The cost of heating a house will vary according to the size and type of dwelling, the level of insulation, the comfort level required and the type of heating and fuel used. But the weekly cost of heating an average three-bedroom house by gas, electricity and solid fuel has been estimated at f10·25, £15·50 and £12·10 respectively.
I thank my hon. Friend for those figures, which will be helpful to people seeking to find the best way in which to heat their homes. Will my hon. Friend take steps to make better information available to people who need to make such decisions as there is precious little current information about?
I agree with my hon. Friend about the need to give accurate advice on this matter. He will be pleased to know that the new home energy efficiency scheme, which gives grants to low-income households, provides advice of this nature. We also have a new campaign to give information to those improving their houses or moving house, backed up by leaflets available from my Department. I shall ensure that my hon. Friend is sent a copy.
Although these measures are welcome, will the Minister ensure that bodies selling heating appliances explain their thermal efficiency and running costs in a way that is understandable to the person buying them—because much of the official language that is used is not understandable to the purchaser?
We are pursuing the idea of an energy labelling scheme for such appliances. Clearly we should like it to be compatible with schemes being worked up in other European countries so as to promote free trade too.
Does my hon. Friend agree that, despite the new building regulations, we are still light years behind our European colleagues? Would not it be better if the Government legislated to stop the building of new houses, with single-glazed windows and inadequate insulation, so that people would have cheaper bills irrespective of whether they were for oil, gas or electricity? That would stop the present position, which is nonsensical in this modern day and age.
Our building regulations compare favourably with those of other European countries, but I agree about the need to improve the thermal efficiency of new houses. In April last year we improved the building regulations and raised standards, We shall see how that goes down generally and then consider the possibility of further improving the regulations in the next round.
Is the Minister aware that in the judgment of Sheikh Yamani the interruption of supplies of oil from Iraq and Kuwait need not have—indeed, has not had—a major impact on the world's supply of oil? Does he therefore agree that the major fluctuations in the price of oil since the start of the Gulf crisis represent exploitation of that crisis for profit by the major oil companies? Will he conduct an urgent investigation into those activities?