Previous Section Home Page

Column 382

that it reduces the patient to immobility and a little immobility on the part of the Prime Minister would, I suspect, be attractive to the majority of the country.

The market will not succeed in dealing with the environmental and economic problems of high energy costs and inefficiency energy use--that must be the duty of the regulator. The Director General of Electricity Supply--the regulator--may be correct in believing that the effective operation of the market may help to achieve a solution to the problems. He may consider that more information should be made available to people to enable them to make rational decisions which will be of economic benefit to them. If that is so, I wonder how the Government justify the reductions, and the forecasts of further reductions, in the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office. Its budget is small in any case and I believe that its role must be encouraged and intensified if we are to ensure that rational decisions are made by individuals and by companies in the private sector to take advantage of the economic benefits of investment in energy conservation. Surely the Government should do their best to make that happen.

It is not good enough to believe that market factors will determine the solutions to the problems. We need direct regulations. The hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Williams) has already mentioned "least-cost" planning. The Minister will know that that terminology has been imported from the United States where it is used as part of the criteria to assess operators' plans. When an application is made to build a new power station, the question asked is whether that represents the least-cost method of meeting the required capacity that the operator wishes to provide. Almost inevitably the answer is no. Using the same or a smaller amount of money to invest in energy conservation measures always proves to be more cost effective within existing technology. In other words, every pound or dollar invested in energy conservation will yield substantially more saved units of electricity than that same pound spent on investing on new generating capacity. It is a radical concept, but it works. The Minister should tell the House why he has not adopted that method here and why he does not believe that it is a good way of ensuring that conservation becomes central to our thinking.

Earlier, I noted that the Secretary of State nodded in agreement when I expressed my dissatisfaction with the way in which CEGB has worked as a result of its centralist mechanisms. However, the right hon. Gentleman has not said--even if he believes it to be true--how the proposed privatisation will substantially change the bias towards generation. The newly privatised industry will still say that demand is rising and that, therefore, new and bigger power stations should be built. I do not believe that we need any more capacity ; what we need is more variety. We need greater flexibility and smaller-scale generation. That opens up all the market opportunities about which the Secretary of State and the Minister are so enthusiastic. If we followed that course there would be a great deal more enthusiasm for a privatised electricity supply industry.

Given that privatisation will take place and that the Director General of Electricity Supply will be appointed, I hope that he will have the power to pursue developments that will lead to greater flexibility. The new clause would help to achieve that aim. Without the new clause and the associated amendments I am not convinced that the Bill will ensure that the critical issues, which should be at the heart of the legislation, are properly addressed. Even at

Column 383

this late stage I urge the Minister to consider the need to amend the Bill to put conservation at the heart of it. If he does that he will put on the statute book a Bill which, however controversial it is in other ways, will advance the electricity efficiency of this country by a marked degree and which will benefit every individual and company throughout the land.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford) : The House will be aware that in June 1988 the Select Committee on Energy produced a report arising from the White Paper and the subsequent Bill to privatise the electricity supply industry. I appreciate that there is not much evidence to suggest that the Government take a great deal of notice of the Select Committee reports, but I believe that we should be able to rely on the Government's observations on that report. If that is so, the Secretary of State should have accepted the new clause today.

No doubt the Secretary of State will recollect what the Government said about energy efficiency in paragraph 39 of the third special report on the report from the Select Committee :

"The efficiency with which the electricity industry uses fuel will significantly affect its costs, and hence its ability to compete successfully. The increase in competition which is central to the Government's proposals will provide a major incentive to the electricity companies to use fuel efficiently. The Government believes that pressure to find ways of increasing fuel efficiency to obtain competitive advantage will be an effective pressure for improving efficiency of fuel use in the industry. There will also be a general duty on the Secretaries of State and the Director to promote efficiency on the part of licence holders."

