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This is a Private Members Bill and the noble Lord referred to may. A private Members may may not be the same as a government may, which we often discover means shall, although there is some dependency on central Government towards the end of the Bill. We believe that there should be discretion and room for local decision-making. I was at a conference addressed by the Minister for Local Government, John Healey, on Wednesday when he called on local authorities to be ambitious; to use all the powers and mechanisms available. Cambridge City Council was ambitious but was tripped up by the inspectorate. It would not have been had this Bill and its regulations been in place.
The Bill and what follows from it will contribute to pushing forward microgeneration as part of a necessarily much wider programme. Currently this is a lifestyle choicenot a cheap choice either. The Energy Saving Trusts recent report, Generating the Future, commented on the costs and lifestyle aspects and suggested that overcoming them would require hard decisions by the Government to overcome vested interest groups. I liked its comment that that would be a harder decision than permitting some nuclear power stations or other new sources of energy. It also commented on the lack of incentives in the long term, the lack of information and an inadequate skills base, and said that installation costs were higher than the costs of the equipment itself. All of that rings very true with me.
I had a look at the departments website because, in the Commons, there was much discussion about the Planning Policy Statement: Planning and Climate Change. The guidance on it was described on the website as work in progress with the suggestions from the public coincidentally having been requested by today. Is the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in a position to give us a preview of what might come out of that and to share the Governments thinking on the regulations, policies and guidance that are essential elements of this Bill? The Bill depends on those. There is much more to do but, despite todays date, we on these Benches hope that this is an auspicious day for the Bill.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, before I get into the content of the Bill and put the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, somewhat at rest about the Governments intentions, it would be remiss of me not to join in the general welcome to my friend the noble Lord, Lord Mogg; or, as he has been known to me for 25 years, John Mogg. Only John Mogg could make a maiden speech on the 13th of the month on a Friday, and a very good speech it was. The House will undoubtedly benefit from the noble Lords depth of
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The noble Lord, Lord Mogg, will bring to our House not just that knowledge and expertise but a calm and thoughtful approach to our deliberations. He could not have arrived in the House at a better time, when we are all caught up in considering the implications and challenges of the recent hikes in oil prices, and the challenges to the fuel and energy market which we in government now face. This is an auspicious day for the House, and a particularly beneficial one for the Cross Benches, which will greatly gain from his expertise in, and knowledge and understanding of, these issues.
I also congratulate the honourable Member for Sevenoaks, Michael Fallon, on his diligent and hard work in bringing forward this useful Bill, which introduces an element of localism to debates on energy. It is a substantial achievement for a Member of another place to bring a Bill forward so successfully and to have achieved such a high level of cross-party support in doing so. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, has spoken eloquently in support of the Bill. While it has clearly had some critics, it is now in good shape. My noble friend Lord Judd made some interesting observations and remarks in his thoughtful contribution about the importance and value of a form of localism in the energy sector. I am sure that the Bill will put a lot of minds at rest, and give a degree of reassurance to those wishing to get involved in microgeneration at a local level.
Noble Lords will not be surprised to know that when the Bill was introduced in another place the Government were initially sceptical. We wondered whether it would add to the existing legislative framework. However, once we had sat down with the honourable Member for Sevenoaks and discussed the aims and objectives of the Bill, we were convinced there was a place for such legislation. The amendments debated and agreed as the Bill progressed in another place have ensured that it achieves its intended purpose, and it has turned into a workable piece of legislation. This has been achieved without compromising its original aims. The Bill is clear, coherent in its application and deserves our support.
Although it has been brought to our attention by the Delegated Powers Committee that the Bill requires a further technical amendment, that does not detract from its value. This is unfortunate, but something that we must put right for the Bill to be watertight. It transpires that the drafting of the amendments to the Bill lacks sufficient clarity in one respect. Clause 1(2)(a) could be said to create a new power to make regulations to set energy efficiency standards. The intention was not to create a new power but instead to refer to regulation-making powers contained in other legislation. We will lay an amendment in Committee which will make this clear.
The House is already well aware that tackling climate change must be taken seriously. The Bill sits together with a wide package of initiatives being undertaken to tackle climate change, including the Governments climate change and energy Bills and their broad and
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The list could go on. However, we are today considering this Bill, which enables local planning authorities to set requirements for energy use and energy efficiency in their local plans. Debating the detail of our wider proposals and measures on energy and climate change is for another day. I therefore turn to why the Government supported the amendments that were agreed in the other place. In doing so, I will briefly set out what we are doing to secure cuts in carbon emissions from new buildings.
Our zero-carbon homes programme sets a clear pathway for higher standards for new homes. Progressive tightening of building regulations will require major reductions in carbon emissions from new homes to get to zero carbon by 2016. This equates to level 6 of the code for sustainable homes, with intermediate steps in 2010, when we will set building regulations at the standard of level 3 of the code, and 2013, when we will set level 4 standards in the building regulations. We have a similar ambition for new non-domestic buildings to be zero-carbon by 2019.
