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I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend and I certainly do not intend to do so for more
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than 15 seconds, but paragraph (c) in subsection (2) of amendment No. 52 refers specifically to what he has described: fuel cells.
Mr. Forth: Indeed. I was merely trying to clarify whether it was felt that the technology that I briefly described would fit into that provision. Although my right hon. Friend, who is of course a great expert, has helped the House, he is not the promoter of the Bill or the Ministeryetbut I certainly accept his explanation.
"by addition to the sources of energy and technologies for the time being listed any other source of energy or technology for the generation of electricity or production of heat if he considers that the use of that source of energy or technology would cut emissions of greenhouse gases".
It always causes some nervousness when we see the Secretary of State doing something by order, because I do not know what reassurance we can get that we would have an opportunity to scrutinise such a decision by a future Secretary of State in an area as vital as this. A Secretary of State might suddenly pop up and say, "I have been persuaded by experts that this new source of energy fits within the aspirations that were set out in the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill, and therefore I am going to add something to the list, under powers given to me by what is at present amendment No. 52(4), which had found its way into the Bill, which had become an Act. I am not entirely happy that we should be giving such powers to a Secretary of State without some sort of saving provision or parliamentary process, and yet that is the aspiration of the Minister.
Mr. Chope: Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that one of the problems, particularly with fuel cells, is that one of the by-products of fuel cell technology is water vapouryet water vapour is the most extensive greenhouse gas, but for some reason it has been excluded from the provisions of the Bill?
Mr. Forth: I hesitate to get involved in technical details of the sort that my hon. Friend is suggesting, although that subject might come up on Third Reading because, as we all know, the big picture of climate change in terms of water vapour clouds, carbon dioxidenatural and man-madeand so on, will have to be considered, but not quite yet. However, if my hon. Friend should seek to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, he might, in the context of fuel cells, wish to explore that matter further.
I would hope that, in the context of this group of amendments, at some point these matters will be clarified in terms of the change that has taken place between an Act as recent as the Energy Act 2004 and the Bill that we are now considering.
Malcolm Wicks: Perhaps I may clarify that point now. Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 do replicate the definition in the 2004 Actthe only difference is that in order to add to the list of technologies, the Secretary of State has to lay an order before Parliament, whereas under the 2004 Act the Secretary of State could just designate other sources as microgeneration. Therefore, our amendment enhances the role of Parliament. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied by that explanation.
Mr. Forth: Indeed it would; my hon. Friend is right. We are learning a lot of lessons today, which I hope will be promulgated outside the House. Those people who are in a rush to legislate do themselves a disservice, and not only because it is a bad way to legislate. There is the arrogance of people who say, "This is my Bill and we are all signed up to it and therefore it must not be questioned under any circumstances" on the one hand, and those who want to rush the process on the other
Mr. Forth: Yes of course, Madam Deputy Speaker, but it is useful to make the point as often as possible because some people do not yet seem to have grasped it. However, I will leave that just for the moment.
We now come to this neat little amendment, No. 80, which has been slipped into our proceedings. As has been said, is it not lucky that we are still considering the Bill today? Would it not have been terrible if we had wrapped up the proceedings prematurely on the previous sitting day and the Government had not had the chance to table that amendment, which popped up only on Wednesday 15 March?
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I freely concede that amendment No. 80 is not a significant or major amendment, but presumably, if this opportunity to amend the Bill had not arisen, the Bill, if the House agreed to it, would have gone to another place defective, and might have had to be amended by the House of Lords. As we all know, as time marches on in the private Member's Bill process, Bills have to go to the House of Lords, so it does become somewhat hazardous. Therefore, it is just as well, is it not, that we are able today to deal with this amendmentwhich I am sure is worthy, although the Minister has not bothered to explain it eitherand therefore make some proper progress.
All in all, subject to what the Minister may choose to say if he seeks to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, as far as I am concerned at this stage, this group of amendments may well be satisfactory, but I await further words from the Minister and further debate on these important amendments.
Mr. Chope: Following what my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) said in responding to the Minister, may I develop the point that I made on an intervention, which seemed to raise some eyebrows on the Front Bench and certainly did so on the Liberal Democrat Benches?
We welcome to the House this morning the new Liberal Democrat spokesman on this subject, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne). He made some body movements and gestures when I suggested that one of the by-products of fuel cell technology is water vapour. I do not know whether he disputes that, but I have a note here that is relevant. I will not trouble the House with all the detail of it, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) will probably not need to be taught about this because he knows it already, but it says:
"What is a fuel cell? Fuel cells are devices that produce electrical power. They operate by using the chemical properties of hydrogen and oxygen to create useable electrical current, heat and water vapour. In some ways they can be considered to be a continuously fuelled battery, although unlike a battery they do not store energy; they convert it from one form to another."
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