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Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): I too congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Will he pay tribute to the Government for the work that is already being done towards the objective of reducing carbon dioxide emissions? I am thinking especially of the introduction of the fuel duty escalator. Does his party support the fuel duty escalator in all parts of the United Kingdom? My experience is that the Liberal Democrats are in favour of the escalator in certain parts of the country, because they--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. When the Deputy Speaker stands, the hon. Gentleman should sit down. He must remain seated because his intervention is far too long.

Mr. Brake: I shall respond briefly to the hon. Gentleman's question. The Liberal Democrats support the

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fuel duty escalator, which was introduced by the previous Conservative Government and maintained by the Labour Government. However, the hon. Gentleman will surely agree with me about the importance of a clear link between the revenue that is raised from the escalator and the environment. If there is no clear link and the money is seen merely to be going into the Treasury coffers, problems will arise.

Will the Government attempt to achieve the 20 per cent. target? I hope that they will. The Minister for the Environment said that there will be benefits if we achieve the 20 per cent. target, so what measures are the Government implementing to that end? If they drop one of their key manifesto pledges, their environmental rhetoric will be seen as nothing more than greenwash.

Concern about the Government's changing position was highlighted recently in a letter to the Prime Minister from four organisations--Friends of the Earth, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds--which urged the Government to stick to Labour's manifesto pledge. They feared that the 20 per cent. target is becoming merely "an aspirational aim" and that the Government will not deliver on it. I share their fear.

However, to have a target is not enough; we need a strategy to achieve it. We are now more than halfway through this Parliament, and we have seen no climate change strategy with the necessary framework for action. The Government took 17 months to produce the consultation paper on climate change. Now, a year later, in October 1999, we are arguing the case for the protection of the global climate in Bonn. That is good, but we have failed to take substantive action at home, whereas countries such as Germany, Austria and Denmark have not only produced strategies to fight climate change but have implemented those strategies and review them regularly. The Minister for the Environment told the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs that he hoped to publish a draft strategy towards the end of this year, but, given the importance of the matter, the Under-Secretary of State should tell us today the deadline for the production of the strategy.

The strategy must list the measures needed to achieve the 12.5 per cent. Kyoto target--

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill) indicated assent.

Mr. Brake: I see the Minister nod; I hope he also agrees that the strategy should list the measures needed to achieve the 20 per cent. carbon dioxide reduction target and set out the long-term policies that will set Britain on the path to climate-friendly energy production and use.

We need a huge increase in energy efficiency, a reduction in overall traffic volumes and a substantial shift from fossil fuels to renewables and combined heat and power. Energy efficiency will play a crucial part in our response to climate change. It will reduce fossil fuel use, help to end what the Environmental Audit Committee described as the "continuing national scandal" of fuel poverty and create jobs in employment black spots.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a case for putting greater resources into

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the renovation of the nation's housing stock, to install double glazing and take other measures to improve fuel efficiency, reduce poverty, contribute to energy saving and prevent needless waste of energy?

Mr. Brake: I do agree, as would hon. Members on both sides of the House. It is noticeable that the Government have failed to address the discrepancy between VAT charged on new homes and VAT charged on renovation works. It is high time that they dealt with that issue.

Many excellent ideas on energy efficiency have been proposed to the House, including cutting VAT on energy-saving materials, involving health authorities and local authorities in the fight against fuel poverty and requiring mortgage surveys to include an energy efficiency survey, but the Government's response has been disappointing. The Government have cut VAT but only on materials bought under Government schemes, rather than on private householder purchases of insulation materials. They promised to seek a further reduction in negotiations with our European Union partners, but when the EU gave us the chance to make a reduction such as has been made in France and Italy, the Government decided against it.

The Government opposed the Health Care and Energy Efficiency Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith), although I am pleased to hear that they have now relented and intend to include my hon. Friend's ideas in their guidance to health authorities. Similarly, the Fuel Poverty and Energy Conservation Bill was opposed, but the Government relented under pressure and will now alter Government advice on that subject. The Government could have done more to ensure that Bills they supported--the Energy Efficiency Bill and the Energy Conservation (Housing) Bill--were enacted. I understand that a requirement for an energy efficiency survey was not referred to in the latest press release on the new system for buying and selling homes; that is an ominous omission.

I am aware of the role played by a small number of Conservative Members in blocking several of those private Members' Bills, but the Government cannot escape all blame. They failed to support amendments to the Local Government Act 1999 which might have implemented some of the proposed energy policies and they failed to accept the Liberal Democrats' offer of a Supply day to consider such matters. The Government must do more than passively support such measures; they must use Government time to force them through. I hope that the Queen's Speech will announce that similar measures are to be included in proposed Government Bills on housing or local government.

Transport policy should form a key part of the Government's strategy to reduce carbon dioxide levels by 20 per cent. by 2010. It is unlikely that that target will be met without reducing the number of car journeys. Both before and after the election, Labour promised to act on that question, but now the Government's commitment appears to be to reduce traffic growth, even though a continuing increase in traffic is likely to lead to higher emissions.

A reduction in the use of fossil fuels and an increase in the energy derived from renewable sources and combined heat and power is also required if the Government are to

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hit their target. The Government recognise that and are consulting on a climate change levy. Although a carbon tax would have been preferable on environmental grounds and should still be pursued at EU level, a climate change levy will help to reduce fossil fuel use. However, as I said earlier, the Government's consultation process must not be allowed to lead to the emasculation of the levy.

Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that those companies that are energy efficient should not be penalised simply because they are high energy users? Dow Corning Ltd. in my constituency has created a heat and power plant and strives to derive maximum energy use from that unit. The company is rightly concerned that the levy will be based on energy use rather than energy efficiency.

Mr. Brake: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention and understand his point. The Government should consider a measure that has been adopted in other countries, whereby if a company can demonstrate that it uses the best possible technology to reduce energy use, the climate change levy might not be applicable to that company. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.

The Government recognise the importance of renewables and CHP and have ambitious targets for their use: 10 per cent. of UK electricity to be generated using renewable sources and 12 per cent. using CHP to be achieved over the next 10 years. However, Government policies are hurting those sectors. As we know, CHP is not exempt from the climate change levy, nor is electricity generated from renewable sources. Bryan Bateman, the Paper Federation of Great Britain's director of business and environment, says of CHP and the climate change levy:

The Government are not following the lead provided by other Governments in investing in sunrise energies, providing tax breaks and incentives, developing those technologies and creating export opportunities in a growing overseas market. They are missing opportunities to help developing countries. Dr. Leggett, an expert on solar energy who headed up an industry solar task force supported by the Government and including BP, Eastern Electricity and NatWest, is disappointed with Government progress on solar energy. He said today:

    "It is bewildering how the DTI can stand by watching the Germans and the Japanese race ahead with the development of a market which many now believe will equal, if not exceed, the micro-technology market."

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