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Energy Efficiency

13. Ian Lucas (Wrexham): What steps the Government are taking to encourage a reduction in the use of energy. [13077]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): The Government are committed to improving energy efficiency as a highly cost-effective way of achieving our climate change goals. The energy efficiency commitment will, from next April, provide a substantial boost to domestic energy efficiency activity. The Energy Saving Trust and the Carbon Trust receive more than £66 million from the Department to promote domestic, business and public sector energy efficiency and the take-up of low-carbon technology. The climate change levy, and its associated voluntary agreements, are also an important spur to business energy efficiency.

Ian Lucas: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is there not still a danger that the Government are focusing too much attention on the production of energy rather than its reduction? Is it not appropriate that the Government support measures such as the Home Energy Conservation Bill—promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) and due to receive its Second Reading on 30 November—through which the public would be made aware that they, too, have a responsibility to reduce energy consumption?

Mr. Meacher: We are very concerned that efforts to promote energy efficiency are directed not only at business but at domestic households. There are basically three ways to do so.

First, there is the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, which we are strengthening, and we shall look very carefully at the Bill that my hon. Friend mentioned. Secondly, there is the home energy efficiency scheme, of £150 million a year, which is on track to meet the public service agreement target of reaching 600,000 households over the next three years. Thirdly, there is the energy efficiency component, which gives suppliers of gas and electricity a major incentive to improve the efficiency by which energy is conveyed to households. Those three together will mean that domestic households make a full contribution to meeting the climate change targets.

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Business of the House

12.30 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): May I ask the Leader of the House for the business for next week, please?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 19 November—Second Reading of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

Motion to approve the Human Rights Act 1998 (Designated Derogation) Order 2001.

Tuesday 20 November—Second Reading of the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Bill.

Wednesday 21 November—Consideration in Committee of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill (1st Day).

Thursday 22 November—Second Reading of the British Overseas Territories Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Railway Administration Order Rules 2001.

Friday 23 November—Private Members' Bills.

The provisional business for the following week will be as follows:

Monday 26 November—Conclusion of consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.

Tuesday 27 November—Second Reading of the Employment Bill.

Wednesday 28 November—Second Reading of the Civil Defence (Grants) Bill.

Thursday 29 November—A debate on the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry report on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 30 November—Private Members' Bills.

The House will wish to know that on Monday 19 November, there will be a debate relating to the draft general budget of the European Community for 2002 in European Standing Committee B.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 28 November, there will be a debate relating to the security of energy supply in European Standing Committee C.

[Monday 19 November 2001:

European Standing Committee B—Unnumbered European Union Document; European Communities Draft Budget for 2002; Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Report: HC 152-iv, (2001-02).

[Wednesday 28 November 2001:

European Standing Committee C—Relevant European Union Documents: 5619/01, 7218/01: Security of Energy Supply. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports: HC 28-xi (2000-01) and HC 152-iii(2001-02).

Mr. Forth: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the future business. Last Thursday, at column 367, I raised with the Leader of the House the matter of the vote next Monday on the Human Rights Act motion, and the Leader of the House gave what I thought was a rather

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complacent answer on that, suggesting that a deferred vote was an adequate way of dealing with such an important matter. I have no doubt that the Leader of the House is aware that yesterday, his hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) returned to that issue, and said that

You, Mr. Speaker, said:

that is, the hon. Member for Nottingham, North—

I think that the Leader of the House is the appropriate Minister, and therefore I ask him yet again: will he listen not only to Conservative Members but to his own hon. Friends, who have now rumbled the fact that to have the disgraceful let-out of the deferred Division used on such an important and substantive matter is frankly unacceptable, and will he, even at this late stage, please look at that matter again?

I also want to follow up a matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) who, on 13 November at column 713, raised a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker, about the very important matter of the report of the parliamentary ombudsman on the ministerial code. He said there—the ombudsman said—

that is, the ombudsman—

We must have a debate on this matter, must we not? This is a matter of the utmost importance. Here is the ombudsman saying that the Government are engaged in a cover-up—and, worse than that, in a cover-up relating to Ministers and the ministerial code of practice. I hope that the Leader of the House can tell us that we shall have an urgent debate on this matter, so that the Government can come clean.

On 1 November, in a written reply to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), the Secretary of State for Defence said that he was

and would

Surprise, surprise: no such statement has been forthcoming, but equally unsurprisingly, in The Sunday Telegraph last Sunday, 11 November, we find an item saying that

on women in the armed forces—

We hear that we may be about to send some of our armed forces into the theatre of war in Afghanistan. Are they going to go without us hearing on the Floor of the

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House what the position is with regard to the use of women in an operational capacity in the armed forces? We yet again have an example of no statement in the House but an inspired leak or briefing in the press. It simply is not good enough, and certainly not in this case.

Finally, I think that we should have an urgent debate on what I would describe as the delicate condition of certain Members. We hear, do we not, that some Members of Parliament—probably mainly the babes on the Labour Back Benches—need counselling, because apparently the fact that—

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Cuddling.

Mr. Forth: My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) says "cuddling". If he is volunteering to cuddle the babes, that is a matter for him. However, there is a serious point here, is there not? The House of Commons, as everyone knows, sits from 2.30 in the afternoon until often as late as 10 o'clock at night. We also know that, generally speaking, barely half of the Government Back Benchers are even present when the House sits—that is a matter of record—and we also know that we recently voted ourselves substantially more staff to ease the burden on our delicate persons. I believe that we must have a debate, and I suspect and hope that the Leader of the House can grant it urgently, and I would suggest that it is called: "Stressed-out MPs: Myth or reality?"

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