Clause 1 - Sustainable energy policy

Sustainable Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 11 June 2003.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims—

'(1) The Secretary of State must in each calendar year, beginning with 2004, publish a report (''a sustainable energy report'') on the progress made in the reporting period towards—

(a) cutting the United Kingdom's carbon emissions;

(b) maintaining the reliability of the United Kingdom's energy supplies;

(c) promoting competitive energy markets in the United Kingdom; and

(d) reducing the number of people living in fuel poverty in the United Kingdom.

(2) ''The reporting period'', for the purposes of subsection (1), means the year ending with 23 February in the calendar year in question.

(3) Accordingly, the report must be published in that calendar year within the period beginning with 24 February and ending with 31 December (''the publication period'').

(4) A sustainable energy report may either be published as a single report or published in a number of parts during the publication period, and any such report or part may be contained in a document containing other material.

(5) A sustainable energy report must be based on such information as is available to the Secretary of State when the report is completed (except that if it is published in parts, each of those parts must be based on such information as is so available when that part is completed).

(6) For the purposes of this section a person is to be regarded as living in fuel poverty if he is a member of a household living on a lower income in a home which cannot be kept warm at a reasonable cost.'.

As Amendments to Mr. Brian Wilson's proposed Clause (NC1) (Annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims):

And the following amendments thereto:

Amendment (a), in

line 3, after 'towards', insert—

'( ) each of the following aims (''sustainable energy aims'')'.

Amendment (b), in

line 10, at end insert—

'( ) each of the following goals (''sustainable energy goals'')

(i) the generation of 20% electricity from renewable sources by 2010;

(ii) the generation of 10GWe of electricity by combined heat and power by 2010;

(iii) reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of 20% based on 1990 levels by 2010;

(iv) reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of 60% based on 1990 levels by 2050;

(v) carbon savings as a result of measures to improve domestic energy efficiency of 5 MtC by 2010 and a further 4 MtC by 2020.'.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

I am delighted that the Bill is before the Committee today. I hope that by the time we have completed our deliberations my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White), who has promoted the Bill impeccably, will have worthwhile legislation in his name. I hope that the spirit of cross-party consensus that has applied thus far can be maintained through all the stages of the Bill's consideration.

The core of clause 1 is a requirement for the Government to report annually on sustainable energy policy. We are perfectly happy to take on that commitment, which is consistent with our objectives for energy policy. Indeed, it is a commitment that we have already made in the energy White Paper in which we undertook to report annually on the progress being made towards the aims set out in that paper. In making such a report a statutory duty, however, we believe that it is vital not to be too prescriptive. For instance, a moment's consideration would show that it is not appropriate to set in statute current targets that may well be superseded, or aspirations for which detailed policies need to be developed, costed and implemented over time.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford

I am a little concerned about the direction that the Minister may be taking in his speech, although I appreciate that it is early in the proceedings. He talks about the Bill being prescriptive, but surely its purpose is to prescribe the steps—and the way in which we measure them—being taken to deliver renewable and sustainable energy. If the Minister is going to do that anyway, what is the problem with including in the Bill the matters that are to be reported on? Without such reporting, we will have substantial problems.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

The one thing that the hon. Lady was correct about is that it is early. I shall explain exactly why we believe that the spirit of the Bill is best reflected by new clause 1, and why it is not a great idea to set targets that inevitably become moving targets. They may become more ambitious as the years go on and as aspirations rise. To identify very specific targets in the process of policy development in a Bill would be extremely unusual, and it is not a very good idea.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development)

May I say how pleased I am to be on the Committee, and serving under your chairmanship, Mr. Illsley? The Minister says that he is against specific targets. I am not an authority on the Labour party manifestos from 1997 and 2001, but I think that if one were to read them, one would find that they contained specific targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power. Is that right?

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and I praise him on his reading skills, but there is a big difference between being committed to targets for renewable energy and CHP, and putting them into legislation. If the hon. Gentleman's reading extends far enough, I would be interested to hear if he could quote me any other examples of specific targets of that nature being included in legislation. I am happy to restate the renewables target, which is that 10 per cent. of our electricity should come from renewable sources of energy by 2010. The place for that is a manifesto or a White Paper, not legislation.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development)

It seems to me that if a party is willing to include targets in a manifesto, when it is asking for votes, it should be willing to live up to that and put its money where its mouth is by addressing the target and reporting progress on it in a Bill.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

All that is encapsulated in our proposal, but we would prefer to put it in a manifesto or a White Paper, not legislation. The White Paper is not designed to seek votes; it sets the pattern of energy policy for the next 50 years, and I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East understands the reasons for that.

