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4 July 2006 : Column 780

Of course there is a role for reporting and some very good points have been raised. DEFRA has already made a commitment to providing an annual report on measures to reduce emissions and on the sort of steps that need to be taken. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) brought forward measures in his successful Bill, which he introduced with great skill. I am pleased that the Government supported and endorsed his Bill, which included reporting measures both to the DTI and to DEFRA.

There has always been a great deal of argument about the Government having a co-ordinated approach to sustainable and environmental measures. It is absolutely right that the Government adopt such an approach, so we need to think carefully about how best to carry out the reporting. We do not want individual reports from individual Departments—we need some co-ordination in a cross-government approach. Those issues can be discussed in respect of the shape of the reports and the commitments that have been given. That perhaps still requires some extra thought.

There is no doubt about the great role for microgeneration or the great role of small-scale decentralised power. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North mentioned, there are also barriers. The buying price of electricity needs to be resolved, as it is unsatisfactory at present. I welcome the steps taken to remove some of the planning barriers to microgeneration. Other important issues are the cost of new technology and the Government’s role in moving new technology from the development stage into the marketing stage. The inertia that acts as a barrier to new approaches, new ideas and innovation is another problem.

Fiscal measures are crucial and I greatly welcome measures announced in the Budget, such as the additional £50 million to help promote microgeneration. Together with the existing budget, it amounts to about £70 million. Energy efficiency commitments are also important and the Government have been successful in developing them.

I saw for myself how British Gas, as part of its contribution to its energy commitments, gave discounts on council tax for people who took up the option of having cavity wall insulation. It was hugely successful. The discounts were quite modest, but it proved attractive to consumers to secure the discount by taking up the subsidised cavity wall insulation that was part of the energy efficiency commitment. I very much hope that the EEC3 format provides an opportunity to develop some radical innovative ideas about using microgeneration and encouraging new measures for energy efficiency.

Similar measures can be applied to stamp duty. Personally, I think that some form of discount on stamp duty is a good idea. I accept that it is a complicated argument: does it apply to new homes; can it be applied to retro-fit those who modernise their homes through energy efficiency measures; can it be linked to a new code of sustainable building; can it be applied to zero emission homes? There is a lot of debate on those matters and a great deal of working out still to be done about the shape that will emerge.
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For those reasons, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South will not press the new clause to the vote.

There remains a lot of work to be done on the final shape, although I support the principle of the new clause. I know very well that within the Government there has to be discussion and issues of timing and costs have to be dealt with and resolved. I would not expect Treasury Ministers to accept the new clauses tonight, but we have seen what the Chancellor and the Treasury team can do in using fiscal measures to reach outcomes on climate change and sustainability. They have demonstrated that they are prepared to use such measures and apply them—and we know that they work and that they are successful. I recognise that the Government cannot accept these amendments as they stand, but I urge my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to give serious consideration to the very sound principles that they advocate. They make economic and financial sense, and they certainly make environmental sense in the light of the Government’s ambitious objectives, targets and commitments. Every section of government has to make a contribution if we are to be successful.

There is no doubt that fiscal measures and economic drivers are key to an overall integrated strategy. I hope that Ministers will give them serious consideration.

John Healey: This has been an interesting debate. It seems that the on-off relationship between the Tories and the Liberals in respect of environmental policies—that elusive cross-party consensus—may be on again.

I think that the areas of agreement between the Government and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Alan Simpson) are much greater than the areas of disagreement. We agree about the importance of energy efficiency and water conservation, and about the potential of microgeneration. We agree too with the assessment that the UK market for the available technologies is in its infancy, and that fiscal and other economic measures may have a role to play, along with regulation, public spending and, in some cases, information campaigns.

The differences between the Government and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South result from the specific details of new clause 9. I hope that my hon. Friend will take account of what my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said in that regard. Much of this ground was covered in the debates on the private Member’s Bill successfully introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz). My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley) made a number of telling points, and she is one of the most assiduous and consistent campaigners on the environment in the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe also made some telling points when he talked about the progress that has been made on the environment since 1999, and the important measures that the Government have introduced in that time. He played a pivotal part in that process, during his time as a Minister with responsibility for the environment. He rightly said that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor
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has an excellent record on the environment, and that he has used fiscal and other economic instruments to good effect.

My hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe was also right in what he said about the climate change levy. The Opposition opposed it when it was introduced, and still do so now. The measure contributes almost one fifth of our emissions savings, as we pursue our climate change objectives. I must advise the Opposition that it is fine to will the ends but, in the end, they must back the means and the measures that will deliver those ends.

