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Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): I thank my hon. Friend for those reassurances. I, like many hon. Members, have been on the receiving end of lobbying from landlords associations. In Committee, which I hope the Bill will reach, will my hon. Friend deal with the evidence taken by the Social Justice Committee in the Scottish Parliament? Some of the wilder claims that have been made about chaos and non-compliance clearly are not true. Will my hon. Friend agree to consider the evidence?

Dr. Turner: Yes, I shall be glad to do that.

The Bill is not aimed at landlords. For good landlords, it will improve matters, so that they are all working on a clear, level playing field. There need to be clear standards, and if we are to achieve the energy conservation and fuel poverty targets to which virtually all of us aspire, HMOs must be a part of the picture.

I am extremely gratified by the wide support that the Bill has received from all parts of the House and from outside. It is a piece of legislation whose time has come, and I commend it to the House in the hope that all hon. Members will agree to its Second Reading.

10.4 am

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I am grateful to be called to speak in the debate. I am pleased to be a sponsor of the Bill and to ask the House for its full support.

The purpose of the Bill is to help to meet three targets previously agreed by the House and by successive Governments. The first is to make a 30 per cent.

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improvement in energy efficiency in residential accommodation by 2010. That target was set in the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995. The second objective is to end fuel poverty within 15 years. That was the purpose of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000 presented by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess). Thirdly, the Bill aims to assist the Government's commitment to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2010.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) has wide support for his measure. Early-day motion 20 has been signed by 231 hon. Members, and I know of the hon. Gentleman's herculean efforts, particularly through the all-party parliamentary warm homes group, to undertake consultations before the introduction of the Bill. I congratulate him on that.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud): Credit is also due to Ron Bailey and his roadshow, which has visited many parts of the country, including Stroud district, to go through the Bill line by line with councillors and other interested parties, to make sure that the measure is truly consensual and to get maximum support.

Sir Sydney Chapman: I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Ron Bailey has played an enormous part in preparing the Bill.

I had better declare a technical interest. Many moons ago—I do not know how many of those were blue moons—I qualified as an architect, although I have not practised since I was first elected to the House in 1970. However, I pay annually a not inconsiderable subscription to the Royal Institute of British Architects. The more I think about it, the more I think that I ought to declare a reverse financial interest. I pay the RIBA in order to be able to call myself an architect.

The objective of the Bill is to achieve the targets set in the various other measures. I do not believe that the first target, a 30 per cent. energy efficiency improvement in residential accommodation, has a cat in hell's chance of being realised, unless the provisions of the Bill get on to the statute book. As the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown said, to meet the 30 per cent. target by 2010, we should have been at least at 8 per cent. by last year. We are nowhere near that figure.

There are good reasons for that, which must be addressed. The first is that the target in the 1995 Act was only ministerial guidance. The 30 per cent. improvement ought to be a statutory duty.

Mr. Boswell: My hon. Friend will no doubt have read the Energy Saving Trust's proposals towards an energy efficiency strategy to 2020. The summary states:

Does that not concern my hon. Friend?

Sir Sydney Chapman: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for providing that information, which I had not intended to give in my short contribution. I am glad that those figures are on the record.

The second reason for our failure to meet the targets is that the energy conservation authorities—basically, district councils and London boroughs—do not have the

30 Nov 2001 : Column 1231

monitoring and co-ordinating powers that they need. Very few of those energy conservation authorities have the necessary powers to deal with energy efficiency in the private rented sector, especially in houses in multiple occupation. My researches show that about 1.5 million dwelling units in England alone are homes in multiple occupation. Generally, but not entirely, the worst and least energy efficient accommodation is in such homes. I am absolutely convinced that there is a need for a specific local authority officer to become the spokesman of authority, to co-ordinate and monitor, and to take the lead in fulfilling the Bill's objectives.

As the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown has admitted—indeed, we have been reminded of this point by hon. Members on both sides of the House—part 3 will be viewed by some as the most contentious, as well as the most comprehensive, part of the Bill. It deals with the introduction of a registration scheme for houses in multiple occupation. It would set up a new registration scheme and repeal sections 345 and 346 of the Housing Act 1985. Once the Bill gets on to the statute book— I hope that it will do so—it will repeal part II of that Act, which relates to the revocation of existing registration schemes. Such schemes are already in operation, but the Bill would introduce a new, more modern and wider scheme.

As the hon. Gentleman said, clause 5 defines the meaning of multiple occupation. I think that he would agree that the old definition,

has been found to have been inadequate after a number of court cases. I think that the new definition,

is much more appropriate. As the new regulations with which the Bill deals are wide ranging, the hon. Gentleman was right to adopt the affirmative resolution procedure, so that the Minister can introduce them in the form of secondary legislation that can be debated and, if necessary, amended by the House.

Part 3 is vital if the target set by the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 is to be met. The hon. Gentleman told us that the Bill was supported by almost 100 local authorities and by the Greater London Assembly, as well as by many national organisations. It is important to remember that the Bill does not seek to make new policy as much as to ensure that existing policy can be met. I ask hon. Members who have doubts about certain aspects of the Bill to remember that. I also believe that the Bill would have very little effect on public spending. The Government must have provided the funding after the enactment of the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, which was previously a private Member's Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West. The Bill would carry out policy that has already been agreed to.

If we are to be serious about tackling global warming, promoting sustainable development, reducing harmful emissions, encouraging energy conservation and eliminating fuel poverty, we need to do more than merely mouth words. We need to take hard decisions on the ground to achieve those aims and objectives. I believe that the hon. Gentleman's Bill is a much-needed step towards achieving the objectives that he has set out and I commend it to the House.

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10.14 am

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): I do not intend to speak for too long, because I am perfectly aware that many colleagues wish to contribute and that we do not know exactly how long the debate will take.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) for introducing the Bill, although I could not help but reflect during his speech and that of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) on what has happened in the past; indeed, I can now think back many years. I do not want to be too political about my view that one of the biggest mistakes that has been made in respect of home energy was the abolition of improvement grants, which would have gone a long way towards helping with fuel poverty and energy efficiency. I do not have the up-to-date figures, but three, four or perhaps five years ago, about 17,000 houses in Coventry were without basic amenities, which include central heating and so on. That was one of the areas in which a big mistake was made. I am sure that that demand is growing, as well as the figure to which I referred, and I imagine that that is repeated throughout the country. That is one of the reasons why I support the Bill.

Many local authorities already have energy efficiency or energy saving schemes, although they have been very patchy over the years. The problem with many of the schemes is that they seek to budget and encourage saving. That is the essential strategy, which means that such schemes are very much about saving money rather than doing a bit more, although they are obviously constricted in many ways as to how they encourage people to be energy efficient.

I was interested to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown say that at least 100 authorities are not doing very much about energy efficiency. That is another area of concern. Although we laud the Government for the targets that they have set, one of the weaknesses that emerged from his speech is that there does not seem to be much co-ordination within Departments on doing what is necessary. If we are to establish strategies and set targets, the first thing that we should do is use ourselves as a good example, on the basis that when the Government set an example, everybody will follow. I notice that my hon. Friend the Minister is looking at me with a little concern.

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