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Mr. Rendel: Is my right hon. Friend also aware that the Bill met with considerable support not only from both sides of the House but from a number of local authorities--including, I am proud to say, my own in Newbury, which, with my full support, passed a motion in favour of the Bill and asked me to promote it in the House? Of course, it is not only Liberal Democrat- controlled authorities that supported the Bill; a number of
Column 1398Conservative and Labour-controlled authorities and some with no overall control also did so. That should be mentioned.
Mr. Beith: My hon. Friend is right. A large number of local authorities supported the Bill and were totally unimpressed by the Government's new role as the saviour of local authorities from unnecessary burdens and requirements. Any claim to such a role is totally unconvincing. Local authorities were strong in their support for the Bill.
Mr. Beith: I am making my speech slightly out of order, but the hon. Gentleman must know that, within the constraints under which local authorities now operate, permissive responsibilities take second place to statutory requirements. They are influenced by the way in which the standard spending assessment system works and by a number of other aspects of central control.
In addition, local authorities are increasingly compared unfavourably with each other by the Government if they go beyond what the Government consider to be the minimum range of duties. They are open to criticism from Ministers if they do so. Therefore, to invite local authorities to go out on a limb is to do almost the opposite of what Ministers are doing. I shall return to that point, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will contain himself. It will feature again later in my speech.
I simply wanted to develop the history of the Government's attitude to the Bill. It was around the time of Second Reading that I had a discussion with the Secretary of State for the Environment, who made it pretty clear that the Government merely wanted the Bill to be a permissive one. It could go on the statute book as long as it did not impose a requirement on local authorities.
My view was, and remains, that there would be little point in that, because local authorities have the power to carry out those functions at the moment. The problem is that it is merely a permissive power, but not one which a lot of local authorities are reluctant to carry out, although some are. Many cannot put it as high on their list of priorities as their compulsory statutory duties. That is why I regarded that as important.
Nevertheless, one could envisage the Government tabling an amendment to achieve that particular change and perhaps carrying it so that the Bill became acceptable. Therefore, we were talking about a Bill with which the Government were in broad sympathy but with which they had a specific disagreement. The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor), now the Under- Secretary of State for Trade and Technology, said that the Bill would have had his support if it had been permissive. A number of hon. Members who are now Ministers made similar or more fulsome statements at the time.
In Committee we had the privilege of the assistance of the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins). He said:
"We have considerable sympathy for what the right hon. Gentleman proposes. However, we have reservations about the practicalities and the right hon. Gentleman knows that the Government inevitably have the problem of persuading the Treasury about what does or does not need to be done in certain areas. That is why the amendments were put down late and why you, Mr. Hughes"--
Column 1399the Chairman--
"were unable to accept them, which is correct according to procedure."
Obviously, the Minister had been fighting valiantly for the Bill in the corridors of power and had been done down by Treasury Ministers, but his sympathy was clearly there.
A little later, the Minister said:
"My response, in part, is that because local authorities are already doing many of these things, and the Government propose that there should be permissive legislation to encourage them--we are at one in recognising that something needs to be done--we do not believe that it should be incumbent on local authorities to spend money in that way if they, as elected authorities, choose not to do so." The only argument between us was whether local authorities should be put under the obligation. Therefore, this can hardly be a Bill that the Government deplore.
On Report, the hon. Member for Banbury had become a little more warlike in his approach to these matters, and his interventions, although rarely addressed to the principle of the Bill but rather to some of his 200 amendments, did not show the same sympathy. For us then to find, as we did on the Order Paper today, a motion deploring the Bill in terms so strident that the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) felt it necessary to go hotfoot into the Table Office and table an amendment to remove the word "deplores" and replace it with the word "notes", showed a significant change in the Government's position.
The Government have got themselves worked up. Because the Bill keeps coming back and the issue keeps being forced back on to the agenda, they have become more and more strident in their denunciation of it, even though, from the beginning they recognised that the work should be done. That is the common ground. The work of carrying out an assessment of the way in which energy efficiency can be improved in housing should be done, the Government say, by local authorities, but they should not be obliged to do it. That is a narrow division indeed.
