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Mr. Chope: It is not clear to me whether my right hon. Friend supports amendments Nos. 30 and 31, which would remove subsections (7) and (8) from clause 3.

Mr. Forth: Sadly, I do not, because—as I have tried to explain—I have a jaundiced view of targets and I favour the idea that if a target is set, but turns out to be so wide of the mark that it is useless, it makes sense to give the Secretary of State an escape hatch. If the Secretary of State were honest, he could say, "I have tried this approach. It patently did not work, so I shall not indulge in this pretence or self-delusion any longer." I do not want to force Secretaries of State to have meaningless targets. That is what I am trying to say. From that point of view, perhaps to my hon. Friend's surprise, I accept that these provisions should remain in the Bill. I do not think we should get ourselves so caught up in this frantic frenzy of people falling over one another to say, "I believe in climate change more than you and I am going to do more than you to solve it." It is a problem that we cannot measure, that may or may not happen, and that is so far in the future that it is of little or no relevance to this generation or the next. To start to formulate policies to try to meet—

Mark Lazarowicz: I am somewhat surprised at what the right hon. Gentleman has to say. His own party leader has publicly indicated that he is going to install a wind turbine on his house, which I welcome, so I am surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's line. I suggest that he has a chat with his party leader before next week, if the Bill comes back then, listens to what he has to say on the matter and follows a slightly more constructive approach than the one he is adopting today.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's advice that I have discussions with my party leader, but ours is a wonderfully democratic party that believes in the right of individual members to have their own views, to account to their electorate and to participate in debate, which is what I am doing. I believe in the conclusions of their lordships' Economic Affairs Committee. I am trying to paraphrase its report. I am sure the hon. Gentleman has read it; I hope he has. I agree with their lordships, and if I have not exactly reflected the conclusions that they came to, I will try to do better next time when we have a more extensive debate about climate change in the round—I know that
 
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Mr. Deputy Speaker would not want me to engage in that now. As for whether I must slavishly follow what my party leader or, indeed, anyone else says, the hon. Gentleman obviously does not yet know me very well. We will become better acquainted as these debates go on. I have my own views on these matters and I am prepared to account to my voters for them and to set them out whenever I have the opportunity to do so.

Mr. Chope: Does my right hon. Friend accept that by 1 November 2008 the leader of our party, our right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), may be Prime Minister?

Mr. Forth: Would that that were so, but I shall not explore that matter any further, because if I did Mr. Deputy Speaker would be on his feet and I shall allow him to keep his seat on this occasion. So I must go on to subsection (8) and follow the point that my hon. Friend made earlier. It is rather comforting and states that if the Secretary of State revises a target,

Here again I believe that the regional approach that I am suggesting would enable the Secretary of State to focus much better on the target, its accuracy or otherwise, and whether it was met, nearly met or completely wrong. Almost inevitably, that would allow much more sensible policy conclusions to be drawn than if we were to attempt to do so at a national level.

Mr. Chope rose—

Mr. Forth: I am about to conclude, because I sense that my hon. Friend has a contribution to make and I would not want the discussion of this part of the Bill to run out of time before he does so, but I shall give way.

Mr. Chope: Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that subsection (8) does not include any requirement for the Secretary of State to give any reason for revising a target? Does he think that that is a real weakness?

Mr. Forth: Yes, it is. It reflects the soft approach that the Bill takes. On reflection, I would have preferred what my hon. Friend has just said. I believe that the Secretary of State should be able to say that the target approach has not worked, but it would be much better if the Secretary of State were obliged to say why. This clause is a mixture of the good and not so good. Targets are worth trying, but my firm view is that they would be much better done on a regional basis rather than a national one. A national basis would conceal far too many variations to make the policy conclusions that might come from targeting of any use at all. I hope that serious thought will be given to my amendments, because otherwise we will be embarking on another useless round of aspirational target setting with very few policy outcomes.
 
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2 pm

Gregory Barker: Microgeneration is at the heart of the Bill. It is an essential element of a decentralised energy policy, which could provide a substantive part of the answer to the challenges of climate change in the United Kingdom. My party, under the leadership of—[Interruption.] I paused because I was about to mention the Christian name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), which would obviously have been out of order. Under my right hon. Friend's leadership, my colleagues are considering what substantive part we can play in future energy policy.

We take microgeneration extremely seriously, and it forms an important part of the Bill. However, the amendments tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) add nothing to the Bill; they cloud it. I always thought that the Conservative party was sceptical—to say the least—about anything that could be seen as a regional solution. In England we are not a nation of regions, but of counties and cities, and steps towards regional government have been firmly rebutted, so I am surprised that my right hon. Friend vests so much faith in regional solutions. They are costly, bureaucratic, opaque and, given that we have no democratic structures at regional level, undemocratic and unaccountable.

Regional targets are no good. Industry needs national targets to spark investment, and such a target could include a breakdown of how much each region should do to promote microgeneration.

Mr. Chope: Does my hon. Friend accept that my amendments Nos. 30 and 31, which would remove subsections (7) and (8), would be good for industry by introducing a degree of certainty to the clause?

Gregory Barker: The Bill is sufficient as it stands. Amending it at this stage would not be helpful to the central purpose that the overwhelming majority of us support—to pass the Bill. I see nothing in the amendments that is designed to be constructive in achieving that end. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said that he had the right to disagree. Of course he has. We are a broad church in the Conservative party.

Michael Fabricant: And tolerant.

Gregory Barker: Indeed, but no one can doubt the new direction that we are charting in putting issues such as climate change at the top of our political agenda. The amendments are not supported by Conservative Front Benchers. We oppose them, and we wholeheartedly support the Bill.

Malcolm Wicks: Clause 3 was the subject of much debate in Committee. When developing our views on the need for microgeneration targets, we will consult a wide range of people and organisations as a matter of course. That makes amendment No. 7 superfluous.

Regions will be able to set their own targets for microgeneration within any national target that we may set, and it would be more appropriate for them to do so, rather than central Government setting them. On those grounds, I oppose amendments Nos. 8, 9, 10, 16, 18 and 20.
 
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Amendments Nos. 30 and 31 would remove the provisions that give the Secretary of State the ability to revise any target that may have been set. Given that the microgeneration industry is in its early stages, it is important to have the flexibility to ensure that targets remain realistic but challenging.

Amendments Nos. 17 and 19 appear to be drafting amendments, for which I find no need, but Government amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 38 improve the Bill, and I hope that they have hon. Members' support.

We support the retention of clause 6 as drafted, without amendment No. 12. The word "appropriate" is deliberately broad, whereas amendment No. 12, tabled by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), might be too prescriptive, as we may wish to consider other things when making such a decision. However, I assure him that when considering whether to use the powers in clause 6, we will, as always, ensure that we do so in a way that is effective and cost-effective, as well as environmentally beneficial.

In summary, I support amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 38, and I oppose amendments Nos. 7, 8 to 10, 12, 16 to 20, 30 and 31.


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