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Mr. Dismore: I am sorry to intervene on my hon. Friend for a third time, but it might give the officials
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time to write the answer to my last question. I have listened to what he has just said, but it did not really relate to the point that I raised. I certainly support the Bill, and I remember expressing my support for the various points that he has raised in the debates that we had in the House on previous occasions. However, the real point here is a matter of principle. This is not so much to do with the Bill itself as with the principle of prospective legislation. As I mentioned in my first intervention, the House rightly disapproves of retrospective legislation, but we have here a new constitutional line being developed by effectively giving a blank cheque in relation to what might come along in the future. I suggest to my hon. Friend that it would be more appropriate for this to be done by means of the Act in question cross-referring back to this Bill, rather than by trying to anticipate what might or might not happen in the future.

Mr. Khan: I do not have the joy of being the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, but I thought that most legislation was, by definition, prospective, because it is not retrospective. I am sure that, during the course of my short speech, I will come to the point that my hon. Friend has raised, in my own way. If I do not, I will respond to it once a note has been passed to me.

David Howarth: Perhaps the best way to interpret the amendment is to see it as an attempt to interpret future enactments in a way that is compatible with this Bill, so that if, by some mischance, future legislation did not refer to the Bill, it would not be taken as an implied repeal of the Bill. This is just a matter of protection against future accidents. Although the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) is correct about the normal way in which we do things, I think that this is a perfectly reasonable amendment.

Mr. Khan: I gratefully accept the ring thrown into the pool by the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth), who demonstrates why Cambridge has some of the world’s greatest academics and why I am grateful that he came in to support this important Bill of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks. The Planning Bill contains important measures that will help in delivering renewable energy projects.

To move on from the passage I was referring to before I was intervened on and lost my train of thought and the place in my speech, the Bill adds to Government Bills by building into the legislation the powers of local councils to make policies on local energy requirements for new developments. It makes a positive contribution to the clear need for local authorities to take action to tackle climate change locally. Importantly, it will do so now.

Both this private Member’s Bill and the proposed duties in the Planning Bill are underpinned by the planning policy statement on climate change that was published last December. That PPS contains our detailed policy on what we expect of our planning authorities, giving a strong boost to local energy planning, local renewables and low-carbon energy. This is our “Merton-plus” approach, building on the Merton rule. Since this Bill was last debated in the Commons, we have also consulted on our renewable energy strategy, which outlined the Government’s proposal for meeting the UK share of
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the EU-wide target for renewable energy. The proposal is to achieve 15 per cent. of the UK’s energy from renewables by 2020.

Let me move on to deal specifically with the Lords amendment. There have been lengthy discussions of various issues raised by the Bill, and I am pleased that they have been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction without the need for a substantial amendment. I am grateful that the other place did not consider it necessary to revisit any of the points raised during the passage of the Bill in the Commons. That demonstrates how well the Committees of this House worked to produce a workable Bill.

There was, however, one point of detail that the other place needed to address and it is worth explaining it to colleagues who may not have seen the record of the debate. The concern of the other place resulted in just one technical amendment. I can assure the House—this also deals with the concerns of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon—that the amendment does not affect the substance of this private Member’s Bill. The reason why the Bill needed amendment is straightforward and we should thank the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place for spotting the necessity for it. It enables us to correct the reference to regulatory-making powers and to improve the Bill’s clarity. It was unfortunate that the amendment was needed and that it was necessary for the Bill to come back to this place, but the fact that we are here today demonstrates the will to see the Bill through to what I am sure will be a successful conclusion.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon was keen for me to answer his point directly, so I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe for passing me a note a few moments ago, which will enable me to respond to his query. I want to assure the House and my hon. Friend that the power given to local authorities properly relates to the prevailing energy efficient standards set by Parliament in the future. My hon. Friend’s suggestion would mean that every piece of future legislation would have to refer to this Bill, and I believe that that was the point made by the hon. Member for Cambridge when he rescued me from my inability directly to answer my hon. Friend’s point.

Mr. Dismore: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Khan: In the spirit of ensuring full and frank debate on this very important Bill, I will.