Some Conservative Members who assisted me in support of the Bill were fulsome in what they felt could be achieved by the Bill's approach. The hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) said:
"We should not simply dismiss the Bill by saying that we must not burden councils with the measure."
The hon. Member for Eltham said that he was not sure that the Minister's proposal for modification of the Bill in future was convincing. He went on to say:
"The results of the Bill . . . will go way beyond people's expectations. The Bill will promote well-being. There will be an increase in welfare and in disposable income which can be spent on other goods such as fuel.
The Bill could have the plain English title, the Money Saving and Comfort Increasing Bill."--[ Official Report, Standing Committee C , 16 February 1994; c. 7-28.]
That is the Bill that is deplored.
The Minister responsible for energy efficiency has long been a supporter of the Bill's principles. The hon. Member for Suffolk, South (Mr. Yeo) declared support for the Bill. The Minister for Social Security and Disabled People introduced a Bill on those lines himself some time ago. The Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) who has been scurrying
Column 1400about the Chamber today handing out sheets of paper to assist Conservative Members in their speeches is, I suspect, himself a supporter of the Bill.
The views of the right hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Dame A. Rumbold) were quoted earlier, and she was a persuasive advocate. She made it clear that the Bill deserves support. Other hon. Members who have become Ministers were among those who supported the Bill which is now deplored.
Mr. Butler: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me yet another last chance. I just want to put on the record the fact that none of the notes passed out by the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary was the slightest bit useful.
Mr. Beith: I am a charitable man, so I prefer to attribute that to the known sympathy of the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the objects of the Bill rather than to any incompetence on his part. Much has been said this afternoon about the cost of the Bill's proposals. We have often referred to the Government's own estimates, which we regard as very much on the high side because they use the fullest technique of assessment, which was tested in two authorities. That has produced figures from £11 million to £23 million. I remind the Government that those are relatively small figures compared with the amounts of waste that can easily be found. For example, it was no less a person than the hon. Member for Banbury who told my hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) that office accommodation left vacant by the Government is costing us £51.9 million a year, plus a further £4.9 million in SW1 alone. Those sums fall well within the Government's known waste margin in other sectors.
Perhaps the most important point about cost, which I want to remind hon. Members about before we vote on the matter, is that money can easily be wasted or misdirected in energy efficiency. Gullibility in relation to advertising, the promotion of the wrong products, or just getting the wrong idea about how to save energy, can do a considerable amount of harm. Our resources as a nation are not infinite. We want to use them as wisely as we can, to enable people to keep warm and to reduce the pollution associated with energy misuse. We can best do that if we have information about how the resources can be well directed. We can enable people to keep warm at less cost with less pollution if we know where the funds can best be used.
One of the weaknesses of the Government's position is that they concentrate their efforts entirely on the local authority sector. That does not mean all of the measures that they referred to earlier, but the largest amount of effort that they can quote in their defence is made within the local authority sector. It is their policy that that sector should be reduced as a total of the whole, and it has been throughout my time in the House of Commons, through people purchasing their own council houses and through building in other sectors.
Column 1401Some 57 per cent. of householders over pension age are owner-occupiers. Many of them, although they possess a house, perhaps still mortgaged, do not possess substantial resources with which to make it more energy-efficient. The house may be their only asset, and their income may be very low indeed. Within the private sector are important areas for energy efficiency work, which we need to identify. It is no use simply using the local authority sector, as the Government can, using existing local authority procedures. They must recognise the value of the Bill in looking at the whole of our housing stock.
I am bound to ask where the real objections to the Bill lie. I cannot take seriously the Government's pretended role as the saviour of local authority independence, because it sits so ill with almost anything else that they have done throughout their term of office. I find it difficult to take seriously their arguments about the cost of the measure itself--the cost of carrying out the assessments--because, as I have argued, it is so relatively small.
I can think of only two other explanations. One is that they are frightened of the need for energy efficiency work, which the assessments will demonstrate; the other is that they are panicked by the possibility of discovering that considerable capital expenditure might be desirable and might yield marvellous results. The mere fact that it could demonstrate a need for that expenditure might well be what is frightening the Treasury to death.
