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Column 14412.25 am
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East) : I congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) on her position in the ballot ; I have tried to achieve a position as high as she has in the ballot on a number of occasions. I have only managed 13th today and I doubt whether we shall get that far, so I am glad to have the opportunity to join in this interesting debate. I look forward to the reply that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister will make. In doing so, I pay tribute to the former Parliamentary Under-Secretary, who helped me several times with matters related to care in the community. I look forward to receiving continuing help from my colleagues in the Department.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South referred to respite care, and highlighted the central question of who has responsibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) discussed exactly how well care is provided in the public sector and again asked how responsibility should be determined.
The hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) started well by pointing out the anomalies in care for the elderly, and the fact that the Audit Commission has highlighted some of the perverse incentives. He obviously has experience of work in these matters. However, I was sorry to hear the way in which he developed his argument. He is basically a monopolist. He believes that there should be a monopoly of care and that, as long as the monopolist is provided with a super-abundance of resources, everything will be all right, but my constituents, and members of the recently formed Bolton handicap action group, which I helped to set up, are very dissatisfied at having to depend on a monopoly for their services.
The difficulty with the Griffiths report is that Mr. Griffiths obviously spent too much time talking to the providers, and too little time to the consumers of the services. We need a structure that pays more attention to the needs of those who use the services. The hon. Member for Bristol, South highlighted those points very clearly. Griffiths simply does not pay enough attention to the contribution that the voluntary sector can make. We know from the Audit Commission report that the value placed on care provided by the informal section is about £6,000 million. We need a structure that will harness that enormous contribution, help it to grow and make it fit with the system as a whole.
Unfortunately, there is not time tonight to cover all the work done by the voluntary groups. I shall merely mention some of the points put to me by some of the leading voluntary groups such as MENCAP, the Royal Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and Adults, the Spastics Society, RADAR--the Royal Society for Disability and Rehabilitation--and MIND, as well as the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering. I shall mention too some of the outstanding contributions made by some of my constituents. One of the people who I would like my hon. and learned Friend the Minister to meet if he has an opportunity to come to my constituency is Mrs. Gibson of Legendre street. Although a single parent--a widow--Mrs. Gibson has adopted one of the most severely handicapped children from the Elizabeth Ashmore home in Bolton. The child is almost wholly paralysed, yet she has been able to take the child into her home and care for the
Column 145child in an extraordinary and welcome way. She is a widow, as her husband, who was a haemophiliac, died of AIDS, so she has already had a tragedy in her life.
I should like my hon. and learned Friend to meet Mrs. Cummings of Hough Fold way who has a 20-year-old son, David, who is profoundly handicapped. She faces all the difficulties, which have been mentioned already, of what happens when a child reaches the age of 19 and all the provision of care and education suddenly stops. An ordinary child may well be able to care for himself, but a profoundly handicapped child cannot. Parents may well be growing older and, as the physical size of the child and his demands become greater, the burden of caring becomes greater.
In reflecting on how Griffiths might have considered the problems differently and reached different conclusions, I think that he underestimated the voluntary sector. On page 26 he states : "this should allow the social services authority to hold the not-for-profit body to account for the proper use of public funds." Why should the not-for-profit voluntary bodies not hold the social services authority to account for the proper use of public funds? That way it might be interesting to see exactly how much money is available and exactly how well it is being used to provide care. As Mrs. Cummings said to me when I saw her last only last week : "Only when local health and social services can be directed by a body with legally binding powers to provide services will proper care of the handicapped become a reality."
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) for introducing his Bill which is now the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. It is directed at putting a statutory duty on whichever body is to have responsibility to provide these services, not on the basis of discretion, but generally. That is what carers seek.
How should that be done? That is the question that the Government must address. There is no question but that it must be done. Only last week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said : "Everyone agrees that there is a serious problem",
"few people think that the status quo is highly satisfactory."--[ Official Report, 13 December 1988 ; Vol. 143 c. 771.]
There are calls for the 1986 Act to be implemented, calls for the Griffiths report to be implemented and calls for more funds. But I suggest that we could pay some regard to the suggestions of the Department of Employment. I refer the House to the White Paper "Employment for the 1990s" and what it says about training and enterprise councils.
