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Water Conservation

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what initiatives he is pursuing to encourage water conservation. [135230]

Mr. Meacher: My Department is pursuing a number of initiatives to promote water conservation across a wide range of end users. Our 'Are You Doing Your Bit' campaign is encouraging individuals to make lifestyle changes to conserve water and to benefit the environment. Also, from 1 January 2001, the maximum flush volume of all new WCs will be reduced by 20 per cent. due to measures introduced by the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999. To help businesses reduce their environmental impact and improve their competitiveness the Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme provides information and best practice advice on efficient water use. My Department is also working closely with the Environment Agency and the Buying Agency on projects to reduce water use in schools and other public sector buildings.

We are also taking steps in the Water Bill to prevent damaging over-abstraction.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what initiatives he is pursuing to promote energy efficiency in (a) the business environment and (b) the home. [135233]

Mr. Meacher: For business, we are introducing the Climate Change Levy and a new system of Enhanced Capital Allowances for energy saving products. We are continuing to support the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme and are also creating a new body (the Carbon Trust) with a specific brief to help business move towards an energy efficient economy.

To promote energy efficiency in the home, my Department funds the Energy Saving Trust. The Trust runs a series of programmes which aim to improve awareness of energy efficiency, provide information and advice and to work with the market to develop and market energy efficient goods and services in the domestic and small business sectors.

My Department also funds the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, which provides comprehensive packages of heating and insulation improvements for the homes of those households who are most at risk from cold-related ill health--the elderly and families on low income and the disabled or chronically sick.

In March this year my Department issued consultation proposals for a new and extended programme of Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance to run from 2002-05. These standards, to be set by Government, will require gas and electricity suppliers to encourage and

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assist consumers to make energy savings. Like earlier programmes, the new scheme will focus strongly on low-income groups, helping the Government's attack on fuel poverty. Provisional conclusions on the level and format of the scheme will be issued shortly.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what initiatives he has taken to promote Energy Efficiency Week. [135440]

Mr. Meacher: Energy Efficiency Week is part of the Energy Efficiency campaign run by the Energy Saving Trust, and funded by my Department. Activities during the week included the launch of a television and radio advertising campaign, a new energy efficiency website and the energy efficiency recommended logo. Events were staged on a national and regional level, with activities taking place around the country to promote the energy efficiency message to consumers.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how many people on low incomes living in private sector homes in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) Devon have had energy efficiency measures implemented and central heating and security devices installed in their homes as part of the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme; and how many are waiting for such work to be carried out; [135930]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 2 November 2000]: The new Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) for England was launched on 1 June 2000. It replaced a more basic scheme that had operated since 1991, providing low income and disabled households with a single insulation improvement such as window and door draught-proofing.

New HEES provides packages of insulation and heating measures, linked to the condition of the property and the type of householder. To provide these packages the grant maximum has been raised from the previous £315 to up to £2,000 in the case of low-income households aged 60 years or more. The latter may also receive a package of basic security measures, funded through the Home Office 'Locks for Pensioners' initiative, if they live in an area experiencing above the national average burglary rate for England.

The scheme is managed by two regional scheme managers. They are responsible for marketing the scheme and surveying homes to identify the improvements required. Once these are agreed with the householder, a works order is placed with local contractors.

The table sets out the number of households that have had work completed and those where orders have been, or are about to be, placed. Due to the package approach taken, it is not possible to break down the individual insulation and security measures that will be provided to households.

Type of measureNumber of households in England (of which in Devon) where work has been completed and invoices receivedNumber of households in England (of which in Devon) where work orders issued to contractors(1)Number of households in England (of which in Devon) where work orders yet to be issued to installers
Insulation and security measures21,960 (571)42,054 (982)1,007 (0)
Installation of new central heating system and insulation663 (1)9,287 (472)2,968 (19)
Repair to broken central heating system1,290 (0)8,126 (186)425 (15)

(1) Due to the one to three week delay between the completion of the work and the issue of invoices by contractors it is likely that work has already been completed in some of these households.

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In addition to those shown above, there are a further 5,200 properties (of which 132 are in Devon) where permission is awaited from private landlords or owner occupiers for the work to be carried out.

After a slow start on the summer, insulation measures are now being installed within four to six weeks from the date of survey.

The national shortage of qualified heating engineers has severely affected the rate at which central heating systems are being repaired or installed. Devon is one of the areas most affected, with the shortage reflected in labour costs which are up to 20 per cent. higher than elsewhere in the country.

We are working with the heating industry to address this shortage of trained engineers. In addition, as part of its Affordable Warmth Programme, Transco has also allocated some £10 million towards the training of energy efficiency professionals, including new heating engineers.In the meantime, additional contractors are being sought, and it is expected that the backlog on repairs should be cleared by the end of the year. However some delays in the installation of new heating systems are likely to continue until additional engineers become available.

As energy efficiency is a devolved matter, it is the responsibility of the respective Parliament and Assemblies to comment on the situation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Concessionary Fares

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects consultations upon concessionary fares for bus travel to be completed. [135741]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 31 October 2000]: We issued last December a consultation paper on the implementation of the statutory minimum concessionary fares commitment. The consultation is now complete, and is being taken into account in consideration of implementation of the provisions in the Transport Bill, which is at present before Parliament.

Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which local authorities operate a concessionary fare travel scheme for senior citizens that are not part of a Passenger Transport Authority; and if he expects these schemes to continue when the Government scheme for half fare travel is introduced. [135214]

Mr. Hill: Most local authorities outside Passenger Transport Authorities operate a concessionary travel scheme for senior citizens. The Transport Bill, which is at present before Parliament, provides for a statutory

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minimum local authority scheme which will ensure travel for pensioners on local buses at half fare or better, with a free bus pass. Any existing schemes which do not meet that standard will need to be improved; there are no requirements for other schemes to be changed.

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