The White Paper sets out a strategy for the short, medium and long term, and we chose deliberately not to attempt to set out detailed policies through to 2050, but to set a strategy and put in place the means to deliver it over time. It is better that the Government report in the best fashion every year on the progress that they are making rather than trying to be too prescriptive now.

We should not tie future Governments to reassessing a long, detailed list of particular technological and policy options every year in perpetuity. I realise that when we talk about future Governments of a different complexion we are talking in the extremely long term, so it is an academic consideration, but we must deal with the hypothesis. We should not want to tie any successive Government too tightly to the specifics being suggested.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

Having come into Parliament only at the last election, my constitutional knowledge is scant, but surely I am right in thinking that it is a fundamental principle of our unwritten constitution that no Parliament can bind a successor Parliament. Are we not looking to the Bill to make a clear statement of long-term policy?

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

The principle that the hon. Gentleman espouses is correct, but to escape from the letter of the Act, as the Bill might then be, new legislation would be needed. That does not make sense. We have targets for the lifetime of this Government and we shall work very hard to maintain them, but to enshrine them in

legislation is not usual or appropriate. The renewables obligation, for example, is a 25-year commitment. We cannot bind anyone through legislation to that obligation, but it is extremely important, in the signals that we send out to potential investors in renewables, to have cross-party support for the obligation and an understanding that no future Government, of any complexion, would renege on it.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle

It is simply nonsense to say that it is not usual to have targets that bind future Governments. Yesterday, I was in a Committee Room just along the Corridor where the Government backed a clause to bring in universal doorstep recycling with targets for implementation by 2010 and a derogation to 2015. That is exactly the sort of long-term target that we are seeking here. The Minister is not being very accurate in his description.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

I am reaffirming the existence of targets, but we do not propose to include them in the Bill because this is an evolving process, and the targets might well become more ambitious. Personally, I think that by the end of the decade climate change will be a much more clamant public issue, and the targets that we set now may well seem modest compared with what we want then; but, again, I stress that one does not amend legislation every time one changes a target. We would get into that trap if we started incorporating targets, and the other specifics suggested here, in a Bill.

As I said, we should not tie future Governments to making an annual reassessment of a long, detailed list of technology and policy options in perpetuity. We need to judge what is most appropriate every year. In some years there may be little to say that is new; in others there may be a great deal to say that is new and progressive.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. We are having a good debate that is rather more interesting than most, and that teases out more information than when we just stand and give big speeches.

The Minister says ''in perpetuity'', but that is not what we are talking about. By my reckoning, 2010 is seven years away. I admit that the amendment mentions 2050, but seven years is not what most of us think of as perpetuity. Most of those in the Room probably still hope to be Members of Parliament in seven years.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

I was going to say that the hon. Gentleman makes his point, but I am not sure that he does. We can report annually on progress, and we do not need legislation to do that. As someone who is committed to the renewables target, I can say, as I did at a meeting last night, that it is essential to have the utmost vigilance to ensure that the Government are firing on all cylinders to deliver the targets. There must be full involvement and commitment from every Department and agency of Government, otherwise the targets will be extremely elusive. However, that will not be enhanced by including the figures in the Bill.

The targets are there and, in terms of political responsibility, we have stuck our necks out and will be held accountable for the progress made towards those aims. I gladly take on the responsibility for reporting annually on progress.

The clause focuses disproportionately on environmental aims rather than on environmental, social and economic aims, all of which are equally important aspects of a sustainable energy policy. As we all know, competitive energy markets and reliable energy supplies are essential if we are to deliver a full programme of energy policy goals. I therefore do not believe that the clause should stand part of the Bill. As I said, however, the Government are willing to include in the Bill our existing White Paper commitment to make an annual progress report. I therefore tabled new clause 1, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East and the Committee will support it.

I believe that the reporting requirement set out in the new clause reflects the spirit of clause 1, while avoiding, for the reasons that I have described, an overly prescriptive approach. The new clause encompasses all four of our sustainable energy policy goals—cutting carbon emissions, maintaining the reliability of energy supplies, promoting competitive energy markets and tackling fuel poverty. Those are the four pillars of the White Paper, and I believe that our suggested reporting requirement will stand the test of time and relevance.