Enterprise councils are to be formed locally and two thirds of their composition should come from the private sector. They will help to direct a budget of £3,000 million. Each council will have a budget of about £25 million. Therefore, if a local care in the community council were formed in each area, was responsible for administering a budget and consisted predominantly of people from the voluntary sector, they would decide how the money was to be spent. They would hold to account the social services department and the health authority on exactly how they provide care. They would be responsible for harnessing the enormous resources of the voluntary sector to provide care in the form in which it is wanted.
I recommend that the Government should seriously consider setting up local care for the community councils,
Column 146two thirds of whose members should be representatives from voluntary groups and one third officials from local and health authorities, family practitioner committees, the Departments of Health Social Security and any other relevant official bodies. The chairman of such a council should be an independent person. That council should then bid for the power to direct spending. It should have a life of, say, three years, after which it would have to bid again to have the power to continue. If it could not administer its functions properly, another body could be formed which could bid to do the job. Such a council could take over the powers currently exercised by the joint planning committees, which are made up of local and health authorities.
I do not suppose that such a proposal would be welcomed by official bodies, whose powers would be weakened, but I believe that it would much better serve the interests of the disabled and their hard-pressed carers than the monopoly institutions which presently have that job, and which the Griffiths report calls on to provide the care in a future structure. The Government have been right to hesitate before leaping to take on the Griffiths proposals. That doubt is shared by individual carers, who do not want to be in the hands of any such monopoly. They would rather have the services directed by people with experience of using the voluntary sector rather than just bureaucrats.
The subject of community care has been on everyone's lips for some time--in fact, it goes back 30 years--but to many people its implications are largely unknown. Most people have just a vague idea of the large mental hospitals closing down. For years, community care has been little more than political rhetoric and idealistic policies and has had nothing to do with the realities of ignorance and the neglect of the handicapped and their carers in our society. The majority of mentally handicapped children and adults have always lived in our society until their parents could no longer cope. Some 70 per cent. of mentally handicapped adults live with their families. That voluntary care, which has been valued at £6,000 million by the Audit Commission, must be increasing year by year. It is clear that the parents are the backbone and the basis of community care. Support for them must be the main task of community care. That support should consist of the provision of respite and day care centres which can properly cater for their requirements.
Community care should mean an end of the need to choose between care by the family and care by the state. It is scandalous that the only way in which a profoundly handicapped person can receive a dowry is by going into an institution for at least six months. That should not be the only way in which a person can gain entry into a neighbourhood network scheme.
When compared with mentally handicapped adults, mentally handicapped children are relatively well catered for, which is simply because all children must receive full-time education. However, when they reach the age of 19, they are suddenly forgotten. It is as though, like normal children, they are considered sufficiently prepared for the outside world and have no need for further care. I would like to raise the points made to me by the voluntary groups when we have a full debate on community care. I am sure that all the hon. Members who have spoken would like the opportunity of a full debate on
Column 147this subject. I hope that I can put some of those points in letters to the Minister, if I have not sufficient time to raise them now. One of the things that worries parents greatly is how to make provision for their children which is not a substitute for state benefits. If someone wins the pools, he does not lose his pension, but if a disabled person receives an inheritance he immediately loses his entitlement to some of his benefits. That is unfair and I hope that that is also addressed by the Government.
Mary Holland of MENCAP has said :
"how we respond to the needs of people who for too long have been denied their rightful place in the community--who for too long have been out of sight and out of mind'--will show our true worth as a civilised society' approaching the 21st Century."
Our challenge is to find the right structure in which we can harness both the resources of the public sector--at central and local government level-- and the enormous resources that can be made available on a voluntary basis.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West) : I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) not only on her success in the ballot for the debate, but on introducing the debate with an outstanding speech that was comprehensive and sincere. It helped the House to identify the many problems associated with community care.
Had my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) been successful in participating in the debate, she would have said a great deal about social security, lodging allowances and so on. That underlines how crucial it is to have a full-scale debate on community care, preferably in Government time. It is a great pity that tonight's debate has underlined the fact that no such full-scale debate has taken place.
I also wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) who spoke with considerable authority, as one might expect, given his experience in social services. I know that the House listened carefully to many of the points that he made. The hon. Members for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) and for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) gave outstanding support to the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. I am particularly grateful that they mentioned that Act in their speeches tonight.
