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Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) represents the amendments differently from my understanding of them. The principle of a compulsory scheme appears to have been accepted by both Houses. The system of buying and selling in this country through chains of transactions means that it is important for one comprehensive system to apply. That will happen and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on standing firm and ensuring that that forms part of the eventual legislation.

I thank the other place for adding a useful and pragmatic power, which may or may not be used in future. I assure the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings that it is not possible to suspend the scheme before it has started. I thank my right hon. Friend for all his work on the Bill and the subject.

Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): I welcome the Government amendment, which recognises that the Liberal Democrats were talking common sense about home information packs. We have our disagreements. We do not believe that the packs will be a success and the Government clearly believe that they will prove successful. We are glad that they have included a get-
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out-of-jail clause. We are pleased to have helped them to do that because we believe that the proposed new provision is necessary to ensure that the packs can be suspended if they do not work after a trial period or even at some later stage.

The major difference between Conservative Members and us is that we have always acknowledged the need to introduce energy efficiency into the home sale at some point. We do not believe that it should be at the point of marketing but at the point of sale. That would bring it into line with the European directive. If the problems envisaged with home information packs occur and the proposed new power is needed, we hope that the ability to meet the terms of the European directive can rapidly be established at the point of sale, not of marketing. The Government have not given themselves the power to do that but they would have to do it to fulfil the terms of the directive if they used the proposed new provision.

I welcome the Government's change of heart. We are pleased to have played our part in persuading them of the need for it. We are not convinced that the packs will work and we continue to have huge reservations about them. However, the Government have at least given themselves the ability to stop them when, as we believe is likely, they prove to be a millstone around home buyers' necks.

Keith Hill: I was sorry that the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) was a little taken aback by Lord Rooker's forcefulness. Perhaps my noble Friend feels that there is quite sufficient emollient on these ministerial Benches in normal circumstances.

I know that the energy performance certificate has been a matter of some concern to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green). The EC directive requires the certificate to be made available when a property is sold. It also says that the certificate should be made available to prospective buyers to enable consumers to compare and assess the energy performance of the property being sold. The objectives of the directive would clearly not be met if the certificate were just handed over to the buyer on completion. It must be made available earlier in the process to provide the consumer with a genuine choice.

The hon. Member for Ludlow has raised the issue of what happens to the energy performance certificate in the event of a suspension or non-pursuit of the home information package. The power to suspend in amendment No. 128C is a power to suspend all or some of the duties in clauses 137 to 141. It is limited to those clauses and would not affect other powers or provisions in part 5, including the ones in clause 144. However, the power in clause 144(9)(a) to make regulations altering the time at which a pack document is provided will still exist. If a suspension order were to be made affecting the duties under clause 138, therefore, this would not prevent special arrangements from being made for the timing of the production of energy performance certificates, if that were deemed necessary.

Matthew Green: I thank the Minister. My understanding of what he has just said is that in fact the Government would have the power to ensure that the energy performance certificate could be in place at
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the end of the process rather than at the start, if they so chose and if they realised that what they were proposing was not working.

Keith Hill: I am delighted to say that the usual form of inspiration has winged its way to me and confirms my instinctive understanding that the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is yes.

Mr. Hayes rose—

Lords amendment agreed to.

Clause 154

Interpretation of part 5

Lords amendment: No. 140E.

Keith Hill: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Hon. Members may recall that in our debate on Monday, my guru, my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), pointed out that there was a typographical error in the amendments on the register of home condition reports moved in this place last week. Lords amendment No. 140E replaces the reference in subsection (7) of the new clause to subsection (3), which relates to the paying of a fee to register a report, with the correct reference to subsection (4).

Lords amendment agreed to.

After Clause 187

Lords amendment: No. 191B.

Keith Hill: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendment No. 191C.

Keith Hill: I invite the House to note that the Lords do not insist on their amendment No. 191 and that they have accepted Government amendments Nos. 191B and 191C, which were offered in lieu.

