§ 3.16 p.m.
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (The Earl of Gowrie)
My Lords, in moving that the House give a Second Reading to this Bill, I should like to begin by explaining why the Government believe it is important to bring forward this legislation at this time.
Energy conservation has a central and permanent place in our energy strategy. The dramatic increase in oil prices following the revolution in Iran, and the present Iran/Iraq war, have reminded us—if we needed reminding—of the vulnerability of much of the Western world's energy supplies. The heads of state and Government at the Venice Economic Summit earlier this year recognised the important priority which each 803 of their countries had to accord to improving energy efficiency, and to reducing dependence on oil. North Sea oil and gas do not set our interests apart from those of other Western countries in this regard, not least because North Sea oil will not last for ever. The Government believe that energy conservation has an important role to play in enhancing the competitiveness of British industry and, more generally, in improving the efficiency of our economy.
The main intention of the Energy Conservation Bill is to promote the improved efficiency of a wide range of energy consuming appliances. It contains enabling powers for the Government to set, by means of orders, safety and efficiency standards for space and water heating appliances, and for gas appliances. The Government will be enabled to require that these appliances be tested for compliance with these standards either at the stage of manufacture or—in some cases—after installation.
The Government believe that the enforcement of efficiency standards under the Bill can, over time, make an important contribution to improved energy efficiency. I say "over time" because of course it will take time to improve the efficiency of new appliances, and time for users to replace existing appliances with newer and more efficient ones. But the Bill provides a mechanism to ensure that a progressive improvement in efficiencies does take place. Such improvements can save money for individual consumers and for firms, as well, of course, for the country as a whole.
Space and water heating accounts for no less than 30 per cent. of the country's use of energy; and gas appliances other than gas space and water heaters consume a further few per cent. This means that even a relatively small improvement in the efficiency of appliances of the sort dealt with in this Bill could make a significant difference to energy use at the national level. The individual consumer, of course, is not normally able to influence the design of space and water heating appliances or their efficiency directly. There are existing schemes for testing many sorts of appliances but those are voluntary, and their coverage is not universal. The Government therefore believe that this is an area where it is appropriate for there to be legislation.
That there is scope for increasing the efficiency of many sorts of appliances is beyond doubt. For many appliances, energy efficiency has become a significant factor in design only very recently. Many boilers, for instance, which are very efficient at full load are much less efficient at part-load. And, of course, many boilers are run at part-load for much of the year. British Standards relating to energy efficiency exist for some, but by no means all, categories of space and water heaters and gas appliances. But manufacturers and importers are not at present compelled to observe these standards. And there is a substantial body of informed opinion that current performance requirements in some British Standards are below the levels readily obtainable by manufacturers and desirable, therefore, from an energy conservation point of view.
The Bill is inevitably rather technical, and I should like to take a few moments to explain in untechnical language what it sets out to do. The Bill uses the term "heat generator" to describe an important group of 804 the appliances which it covers. This is a term of European Community origin. It means appliances designed for space heating or hot water production or both. It covers appliances ranging from small domestic fires, heaters and boilers, up to the very largest boilers used for heating blocks of flats or offices, schools or hospitals, or for providing them with hot water. A "heat generator" can be powered by any form of energy—coal, gas, oil, electricity—or a combination of them; and it can provide heating by various means—hot water, hot air, steam, et cetera. The Bill also talks about "gas appliances". Again this is a Community term, deriving from a draft directive on gas appliances which I shall discuss in a little more detail in a moment. It means gas-powered appliances for heating, hot water production, cooking, refrigeration, lighting or washing. There is an overlap between the terms "heat generator" and "gas appliance". Some appliances—gas fires; gas central heating boilers, et cetera—are both.
Part I of the Bill is concerned with setting up a system of what is called "type-approval" for new heat generators and gas appliances. Type-approval is a procedure for ensuring that appliances which are manufactured and sold in large numbers conform to specified standards. For such appliances, it is obviously not practicable to test each individual appliance as it is produced. Instead, a sample comprising a certain number of appliances of each model is taken and tested. If the sample is found to conform to the required standards, then a type-approval certificate can be issued for that model, and all appliances of that model can bear a type-approval mark to show that the model has been approved as conforming to the standards.
Under Part I of the Bill, the Government will be able to set standards of safety or efficiency for such categories of new heat generators and gas appliances as they may decide. They will be able to appoint type-approval bodies to test samples of appliances to see whether they conform to the relevant standards and to grant or withhold type-approval. The Government will be able to prohibit the sale of such categories of new heat generators and gas appliances as they decide unless they bear type-approval marks to show that they conform to the standards which have been set. If the relevant standards are changed (for instance, if technical progress makes it possible to up-grade them) the Government will be able to require that type-approvals granted under the old standards are withdrawn, after a period of grace if necessary. There are also provisions in Part I of the Bill intended to ensure that once a model has been type-approved, all further production of that model continues to conform to the standards. There are also provisions which would enable the Government to require operating and maintenance instructions for new heat generators to be approved; this is important since the way an appliance is used and is maintained can often affect its continued efficiency.
Part II of the Bill concerns setting efficiency standards for new heat generators for which the type-approval I have been describing is either not practicable or would be too expensive. In effect this means very large boilers which are produced in relatively small numbers, or which may even be purpose built to a particular specification. The boilers concerned are likely to be those with a capacity of 600 kilowatts or 805 over. We estimate that, even when the powers in Part II have been used to their fullest extent (which is very unlikely for several years) only about 700 new boilers a year are likely to be affected. For these boilers, Part II of the Bill enables the Government to set standards of efficiency, and to appoint testing authorities which will test each boiler concerned on-site after installation, to see that it meets the relevant standard. The Government will be able to prohibit the use of a boiler which is not tested within a specified period after it is installed, or which does not pass the test within a further reasonably specified period. It is unlikely, however, to be possible to anticipate in the orders under this Part of the Bill all the possible variations in individual circumstances which may arise, such as the problems of testing a boiler which is installed and brought into use before the building which it is intended to serve has been completed. For this reason Clause 10 of the Bill contains an important power which would enable the Government to authorise testing authorities to delay tests or apply modified standards in such circumstances as the Government may specify.
Part III of the Bill deals with various miscellaneous matters such as the creation of offences, the level of fines, and enforcement. I should like to draw the attention of the House to two specific provisions. Clause 15 empowers the Government to make grants for the purposes of energy advice schemes. No new policy departure is envisaged by this clause. Rather it is intended in accordance with well-established constitutional convention to provide specific statutory authority for the Government's existing energy advice schemes, such as the Energy Survey Scheme and the Energy Quick Advice Service which have proved to be valuable means of promoting greater awareness of the potential for energy conservation in industry and commerce. Clause 25(3) provides that before making any order under the Bill, the Secretary of State shall consult representatives of those he considers likely to be affected and such other persons as he considers appropriate. This represents an important safeguard, and an assurance that the views of manufacturers as well as consumers and others concerned will be sought and considered very carefully before orders under the Bill are made.
