Previous Section Home Page

Column 1196

I do not underestimate the difficulty of quantifying those criteria that are purely qualitative. League tables encounter that difficulty: sometimes they oversimplify the relative positions of that which is being compared. Nevertheless, league tables have the major advantage of demonstrating how one authority's performance compares with that of another.

Perhaps in his reply to this part of the debate, the Minister will confirm whether league tables would form part of the reports. What form would they take and how often would the reports be published? Could there not be a written annual report, or does the Minister feel that the data may not be collected easily?

We need a national annual report not only to see what the local energy conservation authorities are doing but to make comparisons with national or international benchmarks. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport raised that matter.

Mr. Matthew Banks: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. There is constant reference to Stockport in relation to my constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Mr. Hendry) and I are constantly confused with one another, but my constituency should not be confused with another.

Mr. Fabricant: I stand admonished; I was of course referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks).

There should be benchmarks in this sector, which could perhaps relate to the criteria set by the Rio earth summit. It is worth reminding the House that it was the noble Baroness Thatcher who instigated that 1992 summit. Would not the criteria agreed at that summit serve as useful benchmarks against which the performances of energy conservation authorities could be measured?

Annual reports could serve that national role. However, I pointed out earlier that energy conservation is a double-sided equation. On the one side, we see the loss of energy through lack of insulation; and on the other, we have the efficient use of energy through the application of energy-efficient machinery. There are huge discrepancies between the efficiency of, for example, washing machines and driers. Some use twice as much energy as others to achieve the same effect.

I wonder whether the annual report could contain a league table listing which pieces of equipment were more efficient than others--a sort of Which? report on energy conservation. If the Department is not prepared to compile a table, perhaps we should encourage the Consumers Association to do it, if it does not do so already. In any event, an annual report would be welcome. It should contain league tables so that we can compare the performance of energy conservation authorities locally. The local authorities should be measured against national or international benchmarks, which could well be the Rio summit criteria. There should also be regular mention of the different types of home appliances because there is no question but that some are far more efficient than others. All those matters form part of the general energy conservation in which we as a nation can engage.

Mr. Hendry: I, too, think that this important amendment should be welcomed, but I shall explain why what we are discussing is not a poor substitute for targets.


Column 1197

I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) because I believe that a report would be a significant improvement on the concept of targets.

Targets would be difficult to enforce because it has become clear that some parts of the country are more advanced in terms of energy conservation than others. If all areas were given the same blanket target, there would inevitably be some discrepancies and those areas that had already gone further than others would find themselves unable to meet the targets by dint of the fact that they had already done more.

We have already discussed the fact that some parts of the country contain many more older properties than others. It would be unreasonable for Rochdale, which has many small old houses, to be given exactly the same target as Milton Keynes or Telford, where the bulk of the housing stock is more modern and where there are already in place much more sophisticated methods of energy conservation. We should therefore naturally shy away from targets. If there were national targets, the local authorities that would find it most difficult to meet the targets would be those that had already done the most.

It would be much more effective to have in place a system of national reporting. Like my hon. Friend the Member for

Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant), I should prefer a system of league tables. More effectively than anything else, such a system would enable us to ask local authorities why some were doing better than others and to give a kick start to those that we felt were not doing enough.

A good example for us to follow would be the league table system for examination results. That system has resulted in individual schools saying each year that they want to do better. It is much more effective than a system of targets which would mean saying that every school should achieve a certain number of GCSE or A-level passes. Now, each year, schools can compare themselves with others which motivates all of them to do better-- not just better than schools around and about but better than they each managed to achieve the previous year. A system of league tables would be a much greater spur to progress on the conservation front than a set of targets which, at the end of the day, would be pretty well unenforceable.

It is quite right that authorities should report to us and that we should have the chance to debate in the House the progress that they have made, because we want to know where they stand. More than that, we want to be able to get a picture of the situation across the country, so that we could then ask questions of them as to why some of them have done better than others and why some are not doing as well as we might have expected. That would mean that we, the Government and others, could badger local authorities to do more, to push forward, to ensure that they are in no doubt that we believe that the authorities that are at the bottom of the league tables need to be chased.