As my hon. Friends have said, we are not without information, research, advice and opinion on this matter. Hon. Members have mentioned the Griffiths report. When the Minister replies, I hope that he will be more forthcoming about that report. Time after time, we have asked his right hon. Friends, including the Prime Minister, to tell us what they think of that report. It was published in March and it is extremely thoughtful.
Months before, when we asked questions about personal social services and community care, we were told that we should wait for the Griffiths report. We did so patiently, but now we are asked to be even more patient in awaiting the Government's response to it. I hope that the Minister will seize the opportunity tonight to tell us precisely what the Government will do about Sir Roy Griffiths' views. Virtually everyone who has spoken tonight has asked for such a response.
Column 148We have also heard mention of the 1985 report of the Social Services Select Committee, which contained 101 recommendations, and of the Audit Commission report. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield rightly reminded us that that report talked of community care being in disarray. All of our concerns about community care find some refuge in almost every section of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act and I am grateful for the references made to it tonight.
The hon. Member for Mid-Kent spoke about advocacy. As he knows, that is in the Act. The hon. Member for Bolton, North-East spoke about consumers. If ever an Act attempted to reflect the views of consumers and to give them a say in service provision, this was it : its very title uses the word "consultation". Two and a half years on, it is extremely distressing to find that only a modest attempt has been made to implement that Act. Sections 1, 2, 3, 7 and 11--some would say these constitute the meat of the provisions for community care--have still not been implemented by the Government. We are entitled to ask, why not? At the time of the Act's passage, there was a great deal of support for it in both Houses. There still is, but millions of people with disabilities and their carers still wait for its full implementation.
As Christmas approaches, we should think about the problems of community care, if only because 90 per cent. of these people--the elderly, the mentally handicapped and the mentally ill--live in the community. Government funding does not reflect that proportion : quite the reverse. It concentrates on residential care or on the NHS. We certainly want proper funding for the NHS, but on the basis of a clearly identified strategy for community care, which recognises that people are entitled to enjoy independence in the community, properly supported by occupational therapy, the home help service and so on. People should not be driven as a matter of necessity, rather than of choice, into residential care, which may not be in their interests. How can we ignore, particularly at this time of year, the housing crisis in this country? Housing investment has been cut in real terms by 60 per cent. under this Government. Council house starts are at an all-time low. Housing subsidies have been eroded. The consequences of this have been brought to our attention repeatedly, not least in Scotland by Mr. Laurie Naumann, the director of the Scottish Council for the Single Homeless. His document, called "The First Four Weeks", deals with unemployed homeless young people who know all about lost income support and YTS jobs that do not exist.
We condemn the Government's approach because it offers no clear strategy for community care or for evolving a relationship between the providers and consumers of care.
The Government talk of cost-effectiveness. There is not much evidence even of that, as was clear from the Griffiths and Audit Commission reports. The revolving door syndrome can be seen especially in the discharging of patients from long-stay psychiatric hospitals. There is nothing efficient about that. Section 7 of the 1986 Act makes it possible at least to deal with people who have been in psychiatric hospitals for six months or more. Many of them are sent out into community care that does not exist. Many find themselves in prison, or in places entirely unsuited to their needs.
Column 149The Government's policy of running down hospital provision and closing wards and of not providing sufficient bridging funding is not a substitute for proper community care. In many ways, it weakens the concept of community care, as the Opposition understand it. The tragedy is that the Government are not even attempting to identify the problems nationally. Several times I have tabled questions to the former Minister, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), and in reply after reply it appears that central information does not exist. There is no incentive for people to provide local plans. I realise that time is running short and I am anxious to accommodate the Minister, so I end on this note. The Opposition's attitude to proper provision of community care represents a challenge to poverty, homelessness and neglect. For that reason, we cannot place all our faith in the free market. How can we, when in New York it has produced 30,000 former psychiatric patients on the streets? How can we do that, when we know of the problems that exist in London and in many other parts of Britain? We believe in a policy of mutuality of concern for service provision ; in insisting on the rights of the consumer ; and in a community care priority that is crying out to be met.