May I have a moment to talk about enforcement. It is not envisaged that extensive arrangements for enforcing the provisions of this Bill will be necessary. In the vast majority of cases, manufacturers, retailers and others concerned will have good sound economic reasons for complying with the orders which will be made under it. And Clause 5 of the Bill contains important powers—including the sanction of withdrawal of type-approval in some circumstances—which will enable type-approval bodies to ensure that a model continues to conform to standards after it has been approved. There are also provisions in the Bill for orders under Part I—that is, the orders concerning type-approval for heat generators and gas appliances—to be enforced by weights and measures authorities. In practice, we envisage that trading standards officers will make visual checks to see that heat generators which ought to bear type-approval marks in fact do so. Because this would in most cases be done in the course of visits to premises made for other purposes, there 806 is unlikely to be any significant implication for local authority manpower. Powers to enforce orders under Part II of the Bill—that is, the orders relating to the rather fewer cases of on-site testing—will under Clause 20 be vested in persons so authorised by the Secretary of State; these would in practice be officials of central Government. However the powers in Clause 20 are regarded by the Government very much as powers of last resort.
Because the number of boilers likely to be subject to on-site testing will be small—I mentioned the figure of 700, but it might well he far fewer in a year—it should be feasible to enforce orders under Part II by the Department of Energy matching the records of the boilers supplied against records of the boilers tested, and making simply further inquiries about apparent discrepancies. Thus, the manpower implications for central Government will also be extremely small. The powers which those authorised to enforce the orders under Parts I and II of the Bill will have are set out in Clauses 19 and 20. These provisions are closely modelled on those in comparable legislation; for instance, the Trade Descriptions Act 1968.
I should like to make a few comments about the European Community aspects. The Bill will enable the United Kingdom to implement a Community directive on heat generators. This directive obliges member states to ensure that all new heat generators installed in non-industrial buildings comply with minimum performance standards. The Bill will also enable us to implement two other directives which are still in draft and under discussion in Brussels. As I mentioned, one concerns the on-site testing of very large heat generators. The other concerns the setting of Community standards of safety and efficiency for new gas appliances. The Government do not believe that they can satisfactorily rely on the European Communities Act 1972 to enact the necessary legislation. There are several reasons for this: one is that the 1978 Heat Generators Directive does not state very precisely what appliances it covers; another is that the Government believe that it is desirable to cover heat generators used in industrial buildings (which are outside the scope of the directive) as well as those which are not used in industrial buildings. There is also a problem over the fact that the implementing directives under the draft Gas Appliances Directive will be optional—that is to say, it will be left to member states to decide whether to apply the Community standards or not.
The Bill contains enabling powers for the Government to establish systems of type-approval and on-site testing for such categories of appliances as they decide, by means of orders. I can assure the House that the Government have no intention of imposing standards which are unlikely to have any significant effect in raising safety or efficiency merely because the Bill will empower them to do so. We are conscious of the need to avoid imposing unnecessary costs on industry, and the requirement to place on the market products to a higher standard will only follow after the fullest consultations have been carried out with all concerned. And, as I have already pointed out, the Bill requires that the Government should consult representatives of those likely to be affected before the orders are made.
So, the Government's intention is in the first in- 807 stance to use the powers under Part I of the Bill to give statutory force to the existing voluntary arrangements, in many cases based on existing British Standards, which are already operated by many major United Kingdom manufacturers. These cover a large proportion of the gas appliances, the oil-fired boilers and air heaters, and the solid-fuel appliances which are sold in this country. The existing voluntary arrangements would thus be modified where necessary, extended to cover importers and manufacturers who do not participate in them at present, and made compulsory. It will, however, be important to move beyond this stage—the stage of giving statutory force to our existing arrangements—as soon as possible. We therefore intend to have continuing consultations with the British Standards Institution, with a view to reviewing existing standards of fuel efficiency for heat generators and raising them wherever this is practicable and cost-effective, and to setting fuel efficiency standards for appliances where none such exist at the moment. It is not, however, our intention that all categories of heat generator should be made subject to type-approval from the outset; it will be necessary to proceed step by step again, as I have said, in full consultation both with the manufacturer and others such as consumer organisations whose interests are crucially involved. Indeed, there are some types of heating appliances—in particular most types of domestic electrical space and water heaters—which the Government have no intention of making subject to type-approval procedures under this Bill, since most electrical heaters already convert electrical energy into heat to a high degree of efficiency.
The enabling powers relating to gas appliances are included in Part I of the Bill mainly for the purpose of allowing us to enforce the Community standards of safety and efficiency for these products when these are agreed. I have already mentioned, I think, that member states are likely to be free to choose whether or not to apply these standards. However—and I think this is an important point which your Lordships should take fully into account—the Government believe it is likely to be in the interest of the United Kingdom to implement the Community standards, since it will help United Kingdom manufacturers to export to other European Community countries. If British made appliances meet Community standards and carry a type-approval to show that they do so, the task will be made much easier. In addition, the Government will wish to consider using the powers relating to gas appliances to set and enforce standards—particularly safety standards—for some sorts of gas appliances for which agreement on Community standards is, within the Community, still rather a long way off.
Finally, the Government are in the process of consulting manufacturers and other interested groups in detail about the way in which the powers in Part II of the Bill concerning the on-site testing of large new heat generators, will be used. We will certainly consult both widely and fully before taking final decisions. However, we believe that it is important that the Bill contain these enabling powers to require very large boilers to be tested on-site, both in order that we can fulfil our present (and, indeed, our likely future) Community obligations, and also in the interests of 808 improving the efficiency of this country's use of its energy resources. Although the number of new boilers likely to be affected is, as I have said, small, they are generally very substantial consumers of fossil fuels.
I believe that this Bill should command wide support from all parts of the House. The Government commend it both as a measure necessary to fulfil properly our Community obligations and protect our trading interests, and as a most desirable measure in its own right. Improving the efficiency with which energy is used is a matter of concern and economic interest to us all. I move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be read 2a —(The Earl of Gowrie.)
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I am sure that we are grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, for explaining the provisions of this Bill to the House. As your Lordships know, it is a Bill which is starting in this House, and I should like to congratulate the noble Earl for the way in which he has explained it and for the simple language in which he has described its various clauses, because it is a very complicated Bill.
