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Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, in case there is any misunderstanding, I was suggesting that, as would be normal, the police service should give recommendations to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am obliged for that correction, if it was my misunderstanding. But I repeat that this IMC will have access to the Chief Constable; it will have access to the GOC; it will have access— specifically now in answer to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and others—to other agencies with law enforcement and security roles in Northern Ireland. It will be able to receive information—the particular point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran—from all relevant sources in the Republic of Ireland. It will receive material drawn from intelligence. I think that those are all the specific questions about the flow of information to the IMC. Of course, when the IMC publishes its reports, it will be obliged to bear in mind that the duties in Clause 2 are not breached. Self-evidently, that is simply a prudent requirement for obvious reasons.

As I said, the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, spoke particularly of these matters. But before I come to his queries, the noble Baroness, Lady Park, also asked a question about Article 5 of the international agreement: does this mean that normalisation is expected to be completed by April 2005? The timetable set out, which she pointed to accurately, is illustrative. It is set out on the basis that appropriate acts of completion will have occurred.

As Article 15 of the agreement I hope makes plain, the programme of security normalisation and the timetable associated with it will be determined only when Her Majesty's Government are satisfied that appropriate commitments have been given on an end to paramilitary activity. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, specifically asked about the reports of the IMC. I hope that the agreement makes it clear that the IMC will report its findings on paramilitary activity every six months. However, I stress that ad hoc reports can also be prepared at shorter intervals.

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The noble Lord, Lord Maginnis, who I know has put himself to considerable personal inconvenience to be here today, made a statesmanlike speech. I was very grateful for his general support. I agree with him that we would all have hoped that this would not be necessary, but it is a necessary requirement so that we can move forward.

I shall not go into the detail of the proposed amendments because we shall be holding our focused debates on Monday. But I have to say that I would be extremely reluctant to accept any amendment which, by necessary implication, sought to devalue the work of the commission before it has started its work. It seems intellectually inconsistent to set up a body of this quality and then to say, "By the way, we may well ignore all your findings or substitute our own". I have to say that I see no consistency in that. So it is unlikely that I shall accept on behalf of the Government the wider amendments referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and other noble Lords.

I accept the reminder made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, that for almost one year there has been a vacuum in terms of democratic institutions in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord also raised a particular question about paragraph 23 of the Explanatory Notes. I hope to be able to offer him some reassurance. He is quite right to say that the paragraph refers to the commission making a report but, as was pointed out by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, and reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, so far as concerns strand one, that report can be made only by the two members identified by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran. I hope that that gives a degree of reassurance—

Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, would the noble and learned Lord further clarify that point, because it is helpful? So far as paramilitary organisations are concerned, the entire commission will discuss their activities and the implications, therefore, for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Does that not mean that the entire commission will comment on the role of the Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and thus be involved in strand one?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I do not come to that conclusion. Let us turn to the draft agreement, which I touched on briefly in my opening remarks. Article 6(1) set out on page 4 states:


    "The Commission may consider a claim by any party represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly".

Article 6(1)(b) deals with further particulars, while Article 6(2) refers back to Article 6(1)(b) and states:


    "Insofar as a claim under paragraph 1(b) relates to the operation of the institutional arrangements under Strand One . . . the claim shall be considered only by those members of the Commission appointed by the British Government under Article 10(1)(a)".

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, pointed out that Article 10(1)(a) states,


    "two members, one of whom shall be from Northern Ireland . . . appointed by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

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Perhaps I may deal generally with the further questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, and others. We have been doing some work on the practical arrangements and we hope that the commission will be able to meet during September to begin to plan its work. We had to be cautious about how far we went because we could not pre-empt your Lordships' consideration of the Bill today, nor that of the Commons next Wednesday. We did not want to bind the IMC too precisely because it will need to think about its own arrangements, but I can give some of the logistical details.

Accommodation is in place. During the interim period, a retired senior civil servant from the Home Office is working with the commission. Administrative support is in place. Inevitably, staffing levels will develop on the basis of the amount of work for the commission, how it sets the parameters of its working methods and, indeed, in the light of further experience. So in the nature of things I do not think that I could reasonably be expected to be more precise than that.

Turning to costs, we estimate that the costs per year will be in the order of 2 million, and we look to the Irish Government for a contribution towards them. The Irish Government will also provide accommodation and a staffer, but of course the precise details will be a matter for that government.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Clifton, for expressing his general support. He and his party have faithfully been entirely non-partisan and supportive. I take his cautionary remarks about elections. Every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate today has said that we wish for early elections. The Secretary of State repeated that in the past few days and, on his behalf, in my opening remarks I referred to that sentiment in the same terms. However, I note and take seriously the noble Lord's observation about the difficulty of continued support if elections are not on the relatively immediate horizon.

The noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was very generous in his tribute to the Northern Ireland Office officials, which I entirely endorse. I notice that he did not oppose the commission in principle but said that he would bring forward amendments on Monday. I look forward to our discussions then. I cannot give any indication that I am likely to accept his amendments but, as always, I shall pay careful attention to the arguments that are put.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask one question which I omitted. Will the members of the commission be bound by the Official Secrets Act?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Yes, my Lords. They will have to comply with the particular duties under Clause 2 to exercise caution about what they put in a report. I know your Lordships will be pleased to see that the reports will have to be presented to Parliament.

I look at the names and I remind myself of their CVs. One is dealing with people who are public servants in the best tradition of that phrase. They are not

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irresponsible people. I take two at random: Mr Kerr from the United States, a deputy director of the CIA in the past, and former Commander Grieve. I do not believe that either of them is likely to be derelict about their duties. Nor indeed is Mr Brosnan from the Irish Republic, with his background, and certainly not the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, our colleague in the House.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Sustainable Energy Bill

2.51 p.m.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

I am delighted to present the Sustainable Energy Bill to the House. It has been skilfully steered through another place by Brian White MP. Having sponsored a predecessor to the Bill—the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995—I know what is involved in the process. I congratulate him on his hard work and tenacity in seeing it through to this stage.

Those who are not familiar with the problems of guiding a Private Member's Bill through another place will gain some insight if I set out the clauses and how we have arrived at them as they now stand in the Bill. In order that people may have some idea of what we are talking about, the Long Title of the Bill is to,


    "Make provision about the development and promotion of a sustainable energy policy; to amend the Utilities Act 2000; and for connected purposes.

Clause 1 places a duty on the Secretary of State to publish an annual sustainable energy report on the progress that has been made towards the following: cutting the United Kingdom's carbon emissions; maintaining the reliability of the United Kingdom's energy supplies, a matter that is important considering recent events; promoting competitive energy markets; and reducing the number of people living in fuel poverty in the United Kingdom. These are the four overarching goals of the United Kingdom's energy policy as set out in the government White Paper.

It is very useful to have these provisions on the face of the Bill, but there is no commitment to a timescale; there is no commitment to the amount of progress or improvement to be made; and there is no requirement to report on the progress of combined heat and power, renewables or energy efficiency. This is despite the fact that such reporting commitments are contained in the energy White Paper.

Nevertheless, during the passage of the Bill in another place—first, by the then energy Minister, Brian Wilson, at the first Committee session on 11th June; and, secondly, by his successor, Stephen Timms, at another Committee session on 24th June—we received some reassurances that the Government would use the annual sustainable energy report to report on progress towards the achievement of all of the 135 commitments in the White Paper. There seems

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to be some confusion about how many commitments there are in that they seem to have become 139 in some other places these days.

I hope that the Minister will today confirm that the annual report will include reports on progress delivering all the aims and objectives set out in the energy White Paper. I refer to the generation of 20 per cent of electricity from renewable resources by 2020; the generation of 10 gigawatts of electricity by combined heat and power by 2010; reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of 60 per cent, based on 1990 levels, by 2050; and reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of 20 per cent based on 1990 levels by 2010. The last objective is particularly important and we will refer to it later. I hope the Government are committed to it because, in some places where they have talked to other bodies, this commitment has changed.

Clauses 2 and 3 concern the energy efficiency of residential accommodation. They particularly concern the duties of the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales. As originally published, the Bill contained a clause requiring the Government to take reasonable steps to achieve a 20 per cent improvement in domestic energy efficiency by 2010, based on 2002 levels. This was recommended not only in the White Paper but in the Performance and Innovation Unit's energy review.

After much negotiation, the sponsor of the Bill reluctantly agreed to the two clauses on the face of the Bill, which were written by the Government. These clauses place a duty on the Secretary of State and the Welsh Assembly to designate and take reasonable steps to achieve at least one published energy efficiency aim for residential accommodation. Although those supporting the Bill and, I suspect, those following me in this debate, will feel that this does not go as far as they would like, it is a significant step forward, as long as the energy efficiency aim set pursuant to the Bill is meaningful—for example, the achievements of the carbon savings specified in the White Paper.

