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Joan Ruddock: The Government have already made it absolutely clear that energy from waste systems is part of the waste treatment facilities that this country needs. Private finance credits worth £2 billion are available for the development of more waste infrastructure, and some of the facilities will indeed be energy-from-waste plants. The hon. Lady is right to say that there is a short-term problem with the accumulation of recyclables
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because of the economic downturn, but we expect that to be dealt with over time. This is not the time for us to begin to discontinue our recycling effort—we must recycle because that saves new resources being used. She is right that getting energy from waste can be one of the solutions to recycling, but it is not the only one. We still need plants that recycle waste and the new developments in recycling plants, especially for plastics, will help to resolve some of the problems.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): I would appreciate it if one of the energy and climate change team would state clearly and boldly that biofuels are essential if we are to achieve our emissions targets. Will one of them visit the biofuels companies and farmers in the north-east? I should greatly appreciate that, as sustainable and innovative food and fuel projects are being developed that are receiving millions of pounds in investment.

Edward Miliband: I will definitely volunteer one of my Ministers, or myself, to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. That is something to look forward to, but she raises an important point about biofuels. We are trying to get a provision in the 2020 EU directive for indirect land use in respect of biofuels, to ensure their sustainability. The Government believe that biofuels can play a role in our energy mix, but that we need to be careful that they are produced in a sustainable way. That is the right approach, and it is the basis on which we shall proceed.

T6. [235293] Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As the poor Minister of State was unable to do so, will the Secretary of State now try to explain why gas and electricity prices are lower in France and Germany than they are in the UK? Will he also allay my constituents’ fears that, with French-owned energy companies in this country, there might be some form of cross-subsidy that is not helping us?

Edward Miliband: The answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s first question is clear: actually, our prices are lower than the EU average for the individual consumer. Historically, that has been the case. As was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, we are more subject to ups and downs in the market price. If the right hon. Gentleman does not like the market system that was introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, he can say so, but the most important thing that we can do, given the system that we have, is first to look at the system to make sure that it is the right one—we will do that—and secondly to put all necessary pressure on the energy companies to lower their prices. That is what we did four weeks ago, and that is what I will do at my meeting with the energy companies on Monday. I shall report back to the House on those discussions.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State and I recently attended a reception where there was a demonstration of technology that can be retrofitted to coal-fired power stations to reduce their CO2 emissions by 50 per cent. That would enable coal-fired power stations to be kept in use after 2015, and will reduce our carbon emissions greatly. The technology was developed by British Coal, and it was called the topping cycle at the time. Incidentally,
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the funding for that topping cycle was abolished by the Conservative Government in 1988. It is ironic that that technology is now being used to reduce carbon emissions. Will my hon. and learned Friend urge the energy generators seriously to consider fitting that technology to existing coal-fired power stations?

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Certainly, my hon. Friend and I attended a meeting where that new technology was discussed. A whole range of new ideas is coming forward from those who want to ensure that we get cleaner coal. One of the ideas brought forward was the one that we discussed the other day. I very much hope that the energy companies will look into such new projects, and run them alongside carbon capture and storage, so that we can ensure a future for clean-coal technology. We know that the Opposition—the Conservatives, at least—take the view that coal does not really have a role unless new technology is delivered in exactly the way that they want. We say that there is a range of ideas out there, and we want to see those ideas develop. We want generators to consider them, so that we get security, as 30 per cent., and at certain times in the year 50 per cent., of our energy comes from coal—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I call Mr. Peter Lilley.

T7. [235294] Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Earlier, the Secretary of State admitted that as a result of the Climate Change Bill his progress towards, and policies on, meeting the Government’s targets would be judicially reviewable. Subsequently, he said that he intended to go ahead with coal-fired power stations because he attaches more importance to security of supply. Is he aware that that is precisely the sort of decision that will be subject to judicial review? Will he tell us whether he has taken any legal advice on whether he will be able to get away with that policy? A yes-or-no answer will suffice.

Edward Miliband: Why do I sometimes feel that I am being patronised? What I say to the right hon. Gentleman is that we are determined to meet our targets on climate change emissions, and we will do so. We are also determined to meet our ambitions on security of supply, to ensure that we keep the lights on. I am convinced that we can do both. The question about coal-fired power stations is: how quickly can we get carbon capture and storage attached to new coal-fired power stations? The Opposition have said that there should be no new coal-fired power stations unless CCS can be fitted immediately. We take a less dogmatic position; we ask how quickly we can ensure that carbon capture and storage can be attached to coal-fired power stations. That is what we are considering at the moment.