On education again, we have found that the league tables show that Derbyshire is at the bottom. That gives us the power as local Members of Parliament to examine why Derbyshire delegates less to its schools than any other county. If it was not for the league tables, we would not be able to put pressure on Derbyshire to do better.


Column 1198

There has also been some debate about the regularity with which the reports should be issued. I have to disagree with those who have said that it should be annually, or even bi-annually. It is entirely right that it should be from time to time. I say that for two reasons. First, if there is a requirement on local authorities to prepare reports too regularly, it will become a distraction and their energies and resources will be channelled into preparing them, when it should be going into the meat of the energy conservation programme. If we required them to prepare an annual report, not only would extra costs be incurred in the process, but their efforts and initiatives would be diverted from what we want them to be doing. Secondly, a more important point is that, year in and year out, we will find that progress is made on that front, and therefore further progress each year becomes more difficult. If one starts from a low base, it is easy to make a big step in energy conservation, but 20 or 30--even 50 or 60--years down the line, when the Act still lies on the statute book, the same degree of progress will become more difficult. Whatever one might be able to achieve in one or two years, a similar proportionate improvement in energy conservation will not be achievable in future years, because so much progress will have been made.

We must bear in mind that, in the Bill and through the amendment, we are establishing a reporting progress that will be set in stone for all time. At some point in the future, when all houses have perfect energy conservation, or have gone as far as they can, it will be quite proper that the Secretary of State should turn around and say, "I do not think that we need another report on this for 10 or 20 years, because we have gone this far." It would be idiocy if we were still bound by a system of annual or bi -annual reports which the Secretary of State had to lay before Parliament, and statements had to be made to show what further progress had been made in the year. That situation will evolve. It will steadily improve. It is right, therefore, that the Secretary of State should have the flexibility to say that we want reports bi-annually at the moment, or perhaps every three or five years, but in years to come we wish to have them on a more irregular basis and with a greater intervening period. That is pragmatic and sensible. That is why I believe the Government's approach to be right.

Mr. Fabricant: Does my hon. Friend agree that the discipline required of local authorities presenting an annual report to the Secretary of State--I remind my hon. Friend that the clauses say that the Secretary of State, not the local authorities, shall prepare the annual report--is a discipline that should be in place? In fact, that would not be a distraction, because it would be within an authority's normal procedures to produce the hard data from which the Secretary of State was able to prepare his report.

Mr. Hendry: I understand clearly my hon. Friend's point, but I disagree with him, for this reason: the discipline is important if it is meaningful. Given that we are considering a general survey of properties, it is essentially a random selection. If the reports are gathered over too regular a period, the changes that will occur will be smaller than the margin of error that one might expect from a random survey. As a result, although it is important to have discipline, a report may say, "Here is the improvement that has taken place, but I am afraid that, because of the margin of error involved in the process, it is actually of no consequence whatsoever."


Column 1199

The House wants to debate issues of substance. We therefore want substantial reports. There must be a reporting process that enables us to see changes that have taken place. To achieve that, reports must be meaningful. For those reasons, I believe that the amendment is right and that the Government's phraseology is correct. I am happy to support the amendment.

2 pm

Ms Ruddock: I support the amendments. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) tabled an amendment in Committee which required annual reports. At the time, the Minister persuaded her to withdraw her amendment so that he could return on Report with his own wording. We are pleased that he has kept his undertaking, because it is crucial, if we are to make real progress, that we know precisely what is happening and the potential, and that we can measure progress year on year.

We need to know the cost of the energy conservation measures that each local authority can put in place. We need to know the extent of carbon dioxide emissions that might result from those proposals. We would be extremely interested in the number of jobs that might be created if those measures were taken.

Furthermore, the assessment of average savings that could accrue from the measures to individual households is not just important to them; it is extremely important also in the national context with regard to conserving energy and slowing the rate at which we use up finite resources. For all those reasons, drawing together all local authority reports into one national report would do a great service to this country and to the Government, and to the potential for better administration.

We do not share the scepticism and cynicism of the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) when he referred to the possibility of costs rising from around £20 million to £100 million. If it takes more than £20 million to deal with the problem, I would much prefer that money to be spent on energy efficiency measures at local level than for it to go into share options for members of the boards of privatised utilities.

