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My two predecessors have been models of co-operation with the hon. Gentleman. I learned the secret of his success in getting this far when my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) popped up and
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reminded us that he is a sponsor of the Bill. Recruiting him was a shrewd and clever move on the part of the hon. Gentleman.

I am also glad that the hon. Gentleman has recognised the contribution made by the civil servants. I am new to my post and have been with the civil servants for only a short time, but I, too, have been impressed by the commitment and dedication evident in their assistance to me and the House in getting the Bill into good order. Who could not join in the praise for Ron Bailey? I would not describe him as a scourge, but as a friend of the family to Parliament because of his work over many long years in pushing us along the route on which we should have been anyway. I am glad that he has been able to contribute to the hon. Gentleman’s success today.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned that raising the heat capacity limit for microgeneration to 300 kW would benefit community projects, and I agree. The Government’s entire intention was to see many more of the kind of community projects that I described—in schools, in wildlife trust centres and community centres. As well as being of public benefit in themselves, such projects are educative and mean that people learn more about microgeneration.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke about behavioural change. If he does not mind, I shall not follow his comments about chimpanzees; I shall merely say that he is right in saying that the policies have to be right if behaviour is to change. He mentioned that incentives should be a part of policy, and I agree—but it is only one among many parts. In a green revolution, regulation is an important part of the whole package. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle spoke, as I will later, about the need for investment in the sector. Strong, clear lasting regulation gives confidence to people so that they can make those investment decisions, so regulation is important, as well as incentives.

Investment is also important. As the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle said, a lot comes from the private sector, but the public sector is also involved, especially when there is a need to pump-prime or kick-start projects when they begin. Some technologies would not have gone far without some public support and investment; now they are more established and look like making lasting contributions to our future strategy. As several hon. Members have said, sticks are important as well as carrots, and some of those sticks should be fiscal. I agree with all that.

My last example of the right policy relates to the setting of examples: we should ask people to do as we do, not as we say. If lights are on in Departments at night, that will be a bad signal to people; a biomass boiler at Wiston House, however, is a good signal.

Finally, I come to the question that the hon. Member for East Surrey asked about micro-hydro. In Committee and on Second Reading, there was pressure in favour of micro-hydro’s being included in the Bill’s extension of the permitted development rights, but the Government resisted that pressure. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Minister of State announced that there would be a review of the consent and licensing system for all hydro projects. As the hon. Gentleman demonstrated during the short debate on the night when I moved the money resolution, he knows that there are some difficult issues with micro-hydro, mainly because there is only one
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system for consents and licensing. It applies to every hydro project, however small or large. As a scheme could be very large, the system is complex and demanding. I can see that going through that process would be a great deterrent for somebody proposing a micro-hydro scheme. I am pleased that my hon. Friend announced to the Committee that there will be a review of the system to see whether we can come up with a second system for micro-hydro that will streamline the process and make things quick and easy for people who want to suggest good microgeneration projects that include a component of hydro.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to give some detail about the review. It will be carried out by the Environment Agency, which administrates the existing scheme. It has a time limit of one year to complete the review, to stay inside the time scale of this Bill in respect of the review of the microgeneration strategy. I hope that everything will come together for micro-hydro in a year’s time. That is my wish.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras made an important point about the contribution that saving energy makes to tackling climate change and ensuring security of supply. He said that the issue should not be underestimated, and it is certainly not underestimated by the Government or the hon. Member for East Surrey. Energy saving is specifically referred to in the Bill. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it can cut costs for individuals. The Government estimate is that most people could save about £300 a year on their energy bills if they made their homes as energy efficient as possible. As he said, if we promote energy saving as an industry, that will create jobs in the supply chain. I am keen for that to happen, because one of my areas of responsibility relates to skills in the low-carbon economy, and I am keen to see an expansion of jobs—highly skilled and well-paid jobs—in the sector. That is my ambition.

My right hon. Friend also mentioned those who do not have the money to keep themselves warm in their homes. He said that the worst-off families and pensioners often live in the worst-insulated homes. That is why there is a fuel poverty strategy in this country. It has been going off-target in recent years because of high rises in fuel costs, so it is being reviewed this year. It is a sobering thought that many people in this country die in the winter months partly because of extreme cold from which they are unable to protect themselves in their homes. Last year, the figure amounted to 25,000 individuals, a statistic that should make us all determined to put energy efficiency at the top of our list of priorities.

