My Lords, in introducing the Bill so ably, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has explained that it is to assist with the saving of fuel, to make the best possible use of finite resources and last, but by no means least, to assist in the reduction of CO emissions. And who could possibly argue with any of that? The question is, what are the practicalities?
In this country, there are more than 24 million households. It is fair to assume that in this modern day and age, something like 20 million of them have refrigerators, but, for the sake of the debate, let us say just 18 million. They have a life of around 20 years. How long will it take before all the fridges will be changed to the new technology—or enough of them to make a difference—and why would anyone want air conditioning that worked late at night when it is cooler anyway or central heating that did not work when it was coldest and at the time of maximum demand?
I digress for just a moment. Perhaps the most immediate and effective dynamic demand device would be if we could persuade people not to leave their TVs, video recorders and DVDs on permanent standby. I read last week that in an average household that can cost more than £30 a year. How much fuel does that waste and how much pollution does that cause?
All that the manufacturers have to do in the interest of world ecology is to remove the standby facility. It is not too long in the past when a TV was either on or off, with nothing in between. A moment ago I used the word "persuasion". I did so because I believe that it is up to industry to produce fuel- and energy-saving devices and, having done so, to persuade the public of the advantages of buying and using them. I do not believe that there is a place for the provision by our Government—meaning, of course, the British taxpayer—giving, as this Bill calls for, financial incentives to the manufacturers of fridges, TVs and other electronic goods. That is especially true when—and this is the sad situation—so many of them are manufactured abroad including in the Far East. That is even assuming that "financial incentives" is not code for a "subsidy" which may very well be illegal under EU law.
Of course the Government have a part to play in encouraging energy saving and the optimum use of energy in every reasonable way, sort and form. My own party will most certainly be looking into dynamic demand technology as part of its present ongoing energy review. But it is up to industry to develop the technology and to persuade the public that they want and need it. I would commend to industry a paraphrase of the aphorism attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. If they build a better and more fuel efficient device, the world will beat a path to their door.