If that does not mean what new clauses 7 and 14 mean, I do not know what does. If the Government were genuine in their response to the Select Committee, what are we doing here today? The new clauses should be unnecessary as their provisions should already be a part of the Government's programme.

We have heard much about the greenhouse effect. At present the Select Committee on Energy is taking evidence about that. I wish that its report was available now, as it would provide a great deal of ammunition for this debate. The House will agree, however, that, unless such information is leaked, we must await the publication of that report.

Research and development have an important part to play in energy efficiency and the greenhouse effect. In paragraph 54 of the third special report, the Government, in response to the original report from the Select Committee, state :

"The Government accepts that its role in assessing long term energy R & D is an important issue. The nature of the programme overall will be determined by the inter-action of the industry's R & D programme with the Government's existing policy on R & D as set out in the Annual Review of Government Funded Research and Development'. The electricity industry has been asked to submit proposals for the organisation and implementation of research after privatisation and expects to receive these in the near future. When these have been reviewed it will be in a position to consider the appropriate role for the Government."

The Secretary of State may be in a position to tell us whether they have received that information. If so, what are the Government's views on it and what action will they take?

Column 384

6.30 pm

We have recently heard much about the intentions of the Government and the Prime Minister to control the greenhouse effect. I wonder how serious those intentions are. The Secretary of State did not respond last evening to a question that I put to him about the Grimethorpe complex. He has had time to consider the question. The evidence given by Mr. Edwards of British Coal was that the Grimethorpe complex was under threat because the Government were not willing to provide £11 million for it to continue. If that is the case, how serious are the Government about efficiency and about research and development to protect the environment? Mr. Edwards told the Select Committee that if that scheme failed, very little other research and development would take place on the technology for sulphurised beds. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is talking to his colleague. I hope that he is listening to what I am saying because it is very important.

The Government's case is that nuclear energy is much cleaner. They have also said time and again that they believe that coal has a great part to play in the future of British energy. If they are serious about that, why will they not put money into research and development? If they are not serious about it, they should say so. If they do not want to put money into R and D, that may be why they are not keen to support the new clauses.

I hope that the Secretary of State will attempt to convince people that the Government are serious about protecting the environment and about coal having a part to play in the future of British energy. Will the Secretary of State give us an assurance that the Grimethorpe complex will be funded and that research will continue there?

Mr. Malcolm Moss (Cambridgeshire, North-East) : Energy efficiency makes economic and environmental sense. I do not think that proposition is opposed by Members on either side of the House. But all energy sources have an environmental impact. Burning fossil fuels contributes not only to acid rain but to the greenhouse effect. Nuclear energy produces radioactive waste which needs to be disposed of safely. The solution is not to transfer to renewables because to produce energy from wind farms we would need thousands of acres, and tidal barrages have detrimental environmental effects of their own. The question is : how best can we achieve energy savings? Should we do it via the amendments under discussion, with their emphasis on a more direct and hands-on procedure, with more direction and regulation by the director general? It is ironic that at a time when the Government are seeking to remove themselves from day-to-day involvement in the running of the electricity supply industry we should be discussing amendments which would give future Governments the potential to get their hands back on the industry. Or should we achieve energy savings through the operation of a free market within the framework set out in the Bill for the privatisation of the electricity supply industry?

Whichever way we go, there are things that the Government can and should do. They have some influence, although sometimes one doubts it, with local authorities. I understand that the Audit Commission is to re-examine how local authorities in England and Wales manage energy in their own properties. The new initiative

