I welcome the Minister to his new position. He is, I think, the fifth Minister to assist the House during consideration of the Bill. If it is any encouragement to him, two of those five now attend the Cabinet, so I can understand his eagerness to help us in our proceedings this morning.
This relatively minor and technical amendment clarifies and improves the Bill. As the Bill was originally drafted and presented to the House, and I take full responsibility for it, it appeared to give a new regulation-making power to the Secretary of State to set energy efficiency standards. That was never the intention of the Bill. No one needed or wanted to create a new power. There are already sufficient powers in the existing legislation. The amendment, which therefore clarifies that the Bill does not itself create a new power, is an improvement to the Bill and I am grateful to their eagle-eyed lordships for proposing it.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Sadiq Khan):
It is a pleasure and an honour to speak on this private Member's Bill day with you in the Chair, Mrs Heal.
This is the last Friday before the Session ends and I am pleased to have got in, especially as the prospects of career enhancement from speaking on the Bill are so great. I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, formerly the Minister for Housing, has joined us this morning to demonstrate the passion with which treat the issues the Bill.
I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, who played such a huge part in helping the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), is here. However, I am also joined by other colleagues in the Chamber, including my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol, East (Kerry McCarthy), for Feltham and Heston (Alan Keen), for Selby (Mr. Grogan) and, of course, for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), as well as many other right hon. and hon. Members. They include my good, dear friend the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey)he is a friend, but not an hon. Friend, I hasten to add, unless he decides to cross the Floor, as his predecessor in Wantage did.
I am pleased that we are able to discuss in detail the amendment from the other place, as I feared that the wrecking vote earlier would mean that we would not be able to do so. I do not intend to stray from the debate. Although I am a new boy in these Friday debates, I realise from sitting on the Benches as a Whip that you do not allow Ministers to depart too far from the strictures of debate on private Members Bills, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I start by congratulating the hon. Member for Sevenoaks on successfully negotiating his private Members Bill through all the parliamentary hoops so far, including votes to sit in private. We are all aware that private Members Bills can face an uphill struggle to survive. Given how far the Bill has travelled and the support that it has attracted during its passage, it would be extremely disappointing if it fell at the final hurdle.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): On the subject of how far the Bill has travelled, I am also extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks and now to the Government for their support for it. The Bill arose from a specific problem in my constituency and started in the House two and a half years ago. It is very gratifying to see it come all the way through to today, so that the problem can be resolved legislatively. It is not just a good day for the environment; it is a good day for the decentralisation of power, so I am grateful for the Ministers support.
Mr. Khan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. This is not just a time for national unity because of the economic crisis. Climate change and the problems that our earth faces also demand unity in the Chamber and elsewhere, so I am pleased to hear his words.
Let me also say how pleased I am to be here to debate this private Members Bill. I was delighted to be appointed to my current post in the Department for Communities and Local Government. I am now on day 12. You will be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I spent many hours sitting where my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Chris Mole) is sitting now, helping to secure the safe passage of the Bill. The hon. Member for
Sevenoaks referred to reshuffling and transfers, and I had the pleasure of sitting through a tour de force of a speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound) on Report, in which he managed to mention every member of the Fulham football team, including its chairman, some of whom have also been transferred and reshuffled.
Today I have been asked, on behalf of the Government, to take on the responsibility of looking after the hon. Gentlemans Bill. I realise that he and you, Madam Deputy Speaker, see a new face. I am also well awarehe referred to thisthat a number of different Ministers have been involved in the passage of the Bill. I am sure that someone will have been keeping a tallyindeed, I notice that the hon. Gentleman himself has been keeping a tally. The figure is five and counting. I have asked my private office not to clean out my office just yet. Indeed, I hope that this short speech will not be the end of my career upwards or downwardsI quite enjoy the gig that I have got on day 12.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): We all wish the Minister well with his Government career. Let me also offer my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) many congratulations on piloting the Bill. However, the Government could have speeded things up a lot if they had decided to introduce the legislation in their own time. If it were not for my hon. Friends efforts and endeavours, we would not be discussing it now.
Mr. Khan: I am extremely grateful for that contribution, because it raises a point that needs to be discussed. Are the Opposition in favour of more legislation and bigger government or less legislation and smaller government? We had 34 Bills in the last Queens Speech, most of which were opposed by Her Majestys official Opposition. If they want more legislation
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. The Minister said at the outset that he was very aware of the strictures of debate on a Friday. On this particular Friday we are discussing a Lords amendment. May I suggest to any hon. Member who is going to make a contribution that they focus their remarks on the Lords amendment?
Mr. Khan: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) managed to lead me into an elephant trap that I fell into. I am grateful to you for pulling me out of that trap and ensuring that I move to safer pastures.
I am aware of the Bills history, having been present in previous debates. I am also awarethe hon. Member for Sevenoaks referred to thisof the early line that we took on the Bill. Let me remind hon. Members of what the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright), said when the Bill was debated on Second Reading. He acknowledged that we were not initially convinced that the Bill was necessaryI am coming to the Lords Amendment, Madam Deputy Speaker, as it is directly relevant to this point. We also thought that the Bill required amendment to make it effective in practice.