The House will recall that on Commons consideration of Lords amendments it disagreed with amendment No. 191, which placed a duty on the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to ensure an increase in residential energy efficiency by at least 20 per cent. by 2010, based on 2000 levels. The Government have given further consideration to amendment No. 191. We continue to take the view that its effect will be broadly in line with that of existing policies on residential energy efficiency, and that there has been no weakening of the Government's determination to make serious progress on energy efficiency. However, we recognise the strength of feeling on this issue. We still believe that duties based on specific numerical figures are inflexible and better avoided in primary legislation, but we have decided to accede to the principle of the amendment as providing some comfort that the Government stand by the energy efficiency aim that they have declared. I am pleased that the 20 per cent. energy efficiency target will be included in the Bill. I am grateful
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to noble Members of the other place, who agreed in their wisdom to the amendment that the Government tabled on this subject.

We listened carefully to the arguments made in this House and elsewhere and we accepted the strength of those arguments. What we emphatically did not take into account was the disgraceful full-page advertisement naming names that appeared in The Guardian newspaper after the vote here. It was paid for by Greenpeace and an organisation called ACT, of which I personally had never heard before and of which I wish to hear no more. The advertisement pandered to the vulgar tabloid theory convenient to at least some elements hostile to the Government that Members of Parliament will always in some knee-jerk fashion cave in to pressures from the Prime Minister. Frankly—I speak as a former deputy Chief Whip—anybody with the most primitive knowledge of recent events in this Parliament will recognise that that is a lie.

The advertisement went on to state that the consequences of the vote would be the deaths of 30,000 people. That statement is outrageous. It is in plain ignorance of the facts of the case. Not even the most passionate advocate of the energy and fuel poverty amendments that we were debating would make such a dishonest claim, and nobody did so. The advertisement also betrayed a total ignorance of the way in which Parliament works.

I shall remind the House and, more to the point, those outside, how Parliament does work. I acknowledge the position of those Members of Parliament who felt that they could not support the position of the Government during the debate, some of whom have a long history of advocacy of the energy efficiency target, but I have to say to the House in all candour—I hope that this message gets through to those outside elements—that the voices to which I listened were the private representations of the colleagues who rightly supported the Government in the Divisions. If a Government are to work, they must depend on the support of Government Members, who continued in this case to make the argument with me. It was precisely because I recognised their loyalty and concern that I worked in Government to accept their argument. They are the Members who succeeded and to whom credit should be paid. There will be no names and no pack drill this time, but they know who they are, and I hope that they will claim the credit.

After the votes in question, one of my Labour colleagues wrote to The Guardian to say that, if anything, the Greenpeace advertisement would be more likely to heighten the Government's resistance to the energy efficiency amendment. I cannot say that I was not tempted. There is something of an object lesson here about the perhaps too easy signing of early-day motions; something along the lines of chickens coming home to roost springs to mind. Personally, as a Back Bencher, I resolved after the 1997 general election never again to sign an early-day motion, and I cannot say that I have suffered much as a consequence.

Nevertheless, we have done the right thing in supporting the 20 per cent. energy efficiency target in residential accommodation. All the evidence suggests that the Government have been working towards the
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target effectively and that they will achieve if not exceed it. I repeat that agreeing to it was nothing to do with the pathetic stunt by Greenpeace et al. I know that such outfits have to justify their donations by various stunts, but this stunt could well have backfired, and I wonder whether those involved really care about that.

I hope that the House will recognise that amendment No. 191B is a significant concession to colleagues who feel strongly about the matter. We are satisfied that the amendment will not place an additional burden on the Government. We have tabled it to rectify some technical deficiencies in Lords amendment No. 191. The definition of residential accommodation in amendment No. 191B mirrors that in the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 to bring the provision into line with the designated aims, and proposed subsection (2) clarifies that that duty does not affect the duty to designate an aim under that Act. Finally, amendment No. 191C, which amends clause 231, the commencement clause, provides that the new clause introduced by amendment No. 191B will come into force two months from the date of Royal Assent.

I therefore invite the House to agree to amendments Nos. 191B and 191C.

4.45 pm

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