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The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley):
The Warm Front scheme offers a
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range of heating and insulation measures to vulnerable householders across England in receipt of certain benefits. As well as tackling fuel poverty, this will reduce emissions in the household sector. We estimate that Warm Front will save 0.3 MtCmillion tonnes of carbonby 2010, and that savings from similar programmes across the UK will be around 0.4 MtC by 2010.
Joan Ruddock: My hon. Friend will know that domestic energy demand has risen by 40 per cent. in the past 15 years. Will he ensure that people become much more aware of the savings that they can make, not just through these schemes, but through the variety of Government strategies that are available? Will he use his influence around Government to ensure that, during the energy and climate change reviews, domestic energy use, conservation, efficiency and microgeneration, to which he has alluded already, are given as much attention as the question of whether electricity generation should be nuclear or not?
Eaga, which delivers our Warm Front campaign, has constituency packs available for all Members of the House, which give details of the number of houses that have received benefits under Warm Front, and also ways of publicising it. The scheme is making an important contribution to climate change targets, although more can be done, but it is worth emphasising that it is designed to combat fuel poverty, and the total of 4 million people in England who were in fuel poverty in 1996 has been reduced to 1 million under this Government.
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Tuesday 7 FebruaryOpposition Day [13th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on the future of mental health services, followed by a debate on the reorganisation of primary care trusts, strategic health authorities and ambulance trusts.
Thursday 16 FebruaryMotions relating to the draft Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order 2006 and the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2006, followed by a debate on tackling health inequalities on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Mrs. May: We are now two months away from the start of the Easter recess, and unless we are given the date of the Budget now, the advice of the Treasury Committee on giving good notice of the date of the Budget will have been ignored. Will the Leader of the House tell us when he will be giving us the date of the Budget?
I have asked the Leader of the House every week for a debate on the health service and that request has been ignored. I am pleased to say that hon. Members will indeed be able to raise their concerns about their local health services next week, but in Opposition time, because we think that it is an important subject that should be debated in this House. Can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Labour Members will be entirely free to raise their concerns about the health service in that debate, although I am not sure whether the Labour Chief Whip is in a position to stop them?
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Talking of the Chief Whip, I have regularly raised the issue of the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle and the vacant post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman can answer that question this week, although it may not be the only post to be filled. Hon. Members may be interested to know that the right hon. Gentleman has been tipped as a future Chief Whipno greater curse could man have than that.
Those who attend business questions regularly know that the right hon. Gentleman has kept us updated on the odds on the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) in the Liberal Democrat leadership contest. I have been looking at some odds, too: the odds on the right hon. Gentleman becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer are 26:1; sadly, the odds on his becoming leader of the Labour party are somewhat longer at 799:1.
If I were the right hon. Gentleman, I would be worried, because the odds on the Chief Whip becoming leader of the Labour party are shorter than the odds on him. Can he confirm that the Chief Whip attacked the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) for being in the Big Brother house and not voting in this House? The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow voted with the Government on the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, while the Chief Whip told the Prime Minister that he did not have to.
In order to ensure proper debate, can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the education reform Bill will be published in good time for hon. Members to scrutinise it properly before Second Reading? Will the Government provide two days of debate on Second Reading, which would allow enough time to air all the issues and for Ministers to explain their positionand would also give the Chief Whip, whoever they may be, ample time to ensure that Government Members are present to vote?
The business for the week beginning 13 February is very heavy, with the Identity Cards Bill and the Terrorism Bill. However, that week is half-term week for many schools and for many hon. Members' families. The move to a half-term parliamentary recess was designed not only to give hon. Members an opportunity to be in their constituencies, but as a modernising, family-friendly move. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the half-term recess is in the following week? I am sure that the fact that the following week is half-term week in Derbyshire, where the right hon. Gentleman has his seat, has absolutely nothing to do with it.
In that case, perhaps the timing has something to do with the fact that the Opposition deputy Chief Whip has his seat in Derbyshire. That week has been loaded with serious business, but many
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hon. Members were hoping to spend time with their families. Is that a sign that the Government are abandoning family-friendly policies, or is it just a Government ploy to ensure that Labour rebels are not here to vote?
Although the health debate clearly gives informed, thoughtful, considerate Labour Members an opportunity to set out the excellent way in which the health service has been funded and reorganised in recent times, I am sure that we all look forward to discovering whatever is the latest policy from the Conservatives. It clearly will not be the policy on which hon. Members fought the last general election, since the Conservative party seems to be junking each and every piece of that policy not only week by week, but day by day. So perhaps it would be a good opportunity, although I remind the right hon. Lady that I announced a debate on health inequalities in Government time in direct response to the request that was made previously.
As for the appointment of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, perhaps I should refer the right hon. Lady to the answer that I gave last week, and indeed the week before that. I am not aware of any impending change in that regard. I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr. Murphy), who has assumed those responsibilities, will continue to do the excellent job that he has been doing for some time and may well be doing for some time to come.
On the education Bill, there are proper traditions about the time available to hon. Members for considering a Bill before Second Reading, and I see no reason why it should be necessary to depart from them.
I share the right hon. Lady's concern about the half-term recess dates, which I had a great deal of difficulty in trying to organise. Unfortunately, just over half the local authorities in the country have their half-term in the week commencing 20 February and just under half have it in the week commencing 13 February. It would clearly be helpful in the organisation of business if our local authorities could agree on a single period. I am sorry that the whipping for that week is likely to be high, but that reflects the Government's commitment to some rather important issues that have to be dealt with in that week. Notwithstanding determined efforts on all sides, it has not been possible to find a lighter work load for that period.
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