The Minister for Health (Mr. David Mellor : I am glad to follow the courteous speech of the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke). I too would have liked the House to have had the opportunity of having a longer debate on community care. It is an important issue to which hon. Members on both sides of the House have something to contribute. Although I do not determine the business of the House, I dare say that if the will is there on both Front Benches, it should be possible to have a longer time in which to discuss the matter. Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) rose --
Mr. Mellor : I am genuinely sorry that time was not available for every hon. Member who wished to speak. I could not reasonably have been expected to take any less time than the nine minutes with which I have been left. One or two others might, with advantage, have compressed their remarks a little. If the hon. Lady has a point to make, I shall be happy to accept an intervention in my speech. Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West) rose --
Mr. Mellor : The same goes for the hon. Gentleman. If they would allow me to get into my stride for a minute or two, I should be happy to give way to them. People who stay up until 1 am are entitled to have their say.
I have noted the points made in the debate. Some common threads ran through the speeches with which I had no difficulty agreeing, but honesty compels me to say that I cannot fully endorse some comments by Opposition Members. As I shall show, there has been a formidable underestimate of the additional resources that have flowed into community care during the past decade.
As one of those who find a good deal of the argument in Sir Roy Griffiths' report most compelling, it saddens me that those who are troubled about the emphasis that he places on local authority provision base their objections on the fact that some local authorities cannot recognise that the proper provision of community care must be a fair balance between the individual carers--about whom the
Column 150hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) had some important words to say--and local authority provision. In my constituency, I have always worked closely with my local social services department, and I know the good work that is done in the country. But we should not forget the voluntary and private sectors.
The attacks on the private sector by the hon. Lady and by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) were unconvincing and redolent of another age, but they provide good ammunition for those who say that the voluntary and private sectors would not get a fair judgment if Sir Roy Griffiths' analysis were followed. I am reluctant to arrive at that conclusion, but it behoves all of us to take off our ideological blinkers, look at the situation in the round and recognise that good community care will be a balanced contribution from a range of sources.
Mrs. Mahon : My point concerns hostel charges and the change from board and lodging to housing benefit which could mean a 30 per cent. cut in provision. Will the Minister give us a sign of future funding arrangements and a guarantee that we shall not see a cut in funding to the valuable hostel services, particularly women's refuges?
Mr. Mellor : I am glad that the hon. Lady has registered that point, which largely concerns the Department of Social Security. I shall ensure that she receives a full answer either from me or from my colleague at the Department of Social Security.
It is clear that there has been a dramatic increase in community care resources. For instance, when the National Audit Office considered the period 1976-77 to 1984-85, it indicated that there had been an 18 per cent. real terms increase in expenditure on services for the elderly, the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped and the physically disabled. The personal social services provision or 1989-90, which has just been established, has been set at £3.3 billion. That is over 10 per cent. more than was provided in the 1988-89 settlement and so allows for considerable growth, even discounting inflation. Between 1983-84 and 1987- 88, local authorities, which have always had a crucial role to play, increased their expenditure by more than 20 per cent. in real terms.
We must be careful not to underestimate the extent of the additional provision that we have seen in practical terms. Many of us are concerned about mental handicap because few of us do not feel touched by those problems. The hospital population fell by about 15, 000 between 1976 and 1986, but the number of day care and residential places in the community rose by over 50 per cent. more than that. There were over 26,000 additional places, which is a sign of the growth in provision that we all want to see.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South rightly attacked Victorian institutions with large wards. Obviously there will continue to be a need for various kinds of institutions, but community care--
Similarly, when one considers mental illness, between 1976 and 1986, the number of residential care places almost doubled and places in day centres increased by almost two thirds.
Column 151It has been pointed out that the number of people over the age of 85 will grow. Our figures suggest that the number will more than double by the year 2011. Obviously there is a formidable task ahead of us and we will be better equipped to meet it if there is genuine partnership between national and local government. Local government is full of people who recognise the need for good voluntary activity and that the private sector can play its part. If one cuts away some of the ideological overlay in the speech of the hon. Member for Wakefield, one sees that there was at the heart of it a point that few of us can deny-- that there is a perverse incentive that makes it easier for people to go into residential care than to stay in the community. I regret that. It is not helpful and I note that almost everyone who has looked at community care has denounced it and has asked for a proper gatekeeper.
I am sure that there are certain truths that all of us who work in the community in a practical way--as Members of Parliament do--cannot deny. One of them is that people do not want to go into institutions. They go into them as a last resort. Central to any reshaping of community care, which cannot be delayed for long, is a recognition that domiciliary services will have to expand and we will have to look far more carefully at the basis on which people enter long-term care which most people would not enter it there were the opportunity to stay in the community. It is not simply a matter of keeping people in the community. We must also consider retraining people to return to the community. There is a good record of that around the country and we must build on it.