New clause 1 reflects our White Paper commitment to report annually on the way in which the Government, regulators and industry are delivering security of supply, in the short and long term, moving towards our intermediate and longer term carbon reduction goals, including those already in the climate change programme, delivering our fuel poverty targets and maintaining the general competitiveness of our energy markets.

As part of the overall reporting progress, we shall report on the 135 specific commitments in the White Paper. We have already created a sustainable energy policy network, and we have published on its website the 10 work streams that will deliver those commitments, as well as contact details for the officials responsible for each of them. That demonstrates our commitment to accountability and to transparency on the implementation of the White Paper.

We shall also continue to publish plans for, and reports on, the delivery of all our policy aims. For instance, the fuel poverty progress report was published on 4 March, and on 4 June we issued a new version of the statutory social and environmental guidance to Ofgem for consultation. We remain committed to our policies to eradicate fuel poverty, and we have announced a budget of £268 million for energy efficiency and fuel poverty programmes in the current year.

Energy efficiency is the cleanest and safest way to address our energy policy objectives, and the financial

benefits are clear. We expect over half the emission reductions in our existing climate change programme to come from energy efficiency, which I believe can contribute about half the additional 15 million to 25 million tonnes of carbon savings that we are likely to need by 2020.

We are also committed to publishing an implementation plan that will bring together the strands of an ambitious strategy for energy efficiency within a year of the White Paper, and we shall do so. We shall then report progress against that plan annually. We also remain committed to the target of 10 GW of good quality CHP by 2010. I shall elaborate on all the measures that we are implementing to achieve that in the final version of the CHP strategy, to be published later this year. We have already published a substantial analytical work on which the White Paper was based. We are committed to strengthening our analytical capability in energy policy, and we shall publish the results of that analysis, too.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford 2:15, 11 June 2003

I want to correct an omission that I made earlier and welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Illsley. It is a pleasure to work with you again on a Committee.

I am rather concerned about CHP targets. Our amendment asks for annual reporting on the generation of 10 GW of electricity by CHP by 2010. Paragraph 9.10 on page 113 of the White Paper makes that commitment. It says that the Government

''will publish annually a report on the progress being made towards the aims we have set out here.''

The aims are set out in the White Paper, which also says:

''We remain committed to a target of 10GWe of Good Quality CHP capacity being installed by 2010.''

The White Paper is already doing the things that the Minister now does not seem to want to do. He has made it clear that he is not keen on the amendments tabled by the promoter of the Bill and his colleagues. Will he assure the Committee that, notwithstanding the success or failure of the amendments, under the general reporting duty in new clause 1, the Government would report annually on the specific CHP targets in the White Paper?

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

The Government are committed to the CHP target. We are up front about recognising the problems and challenges, and we have taken a wide range of measures to support CHP, including the climate change levy exemption, eligibility for enhanced capital allowances and the £50 million two-year community energy grant programme.

Every commitment in the White Paper about reporting will be met. There are no ifs and buts. Although we face a challenging target on CHP, the measures detailed in the draft CHP strategy, alongside the additional support measures that we have mentioned, will set the sector on course for 2010. We will report on that at every turn along the way, because that in itself creates the discipline to ensure that we are doing enough to meet the targets.

We have already published a substantial analytical work on which the White Paper was based. We are committed to strengthening our analytical capability in the field of energy policy, and we will continue to publish the results of our analysis.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford

I am sorry to press my point, but I am concerned that the White Paper states that a report on progress will be published annually. That is what concerns the Committee. We are considering the annual reporting, the manifestation of the White Paper and the delivery, in practical terms, of its objectives for renewables and sustainable energy.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

I have nothing to add. The commitment on reporting that we gave in the White Paper will be met. I am not sure what the complaint is.

