17 February 1998

Mrs. Helen Brinton MP (Lab. Peterborough)

Everyone knows the miles per gallon figure for their car, but few actually know the running costs of their homes. I imagine that if thermal photographs were taken of our homes, many of us would be horrified at the amount of heat escaping into the atmosphere, if only because of the amount of money that it wastes.

The Energy Efficiency Bill would enable people to make an informed calculation, when buying an older property, about how energy efficient it is and, therefore, how costly it will be to run. I understand that it will also enable required improvements to be made as part of a mortgage package, so that the borrower—a home buyer—can pay off such costs on better terms than might otherwise be the case.

Much more important for all of us in the long run, however, is the contribution that the Bill will make to the Government's commitment to counteract the threat of climate change by reducing emissions. This country took the lead at Kyoto last December, and we look forward to further successful negotiations at Bonn and Buenos Aires later this year. Energy efficiency has to play a part in the overall strategy to reduce UK emissions by 20 per cent. on 1990 levels by 2010.

Organisations in my constituency have taken something of a pioneering role in environmental matters. Our energy advice centre in Peterborough—one of 31 such centres in the country—depends partly on the trust for funding, and last year gave free and impartial advice on energy efficiency to its 10,000th customer. That is some achievement. In just over four years, the centre has helped cut Peterborough's fuel bill by 0.5 million—no small figure—and has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by some 55,000 tonnes. (In1996-97, a total of 65,023 households consumed10,320,000 MW hours of energy with a total fuel bill of more than 39 million, releasing 320,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.)

The Energy Efficiency Bill would encourage householders to seek the advice available through energy advice centres. It would raise the awareness across the nation of the importance of the Government's environmental aims. I hope that an energy audit of the future would find greatly reduced energy consumption, emissions and costs. I imagine that the fine drafting of the Bill which will be necessary might result in some simplification in the interests of implementing it as quickly and effectively as possible.

I was pleased to hear that the Council of Mortgage Lenders supports the underlying principles of the Bill. The council and its customers can make a contribution to the battle to save energy and begin to reverse the damage that has been done to the world's climate system, with all the consequences that we have begun to understand only in recent years.

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