As the noble Earl has said, the Bill is intended to enable the United Kingdom to fulfil her obligations under certain EEC directives relating to fuel efficiency standards for heat generators and for setting standards of safety and efficiency for gas appliances. As the noble Earl has also said, the Bill provides specific statutory authority under Clause 15 for the Department of Energy's existing energy advice schemes. I shall have a little more to say about that and the problem of energy conservation in general in a moment. But, for the present, I should like to say that we welcome the Bill as far as it goes, although I shall be rather more controversial later when I come to some of the Government's energy conservation policy.
I believe that the United Kingdom is a net importer of most of the appliances concerned and that the EEC is both our major market and our major source of imports, as the noble Earl implied. I understand that in the case of gas fires, refrigerators and water heaters, imports account for a sizeable share of the United Kingdom market. If we implement these directives it should help our ability to export approved models to the rest of the Community, which I am sure will be welcomed in all parts of the House.
I wonder whether the noble Earl would give me some idea of the likely cost of on-site testing for the larger boilers, as this will presumably have to be paid for by the commercial or industrial user. In the case of the smaller gas appliances, this will for the most part, of course affect the domestic consumer. If a type approval, granted under an old standard, is withdrawn after a period of grace, will that affect only models for sale and future manufacture, or will the householder be required to get rid of his old appliance and to buy a new one? If that is so—and perhaps the noble Earl will enlighten us when he comes to reply—it could be rather hard on some consumers, particularly the poorer consumers, as the prices of these appliances seem to be increasing monthly. For example, will there be financial help for people with lower incomes?
809 Turning to Clause 15, I note that:The Secretary of State may with the approval of the Treasury make grants … for the purposesof energy conservation, mainly, it seems, towards the costs of any survey, or for advice, But will the grants include financial help to householders—particularly poorer householders—and to the smaller businesses for installing insulation? Surely efficient domestic and business insulation is one of the best ways of conserving energy. I see that under Clause 15(2)(d) grants may be made:subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State may determine".Will these include grants for insulation? I realise that insulation may be the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, but may I suggest that this should not preclude the noble Earl from letting the House know the position, as in this House, as your Lordships are aware, Government spokesmen speak for the Government as a whole; and anyway we all know the deep interest that the noble Earl takes in all questions relating to energy, even if they impinge on other departments.
As has been said before in these debates—and we cannot say it too often—conservation should be the third limb, with coal and nuclear power, of our energy policy. As the noble Earl said this afternoon, North Sea oil cannot be included in any long-term planning, as it is finite and will begin to run out around the turn of the century. I greatly welcome the way in which the present Government are continuing the broad lines of our conservation policy, and that this sector at least has not been subject to cuts. I understand that the Department of Energy is providing much help to domestic and industrial consumers, and a good deal of practical advice. There is a great deal, of course, that industry in particular can do, and there is room and scope for new thinking and innovation.
Some companies are leading the way. I believe that Marks and Spencers has done a great deal of pioneering work in this field; and one company that I know—Granada TV Rental Limited—has put all its energy control charts in selected area showrooms onto Prestel, so that both central management and individual showrooms can monitor progress of performance in energy saving. It found—and I am sure that this would apply to other companies—that a modern system, such as Prestel, creates more interest and makes for more competitiveness; and I understand that this is already resulting in a significant drop in consumption. That is just one example of what can be done.
I know that the Government are funding R and D to make for better use of energy, but I wonder whether we know enough about the human factor, and why some people are more aware of the need for energy saving than others. I wonder how much social research is being done. I know that the Department of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics has carried out a social research survey on the individual energy consumer, and its report, by Peter Ellis and George Gaskell, has been published. The authors of this report found that one of the problems is that it is not clear to many people whether or not there is an energy crisis. Further, for those who are conscious of it, the term "energy crisis" has become 810 deflated through constant use. There are other factors, such as the individual's attitude towards authority, and how people are affected by the examples set by others; for instance, how they may be affected by what is being done in local authority offices and civic centres.
There is also the effect on the individual of other social groups with which he is in contact or which he respects. It was found, for example that the lower income families were the most affected by price increases and made big efforts to conserve. The comfortably-off usually made the least effort. Those in the middle were probably the most conservation conscious of all. I know that these are generalisations, and I refer to them only to stress that it is no good exhorting people to save energy if you know little about their behaviour patterns. What do we know of the influences and ideas that a child brings home from school and the parents bring home from work, or from their community or leisure groups?
I suggest, therefore, to the Government that we need to study this aspect of conservation, and that they should consider putting in hand some social research of this kind, as a support and guide for their general publicity campaign, which I greatly welcome but which I suggest could then become more effective and less wasteful, because it would be based on more knowledge of human behaviour and would be directed into the right channels. I understand that the report to which I refer was sent to all relevant Government departments early last year, so they should have had time to study it by now.
I now intend, if I may, to be slightly more controversial within the ambits of the Bill. The Government are relying a great deal on the price factor—particularly over gas—but this is falling very severely on industry, and particularly on the energy intensive industries. I should like to remind the House that the CBI the other day said that British gas prices in the last year have risen 30 to 40 per cent., and in some cases 70 per cent. They point out that this is absolutely crippling for an energy intensive industry.
This is particularly hard on certain industries, such as the glass container industry (and here I must declare an interest) where energy costs—that is the price of oil and gas—account for 21.6 per cent. of manufacturing costs. British industry as a whole is also paying £8 per tonne in heavy fuel oil duty, which is, with Ireland, the highest rate in Western Europe. In Germany the rate is under half, at £3.55 per tonne, and in France—this is almost unbelieveable—industry pays under £1 at £0.08 a tonne, to the great benefit, of course, of French manufacture and trade.
The British Gas Corporation is making absolutely huge profits which will enable the corporation to give the Government what is virtually a loan of £400 million this year, presumably towards the public sector borrowing requirement, which, of course, may look good from the Treasury's point of view, but the effect on industry—particularly the energy intensive industries (the glass, ceramic, chemicals, paper and food manufacturers) — is crippling. Indeed, I believe that British industry is paying at least £300 million a year more for its gas supplies than it would be paying in other EEC countries. The result is heavy lay-offs, increasing unemployment and lost orders.