Our climate change planning policy statement sets out how local planning supports achievement of the zero-carbon targets, alongside meeting community needs for economic and housing development. This is an unprecedented scale of ambition. We welcome the industry support we have for this, from industry, housebuilders, the supply chain, local authorities and non-government organisations. The Callcutt review, which reported last year, confirmed that the programme was achievable. However, as with everything else in this sector, it is a huge challenge. It will require industry to get its supply chains into shape to provide zero-carbon products. It will need investment in skills and processes. Above all, we need a co-ordinated programme to minimise duplication and avoid wasted effort. This needs a stable framework to provide certainty for investment over the next eight years.
The Callcutt report raised the legitimate concern that if housebuilders had to deal with a plethora of different standards, however well intentioned, that could get in the way of a co-ordinated approach. We must avoid a situation where there are different building standards all over the country. It is in no ones interest to fragment building standards. However, we recognise that some housebuilders and local authorities will want to go further, faster than the national timetable, and there will be circumstances where it is justified to do so. This will be important for exemplar projects, for example.
We said in our Building a Greener Future policy statement last July that we welcomed housebuilders and local authorities working together on exemplar
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The PPS also makes it clear that there may be situations where it could be appropriate for planning authorities to anticipate levels of building sustainability in advance of those set nationally. Clearly, local authorities need to demonstrate that circumstances warrant this; where, for example, there are opportunities to use renewables to achieve higher code levels on energy performance. It is also important that, when policies are developed, they should be evidence-based, have regard to viability and not compromise delivery of housing trajectories or affordable housing.
With the amendments agreed in the other place, the Bill and the PPS now complement each other on this important policy area. They provide a mutually reinforcing framework to achieve sensible and positive outcomes on building sustainability. That is why we welcome the Bills clarity that the energy efficiency standards should be recognised standards which have gone through a proper process of review, discussion and debate. In practical terms, for homes, this means the code for sustainable homes.
The amendments made in the other place leave it open for standards to be prepared by government or by other bodies, such as the Building Research Establishment, which can then be endorsed by the Government. This flexibility has been widely welcomed.
During the passage of the Bill in the other place, there was debate about what might be meant by reasonable requirements. The amendments brought forward by the honourable Member for Sevenoaks and agreed in the other place have tackled this successfully: requirements must not be inconsistent with national policy. This is important because legislative powers for local authorities cannot be set within a policy vacuum. There is a broader policy framework within which local authorities must operate if we are to avoid unintended consequences. This includes the importance of ensuring individual consumer choice about their energy providers, through a competitive market. Clearly there are technical standards needed to ensure safety and security of supply. Also, the climate change PPS sets out clear steps on testing local requirements to make sure they are reasonable. These tests are not there to tie councils down but are simple steps to ensure that what is proposed fully reflects local potential and, more importantly, is deliverablein short, that they are reasonable.
On local green energy from local renewable and local low-carbon sources, our new planning rules in the climate change PPS set out our Merton-plus approach. We expect a council-wide, Merton-style rule for cutting carbon by using local renewable and low-carbon energy in new development plus tailored targets for sites where there are bigger opportunities than the council-wide target. We do not want the average to be the height of ambition. The Bill reinforces the direction of this planning guidance. We welcome this.
I hope I have outlined why the Government feel that the Bill should be supported. Through discussion and amendment, the risk elements discussed in the other place have been removed. We believe the Bill we now have will strengthen and enhance our existing planning guidance and other measures we are taking through legislation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about guidance and suggested that it was work in progress. The PPS on climate change was published last year and there is work in progress on draft practice guidance which will support it. It, of course, has to be consistent with the PPS process.
Having said all that, and given our warm welcome to the Bill, I simply observe that it is in the good hands of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, who I am sure will charm us with his knowledge of its importance and value, particularly to the local government sector. Our resolve will be strengthened as we look at its planning aspects, notably through the advice that the Committee will receive from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who is very knowledgeable in this field. I know that my noble friend Lord Judd will be an ever present, passionate voice on the Benches behind me, arguing for an intelligent approach to this issue. I am sure that we will be well advised by the calm and reassuring words of the noble Lord, Lord Mogg, whom I once again congratulate on his contribution to your Lordships proceedings this morning.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I am delighted with the support for the Bill from all sides of the House, which augurs well for its progress. I very much congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Mogg, on his excellent maiden speech. I hope that he will participate in our deliberations on the Bill, which may be fairly brief. We look forward to his participation in the rest of our work. I again congratulate him on his excellent maiden speech.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, as always, raised several points. I think that even he agreed with the Bills ethos and did not say much against it, which also augurs well for its progress. As I expected, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, with her local government background, very much supported localism and the involvement of local councils.
