My Lords, the number of energy-efficient light bulbs in the UK rose from 26 million in 2000 to 110 million in 2006, but we recognise that more can be done. We are working with energy suppliers, the Energy Saving Trust, retailers and manufacturers to phase out inefficient light bulbs in the UK ahead of our European partners. That is supported by the EU energy labels and the energy-saving recommended labels, which provide consumers with appropriate information.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. That is pretty good as far as it goes. However, is my noble friend aware that in Australia, for example, of the normal type of light bulbs, one can buy only the energy-saving model? Why cannot we move a bit faster? Climate change is coming at us very quickly. There are a number of measures that we could take with a bit more speed, and I urge my noble friend to see what he can do about that.
My Lords, Australia is not a member of the European Union. We cannot act unilaterally. The decisions that we have taken are a voluntary initiative in line with the work with the retailers and the industry. Therefore, we will be ahead of other member states of the European Union but we cannot simply put on an outright ban. It is not that simple, being in the EU.
My Lords, should there not be regulation for the Government to fulfil their plan for phasing out inefficient light bulbs? If no regulation is to be made, I do not see how the Government can enforce the change-over from incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving light bulbs.
My Lords, it is not a question of enforcing if we are doing this in conjunction with manufacturers and retailers. Incandescent light bulbs will not be offered by retailers and gradually we will change over. Under this Government, the cost of compact fluorescent light bulbs has gone through the floor; in other words, it has gone down. I understand that they can now be obtained for 39 pence in Morrisons.
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a fair point about the early compact fluorescent light bulbs. They were ugly and did not fit shades. They have now been made to replicate the bulbs they are replacing. If one looks at the range of bulbs available today for ordinary domestic purposes, one can see that the same shape has been maintained. Specialist light bulbs will continue to be produced and, of course, sold.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that not so many of these light bulbs are sold perhaps because the number of councils which have equipment to deal with the mercury contained in them is not adequate? How many councils have this equipment? In order to get the right sense of proportion, how does the energy saved compare with that which would be saved if the clocks were not changed at the end of this month and we retained summer time as the darker evenings are about to descend on us?
My Lords, local authorities are required to have proper disposal arrangements but I fully accept that not every local authority has such arrangements. We should bear in mind that these bulbs last 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs. One can see from the figures I gave earlier that we are just starting to use them. It will be some years before the big replacements come in and the proper disposal has to take place. The mercury should be separated and recovered because it is a toxic substance. On the benefit, I repeat my reply to a Question asked earlier in the year: if every household in the UK changed just one regularly used bulb to an efficient alternative, enough power would be saved to close down one large power station. I am not certain how many power stations we could close down if we did not change the clocks.
My Lords, will the Minister please tell the House how far the Government themselves are progressing in the move towards energy-efficient light fittings? What percentage of light fittings in government buildings are converted to energy-efficient light bulbs?
My Lords, I do not have a figure for the Government or, indeed, for Defra but I assure the noble Lord that, to the best of my knowledge, every room that I have been in in Defra was fitted with energy-saving light bulbs.
My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there are light fittings which are inappropriate for energy-saving light bulbs; namely, dimmer switches? A lot of households and offices have them. Before the existing wasteful light bulbs are phased out, there needs to be a proper replacement which can be accommodated within these fitting which are common in many households and buildings.
My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. It is for the industry to do this. For example, mechanical security timers that are like a clock with buttons will turn these lights on and off but digital security timers will not work with these bulbs. It is up to the industry to produce the products to go with the bulbs. It is much better for this to be done on a voluntary basis and for the industry to do it in conjunction with retailers, with the full support of the Government, rather than for us to say heavy-handedly that it must be done by a certain date.
My Lords, the Minister may remember that in a previous discussion on this point I mentioned the millions of light bulbs used to illuminate many seaside resorts and other tourist attractions. What advice are the Government giving to these local councils so that they replace this type of light bulb with a far more energy-saving light bulb?
My Lords, one of the benefits of getting the same Question twice is that you can go back and read what you said the first time. When the noble Lord asked about Blackpool earlier in the year, I said:
I said to officials this morning that I could not say that again and that I needed better information. My latest information on the Blackpool illuminations from the industry, which is less than two hours old, is that coloured bulbs are exempt from the phase as they are specialist. Increasingly, illumination bulbs are LED-based—that is, light-emitting diodes which save even more electricity—and illumination organisers will benefit from LED once they become more economical. So, Blackpool illuminations are safe.
My Lords, given that low energy light bulbs take some time to warm up to full strength and are therefore potentially dangerous on stairs, halls and landings for those who have less than perfect sight, what advice would my noble friend give to us?
My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. When I converted my light bulbs in dark rooms and cupboards under the stairs, I expected the light to come on straight away, and it was quite a shock when it did not. However, things are improving. Bulbs which carry the "energy saving recommended" logo will reach at least 60 per cent of their brightness in 60 seconds. There is a difficulty here. Some cupboards and rooms, such as bathrooms, have no windows and there one needs to have the light on straight away. This matter must be dealt with by the industry.