When pressed on this on the 24th June, the Energy Minister, Stephen Timms, said:


    "Our aims [in relation to energy efficiency] are set out fully in chapter 3 of the White Paper. It is my job to deliver those aims".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee C, 24/6/03; col. 58.]

I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, can confirm that it is still the Government's intention to set an energy efficiency aim to achieve 5 megatonnes of carbon savings from household energy efficiency by 2010 and a further 4 to 6 megatonnes by 2020, as set out in the White Paper.

I am seeking clarification on this because, in communication with the Environmental Audit Committee, this was omitted by the Government. It looked as though only 4 to 6 megatonnes were to be saved by 2020. On the original website of the Sustainable Energy Policy Network, this figure was also omitted. However, it appears to be on the latest website, and I hope the Minister can confirm that the Government's accurate position is to achieve

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improvements in household energy efficiency of 5 megatonnes of carbon by 2010 and a further 4 to 6 megatonnes by 2020.

Clause 4 deals with the duties of energy conservation authorities, again with regard to energy efficiency of residential accommodation. As the sponsor of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995, I know only too well that the lack of statutory targets for energy conservation on the face of that Act has led to very patchy performance by councils in their energy conservation work. Many local authorities have done extremely well but a significant proportion have reported domestic energy efficiency improvements of only 1 or 2 per cent in the eight years since the Act was passed.

This clause is based on one in a home energy conservation Bill which failed to get through last year. It was tabled by the then Environment Minister, the right honourable Michael Meacher, Member for Oldham West and Royton. Perhaps having so many different Environment Ministers is one of the problems in trying to drive forward these issues. The clause gives a lever to give higher priority to, and obtain more resources for, local authorities' home energy conservation work. Specifically, it provides the power for the Secretary of State in England and the Welsh Assembly in Wales, after consulation with their respective local government associations, to give an energy efficiency direction to one or more energy conservation authorities. If such a direction is given, the relevant authorities will then have to take steps as they consider to be practical and cost-effective to achieve the improvement specified in that direction.

More than 100 local authorities have pledged their support for the Bill. Many authorities have home energy conservation officers, and they are also very anxious for the provision to be in the Bill. However, it is true to say that the Local Government Association was concerned—and rightly so, as it wants to protect its members—that the clause might place new duties on local authorities without them receiving necessary funding to undertake them. That was never the intention of the Bill but, for the avoidance of doubt, assurances were sought in another place. In Standing Committee on 24th June, the Energy Minister Stephen Timms gave categoric assurances that the,


    "Government do not want to place new burdens on authorities without offering funding to meet them in full, so we would not issue directions until the necessary funding could be made available. Until that time, there will be no new financial burdens on authorities".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee C, 24/6/03; col.56.]

If the Government were to use the discretion given by the clause, it would mean more money for local authorities to undertake vital energy conservation work.

In addition, subsection (6) requires energy conservation authorities, when carrying out their duties under the clause, to "give preference to measures" that they consider would contribute to achieving the fuel poverty objective contained in the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000.

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That will make a considerable contribution to the fight against fuel poverty and will help to ensure proper co-ordination between local and national efforts to achieve the target that was set out in the 2000 Act to end fuel poverty by 2016. That is an issue that we as a nation should be very ashamed about—that people are still dying in the winter because they cannot afford to keep their homes warm.

Many noble Lords will have had a briefing from the LGA on behalf of local authorities. I hope that I have addressed some of their concerns over finance. I hope that the Government recognise that different local authorities are at different stages and that the situation differs between areas. I hope that everyone agrees that Clause 4 strikes a delicate balance between the role of a government to achieve their national priorities and the rights and influences of local authorities.

Another issue raised by the LGA was the funding of home energy conservation officers. When I proposed the original Bill in another place, I said that it should create jobs, and I am pleased to say that it certainly did so in local government. The authorities that have had specific officers to deal with the HECA 1995 have made the best progress, so there is merit in ensuring that local authorities have enough money to fund them. It is not the fault of myself, or of anyone else who has been involved with the Bill, that that is not included in the scope of the Bill. Unfortunately, Defra did not feel that it could support such a proposal. However, in the light of what I have said, perhaps the Minister could think again or persuade his colleagues to think again.

Clause 5 deals with combined heat and power targets. I should declare an interest here, as I am a non-executive director of a heating company that is involved in combined heat and power. As originally published—a phrase that, unfortunately, I could use when talking about almost every clause—the Bill contained a clause to amend the Electricity Act 1989 as amended by the Utilities Act 2000 to exempt suppliers of combined heat and power from the renewables obligation. Many noble Lords may know that the combined heat and power industry is facing huge difficulties, and that exemption would have given a real boost to combined heat and power suppliers.