10.15 am

Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I sympathise in that he does not have his Parliamentary Private Secretary with him to do his running today, but I see that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe is present and she is doing an excellent job in supporting the Minister. Let me tell him, however, that what he is effectively saying is that he has no faith in the parliamentary draftsmen. Surely they, who are paid enormous amounts of money to do this work, should be capable of getting the cross-references correct in future legislation.

Mr. Khan: I shall come on to the point about the parliamentary counsel, but either we believe in devolution or we do not: it is for local authorities to set the targets and I believe that that is the right way for us to deal with
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these issues. As I said, I will come on a little later in my short speech to deal with my hon. Friend’s point about the parliamentary counsel.

Returning to the Lords amendment, in early May this year, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place drew to our attention a concern that the Bill, as drafted when it left this House, appeared to give a regulation-making power to set energy efficient standards. I hasten to add that this was not spotted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon. Unfortunately—

Mr. Dismore: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Khan: I will in a moment; I am not scared! [Interruption.] I feel that I am being heckled by a former mentor.

My point is that the Bill appeared to give a regulation-making power to set energy efficient standards. Unfortunately, the Bill was slightly deficient in not specifying the parliamentary procedure for that power. I am, of course, now happy to give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dismore: I am astounded at my hon. Friend’s suggestion that I should have missed something on a Report stage of a Bill on a Friday. I did actually look at that issue and I felt that it was dealt with appropriately. That is why I am probing the Minister today—because I am very concerned about prospective legislation. Had I supported such legislation, I might have brought this sort of amendment forward myself at the time—but I do not, so I did not.

Mr. Khan: I hope that my hon. Friend will not feel so concerned about the matter that he will divide the House. Let me continue.

My noble Friend Baroness Andrews wrote to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on 11 June—this is relevant to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon—setting out how the Government, in agreement with the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, intended to address the issue. It was a team effort. In its 10th report, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee noted that Baroness Andrews had written to its Chairman to explain that the Government intended to propose an amendment to the Bill. The amendment was intended to remedy the drafting deficiency, which, as we have just heard, was spotted by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, but who failed to raise it on Report and who did not feel it sufficiently important to require amendment at that stage. Notwithstanding all that, the Lords amendment remedies the drafting deficiency.

As I have said, the Bill, as brought from this House, unintentionally and imperfectly created a delegated power. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place reported that if the Bill were amended in the way explained by my noble friend Baroness Andrews, it would not delegate legislative powers. I can assure the House that the error—it was an error—was purely technical. It was a drafting slip by the parliamentary counsel, for which the lawyers have apologised for not spotting.

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Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): The Minister is answering the point raised earlier by the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore). Parliamentary slips can happen, which is why we need this Lords amendment.

Mr. Khan: As I am constantly reminded by my nine-year-old, we are all human and we all make mistakes. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, speaking from the Liberal Front Bench, for realising that, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon would also accept that we are all human.

As I was explaining, the error was purely technical and the lawyers have apologised for not spotting it. For the benefit of those who are not lawyers, it might be worth trying to explain the implications in layman’s terms. The problem was with the drafting of the then clause 1(2)(a) in that it did not clearly refer to regulation-making powers in other legislation. It seemed to create a new power for the Secretary of State to set energy efficiency standards, which would not have been subject to any parliamentary controls. That was never the intention and it is precisely why the Bill had not included a procedure setting out how such a power would operate.

David Howarth: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I very much sympathise with the view of hon. Member for Hendon that a court would have been very unlikely to have interpreted the Bill as originally drafted as creating in itself a separate order-making power for the very reason that the Minister just outlined, as the Bill does not include any procedure, conditions or limitations relating to such a power. The Bill’s original phrasing would have been interpreted as meaning “under any other enactment”, not just as creating a power by itself. I am grateful for the amendment clarifying that, but I would not accept that a mistake had been made.

Mr. Khan: I think it was a slip. We all like to dot the i’s and cross the t’s, and if we provide clarity, lawyers are used less to try to interpret legislation. I know that the hon. Gentleman is in favour of plain English. If we can clarify things on their return from the other place, it is only right to do so.