I accept that in closing the large institutions we must not consign patients to the wind or breeze of fortune. There must be adequate provision for them in the community. That provision is being built up. I have had the privilege to visit many marvellous projects established to satisfy that provision. We want more of them, and I believe that between us we should be able to find the resources to make that possible.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : I hope that the House agrees that it is important to raise the question of energy efficiency and conservation now. It may not be an appropriate time of day to raise the matter, but it is an appropriate time in the political debate to raise it.
I hope that this debate will be spared deep ideological divisions, although there are of course important questions and legitimate differences about public expenditure and what resources should be devoted to such matters. But the timing of this short debate is important. There is widespread public concern about the global environment--issues such as the greenhouse effect and the general increase in pollution levels. People are also worried about adverse climatic effects, the potential increase in sea levels, deforestation and desertification of various parts of the globe. Increased energy efficiency and conservation have an important part to play in those debates.
The Prime Minister, if not the Secretary of State for the Environment, has said she has an interest in the subject. That is right and proper. However, the Prime Minister's speech to the Royal Society raised the suspicion among the cynics that she is more interested in arguing a positive case for nuclear power than in protecting the environment. She is more interested in promoting the interests of the nuclear industry and in trying to stymie future developments in coal-fired stations.
I am not a cynic and I take all the statements of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment at face value. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have at least increased public interest and concern about conservation and the environment.
It is also important that we should consider energy efficiency and conservation now--and this will not be lost on the Minister--because there is the small matter of the Electricity Bill before the House. Hon. Members will be able to voice their concerns in the debates on that Bill. The Bill provides an opportunity for people to argue an alternative to the nuclear route. Clearly we will have the opportunity in the debates on the Electricity Bill to consider an alternative that will provide greater value for money for the industry, the public sector and for private domestic users. That alternative can be achieved if we increase the amount of resources that we devote to energy conservation and efficiency.
It is common knowledge that many academic and professional bodies are now interested in conservation and the environment and have published reports and general information about it. The Rocky Mountain Institute, whose expertise is well known, took the view in a recently published report that
"The key to ameliorating future climatic warming caused by the combustion of fossil fuels is to improve the efficiency of energy usage."
That sums up the view of many academics, who have concluded that investment in energy efficiency is, pound for pound, seven times more effective in abating global warming than is nuclear power. There is nothing new about that--many academic, professional and pressure groups take the same view.
Column 153Although the Select Committee on the Environment's recent report is essentially concerned with air pollution, it nevertheless reaches an interesting conclusion in respect of energy conservation : "However, if the world wants light, heat and energy in constant and increasing supply, the choice might resolve itself between a source which is deliberately and constantly poisoning the atmosphere and one whose misadventure would have catastrophic global results but an alternative would be energy conservation and reduction in demand." That is an important and significant finding.
What will reduced demand mean? The House will know that the European Community has recently produced its own estimates. It came to the conclusion that if a saving of 1 per cent. per annum in energy usage can be achieved, it will reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by the staggering figure of 125,000 tonnes annually, and those of nitric oxide by 200,000 tonnes, in addition to achieving significant reductions in carbon dioxide levels.
The Minister will know that the European Community has set a target reduction of 20 per cent. over the period 1983-95. That is a minimum, but it is clearly also achievable, and it provides the context for our debate and sets down what is achievable by all member states over that period.
There are worries in the minds of many people about recent trends in Government policy on efficiency and conservation. As evidence of the Government's awareness of the situation, I quote the former Secretary of State for Energy :
"When I came into office in 1983, I judged that Britain was down at the bottom of the international energy efficiency league. By the end of the decade I want the world to judge that we are at the top." Some of the actions following upon that statement served to confirm that the Government were taking the matter fairly seriously. In 1983, the then Secretary of State began with an inherited budget of about £11.8 million. By 1986- 87, the budget had increased to £25 million. There was also the monergy scheme, and at one stage about 2,000 events were sponsored by the Energy Efficiency Office. There were even, at the last count, 43 breakfasts! In all seriousness, they made the point to business men ; those to whom I spoke felt that they had provided a useful exchange of information and had a real purpose. So a certain amount of energy was expended by the former Secretary of State himself.