811 I am very glad to see that the whole question of energy pricing, which seems to be the main part of the Government's conservation policy, and its effect on industry, is to be investigated by the Select Committee on Energy of another place as a matter of urgency, that the Secretary of State will be asked to appear before it, and evidence will be invited from the CBI and those industries that are most affected and at risk. Therefore, as I say, we welcome this Bill on this side of the House and I shall not oppose it, and we shall do all we can to ensure that it receives a swift passage. However, I must say that it is the Government's energy pricing policy that is causing industry and noble Lords on this side of the House much concern.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Lord Tanlaw
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Earl for the presentation of this Bill that starts in this House. We on these Benches are pleased to give a welcome in principle to the technical parts of the Bill, which conform to one of the Liberal Party's resolutions at conference which urged Her Majesty's Government to introduce energy performance standards for domestic and industrial appliances. Also, as the noble Earl has said, this Bill is a response to the Community's legislation in this field, and although its implementation may be time expired from the Community point of view I feel certain that there will be no serious objections in its late arrival on the statute book in this country.
Our goals are very similar to what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said. Our goal is an energy efficient society, and conservation must be one of the means through which we can achieve this goal. I should like to come to this part, the conservation part of the Bill, at a later stage. We too have heard that the manufacturers of the various types of heat generator covered in the Bill are, as the noble Earl says, on the whole in agreement with its intentions, which are to lay down certain approved standards. The exceptions to this mainly arise understandably from manufacturers of open hearth type fires, which I shall come to later, and certain electrical appliances.
I also wish to follow the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stabolgi, that the difficulty is to find exactly where are the benefits to the consumers in this Bill, and again we hope to discover that they will lie in the conservation grant element contained in it. Although it is a Second Reading it would be helpful if Her Majesty's Government could clarify for the record some of the possible exclusions of the very general term "heat generator" which, as the noble Earl said, was invented by the Community. The far-reaching term "heat generator" could technically cover, so far as I can see, a combined heat and power station at one end of the scale and an outside barbecue at the other. I assume for the purposes of this Bill that both types are not included in the Government's intentions.
While it is clear that heat pumps or heat exchangers are covered by the term "heat generator", it would be helpful to know the Government's view on domestic refrigerators, which will fall of course under this category. Is it possible that refrigerators which use 812 the excess heat more efficiently by space heating attachments would be given type approval? A refrigerator of this type, although more efficient in energy terms, would of course be more expensive. So perhaps the Government might consider a reduction in VAT on refrigerators that operate on this efficient principle.
No mention was made of solar panels by the noble Earl, but on the other hand they would presumably not fall under the category of heat generator although they are used for water heating. If this is the case this is perhaps unfortunate because a number of models of solar panels available on the market are far from efficient and should require some kind of type approval in order that the public are not deceived into purchasing expensive and inefficient energy saving devices of this kind.
Then there are the open hearth type fires, which I should imagine are almost impossible to assess for type approval as heat generators as described under this Bill. It would be self-defeating for the constructive side of this Bill to be misunderstood by the general public in their use of a non-approved open hearth fire. I have taken some time to seek clarification in these areas on the very wide powers that this Bill could have, because it clearly states in Part I "that any heat generator could be required to have a type approval plate. While it is recognised that the Government are attempting to improve the efficiency of space and water heating both industrially and in the home, many of these improvements will be self-defeating if the individual heat generator attachments or radiators have no thermostatic controls, and therefore what efficiency could be gained from the heat source would be lost through inefficiency at the radiance source.
The practical effect, as the noble Earl said, of this Bill is really that the manufacturer, once he has achieved a type approval, is able to attach a plate which is clearly visible on the boiler when it leaves the factory. Once the appliance is installed on site the plate could indeed be obscured clue to the siting of the boiler. Therefore, inspectors of this could be faced with a dilemma if the plate was not visible due to the situation on the boiler site. If this regulation is to be effective, it must be clear that the installation of such boilers should allow for access by inspectors, as the noble Earl told us. But I am suggesting as an alternative that the boiler or heat generator should certainly have a type approved plate when leaving the factory, as well as a second plate which could be made visible from outside the building in which the boiler was installed.
I mention this because I should like the noble Earl to consider another point for a moment, if we take this concept one step further towards our goal of an energy efficient society. It concerns the metering of all heat generators in terms of all energy efficiency. Why is it that all electricity and gas meters are sited often in the most inaccessible part of the domestic dwelling? This involves a great deal of time and effort and, on occasions, aggravation from both the owners of houses and members of the gas and electricity boards who have to read these meters.
Why cannot we establish once and for all that the meters can be read without having to make access into a house. There would appear to me to be powers within this Bill to insist that any new heat generator 813 which is type approved should have this facility. Many of us consider that this would be a real saving in time and money for both the gas and electricity boards. It would also save what is often considered almost harassment quite unnecessarily to old people living alone, or to those families which all have to go out to work, and these constant approaches or constant postcards from the boards saying that they cannot read their meters.
I also have a suspicion that a percentage of those people who have been cut off, with the inconvenience that this involves, is due in part to the inability of the consumer and the supplier to agree a bill as a result of this lack of access to the meter itself. I do not wish to dwell on this point, but it would be helpful if the noble Earl could tell me that perhaps, if this is not the right Bill, what is the Government's, and indeed his department's, attitude towards this suggestion. Would the Government be prepared to look at this more seriously—if they cannot do so under this Bill—on another occasion?
There is another point. We are going on to the Weights and Measures Act which is also brought into the Bill as the operative one in which the inspectors have the various authorities to execute this Bill. Once more I wish to put forward a plea for consideration that some standard energy conversion unit recognised throughout the world would be an immense help to the consumer in his choice of what type of boiler or heat generator is best suited to his use. This, of course, is many years, if not decades, away.
But it leads me on to the type of scale that is fixed to any type approved heat generator, because we have all had the experience that a lot of these appliances do not have a proper scale on them. If they have a scale at all, it has a series of meaningless numbers. If the noble Earl could tell me, for instance, what temperature either in fahrenheit or centigrade, is the correct one to heat his bath, I shall be very surprised. I do not think many people know. Therefore, I feel that, if under Clause 2 of this Bill the Government clearly have powers to specify in detail these kinds of refinements to heat generators or boilers, I hope they will consider this, and especially about the difference between fahrenheit and centigrade scales, which is very confusing to the general public. It also can lead to accidents and to great inefficiency.
I just mention this in passing, because it is not often one has a chance except in a Bill of this kind, which is basically a technical one. I believe that the correct way to convert centigrade to fahrenheit is to multiply by five, divide by 9 and add 32. Of course we can all do this, but some can do this better than others. However, from these Benches I would suggest a more simple solution; namely, if there is no calibration on a boiler, one simply doubles the centigrade value and adds 30, which produces a near enough accurate answer. This simple short-cut is not generally known to members of the public and it would therefore be helpful to have it included in some of the department's literature, which, I might add, includes temperatures in fahrenheit and centigrade but does not give advice on how to convert.
