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Mr. Gardiner: I should hate to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman had misinterpreted the amendment tabled by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). However, amendment No. 21 says that
Mr. Maclean: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but the Minister can be advised by the excellent lawyers in the civil service. I think that the rule is called the sui generis rule--the hon. Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle) might be able to advise him on that as well. If one gives a list of items for exemplification in an Act of Parliament, the only other items that may be considered to be included, if they are not mentioned, are those of the same category or type. Amendment No. 21 gives specific examples of cavity walls, loft insulation, underfloor insulation and draught proofing, which are all types of insulation. If a new electronic boiler meter that would drastically cut emissions or save fuel were invented, it would not be included because it is not a form of insulation, and thus it is not part of that generic list. Therefore, although the items in the list are merely examples, the fact that they are forms of insulation means that, by implication or by parliamentary interpretation, other items would automatically be excluded if they were not types of insulation.
If the amendment is accepted, however, that argument is academic. If the Minister stands at the Dispatch Box and says that he will accept the amendment, as I understand he will, and that the term "comprehensive package"--in its normal interpretation and according to the Government's understanding of the strategy to be followed--will include the items in amendments Nos. 21 and 44, and other things beside, we will have made considerable progress. I have detected no hon. Member on either side of the House who opposes the amendment. Everyone agrees that it is a good idea.
As everyone concluded that the previous amendment was a good idea, and everyone appears to conclude that this one is a good idea, too, it is a pity that I have just received a note from Friends of the Earth saying that the last amendment was totally and utterly unnecessary, and so is this one. One must ask whose side that organisation is on.
Mr. Forth: My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. For some bizarre reason, so-called Friends of the Earth has been writing to everybody. Someone kindly wrote a note to me enclosing the rubbish that they had received from Friends of the Earth. One extraordinary statement that that organisation has made is that this part of the Bill is completely unnecessary. It had to say that, because although it supported--indeed, probably wrote--the original Bill, it was indifferent to its content being removed by the Government in Committee, and was urging right hon. and hon. Members and people outside to pay no attention to that process but to sign up to almost anything entitled "warm homes".
One thing that we have managed to do in these proceedings is expose Friends of the Earth for what it is: a dishonest organisation that peddles disinformation to innocent and vulnerable people, worries them unnecessarily, encourages them to write form letters to Members of Parliament, and generally wastes everybody's time. I am glad that that has emerged from these proceedings, and that we have exposed Friends of the Earth as a disgraceful, dishonourable and dishonest organisation. If we have done nothing else, at least we have achieved that.
There is ample evidence of that in writing. Leaflets circulated in my constituency made completely wrong assertions, not least about death. That is a disgraceful and disgusting thing to do. Imagine putting through the doors of elderly people leaflets making false claims about their vulnerability to death. That is the sort of disgusting disinformation with which we have had to deal.
We can now put all that to one side, because the House has agreed that the term "comprehensive package" contained in the amendment is essential to the Bill. The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) made that point eloquently. Thus we all recognise the importance of that term, even if those disgraceful organisations do not. It endorses the parliamentary process when these matters are properly dealt with by Members of Parliament and Ministers, rather than by well funded, misdirected outside organisations that try to intimidate Members of Parliament by telling them, as Friends of the Earth did on a previous occasion, to turn up and shut up. That showed its contempt for the parliamentary process as well as for everything else.
Friends of the Earth also gets people to write letters to Members of Parliament. I have received a number of letters on this subject because Friends of the Earth has spent a lot of subscribers' money on getting people to write letters to my right hon. Friends and me.
Mr. Forth: One of those who wrote included a piece of paper referring to the amendment, and said how unnecessary it was. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner)--any such prompts are always welcome.
I shall not detain the House at length today. Suffice to say that despite all the misdirected activity outside the House, Members of Parliament are focused; we deal with these matters responsibly and properly. Today's short debate has illustrated that Members who take an interest in these matters and scrutinise them carefully fully understand the difference between the original Bill, the Bill as gutted by the Government in Committee, and the Bill that we are now restoring.
We can do that thanks to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and I persuaded the Minister of State that the Bill should be restored to its original state in order to deliver what it purported to deliver in the first place. The only surprise was that so many people were apparently prepared to accept an inadequate Bill with little substance. That is for them to explain. My right hon. Friend and I took a different view. I am happy to say that the Minister of State shared that view, which is why today we can make this amendment and others, which give the Bill a degree of substance. With a bit of luck, and with the Government's support and good will, that will help to achieve what was originally intended.
I am happy to support the amendment, and I do not propose to press any further amendments standing in my name. I look forward to the Minister's reassuring us that the Government support the amendment in letter, in spirit and in substance and that we can expect the Government to take up the Bill in its restored form so that something of substance is done. If we can achieve that today, the House can be pleased with itself.
Mr. Mullin: The amendments propose that appropriate measures to tackle fuel poverty be defined in the Bill, that the strategy specify what a comprehensive package of measures might be, and that the requirements of different regions be differentiated.
Amendment No. 47, in the name of the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess), proposes that the Bill should require the strategy to specify a comprehensive package of measures. There is no harm in including that in the primary legislation. We always intended that our strategy should specify the means, including the measures that would be used, to bring about the efficient use of energy, and the amendment will ensure that the commitment is enshrined in law.
Amendments Nos. 10, 21 and 44 deal with definitions of measures to be installed in vulnerable households. As the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) conceded, those amendments have been superseded by amendment No. 47. In addition, defining measures is unwise: we do not want to tie the hands of
The methods used to tackle fuel poverty have to be wide-ranging. They can take the form of measures that are physically installed, or they can take the form of advice, grants or income benefits, none of which is included in the list in one of the amendments. In addition, we need to take account of the fact that technology moves on, and that in future there might be other measures that we wanted to employ but could not, because they were not on the defined list. If the list were partial, as the list in amendment No. 44 is, there could be serious repercussions affecting the usefulness of the Bill. We need to keep the Bill flexible, so that it covers all the appropriate measures, both those that are available today and new measures that may become available in future, if and when technological advances allow the inclusion of new or alterative measures. Amendments Nos. 21 and 44 do not allow for that because they are too restrictive.
As we said in Committee, the Government want to avoid a comprehensive package of measures being deemed necessary for every household, regardless of whether or not that household needs one or more of the measures specified. That could be the outcome of accepting amendment No. 10. As for amendment No. 16, although the idea of setting out the regional picture of fuel poverty in developing the overall strategy is welcome, it is not necessary for such a provision to be spelled out in legislation.
Therefore, the Government can accept amendment No. 47, but we ask the right hon. Members for Penrith and The Border and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) not to press amendments Nos. 10, 16, 21 and 44.