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Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): This is the second U-turn. Even the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), with all his powers of spin, will not be able to dress it up as anything other than a substantial concession. We have Lord Bassam's own words. This, he says,
Yes, listen to their own critics on the Labour Benches; yes, listen to the powerful case made by peers in all parties; yes, listenI think the hon. Gentleman will have to acknowledgeto the Opposition, who have been both consistent and united in their concern to ensure that the Government honour the commitment on which they reneged earlier this year. Let us be frank: they switched the target from 20 per cent. to 16 per cent. It does not do the Minister much credit to get too high-handed about that and about those outside who drew attention to it. At least the Government have returned to where they began and set a target in line with what was suggested by their own advisers, most experts outside and most of those who campaign both for energy efficiency and against fuel poverty.
I make no specific comment about the newspaper article to which the Minister referred, but I do say this. A range of organisations representing some of the most vulnerable of our countrymen have highlighted the fact that the Government were not playing straight when they resisted the Lords amendments initiallyorganisations representing the poorest of our countrymen, the elderly, vulnerable children and people with a long-standing commitment to the battle against fuel poverty. I understand why the Minister's parliamentary private secretary is embarrassed
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Mr. Hayes: The hon. Gentleman is embarrassed, because he initially voted against the Lords. I understand that he has had to see the error of his ways. He is another convertanother sinner that repenteth.
Mr. Hayes: Yes, they did. I personally received many representations from them, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green) did as well. I know that the Minister did. Of course they understood: they understood that they must put pressure on all of us who were involved in the debate on these matters, and hoped that they could bring about a resolution that was appropriate and deliverable.
Of course those bodies understood how the process worked, but it is a bit rich to pick out an advertisement without paying tribute to some of the organisations that were measured and consistent in their campaign and that did not go over the top in their representations. To counterbalance some of the criticism, let me pay tribute to all those, outside this place and in it, who fought for the cause of eliminating fuel poverty, including all-party groups and, indeed, to those who embarrassed the Government when it became clear that they had started to renege on a public commitment made more than 15 times.
When more than two dozen of a Government's own Members rebel on an amendment in support of the Lords, of course it is embarrassing. [Interruption.] Of course it is embarrassing to the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Rooney), who is now chuntering. I understand his embarrassment, and I feel a bit sorry for him, but he has been got off the hook by his Minister. Because the Minister has conceded, there will be a return to the original position of recognising the efficacy of a 20 per cent. decrease in carbon dioxide emissions by 2010, on the basis of the 1990 levels. That is what the Minister's commitment means and, in practice, many of the arguments articulated in the other place and in the House will find a form in the Bill in a clear restatement of policy to do something real and deliverable about emissions, fuel poverty and other issues related to energy efficiency.
Once again, I recognise that the Government have moved, even though it was not of their own volition. However, their move is welcome because it improves the Bill. The measure is by no means perfectit contains some good things and some very bad thingsbut the work of both Houses of Parliament, assisted by those
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outside who have made representations to us, has improved it by forcing the Minister to take note. That does him some credit, but much more to those who forced him to do so.
Brian White: I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister and the Minister in the Lords for introducing the amendment, which will be welcome in the industry and which is a sign of the Government's good work on these matters. They are the first Government to try to tackle fuel poverty. They have a long history of doing so and the amendment is another in a long line of initiatives. That context is important, given the comments of the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), which suggest that the Government have done nothing, whereas they have a long record of tackling fuel poverty.
I am pleased that the Government introduced the amendment. It seems that every time I rebel, the Government table amendments in the Lords, so I hope that they will adopt a quicker method in future. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for clarifying the relationship between the 20 per cent. target and the energy efficiency target in the Sustainable Energy Act 2003. That is useful.
I want to say something about the Greenpeace advert. Last Monday, many people asked me whether they should rebel and I replied, "No, don't. Go and speak to the Minister." Many of my colleagues who had signed the early-day motion chose to make their point to the Minister in the Aye Lobby and they deserve credit for doing so. It is important that the House recognise that a large number of people who could have rebelled did not do so, but none the less made their point to the Minister. I welcome the fact that the Minister listened to them. That was important, and it makes the Greenpeace advert all the more annoying.
I think that Stephen Tindale should resign as director of Greenpeace, because of the damage that he has done. He has attacked his friendspeople who have campaigned on environmental issues in the House for a long timeand gave them no help. He did not attack those who have opposed such measures. I could have understood that if he had been a novice campaigner, although I would not have been very happy about it, but he has a long history of campaigning and understands it. As an insider, when he was a special adviser, he was part of the problem so he has a lot to answer for. If he does not resign, Greenpeace should sack him. He has done real damage to
Many Members have campaigned on this issue for a long time and they may not support future campaigns for fear of being stabbed in the back. The Minister has already told us that he chose not to sign early-day motions when he was a Back Bencher and several of my colleagues may make the same choice, which will be to the detriment of the House. It is important that we use
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early-day motions to put pressure on Ministers, so I am glad that 340 Members signed the early-day motion and that the Minister listened.
It is also important that we take forward the energy efficiency target. I welcome the fact that the Minister has taken that on board, and hope that his officials will talk with the industry about improving the situation.
Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): The Labour party doth protest too much. I had no idea that Labour Members would talk about the Greenpeace advertisement quite so much. They have just given Greenpeace huge publicity, so that may have been counterproductive, unless a real double game is being played.
We are pleased to have helped force the Government into recommitting to a target to which they have previously been committed and into putting it in the Bill. It is a small step forward. It is frustrating that the Government talk the language of energy efficiency but at times they need to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to do anything about it. They have a better record than the Conservatives ever did, but they have not always seemed enthusiastic about it. The Government talk the talk, but they do not always walk the walk. I am glad that, for once, the Liberal Democratsin conjunction with othershave been able to encourage the Government into walking the walk.
This amendment, like others on the tenancy deposit scheme and empty property management orders, has helped to improve the Bill considerably. We still have problems with home information packs, but much of the Bill is very welcome. Substantial improvements have been made, such as this amendment, and the Minister will be able to look back and be pleased with the Bill. The Liberal Democrats are certainly pleased to have played our part in ensuring that some of the best parts of the Bill, including this amendment, were added to it.
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