§ Mr. Simon Hughes
To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what actions have been taken since the appointment of a Minister in his Department to consider the environmental implications of his Department's policies; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Scott
The Department is committed to making the fullest possible contribution to achieving the aims of the Environment White Paper, "This Common Inheritance", as set out in the departmental report (Cm. 1514) published on 1 February.
My noble Friend Lord Henley, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, was appointed the Department's environmental Minister in September last year, and has established an environment steering group within the Department to undertake a comprehensive review of the environmental implications of all areas of departmental business and administration. The group has commissioned 660W work to assess the scope for initiatives in the areas of building construction, maintenance and purchasing, and has embarked on a review to determine whether we can extend our use of recycled paper.
The Department is participating in the Government's campaign to reduce its energy consumption by 15 per cent. over the next five years. Performance measures have recently been introduced, and resources have been allocated to setting and monitoring targets and identifying opportunities for investment in energy efficiency measures. We are seeking to raise energy awareness among departmental staff, and an article planned for the April edition of the staff newspaper will suggest ways in which individuals can make a contribution. The Neighbourhood Energy Action (NEA) group is administering a scheme of grants to assist people on low incomes to insulate their homes. The people targeted to receive this help are those on income support, family credit, housing benefit or community charge benefit. The Department is assisting NEA by issuing leaflets and displaying posters at local offices, and is considering what further help could be given.