Column 385

follows an earlier study completed in 1985 which established that at least £130 million could be knocked off fuel bills. However, an initial survey of progress undertaken last year suggested that only a tiny proportion of the anticipated savings is being achieved. The survey found that only about 13 per cent. of the investment opportunities have yet been taken up on the energy management side. The Government should also consider their own buildings. Of all public sector buildings, 50 per cent. or more are occupied by Government Departments. When the Back-Bench committee on energy invited a consultant from an energy management firm to talk to it, he pointed out that whenever his firm was called in on a consultancy basis to examine Government buildings and spoke to the Property Services Agency, it got short shrift and got absolutely nowhere. The Government have a direct responsibility to make sure that the doors are open to proper consultancy so that savings may be achieved. What is happening in industry? To hear the CBI talk, one would think that putting up prices this year would have a serious effect on the performance of industry. A survey last year, I think, by March Consultants in the north -west region showed that savings of 30 per cent. or more could be achieved by business and commerce. Yet very little was done. Even when showed the possibilities of energy saving, efficiency and conservation, few firms bothered to invest the money necessary or to employ within their structure people who could deal directly with the problem.

Where will energy efficiency fit within the newly privatised electricity supply industry? Surprisingly, some interesting information has come to light recently. Only the other week Mr. Malpas, the chairman-designate of PowerGen, spoke to a meeting of the Fellowship of Engineers. He said that most national energy policies focused too much on how energy was generated and far too little on the concern for its use. When challenged as to how that view fitted in with making profits in a privatised electricity supply sector, he said that PowerGen was considering taking a leaf out of the books of many American power companies and positively assisting the introduction of incentive schemes to promote the installation of energy- saving measures.

If we turn to the American position, evidence was given at the Hinkley inquiry by a representative of an American company, the Bonneville Power Administration, which supplies electricity to five states in north-west America. The company indicated that it was spending some $700 million to help its consumers to reduce energy wastage. It said that within five years cumulative savings had already reached 220 MW, which is equivalent to a small coal-fired station, and predicted that by 2010 the programme would have saved 2, 750 MW of electricity. When challenged, its spokesman said : "We are in business. You don't spend $700 million on a passionate enthusiasm. You do it as a good business investment."

PowerGen is to be a privatised company under the Bill. The Bonneville Power Administration is not a public company ; it is not state-owned but is a private company. These two examples indicate how in future the privatised

Column 386

electricity supply industry in this country could make a positive contribution to energy conservation and efficiency.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce : Is it not a fact that the Bonneville Power Administration was set up originally as a state corporation? Were it not for the requirements of the Public Utility Commissioners, who refused permission for the building of power stations, it would not have embarked on that course. What the hon. Gentleman says is right ; having embarked on it, it found that it was profitable.

Mr. Moss : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making those points. Whatever the incentive for looking into energy efficiency, the proof of the pudding is that it has been achieved and it is possible for that to happen here as well.

The Government's budget for the Energy Efficiency Office has been challenged by Opposition Members. It is not just the size of the budget that is important ; the effectiveness of the spending is paramount. We should consider energy efficiency as our fifth fuel, which has significant environmental advantages. The new structure of the electricity supply industry will encourage that in three main ways.

First, one of the director general's main regulatory

responsibilities is to promote energy efficiency. Secondly, the area boards, in competition with British Gas, will have a direct interest in keeping down their customers' bills. They will also, in competition with British Gas, encourage people to switch to electricity which, for heating, will be far more cost-effective if the householder is, at the same time, encouraged to take energy efficiency measures. In discussions which I have had with them, area board chairmen see this as a positive contribution which will also help overall market penetration. Thirdly, competition in electricity generation will ensure efficiency in the use of fuels.

These amendments are irrelevant. Adequate energy efficiency measures are already well taken care of in the Bill.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Glanford and Scunthorpe) : Unlike the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), I am not convinced of the Prime Minister's commitment to green issues. For the Prime Minister, green issues seem to go along with the green outfits that she takes out of her wardrobe and wears on a number of public occasions. I have been to meetings where the Prime Minister has made a speech that is fine in terms of conservation and ecological issues. Unfortunately, when I come to the House, I find, along with many other colleagues, that some of the issues which she so warmly supported at public meetings are voted down by the Government or not given the Government support that they should receive. That directly contradicts the policies that she sets outside the House.