I wish to emphasise—though I do not think it comes under the Bill—the worry businessmen have, in general and in the energy-intensive industries, about the high 814 cost of fuel. Thts is now beginning to affect us all, directly and indirectly (I speak as an industrialist as well as a member of the public) and I hope the Government will look at this more general aspect when they are talking about conservation and the so-called benefits which the North Sea is supposed to produce for us.
We shall of course be looking closely in Committee at the civil rights element contained in the Bill to ensure there is adequate protection from abuse or over-enthusiasm by officers under the Weights and Measures Act which could undermine the good intentions of the Bill. But, meanwhile, perhaps the noble Earl could reassure the House that there will be no penalty for members of the public who unknowingly jostle their molecules in front of a heat generator of a type not approved by Her Majesty's Government; as I understand it, only the manufacturer will be liable to prosecution in those circumstances.
In connection with conservation, I question whether adequate funds have been allocated for the implementation of this part of the Bill. We as a party have been pursuing one Government after another for loft insultation, for both domestic and industrial insulation, and we still have a long way to go before we will match that of the Community. If it is the main intention of the Bill to implement EEC Directive 78/170, then perhaps a further Bill will be necessary to bring the building regulations in the United Kingdom up to the standards of those required in the Community. I suspect that members of the public will not get any money from the grants in connection with the Bill, if my reading of it is correct, in that they will get only advice, presumably written or verbal, of a technical nature too, from the Department of Energy. It would be helpful if it were stated that advice should include making more public information available about the Homes Insulation Act 1978. It is very depressing to note that the money grants for insulation under this Government scheme have not been fully taken up by members of the public, apparently through lack of advice and information. I hope that, in the context of conservation advice coming from the department, that aspect will be looked at closely by the Minister.
I wish finally to express a personal disappointment, now that we are approaching the festive season, in that there appears to be no mention either in the EEC Directive 78/170 or in the Government's "type approval" specifications in Clause 2, of chimney dimensions for private dwellings. Is it possible that both the legislators in the Community and in Her Majesty's Government have forgotten that at this time of year this mode of entry to all dwelling houses is used by a most important caller? Can the Minister therefore assure the House that there is nothing contained in the Bill that will in any way delay or obstruct the arrival of this welcome visitor on Christmas Eve? Some of us may still believe in him.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, noble Lords will not expect me to be sycophantic, even when I have come to praise, and I know the whole House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Gowrie for his constant and ready attention to problems of energy that are, alas! outwith the ambit of his department. We hope 815 that when the great reshuffle comes he will end up in the Department of Energy and not still be outside it. There is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth—or, if I may put it another way, do you question my assertion that conviction led conversion?
The Government are now going for a measure of administrative controls and inspection. They are also going further than the EEC directive because they are including industrial boilers—and "any" is the critical word in the Bill—when the directive relates to domestic use and mass-produced generators. This is to be welcomed. But without of course suggesting that the Government have done a mini U-turn or swerve of any sort, I must say that the Bill proves that what is said in this House is not completely wasted gas. Twice I have raised the question of testing industrial boilers and each time previously I was told that the answer lay in pricing and price signals. Indeed when discussing an amendment to the Companies Bill on 16th July of last year, I raised this matter and asked:Has not the time come … for equipment which assists in the reduction of waste also to be made a compulsory feature—and I stress the word compulsory'—of all new installations?"—I was referring to boilers. I was given this answer by my noble friend Lord Lyell:The object of any mandatory requirements, we believe, can be achieved by the soaring costs of all forms of energy".The answer continued later:Company directors are watching very carefully their energy expenditure; and I wonder whether the House would deem it necessary that there should be a further mandatory requirement …".—[Official Report, 16/7/79; cols. 1190–8.]If that was not enough, your Lordships took part in a debate on 19th March of this year on a Motion about energy conservation and the same point arose. I said in that debate:There is certainly tale after tale of boiler and furnace instruments in small factories being either not maintained, or ignored if they are working".—[Official Report, 19/3/80; col. 264.]This was the answer I got from my noble friend Lord Gowrie:We feel that the key to effective energy conservation is economic and realistic prices which reflect the real long-term cost of supply".—[Official Report, 19/3/80; col. 299.]One does not want to labour the matter, but the fact is that on both occasions the point I raised and the plea I made fell upon the Front Bench with the crisp ring of an underdone pancake. I asked at that time what was the good of making speeches in this House if the Government did not seem to do anything about them, and I think today in this Bill we have the answer. The Government are clearly learning that government by monetarism and the market place is an art and not a science, and so the Government have done well to fudge on this as on other issues; it is of course never too late to mend. Somebody once said that when in practice such trifles as principle were easily set aside, the faculty of ignoring them made the practical man, so today the Government see no point in excluding heat generators used in industrial buildings, as does the directive.
What is more, the Government now accept that it would be both technically feasible and cost-effective to raise the efficiency of all boilers, this not by price but, at the end of the day, by administrative procedure. 816 It is not juggling that is to be blamed, but much juggling, for the world cannot be governed without it. If all that is so, then does this Bill go far enough? wonder whether it would not have been prudent to extend it to include heat pumps, and air conditioning and ventilating equipment, which are also in many cases wasteful of energy and which in many cases could be subject to the same sort of procedures as are proposed here.
The Bill is a good first step, but we want to see others to follow, rather than procrastination. Many steps towards energy conservation were raised in the debate in March—points about pumped storage, about British Rail's electrification to cut the use of diesel, about the building regulations, which are still trailing behind the facts of life and the facts of energy costs, about restricting the use of cars in town centres, about the underground gasification of coal, about amending the Electricity Act 1947 in order to put heat sales on a level with electricity sales, and, finally, the encouragement of the use of petrol and diesel additives, to say nothing of energy audits.
All those points were mentioned. The only one to have surfaced so far is that relating to boilers, but for this we must be grateful, just as we must be grateful for the mood of consensus which has animated this debate. I was content to hear the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, say that he finds that this Bill, so far as it goes—and that was his phrase, and in that I go along with him—follows the broad lines of the previous Government's conservation policy; and with that I assent.
Noble Lords will remember that in our debate on the Coal Bill in the last Session there was a remarkable area of consensus within this House. It is for consensus in energy policy that I plead. It is the Government's flexibility in moving from exclusive reliance upon price and the turn to the necessity of administrative intervention that I welcome. I consider that the Bill is a good start to the new Session, and I wish my noble friend Lord Gowrie every success in piloting it through the House.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl one or two questions. I am sure that the House welcomes in principle this Bill for the conservation of energy, though I must say that conservation should start at home. For instance, I think that this Chamber is far too hot today. Absolutely no attention has been paid to a rise in the temperature. This is a small matter, but it should be watched more closely in many Government departments.
