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Baroness Strange: My Lords, can the Minister say anything about the dolphins currently being used to detect mines in the Gulf?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I regret to say that, so far as I am aware, that is classified information.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, is the Minister disappointed that, for the second time today in response to Questions, we are being told of a delay? There was a delay of five years in connection with the first Question and a timescale delay on this very important Question, as the Minister acknowledged. Can he tell the House who is carrying out the research, how quickly they will report and how soon we shall see some action?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the consultation exercise will be completed within the normal three-month period, but the research has already started and most of it will be completed by this time next year. However, I do not believe that there is a delay in terms of decisions being made on the basis of the information that we have received over the past year. Indeed, we have started the process of discussing this matter at EU level. Ultimately, whatever regulations apply to minimise damage to dolphins within UK waters need also to apply to vessels other than British ones.

Lord Elton: My Lords, do I deduce from the last answer and from the one given a moment ago to the Liberal Democrat Benches that the Government have no writ running over the use of nets in British waters by non-British trawlers? Do we understand that the Government can control only what British trawlers fish with in British waters and that they have no say over what, for example, Spanish trawlers use?

Lord Whitty: No, my Lords. That is the wrong implication. The question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, was whether we would provide funding for pingers, which send a signal to dolphins to avoid the nets altogether but apply only to fixed nets. That would be a UK decision. The regulations on mesh size are EU regulations. They should be enforced on all EU and other vessels fishing in EU waters.

Energy Efficiency

2.58 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Whitty: My Lords, as the energy White Paper indicated, we need a step change in energy efficiency to deliver big increases in energy efficiency in order to meet the demands on the economy and the environment that energy policy requires. The White Paper contains a diverse range of measures and some are already in place. They include the energy efficiency commitment, upgraded building regulations, higher product standards targets, VAT reductions, the Warm Front programme, the Home Energy Conservation Act, and the provision of targeted advice and information. The energy White Paper will reinforce these measures and set out plans to consult on others.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that detailed reply. However, bearing in mind that the Government's objective is to double the rate of improvement of energy efficiency in the home and that substantial market barriers, such as relatively low prices and wide consumer choice, stand in the way, can he give an indication of the additional measures, apart from those already in place, that the Government have in mind to introduce and can he say how soon they will be introduced? In that connection, can he indicate when we are likely to hear the result of the domestic energy efficiency consultation launched by the Treasury last year and completed in October, to which many people, including myself, responded?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the additional measures announced in the White Paper include: the extension of the energy efficiency commitment beyond 2005—the first time that that has been committed to—bringing forward to 2005 the next revision of the building standards; discussion with the industry about the skills required to deliver energy efficiency—that is, so far as concerns the installers and so on; setting out commitments on procurement and energy efficiency for the Government's own estate; reviewing current policies on the climate change levy; and the commitment to publish next year an implementation plan on how demand-side mechanisms would interact. They include areas on which the Treasury consulted and which effectively are a way to bring economic and fiscal measures to bear on the issue.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, what progress is being made on existing houses—the older stock houses—to bring them up to date in terms of energy efficiency as compared with new-build houses?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the latest range of building regulations require, for example, a higher specification of boiler in the refurbishment of existing buildings. The next range, to which I referred in response to the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, on improved buildings standards to operate from 2005 will include standards relating to existing as well as new buildings. The noble Baroness is right: the major advance so far has been in new build rather than existing build.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, given the Government's commitment to energy efficiency, is it

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still their intention to cut the amount of money being spent on the Warm Front programme, which actually goes to help those who are in fuel poverty and in most need of energy efficiency measures in their homes?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I regret to tell the noble Baroness that I am as yet not in a position to announce the details of the Defra budget for next year, to which she referred. However, I can assure her that the target set for the number of homes treated will be met for the five-year period over which the Warm Front programme runs.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that one step to alert householders to the importance of energy efficiency would be to establish a nationwide energy efficiency rating scheme, based on the Government's own standard assessment procedure, which it is estimated demonstrates that the energy efficiency in the average British home is about half what it really should be?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. In the context of housing legislation and information required on sale of houses, we are looking at the way in which energy is rated for the building. Of course the building itself is not the sole contribution towards the energy use of buildings; domestic appliances of all kinds are very important. While we have made some progress in the white goods sector, in terms of labelling and therefore steering—if you like—consumer choice, we need to make more progress, particularly in electronic goods and, as I mentioned earlier, on boiler installation. The totality of the domestic contribution towards energy use will be reduced as a result of these energy efficiency measures.

Emergency Planning

3.3 p.m.

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether emergency planning has considered the case for a special national warning system in the United Kingdom.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the emergency services warn and advise those in the immediate vicinity of an incident. Away from the incident the public will be advised if necessary in line with the Government's "Go In, Stay In, Tune In" doctrine. We have made arrangements for the media to transmit detailed warning advice and guidance to the public by TV, radio, Teletext, Ceefax and through websites as appropriate. Such arrangements are appropriate to existing and anticipated threat levels.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his Answer. Is he aware that his department—the Home Office—put out on its website last week suggestions that we all should buy bottled water, have a torch and buy tinned food? Is he also

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aware that many of us do not spend all our time surfing the Home Office website? If that advice was supposed to be taken seriously, does he not think that it should have been put out by other means as well?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Home Office website put out a series of sensible tips in relation to what to do, which included having a radio, batteries and some canned food at home. That is not a suggestion to stockpile. It is sensible. It has been widely promulgated. It is the sensible way forward. Remember that when an incident occurs the emergency services will give directions to those in the immediate vicinity. That is the right approach.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I remind the noble and learned Lord that I have been asking questions for almost two years now about the National Attack Warning System, which is not yet fully operational. It seems extraordinary that, when a threat to homeland security has never been higher in a long time, this system is not yet fully operational. Does the noble and learned Lord think it would be better to set government targets for their own performance and not levy them on all other bodies?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we think the ability to warn and to respond to an incident is appropriate to the level of threat at the moment. As to the question of whether one can evacuate an area, for example, in the middle of a town, I simply draw the attention of the House to what happened in Manchester in the mid-1990s when there was a major threat; 75,000 people were evacuated from the centre of Manchester in 90 minutes. That shows how efficiently the emergency services operate.

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