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Mr. Kidney: As one who suffered damage to his reputation by the Greenpeace advertisement that has been mentioned, I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for making it clear that he listened to the representations of Labour Back Benchers who loyally supported him last Monday, as I did, but spoke to him privately about the matter. I am sure that even the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) would agree, without spin, that my right hon. Friend has a fine record, in proceedings on this Bill, of accepting good arguments from Labour Back Benchers on a series of issues, including empty homes, overcrowding, park homes and tenants' deposits. That is commendable.

Mr. Hayes: I just wished to put on the record that, as I have said previously, I think that the passage of the Bill has been a happy experience. It has shown Parliament working well. The pressure that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, and the Minister acknowledged, has come from both sides of the House. We have been helpful to the Government in making this a better Bill, because
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they will not reach their carbon dioxide emission targets unless they deal with energy efficiency. They will now deal with that and—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. That is rather lengthy for an intervention.

Mr. Kidney: On that happy note, I shall end.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I note the Government's concession, but we should not get carried away and start thinking that it is a concession of much substance. All that the concession does is require the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to ensure that by 2010 the general level of energy efficiency of residential accommodation is increased by at least 20 per cent. compared with the general level in 2000. No sanction will apply if that target is not met. There are no stepping stones, interim or otherwise, on the way to that target. We know that the Government have cynically abandoned a range of targets when it has become apparent that they will not be met. Why should we be party to allowing the general public to be duped into thinking that this is a concession of real substance?

The fact that the Minister made such a play of the Greenpeace advertisement shows that the Government are frightened of the Greenpeace lobby and that pressure group. The advertisement obviously got to the Minister in a big way.

Most hon. Members are concerned about the substance of trying to ensure that there are improvements in energy efficiency and reductions in fuel poverty, and we find that the Government talk a good talk, but that they do not deliver the substance. That is why I am slightly disappointed that my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) seems to go along with the idea that a great concession has been made. I am sure that we rightly argued that we want to try to hold the Government to account to a greater extent, and we may have made some progress on that, but I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that we have not got the whole cake.

5 pm

Mr. Hayes: Let us make no mistake: I do not say for a moment that I would not be a better Minister than the right hon. Gentleman or that we would not manage these matters altogether better than him and his colleagues. Of course, the House and the whole country know that, but when improvements are made, even if they are modest, we have a responsibility to welcome them. The Government have moved in our direction. The Lords amendment is not ideal, but it is better than nothing.

Mr. Chope: My hon. Friend says that the Lords amendment is better than nothing, and the Bill certainly includes words that were not there before. He is one of the most robust critics of the Government's good-talk-but-no-action policies, and I am sure that he is not really taken in by them. If he thinks that it is better than nothing, I suppose that I will go along with his judgment, but we should not send the message from the House that the Government have made a major climbdown or U-turn. To a large extent, this is an
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exercise in semantics. There is no point in having targets or commands without sanctions, and there is no sanction against the Government if they do not comply or meet the target.

Mr. Hayes: That is true, but my hon. Friend must recognise that the measure of how far the Minister has moved in our direction is that, having consistently argued against our case and the Lords case, he has now written an amendment that is virtually identical to the one that the Lords proposed, which he opposed. There are minor differences, but at last the Bill contains a commitment to energy efficiency that is essential if we are to meet the carbon emissions targets, which we all agree are vital. The concession is somewhat toothless, but not entirely without teeth—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Once again, the hon. Gentleman's intervention is quite lengthy.

Mr. Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I hope that he can assure me that he feels confident that we know what the general level of energy efficiency was in 2000, so that we have a benchmark against which we can measure. One of the problems is that the Government promote targets, but we find that the baselines for those targets have not been properly defined. For example, the Government certainly kept on saying that they would produce a definition of congestion on the roads, but they never did and they eventually abandoned the target altogether. I shall give way to my hon. Friend again if he can assure me that there is a definition of the general level of energy efficiency in 2000 that would be a proper benchmark.

Mr. Hayes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for painting me as the moderate in such matters. The Government's advisers have been very clear about the benchmark, and we called in aid those advisers when they said that they could not understand why the Government had adjusted their target. So the Government's advice, based on a proper measurement of the current situation, is in line with our thinking, the Lords thinking and the Government's new thinking, and I am therefore confident that we have made progress.

Mr. Chope: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. If he thinks that that is enough for us, let us rest on our laurels, but I certainly predict that, when we reach 2010, the Government will have got nowhere near the target, unless we have a Conservative Government by then to deliver it for us.

Lords amendment No. 191B agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 191C agreed to.
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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 6 November 2003],

Question agreed to.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Pursuant to the Order of the House of 8 November, the sitting is suspended. Shortly before the sitting resumes, I shall cause the Division bell to be sounded.

5.5 pm

Sitting suspended.

7 pm

On resuming—


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question agreed to.

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