The reports are necessary. We must understand what the Bill will provide for in terms of reporting at local level. Drawing all that information together will make it possible to compare authorities. That is healthy. League tables of that kind are perfectly appropriate and we would very much support them. We have no fear about how well Labour-controlled authorities would perform, because we know that they would be near the top of the league.

Mr. Fabricant: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Ruddock: No, there is not enough time. I do not want to delay this part of our proceedings.

Let me make it clear that a Labour Government would very much welcome, and would establish, annual reporting. We would require an annual environment report of all Ministers concerned with energy efficiency and other environmental processes. Not only do we believe that such a report should be debated in Parliament, but we would also submit it for scrutiny to the environmental audit committee which we intend to establish with powers similar to that of the Public Accounts Committee. With those few words, I very much welcome the amendment.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: With the leave of the House, may I say that the amendment, and the substance of the


Column 1200

matter, is about transparency, targets and performance against those targets. I will return to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) later because I do not agree with him at all about the targets and I shall explain why.

We have considered the time frame. Some hon. Members, like my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Merchant), suggested that the reports should be bi-annual; others believe that they should be annual. It is not that we are trying to avoid having annual--

Mr. Merchant: If I gave my hon. Friend the impression that I wanted bi-annual reports, it was a false impression. My suggestion was that they should be annual.

Mr. Jones: I apologise to my hon. Friend. When I look at my notes, which are slightly untidy, I see that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) who wanted the reports to be bi-annual.

The point is that we want to tie the reports in with the housing investment programme submissions and allocations which at present constitute an annual system. But when one considers the burden of drawing up such reports on some small rural authorities, it is not sensible to preclude us from reforming the HIP system and putting it on a bi-annual basis for authorities with less than a certain amount of stock, or whatever the criterion might be.

Although I envisage the reports as annual for the time being, if the HIP process were reformed I should not want to be boxed in by something in the Bill requiring authorities that did not have to submit their HIP reports every year to continue to submit the other reports. Hon. Members will understand that.

My second point is about cost. Reference was made to the need for a system of inspectors to follow up the assessments and to see what has changed in the meantime. That would not be necessary. First, the technique of conducting stock profiles is developing all the time, making it easier and easier to do without the thermal thought police.

Secondly, the private sector can be involved. The Nationwide building society already includes an energy rating in all its surveys, and the Halifax building society is doing the same on a pilot basis. I hope that, before long, all building societies and other lenders will follow suit, which will mean that from house sales we shall have a steady year-on-year picture of how stock in the private sector is progressing. That involves no inspectors, simply the normal market processes.

Within the normal regime that applies to local authorities, I expect that, as we already require them to have an energy efficiency strategy as part of their HIP submissions, we shall be able to build on that, thus minimising additional costs for them. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friends.

I must tackle head on the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport, who seemed to be arguing both ways. He wanted the rigidity of targets built into the Bill to ensure delivery, but at the same time he did not want unfair impositions on local authorities. He cannot have it both ways.


Column 1201

Three problems would arise if we built a target into a Bill. First, if there is to be a target of 30 per cent. one has to decide what it is 30 per cent. of. Many local authorities have no stock profile at all, so how can they measure 30 per cent. from a base line that they do not have?

Secondly, we should have to lay down in primary legislation the methodology for the calculation, which would more than double the length of the Bill. Furthermore, my hon. Friend knows how litigious people are nowadays, and it is absurd that one might be taken to court because of a difference between 29.9 per cent. and 30.1 per cent. on the basis of calculations that had been set down in primary legislation. It is much better to lay down targets in guidance for local authorities and to use the HIP system to police them. Moreover, we shall wish to adjust the targets as the years go by, depending on our international commitments. I referred earlier to the commitment given by the Secretary of State in the context of the Berlin conference. I do not see the targets as written in tablets of stone. We shall wish to re- examine the position from time to time. Of course, we shall also wish to examine the impact on individual local authorities. The burden of evidence submitted by the local authority associations--this was well discussed in Committee--was that they preferred the more flexible approach in the guidance notes to the more rigid approach involved by having the measure in the Bill. The third reason why my hon. Friend the Member for Southport is fundamentally wrong is that there are other ways of approaching this subject which may become more relevant over a period. Instead of looking at savings from a base line, we may well wish to look at how to get to a particular point on the minimum ratings of the energy efficiency of homes, as we do with new builds, through the building regulations system and the regime for housing association properties.