The budget for the Energy Efficiency Office has now been cut to £15 million, and it has been suggested that it will be cut further. The number of staff has also been cut since the heyday of nearly 100 people, and the Civil Service grades of those involved seem to be getting lower. There used to be at least five grade IV civil servants.
Home insulation grants are arguably the most practical way in which people can contribute to energy efficiency. Increased insulation schemes lead not only to financial savings but to warmer homes, which is particularly important for elderly people at this time of year. The home improvement grant scheme was introduced in 1978 and expanded in 1984 : the budget was increased to £35 million and there was a 90 per cent. allowance for supplementary benefit claimants. By 1987 all but the supplementary benefit scheme had been abolished. I know that most homes now have some insulation, but what percentage have the Government's recommended 6 in of insulation in their lofts? What I have read suggests that the figure could be as low as 15 per cent.
Column 154The industrial energy survey schemes set in train by the Government recently had benefits transcending the protection of the environment. They increased the competitiveness of businesses that engaged in them, providing for 50-50 cost sharing for industry, commerce and public sector buildings when energy-saving schemes were being considered. Up to £10,000 of grant was also available for the more extensive schemes, and the Department of Energy claimed that when they were in full swing some £35 could be saved for every £1 invested. If that was so, why did the Department decide to abolish the scheme this year? There are also worries about the planned cutbacks in the advertising budget. The budget for getting the energy message across was formerly £7 million ; what is it to be in the years to come? Some people fear that it will be cut fairly drastically. Then there is the home energy advice scheme. A draft European Community directive entitled "Energy Information in Buildings" makes a major contribution to information about the energy costs of new homes, and tells domestic consumers how to improve their energy efficiency. Some pressure groups think that the United Kingdom blocked the scheme, or at least was not enthusiastic about it, and I would be interested to hear whether that contributed to the delaying of the directive.
There are other measures that the Government formerly promoted and in which they now seem less interested--for instance, the monitoring and targeting of specific industries, and assistance to energy managers, which seems less readily available than it was. The Department also seems to be promoting fewer building demonstration schemes. The Department of Energy is apparently becoming increasingly uninterested in this important matter.
In 1985 the Audit Commission for Local Authorities in England and Wales set minimum standards. It said that one staff member should be employed for every £1 million spent on fuel and that 10 per cent. of revenue should be reinvested in capital improvements. How many councils and Government Departments have achieved that target, or are making any effort to do so? The target figure for savings was formerly £7 billion per annum. What is that target now? Does the Minister have any information about the EEC target by 1995? All these important questions need to be answered.
The Government are missing opportunities in both public and private sector housing. Building controls and standards should be tightened. The Department insists on a U-value--a measure of energy efficiency, and the lower the figure the better the value--of 0.45. I am told that many of the materials that are being used in the construction industry do not meet that standard. Do the Government believe that there is adequate policing of the regulations? There is an argument for raising the standard of the U-value to at least 0.35, a standard that has been adopted by other EEC countries whose circumstances are similar to ours. What pressure do the Government intend
Column 155to bring to bear to make sure that tougher steps are taken to ensure that tighter control and higher standards are achieved? Much could be achieved. That has been demonstrated by the Milton Keynes energy unit. It has promoted eight schemes that have saved £125,000 a week. Other Milton Keynes projects include solar power cells, chemical systems and a 300-acre energy park. When the Minister visited Milton Keynes he referred to the need to spread to Wigan, Wick and Walthamstow the lessons that had been learnt at Milton Keynes. I agree with him, but what has he done since he made that important and useful speech to ensure that the message has been spread? The recent draft EEC directive "Energy Information in Buildings" will be useful in that connection.
The March consultative group that produced a report for the EEC said that up to 15 to 20 per cent. could be saved in the north-west by using tried and tested techniques--nothing new, or too fancy or technological--that are already available in the market. The measures that they outlined included monitoring, targeting, better housekeeping, better design and better equipment. The March consultative group came to the conclusion that an 8 per cent. reduction in energy use could be achieved by ordinary householders becoming more energy efficient by installing hot water tank insulation, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation, draft proofing, double glazing, condensing boilers and heating controls. The Government, local authorities and housing associations should be trumpeting these messages from the rooftops.
