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Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Does he agree that the inconsistency in those responses is due in part to Defras not following up with local authorities their statutory obligation to employ someone responsible for energy efficiency and to report annually? Does he agree that when one councilI believe it is Southend-on-Seahas not reported in all the 11 years that the
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Lord Rooker: My Lords, the easy thing to do these days is to blame Defra for things, and I am going to plead not guilty on this one. The legislation had quite a narrow remit but thatas at least one Member of this House will testifyis the only way to get a Private Members Bill through the other place, by keeping it fairly narrow. Over a period of time, however, other legislation has been passed and other action taken to involve local government in energy efficiency programmes. That is why it was right to review this legislation.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach:My Lords, the programme is none the less way behind its target of a 30 per cent improvement in home energy efficiency in the 15 years leading up to 2010; the figure currently stands at 20 per cent. What measures has the Minister in mind to put the programme back on track? I regret to ask whether it is another casualty of Defras budget crisis.
Lord Rooker: Not guilty, my Lordshonestly. This is a purely local authority matter. Local authorities employ the people to do this. It was their responsibility to check the energy efficiency of all domestic properties within the whole of the authority and not just the properties they owned. Since then, we have had Warm Front and the other energy efficiency programmes which have come along in the past 15 years. Notwithstanding the fact that this House is currently considering the Climate Change Bill, which will involve local authorities in other issues, that legislation had no standard methodology so that one authority could not be compared with another. Nothing was written into that legislation on how to do the calculations, and it was right to review it. We have not made a decision; the responses are being analysed.
Baroness Scott of Needham Market: My Lords, the results of the pilot home information packs have now been published, and they show that less than a third of households intend to implement even one of the energy-saving measures recommended in the packs. What will the Government do to ensure that these rather expensive documents provide some practical value for householders?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I have no intention of answering that question. As the Minister who introduced the home information packs legislation in this HouseI blew hot and cold as it went through this HouseI am keeping my mouth shut on that one. Naturally, however, I will refer the question to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Lord Elton: My Lords, the 1995 Act none the less required annual reports and they were not made on a massive scale. If it is not the Governments job to see that local authorities keep to the law, whose job is it?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is a matter for local authorities and it is their professional duty. I do not know whether it was specific. The reporting requirements were considered onerous, but removing them would not prevent the need for local authorities to have a strategy. That is one of the options in the current review. It has probably been overtaken; I do not know. It may be that the Act will be retained.
Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I declare an interest as the sponsor of the said Act when I was in another place. Does the Minister recognise that there was a problem with reporting because the Government did not have a standard reporting method? If they had had one, reporting would have been much easier for local authorities. Admittedly, computers and so on have now improved and the situation is probably better. Does the Minister also recognise that the Act spawned HECA officers, the champions in their local authorities for this area of energy efficiency? They have produced tremendous results since the Act came into operation, often despite lack of support from government. I hope that we do not lose them. They are an important part of what the Act has achieved.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness. This was not the most popular issue of the day in 1995, but time has caught up with it and it is now a central policy plank for all the parties. The issue is not HECA officers being made redundant but other matters. As I say, there are other programmes nowthe energy efficient, the carbon reduction programme, the Warm Front. There is a huge range of programmes on the energy efficiency of dwellings and other buildings. Those were not remotely on the agenda in 1995.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, further to that answer, while I accept that new systems and projects have come into being, can the Minister give us any information on why there was no reporting before they came into being? My understanding is that quite a few of those are recent initiatives.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, we will sign the main manufacture contract for the aircraft carriers when we have achieved the best alignment of planned annual expenditure, work schedule and commercial arrangements. In the interim, we continue to place supporting contracts such as those placed
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Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, it has been 10 long years since SDR, so what is still holding up the final signature? There will be severe industrial consequences if the decision is not made very soon. Given the completely unacceptable defence capability gap that will arise, will it be possible to keep HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious in service until the new carriers arrive?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the delay is not 10 years; the Government announced the programme on 25 July last year, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. We are currently trying to ensure that we get the right profile of spending while maintaining the in-service date. It is worth paying some attention to try to get that right and to work through the incentivised contract that we have on this important project. On our existing capabilities, the noble Lord will be aware that HMS Illustrious had a major refit recently and is due to be in service until at least 2015. Under current plans, HMS Ark Royal will come out of service in 2012. Those dates are obviously kept under review.