If one authority is far less energy efficient than another, it might be appropriate for that authority to have a bigger target because it will need to do more work to get to that minimum level of energy efficiency. An authority that has a highly energy-efficient stock--if there were such an authority--would have less of a gap to close.

For those three excellent reasons, it will be much better to deal with the matter in the course of the guidance so that we can adapt to changing circumstances and technology and to the real requirements of the world, instead of trying to box ourselves into a measure which was denounced in one phrase by my hon. Friend the Member for Southport and supported in another. All along, the Government have been desirous of achieving something better than the Energy Conservation Bill promoted by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), and I think that we are gradually getting there.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: My hon. Friend the Minister has stated that 30 per cent. of a very low base still leaves a low energy efficient stock. For those authorities that have a very low energy-efficient rating, will my hon. Friend consider setting guidance of absolute SAP levels for that authority or for a range of authorities?

Mr. Jones: That is precisely the point I am trying to make. At first, we want to set a target of 30 per cent. for


Column 1202

every local authority, but those who feel they have a case for exemption from that target--one or two have been mentioned--can talk to us. If they are as good as they think, we will have no difficulty in accepting their reasoning.

The SAP regime is in its early stages and it would not be right to move to that immediately, but it does commend itself to many hon. Members, particularly those who, like my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, have served on the Select Committee and seen the advantages of the energy rating of homes. For all of those reasons, I commend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 9, in page 3, line 20, leave out `and (3)' and insert `to (4)'.-- [Mr. Robert B. Jones.]

Clause 8

Northern Ireland

Amendment made: No. 10, in page 3, line 38, after `Ireland;' insert--

`( ) the reference in section 3(4) to laying before Parliament shall be construed as a reference to laying before the Northern Ireland Assembly;'.- - [Mr. Robert B. Jones.]

Order for Third Reading read.

Mrs. Maddock: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

When first I came to the House 20 months ago, I could not have dreamt that I would be in the position that I am today of having the opportunity to guide a Bill through the House. I could also not have dreamt that I would spend a large part of a Friday morning discussing narrow boats and canal boats. Nor did I expect to described as a moderate. That has not been my role in politics, and for a number of years I have been a thorn in the side of politicians.

The Bill is only the beginning, and we all want to see its implementation in the coming years. On Committee, the Minister gave a number of assurances about the contents of the guidance notes which would be issued to local authorities when they were implementing the Bill, and about the firmness with which the measures would be enforced.

The hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Banks) was critical about the potential outcome of the Bill and about the fact that we did not have targets on the face of the Bill. My hon. Friends and I--and many people outside the House who support the Bill--would have welcomed his support in that area much earlier as we pressed the Government on some of those points.

Mr. Matthew Banks: Does the hon. Lady accept that she herself took the targets out of the Bill?

Mrs. Maddock: The hon. Gentleman should have waited for my next sentence. The resulting Bill accommodates the views of local authorities, local authority associations, the Government, myself and all those who have supported the Bill and ensured that we would put an energy conservation Bill on to the statute book.

It is vital to the success of the Bill that we have the assurances that the Minister has given and that those assurances are kept. Passing the Bill will lay the foundations of a national energy conservation strategy, but it is up to local government to build on those


Column 1203

foundations and up to central Government to see that the building is solid and proceeds at a reasonable pace. The Minister is the foreman of the building programme. He is a foreman in whom I have great confidence. Apart from what I like to believe was a temporary aberration in November, the Minister's support for an energy conservation Bill has been firm. I thank him for that.

I particularly thank the Minister for his constructive approach in the Committee proceedings. The Committee was a fine example of how hon. Members from across the House can work together to achieve a common aim. I also thank other hon. Members who served on the Committee and were co-operative.

There was considerable reorganisation of the clauses of the Bill in Committee. Many changes were made, some beneficial and some not so beneficial. However, the quality of the Bill and the effect that it will have is just as significant as when my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) introduced a similar Bill this time last year. I am sure that hon. Members do not need reminding of the fate of the Bill on that occasion. The central thrust of my Bill remains the same as two years ago when my hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North (Mr. Dafis) introduced a ten-minute Bill.