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House was asked—

Select Committees

1. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): If she will bring forward proposals for Select Committees to conduct more of their business in public. [235257]

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The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): We have no plans to do so, because we believe that the historical tradition of this House, whereby Select Committees deliberate in private but take evidence in public, is the right way forward.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Will the Deputy Leader of the House reflect on the fact that last night, despite all the efforts of the Labour Whips, our motion to open up the European Scrutiny Committee to the public was defeated by only six votes? The Committee sifts European proposals, which are eventually responsible for more than half of all the laws and regulations in this country. Will he therefore introduce amended proposals to allow the public into our proceedings, so that they can see what we do, on their behalf, about that torrent of legislation? If not, will he stop pretending that the Government are in any way in favour of the public’s right to know and their engagement with the political process, as that will have been exposed as a hollow sham?

Chris Bryant: The right hon. Gentleman is basically trying to rerun yesterday’s debate, which he lost comprehensively, and he lost the vote as well.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): By six votes

Chris Bryant: The right hon. Gentleman certainly lost the argument comprehensively. There is a more important point to be made. If we changed the rules on when Select Committees meet in private and when they meet in public, he would immediately start to complain —[ Interruption. ] The shadow Leader of the House will have her moment. If we changed the rules in the House regarding when Select Committees meet in private and in public, the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to complain when a member of a Select Committee started to release private information from the Committee’s process of deliberation when a report was being drafted. We know perfectly well that it is up to Select Committees to choose when they meet in private or in public, but the historic tradition enforced by successive Speakers is the right one.

Secondary Legislation

2. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the House’s procedures for scrutinising secondary legislation; and if she will make a statement. [235258]

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): I believe that the process of secondary legislation is working well, but we are always open to suggestions.

Michael Fabricant: The Minister would, wouldn’t he—as someone else famously said. While we all recognise the value of secondary legislation, particularly for Bills that introduce fines that have to be updated annually, or quotas and so on, there appears to be an ever-increasing use of Government amendments to Bills on Report or statutory instruments being used more and more to include information that could have been included in the primary legislation or in the Bill. As a result, in Committee, we often end up writing out a blank cheque, because so much is missing: statutory instrument content
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is not known, and we do not know what amendments the Government will table on Report to their own Bill. Yes, the Minister is right: on the whole SIs work well, but will he at least monitor their performance to ensure that they are not used as a blank cheque?

Chris Bryant: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees that, broadly speaking, the system works well, and that it is right and proper that, for instance, the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) (Amendment) Regulations 2008, whereby the processes for sacking a judge are determined, should be subject to the negative resolution procedure, which is less onerous for the House, whereas the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2008, which changes the classification of cannabis, should be subject to the affirmative procedure, as the House would want to have a proper debate on that and make an informed decision. Of course, we will keep this under regular review, but the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, admirably chaired by the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean), does a good job in making sure that no statutory instrument is ultra vires or introduces inappropriate legislation.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman have any plans to make secondary legislation by means of Order in Council amendable?

Chris Bryant: We do not have any intention of doing so at the moment. The truth of the matter is that if we were going to make something amendable in any of the different categories of secondary legislation, it would make more sense for us to introduce primary legislation, so that it would be fully amendable and would go through all the separate processes in the House and, equally importantly, in the other place as well.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): Following the reply by the Deputy Leader of the House to the previous question, and given that the volume of secondary legislation is so vast—some 12,000 pages in 2006—is it not time to undertake a proper review to allow greater scrutiny at the secondary legislation stage? I know that there are arguments for keeping the existing system, but they were made when the volume of secondary legislation was much less, so it is time for a review.

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman knows that secondary legislation can come forward only if it is dependent on the original primary legislation, and we on the Government Benches are very keen to ensure that there is a process of post-legislative scrutiny. If the scrutiny were to suggest that, in a particular area, further, secondary legislation should not come forward from an individual Act, we would want to review the matter. If the hon. Gentleman would like to make specific recommendations, however, my room is room 102, around the corner, and he should feel very free to come round to talk to me sometime.

Ministerial Answers

4. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): If she will take steps to ensure that Ministers’ answers to hon. Members include pertinent information otherwise available to the public; and if she will make a statement. [235260]

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The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): My right hon. and learned Friend and I always encourage ministerial colleagues to be as helpful as possible when answering hon. Members’ questions. This does of course mean that, where possible, instead of referring to a previous answer or to a document that is available elsewhere, Ministers should provide the fullest possible information.