The Bill is one example of that. The conservatioin of energy must be crucial to any country, not only in reducing the greenhouse effect--a major need which has been identified by the Prime Minister--but in cutting costs, both for domestic and industrial users.

We all know of the damage caused to the environment by acid rain and the greenhouse effect, but, in a modern technological society, we also accept that we must have power. The CEGB forecasts that there may be a 25 per cent. increase in demand in energy in the coming years.

Column 387

Rather than simply ploughing ahead to meet that demand with more power stations--whether nuclear or coal--we should try to absorb that demand by greater energy efficiency.

In contrast to the argument put forward by some Government Members, nuclear power is not the answer to meet the increase in demand. It has advantages, but it also creates a different sort of pollution--in particlar, radioactivity. High environmental costs are also involved in dismantling the nuclear power stations and handling the waste that they produce. Therefore, nuclear power stations will not cut down pollution.

The union that I represent has members in both heavy industry, including steel, and rural areas. The steel industry has made great strides towards reducing its energy consumption, which has helped to return steel to profitability. However, not all companies have taken the same progressive line and invested in energy use. Of course, it could be argued that it is in the steel industry's interests because it makes savings by reduced power bills. Nevertheless, many industries which are not under the same kind of pressure to save money could pass on the savings in energy costs to their customers. The new clause would give the director general a role in encouraging the necessary energy conservation.

Another concern of mine, which has been echoed in the Bill, is the differential rates in rural areas. If new power companies are allowed to charge differential rates rather than concentrate on efficiency and energy saving, they will take that option. Therefore, housing estates built in rural areas to meet housing demand could face extra charges and industries set up in rural areas to provide jobs could also face a penalty.

6.45 pm

The Secretary of State will be aware that environmental organisations strongly support this batch of amendments. They call not only for energy efficiency and conservation programmes--which, if all the various conservation schemes were implemented, could cut the peak demand by 70 per cent.--but for target-led reductions in the pollutants of the electricity generating industry, particularly carbon dioxide and sulphurs.

Apart from the obvious industry energy conservation, the director could encourage energy conservation in domestic use--including the installation of low energy light bulbs. In my house we have installed such bulbs in areas where they are used a great deal, such as the porch and downstairs. They are bulky, but they can be hidden by choosing the right shade and they provide considerable cost savings because they last longer than average light bulbs. However, many people are unaware of the benefits of these light bulbs. If more houses switched to them it would considerably reduce the power generated. At present, one fifth of all power is used for domestic lighting.

Energy conservation could also be encouraged in fridges, washing machines and televisions, the modern variations of which use less energy than their older counterparts. However, the benefits of those machines are not driven home to the consumer.

Home insulation is another important method of energy conservation. Danish standards are far superior to ours. I understand from a conservation organisation that, if we adopted Danish methods, we could reduce the CO output by 510,000 tonnes every year--a significant reduction and a benefit to house quality standards.

Column 388

There is no reason why the director should not have a far more interventionist role in advising house builders on the quality and insulation standards that they should use. There would be long- term benefits for us all--not least the people who buy the homes. Research has been covered by other speakers so I shall not spend too long on it. However, as coal is our major power source--I believe that it will remain so for the foreseeable future, until there is more research into alternatives--I am disappointed that the Government have not shown greater commitment to the fluidised bed method of burning coal which is more efficient and cuts down on pollution. Another option involves biomass generators, which could be fuelled on fast-growing crops of willow, and could form part of an overall policy to reduce cereal crops and use EC funds to encourage farmers to grow biomass to fuel power stations.