My right hon. Friend observed that the more we can promote microgeneration technologies, the greater the likelihood that their costs will fall, which will put them within the reach of more people and more businesses, and therefore promote further take-up of microgeneration—a virtuous circle that all of us in the House want to achieve. When he went on to mention that a lot of businesses do not take up energy efficiency measures, he reminded me to say that in the Energy Saving Trust we have an excellent, trusted organisation that can give advice to domestic householders about energy efficiency measures. I would argue equally that we have an excellent, skilled organisation in the Carbon Trust, which gives similar advice to the owners of non-domestic business properties. I would urge any business
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that is wondering what to do about energy efficiency measures and what help there is for doing it to contact the Carbon Trust if they have not already done so.

My right hon. Friend noted that there is great waste in over-heating and over-lighting properties. At that point, I was reminded to state my message that Departments should also turn their lights off at night. The sustainable operations on the Government estate targets, which are monitored by the Sustainable Development Commission, help to ensure that Government set a good example; I am anxious that that is what we should do.

My right hon. Friend said that when he worked in the power sector, the boss, rubbing his hands, said that they made a lot of money out of the over-heating of premises. That reminded me of the importance of trying to incentivise energy companies to help people to make energy savings instead of simply promoting greater sales of their products.

Frank Dobson: I would not like my hon. Friend to misinterpret what I said as meaning that the great Sir Christopher Hinton rubbed his hands with glee. He thought that it was absolutely stupid that the country was building two power stations so that people could take their jackets off at work. Indeed, he used to cause terrible offence to people selling electricity by insisting on having gas-fired central heating at home because he thought it was more efficient.

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that useful clarification. The attitude that he describes feeds into today’s carbon emissions reduction target programme, whereby energy companies make a great commitment to helping customers to make energy savings in order to cut their bills. That is the kind of approach for the future that the Government want to encourage.

My right hon. Friend made an important point, which was not much taken up on the Liberal Democrat Benches, about the potential effect on neighbours of the installation of new micro wind turbines and air source heat pumps. One person’s benefit can be a neighbour’s nuisance, and it is important for us to ensure that we avoid any negative developments from what is a very good policy. That is why when the Government extended permitted development rights for many microgeneration technologies last year, further time was taken on micro wind and air source heat pumps in order to ensure that we got right issues such as noise and vibration and did everything possible to minimise the effect on neighbours so as not to attract negative publicity that would harm the cause of promoting greater microgeneration.

Frank Dobson: I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend in mid-flow.

It is likely that a wind turbine or an air source heat pump will be quiet and not vibrate much when it is first installed; the big problem is whether there will be high-quality maintenance. A car that is fairly quiet eventually turns into an old banger, and it is called that because it makes a lot more noise. We must try to ensure that there is sufficiently good maintenance so that a wind turbine does not become an old rattler that used not to be offensive but becomes so as the years go by.

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I was about to remind the House that the Bill permits there to be limitations and conditions on permitted development rights. I am not aware that we were planning
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to suggest that there should be a condition about regular maintenance, but certainly the advice and guidance would say that that is good practice. Today’s modern designs do everything possible to minimise the risk of excessive noise and vibration. The time since the relaxations were introduced last year has been well used in terms of Government consideration and consultation about noise levels that might be acceptable to neighbours. I hope that when we come to make decisions about the precise detail of these permitted development rights we will strike the right balance between satisfying neighbours and those who want to install the technologies.

I am delighted that my right hon. Friend drew our attention to railway stations. I had forgotten that he had three such great ones on his patch—St. Pancras, King’s Cross and Euston. I wish him the best of success next week in his meeting on Euston in terms of ensuring that microgeneration is taken into account as part of the design of the project for the refurbishment of that station, which I visit every week on my way to and from Parliament and my Stafford constituency. I agree that it would be a delight to see examples of microgeneration technologies at our major railway stations across London, always taking account, as he says, of preserving the urban landscape, which is just as important to this country as its rural landscape. His warning to us to get this right so that we do not have public misunderstanding and negative reporting by the media of microgeneration is an important one to act on after today. We want the media to join us in promoting microgeneration as something that is positively beneficial to householders and business owners, and to the wider aims of tackling climate change and ensuring energy security in this country.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: I have said on every occasion when it has been possible to do so that I am certainly not in favour of a free-for-all in micro power that causes a nuisance. That is not the purpose of the Bill, and there are safeguards built into it. The Minister may wish to confirm that when consulting on any proposals to do with microgeneration in domestic properties, a noise limit of 45 dB from the nearest window of a habitation will be taken as a benchmark. I hope that that will provide enough of a safeguard during the consultation period for the Government to satisfy themselves that an installation will not cause a nuisance.

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I certainly exonerate him from any suggestion that he is gung-ho about installing microgeneration anywhere at any time; of course, he has been extremely responsible, as are the Government. I am merely saying that we should continue to balance possible conflicting interests to ensure that we stay on the right side of the public and maintain their support. The limit that he mentioned is indeed the Government’s thinking in terms of the permitted development right for wind turbines and air source heat pumps. A further reassurance that he did not mention—I will do so in order to join him in saying how responsible his attitude is—is that the whole thing will be reviewed after two years to ensure that it is attracting public support and that there are no areas that need any extra attention. We are all doing the best we can to ensure that this is an entirely positive experience for people.

