HC Deb 29 June 1994 vol 245 cc809-10
13. Lady Olga Maitland

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is planning to encourage greater energy efficiency.

Mr. Baldry

Our steps to encourage greater energy efficiency are clearly set out in the UK climate change programme and the UK strategy for sustainable development.

Lady Olga Maitland

I congratulate the Government on placing such priority on energy efficiency. How much money are the Government giving in grants to the home energy efficiency scheme, bearing in mind the fact that it is designed to help the most vulnerable of our society—the disabled and the elderly?

Mr. Baldry

I am glad to be able to tell the House that money being spent on the home energy efficiency scheme has almost doubled to £70 million. That extra money will provide grants for 200,000 extra homes this year. It will help them with energy efficiency measures, and will be positive action to help the most vulnerable.

Mrs. Ewing

Does not the Minister realise that the Government policy of imposing additional VAT on domestic fuel can hardly be viewed as one that promotes energy efficiency? Indeed, it will take away the right of ordinary people, particularly the disabled and the handicapped, to have decent heating in their houses. Areas such as the north of Scotland, which I represent, have a green energy policy. We achieve energy efficiency through hydro-electric power schemes. Does not he recognise that, far from actually promoting energy efficiency, he is promoting energy inefficiency?

Mr. Baldry

That is nonsense. Before we introduced VAT on energy, all the Opposition parties in different ways advocated introducing a tax on energy. The Liberal Democrats complained that it was an anomaly not to have VAT on domestic energy. Labour wanted an energy tax, as did other parties. It is monstrous that when those parties are confronted with the Government's courageous decision to introduce VAT on domestic fuel, they renege on their environmental commitments.

Mr. Alan W. Williams

What is happening to the Energy Savings Trust? The Minister will know that in this financial year and the next it was due to spend £175 million on energy efficiency, raised from a levy on the gas and electricity industries. Clare Spottiswoode, the Director General of Gas Supply, has said, however, that such a levy is illegal. Is the Department challenging that view, or is the trust set to collapse from a lack of funds?

Mr. Baldry

I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Energy Savings Trust has made an excellent start. It has recruited a core of high-quality staff and run a number of successful pilot schemes. We are considering how best to secure the funding of the trust and its associated schemes.

Mr. Robathan

Although I welcome what the Minister has said, will he enter into conversations with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to ensure that the funding problem is resolved, because it appears that the new gas regulator is failing to implement Government policy?

Mr. Baldry

As I have told the House, we are considering how best to secure the funding of the Energy Savings Trust for the future. It is an excellent body; we are determined that it shall play its full part in promoting energy efficiency policies.

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