I want to ask the noble Earl: Just what is the extent of the operation of the Bill? The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, said that it seems to go from boilers to barbeques. But I am not sure how far it goes. The greater part of the noble Earl's speech dealt with the question of type approval. Well, everything is a "type". I am not very clear as to whether this means existing types or only new types. The rubric states "supply", but the Bill does not. The Bill simply states, "any heat generator". I am not quite certain how far that goes. I notice that the noble Earl did not mention what is perhaps the oldest form of heat generation, wood. I do not know whether or not it is intended to include wood; but the noble Earl did not mention 817 it. I think that it is important that we should know this, since the Bill involves powers of entry. That means that any of the, I suppose, 18 million residences can be entered. I do not know quite at what point, but that power is apparently provided for and it immediately raises another point. It may be unnecessary to ask about this, but let us suppose that the heating arrangements are unsatisfactory. Would that affect the matter of insurance? I know that in Clause 17 it is stated that a contract is not affected, but it is important that it should be made abundantly clear that the insurance arrangements for houses are in no way affected. I wonder whether the wording in Clause 17 is clear enough.
I should like to draw the attention of the House to Clause 16, which contains a power to create offences. Parliament is generally fairly careful about creating offences. In this instance the offences would be created by order and would not be submitted to Parliament at all. That is my reading of Clause 16, and I wonder whether it really is the intention of the Government to do that. I know of no other instance where this is done, and I should very much deprecate such a practice. Parliament should have at least the negative procedure available to it, though in regard to creating offences I should have thought that the positive procedure should be available. I ask these questions of the noble Earl. I may not have read the Bill as carefully as I should have done, but it is not very easy to understand. I am certain that the purpose of the Bill will be welcomed, but I should like to know the extent to which it is intended, or likely, to operate.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Wynne-Jones
My Lords, I apologise for intervening in the debate without having given notice, but I should explain that it was not until today that I realised that I would be able to be present and so take part. This is a very interesting and important Bill, and I welcome its presentation to your Lordships' House. It has been particularly pleasant to find myself so frequently in accord with my noble socialist and interventionist friend and colleague, the noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale. Clearly we think along very similar lines, and I have no doubt at all that if Governments of all types paid more attention to what the noble Earl suggests, and what perhaps I occasionally am able to back up, as indeed is the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, our progress with energy legislation and practice would be much more rapid and much better than it has been.
There are only one or two points on the Bill to which I wish to make reference. It refers almost entirely to heat generators that are operated by fuel, not those operated by electricity or anything of that kind; and there is a very simple reason for this. If a generator is operated by electricity, there is virtually 100 per cent. conversion of the electricity into heat, whereas where a fuel is used the conversion may be down almost to zero, or, if one is lucky, 60 or 70 per cent. In certain cases that might be exceeded, but 100 per cent. is not attained. Therefore the amount of waste is enormous when using a generator heated by fuel. The Bill is important because it emphasises the fact that by proper design of appliances energy can be conserved.
However, certain points arise when a fuel is used. Almost inevitably there is corrosion. Some of your 818 Lordships may remember the old gas-heated geysers used in bathrooms. Your Lordships might also remember the amount of corrosion involved, as well as the considerable risk to health that there was at times if the geysers were installed and operated improperly. Proper operation is just as important as proper installation and original design. With a gas-heated appliance in the course of time the jet through which the flame is produced becomes corroded, and the efficiency of the jet deteriorates. So it is important that any gas-heated appliance should be kept in proper working order so as to function as intended.
I hope that the Bill will take into account type approval and the question of a guarantee that appliances as a whole are working; though I believe that there should be closer control than that. I was a little alarmed when the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, suggested that a very small staff could deal with the whole situation throughout the country. That I very much doubt. If there is to be proper control, there will be needed a bigger, not a smaller, staff than that which the noble Earl suggested.
There is another point that matters, I think, with regard to all conservation of energy. Conservation is not just (as the noble Earl was I think suggesting) a long term programme: it is the only method by which, in the short term, we can save fuel. We cannot switch rapidly to a new system of producing energy, but we can almost immediately economise in the use of energy. Conservation is the one method which can be guaranteed to give quick results, and it is therefore one which the Government ought to encourage to the utmost. I regret to have to say—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, hinted at this—that this country is backward in spending money upon the conservation of energy.
I think I am right in saying that the total amount spent in this country, with a population which I think is about nine or ten times that of Sweden, is half the amount that the Swedes are spending on the conservation of energy. I believe there is only one country in Europe which is spending as little on conservation, and that is Italy. I think that, of the rest of the European countries, this country is spending not just a little less but very considerably less. This is a most deplorable thing, and I think the Government ought to look at this matter very urgently to see how we can improve our position with regard to conservation.
With regard to all forms of appliances, one of the things which is absolutely essential is to have good controllers and regulators. Today you can quite easily make and purchase thermostats, regulators and controllers of every type. With modern technical advances in electronics we can do almost anything in this way very much more simply than we were able to do it 10, 20 or 30 years ago—and we are not taking full advantage of this. There are firms in this country which produce these appliances, and it seems to me that it ought to become mandatory to instal them wherever one has any substantial area which is heated.
The noble Earl, Lord Lauderdale, referred to air-conditioning, and this, I think, is one of the most important fields which is being ignored in this Bill. When I was in America some time back I was informed that the consumption of electricity in New York City is greater in the summer than it is in the winter, and the 819 reason is air-conditioning. The amount of electricity consumed by the air-conditioning of New York is so enormous that they use more energy in the summer to cool the place than they do in the winter to heat it and to run it. This means that we need to look very carefully at all forms of air-conditioning in order to get the maximum efficiency out of them. With those few comments, I should like to approve of the Bill as a small step forward, but showing that the Government are prepared to learn, and I hope they will now begin to learn very quickly.
§ 4.24 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down on the list of speakers, but I did not know until one o'clock that I was going to be here today. The subject of energy conservation is an admirable one and we are all in favour of it. As to whether this particular Bill is necessary for that purpose, I have grave doubts myself; but if it is necessary for us to be able to sell our machines in the Common Market, then so be it, let us have the Bill. The great waste that is going on, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, has just said, was started off by the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Bill—a good old Conservative nannying Bill—and since then all the young men in offices have always worked with their coats off, they are so hot. What is more, in the case of almost every shop you walk into, after 10 minutes I want to go out again because I am completely overheated. How the unfortunate assistants stand it, I do not know; but that is where savings are to be made. Also, of course, one goes into the City of London today and sees these hideous jungles of blocks of concrete inhabited by international bankers, all of them air-conditioned and putting a very heavy load on the electricity grid.