The only other explanation that I can think of was the one adduced by the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North--that the Government are frightened by the possibility that pressure for energy efficiency will damage the prospects for the flotation of PowerGen and National Power. I believe that the Government once denied that, but it would be quite nice to hear them do so firmly and categorically once more. Indeed, the most effective way to do that would be to make it much clearer that energy efficiency and energy conservation should be an objective of electricity generating and distribution companies. That has never been clear enough in statute. It should be a great deal clearer.
I think that the Government never resorted to out-and-out opposition to the Bill because their objections were so misdirected and inadequate. One of the only hon. Members whom I have ever heard produce the words, "I oppose the Bill" was the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, who did so earlier. He is a very lonely figure, because most hon. Members, on both sides of the House, either support it or say that they support it in general terms but think that it should not be mandatory. The Government as such have never deployed outright opposition to the Bill. They chose instead to use the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill tactics, and to deluge the amendment paper with amendments that were not tabled in Committee. The ultimate absurdity of the Government's tactics was demonstrated when the Bill returned before the House for a second bite, on Report. I said that I had been so persuaded by the long speech of the Minister some months previously that I was disposed to accept the amendment that he had moved at that time. So what happened then? The Government opposed the amendment
Column 1402that they themselves had moved, putting Tellers both for and against the motion to agree the amendment. The absurdity of their tactics was plain for all to see.
The Bill is clearly widely supported both inside and outside the House. It was clearly a modest and sensible way of pointing the way to the efficient use of resources to help people to keep warm and to cut pollution. The objections to it were so flimsy that the Government had to resort to those tactics. I welcome the Minister to his new responsibilities and sincerely hope that his record of support for the measure in the past will lead him, even if he does not concede to us tonight, to set about his Department and move it in the direction of the proposals contained in the Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Robert B. Jones): Listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) in opening the debate for the Liberal Democrats, and to the numerous references to what I might say in response, I must say that mine must be the most trailed winding-up speech ever heard in the House. I may not be the Lion King, but at least my speech was trailed as much it was.
There is no doubt that we have had a very useful debate. I want to pick up on the last remarks that were made by the right hon. Member for Berwick- upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). Even if there was disagreement about the Bill, there was a need to drive forward some of the principles in it. It seemed to me that there was a lot of common ground between hon. Members on both sides of the House about what was desirable, even if there was some controversy about the provisions of the Bill.
As someone who has tried to introduce a private Member's Bill, the Hedgerows Bill, which was blocked on that occasion by the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen), I understand how possessive one gets about one's own private Member's Bill. My sense of possessiveness about the Bill of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, slightly diminished by the fact that I was not its chief sponsor, has not in any way undermined my commitment to energy conservation, because it is extremely important.
If we are agreed on the ends, we must debate properly in the House--not just across the Floor of the Chamber, but in the important arena of the Select Committees and so on--how we are to will the means to those ends. It seems self-evident that energy efficiency is desirable: for the environment, because of global warming, and none of us wants to see people waste money on energy when they could be spending it on other things; and for the competitiveness of industry, because if we are using less energy, we can compete more ably in world markets. It is highly desirable from the point of view of the fuel poor, which was rightly referred to by many of my hon. Friends and by Opposition Members.
Column 1403So if this is not a dispute about the desirability of the Bill, for some hon. Members, it certainly is a dispute about methodology. I shall return to the aims of the Bill in a moment. Oscar Wilde was right when he said:
"The truth is rarely pure, and never simple."
That applies to the contents of the Bill and its aims.