There have been recent press reports, including one in The Guardian , about the Treasury making it more difficult for the National Health Service to make full use of energy-efficient systems, thereby saving taxpayers' money. In the context of the United Kingdom as a whole, the energy bill could be reduced by £4 billion to £5 billion a year if £8 billion to £9 billion were spent on energy conservation measures. I acknowledge that that is a very large figure, and I do not expect the Minister to say that he can immediately produce such a huge sum of money, but there are positive directions in which he could move. The £3 billion provided in the Electricity Bill to featherbed the nuclear industry could be put to better use, but no doubt we shall have the opportunity to debate that in the coming weeks as the Electricity Bill completes its passage through the House.
When the Prime Minister spoke at the Milton Keynes energy week, I was disturbed that she spoke about savings and reductions of only £7 billion out of £35 billion total energy expenditure. That was the original saving hoped for in energy efficiency. That aim has been improved by the Secretary of State, who said that we can now save only £8 billion out of a total expenditure of £39 billion. That is a very complacent target. The Government are not doing enough to achieve better savings.
The Government should set rigorous targets which they should prosecute with a great deal more vigour. They have to deploy resources and produce finance to achieve them. The standards set by statute for buildings, appliances, plant and methods of transport could be improved and "least cost" planning for all Government Departments should be established. Contract energy management, which is a system of third party financing, and energy
Column 156service companies to provide financing should be encouraged. Information needs to be more widely available at domestic level about running costs through the labelling of appliances. Resources for domestic and industrial efficiency and conservation procedures should be made available throughout the United Kingdom. And, against that background, we still have to remember the importance of the global perspective.
The Secretary of State has said that energy conservation cannot be imposed on an unwilling public ; but there is no evidence that the public is unwilling to have conservation and efficiency forced upon it. There may be a lack of individual and collective finance, a degree of ignorance or lack of awareness, but people are certainly not unwilling. The Government have a duty to protect the environment. If they did that by promoting energy conservation and efficiency more vigorously, that would benefit industry, consumers and the public sector and would even make room for further tax cuts if the savings proved to be as extensive as I hoped they might be.
The Electricity Bill provides an opportunity to make efficiency and conservation of energy a primary aim in industry. If the Prime Minister wants to be taken seriously as being glad to be green or being concerned about prudent housekeeping, she will need to invest to achieve better long- term results in this important sector of public expenditure.
Mr. Tony Speller (Devon, North) : We owe the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) a debt of gratitude for raising the subject for debate. I was sad to hear his comments about the Prime Minister. I believe that when a convert is found one should be nice to them, and it does no good at all to snub them. That applies as much to a marginal voter as it does to a marginal Prime Minister. Having said that, everything else the hon. Gentleman said made sound sense.
The way to achieve energy efficiency and conservation is not to waste things. It is that simple. Many years ago during the war, there were campaigns to save one thing or another because there were no resources to spare. Now energy resources are abundant. They are even over-abundant allowing for the way that we use them. Energy is over-used because it is cheap, and therefore it is wasted. If we do not waste it and we use less of it we shall benefit. Let us start at the bottom, in the home. We should insulate, double-glaze and draught-proof the home. We should lag the hot water tank and check the appliances that we buy to find out how much electricity they use. Those tremendously easy and simple methods cost very little and pay back in terms of power bills within six months to two years. We follow the United States in many things, including fast food. It has energy audits as a matter of course. All its major utilities are required by its Energy Act to offer an audit to each house to see what can be done cheaply to make it draught-proof, warmer and, therefore, cheaper to run for the householder. It makes sense and I suspect that sooner or later we shall introduce such a system. If a utility could save the cost of a new power station, it would be worth making the saving and selling a little less energy.
One of our problems is that the newspapers are full of advertisements from the excellent salesmen of gas or electricity trying to sell more and more. That may mean
Column 157producing one more power station at a gigantic cost to supply a marginal unit of electricity. The United States has realised that resources are finite and is working on that basis. Surely we should do that and we would be none the worse for it. We have already pointed the way.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) was the Secretary of State for Energy we started the monergy campaign. It was designed to save a fair proportion of the energy used. Ultimately, we did not save a great deal. In percentage terms we saved 1 per cent. That might not seem to be much but it is equivalent to the output of three Sizewells. It was achieved at a cost to the taxpayer of less than the cost of the public inquiry into the last Sizewell station. Lagging jackets on the 10 million uninsulated water tanks in Britain would save the cost of a Hinkley Point C, which is not too far from my constituency or yours, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
If one can save the cost of a new utility, irrespective of the arguments as to whether it should be coal, nuclear or hydro, the saving must make sense. The United States Energy Act 1978 forces electricity and gas utilities to provide free energy audits to their consumers, provide loans and give advice on how to save energy. Within two years, insulation in Britain could save 5 per cent. of our energy. Although the percentage seems small, it is actually a vast figure.