Unfortunately, the Government opposed the original clause. They believed that it would reduce the renewables market by as much as 13 per cent, while producing few benefits for the CHP industry. I and others—most notably the Combined Heat and Power Association and the Association for the Conservation of Energy—I know that my noble friend Lord Ezra, who will speak later, did not really agree with this—have a different clause. Our clause places a duty on the Government to specify, before the end of 2003, one or more combined heat and power targets for central government. One of those must be for the year 2010, the year to which the Government have committed themselves in their White Paper to achieving the target of installing 10 gigawatts of good-quality combined heat and power capacity. This clause therefore gives a small but significant boost to the combined heat and power industry.

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Clause 6 is a slightly happier story. In their energy White Paper, the Government declared their intention to seek an early legislative opportunity to provide statutory backing for Ofgem's existing informal commitment to produce regulatory impact studies including environmental assessments for all significant new policies. The promoter of the Bill made it clear to the Government that he would welcome their using the Bill as an opportunity to fulfil that obligation. I am pleased to say that Clause 6 is the result. It imposes such a duty on Ofgem, and I believe that it will help to keep environmental and sustainability considerations at the forefront of Ofgem's activities.

Clause 7 deals with money—always useful in this area; there is not enough of it about—specifically the use of certain money held by the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority. It gives the Government a legal basis for using surplus funds in the fossil fuel levy, up to a maximum of 60 million, to promote renewable energy schemes. I believe that other speakers will address those issues. If noble Lords would like further detail on the money, it is well laid out in the Explanatory Notes accompanying the Bill.

It has probably been made clear in my comments that this is not a Bill which I and others sponsoring it would have wanted to see in its present form. Nevertheless, it is progress. If the Government chose and were committed to it, it could lead to very considerable progress. I hope that the Minister will assure us on the points that I have made. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Baroness Maddock.)

3.7 p.m.

The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I am very pleased to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I congratulate her on giving such a clear explanation of the aims and objectives of the Bill, which she is sponsoring in your Lordships' House. She is extremely well placed to do so. As she reminded us, some years ago, she sponsored the Home Energy Conservation Bill. I read that she is also vice-president of the Neighbourhood Energy Action and a trustee of the National Energy Foundation. I must confess that I had considerable sympathy with her when she expressed disappointment at the way in which the Government have prevailed on Mr Brian White MP to water down his original Bill. Nevertheless, I suppose that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all, and so I support the Bill.

So many opportunities for moving towards sustainable and clean energy are now available to us. As I suspect that most of them, if not all that I am about to list, will be known to your Lordships, I hope that I do not prevail on your patience. I should like to list a few which spring to mind—including offshore tidal power generation, photovoltaics, and solar heating, the technology of which is always advancing. Hydrogen fuel produced by means of photovoltaics is completely pollution free both at the point of manufacture and the point of utilisation. Geothermal

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heat-pump technology is another example. I should also cite wind farms and the much smaller wind generators with contra-rotating propellers for domestic use. As for combined heat and power—CHP—I am particularly interested in micro-CHP plants for use in private homes. Great strides are being made in that direction. We must also not overlook the very real contribution that biofuels and biomass could make.

Other noble Lords will no doubt speak with far greater authority than I on some of these points; and indeed I do not believe that my list is exhaustive. But the point is that there is a large number of rich seams we could and should be tapping into.

We probably have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take advantage of these technologies. We are already embarked on a massive building programme including hospitals, schools, prisons and homes. Time is of the essence and we must not lose a moment in concentrating our efforts to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Earlier I mentioned tidal power and I should like to spend a few moments elaborating on this potential power source. We have the second largest tidal range in the world and we also have the technology to harness it. The generating source is free, entirely predictable and, correctly harnessed, is capable of producing 8,000 megawatts of power by 2010, as I read on the Internet this morning. That equates to 10 per cent of our entire energy needs and would achieve the Government's targets for renewable energy in one fell swoop.

Things have moved on a long way from the days when the only way to harness this power was to build a huge barrage across an entire river estuary with all the navigational and ecological problems that would cause. The new generation of tidal power generation is achieved by building offshore impoundment lagoons built of rock, sand and gravel. They would be approximately one mile offshore at the nearest point and would hardly be visible from land. They are environmentally friendly as these large lagoons create habitats and enhance biodiversity for marine and bird life. They create no noise pollution and no CO2 emissions.