This Bill is not dealing with those things at all, so far as I can make out. It seems to me to be dealing only with new heating systems. When, a few years back, I was connected with an industry in which we used a great deal of heating and steam, our chief engineer was always coming along and saying, "We have an old Lancashire boiler, and if we install a new oil boiler we can pay for it in four years". Of course, those were the days when we were borrowing money at about, probably, 12 per cent. It was very well worth doing then, and we did an awful lot of it. I have no doubt that at the moment they are hastily converting to coal. But think of similar people today, particularly small people, who probably have to pay something like 20 per cent. to borrow money from a bank, if they can get it. It does not become a proposition. They have a good old wasteful boiler that ticks over; they do not want to burden themselves with a lot of debt for many years, in paying it off at 20 per cent. interest; and this situation is just stultifying the whole of industry.
I have mentioned to your Lordships before (and I apologise for doing it again) that I have always had the theory that the price level in this country depended very largely on the price of energy. If only Her Majesty's Government would pay a little more attention to that very plausible theory instead of swallowing the wilder assertions of Professor Milton Friedman, we might get out of the mess we are in now.
§ 4.27 p.m.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I cannot resist repeating a remark I was forced to make to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, yesterday that among the sternest critics of the Government's policies at the moment is Professor Freidman. However, happily that is not connected with energy issues. When I was receiving my briefing for this debate I made a gentleman's small bet with officials that at some point in the debate the energy activities or the energy contents from use of your Lordships' House, in a physical sense of the word, would be raised, and I was very anxious as to whether under the Bill it could be described as a heat generator or a gas appliance! Of course it is not covered by the Bill, not being by any stretch of the imagination a new product or appliance, which is where the Bill is designed to fall.
I also took a small bet that I would be gently chided by my noble friend Lord Lauderdale for being in the Ministry I am and not in the one that he very kindly would like me to be in. Normally it is conventional on these occasions to say that I will bring this or that to the attention of my right honourable friend. I do not know whether it is proper for me to repeat this, but not a million miles from this debate—and I have watched him attending most assiduously all the way through—is the Minister responsible, so your Lordships have even a hotter line than I am normally able to provide.
I thank your Lordships for the general welcome that has been given to this Bill and I will try to spend the few minutes remaining to me to deal with some of the specific points rather than the general philosophy which your Lordships have raised. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked about the likely cost of the testing of on-site large boilers. I pointed out that, though this represents quite a section of the Bill, in real life it will probably represent only some 600 or 700 very large appliances in any given year. One is thinking about schools, hospitals, special appliances and this kind of appliance. Of course it is difficult to give a precise answer here, and we still have to consult representatives of manufacturers and users, but our estimate is that the cost of any test may be around £500. This, in our estimate, is liable to be 1 per cent. or less of the annual cost of fuel used by a typical large boiler; so that on-site testing will need to result in only a relatively small improvement in average boiler efficiency to be thoroughly cost-effective. Could I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, while the point is in my mind, and to other noble Lords who were anxious about the position of consumers, that most consumers, as individuals, are not affected; one is thinking of the manufacturers. But the consumers' associations with whom we have consulted have widely welcomed the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also asked whether householders would have to change their appliances when a standard is changed. I think that this was also behind some of the anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. This would not be the case. I can assure the noble Lord, and my noble friend Lord Hawke, that the Bill relates only to the supply of new appliances; appliances in use would in no way be affected. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, asked whether grants under Clause 15 would include help 821 for poor householders, including grants for insulation. The clause is concerned only with the provision of advice on energy conservation and does not provide for the payment of grants for domestic insulation because such powers already exist. The Government already pay grants under the provisions of the Home Insulation Act 1978 for loft and hot-water tank insulation. In August, the Government introduced a special extension to the homes insulation scheme to enable elderly people on low incomes to get grants of up to 90 per cent. towards the cost of loft insulation materials and insulation compared with the normal ceiling of 66 per cent.
While on the subject, on the wider question of help for poor householders, I may say that the Government have accepted the responsibility for protecting those least able to help themselves in meeting higher energy costs. A general scheme of assistance was announced in another place in March which will provide worthwhile help with fuel costs this winter for those in most need and will provide the basis of protection against future fuel price increases. The package includes, as I have mentioned, special help for pensioners with insulation needs. Some two million people will benefit from the measures and expenditure on help with fuel bills will exceed £200 million this year. These measures are more generous than any provided in previous years to help with fuel costs.
The noble Lord, Lord Stabolgi, referred to Ellis and Gaskell's Review of Social Research on the Individual Energy Consumers. The Government agree that this is a useful report which provides a good insight into the attitudes of domestic consumers to energy conservation, and the Department of Energy has already been involved in discussions on the report with the authors, with the fuel industries and consumer bodies as well as with manufacturers of control devices. I can assure the noble Lord that research on public understanding of and response to our energy conservation information campaign is carried out and we study the results with care. But I agree that there may be scope for further research and we shall be glad to give consideration to the point mentioned.
The noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Tanlaw, referred to the effect of gas prices on energy-intensive industries and my noble friend Lord Lauderdale talked about our attitudes towards price signalling. I think there is no change here. At a time of rising world energy prices, the Government continue to believe that economic energy pricing is essential if consumers are to receive reliable signals about the continuing cost of energy on which to base their decisions on fuel choice and energy conservation investment.
For industry in general, the energy bill is only 4 per cent. to 5 per cent, of their total costs, and this means that a 20 per cent. reduction in industrial energy prices, supposing that we were in a position to grant that, would cost £1,000 million, or more than a quarter of North Sea revenue, and yet would reduce total industrial costs by only some 1 per cent. I do not think that that would be an economically efficient way of helping energy-intensive industries which might be in trouble. I would draw noble Lords' attention to the greater proportion of costs which can be saved by concentrating on wage claims, or wage claims granted in excess 822 of productive capacity—as I know from the work within my own department.
The British Gas Corporation have, however, recognised the difficulties currently experienced by their customers and have tempered recent price increases to those users who are tied to gas and who cannot readily switch fuels. It must be recognised that the systematic and indefinite under-pricing of gas relative to competing oil products would lead to a demand which could not be met. Oil contributes at present 37 per cent. of heat supplied to industry, and gas 28 per cent. In no way, therefore, could gas replace all the oil used by industry.
