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25 Feb 2010 : Column 445

Mr. Evennett: What about transparency?

Edward Miliband: On transparency, it is only because the Government have got Ofgem to publish a quarterly report on the relationship between wholesale and retail prices that we now know what that relationship is.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Minister understand that up to 40 per cent. of domestic energy bills can be accounted for by heating hot water, and that much of that can be wasted through inefficient installations? Is he talking to the Minister with responsibility for water at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the synergies between smart metering roll-out in water and electricity and other synergies between water efficiency and energy efficiency?

Edward Miliband: I clearly should be, and following my hon. Friend's request I am sure that we will do so. She makes an important point about the heating of hot water and the role that can be played by the kind of technology that can both heat hot water and help to heat people's homes-combined heat and power. There is a lot to be done in that area. We are introducing the renewable heat incentive, which will make an enormous difference to people in heating their homes, but we will also engage in the discussions that she suggests.

T5. [318569] Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): Will the Secretary of State speak to Unite in the strongest terms about its proposed industrial action at the port of Milford Haven, which, although temporarily postponed, would risk cutting off access to vital supplies of crude oil and liquefied natural gas? Our energy situation is too fragile for security of supply to be used as a tool in industrial disputes, no matter how legitimate the grievances of the employees concerned.

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. While this is of course ultimately a matter for unions and management to resolve, we have engaged in discussions with both sides on these issues. I am pleased that the strike action that was due on Tuesday of this week did not go ahead, and I very much hope that a satisfactory resolution can be reached.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend shares my concern that we exploit every drop of gas and oil in and around our own waters. May I congratulate him on the introduction of the field allowance in the North sea, which is proving so successful? I put it to him, in the same terms, that the brownfield sites around the same area, but a bit further away from the existing production facilities, may have 80 per cent. of what is recoverable, and that we should introduce something that makes those equally viable.

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend draws attention to an important decision made by the Chancellor about the field allowance, which I believe was initially introduced in the last Budget. He built on that in the pre-Budget report, and has since made further announcements on it. I will ensure that this is brought to his attention, and I am sure that he will be looking at the issues that my hon. Friend raises.

Mr. Speaker: I call Dr. Evan Harris.

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T7. [318571] Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [ Interruption. ] I come hot-foot from a meeting at your office, Sir. Does the Secretary of State agree that despite the controversy over the university of East Anglia e-mails, the science is very clear, not least from other data sets, that global warming is real, and that we should not be distracted by this controversy from insisting on our policies?

Edward Miliband: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his just-in-time questioning. He raises an important issue. Clearly, mistakes have been made, and it is important that those are looked at and that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looks at its procedures. I have written to Dr. Pachauri to emphasise our support for the organisation, but also our wish that it looks at its procedures to try to eliminate such errors. The overall picture is very clear: climate change is happening, it is real, and it is man-made. It is very important to say that.

Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): I should like to press the Secretary of State on the answer that he gave earlier on Warm Front. Does he think that there is a potential conflict of interest while Eaga is effectively allowed to award itself contracts for Warm Front grants? What steps is he taking to put a stop to that practice?

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who recently came to see me personally to talk about that issue. Among the changes that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned was ensuring that Eaga is put on the same footing as any other contractor in having to bid competitively for contracts under Warm Front, in the same way as anybody else.

T8. [318573] Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Will the Secretary of State make every effort to republish and promulgate the conclusions of the Stern review, which make very clear the huge cost to our children and grandchildren if we do not take action now to tackle climate change? The costs will be huge and fall heavily on future generations.

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman makes a point that is central to this debate. We need to be open about the fact that there are costs to acting on climate change, but we know that the costs of not acting would be greater. That central conclusion of the Stern report is important in shaping the climate change debate, and he is right that we should emphasise it.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State look closely at what is happening in terms of sustainability and progressive environmental policies in Kirklees council, in whose area my constituency sits? Will he particularly examine the warm zone initiative, which is so successful that many local authorities are coming to look at it? May I invite him to come and look at it himself?

Joan Ruddock: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will have to answer for himself on whether he can go and look at that, but many of us have had conversations with Kirklees council and visited it, because there is no
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question but that it has been exemplary and pioneered work involving local government, energy companies and community groups all working together to get community solutions. It was part of the inspiration behind the community energy saving programme, which the Government recently rolled out and which is going extremely well. The programme will provide £350 million of funding in order that we get such real community endeavours off the ground on the same basis as Kirklees' pioneering warm zones.

T9. [318574] Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): Recent polls show that the British public have had a dramatic change of mind about whether climate change is man-made. Will the Government change their mind about the huge subsidies for land-based wind farms, which are not only ineffective but despoil the countryside?

Edward Miliband: No, we will not. Here we see what people worry about in relation to the Conservative party: an unchanged party, with people saying that climate change does not exist and that we should not go ahead with onshore wind. So no, Labour will not follow the hon. Lady's advice.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that progress is being made in the administration of Bowater in my constituency. Energy is a huge component part of the problem, so will he assure me that his Department will work with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to help facilitate the recovery of the business on that site?

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Mr. Kidney: As my hon. Friend knows, I take a keen interest in this issue, and I stand ready to help him in any way I possibly can.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): As Britain is now a net importer of gas, is the Secretary of State happy with the fact that we have only 16 days of gas storage, compared with 99 days in Germany and 122 days in France?

