided for them relevant leaflets about rate and rent rebates, and other matters. But there is a limit to the type of material which we can ask local authorities to send out. If local authorities want some information to send out and are willing to use it, we are happy to provide it. As I said earlier, roof insulation will normally be expected to pay for itself very quickly by reducing fuel costs.


My Lords, would not my noble friend agree that, just as the cigarette manufacturers are required to state that their product is dangerous for health, the suppliers of energy should be expected to state that the waste of energy is also unnecessary and dangerous for the country, and that insufficient heat in houses may be equally dangerous for health?

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, that is a matter entirely for the electricity and gas industries. They have spent a lot of money on advertising in their "Save It "campaign. I am sure they will go on doing so. I am certain they will take note of the comments today in this House.


My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that the National Gas Consumers Council, of which I am national chairman, has produced an excellent leaflet which has been issued throughout the country, and a great many people are taking notice of it. Would she agree that, despite the fact that one might be able to get a householder up into his attic, it is very difficult to force him to insulate it?

Baroness STEDMAN

Yes, my Lords; I agree entirely.


My Lords, is my noble friend aware that we have attached to Her Majesty's Government what is known as the Minister for Information? The Ministry of Information covers not only the subject raised by the noble Lord but also a very wide field; it spends quite a lot of money passing on information for the benefit of the general public. Why complain when the Ministry takes action to try to give a form of cover to individuals who are owner-occupiers?—not only owner-occupiers but also local authorities.


My Lords, the Central Office of Information do a very useful job of work, and indeed my Department of the Environment have got rid of some 750,000 copies of this little booklet on, " Warmth Kept In Keeps Heating Costs Down ". People have shown an interest. I have no doubt a lot of people have used the advice in that document.


My Lords, in view of the Government's clear support for these proposals, can the noble Baroness say what steps the Government are taking to insulate their own buildings, particularly those owned by the Ministry of Defence?

Baroness STEDMAN

Not without notice, my Lords.