HL Deb 23 July 1998 vol 592 cc136-7WA
Baroness Pitkeathley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to improve the environmental performance of small businesses. [HL3037]

Baroness Hayman

The Government is to revamp its support to small businesses to help them improve their energy efficiency and environmental performance. The Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme has an established reputation for helping businesses to improve their energy efficiency. The Programme is currently stimulating savings of around £500m each year across the economy. We now want to make the benefits of this programme more readily available to small and medium sized businesses by building up a network of locally based consultants who will be accessed through a freephone hotline.

These new arrangements, which replace the smaller SCEEMAS programme which has had a very disappointing take up, will be developed jointly with the Government Offices in the Regions and with local businesses and business support agencies at a cost of some £2m pa.

Businesses value authoritative advice that takes account of local needs and the EEBPP will also look at ways of working with Government Offices and local providers of advice to establish a more coherent programme of local support, providing small businesses with access to a greater range of local specialist advice services. The existing EEBPP energy helpline is to be improved to help small businesses access the information on energy efficiency they need. This will include the introduction of a new freephone helpline.

The new arrangements will help bring energy efficiency advice on to the same footing as that delivered through the successful helpline and consultancy advice service run via the joint DTI/DETR Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme. When a small business wants to go green, it's important that the Government is there to help. This is part of our continuing efforts to rationalise the Government's support to businesses on energy and environmental performance via the Government Offices in the Regions and other organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust, Business Links, Training Enterprise Councils and local authorities, in providing a more effective support.

For this reason we are going to phase out SCEEMAS grants as from 31 August 1998, which will be the deadline for all first time applications, and to terminate the scheme at the end of January 1999, the deadline for all claims. The resources from SCEEMAS will be diverted to contribute to the development of a co-ordinated network of energy efficiency advice underpinned by the EEBPP and designed to be complementary with other local providers.

Further details of the developments to the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme, including the pilot phase of the new service to SMEs, are to be announced separately.