The Minister referred to a government amendment to the Bill. I do not envisage there being any problem with that but we shall discuss it in Committee. He referred to the amendments that had been agreed in the other place, which appear to have made the Bill acceptable to the Government. I am pleased that the Government have now agreed to support the Bill and have accepted it as a worthwhile piece of legislation.
There are already a lot of local initiatives and I am sure that the Bill will encourage them. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to a supermarket. I refer to park-and-ride sites where energy is being generated by windmill power. Therefore, all sorts of things are happening and the more we encourage local authorities to innovate and come up with ideas, the more we shall do to help reach the formidable targets which the Government have set, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mogg, referred.
It is a pleasure for me to introduce the Bill today. Like all good Private Members Bills it is a short and simple piece of legislation, which I hope will have a strong and sustained effect if it takes its place on the statute book. Some noble Lords will know that I have form as regards Private Members Bills. Building on the success that I have had with carers Private Members Bills, I believe that we should use such Bills as building blocks. If this Bill makes progress today, as I hope it will, we must continue to try to build on its provisions and unlock its potential as time goes by.
As many knowledgeable noble Lords around the Chamber will know, there are an estimated 1.6 million children identified as having special educational needs in our schools. That is 19.7 per cent of the school population. Each and every one of those needs is different. Although we categorise type of need, we all know that each child faces a unique set of circumstances and challenges, as do their parents. These differences may lie in the classroom, the playground or the home, but one factor is constant throughout: there is not sufficient information available to those who are best placed to support these children.
We need to obtain better information for parents, for schools, for governors and, most importantly, for the children themselves. This Bill will help to secure that information. It contains only two provisions. First, it would give the Secretary of State further powers to collect information which he considers will help to improve outcomes for children with special educational needs, and explicitly states that this information, when collected, must be published annually.
Secondly, the Bill outlines exactly what outcomes must be monitored. These outcomes are broadly in line with the Government's Every Child Matters agenda and reflect not only educational attainment but emotional and physical well-being, contribution to society and economic well-being. In my view the Bill fits very neatly into the framework for SEN set out in the Children's Plan published earlier this year. If it helps to deliver on some of the proposals within the plan, that should be welcomed, but I hope too that it can go further and provide Ministers with a basis on which they can make further strides in mapping out existing provision and plans for the future.
In time the practical implications of this Bill should assist Ministers in ironing out the variations in provision which exist across the country. If we are serious about improving not only outcomes but raising expectation,
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The scale and complexity of policies to deal with special educational needs in our schools are as complex and varied as the needs themselves. That is precisely why we need greater information in order fully to understand the existing web of provision. Local authorities are faced with local challenges whether they are cultural, social or economic. Depending on the local authority's policy there are bound to be some discrepancies in the recording of special educational needs and the awarding of statements. However, the fact still remains that at a local level there is far too marked a variation in recorded incidence of SEN from as low as 13.5 per cent in one local authority to more than 27 per cent in another. That is unacceptable.
The provisions laid out in the Bill give us a golden opportunity to place a spotlight on the performance of local authorities in delivering for children with SEN. We can identify and introduce best practice and ensure effective use of time and resources among staff. A report from the Audit Commission published last year showed that the average cost of placing a pupil outside their home local authority is just over £57,000 a year. Ensuring quality provision across the board will help to cut back on the number of out-of-authority placements and, in time, reduce the cost incurred by the public purse.
I understand that Ministers have undertaken to assess the possibility of increasing the categorisation of children with SEN down to the school action level of need. That would be a very welcome step which would provide clarity to approximately 1 million children and their families who are currently in the position whereby they have been told that they have a special educational need but have not been told what that need actually is.
Many parents face a frustrating experience as they try to navigate their way through the system to secure the best possible support for their children. I used to see that all the time when I headed up a carers movement, when distressed parents were trying to find their way through the bureaucracy and form-filling. Although parent partnership services do a valuable job, there remains a suspicion among parents that those services are not always as impartial as they could be, and that needs to be addressed.
It would be of little use simply to add to the myriad statistics that can be found in the backwaters of the DCSF website. Therefore, I hope that it would be the intention of Ministers, should this Bill go on to become law, to produce a hard copy report that would be made available annually to parents. I emphasise that the report should be in plain English and easily digestible for the reader.
From previous experience with Private Members Bills, I know that their passage through this House and the other place can at times be tricky. The Bill has reached us with no amendments from the point of its conception, and I hope that it can remain in its current form. None the less, in the other place there was much discussion about the role that the teaching workforce plays in identifying and supporting the children concerned. Improving outcomes for pupils,
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The Minister may inform us of plans for the introduction of a survey of the teaching workforce that will be introduced in the next few years, which is to be welcomed. It is important to note that there is unanimity of opinion that initial teacher training must instil confidence in our teachers to accurately identify children with SEN. In addition, we need to give teachers access to the kind of ongoing professional development that will enable them to build on initial training and develop specialist skills for supporting pupils with special educational needs.
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