More research and development is needed in district heat and power stations --perhaps domestic refuse could be burnt, which would not only generate power but would generate heat to towns and cities while reducing waste. I see nothing in the Bill to give the director and the power companies the sort of duty that the new clause proposes. The Government should welcome it in the spirit in which is is moved. More consideration should be given to the design and environmental impact of power stations. It is only fair to give some credit to the CEGB which, when it put forward plans for the new Burton power station--not far from my constituency--devoted a large part of its planning application to an environmental impact study, designs for using the cooling pools, landscaping and the layout of the power stations. We all need power stations but they can be ugly and a great deal more can be done to make them blend into the environment and to use the considerable areas of land that accompany them in a positive way, encouraging and conserving nature.

The new clauses are progressive. The Government say that they are committed to a policy of environmental support ; the new clauses will not only protect our environment and set targets to conserve energy conservation and reduce pollution, but could have long-term benefits for the competitiveness of our industry by encouraging it to take measures that will reduce its energy costs to the benefit of the community.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) : The headline on page 2 of The Times today says :

"20,000 people a month joining green groups".

The crucial proposal in new clause 7 is the requirement to impose a duty on the Director General of Electricity Supply ; in new clause 12 to require the appointment of a deputy director general of electricity supply for energy conservation ; and in new clause 13, to require a deputy director general of electricity supply for rural areas.

Hon. Members have three questions to consider before reaching a decision on the new clauses. The first is whether the existing provisions are adequate ; secondly, whether adequate provision has been made, or is likely to be made in other legislation ; and, thirdly, whether the Government's record makes the new clauses necessary. I am talking not just about the Government's recent record, but about their earlier record. I propose to address each of those questions in reverse order.

I consulted the Library about the measures that Conservative Governments have introduced in the House

Column 389

since the 1950s. In that time they have introduced at least 10 Bills affecting the environment. For the benefit of the House I shall list them quickly. There is the Rural Water Supplies and Sewerage Act 1955, which was amended in 1961 and 1973 ; the Clean Air Act 1956 ; the Litter Act 1958 ; the Noise Abatement Act 1960 ; the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) Act 1961 ; the Clean Rivers (Estuaries and Tidal Waters) Act 1960 ; the Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971 ; the Radioactive Substances Act 1960 ; the Water Act 1973 and the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which I must admit was started by a Conservative Administration but was finally enacted under a Labour Administration. That does not sound like the record of a Government who have been negligent in environmental matters since the day that I was born in 1950. It is a rather good record.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which began its life under a Conservative Government, no other Acts of environmental significance were enacted by the Labour Government between 1974 and 1979?

Mr. Tredinnick : My wise hon. Friend is correct. The Opposition must take that record into consideration. How quiet they are now. There are more recent measures to consider. There is the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. That is a great favourite of the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), who I see has just come back into the Chamber. Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution was set up by the Conservative Government in 1987 to improve the mechanism for the control of all types of pollution.

One of the great destroyers of natural beauty, flora, fauna, and geological or physiological features is acid rain.

Mr. Morley : At a recent meeting I and my hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) heard the Prime Minister give a good speech on the need to protect hedgerows. My hon. Friend is the sponsor of a Bill which, for the first time, gives legal protection to hedgerows. Despite the Prime Minister's public commitment to that, the Government blocked that Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean) : Order. This is a wide debate, but to include hedgerows is really stretching it too far.

Mr. Tredinnick : I shall try not to get too close to hedgerows, or hedgehogs.

There are several critical issues relating to pollution which I want to consider and see what has been done about them. The first is acid rain and the problems of sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxide. Opposition Members say that the Government have been negligent in dealing with the problem of acid rain, but in 1984 the Government set a target of 30 per cent. reduction in total SO emissions by the end of the 1990s. As the Opposition have said, the Government's commitment in terms of real money was £600 million. That is hardly being negligent. In 1987 a programme was announced to reduce NOX emissions by 30 per cent. by the end of 1990. Again, substantial investment in low NO burners is being made to ensure that that target is met. That is hardly being negligent. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Wentworth, who is trying to intervene.

