HL Deb 22 March 1978 vol 389 cc1794-6

2.54 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 why no regulations have yet been made for improved standards of thermal insulation in industrial, commercial and residential properties other than housing, in view of the fact that consultations with interested bodies started in July of last year.


My Lords, the proposed regulations are the first to be made under the powers to conserve energy, and my right honourable friend has to ensure that they are technically correct and legally enforceable. He now hopes to lay the Statutory Instrument before Parliament within the next few weeks.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Baroness for that reply, may I ask whether she does not feel that the time which has elapsed since these regulations were formulated, is, in spite of the necessity for consultation, rather long, particularly in view of the importance of energy conservation?

Baroness BIRK

No, my Lords, I do not think it has been particularly long, because a number of people had to be consulted; industrialists and others had to be given the opportunity of putting their views, which they did. There is nothing, and there has never been anything, to stop anyone from going ahead with arrangements to conserve energy if they wish to do so, because these regulations apply to new buildings.

The Earl of GOWRIE

My Lords, in view of the fact that we are not yet in balance-of-payments surplus on oil, and also in view of the fact that, even should that happy event take place, we would wish to save all the money we could, can the noble Baroness say whether there are any plans to make insulation allowances eligible under the improvement grants scheme?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I do not think so at the moment. I shall have to write to the noble Earl on that particular question because I have not had notice of it. So far as the insulation of housing goes, of course, that does apply; but this is under different regulations and once these are made there will be a certain time before they are put into effect, to give people the chance to get used to the idea and to make plans. If I may, I will write to the noble Earl on that point.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness recall that the price of oil doubled and doubled again in the autumn of 1973? Since then it has been important not only to develop new sources of energy but also to preserve the energy which we are at present consuming. Surely it is more realistic to give special incentives to encourage the conversion of and insulation in existing houses, rather than to institute a plan without much priority which will take several generations before it makes a real impact on our conservation of energy and the loss of heat from existing houses?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, the Question which I was asked, and to which I was doing my best to reply, was not dealing with housing at all but with industrial and commercial properties. In fact it refers quite specifically to— … residential … other than housing". The noble Lord was referring to housing, which is entirely different.


My Lords, while not wishing to go into the detail of my noble friend's Question, could the noble Baroness at least give some assurance that this matter, including housing, will be dealt with with the same sense of urgency as the Government have given to the rest of the energy question?

Baroness BIRK

Yes, my Lords. It will be dealt with now with considerable speed, taking into account the fact that people have to make plans in order to incorporate the new regulations. As I have already said, there is nothing to stop people in existing buildings from going ahead and making arrangements in order to conserve energy, which will be cost-effective not only for the country but also for themselves.