A company in this country has developed that concept and is working on two projects off the Welsh coast at Swansea and North Wales. I do not know exactly what stage its development is at as I was unable to contact it before coming to the Chamber today but I know that its aim is to be privately funded, so there would be no burden on the taxpayer. I hope that the Government will give very careful thought to that energy source and support the schemes.

Apart from publishing annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims, the Secretary of State will be required to come up with one big idea or aim for energy efficiency in residential homes each year. I wish her well in arriving at that decision. There are so many opportunities to be grasped and we shall await her decision with great interest.

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3.12 p.m.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, I, too, warmly support this important Bill. I am a strong supporter of sustainable energy and we need this Bill to help us along the way to delivering that objective. I hope that the Bill succeeds and I shall do all I can to assist my friend and neighbour, the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock. I am delighted that my noble kinsman Lord Hunt of Chesterton will be following me in the gap.

It is, though, more with sorrow than anger that I wish to make the following comments. There is, I am afraid, a serious omission from this Bill. It covers annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy on a number of fronts but is entirely silent on road transport fuels. I would, indeed, like to ask why this is. As usual, I feel I must declare an interest as a farmer and the unpaid president of the British Association for Biofuels and Oils. I do, however, believe that I do not just speak for that organisation; just about everybody I have spoken to cannot understand the Government's reluctance to give a steer in the right direction on this matter. If I may be allowed, I shall explain the situation.

We now have EU Directive 2003/30/EC on liquid biofuels. I commend it to your Lordships as one of the more useful pieces of EU legislation. Article 3.1 gives indicative EU targets of biofuel usage for road transport of 2 per cent by December 2010. Member states are required to give the Commission their own national target for December 2005 by July next year, and it seems to me that the Bill would have been a sensible place to incorporate that legally binding law into UK law. I would very much like to know why that has not been done.

As a farmer, I first became aware of the unsatisfactory situation that we are in regarding biofuels when I discovered that all my oilseed rape, grown and nurtured in Scotland, was sent to Austria and Germany for conversion into biodiesel. Why do we have so little of that industry here, an industry that could not only help the environment but provide vital rural jobs? The UK has virtually no liquid biofuel industry, in contrast to other EU countries such as Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Austria, where combined production comfortably exceeds 1 million tonnes a year. With new capacity coming on-stream, that is set to increase greatly. At 2 per cent usage over the existing EU members, the requirement will be for 10 million tonnes of biofuels by 2006, a massive new market. UK production this last year, all of which came, unfortunately, from recycled cooking oil, is unlikely to exceed the modest total of 10,000 tonnes.

The DfT policy has been to promote the fossil gas fuels with grants and publicity, and persuade the Treasury to provide a duty rebate of some 40p per litre. Yet the biofuels, which show major energy savings over fossil petrol and diesel, have only the 20p per litre rebate. That also applies to bioethanol. The provision does not come into force until January 2005. I would very much like to know why the Department for Transport has not done at least as much to promote the energy-efficient biofuels. I would also like to ask if

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the Government's silence over sustainable energy in the transport sector is one of embarrassment over the failure over the years to give any worthwhile encouragement to biofuels.

I would like to give a simple illustration of the energy-saving potential of biodiesel, and the same principles apply to bioethanol. On a full life-cycle basis, for each unit of energy put into the biodiesel process, not less than two units of energy is produced through the absorption of solar energy by the green plants grown to make the fuel. If the efficient agricultural practice of minimal tillage is followed and the by-product straw is burned to produce electricity, more than five units of energy is produced. Existing fossil energy can be made to go between two and five times further if used to produce liquid biofuels. Surely those facts should play a crucial part in government thinking on energy, and I ask again what has prevented liquid biofuels featuring in the Bill.

Some half a million hectares of land in the UK are unproductive under "set aside". That land could provide up to 1 million tonnes of biodiesel for road transport. Most years, we export around 3 million tonnes of wheat. If all that were retained in the United Kingdom, it would produce a further 1 million tonnes of bioethanol, and thus 2 million tonnes of energy-saving biofuels are potentially available from British farms.

This represents more than 5 per cent of total UK road fuel usage (the EU target is 5.7 per cent by 2010) and would result in major energy savings on a sustainable basis. One unit of fossil energy could in this way be made to provide between two and five units of transport fuel energy through the natural action of the sun providing the fuel for energy producing photosynthesis in the biofuel feedstock plants such as wheat, oilseeds and beet.