Column 390

Mr. Hardy : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I always try to give way to hon. Members with something to say and I would have given way to the hon. Gentleman in past debates if he had sought to intervene, but I shall not go into detail on that. The hon. Gentleman has referred to a number of pieces of legislation. For example, he referred to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and claimed credit for the Government for that. However, that Act was Britain's response to the Berne convention for which members of the Socialist group of the Council of Europe, in which I was involved, were responsible. It also consolidated a number of other Acts of Parliament, two of which I had contributed myself, and it embodied, as a result of considerable effort on the part of Labour Members of the Standing Committee which considered that Bill, many amendments which were strengthened by initiatives taken in the other place. I could go on at great length, but the Government had little to do with many of the Bills for which it is suggested they should take credit.

Mr. Tredinnick : I am aware that the hon. Gentleman could go on--I would not question that--but I would question what he has just said. The inescapable fact is that it was this Government who produced the Bill and saw it enacted.

7 pm

Secondly, there is unleaded fuel. Lead absorbed into body tissue can cause damage to the brain and other organs. It is quite remarkable and quite outstanding that this Government have taken the lead in Europe in setting targets for the introduction of lead-free petrol throughout the Community. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has again stretched the differential between the price of ordinary petrol and the price of lead -free petrol. What a wonderful thing that is. The Government have certainly engendered tremendous support in my constituency by adopting that policy. The promotion of lead-free petrol illustrates again a laudable commitment of which we must take note.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can help me and other hon. Members in our efforts to work out the relevance of his comments to electricity. Is he about to suggest that one way of getting round the problem of lead in petrol would be to have electric battery-operated cars?

Mr. Tredinnick : I wondered whether I should give way to the hon. Gentleman ; now I know that I made a mistake in doing so. I am illustrating what the Government have done, and posing the question whether we should consider these amendments as desirable additional measures. If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have understood that.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has moved the frontiers beyond Europe, where we have taken the lead in lead-free petrol, to the rest of the world in what she and the Government have done concerning the ozone layer and the greenhouse effect. It is a fantastic tribute to my right hon. Friend that she seized the initiative in getting 200 world leaders to London to thrash out the crucial issues concerning this very worrying atmospheric problem that affect the world. We saw six concrete achievements resulting from that conference. There was agreement on CFC controls ; 20 more countries agreed to the Montreal

Column 391

protocol, and there was a commitment from 14 countries, including China and India, to consider signing it ; the countries of the EEC agreed to a total ban--and what an achievement that was. Of course, we are also promoting the substitute gases that are so necessary to replace CFCs.

Mr. Mans : Does my hon. Friend agree that people who live in greenhouses should not burn coal?

Mr. Tredinnick : My hon. Friend is obviously thinking of the hon. Member for Wentworth.

I want to deal now with my last point. It concerns an item that the Government have addressed recently--research funding. When one looks at the record, contrary to what the Opposition claim, one finds that the Natural Environment Research Council has received a cash boost of £71 million over the period 1989-90 to 1991-92 ; that the British Antarctic Survey, which, of course, was responsible for the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer, is to receive £23 million over the same period ; and that the public expenditure plans that were announced in November include an extra £2.6 million for the research programme of the Department of the Environment. That is hardly a poor record.

There is one other aspect that must be considered--the leadership of the parties, and who is doing most in environmental control. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is a scientist. I do not see many scientists on the Opposition Benches. There is quite a contrast between the way that my right hon. Friend tackles environmental issues and the way that the Leader of the Opposition tackles them. I am indebted to a Mr. Malcolm Grimston, of Trevelyan road, Tooting, who wrote saying :

"After the ozone layer conference Mr. Kinnock was on the radio. After giving grudging praise to the Prime Minister he went on about how deforestation in Brazil was causing extra carbon dioxide and methane to be released, and this was also damaging the ozone layer. This is rubbish. Carbon dioxide and methane don't attack ozone, though they do add to the far more serious greenhouse effect." That is a pretty fair illustration of the lack of knowledge of environmental issues at the very top in the Labour party. The Government's record, long-term and short-term, is good. Besides this Bill, they have acted in a whole range of areas to improve the environment, and, of course, we have better leadership.

