The take-up of schemes and sales of energy efficiency products increased significantly during Energy Efficiency Year. My right hon. Friend and I are building upon the success of the year through the development of a 14-point programme of action which I outlined to my hon. Friend in January.
I thank my hon. Friend for his reply and the steps that he has taken to promote energy efficiency. Will he join me in welcoming the new initiative taken by Surrey county council whereby, for a nominal sum, firms can make use of an airborne survey, using infrared scanning, to detect heat loss from buildings, and can then take remedial action to save significantly on their heating bills?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Surrey county council on its mounting of the airborne thermographic survey. It is a worthwhile and forward-looking initiative. Thermographic surveys can pinpoint energy waste and are a vital weapon in the battle to ensure that we are a more energy-efficient nation.
How much are the Government proposing to spend in the next 12 months on energy conservation, and how much do they believe that such expenditure will save the country?
The Government propose to continue the clear emphasis that they have already placed on concentrating more help on those who are in the greatest need, as visualised in the announcement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the home insultation scheme will be concentrated on low-income families. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has announced the furthering of the work of the vital community insulation projects.
Can my hon. Friend report any progress in his discussions with the Treasury to allow the public sector to take advantage of private sector energy management companies offering third-party financing on an energy-shared saving basis? Does he realise that the delay has held up a huge area of investment in the public sector that could have reduced public expenditure on energy bills?
The new Government guidelines on the use of contract energy management in the public sector have increased significantly the ways in which taxpayers and ratepayers can be saved hundreds of millions of pounds a year in energy bills. The guidelines are an important step forward in our campaign to increase energy efficiency in the public sector.
The hon. Gentleman constantly decries the work of community insulation projects. When the Government came into power there were six such projects, and there are now 385. It is the Government's determination to ensure that there is a correct balance of groups throughout the country. The ultimate target is a total—[Interruption.]
I remind the hon. Gentleman that when the Government came to power there were six groups that had been set up by his Administration. We now have a target of 500 groups, and I hope that these will cover all the areas that need this support.