We should probably do some annual reporting on Opposition parties, as well. I was interested the other day to see a cutting from the south-west of England which described how local authorities in Devon had turned down yet another wind farm proposal, and it reported their proud boast that that would maintain the record of there being not a single wind farm in Devon. There should be annual reporting on the difference between what Liberal Democrats say in the House about their commitment to sustainable energy and what Liberal Democrat-controlled councils do in practice. Why in heaven's name should the whole of Devon be devoid of wind turbines? That merits an annual report.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford

I know that he has. We have had a litany of complaints from the Government about who has and has not built wind farms, but those complaints fail to take into account the relevant planning authority and the plans, and they contain inaccuracies that the Government trot out every time. The Minister opened the debate by looking for cross-party consensus. I would prefer us to deal with accuracies, rather than lists that, in some cases, are complete fabrications—perhaps that is unparliamentary language, so I withdraw that point. Certainly, we have failed to substantiate the lists after research. All parties have problems with sustainability in some areas. This level of argument does not further what we are trying to do today.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

We will enter that as a guilty plea. I am sure that, as we proceed, we will receive elucidation on why the council in Lewes, which is under Liberal Democrat control, has banned solar panels on the grounds that they do not look nice. That is not exactly the most encouraging approach. We all have a responsibility to practise a little of what we preach and that should be an underlying theme of this Committee.

Carbon trading is a central plank of our future strategy, and we have now set out a detailed timetable for allocation of our national quotas for implementing the EU emissions trading scheme. We are holding a summit for key company chief executive officers on 24 June. All those activities reflect just a portion of the challenging agenda that we have set ourselves. We

shall continue to report progress on our existing commitments across the board and to develop plans and policies to move us towards our long-term goals. As new commitments and targets develop we shall report on those also. The annual reporting duty that would be established by new clause 1 is the right framework within which we can report fully and openly on the development and progress of sustainable energy policy over the coming years.

The Government have nothing to fear from reporting. We have committed ourselves publicly and radically to a low-carbon energy policy and, for the first time, we have made the environment a major imperative of energy policy. The energy White Paper is quite different from any previous document on the subject, and it is driven by the acceptance of the recommendation of the royal commission on environmental pollution that we should aim for a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. From that a starting point must flow many other policies and radical changes in the way we live our lives. That is encapsulated in the White Paper. It is entirely in our interests to maintain the momentum, to tell the British people exactly where we stand on those objectives and to report fully and transparently. The new clause encapsulates that approach.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

May I start by telling the Minister that following comments on Second Reading, I agreed that clause 1 was too prescriptive? That is why I tabled amendment No. 7, but the Minister has since tabled new clause 1. I am happy to accept that, but it should be coupled with amendments (a) and (b), which I shall explain shortly.

The amendments in no way represent a criticism of the Minister's new clause, nor of his civil servants and officials who have been very helpful in engaging in a dialogue about the exact nature of the reporting required. I want to put on record my thanks and those of the people who have helped me with the Bill for the way in which the civil servants have approached it, and the dialogue, over the past two months.

The new clause does not go far enough. On Second Reading, the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), stated:

''The Government have committed ourselves to producing an annual progress report, and we are willing for that to become a legal requirement.''—[Official Report, 28 March 2003; Vol. 402, c. 599.]

I was pleased with that approach. It is important that we spell out what the annual progress report should contain, and setting out what is in the White Paper would help the Government with that report.

The new clause goes only part of the way towards achieving that. The Minister outlined the broad aims in the White Paper which we are trying to adopt in the amendments. I am happy to accept that, and I accept his point about the wider socio-economic issues, but that goes only some way to achieving our aims. I tried to construct my amendments in terms of what is in the White Paper. I am not worried whether they are called goals or targets; I am more concerned that there is an annual progress report by which the Government's objectives are moved forward.

In his evidence to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee the Minister referred to ''commitments'' on which all sides agree we should move forward. As he said, the over-arching aim is a higher political priority for carbon reduction, which will become more important the further into the century we go.

I shall go through the amendments in reverse order for a reason that will become obvious in a minute. I shall try to explain why the amendments fit into the Minister's objective in a non-prescriptive way that helps the Government. Sub-paragraph (v) of amendment (b) calls for annual reporting on

''carbon savings as a result of measures to improve domestic energy efficiency of 5 MtC by 2010 and a further 4 MtC by 2020.''

Paragraph 3.49 of the White Paper states that

''we will report annually, as part of the follow up to this white paper, on progress towards achieving the savings we have set out.''

Those savings, which are the objective of amendment (b), are listed in paragraphs 3.4 and 3.5 of the White Paper.

Sub-paragraphs (iii) and (iv) of amendment (b) call for annual reporting on

''reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of 20 per cent. based on 1990 levels by 2010''

and on

''reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide of 60 per cent. based on 1990 levels by 2050''.

