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Hon. Peter Morrison: We promote efficiency in the use of all sources of energy, including electricity.
Hon. Peter Morrison: The 12 distribution companies have a statutory role now under the Electricity Act 1989. That role will be overlooked by the Office of Electricity Regulation, which already has good contacts with my Energy Efficiency Office.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his complimentary remarks. Unless I am gravely mistaken I am still standing here.
Hon. Peter Morrison: My right hon. Friend and I meet the chairman of British Gas from time to time to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest, including the fact that industrial gas prices have fallen by 41 per cent. in real terms over the past five years.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I agree with my hon. Friend. He spoke about domestic gas prices. Since privatisation the price of domestic gas has fallen by 14 per cent., so all round British Gas has a very good record.
Hon. Peter Morrison: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the price of gas depends on the efficiency of British Gas and the other North sea gas producers. It also depends on supply and demand.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I meet the director of Neighbourhood Energy Action and representatives of other organisations as necessary to discuss the development of the home energy efficiency scheme.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman wanted the consultation that has taken place during the past few months. I hope that he would not have wanted us to go ahead without seeking the views of all groups involved, including Neighbourhood Energy Action. He will be pleased to hear that I hope shortly to come forward with the final details of the scheme. As he will realise, the scheme is a successor...
Hon. Peter Morrison: I can certainly confirm that we have had a pretty good record during the past 10 years. However, it would be a mistake to be in any sense complacent, which is why I and my officials at the Energy Efficiency Office are visiting every part of the country to promote our message as best we can.
Hon. Peter Morrison: If I give the impression that I am complacent, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I am not. As I said before, the nation's energy spend amounts to about £40,000 million a year, and our target is to reduce that figure by £8,000 million. Substantial new moneys are coming to the Department for the home energy efficiency scheme, which will also help. I suspect that many of the deliverers—the...
Hon. Peter Morrison: If anything, I am becoming a bit of a bulb bore. I assure my hon. Friend that I promote that message as hard as I can. He may not realise that such bulbs are now being produced in this country, and I hope that we shall find them on supermarket shelves from the autumn this year. Those bulbs are certainly very efficient, and every right hon. and hon. Member could benefit by using them in their...
Hon. Peter Morrison: None, Sir.
Hon. Peter Morrison: The hon. Gentleman perfectly reasonably cites a problem which I accept exists. However, it is fair to say that in Coventry, as in any other part of the country where there is aggregation, there is no need for the city council to burn gas in the way that the hon. Gentleman describes.
Hon. Peter Morrison: That may be so, but in practice, because of aggregation, the total sum that the council will have to pay is no more than it would have paid a year ago. Nevertheless, efforts are being made by Ofgas, British Gas and myself to work out a solution to this complicated problem. It is not a question of the legislation but of how one tapers through its provisions. Genuine efforts are being made to...
Hon. Peter Morrison: I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend's figures, but it is perfectly fair to say that my hon. Friend, like the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) points to a problem. Work is going on to see how that problem can be solved.
Hon. Peter Morrison: The hon. Gentleman cannot have been listening to one of my earlier replies when I said that since privatisation the domestic gas consumer is paying 14 per cent. less in real terms for gas.
Hon. Peter Morrison: Neither my right hon. Friend nor I have any current plans to have discussions with the European Commission. However, alternative sources of energy are likely to be relevant in future Council discussions. The next Energy Council is planned for 29 October.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I think that I am satisfied that the balance is about right in terms of the JOULE 2 and THERMIE programmes. As a result of the European Community coming together, the total spend by those nations on research and development is about right.
Hon. Peter Morrison: I do not agree with the final part of the hon. Lady's question, but I listened carefully to the former part.
Hon. Peter Morrison: As my hon. Friend will know, the Department spends a considerable amount of money on research and development into wave power, and currently we are reviewing that research. As for Mr. Salter and his ideas, my hon. Friend might be pleased to hear that he came to my office a few weeks ago where we had a long discussion, and that I intend to visit his laboratories in Edinburgh as soon as I can...