Edward Miliband: I expect better from the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.]Perhaps I should not expect better. The truth is that, as I said in our earlier discussion, the National Grid has clearly said that those numbers are meaningless, because they do not take account of our indigenous supplies. It is really important to emphasise the role that our indigenous supplies continue to play along with imports and storage.

Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Now that the Energy Bill, which relates particularly to carbon capture and storage, has passed all its stages in this House, will my right hon. Friend talk urgently to the Crown Estate and the energy companies operating in the North sea about the continuity of maintenance of pipelines between oil and gas extraction and carbon storage?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and we are in dialogue with the Crown Estate about a whole range of issues including the one to which he draws attention. I thank him for his role in the Bill, and the important thing now is to get it on the statute book as soon as possible.

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Business of the House

11.34 am

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for next week will be:

Monday 1 March-Opposition day (half-day) (4th allotted day-1st part). There will be a debate on the Government's record on defence. This debate will arise on an Opposition motion, followed by a motion relating to the draft Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of sections 1 to 9) Order 2010, followed by a motion relating to the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2010.

Tuesday 2 March-Motion to approve a Money Resolution on the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill.

Wednesday 3 March-Second Reading of the Bribery Bill [ Lords].

Thursday 4 March-Motion to approve a statutory instrument, followed by consideration of a procedural motion, followed by proceedings on House business.

Friday 5 March-Private Members' Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 8 March will include:

Monday 8 March-Remaining stages of the Crime and Security Bill.

Tuesday 9 March-Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 10 March-Estimates day (2nd allotted day). There will be a debate on alcohol, followed by a debate on taxes and charges on road users. Details will be given in the Official Report.

[ The details are as follows: Taxes and charges on road users: 6th Report from the Transport Committee of Session 2008-09, HC 103; and Government response-6th special report of Session 2008-09, HC 995; and Alcohol: 1 st Report from the Health Committee, HC 151 .]

At 7.00 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 11 March-Topical debate: subject to be announced, followed by proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill, followed by Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Assembly Members Bill [ Lords].

Friday 12 March-Private Members' Bills.

Sir George Young: The House is grateful for next week's business.

On oral questions, how satisfied is the right hon. and learned Lady that the shuffle is entirely random? What are the odds, as happened in today's Question Time, of no Labour Back Benchers being selected for one of the first 16 questions, nor a single topical question to the Energy Secretary? Have Government Back Benchers simply given up?

On the business for next Thursday, can the Leader of the House clarify today what the Deputy Leader of the House refused to clarify on Monday-namely, that all the recommendations in the Wright report that need a decision by the House will be tabled, and that she will
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do that by Monday at the latest, so that we can table the necessary amendments? Does she agree that it would be desirable for the Back-Bench business committee to be up and running at the beginning of the next Parliament? Would not a clear answer to those questions disperse the "climate of suspicion" to which she referred on Monday? Related to that, will she tell us how she intends to timetable Thursday between debates and votes? The House will want to know that there will be enough time to vote on the remaining resolutions and the selected amendments.

May we have a debate on the Procedure Committee's final report on the election of the Speaker and Deputy Speakers? As the right hon. and learned Lady will appreciate, decisions on that need to be made before the beginning of the next Parliament.

On elections, may we have a debate on the by-elections process? This week, the Electoral Commission delivered a stinging report on the Government for their unnecessary delay in scheduling the election in Glasgow, North-East. Given that there is currently a similar delay for voters in North-West Leicestershire, is it not time for the House to consider a mandatory time limit within which by-elections are held, so that we can avoid the Government placing electoral advantage over the constitutional rights of citizens to be represented here?

Turning to next Thursday, may we have an extra day on the remaining stages of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill? That is a huge piece of legislation, to which a great deal has been added-more Government amendments are expected-and 28 clauses, which is approximately one third of the Bill, have not been debated at all. Given the right hon. and learned Lady's commitment to ensure that the House has better powers of scrutiny, would not that be a good place to start?

Where is the annual debate on international development? I raised that with the right hon. and learned Lady at the last business questions and she said there would be one "as soon as possible". That debate is still not on the radar, and we need it not least so that we can debate the lessons to be learned from the tragedy in Haiti.

Related to that, may we have a debate in Government time on Afghanistan and our overseas commitments? The right hon. and learned Lady has consistently said that the House should have opportunities to debate defence, but we have not had one of the four defence debates to which we are entitled in each Session. Next Monday, the Opposition are having to give up one of their Opposition days to debate defence, at a time when the country is at war. When are the Government going to make time to debate such issues?

What has happened to the debate on international women's day? Although that falls on 8 March and a debate is scheduled in another place, there is no sign of it in our provisional business. I cannot believe that the Leader of the House plans to overlook that important event.

Finally, it will come as no surprise if I ask again for the dates of the Easter recess. We keep being told that this will be announced in the usual way, but it is rather unusual-with just 26 working days until Good Friday-for us to be kept in the dark. May I repeat my assumption that the House rises on 1 April and does not return, having listened to the Chancellor's final Budget on 24 March? Or can the right hon. and learned Lady tell us otherwise?

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