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The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey agreed that the strategy for England, which will be the second one, gives confidence, and stressed the importance of that confidence to the public at large. That is an important subject as we try to attract more and more people’s attention towards considering microgeneration. I join him in that view and add the importance of giving confidence to those in the supply chain that provides microgeneration technology, be they manufacturers, sellers or installers. I am keen that we have a healthy supply chain with the confidence to invest in its business, its equipment and the skills of its work force because it knows that a lasting and sensible strategy is in place.

The hon. Gentleman is pleased that there are dates and deadlines. I suppose that as a Minister I should not be so pleased, but I assure him that I am determined to keep to them. I look forward to meeting them in future. He mentioned the loss of the definition of “green jobs” from the Bill and described the conceptual difficulty that people have with the term. I attended the launch yesterday of a document jointly produced by British Gas and the GMB trade union called “Green Collar Britain”. That is a good way of looking at jobs in the environmental industry, as people can identify with the idea of green-collar jobs. We already have more than 800,000 jobs that exist because of trade in green goods and services, which is worth more than £107 billion a year to this country. As a country and as a Government, we want to capitalise on that success and create more jobs and more wealth in environmental industries.

The hon. Gentleman made a point about the capacity limits in the Bill. The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle reminded us that there had been a teeny bit of confusion at one point in Committee about how the different definitions in the Energy Act 2004, earlier electricity legislation, and the Bill would mesh together. As he said, however, we have now established that they are perfectly compatible and mostly desirable.

In an ideal world for the Government, we would try to leave specific capacity limits out of primary legislation, because we never know how things will turn out in future. However, they started to appear in primary legislation back in the 1980s, and there were some in the 2004 Act, so we are where we are. I am pleased that we have established the relationship between the definition of green energy, the limits for future feed-in tariffs and what is meant by microgeneration, and we can all work with the limits that we have for the time being. I noticed the touchiness on the Liberal Democrat Benches about nuclear power, but for today we will pass quickly over that.

I agree with the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey about the language of fuel poverty. I am the Minister for tackling fuel poverty, and I am charged with a target of eradicating it in this country by 2016, which is an immense responsibility. I agree that the public might be more engaged with the debate if we talked more about warm homes. As a member of the all-party warm homes group I am familiar with that term, which is a positive one to engage people in dialogue about. I am with him on the importance of using that language.

I understand why hon. Members were disappointed to lose the points about council tax and non-domestic rates from the Bill. In Committee, my ministerial colleague
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gave a detailed explanation of why each was unattractive to the Government, and I have nothing to add to that. The hon. Gentleman asked me about fiscal measures, and I was also asked about future consultations on such measures. I am certainly willing to say that the Government keep all fiscal measures under review, and consultations are planned quite soon on feed-in tariffs, for example. There will be further discussions, and who knows, perhaps when I meet him and the hon. Member for East Surrey we can touch on that subject.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle stressed the importance of energy efficiency. We all agree about that, which is why it is important that it appear in the Bill, as it does in the Government’s thinking about how to improve our energy security and tackle fuel poverty. Like myself, he stresses the importance of giving people confidence to invest in the technologies in question, which is why long-term strategies and firm regulation that gives the market clear signals are very important for the future. Like him, I am pleased that we are making good headway on the subject of heat. He is right that although we have begun the march towards getting much more of our electricity from renewable energy, it will be a much longer march to decarbonise heat. That is an important priority for us.

The hon. Gentleman was keen to stress that we should make much more use of permitted development rights. That is a good point, subject to the warning from my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that we should be considerate of our neighbours in this matter, as in every other, and that we should be wary of losing public support by going too far too quickly.

The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle also asked me to confirm that we will consult on fiscal measures. I have given the example that there would soon be consultation on feed-in tariffs, and I am sure that each step of the way as we consider other fiscal measures, we will want to consult hon. Members and all the organisations that he mentioned.

I turn to my own contribution to the debate. Met Office projections demonstrate that changes that sound small, such as a 2° C global temperature rise, will actually have serious impacts on the whole world through rising sea levels and extreme events such as droughts, hurricanes and floods, leading to disruption— [Interruption.] Hon. Members really should pay attention. This is very serious stuff. It will lead to disruption to natural and man-made habitats. Many communities across the UK will struggle to cope with the effects of warmer summers and wetter winters. The resulting disruption to their homes and lives will be the physical consequences of doing nothing now, and of failing to get an international agreement at Copenhagen.

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