Let me refer to the 20,000 people a month who are joining green movements. It seems to me fairly clear that for anybody thinking of joining a green movement the right way of spending money is to join the organisation that is most likely to effect change, and that is the Conservative party. The first priority should be to join the Conservative party, and the second priority should be to join the Tory green initiative, which has been set up specifically to channel the tremendous concern on this side of the House.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall) : I wonder how many copies of this Tory Central Office brief there are to spare. I should like to have one--perhaps, after the hon. Member has finished, the one that he is using.

Mr. Tredinnick : The hon. Gentleman chivalrously question my notes. I can assure him that I wrote them myself. However, if he would like a photocopy after the proceedings, perhaps he would like to meet me behind the Chair.

Column 392

I have been asking myself whether the wording of schedule 9 is strong enough. I know that this is what exercises the minds of many Opposition Members--whether phrases such as "having regard" and "taking into account" are strong enough to ensure that the director general will put into effect the intentions of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. At the 19th sitting of the Standing Committee, I raised the issue of the conservation of energy, as against the creation of energy sources. Some Opposition Members may find common ground with me when I say that it is essential that we keep very much in the forefront of our minds the possibility of cutting energy consumption. I cite in particular the dramatic numbers of people who are now interested in environmental issues. I say to my right hon. Friend that we really must keep at the forefront of our minds the possibility of cutting energy consumption.

Let me illustrate the point by drawing attention to a survey that was carried out in the north-west of England late last year. It was found that a 20 per cent. cut in energy consumption could be achieved at a cost of £1 billion. The cost of Sizewell B is £1.646 billion, and the cost of Hinkley Point £1.47 billion. I am not suggesting that these stations should not be built, but I am suggesting that there is a trade-off here that we should consider very seriously. I know that my right hon. Friend is considering it very seriously ; what I hope to do is to reinforce his thoughts.

I come, finally, to the issue of how the alternative energies that are now coming forward--wind, wave and even plants as energy sources--fit into the scheme of this Bill.

Mr. Morgan : Sit down.

Mr. Tredinnick : The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan), who has spoken so often in Committee, is obviously anxious to get up again. I have not had the advantage of speaking as often as he has, so I should be grateful if he would bear with me while I finish my speech.

I have received letters from organisations such as the Wind Energy Group-- which is a British Aerospace and Taylor Woodrow

company--stressing how the Wind Energy Group's MS3 can now generate electricity at a cost competitive with that of nuclear power. The director, Dr. Peter Musgrove, informs me :

"Given a fair price for electricity from wind turbines it is quite realistic to forecast the installation of up to 500 MW annually throughout the 1990s so that wind energy could supply several per cent. of our electricity needs by the year 2000."

He says that his concern is that the legislation now being drafted will mean that wind energy is treated unfairly in the context of nuclear energy. That is something that we have to guard against. We have diversity and we welcome it, and I am very anxious that the alternative sources of energy should be given a fair crack of the whip.

The Government have a fine record, in both the long term and the short term, but I ask the Minister to ensure that the Director General of Electricity Supply takes into account the environment, energy conservation and alternative sources of power.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield) : I now know why the Government Whip would not let the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) speak in Committee. We would still have been on the first amendment if he had

Column 393

allowed him to get up. He does talk a load of rubbish, he really does. In Committee, I accused him of being sensible, but I will withdraw that now.

It is really a great pleasure

Mr. Tredinnick rose --

Mr. Haynes : No, I will not give way ; the hon. Member has only just sat down.

It is really a great pleasure to have the Secretary of State in attendance during this very important debate. This is a very important issue and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) did a first-class job in moving the new clause. He made it clear to the Government what should be happening when this privatisation takes place on the question of conservation and efficiency in the electricity industry. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech.