Another system which is much talked of but which no one really understands- -rather like proportional representation--is combined heat and power. In that system one does not waste, as we do at present, more power in cooling off the generating stations than is produced for the grid. One of the oddities of life is that we are so profligate with power that we waste more than we produce. That is illogical. I am sorry to have to quote figures but about 40 per cent. of our final energy demand is used as petrol or diesel for vehicles. Much of the pollution in our ever-more congested streets is ejected at what I call "pushchair level". It does vast damage to youngsters and brings no pleasure to the rest of us. It is time we started to give priority to other forms of transport. The most illogical thing in London is to see a queue of cars entering town between 8.30 am and 9.30 am each containing one person and taking up a vast amount of space. Probably all the drivers in a length of road could be fitted into one omnibus. That may not be convenient, but it would be a saving of a finite resource, which is what we should be looking towards.
I do not seek to detain the House at this hour. However, many of us, irrespective of our views on the type of generation, would agree that anything that saves energy saves money. If one can save some cash, one would be a welcome and popular friend, not least to one's electorate.
Windmills work and pollute nothing. They are excellent producers of clean energy in a quantity that is easy to assimilate and distribute locally. Water wheels have worked for centuries. We abandoned them because of the idleness of our civilisation but they have a sensible and logical use. Tidal power works and is clean and infinitely renewable. In my constituency, the tide rises and falls 36 ft twice a day, but we have no way of harnessing that power. When we consider harnessing it in barrages, there is a veritable barrage of protest from environmental interests, which say that terrible things will happen to wading birds. I feel sorry for wading birds, but I suspect that they will find another place to wade. Surely it is sensible to begin to
Column 158consider this clean form of energy and try to use it, not to the exclusion of other sources but as well as them. Further alternative sources are sunlight and geothermal hot water.
If we tried a little tenderness with the environment instead of using the most expensive and pollutant forms of energy and, in our own small way, tried to save a little here and there, we would save much money and much of our environment for future generations. 1.30 am
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : I am not sure that I want to follow the hon. Members for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) and for Devon, North (Mr. Speller) down all the avenues that they travelled. It would make the debate unnecessarily wide if I spoke about the greenhouse effect and renewable sources of energy, which are worth a debate on their own.
I shall confine my remarks to a fairly narrow definition of energy efficiency and conservation and the problems, that were partly dealt with by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, concerning the Government's attitude to them. The debate has spread to topics mentioned by the Prime Minister in her Royal Society speech, which was a broad commitment to conservation and looking after the global environment. It did not necessarily imply a commitment to policies that might bring that about in the lifetime of her Government. I have taken the point made by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire about the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office, but I am not sure that I am working from the same figures as the hon. Gentleman. My figures come from a written answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) on 9 December and show a cut in the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office from £26 million in 1986-87 to £24.5 million in the year ending last April and to £20.8 million for the current financial year. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire may have been referring to a prospective cut in the next financial year, but perhaps the Minister will say a little more about that and justify a cut of almost 80 per cent. in the budget, if the figure of £15 million being projected for the 1989-90 budget is correct. My figures certainly show a major cut from £26 million to £20 million over the past two years, which is extremely serious, against which the Government's commitment to conservation and efficiency must be judged.
One of the reasons why it gives me a certain amount of pleasure, even at this late hour, to be debating this topic is that being the hon. Member for Cardiff, West it is possible for me to say that much useful work has been done by Cardiff over the three years since it became the first energy action city in the United Kingdom by a combination of local authority and Government initiative. It has been an extremely good and well-run programme, which has been reasonably well funded by a mixture of Government and local authority funding, combined with much enthusiasm. There are 110,000 dwellings in Cardiff, and almost 20,000 have been fitted with home insulation and draught-proofing under the neighbourhood energy action programme. That sounds like a lot, but much remains to be done, although Cardiff is probably in the lead of most middle-sized United Kingdom cities in breaking the back of the problem.
The hon. Member for Devon, North mentioned the vast number of domestic hot water tanks that remain to be