HL Deb 12 May 1992 vol 537 cc232-4

2.58 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

Which Minister within the Department of the Environment will be responsible for energy efficiency.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer and I wish him well in his new capacity. However, is he aware that when the Department of the Environment initially issued its list of ministerial responsibilities, energy efficiency—which was transferred to that department—was not mentioned? That was a matter of concern to many of us. In view of the imminence of the world environmental discussions to which reference has already been made, when global warming will figure largely on the agenda, will he confirm that the Government will be putting added emphasis on the promotion of energy efficiency as the best known means of limiting the risk of global warming?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, yes. It was a regrettable omission from the original press release from the DoE that it was not clearly stated that I had responsibility for energy efficiency. However, this Question has raised the opportunity to announce that publicly. The omission does not reduce the interest that I have on the subject.

Secondly, yes, of course we shall be using energy efficiency as one of the major ways to reduce our overall emissions and to help the global warming problem with which we are faced.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, the Minister must be aware that the biggest culprit still polluting the atmosphere is our coal-fired power stations. A programme was set in train to install desulphurisation plants. Will the Minister give an undertaking to the House that he will continue to press his fellow Ministers to increase the programme until the problem has been completely dealt with?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am sorry but I believe that that is beyond the scope of the Question.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minister consider that better liaison between industrialists might help his endeavour?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Lord is right. There must be close co-operation not only with those in industry but also with the citizens of this country.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, is the Minister aware that some of us regret the apparent demotion of the Department of Energy, especially as it had begun to do a good job under its previous and rightly elevated Secretary of State? Will he assure us that in the department's new location—it is hoped that that will not be at Canary Wharf—the finance allocated to research into, and promotion of, energy efficiency will not be allowed to diminish, as often happens when absorption into a major bureaucracy takes place, but that it will be increased?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, this year we have increased expenditure on the Energy Efficiency Office by some 40 per cent. That is a record of which we are extremely proud and no doubt it is one that we shall wish to continue.

Viscount Mersey

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that he has lost no time in promoting energy efficiency because only yesterday he launched a large combined heat and power scheme in the City of London?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for having raised that matter. He is quite right.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, before the Minister becomes too satisfied with the extra money that is being allocated to his department will he look at the past record? In doing so he will see that two or three years ago the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office was drastically reduced and that therefore he is starting from a low base. During his familiarisation period will the Minister also take particular note of the decline in expenditure on energy efficiency in this country during the past five years?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, before the noble Lord becomes too depressed perhaps I may point out that since 1983 the Government have spent more than £190 million on their energy efficiency programme and that that has generated savings worth more than £500 million per year.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is growing disquiet about the abolition of the Department of Energy, which was highly regarded in Whitehall, in Parliament and in the country generally? Will he make plain to the House which department will in future be responsible for producing the energy policy which has been lacking during the past 13 years?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I hope that any disquiet will soon be dispelled as people realise that my department, the Department of the Environment, and the Department of Trade and Industry are serious in taking on the responsibilities of what was a most successful Department of Energy. It will be up to those two departments, in particular the DTI, to produce the generality of our energy policies.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, how will that be done? What plan exists? That has not been made plain to Parliament. It is the responsibility of the noble Lord and his two right honourable friends to explain their future plans for the energy industry.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, these are early days in the new Parliament. No doubt my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Environment and for Trade and Industry will be able to take that point on board.