We have subsequently been convinced of the Bills value and have worked with the hon. Member for Sevenoaks and other hon. Members, in all parts of the House, including on the Government Benches. It is on record clearly that the Government support the Bill as it now stands. That the Bill was subject to only a minor technical amendment in the other place is testament to the hard work put into moulding it into a workable piece of legislation in Committee in this place. Thanks go both to the hon. Gentleman and to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, the then Minister for Housing, who took responsibility for the Bill in Committee. She has now moved on, and one hopes that such swift promotion is spread among other Ministers who have been involved in the Bill.
Looking back at Hansard, I see that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks spoke on Second Reading about a meeting that he had had with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who was then the Minister for Housing and Planning:
I claim no particular prescience, but one of the points that I made at that meeting was that Ministers come and go. Last night, that Minister went, which is a little unfortunate.[ Official Report, 25 January 2008; Vol. 470, c. 1736.]
My right hon. Friend, to whom the hon. Gentleman was referring, obviously went onwards and upwards. I hope that this is not an omen, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will bear with us during this seemingly constant round of musical chairs, and that he will be satisfied that, no matter who stands here at the Dispatch Box, we have been harmonious in our desire to tackle climate change and that we support the Bill, as it is now amended.
I am sure that everyone who has been involved in the discussions on the Bill during the early debates thought that they had fashioned a Bill that needed no further alteration. The hon. Gentleman referred to that earlier. He even convinced my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon of the merits of the Bill and, as we are now aware, further amendment did not prove necessary. I am pleased that sufficient parliamentary time has now been found to continue the debate on the Floor of the House.
Lembit Öpik: It is not my intention to bait the Minister in any way. Does he agree that, while the amendment is important, we also need to recognise the benefit of feed-in tariffs? Does he agree that
So far, we have spent about eight hours and 16 minutes debating the Bill in this House and in the other place, and I hope that we will soon reach a swift, successful conclusion. We are all aware that climate change is one of the most important challenges that we face and it is one that we must not lose sight of while we respond to the rapid developments that we have witnessed recently in the financial world. Climate change will not go away if we ignore it.
Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his promotion and on being asked to respond to this debate here on a Friday. I want to ask him something about the amendment. The House rightly disapproves of retrospective legislation, but the amendment effectively constitutes prospective legislation. Will my hon. Friend tell me what kind of enactments he has in mind that might be brought within the amendment?
Mr. Khan: I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question. I can see officials busily writing away as I speak. May I remind the House that he holds the record for the longest speech made here on a Friday? On that day, someone made 53 interventions to assist him in making the longest speech[ Interruption.] For the purposes of Hansard, I should like to point out that my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) was the person who has just passed me a note from the officials. I thank her for that. This demonstrates joined-up government and teamwork.
To answer the very good question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, for which I thank him, the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 includes a regulation-making power for the Secretary of State in relation to England, and for Welsh Ministers in relation to Wales, to prescribe sustainability standards, including in relation to energy efficiency. Once the power has been exercised, the resulting sustainability standard in relation to energy efficiency would be appropriate for local authorities to use when setting energy efficiency standards for their areas in reliance on the Bill. My hon. Friend made an important point about the Lords amendment. We have allowed for the possibility that this power might be superseded or supplemented in future by other powers. If he has any further queries during the course of my short speech, I will obviously be happy to answer them.
Lembit Öpik: I think that it will be in order for me to ask this question. Were we to enact this Bill, as I hope we will, would feed-in tariffs be an appropriate subject for future legislation as a direct result of that
The amendment makes its own important contribution to reducing emissions and tackling climate change. It sits neatly with the fundamental measures that the Government are taking to cut emissions and tackle climate change. Those include the Climate Change Bill and the Energy Bill, which are now progressing through this House and the other place respectively, and the Planning Bill, which is now before the other place. The Planning Bill, which is relevant to the amendment, contains important measures that will help to deliver renewable energy projects
The Planning Bill also includes a key clause[ Interruption.] Sorry, was that an intervention? I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am new at this, and I am not sure whether I am being heckled or laughed at. The Planning Bill includes a key clause that will place a duty on local councils, when preparing their local plans, to take action on climate change.
Mr. Dismore: I am very worried about the prospective application of the amendment. My hon. Friend has referred to an Act of Parliament that has already gone through, and I can understand why we should perhaps not refer to it by name in an amendment to the Bill. However, he has also referred to other Bills that have not yet passed through the House. Would it not be more appropriate to amend those Bills as they go through the House, so that we are not legislating prospectively, and to refer in this Bill only to the Act that has already gone through?
Mr. Khan: As usual, my hon. Friend raises an important point. It is worth reminding him, however, of the extra powers the Bill will deliver. It places in legislation the power for local councils to make policies on local energy requirements for new developments. He might have missed this, so it is important to remind him that this provides the reassurance that some councils were looking for. It reassures them that they can go further and faster than building regulations, but within the national framework. It also means that there will be no place to hide for any local authority that does not want to take up this agenda. It also underlines everyones commitment to using localincluding on-site and near-sitegreen energy in new developments.
A final point, which is also relevant to the point that my hon. Friend raised, is that the measures protect against the possibility of there being no planning policy, because if planning policy is cancelled, this legislation will remain in place. If my hon. Friend has further questions, I will try to answer them. I can see the officials busily writing away, and I am sure that another note will be passed to me soon. I do not mind if it is passed to me by a member of the Cabinet or someone else.
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