The thrust of the Bill is to give local authorities a duty to assess the potential for energy savings in their area and to produce a plan or report saying how they would achieve those savings, and for the relevant Secretary of State to set every council a timetable for action, which would be closely monitored. That would lead to a reduction in emissions of polluting gases but also to warmer homes and potentially lower fuel bills. It would also cut the incidence of cold-related deaths from, for example, hypothermia. That would save not only lives but NHS financial resources.

Yesterday more than 500 people came to London to support the Bill. The director of Friends of the Earth told us all that he believed that the Bill was a win-win-win measure. I support that contention. Before I conclude, I must quickly pay tribute to all those who have contributed to the Bill's progress. My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion and Pembroke, North and my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed have guided the Bill through its evolution. I also pay tribute to the huge number of councils of all political persuasions which have passed motions in support of the Bill. The number was more than 700 at the last count. The last one came in from a parish council near Chelmsford yesterday.

A tremendous range of national organisations has supported the Bill. In particular, the Association for the Conservation of Energy was an indispensable source of advice and assistance and, indeed, persistence, as the rest of us were.

The Bill is the beginning of the energy conservation story. It certainly should not be the end. If the Bill is passed, it will be a sign of the commitment across the House to energy conservation and of the commitment of people across Britain, more than 500 of whom took the trouble to come to London yesterday to support it. The Bill and its predecessor have been discussed five times on the Floor of the House in 14 months. I hope that hon. Members will feel that the concerns that they have expressed have been taken into account during that time


Column 1204

and that they will share my view that the Bill has not been damaged in the process. I hope that they will all support the Third Reading.

2.19 pm

Mr. Robert B. Jones: I am glad that the first words on my brief are that I support the motion that the Bill be read the Third time. I congratulate the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) on having successfully piloted it thus far. She has done so with skill and a great deal of common sense.

I also join in the general welcome from the House and outside for the fact that the hon. Lady the opportunity provided by her good fortune in the ballot to take up the important topic of energy efficiency in the home. In her Third Reading speech, she said that I had a long history of involvement with the topic. I am glad that I have had the good fortune to be the Minister at the time that the Bill reached this point.

There has been no point at which I would have changed my mind, even last November, whatever the hon. Member for Christchurch might say. I told the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that I thought that we could do better than his Bill, and that has been proved by our debates.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Department of the Environment, despite our awful building, and perhaps it is appropriate in that anniversary year that we are considering this Bill, as it touches on areas for which my Department has had responsibility since its inception--housing and local government--and on one of its newest responsibilities--energy efficiency. It will be interesting to see how posterity will view the Bill as a contribution to energy efficiency in another 25 years. It has the potential to make a valuable contribution.

The Bill will now pass to another place for further consideration in a less rigid, more clearly defined and more workable form. I wish it well in its progress there and look forward to seeing it on the statute book.

2.21 pm

Mr. Beith: It is a privilege to be able to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) on the excellent work that she has done to pilot the Bill through the House and to speak in what I hope are the closing moments of a debate that I feel I started on moving the Second Reading of a similar Bill a year ago. During these debates, we have developed the curious caricature that my hon. Friend is the moderate and I am the extreme radical, and that the environmental proposals were so radical that they had to be substantially modified.

We have been engaged in the exercise of trying to meet reservations in various quarters--whether of local authority associations or of Ministers-- to arrive at something that the Government would agree to see through the House, and it is true that the Minister played a considerable part in securing this achievement. He gave away the secret--it lay in accepting that the new burdens procedure could be brought into play as regards the Bill. Neither he nor I think that that will be particularly costly for local authorities and we both think that the gains will hugely outweigh the costs. The Minister set himself the task of getting the Treasury to accept that and applied


Column 1205

himself to it with zeal, pressed on, I am sure, by the huge public campaign that has been waged and the absurdity of continuing to resist legislation in this area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has done an excellent job and, as she said, we have built important foundations for energy conservation policy, on which we now need to build.

2.22 pm

Ms Ruddock: I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) on the way in which she has brought the Bill to what should, I hope, be its final stages in the House. I also pay tribute to her main advisers--the Association for the Conservation of Energy--which has been very helpful to all the members of the Committee and gave us the opportunity to benefit from its great expertise in the subject.

