25 February1998

Mrs. Linda Gilroy MP (Lab. Plymouth, Sutton)

I understand—from calculations made for me by the Plymouth energy advice centre, which must be similar to calculations made in other constituencies—that about 900 new mortgages are taken out annually in the Plymouth, Sutton constituency. Approximately 270 of the homes bought will be newly or recently built and meet the higher energy-efficiency levels required by more recent building regulations, so perhaps 650—involving about 750 people—could benefit from the [Energy Efficiency] Bill's provisions each year. In the life of this Parliament, about 9,000 people could live in households that benefit from the type of information required by the Bill.

If we apply the 60 per cent. rule that has been suggested by the Association for the Conservation of Energy and Which?, approximately 6,000 people in my constituency live in households in which action might be taken as a result of advice and benefit from the savings.

The experience of the Plymouth energy advice centre is that people are most likely to follow through advice when they are moving into a new home—partly because it is possible to negotiate on and spread the cost of implementing measures, possibly by using the mortgage. Such a possibility is one of the great values of this Bill. It is true also that all of my constituents—all 70,666 of them—would benefit from the emissions reductions that would follow from energy conservation.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders must, of course, have regard to the cost of the service to its institutions, customers and members, but just as all my constituents stand to gain from the contribution that the Energy Efficiency Bill can make to reducing emissions, so too will the council and its members and their families, shareholders and customers. Moreover, if we add in the value in extra jobs—which the Association for the Conservation of Energy has calculated as about 500 jobs a year and 5,000 over a 10-year period—we have a win-win-win situation in reduced fuel bills, reduced harmful emissions and reduced unemployment. This is a veritable have-your-cake-and-eat-it measure.

Many of today's younger generation have a far better regard for and intellectual appreciation of the value of and threats to our environment. As someone who first became aware of the need to consider our environment in the 1960s on reading Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring", I applaud that. It bodes well for our future and for the interest in and support for the Energy Efficiency Bill. I think that we can confidently expect new generations of householders to take advantage of the information that it would bring to their attention.

It is encouraging that so many. members on both sides of the House of Commons have attempted to draw attention to many of the other measures that the Government are promoting—and to other measures—that can help us to reduce home energy use. My Bill, the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation (Fifteen Year Programme) Bill—also deals with the importance of energy in our lives.

By introducing targets for 500,000 homes to be provided with a comprehensive package of home insulation and other energy efficiency improvements, my Bill would address many of the other issues. It would effectively ensure that something was done about the 8 million homes that are lacking and unable to afford warmth, and it focuses particularly on people in poverty.

We are all lulled into a false sense of security by the use of the phrase global warming to describe a process that is bringing many uncertain, but also probably damaging, changes to the climate—such as disappearing coastlines, more volatile weather patterns, cracking and melting ice-caps, flooding and changes in the atmosphere—that have all sorts of unpredictable consequences for agriculture and are as likely to be damaging as helpful. Global warming is much too nice a phrase to describe such potential dangers. It is a classic example of misleading warm words.

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