Paragraph 9.10 of the White Paper makes a similar commitment. It states:

''To ensure the transparency of the follow up to this White Paper''—

the words ''to ensure the transparency'' are worth emphasising—

''the Sustainable Energy Policy Network will publish annually a report on . . . how the Government are . . . moving towards our intermediate and longer-term carbon reduction goals (including those already set out in the Climate Change Programme''.


''intermediate and longer-term carbon reduction goals''

are, of course, the 20 per cent. and 60 per cent. figures. The amendment is exactly in line with the White Paper.

Sub-paragraph (ii) of amendment (b) calls for annual reporting on

''the generation of 10Gwe of electricity by combined heat and power''.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) has already made the point that the terms used in the White Paper are exactly the same. I have addressed the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South on Second Reading by trying to make the annual progress report a legal requirement, as is proposed in the White Paper.

Sub-paragraph (i) of amendment (b)—if it is a bone of contention, I shall re-examine it—calls for

''the generation of 20 per cent. electricity from renewable sources by 2010''.

I must confess to having slightly extended the terms of the White Paper because, although the target is one of its goals, it does not contain a commitment to an annual report. The Government have, however, accepted reporting, which is in line with their aspirations and their general commitment to annual reporting. Again, the amendment is not out of line with the White Paper.

Although I accept that the clause 1 is too prescriptive—I shall not push it—my amendments will help us to move forward. However, I understand that the situation is not as simple as that because there are other issues in the Whitehall system. I have discussed with members of the Committee whether there are ways to unblock the problem to avoid my having to press the amendment to a vote, which is why I am prepared to adjourn the sitting and why we tabled the sittings motion. That might help the Minister and allow us to table amendments, which are currently being worked on, to resolve the situation. We are close to agreement, so it would be a shame not to proceed. If tweaking the Bill will help, I am prepared to do so, which is why we moved the sittings motion.

To return to the amendments to new clause 1, the Minister has already heard the strength of feeling about the need for annual reporting and the need to make it a legal requirement, as the Under-Secretary said on Second Reading. My amendment, which delivers on the White Paper commitments and sets annual reporting as a legal requirement, is transparent. It would ensure that the public know what is happening. According to the Minister's comments, the Government are already working on that, and that would be to the advantage of us all.

Such reporting would demonstrate that we are achieving our commitments. If there are questions about why we are not achieving them, it will set out the reasons. Many people are concerned that, when targets are not met, it is simply assumed that they cannot be met. An annual report would set out in detail where things are going well and where they need to change. It would be a very effective way of dealing with climate change, which is so important and which will be the overarching issue in the latter part of the decade. That is a crucial issue and one of the reasons why I chose the subject for my private Member's Bill.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford 2:30, 11 June 2003

An example of what the hon. Gentleman describes so accurately are the problems that we have had with combined heat and power over the past couple of years. Reporting would help flush out such problems. Too often, we find out that there is a problem with CHP at the last minute when there is a crisis. It would be very good to have an analysis to tell us generally what direction we are taking. That is why the hon. Gentleman's points are so useful.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

We shall come back to CHP when we discuss clause 3. The hon. Lady makes an important point about the need to ensure that we deal with such problems.

My amendment will not actually cost the Government more than the annual report to which

they have already agreed, because of the way in which the figures will be collected. I recognise that the report will go beyond one Parliament to 2010, 2020 and 2050. It will go through the life of several Parliaments, even if the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) will not be with us. He and I should have been in Canada this week with the Public Administration Committee, but we decided that the Bill was far more important than that trip.

I wish to emphasise that the transparency of the reporting mechanism is crucial. That is why it should be set out in the Bill. When I started work on the Bill last December, I said that we needed to regain credibility on energy policy. The White Paper started the process, and it has been backed up by ministerial statements. The Bill is Parliament's chance to start delivering.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman Conservative, Chipping Barnet

May I say, Mr. Illsley, that it is a great privilege to serve under your chairmanship? This is the first time that I have done so and, despite the fact that I do not intend to stand at the next election, I hope that it will not be the last time that I serve under your chairmanship in this Parliament.

I will go along with whatever the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East suggests about adjourning the sitting this week and meeting next week. I have a great deal of respect for him and the way in which he has handled the Bill, which is a very difficult one because of the natural interface between the Government and the Back-Bench Member who is promoting it. I fully understand that and pay tribute to him.