Reaching this stage of the Bill has been a complex process, as we heard from several hon. Members, and we all feared that we might not reach this final hurdle successfully. I thank the Minister for his co-operation and for fulfilling his promises in Committee, which became successful amendments and were agreed today.

The Bill is timely. One of the greatest obstacles to developing a strategy for energy efficiency and, more importantly, for energy conservation has been the lack of information. In recent times, it has become more difficult to gather that information and, by making local authorities into energy conservation authorities, in the Bill we will have the opportunity systematically to gather information about the conditions in people's homes. We have the opportunity to assess what can be done to improve them.

In all those ways, this small, simple Bill--a modest measure which will not cost the country a great deal--can set us on a course whereby we can develop a much more comprehensive energy strategy. That will not only make people feel warmer in their homes, but may conceivably reduce fuel bills and enable us as a nation to contribute to meeting the international obligations set at Rio. For all those reasons, I very much welcome, on behalf of the Opposition, the Third Reading of the Bill. I wish it a successful passage in the other place. 2.24 pm

Mr. Leigh: I congratulate the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) on the way in which she introduced the Bill. She has learnt the essential lesson of all private Members' Bills. If one wants to get them through and past the Government, one has to have a light touch--a touch so light that the public may not notice the result. I shall not be mean about the Bill or submit to the temptation of talking for another six minutes which would not be popular with hon. Members on either side.


Column 1206

I am pleased that I have, almost uniquely-- apart from one or two other hon. Members--been given an opportunity today to talk about economic realities. I refer the House to clause 2(2), which says: "The report shall set out energy conservation measures that the authority considers practicable, cost-effective and likely to result in significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation".

I hope that authorities, especially small authorities, will realise that they should act moderately. I hope that they will appreciate that it is only by improving attitudes among the public and by ensuring that they understand the true cost of energy that we shall achieve what we all want-- a reduction in the amount of energy we use in our homes and businesses.

2.26 pm

Mr. Merchant: I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words on Third Reading. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) in congratulating the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mrs. Maddock) on the skill with which she has piloted through the Bill. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his good wisdom in assisting that process. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) on the good humour she showed on her countenance throughout the debate as she sat on the Opposition Benches almost in splendid isolation--until a few moments ago, when she was mysteriously joined by some of her colleagues. When I picked up the Bill last night to have another look at it, I made the mistake of picking up the original version. I thought that it was surprising and remarkable that nothing much had been changed in Committee. I then realised that I was looking at the wrong version. When I read the Bill as amended in Committee, I found the changes so considerable that I could scarcely recognise it. Having had the benefit of sitting through the Report stage this morning, I realise that the changes have significantly improved the Bill. We now have a Bill which has a good purpose and which will achieve in practice what it is intended to achieve. I fear that the earlier version may not have done that.

The Bill not only sets up energy conservation authorities, but stipulates clearly what they shall do. For the first time, it puts on them a clear duty to carry out certain functions to do with assessing the state of energy conservation in their areas and then reporting to the House. The Bill does so with, as I said earlier, a light touch. It does so effectively without going into considerable detail. Thermal policing techniques would have been involved if the Bill had been more complex and if it had set out more specific duties. Clearly, the Bill does not require officers of the local authority to hammer on doors or to go inside every house. It does not require them to go through the onerous activities that would have been involved if every house had had to be measured for energy effectiveness. Instead, local authorities can show some flexibility. They can achieve the objectives of the Bill by applying their own techniques and by using sampling processes. By that, they will achieve as accurate a picture as would have been achieved if detailed requirements had been involved. For that reason, I support the Third Reading of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed .


Column 1207

Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) (Northern Ireland) Bill Order for Second Reading read .

Motion made, and Question proposed ,

That the Bill be now read a Second time.--[ Rev. Ian Paisley .] 2.29 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle): I should like to say a few words on the Bill because obviously Northern Ireland is an important part of the United Kingdom. [Hon. Members:-- "Shame on you."] The House should have rather more time to discuss this matter. [Hon. Members:-- "This is disgraceful."] I do not think that it is right that a Bill of this nature which, after all, will have a significant affect--

It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned. Debate to be resumed on Friday 21 April .


Column 1208


Next Section

  Home Page