6 April 1998

Tim Yeo MP (Con. South Suffolk) Shadow Environment Minister – Energy Efficiency

I share the Governments’ aim of trying to raise public awareness about the importance of energy efficiency. It’s one of those subjects where both environmental and financial aims coincide, it’s a happy subject from that point of view. Partly because of that it is not a terribly glamorous or controversial issue, and therefore anything that can be done to improve public awareness of energy efficiency, to make people more conscious of how they can save energy in their daily lives, is broadly a good thing.

I think [whether or not the current campaign the Government is running about energy efficiency is public money well spent] is clearly a much more difficult judgement to make. Any kind of public campaign needs to be evaluated very carefully, and I hope that proper research will be carried out to see whether this particular campaign is effective. In the past a number of methods have been used to try to improve public awareness, using advertising in various ways. I support the idea that advertising has a role to play here. Of course there are alternative methods, and I think it remains to be proven whether this particular campaign is effective or not.

Energy efficiency in the home is a fairly easy subject for people to understand once it’s brought to their attention. A lot of work has been done over the last few years which I think has had the support of all parties, politically, to encourage better insulation, better draught-proofing, to encourage the use of more efficient heating and electricity systems, and substantial savings can be made for relatively modest investment. So that is an important area where I think people do understand fairly quickly once the facts are presented to them.

Energy efficiency in transport is a more difficult subject; I think people are less willing to accept both the need, and indeed to consider in detail what they themselves can do, to improve energy efficiency when they get in their cars. Therefore it probably needs a greater effort by the authorities to persuade people. But there again, the best way is to work in conjunction with people who make cars, who provide transport services, and so on. And I would like see much more attention paid to the importance of using fuel-efficient and clean-technology cars, where I think a great deal of extra work still needs to be done.

In addition to what the Government is doing we feel that more effort should be made in those areas which are directly under the Government’s control. For example, the Government in various ways owns a very large number of buildings itself: offices, schools, hospitals, Ministry of Defence property, and so on. The Government has been a bit reluctant to disclose the achievements that have been made on its own estate. Secondly, I think that it is disappointing that there has been so little attempt made to analyse the impact of the two Budgets we have had since Labour came to power on energy efficiency. We had a lot of green rhetoric, a lot of green talk from the Prime Minister at the time of the Earth Summit in New York last summer. Since then we’ve had two Budgets, one last July and one just recently, and that they have not published the effects of those Budgets on energy efficiency.

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