The little billet-doux that I have for when we examine the amendments says, ''support BW.'' I realise that that could be the Minister as well as the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East. I wish to pay tribute to the Minister, because he worked very hard in Westminster Hall yesterday and is appearing here in Committee Room 9 today. I do not know whether he is stalking me or I am stalking him, but I assure the Committee that there is nothing in it.

I wish to make a serious point. My understanding of the Minister's new clause is that it will ensure that the Secretary of State will report annually from 2004 on the progress being made towards the four principal objectives of the Government's White Paper. That will be done in the form of a sustainable energy report. If that is to be the case—I fully support it—the progress that has been made towards the specific targets mentioned in amendments (a) and (b) in the name of the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East is bound to come up. The Minister may say that that is all the more reason why we do not need to include the amendments in the Bill. I would accept that argument but for the following point. Given that there will be a seven-day rethink, it is absolutely essential that we get the public on our side, and get them interested so that they know what we have to do to ensure sustainable development. Targets help to create interest, and progress towards those targets will be an incentive to the public to support a Government of whatever hue. We are talking about a period up to 2050.

Photo of Ian Stewart Ian Stewart Labour, Eccles

Before there is a Tory Government.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman Conservative, Chipping Barnet

I have learned not to comment on interventions, because if one does, they end up in Hansard. The hon. Gentleman will be in Hansard, and as a Parliamentary Private Secretary he may find, after the next reshuffle, that that has not helped him.

My point is very serious. The future of the Earth depends on sustainable development. I do not think that the people of our country or the world understand the real crisis that we face. We have to get home to people not only what sustainable development is and why it is important for the future of mother Earth, but how they can help by playing their part. I hope that, in the next seven days, the Minister will reflect on the need for a specific mention of the targets that have to be met.

One of the four objectives means that the Minister or Secretary of State will have to report progress on cutting the UK's carbon emissions. The amendments of the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East would set out the progress being made to achieve the specific carbon savings, particularly in the domestic field. I am 99 per cent.—if not 100 per cent.—sure that to include the specific targets in the Bill would be an exception made for a very good reason.

Photo of Brian Iddon Brian Iddon Labour, Bolton South East

I will not detain the Committee for long. I have not been in the House long—only six years. [Hon. Members: ''It seems longer''.] It does seem longer than that.

I take a great interest in energy policy and I am a member of the warm homes group. I have noticed that the process is a long struggle and it should not be. We can see the need to cut carbon dioxide levels, but we need a lot of pressure to drive the mechanism forward. It is a complex mechanism in government, involving several Departments and lots of other agencies outside this place as well. Most of the progress so far has been made by way of private Member's Bills, including this one.

I hope that the Government will introduce an energy Bill that will roll all the measures into one big Bill. That will allow them to make a firm commitment to drive forward all the energy policies that have been introduced by whatever means—private Member's Bills or any other mechanism. I support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East, and I hope that the Government will accept it. I see that he uses the word ''goals'' to avoid the word target, or commitment. We can play semantics all afternoon, but I am quite prepared to accept the word goal. However, I want us to score the goals. Let us have a Beckham in the Bill, but perhaps he is the wrong fellow to choose today.

I want to make a couple of serious points. First, we have an industry that has to produce the goods: better insulation materials for new build, or insulation for old build. It has to produce those goods, and it takes time to gear up for the production of anything that deals with carbon dioxide savings, energy efficiency, or any individual aspect that we are looking at. I have been in contact with parts of the industry and I know

that it is raring to go, hoping for strong political leadership from the Government. Some people in the industry, however, are getting a bit fed up and have given up any idea of investing in this sector. We might lose jobs in existing firms.

The strong point that I want to make is that this is a win-win situation. We will not only save the planet but create many jobs by driving forward energy efficiency, with all the mechanisms that we can use to lower carbon dioxide emissions. My plea to the Government, through the Minister, is this: let us have strong political leadership to give industry the feeling that it can invest now and create the jobs that the Government are keen on creating. That is a very important point and relates to the Bill.

