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Lord Elton: I am not really involved in such procedures but, as an interested spectator, I picked up the Bill to look for a definitions clause and did not find one. That is where one would expect to find elucidation of the subsection that my noble friend seeks to amend. Without her amendment, the subsection seems virtually meaningless.
The Earl of Erroll: The amendment is what drew me to take a look at the Bill. I fully understand the reason for wanting a definition, as it is a very good idea. However, if we heated our home to 21 degrees Celsius in the living rooms and 18 degrees Celsius in the occupied bedrooms, we would be bankrupt. That is extremely hot. I think of it as 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the living room, which is a nice warm summer's day in Scotland, and 64.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the bedroom, which is what we used to keep our living rooms at.
At home, we keep to about 18 degrees Celsius in the living rooms and 16 degrees Celsius in the bedrooms. We sleep a lot better for it and it will kill a few more bugs. If someone feels cold they can put on a woolly jumper. That will help the farming community and, as long as it is a natural wool jumper, will not use so much oil, which is turned into the plastics for artificial fibres. If people want to have a definition of fuel poverty, I would highly recommend a slightly lower one. I cannot remember what every degree Celsius that raises the temperatures takes in energy and carbon terms, but it is quite phenomenal on a countrywide basis.
Lord Whitty: It has been an interesting debate on the temperatures that people prefer, which obviously vary according to the nature of the household, the age of the occupants, draughts and so forth. It is important that we do not have as tight a definition on the heat side as the amendment would require.
There have been some quite complex discussions among the fuel poverty cognoscenti for a number of years about what constitutes income and fuel costs in this context. The fuel poverty strategy, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred, and the Government's annual report on that strategy use two different definitions because a consensus has not yet been reached. That is not an attempt to fudge the figures because, it is hoped, any changes in the income and cost side and the fuel efficiency side would move both sets of figures in the same direction. However, there is no standard definition of fuel poverty and at least two definitions are used in the Government's own strategy. Given the compromise of having two sets of figures, which have been accepted by those interested in fuel poverty, it would not therefore be helpful to adopt the amendment. I would not be prepared to accept the amendment.
Baroness Wilcox: I thank the Minister for that answer, which is now on the record. I thank my noble friend Lord Elton for his most helpful clarification. I was entertained by the interventions of the noble Earl, Lord Erroll. I hope that he does not invite me to stay with him in Scotland too often because I should freeze and have to bring my own "hottie" with me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 4, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 to Clause 2 and Amendments Nos. 7 to 9 to Clause 3. Clauses 2 and 3 are identical, except to the extent that Clause 2 relates to England and Clause 3 relates to Wales. Clause 1(1) refers to the United Kingdom no fewer than four times in seven lines.
The Government are claiming to have a uniform sustainable energy policy for the United Kingdom. It is therefore difficult to understand why it is necessary to legislate piecemeal as between England and Wales and to omit Northern Ireland and Scotland. The
Amendments Nos. 4 and 7 modify the subsections in Clauses 2 and 3 and leave out the restriction which limits the so-called "energy efficiency aims" created by the clause to residential accommodation. Why should the Government not have energy efficiency aims for industry and commerce? Have Ministers not seen office tower blocks blazing with light on every floor long after everyone has gone home? Have Ministers not stepped into offices which are heated to resemble Turkish baths in the winter and cooled to resemble refrigerators in the summer? I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, will agree with that. The waste of fuel in factories can be no less extensive.
It is true that according to subsection (3) of the clauses, the Secretary of State or the Welsh Assembly may designate further efficiency aims. But that is just pie in the sky. In any case, legislation is not needed to enable a government to promote efficiency in any field whatever. Perhaps the reason why the Government want to restrict their obligations to produce an energy efficiency aim to residential accommodation is that householders are easier to bully than the world of commerce.
Furthermore, under subsection (4) "reasonable steps"whatever they may bemust be taken by the Government or the Welsh Assembly to achieve those aims. What are "reasonable steps"? Are they subsidies towards insulation or a limitation on the amount of permitted lighting such as was imposed on shops by the post-war Labour government, for example? No doubt the Government will frankly admit to the Committee that their energy efficiency aims are mere window-dressing and that apart from exhortations in the press they address home owners. They are neither prepared to impose obligations on industry to save energy nor to provide it with incentives to do so.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 to Clause 2 and Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 to Clause 3 are consequential amendments leaving out the word "residential". The sum total of the six amendments is to require the Government to have so called "energy efficiency aims" for all users and not merely impose obligations on householders. I beg to move.
Lord Ezra: There is no doubt whatever that homes in Britain are not as energy efficient as they should be. The White Paper was right to pay much attention to that. We are waiting to hear the measures the Government will adopt, apart from exhortation, to induce people to improve their energy efficiency. There is at present a Treasury consultation document, which must be answered by 24th Octoberand I hope to do sosuggesting specific ways, particularly of a fiscal nature, which might encourage people to improve energy efficiency in their homes. A great deal of importance will attach to that document because it will add substance to the Government's broad objectives in the White Paper. No doubt we shall have an opportunity to consider and debate that at a future stage.
Of course, office accommodation must also be considered, and the White Paper refers to it. It mentions energy savings in the industrial and commercial sector, and I assume that the annual report will cover that area. Again, we would like the Minister to confirm that, although commercial and, indeed, industrial accommodation are not referred to in the Bill, the annual report will comment on the 135 objectives stated in the White Paper, which include energy efficiency in commercial and industrial accommodation.
Lord Whitty: The Energy White Paper includes sections indicating the savings required from different sectors of the economy, including the commercial and residential sectors. Clearly, therefore, the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, will be covered by the annual report. The residential sector is picked out in this respect because the policies for achieving the energy saving objective will be different for the commercial and household areas.
A number of existing policies relate to the household area, many of which are currently under review. Examples are: the Energy Efficiency Commitment, which effectively places a commitment on the fuel supplying companies for domestic purposes; the Warm Front programme, which, although a fuel poverty programme, also has effects on fuel efficiency; the consultation on fiscal measures, to which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, referred; and proposed changes in the building regulations. All those relate to domestic policy, the domestic sector and the achievement of energy efficiency in that sector. Therefore, it does not appear sensible to lump that sector together with the commercial sector.
The signals that we intend to give, and the support provided to, the domestic sector are not necessarily the same as one would give to the commercial sector. Indeed, much of the energy saving within the commercial sector should come as a result of people considering energy costs as a contribution to their total costs and therefore to their profit. If the market were operating properly, many of the energy cost savings in offices, businesses and factories should be achieved through normal effective management. Nevertheless, as has been suggested, the policiesperhaps a form of the EEC, or whateverfor commercial purposes might also help in that respect. But they will not be the same as the policies which operate within the domestic sector.
However, with regard to the central question, as we are still talking largely about reporting, we shall report on the commercial, business and industrial sectors' achievements in relation to the energy efficiency objective, as well as those of the domestic sector.
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