There can, of course, be considerable debate about the level of resources devoted to energy conservation. I have no doubt that Opposition Members will have different views on that from Conservative Members. That is perfectly proper, but it does not seem to be at all relevant to whether one considers the Bill desirable. I shall remind the House of what the Bill said, and of the key point in it, which was to provide for a duty on a local authority to carry out an investigation of residential accommodation
"with a view to deciding what measures are, in its opinion, desirable and practicable, to achieve greater energy conservation". It would also have a duty to prepare and update plans setting out arrangements to achieve that. That recognises the importance of energy conservation in buildings and the effect of the use of energy on the environment, because 50 per cent. of global warming gases come from the use of buildings, directly or indirectly. The efficiency with which energy is used in those buildings--or used to provide the fuels that operate equipment in them--is therefore critical. Let me deal next with housing. Energy conservation is extremely important to council housing, for instance. Hon. Members have referred to the level of income of those living in council houses, which form a large percentage of our stock, although not the majority. The Government have taken steps to ensure that we deliver, because delivery is what this is about: it is about not intent but achievement--achieving improvements in council housing stock. Our principal tool is the housing improvement policy strategy. Let me explain what we expect local authorities to do.
We are looking for evidence of a properly formulated energy efficiency policy. Key ingredients are clear objectives for aspects such as affordable warmth, management and maintenance costs and carbon dioxide reductions. We should also consider longer-term targets to measure achievements and energy rating for council stock as the basis for establishing the policy. Guidance on energy efficiency in council housing provides practical advice on how to develop a sound and fully integrated energy efficiency policy. We have found that the vast majority of local authorities are responding. I do not say that they are all doing so, but far more are responding than the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) suggested when she rightly praised her local authority in Lewisham, or other hon. Members suggested when praising their own authorities. We know from their housing investment programme submissions, and from the national home energy rating--NHER--that huge numbers of authorities are currently surveying their stock or have completed their surveys. Let me cite some of those authorities. I do not suppose that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed will be surprised if I start with my own authority, as I have the privilege of representing part of Dacorum. Its plans include ensuring
Column 1404that all housing stock has an average NHER rating greater than 6 by 1998, reducing average carbon dioxide emissions for its stock by at least 1 tonne per year per dwelling by 1998, reducing condensation complaints by 25 per cent. per year and training all front- line housing staff to offer advice on the efficient use of heating systems by mid-1995. That is very commendable.
Naturally, I asked for the targets of authorities in the Northumberland area, because I knew that the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed would be interested. Alnwick has conducted an energy survey of all its rented stock; Berwick-upon-Tweed planned to rate all its housing stock by August 1994--perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can tell me whether it completed the process on time. Energy conservation, including the use of renewables, is one of the main aims of Blyth Valley's urban plan. Tynedale has undertaken a stock profile for each home in council ownership, and aims to bring all housing stock up to an NHER of 7 in six years. Wansbeck has, to date, rated 35 per cent. of its stock, using the Government's standard assessment programme; and even the least active authority, Castle Morpeth, has commissioned an energy audit of its stock.
Mr. Beith: The point that the Minister is making demonstrates that local authorities are carrying out the work that he commends without being bureaucratic or wasting money. It also underlines the fact that the proportion of total housing stock that their stock represents is smaller than it used to be: I am sure that that is true in Dacorum, and in many other authorities.
The housing association sector also contains a high concentration of people with limited means. The Housing Corporation has laid down a minimum standard assessment procedure rating for all new developments, which will mean that housing association developments will be extremely energy- efficient. I know of few housing associations with old properties--for instance, the big charities such as Peabody, Sutton and Guinness--that are not taking a good look at their older stock with a view to taking appropriate steps.
Some local authorities are using their involvement with housing associations through the HIP process to ensure that they secure the maximum energy efficiency out of new developments by running competitions. I praise, for example, the London borough of Richmond--controlled by the party of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed--which has sponsored a competition to achieve the maximum energy efficiency in developing a new site. The authority kindly invited me to launch the competition, and I happily said that I would, because I feel that all local authorities should emulate that approach.
In case the right hon. Gentleman thinks that I am being too generous to the Liberal party, let me also single out Stafford borough council, which is controlled by my party--thanks to two councillors who left the Liberal party because they were so disgusted with its policies. It has done exactly the same with a large new site. I am pleased to say that a very energy- efficient development will be carried out on that site by the William Sutton trust--as it now is--whose headquarters are in my constituency. A great deal is happening on
Column 1405the housing association front; that, I think, is due to the initiative of not just individual associations but the Housing Corporation--at, I might add, the Government's suggestion. I believe that the private sector is the most difficult. As my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) pointed out, we cannot simply send in the thermal thought police; but there are some things that can be done. For instance, the home energy efficiency scheme has been very valuable to those on low incomes; increasing the number of building regulations has been useful to new building of private houses. Educating residents, whether they are council tenants or private owners, is also useful--hence the rationale for the Wasting Energy Costs the Earth campaign, which has received a substantial amount of taxpayers' money. There is also the renewal strategy pursued by local authorities for individual areas. It seems to make sense to combine energy-efficiency measures with other measures where stock is being improved.
