asked Her Majesty's Government:
When, following decisions taken at the March European Council on climate change, they expect the last incandescent light bulb to be switched off in the United Kingdom.
My Lords, the European Union is working to remove inefficient light bulbs from the market and aims to complete the necessary legislative process by 2010, after which they will be phased out over a number of years. The Government are working with retailers, lighting manufacturers and trade associations to voluntarily phase out inefficient light bulbs in the UK for almost all domestic use where an efficient alternative exists by 2011.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply and very much welcome that statement. When the European Council announcement was made it was unclear whether this was a commitment of the European Union. Can the Minister confirm that it is a commitment and that it will happen by 2010? Is it possible to bring this date a year forward? Bringing the process forward in co-operation with industry and consumer groups would save 25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.
My Lords, I can confirm that it is a commitment across the EC. I do not think there is a risk of bringing it forward. The announcement was made after consultation with manufacturers and consumer groups. The number of light bulbs and manufacturers involved is huge. Some 4 billion light bulbs a year are sold in the EU and 300 million in this country, so there is a huge flow. We will work voluntarily before that date and will be one of the first countries to eliminate for almost all domestic use the old fashioned, inefficient light bulbs.
My Lords, is there not an inconsistency in the EU and government policy in relation to these lamps? On the one hand, barometer makers are being told that they may not use mercury in barometers; on the other hand, we are suggesting that we should change over to these new lamps, which of course contain mercury. It will be, therefore, a difficult job to dispose of that material. Is there not some kind of inconsistency there?
None whatever, my Lords. There are more efficient ways of producing barometers than by using mercury. No one is being prevented from looking after antique barometers and repairing them, but there are more efficient ways and mercury is a toxic substance. It is true that the efficient light bulbs contain a small dose of mercury, less than 5 milligrams per lamp, and therefore need to be disposed of responsibly. I draw the attention of the House to a note by the editor in the letters column of the New Scientist last week. He said:
"According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, power plants emit 10 milligrams of mercury while producing the electricity to run an incandescent bulb for five years, compared with only 2.4 milligrams of mercury to run a CFL"— compact fluorescent lamp—"for the same time". In other words, there will be a saving of mercury by going down the efficient route but they will have to be recycled responsibly.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Church of England is eagerly awaiting an outright ban on incandescent light bulbs having recently encouraged all its 16,000 churches and the people worshipping in them to exercise a voluntary ban? Is it because Australia has been subject to a 10-year drought that it has been brought face to face with the reality of global warming, in a way we in this country have so far been protected from, that has made it face this issue ahead of us? What will it take for us to start taking such firm measures?
My Lords, this is a terrible thing to say, but usually the answer is to tell people it is cheaper and that they can save money. The cost of running an 11-watt compact fluorescent bulb, bringing the equivalent of 60 watts, is £2.41 per year. The cost of running an ordinary 60-watt bulb is £13.14 per year. People can save an enormous amount of money. If every household in the country changed one regularly used bulb to an efficient bulb we would save the equivalent of one power station. To go one better than that, if every house replaced three bulbs with compact fluorescent lighting, it would be the equivalent of saving the whole of the UK's street-lighting capacity.
My Lords, further to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, the point is surely that there are far more light bulbs than there are mercury barometers. The issue he raises is important; the problem is with people who wish to repair Georgian and Victorian barometers. It is no good telling people who lived 200 years ago that there is a more efficient way of producing barometers.
My Lords, I made it quite clear that nobody is stopping anybody restoring and repairing antique barometers. There is a dispensation for that, and that was made clear. This is another of these straight-banana, anti-Euro stories that we have to knock on the head straightaway.
My Lords, does the Minister accept that, in properly designed buildings fit for the 21st century, on most days during daylight hours there should be no need for light bulbs at all?
My Lords, that is clear. Most commercial undertakings are not using old fashioned, inefficient lighting. They tend to use fluorescent lighting, which takes a lot less energy. There are new technologies coming along beyond compact fluorescent bulbs, such as light-emitting diodes, which use even less power to produce the same amount of light. Lights and bulbs left on wastefully are bad at any time.
My Lords, I answer for the Government not the House, and have to make that distinction. I assume that there are very efficient light bulbs up there, as they would be in any normal undertaking. Domestic light bulbs are the really inefficient ones, and they are used in a vast array. Most commercial undertakings use efficient light bulbs.
My Lords, according to the recent National Audit Office report, the Government are failing to meet their own targets on reducing the environmental impact of their new buildings and major refurbishments. Only 9 per cent of projects meet the required standards. What will the Minister do to ensure that more energy-efficient measures are installed, and will he lead by example?
My Lords, Defra will lead by example. Half my light bulbs are energy efficient, and I will seek to make that the case elsewhere.
My Lords, what advice are the Government giving to seaside resorts that have wonderful illuminations with hundreds of thousands of light bulbs?
My Lords, I am not going to be the Minister who shuts down the Blackpool illuminations.