The intention was to refer to regulation-making powers in other legislation, but that was overlooked in the final drafting of the clause. Appropriate regulation-making powers already exist in other legislation and there was no need for the hon. Member for Sevenoaks to introduce new powers. That would have been unnecessary duplication. The intention was for local authorities, in setting energy efficiency standards, to choose only those standards that have been set out or referred to in regulations made by the Secretary of State, or which are set out or endorsed in national policies or guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

That approach was taken with a view to avoiding the fragmentation of building standards, which could lead to different standards applying in different areas of the country. Although supportive of the hon. Gentleman’s Bill, that was not an outcome that we wanted to achieve.

After consulting the hon. Gentleman and writing to the Chairman of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place, my noble Friend Baroness Andrews aimed to clarify the intentions behind the reference to regulation-making powers. Her memorandum said:

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My noble Friend subsequently wrote to the Committee enclosing a draft of the appropriate amendment. That successfully dealt with the concerns of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place, and the amendment was subsequently laid in the other place. The amendment the Government tabled, which we are discussing today, inserts in clause 1(2)(a) the words

That, in our view, clarified the fact that the intention was to refer to regulation-making powers contained in other legislation. I am pleased to report that the amendment was accepted by the other place.

As you may be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the other place performs a very important role. The Committee is appointed by the other place each Session, with the orders of reference

It is fortunate that the Committee exists and ensures that the legislation we produce is workable and does not contain the kind of error that has led to the debate today.

Lembit Öpik: Leaving aside the question of feed-in tariffs, to what extent does the Minister feel that this measure improves in a practical sense the potential for joint operations between the Government and local authorities in trying to achieve carbon reduction targets? I ask because although we have had a fairly theoretical and almost esoteric debate, it will be useful only if it achieves the shared environmental goals that I think we all agree with.

Mr. Khan: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who managed successfully to intervene on his third attempt, as I reached the final paragraph of my speech. My seven-year-old often says, “Third time lucky.” She is clearly right.

The hon. Gentleman raised a point about local councils. The important thing is the power of local councils to make policies on local energy requirements for new developments. It demonstrates joined-up government between national Government and local government. It is important to give a sense of ownership so that residents feel that their local council is addressing their concern to have housing fit for the 21st century. I hope to see
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more and better working together between not only local MPs and local councils, but local government and national Government.

With great regret, I come to the final paragraph of my speech.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): More!

Mr. Khan: The hon. Gentleman, who is my good friend, will be on the Opposition Front Bench when the next Bill is considered. He asks me to go on, but I am afraid that I cannot, because I want to hear what he has to say.

I hope that, in the short time I have had, I have clarified for the House the background to the amendment, which I have considered at some length. I hope that I have not gone on for too long, but it is always important to be clear about the reasons for any change where matters of legislation are concerned.

I hope that I have fully explained the need for the amendment and that the House will accept it. I would hope that no one present today could find reason to object to it being included in the Bill.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Sevenoaks on this important private Member’s Bill. He has managed to secure partnership among MPs from all parts of the House to ensure that they work together. He worked hard with officials, and I am grateful to them for all their hard work during the Bill’s passage. There has been almost nine hours of debate in both Houses—proportionate time to ensure that we see progress being made on new developments.

I am also grateful for the patience and courtesy that the House has shown today, and for the working relationship that Front Benchers have established in securing the safe passage of the Bill. I support the hon. Member for Sevenoaks in saying that the House should agree with the other place in the said amendment.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): I congratulate the Minister on his ministerial debut and on so skilfully negotiating his way through a rather technical first outing.

Conservative Front Benchers have been strong supporters of the Bill from day one, and it is refreshing to see the tack that the Minister has taken—the support, time and trouble that he has given to ensuring that the Bill gets on to the statute book.

Mr. Khan: One reason why we ought to be so conciliatory is the approach and tenor taken by Opposition Front Benchers and, more importantly, the personality of the hon. Member for Sevenoaks, who has managed to bring us together. One hopes that he can play a role in other areas of legislation, where greater working together may lead to greater fruits for the country.

Gregory Barker: I am sure that everyone will have heard those words. If we can help the Government in their hour of need, I am sure we will do so.

Mr. Vaizey: Send for Fallon!

Gregory Barker: Send for Fallon indeed.

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