The real point at which all that bites, however, is the point of sale. That is what the Select Committee said, and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight referred to it earlier. If lenders adopted a different attitude, encouraging purchasers to think more about the energy efficiency of the properties that they were choosing between, a great deal would be achieved. I am pleased to tell the House that the Nationwide building society already incorporates SAP ratings in its surveys, and the Halifax is doing so on a pilot basis. We are holding discussions with lenders in an attempt to build on that: it is critically important for them to take a positive view. That also makes sense from the lenders' point of view. It is crazy to be prepared to lend two and a half times someone's income on the basis of valuation of a house without taking into account the purchaser's ability to afford repayments on the mortgage. If the purchaser's energy costs are low, however, his ability to meet those repayments will be greater.
Ms Ruddock: The Minister has just given us an impressive list of housing sectors and the programmes by which they might be brought up to a proper standard of energy efficiency. Will he give us the global view? What percentage of Britain's housing stock meets appropriate standards now, and what is his prediction for the next five or 10 years? When will our housing meet appropriate modern
Mr. Jones: The answer to the first question is that I do not know. The answer to the second is "more"--but the rate will depend on what happens in terms of individual decisions. That is why the role of education campaigns is so important.
Mr. Dafis rose --
Mr. Jones: I shall return to the hon. Member for Truro first: if I give way to the hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) at this point, I shall not be able to deal with his points later, which I think he would want me to do.
The hon. Member for Truro said that the best authorities would do what they were doing in any event--but only the best. I must tell him that such is
Column 1406the mechanism of the HIP allocations that local authorities have a powerful incentive to present proper strategies, in order to be rewarded with additional resources to develop housing in their areas. That is different from the position in 1993, when I sponsored the Bill of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. It is one of the key ingredients that has led me to the conclusion that we can do better than the Bill. That is the argument that we support.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: I am glad that the Minister is addressing a change of mind and that he acknowledges that. I do not want to prevent him from saying more about that. However, surely his point about the HIP allocation process shows that it is a form of compulsion, which he said is his reason for objecting to the statutory requirement.
Mr. Jones: I did not say that. If the hon. Gentleman was not listening, let me remind him that I said that it was unnecessary because local authorities were well down the road suggested by the Bill and I want to get them further down that road. I regard it not as compulsion but as a powerful incentive, and incentivising is what Conservatives are all about.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Truro for quoting the Select Committee at such length. I am not so far away from my membership of that Committee that I do not appreciate the work that it did and all the reports that it has produced on this and other subjects. It is close to my mind and I am constantly cross-referring to what was said. There is a great deal of sense in its recommendations, and the report on energy conservation pulled together a great deal of information and made many recommendations for which we are grateful. That is why the Government used a positive tone in responding to the report.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North and my hon. Friends the Members for Isle of Wight and for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Clifton- Brown) referred to the key issue of the financing of the Energy Saving Trust. That issue is more key to the debate than is the Bill. We are awaiting a response from the Director General of Gas Supply to the various proposals from the Energy Saving Trust.
You may feel, Madam Deputy Speaker, that Ofgas should be quick about it. There is a need for a fairly early response so that the trust knows where it stands. I have had conversations with the Gas Consumers Council and Clare Spottiswoode, and I have stressed the importance of dealing with that so that we can think about the medium and long term in the light of justified knowledge about her position. As we understand it, she is currently considering the schemes on their merits and we do not know what answers she will come up with. To paraphrase my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, he said that British Gas should come up with the money irrespective of what is said by the Director General of Gas Supply. I am afraid that that is not possible. The guidance and what is allowed is much more fundamental than whether the response is positive or negative.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North referred to targets and the need to have targets beyond the year 2000. The climate change convention provides for the commitments to be reviewed in spring
Column 1407next year and before 1998. That will be built in automatically, and I agree that it is important to think about that in the medium and long term.