The omission from this Bill of any reference to the major energy saving potential of liquid biofuels is unfortunate, as is the failure to refer to the mandatory requirement for the UK to set its December 2005 biofuel target on or before July next year. The development of a liquid biofuel industry in the UK would make a useful addition to our sustainable energy policy and provide a useful new role for the rural economy. This is a very important factor. If one looks at the Government's own words in the box at paragraph 5.15 on page 69 of the recent Energy White Paper:


    "Biofuels can potentially deliver bigger carbon savings and wider environmental, farming and rural employment benefits".

So why are we not developing that potential? Perhaps we could try to rectify the situation to some extent at least.

In another place, Mr Brian Wilson assured Standing Committee C on 11th June that Clause 1 of the Bill would have wide effect. He said that,


    "as part of the overall reporting progress, we shall report on the 135 specific commitments in the White Paper".—[Official Report, Commons Standing Committee C; 11/6/03; col. 7.]

Well, in March next year the Government are, according to their Sustainable Energy Policy Network website, committed to publishing a hydrogen and

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biofuel assessment. And by July this has to result in a national target under our obligations in EU legislation.

So my question to the Minister is simple: can he now assure the House that the reporting under this Bill on "all commitments" will include reporting on measures taken and proposed, and on progress made towards achieving the commitments and the targets set for biofuels?

A simple "yes" to those questions would not, unfortunately, set the industry alight—but it would give those of us producing biofuel crops a strong signal that our role in a sustainable energy policy was being taken as seriously as the other limbs of that policy. In short, it would help the industry. A "no", however, will further depress the industry and continue the export of crops to Austria and Germany, with the resulting adverse effect on rural job creation.

I feel that my brief contribution has been highly technical and that I have quoted too many figures. But I ask for the Minister's assurance for a boost to the industry that will also greatly help the environment, farming and rural jobs.

3.23 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, I should like to speak in the gap, after my noble kinsman Lord Palmer. I apologise to the House that my name appeared earlier on the list of speakers, due to some confusion.

I welcome the Bill and add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, on introducing the debate on this important step in sustainable energy. For sustainable development, especially in a period of climate change, we need to act on both mitigation and adaptation. Housing and planning are capable of contributing to both objectives: reducing the contribution of greenhouse gases by residential accommodation, and by ensuring that the lives of people, especially those living in cities and old people, are bearable in the accommodation and the environment available to them as the climate changes. This summer was a lesson in these problems.

Sustainable housing has to be more efficient for keeping people warm in winter and cool in summer, and, in an increasing number of places, to enable recovery from flooding. The landscape is also an important part of planning and an essential part of sustainable communities.

I support the legislation for setting targets and for helping the leadership of local authorities which are already making an important contribution. I have two main points to make which might be incorporated into the Bill.

As German colleagues have pointed out, information is most effective in influencing people's behaviour when making decisions—in this case about their house purchases or when buying equipment for their house. The energy efficiency of every house should be known to every house purchaser together with the steps that have been taken by the previous

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owners in improving them. This would obviously have some impact on the economic value of the house. It could be a national or local authority obligation.

My second point refers to the important Clauses 5 and 6 and the role of combined heat and power and electricity authorities. CHP and renewable energy have enabled one or two local authorities in the UK already to make substantial reductions in energy consumption. The borough of Woking reduced its energy consumption by 40 per cent, but that has required it to develop its own electrical grid; in other words, to move off the national grid. Perhaps the Minister can explain whether Clause 6(2)(b) will enable and help other local authorities to develop more of such effective arrangements in this somewhat unusual way. I declare an interest as chair of CERC Limited, which undertakes consulting in wind energy.

3.26 p.m.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I want, first, to congratulate Mr Brian White on introducing the original Bill last March in another place. I extend those congratulations to my noble friend Lady Maddock, who introduced the present Bill and was responsible for the important Home Energy Conservation Act 1995.

The purpose of this Bill is to give legislative backing to the Government's energy policy White Paper of February this year and to fill in some of the gaps; notably the lack of a specific target for energy saving. However, as previous speakers have pointed out, during the course of the Bill in another place, particularly in Committee, the Government insisted on major changes, which seriously reduced the impact of the Bill.

We are presented here with a special difficulty. I understand that if we were to proceed to propose amendments in Committee, the Bill would risk falling. That is the last thing we want to happen. Would it therefore be possible either on this occasion or on a future occasion to avoid that unfortunate situation?


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