Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but does she not agree that the reduction of VAT on insulation materials applies only to work carried out under a grant-supported scheme, and that if people who are not supported by a grant wish to insulate their homes they still have to pay the full 17.5 per cent. VAT on both materials and labour? How does that contribute to the Government's objective, particularly as Belgium has reduced VAT on all insulation materials to 6 per cent.? In advance of the Budget, the Chancellor promised a "Green Budget Statement". There has been no such statement, so how can we know to what extent the benefits brought about by the Budget--there have been some--are or are not outweighed by the growth in the economic prosperity of the country?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, on the first point raised by the noble Baroness, the Chancellor cut VAT to 5 per cent. on energy-saving products which are installed with funding under certain government grant schemes. The noble Baroness is correct that it does not have universal coverage. However, that is as far as the Government believed that they could go under current EC rules on VAT, but we are exploring with our European partners the possibility of wider relief for energy-saving materials. We are taking that work forward.
Lord Mason of Barnsley: My Lords, could my noble friend explain to the House to what extent this commitment will affect the future of coal-burning power stations and consequently adversely affect the future of the coal-mining industry?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as my noble friend will be aware, the Government are currently undertaking a comprehensive review of energy sources for power generation. We have deferred decisions on power station consents until that review is completed later this year. The deferral of the decisions will not affect the UK meeting its target of returning greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 levels by 2000. The review of energy sources is looking at all the issues, especially those relating to carbon dioxide emissions and the interrelationship with the health of the coal industry. I know that there has been a great deal of speculation about that, but I am afraid that my noble friend will have to await the outcome of the review.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, although the measures taken in the Budget are wholly desirable, does the noble Baroness agree that many more measures are required before the Government's objective can be achieved? Is she aware of the communication on the subject recently issued by the European Commission? Do the Government fully support it? When will the Government come out with their own measures to achieve that very important objective?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's support for what has been done in the Budget. I think that I have made it clear that it was not a comprehensive programme and that we shall need to take action in a wide range of areas: improving energy efficiency in businesses and in the home; reducing emissions from transport; and increasing the proportion of electricity generated from renewables and from combined heat and power. We shall be consulting on that wide range of issues in the summer. The Commission is considering what it can do at the European level in terms of energy efficiency in relation to transport, combined heat and power and reducing and removing fossil fuel subsidies. There are a whole range of issues on which we can take action at EU level, as my right honourable friend Mr. Meacher has been discussing with EU colleagues, most recently at Chester.
Lord Bowness: My Lords, does the Minister recall that when she repeated a Statement on the Kyoto conference which dealt with the subject of this Question, greenhouse gas emissions, she made two important points: first, that at Kyoto the European Union had
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the United Kingdom is continuing to lead international efforts to tackle climate change. As an early signal of our commitment the Deputy Prime Minister and Mr. Michael Meacher signed the Kyoto protocol in New York last week on behalf of both the United Kingdom and the European Union. We are working hard with our European partners to resolve important details such as the rules for emissions trading, and the involvement of developing countries in order to secure early ratification and implementation of the protocol. Under our presidency of the European Union we are discussing with our partners how to share between member states the EU's legally binding Kyoto target of an 8 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gases by 2008 to 2012. We hope to reach agreement in June on the UK and other member states' shares of the target. I hope the House will agree that that represents progress at an international and EU level.
Lord Islwyn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the basic objective is to try to protect the environment, and probably one of the best ways to do that is to improve public transport? Bearing in mind the huge sums of money that the Chancellor is collecting from road users, is this issue not becoming more urgent and affordable?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I certainly agree with my noble friend that it is very important that we give people a real choice as to how they travel since transport is the fastest-growing source of emissions at the moment. That means that we need a clean, reliable, safe and secure public transport system. That is why we have been working very hard to produce an integrated transport White Paper, which is due to be published next month. Issues relating to the funding of public transport have been the ones most commented upon in the consultation process.
(a) Section I of the Treason Act (Ireland) 1537;
(b) Section ii of the crown of ireland act 1542; and (c) Section XII of the Act of Supremacy (Ireland) 1560;
and what were the penalties imposed.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I am not in the slightest surprised by the Answer provided by the noble and learned Lord. My reason for tabling the Question is as follows. Bearing in mind that Gladstone disestablished the Church of Ireland and there has not been a prosecution under the Treason Act (Ireland) for a very long time--the Government of Ireland Act changed all of that--is it sensible, even with Cool Britannia and New Labour, to retain on the statute book Acts that carry very serious penalties? Does that not bring the whole of the law into disrepute?
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