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Energy Green Paper

18. Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): How she plans to respond to the Green Paper on energy produced by the European Commission. [10126]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): We very much welcome the timely publication of the Green Paper, which represents a real opportunity to influence the future development of energy efficiency policy in Europe. We will therefore be taking forward the public debate on the Commission's proposals during our presidency with the aim of securing an ambitious plan of action.

Mr. Crabb: I thank the Minister for that reply. In November 2004, the Prime Minister told his MPs to reject amendments to the Housing Bill that would have increased home energy efficiency targets. What will the Government do to encourage energy efficiency improvements in the UK?

Mr. Morley: The Government are implementing a range of initiatives to improve energy efficiency. Those measures must be effective and realistic and they must work. Of course we discussed the warm front programme earlier, which is an important part of the way in which we address fuel poverty. A review of building regulations is ongoing. They will come in from April next year and are designed to reduce energy use by 20 to 30 per cent. in new buildings. We also have an
 
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Anglo-Swedish initiative on sustainable housing in addition to other initiatives. Energy efficiency features in the climate change review and a joint Treasury energy efficiency review is going on to examine all these matters, because energy efficiency is a serious matter and one of the most effective ways of reducing emissions and meeting our carbon dioxide targets.

Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley) (Lab): What steps are being taken to increase the use of micro-generators in homes to improve home energy efficiency? Can any further measures be implemented with financial incentives to encourage the use of alternative materials for such micro-generators, such as biomass?

Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend is quite right: there is real potential for micro-generation. I was pleased with the recent policy statement made by my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy about the Government's commitment to encouraging micro-generation. We need to examine certain issues, such as planning and the actual technology, but in the near future we will have the real prospect of micro-wind turbines being available for domestic use. We will also have the prospect of micro-combined heat and power plants. We are already encouraging biomass generation and my hon. Friend might like to know that the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs office in Gloucester had a biomass central heating system fitted recently.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): While I accept the importance of the points that the hon. Gentleman has just made, will he pay regard to the fact that he has a responsibility for the beautiful and fragile landscape of these islands? Does he thus accept that wind farms are not a very acceptable way of creating sustainable energy and that, in addition to the things that he rightly mentioned, we need to look carefully at the nuclear option?

Mr. Morley: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's point and especially his assertion that wind farms are not sustainable. I commend the recent Sustainable Development Commission report to him. The commission examined the whole question of wind generation and reached the conclusion that onshore wind generation is currently the cheapest form of energy generation and that it has increasingly become more efficient and effective. Of course there are questions about the landscape and visual perception, but they are subjective. There are people who do not object to the look of wind turbines and in fact find them attractive. The nuclear generation option was left open in the energy White Paper, but if we consider the possible costs of, and time scales involved in, nuclear power, there is a lot that we can do on clean and renewable energy in the short term, rather than going down the nuclear route now.

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Will the Minister assure us that if micro-wind turbines are used extensively throughout the UK, suitable consideration will be given to planning permission so that they do not become a visual blight on our neighbourhoods?

Mr. Morley: As in all things, I think that there is a balance to be struck. There is already special protection
 
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for conservation areas and we should take account of the impact of rooftop micro-generation on listed buildings and such areas. However, on the other hand, micro-wind generation is a new British-built technology, so we do not want to put unnecessary barriers in the way of its development and application. The balance that must be struck will form part of our debate on wind generation. It also forms part of the strategy that my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy is considering and that we in DEFRA are considering, too.

Climate Change

19. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): When she intends to publish a summary of the responses to the climate change review consultation. [10127]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): DEFRA officials are currently analysing responses to the climate change review consultation and we will publish the summary of responses on the Department's website shortly.

Lynne Jones: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer because I have been chasing his Department for the summary. He will be aware that Cabinet Office guidelines state that a summary of consultation responses should be produced within three months. Will he undertake to ensure that the Department does better in the future?

Mr. Morley: Yes, a minor inconvenience like a general election rather slowed up the process, but I can tell my hon. Friend that I have seen the consultations and that they have been collated. They are very interesting in relation to the submissions that people
 
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made and we intend to have them on the website as quickly as possible. When Question Time is over, I shall speak to my officials to ascertain what is happening on that front.

20. Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): What discussions she has had with her EU counterparts on post-Kyoto climate change agreements; and if she will make a statement. [10130]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): As yet, there have been no formal intergovernmental discussions on the commitments, following the first commitment period of the Kyoto protocol. Article 3.9 states that parties must start to discuss the next commitment period by the end of 2005. That will be at this year's Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the parties on December in Montreal.

Danny Alexander: I am grateful for that answer, but we did not have a clear answer earlier to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker). Do the Government prefer a strong agreement to tackle climate change signed up to by almost every Government except the United States or a much weaker agreement to which the US could sign up? That seems to be the choice and I would be grateful for a clear answer about the Government's preference.

Mr. Morley: I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman a very clear answer. We are looking for a positive outcome from the Gleneagles discussions that will take us forward on the whole issue of climate change. We have spelled out our proposals and we have no intention of signing up to a meaningless statement.


 
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Business of the House

11.31 am

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): Although our thoughts are very much elsewhere this morning, will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 11 July—Remaining stages of the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill.

Tuesday 12 July—Opposition Day [5th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate entitled "The Failure of the Tax Credits System" followed by a debate entitled "The Government's Failure to Deal with Licensing Chaos". Both debates arise on an Opposition motion.

Wednesday 13 July—Motions to approve the Membership of Select Committees and other House Motions followed by Motion to take note of the Fourth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, HC 472, Session 2004–05, and to approve the revised code of conduct.

Thursday 14 July—Remaining stages of the Consumer Credit Bill.

Friday 15 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week after will be:

Monday 18 July—Second Reading of the Crossrail Bill.

Tuesday 19 July—Second Reading of the London Olympics Bill.

Wednesday 20 July—Motion to approve the draft Council Tax Limitation (England) (Maximum Amounts) Order 2005 followed by remaining stages of the Regulation of Financial Services (Land Transactions) Bill.

Thursday 21 July—Motion on the Summer Recess Adjournment.

Friday 22 July—The House will not be sitting.

For the convenience of Members, the provisional business for the week commencing Monday 10 October will include, on Monday 10 October, the remaining stages of the Civil Aviation Bill.

The House will already be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be making a statement at Gleneagles at noon and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be available to make a statement to the House at the end of business questions. The House will want me to say that our thoughts are with the emergency services and I pay tribute to the excellent work that they do. I have been involved in previous emergency planning preparations and I know how hard and how superbly members of the emergency services work. We should also reflect for a moment on the families and friends of those who have suffered today.


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