I was interested in what the hon. Gentleman had to say about a levy of 2 to 3 per cent. on electricity bills. I should welcome it if he were to put that to the Director General of Offer to see what his reaction is. The hon. Gentleman said also that it is up to the Government to introduce their own proposals or to accept the Bill. I hope that what I have said so far demonstrates that, in addition to what has already been announced or what was referred to by my hon. Friend the Minister in his opening speech, there is clear evidence that our strategy through the HIP process is working.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) rose --
Mr. Jones: I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman has not been present for much of the debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field) deserves a response to his thoughtful and interesting speech.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight on his appointment. I have a high opinion of him and I wish him well. He referred to the labelling of domestic appliances. From January 1995, fridges and freezers will bear energy labels. The Commission is developing directives to cover washing machines, tumble driers, washer-driers and dishwashers. That is important because they use 60 per cent. of the electricity used in homes and produce 6 per cent. of carbon dioxide emissions. All new models are about 15 to 25 per cent. more efficient than the old models.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight said, it is important that the Government demonstrate their commitment through their own estate. He was kind enough to refer to my Department's plans for our new headquarters. He mentioned the combined heat and power ingredient and so on. The Government have set a demanding target of a 15 per cent. reduction in the years leading to March 1996. My hon. Friend said that I should be tough with other Departments. We apply as much pressure as we can to other Departments, but it is also up to the Chairmen and Chairwomen of Select Committees to scrutinise their own Departments. We would welcome some assistance.
The hon. Member for Deptford made a number of points, one of which was about combined heat and power. In 1990, the target was set of 4, 000 MW capacity by the year 2000 and it was revised in 1993 up to 5, 000 MW. The Labour party never set a target for CHP. We are extremely pro-CHP and there are now over 1,000 sites in operation with 2,900 MW of capacity, which is 5 per cent. of all United Kingdom generation. The hon. Lady referred also to the VAT issue and she could not understand that environmentalists might have a different view from her. In its Budget briefing on that subject, Friends of the Earth said:
"Increasing the price of domestic fuel is an important signal to householders that energy use should be cut. Cutting energy use is vital to reduce Britain's production of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and other energy related pollutants. Friends of the Earth therefore welcomes the Chancellor's commitment to increasing domestic fuel and power prices over the next two years through the gradual imposition of VAT."
Column 1408The hon. Lady said that energy efficiency investment has fallen by 28 per cent. I was baffled. I do not know where she found that statistic. I am not aware of any reliable measures of such investment, partly because that is difficult to collect and partly because it is difficult to define. It is estimated that, thanks to the new building regulations, homes will be over 25 per cent. more efficient, but the extra cost is negligible. Is that ineffective simply because there is a lack of investment? I think not.
My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Mr. Butler) made an excellent speech in which he referred to the need to use less and waste less. That is an important message for the general public and it needs to be shouted from the rooftops. As my hon. Friend said, the Palace of Westminster is notoriously hot on occasions, but I can reassure him that it is on target for its 15 per cent. reduction by 1996.
We should not be deluded into thinking that energy efficiency is entirely the preserve of housing and buildings. We need greater energy efficiency in industry and that will come about as a result of all the schemes that the Government have promoted such as EMAS, ecoaudit, BS7750, best practice programmes or whatever. All that is important, as are alternative vehicle fuels. I have tried the gas-powered vehicle and was extremely impressed with its quietness and energy efficiency.
Let me reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury that, like him, we think that the HEES scheme is extremely important. It has received double the amount of the previous year and very soon we shall have the millionth beneficiary.
My conclusion from all those arguments is that, if one judges the Government by their achievements in housing and in everything else, they have an excellent record, so I commend the Government's amendment to the House.
Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question: --
The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 292.
Division No. 317] [18.59 pm
Column 1408Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F.
Bray, Dr Jeremy