Hon. Members have talked about research in connection with the industry. That lot over there are guilty of cutting back on research, never mind what the hon. Member for Bosworth said about pouring in £70 million or so since 1979.

By the way, it is about time the laddie went outside to have his nappy changed, because he is still wearing nappies judging by the way he has been talking this afternoon.

Mr. Tredinnick rose --

Mr. Haynes : No, I am not going to give way. Stay down. Since this Government have been in office they have done nothing but cut back here, there and everywhere, on research among other things. I remember one of my hon. Friends standing up seven or eight years ago and saying that the Aston university had lost 1,100 places under this Administration. That is in one university, and we are talking about people being trained and educated for the job of research, not only in the electricity industry but in many other industries. So I do not know why the hon. Gentleman made the comment he did, because he is completely wrong. I am correct ; the facts are in my favour and I have the information I need from the people on the Opposition Benches who have sussed it out.

7.15 pm

When it comes to conservation, I know what the Government are after. It is not a question of conservation for people who are buying in to this marvellous industry and lining their pockets with gold--including foreigners.

The Secretary of State laughs. It is not a laughing matter ; it is a serious matter. The Government will allow foreigners to pour in over our shores and buy shares in our electricity industry. This is how that lot go on. They are not bothered about the British ; they are looking after the foreigners. That is why we have this argument down the road about Harrods. I am looking at this thing sensibly. The people of this nation are laughing at that lot the way they are carrying on. But they will not be in office much longer. We shall be moving across the Floor and we shall put it right ; we shall put the electricity industry, as well as many other industries, right. I have been in the Secretary of State's constituency. I should have told him when I went, but I did not, and I apologise for that. I went to have a look at the palatial property in which he lives, and he really does live in a

Column 394

palatial property. When I saw it I thought to myself that there were not many properties like that in my constituency, with all those poor old colliers that I worked with underground for 35 years. Some of them are living in hovels, and it is because of the policy decisions of the Conservative Government. We talk about energy conservation. The roofs are falling in and the Government have cut back on grants. We are wasting energy when the Government ought to be encouraging people to do something to their properties to conserve energy.

The Conservatives talk about efficiency. We have never seen anything efficient coming from the Government Benches and it is about time we did. It is about time Government Members livened themselves up as far as efficiency is concerned.

I have seen efficiency. I had 35 years of efficiency underground and I am proud of it. When I come into this place and find the Tory Government doing the things they are doing, I see no efficiency. But we will put that lot right ; there is no doubt about that. They stand at those Benches and at the Dispatch Box bragging and boosting themselves up, but a lot of them will not come back to the House. We shall be on that side and we shall make all the decisions that have to be made.

When the Government talk about efficiency they mean less and less manpower. That is how they look at efficiency--more people on the dole, more profit for the rich to pour into their pockets. We have had a bellyful, we have had enough, and we shall change the system at the first opportunity we get. We shall do it well, and that lot will be sorry for what they have done to the people of this nation in terms of electricity, the poll tax, the Health Service--I am reeling these off as the hon. Member for Bosworth reeled off the Bills. I am reeling off all the wicked things that the Government have been doing since 1979. The lad only came into the House in 1987. He is getting an education this afternoon, as he did in Committee, and there is more to come. Until that lot go we will educate them on what they should be doing in the interests of the people.

We are talking about the Electricity Bill, which I hope will not become an Act, because I hope that the people outside the House will demonstrate quite clearly that they do not want what has been pushed down their throats, particularly on electricity, water and health. I hope that the Government and the Secretary of State have got the message. I am pleased that the Secretary of State is here to listen to me. He said that he enjoyed my speech yesterday. I hope that he has enjoyed this one. I do not make fancy speeches for people to read in future records. My speeches come from the heart because I represent the people of Ashfield and I shall continue to fight on their behalf.

Next Section

  Home Page