I note that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, referred to the duty on heavy fuel oil. Though not the highest, the United Kingdom duty is relatively high by EEC standards and has been criticised recently by the CBI and others as contributing to high United Kingdom heavy fuel oil prices. Our duty inclusive heavy fuel prices were high for some months earlier this year, but I would point out that for many years up to 1980 our heavy fuel oil prices, duty inclusive, were closely in line with other European levels and that in recent weeks, I am glad to say, as other European prices have increased in response to the high spot market, United Kingdom duty inclusive heavy fuel oil prices appear to have moved well towards to the bottom of the price league.
The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, raised the general conservation issue. It is difficult to quantify precisely how effective a given conservation campaign is in the short term, but I can say that in the period from July to September this year the total primary energy consumption in the United Kingdom was 8 per cent. lower than in the equivalent period in 1979 and consumption of oil fell by 11–2 per cent. A very large part of these reductions was due to the fall in the level of economic activity, but I do not think, given those figures, that one could seriously argue that our energy conservation activities are having a negligible impact. We have always—again may I say this to my noble friend Lord Lauderdale in this context—intervened or spent money on energy conservation matters—about £120 million in the current financial year—a large part of which is being spent on conservation in the public sector.
The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked what the exclusions would be. Would refrigerators be excluded? Open hearth fires were mentioned by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. He asked also whether the Bill would cover combined heat-and-power generators as well as barbecues. There are real difficulties in testing manufactured open hearth fires. We intend to consult fully about the possibility of setting standards for such fires, for despite the difficulties, they are, as the noble Lord recognised, very widely used. We do not regard refrigerators as heat generators at present and I would refer the noble Lord to the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, about the efficiency of conversion from electricity appliances. We agree that they might become so in future. The Bill gives powers which we could use if appropriate, after consultation. Apart from this, I can confirm that we would cover combined heat-and-power generators, but we do not at present have it in mind to cover barbecues in summer or Father Christmas in winter.
The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, asked whether it 823 would be possible to prosecute ordinary consumers or purchasers of appliances for buying non-type-approved appliances. The answer is a clear no. It will be an offence to sell or to supply appliances which ought to be type-approved but which are not; but the consumer is the innocent party in that. He also asked whether the Government would require electricity and gas meters to be sited where they can be read easily. We have discussed this with the fuel industries. There are many problems of safety, cost and practicality affecting the siting of meters. I am glad to say that the industries themselves have a good record of siting their meters in the best places.
We do not think it appropriate to be "nannying", if I may use the term used by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, about this at present, but we will keep an eye on it. The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, also raised the question of powers to improve the insulation standards of buildings. That goes wider than the Bill and I can give the assurance that these powers already exist under other legislation: for example, the Homes Insulation Act 1978.
The noble Lord raised the question of controls and he was echoed by my noble friend Lord Selkirk. The Bill will enable the Government to require conformity with prescribed standards. These could include requirements for adequate controls to be built into appliances where this was necessary for the safe and economic running of the appliance itself. But the Bill does not provide powers to deal with heat distribution systems or such associated controls because the Department of the Environment already have adequate powers to deal with such controls, although the problem is not one of powers but of defining what is necessary and cost effective.
My noble friend Lord Lauderdale asked whether the Bill should not cover heat pumps and air-conditioning. Heat pumps are heat generators and are therefore covered by the Bill. It is possible—again I refer to the answer I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, in connection with refrigerators—that at some stage the Government might wish to set efficiency standards for air-conditioning, but that is not at present the situation.
My noble friend Lord Selkirk asked whether using an unapproved appliance might affect someone's home insurance policy. The answer again is, no. It would be an offence to supply an unapproved appliance for which type approval was required, but it would not be an offence for someone to use such an appliance. This also covers his anxieties about powers of entry. There is no power in the Bill to enter domestic premises without a warrant, and we are assured that justices of the peace would be extremely reluctant to grant warrants without proper cause.
My noble friend asked me about Clause 16. The purpose is to allow the Government to be less oppressive rather than more so, and the alternative surely would be to specify in the Bill that all breaches of orders would be offences and all punishable on conviction. The Government do not think that it would be sensible to make all breaches of orders punishable offences. For instance, if an applicant for type approval breaks the provision of an order he will not get the type approval that he is seeking. There is no point to, as it were, penalising him further by taking him to court. The 824 power in Clause 16 is therefore intended to allow the Government to specify in orders which breaches of orders are to be offences in law and which are not.
My Lords, we are all very glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, back in the House. He asked whether the Bill provided control over servicing of fuel-burning appliances. The Bill is not intended to provide powers to control the servicing. Such powers would have major implications for staffing, as the noble Lord pointed out, as well as raising issues of the rights of entry to premises which my noble friend Lord Selkirk: mentioned. These issues are very wide and require serious consideration indeed before we lay anything before Parliament in that regard.
I am grateful that nearly all the speakers in the debate welcomed this Bill and supported its objectives. I believe that this reflects the general recognition of this House, and, indeed, in the country, of the importance of conservation in the broad perspective not only in energy policies but of our general economic objectives. By the end of the century the industrialised countries will need to have effected a substantial transition in their energy economies. They will need, as the Venice summit recognised, to break the link between economic growth and growth in oil consumption. Breaking that link is a hard task for us all, but we have certainly been forced to start upon it.
In this task, in this transition, energy conservation has a vital role to play. There are no quick and easy solutions, of course. Energy is used by millions of consumers in many different ways and we have all become used to easy consumption. Apart from the use of the price mechanism, there is no single measure which the Government or anyone else can take which will affect more than a relatively small proportion of the changes which we all know will be necessary. We have instead to look at the individual areas in which energy is used and see what can be done in each of them.
In that context, this Bill is a significant and useful measure. It aims at the progressive increase in the efficiency with which energy is used in one of the most important single sectors: space and water heating. The Government commend this Bill to the House not only as a piece of legislation intended to fulfil our Community obligations, not least in the interests of our trade, but also as a valuable conservation measure in its own right and in all our interests.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, when an appliance gets a type approval can the consuming public assume that it is an economic manner of operation? A case in point is heat pumps about which not a great deal is known in regard to domestic premises. If a type approval is given, can one assume that this is an economic appliance?
The Earl of Gowrie
Yes, my Lords. However, my noble friend will see from the Bill that we are also flexible in terms that this may need updating from time to time as technology advances. The aim is to give the public and the user a clear signal that this is an energy-efficient appliance.
§ The Earl of Lauderdale
My Lords, could the noble Earl say whether he would look kindly upon proposals 825 to expand the Bill to cover—if it does not already cover them—air-conditioning and ventilation equipment? They are energy-consuming appliances of great importance in factories and shops.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I will certainly look into that and notify the noble Earl.
On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.