Andrew Mackinlay: Will my hon. Friend have a word with the Prime Minister? Did the Deputy Leader of the House notice that on 17 June and 13 October, on the advice of John Scarlett and Gus O’Donnell, the Prime Minister declined to answer my question as to who is the Clerk of the so-called Intelligence and Security Committee—an appointed Committee? The Prime Minister declined, and it upset me. I lay awake at night and, trying to get to sleep, reached for the “Civil Service Year Book”, where I noticed—and I shall say this in a whisper, because it is top secret:

The serious point is that this is sloppy. These are the same people who preside over things being left on railway trains leaving Waterloo and who try to tell me who I should and should not meet in London. It is arrogant of them to refuse to answer a reasonable question and it has got to stop—right from the top of the pyramid down to assistant regional Ministers.

Chris Bryant: I commend my hon. Friend, whom I think all Members think of their hon. Friend, for the forthrightness with which he always puts his case, and for his diligence. I hate to think of him lying awake at night worrying about things, but the general principle is absolutely clear: it is important that Ministers always provide the fullest possible information to Members, unless there is a very specific reason why they cannot do so, or when it is disproportionate to do so. I am more than happy to pass my hon. Friend’s comments on to the Prime Minister.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): On that subject, can Ministers also try to ensure that the same honesty applies whenever there are ministerial answers? On the debate about Heathrow yesterday—[Hon. Members: “Tuesday.”] On Tuesday. It is absolutely clear that when Ministers told colleagues that no date had been decided for the Heathrow debate, the British Airports Authority had been told that the debate would be on Tuesday this week. Can Mr. Speaker’s rulings be respected, so that colleagues in the House are told first and before people with a commercial interest outside the House?

Chris Bryant: Of course there is a basic principle that everything should be told to the House before it is told elsewhere, but there are very special circumstances, such as when issues might affect the markets, whereby I think the whole House understands that, for instance, the Chancellor of the Exchequer needs to make announcements in a slightly different way—and then needs to come to the House as soon as possible.

The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) seems to have forgotten about yesterday, because the Heathrow debate was two days ago, but I am sure that the Secretary of State for Transport will have heard his comments, which the hon. Gentleman has now put on the record.

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Business of the House (Timetabling)

6. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What factors she takes into account when making decisions about the timetable for the business of the House. [235262]

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Chris Bryant): Competing factors obviously have to be borne in mind: the need for proper scrutiny of legislation, the need for proper accountability of the Government, the needs of Back Benchers to represent their constituents’ concerns, the need of the whole House to listen to the concerns of the whole nation, and the need for the Government to get through its business efficiently and efficaciously. Sometimes those different factors clash.

Mr. Bone: I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for that answer. Oh, that it were true.

Chris Bryant: It is true.

Mr. Bone: The Deputy Leader of the House says that it is true. Will he therefore explain why, yesterday, the Government forced a closure motion when at least five Back Benchers wanted to speak on a programme motion that was designed to guillotine time on vital issues? It was an outrageous abuse of Parliament.

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is for Mr. Speaker to decide, although Mr. Deputy Speaker was in the Chair yesterday, whether a closure motion is appropriate. The hon. Gentleman is trying to rerun yesterday’s debate. The important point is that we tabled the business motion a full week in advance and neither the shadow Leader of the House nor the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, raised it at business questions last week. I say in all honesty and sincerity that if the shadow Leader of the House had said that she wanted more time for yesterday’s debate, we would have listened to her concerns.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): One of the measures that we can use to see whether business is being processed effectively and efficiently is the number of Government Bills introduced in one Session that are carried over into the next Session, perhaps for want of time. Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that that number seems to be increasing over the years? Is he happy with that fact? Does he not think that the schedules of Bills at the Queen’s Speech are sometimes over-ambitious?

Chris Bryant: I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend, but the number of carry-over Bills has not been increasing. At the moment, there are only two: the Political Parties and Elections Bill and the Banking Bill. In the past, my hon. Friend has argued in favour of carry-over Bills. They mean that at certain stages of the year it is more possible for this House and the other Chamber to provide suitable in-depth scrutiny of legislation. It is right that we have the carry-over provision, which is only a few years old.

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Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): If the Deputy Leader of the House truly means what he says about timetabling, will he and the Leader of the House take a little time during Prorogation to consider establishing a proper business Committee composed of senior Back Benchers who would determine the allocation of the House’s time?

Chris Bryant: No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well, which is why he is sitting down with a great big smile all over his face. If there were to be a business Committee, I am sure that he, as one of the most senior Members of the House, would sit on it. I know that other Conservative Members also think that there should be one. However, to suggest that there should be such a Committee shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the House operates. The only reason we are the Government is that we have a majority in the House. That arrangement is very different from that in the United States of America, where the Executive are separate from the legislature.

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