In view of that reply, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government's financial policies, including those on rate capping and so on, will not harm energy conservation programmes throughout the country? In view of the urgency of the matter, why is there still a division of responsibility as between the Department of Energy and the Department of the Environment? Why cannot everything come under one Department —preferably the Department of Energy?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that every possible incentive is being given to local authorities—I have recently met a number of them—to spearhead the energy efficiency drive. It is a sign of confidence that the Government have increased the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office within the Department by 34 per cent. over the past year.
How can the Minister talk about confidence in the Government when Cape Insulation in my constituency gave notice on 4 December to 360 or 370 men that the company would close on 21 December? Is it not a futile use of Government money to spend it on glossy brochures and leaflets when the Government are not allowing local authorities the finance to use those products and thus to keep people in work?
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman about the very serious redundancies caused by the closure of Cape Industries in Washington, but for some time there has been over-capacity in that area of the market. With the increased advance in advertising and the "lift a finger" campaign already showing signs of tremendous success, I very much hope that we shall see an upsurge of activity in that sphere.
There has been a tremendous amount of interest in the energy efficiency campaign on the part of local authorities. More than 250 local authorities have sought advice from the Energy Efficiency Office and are participating in the crescendo that we are now reaching in this important campaign.