Letter from Robert B Jones to Martin O'Neill MP
I hope you will forgive me for re-entering the political fray, from which I thought I had permanently retired. The reason for doing so is that I have been informed of the evidence given to you by my successor in office, Michael Meacher.
In response to a question put to him on 23 May by your colleague Mr Jonathan Djanogly, Mr Meacher indicated that the previous Government did not support a 30 per cent target for domestic energy efficiency improvement. That is most certainly not the case.
On behalf of the then Government, I made it very clear in committee and in the House that we were firmly committed to the target. Having consulted Hansard, I find this recorded at col. 1197 for the 17 March 1995. Furthermore the then DoE issued guidance, approved by me and in the name of the Secretary of State. This is also a matter of public record in the two relevant circulars (DOE 2/96 and DOE 5/97). I did make it clear that if there were particular reasons as to why a local authority wished to be released from that target, they could come and argue their case. I had in mind (and indeed explained in committee) that an authority such as Milton Keynes with overwhelmingly modern stock might find the target more onerous than a local authority with older stock. However, no council sought derogation in my term of office.
Mr Meacher and the present Government are entitled to resile from the position they argued in committee back in 1995. Evidently they have done so. What is quite unacceptable is that in giving evidence to your distinguished committee, they should incorrectly pray in aid the former Government. I strongly disagree with Mr Meacher's stance on this subject and hope the committee will see that the position is recorded accurately when it comes to report.
Robert B Jones
24 June 2002