Lord Boyce: My Lords, can the Minister please confirm that the in-service dates are still to be 2014 and 2016although it is difficult to see how they will be held to if the contract continues to be delayed? Has the training pipeline to deliver the right, qualified crew by those in-service dates been held up as a result of the contract delay? It is very important that that is maintained, especially for specialised aircrew.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord makes a significant point about training; we give that direct attentionwe need to ensure that everything works and is going in the right direction. The Secretary of State for Defence in the other place recently made it clear that there had been no change in in-service dates.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will welcome the prospect of greater military co-operation between this country and France. Will the Prime Minister be raising with President Sarkozy the prospect of greater French involvement in the carrier programme?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the French have been involved in this project for a significant period. They have already paid £70 million towards the development costs of the project. French people are working in Abbey Wood as part of the integrated project team. If the French decide to go ahead with their own carrier, they will pay another £45 million into the project. Our understanding is that they are not yet in a position to announce their intentions. It may well be that this comes up in discussions because defence is high on the agenda at this summit but I should be very surprised if we got an announcement
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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, in terms of capabilities, the intention is to use the Joint Strike Fighterwe are in a joint project with the Americans on that. It has never been the case that that would be ready for the in-service dates that we have announced. The Harrier will be used in the interim; that has virtually always been the case.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I am not sure that that will actually be done at the bottom of the Prime Ministers garden but the construction work will involve a very large number of people and provide a very large number of British jobs from the south coast to the Clyde and Rosyth, which is very close to the Prime Ministers constituency.
Lord Elton: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Astor of Hever is usually pretty careful in what he says. He suggested that the programme had started 10 years ago; the noble Baroness said that it started last year. Can she please do something that is satisfactory to all to reconcile the two statements?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, people in the MoDsome of whom are not far from me at the momenthave been pressing for this programme for a very long time, but the announcement that it would go ahead was made on 25 July last year in another place.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, did I understand the Minister to say that the Joint Strike Fighter, which is an essential element of this new carrier force, will not be available in 2014 and 2016, when the two ships are due to be available? Bearing in mind that the Sea Harrier was withdrawn in 2006, that seems an unconscionably long time to have no aircraft at sea.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, as I understand it, it has always been the case that there would be a transition from the Sea Harrier to the Joint Strike Fighter and that that would be a carefully managed programme. I do not think that there has been any significant change in that intention. As I understand it, that was the case from the moment that the project was announced last July.
Lord Elton: My Lords, perhaps I may trespass on the time of the House again. In earlier answers, the noble Baroness has assured me that there will be no interval in which there is no fixed-wing cover for fleets
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Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, as I said to the House some moments ago, we will ensure that the transition from the Sea Harrier to the Joint Strike Fighter is carefully managed. As I understand it, that has been the plan since the start of the JSF programme.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, some very worrying reports are coming out of the United States on weight problems in relation to the JSF programmeparticularly the STOVL version, which is due to go on carriers. Are Her Majestys Government giving some attention to a fallback position? It seems rather idiotic that there are reports of converting the Eurofighter when there is a perfectly decent French aircraft built to fly off carriers that might be viable for this purpose.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I know that there are those who think that a marinised Typhoon would be a suitable alternative, but our judgment remains that the JSF is still the optimum solution to this countrys requirements.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I wish the Lord Speaker a very happy birthday.
Moved, That Standing Order 41 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with tomorrow to allow the Motion standing in the name of Baroness Andrews to be taken before the Motion standing in the name of Lord Harries of Pentregarth.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 4 February be approved. 10th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 18 March.(Baroness Thornton.)
Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 19, 20 and 27 February be approved. 12th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 18 March.(Lord West of Spithead.)
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 31 January be approved. 10th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 18 March.(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)
Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 18 February be approved. 11th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 18 March.(Baroness Thornton.)
Moved. That the draft orders laid before the House on 20 and 27 February be approved. 12th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, considered in Grand Committee on 18 March.(Lord Bach.)
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