We also recognise the importance of household energy efficiency, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South and other hon. Friends urged. It is central to reducing further—

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey) (Con): Will the Minister give way?

John Healey: No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber only two minutes ago. He was not here for the debate—[ Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Whether someone decides to give way or not is entirely up to the hon. Member on his feet.

John Healey: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Household efficiency measures are of central importance if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and if we want to provide greater security for the future. Improvements in energy efficiency are also essential if we are to reduce some of the unacceptable levels of fuel poverty in this country. That is why we have introduced all the measures to that end since 1997, many of which the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) outlined. She saved me a job by doing that, but she missed the support that the Government have given to the Energy Saving Trust, and the reduced rate of VAT on all the significant microgeneration technologies.

I come now specifically to new clause 9. I remind my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South, and all those who signed the new clause, that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor publishes two documents, the pre-Budget report and the Budget, that set out our analysis of the situation and our plans for appropriate fiscal measures in this area. If my hon. Friend looks at the Budget, he will see that chapter 7, which runs to 24 pages, covers issues relating to water conservation, measures to protect natural resources and, in a substantial section, climate change and energy efficiency.

Chapter 7 also sets out a range of new measures introduced at the Budget. It outlines the extra £20 million that we promised to help local authorities to promote energy efficiency, £50 million to try to give a boost to microgeneration markets and the installation of up to 25,000 microgeneration units in schools, community buildings and homes. It sets out a new agreement we have reached with energy suppliers to provide an extra 250,000 subsidised insulation installations by 2008. Those measures will help with our carbon savings and will help to reduce annual fuel bills for those in most poverty.

4 July 2006 : Column 783
10.45 pm

New clause 10 and new schedule 2 set out proposals on stamp duty. We have been pressed for some time on the matter, but are still not convinced by the case for the proposals—and my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South has not convinced us in his arguments tonight. The new clause and the new schedule duck some of the core questions, such as the level of relief, the qualifying threshold and the nature and scale of the rebates. It is hard to cost the impact of the proposals on the public purse and the contribution they might make to our climate change objectives.

There is a series of principled problems with the proposed policy measure. First, it would make the design and collection of stamp duty much more complex and costly. Secondly, it would require someone—perhaps the conveyancer—to withhold money for a period. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has discussed the proposal fully with conveyancers, because it will impose significant new burdens on small businesses at a time when we want to reduce them.

John Bercow: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

John Healey: No, I will not; the hon. Gentleman has only just come into the debate.

Thirdly, I point out to my hon. Friends who may be tempted to consider the proposals that a large number of buyers are exempt from stamp duty. Last year, at the Budget, we doubled the starting threshold for stamp duty to £120,000. This year, we increased it to £125,000 and have thus taken 400,000 homes a year out of the stamp duty system. About 50 per cent. of homebuyers are exempt from stamp duty, either through the new threshold or due to the fact that they are buying homes in disadvantaged areas. I ask my hon. Friends how we could refund the tax to people who had not paid it in the first place?

Does not it strike my hon. Friends as unfair that the proposed support would not be available to most people in the country? Fifty per cent. is the nationwide figure for exemptions. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South the figure is 58 per cent. In the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe, the residential sales transactions of 79 per cent. of households are exempt from stamp duty each year; in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North the figure is 85 per cent.

The proposed scheme would subsidise certain areas of the country much more than others. It would also subsidise people who are able to pay while doing nothing to help those in fuel poverty or on low incomes.

John Bercow: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

John Healey: I will not give way at this stage.

Members have urged us to do even more on the environment, and both in the Treasury and as a Government we shall do so, but the measures proposed in the new clause are not the steps we should take. If the new clause is pressed to a vote, I ask my hon. Friends to resist.

Alan Simpson: The Financial Secretary has made an excellent speech, but one in support of new clauses 9 and 10 and new schedule 1. He is absolutely right to tell hon. Members on both sides of the House that there is
4 July 2006 : Column 784
no point in willing the ends if we do not will the means, and the means that we invite the House to sign up to tonight is to begin with the reporting process. I have yet to be convinced of the arguments against reporting that have been used either in the Chamber tonight or elsewhere, so I wish to press the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 214, Noes 279.
Division No. 276]
[10.49 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Conway, Derek
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Donaldson, Mr. Jeffrey M.
Dorries, Mrs. Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Kawczynski, Daniel
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter

Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McDonnell, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Mr. Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Paisley, rh Rev. Ian
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Russell, Bob
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Short, rh Clare
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Alan
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Jeremy Corbyn and
Mr. Philip Hollobone

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Benn, rh Hilary
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard

Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne

McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, Mr. Don
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Ian Cawsey and
Jonathan Shaw
Question accordingly negatived.
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