My second serious point is about local authorities. There are some excellent local authorities in this country, leading the way in saving carbon dioxide and creating energy efficiency not only in homes but throughout commerce and industry. There are also mediocre local authorities and, I am sad to say, some bad ones. The Minister well knows that. Not only industry but local authorities need leadership. If bad local authorities can be shown up by annual reporting, that will create an incentive for them to change their policies and come along with the rest of us who will, I hope, lead the way in energy efficiency and carbon dioxide savings. I strongly hope that the Minister can see a way to accepting the amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East has tabled.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point 2:45, 11 June 2003

May I, Mr. Illsley, add my name to the list of those who have not served under you before and tell you what a great joy it is to serve under you now? I hope to do that many times in the next few years.

I should like to bring to the debate a few comments from interested bodies outside the House of Commons. The National Housing Federation, which is a member of the sustainable energy partnership and supports the Bill, has stated that it wants the clauses in the Bill to build on the recent energy White Paper by instituting firm targets. We should listen to it. It believes that there should be targets for energy efficiency, renewables, CO?2? reduction and low carbon technologies.

Philip Sellwood, the chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, in a speech to the energy efficiency partnership for homes, has stated:

''We do believe there is work to be done in turning the White Paper commitments into more definite targets and identifying the resources that will make the commitments possible.''

I understand the Minister's position and I sympathise with him. I would probably do what he is doing were I in his seat, although I am sure that I will never rise to that level. However, I know that he is a good Minister and is listening carefully to the debate, so I hope that he will take the opportunity to spend the next week in discussion with the Bill's promoter and others to find a solution that will be acceptable to what I think is a

majority on the Committee—to find some way of encapsulating targets in the Bill, so that we can be more firm in driving forward to achieve what should be a help in solving one of the world's major problems, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet pointed out.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Thank you, Mr. Illsley. I also welcome you to the Chair for a number of reasons, one being that, since everyone else has done so, I would look exceptionally churlish if I did not.

I come to the point of clause 1. I substantially agree with both BWs. It is true that the clause could be seen to be over-prescriptive. The alternative proposal takes away some elements of that prescription, while retaining in the Bill a substantial commitment to report on the progress in cutting UK carbon emissions.

The idea that no targets should be mentioned may be in line with historical precedent on Bills, and I was racking my brains about whether the Waste and Emissions Trading Bill or the Bill on waste management contains targets. However, the idea that no targets should be included, even though targets have been set, seems to me to go a little further. Not putting something on to the record might look a little odd in the light of the importance of this debate. I say that in view of the comments of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet.

It is true that we live in an age of targets. If they are not met or if a Government come along and change them, we may disagree about the policy and be upset, but the targets are nevertheless changed. One could argue from a political point of view that it may be a good or a bad thing to set as a target that 50 per cent. of people should go to higher education, but if the target changes, so be it—the target changes. However, we are talking about something fundamentally different here—a joint endeavour by everyone in the Committee and outside the Committee. We know that, if we do not achieve the targets over time, there will not simply be political consequences that can be argued about but dire consequences for the future of our planet. Therefore, although we are considering a private Member's Bill in a Committee Room, we are legislating on something very basic for future generations and on something important in terms of our role as stewards of the world and what we do about it. That underlines the need to have targets in the Bill.

Targets should be in the Bill, precisely because the Government have done so much work to ensure that we now have not just targets but many mechanisms to start achieving them. Therefore, there will be real progress to report. However, when the reports are made, we want to be able to see the progress and see how the mechanisms are working, what is happening, what is changing and why progress needs to be maintained.

My hon. Friend the Minister has said that the targets may change and may be exceeded. If they are, the report could reflect that, which would be a cause of congratulation all round. However, it is not beyond

the bounds of possibility—here, I reflect what my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East suggested in regard to unblocking blockages—that if there are concerns about placing targets in the Bill, they could be drafted in such a way that they do not require primary legislation should a future Government decide that they should be levered up. One could, for example, add a clause at the end that says, ''The targets can be changed by regulation'', or insert a similar provision

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development)

One compromise that could perhaps be thrashed out this week is that, for instance, we would agree to drop the specific target, goal or aspiration and have something that said ''the targets currently in force''. We would all understand that provision and it could be tied to whatever the targets are.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

Yes, we could indeed do that. The suggested formulation that I am thinking about allows for changing targets should the House want to add to those targets in future years by means other than primary legislation. The objection about primary legislation has some force. If a new Bill had to go through Parliament every time someone wanted to change the regulations, there could be a problem. I accept that. However, I would have thought that, in the spirit of helpfulness, it might be possible for the concerns of all BWs to be taken into account by some such device. If, in offering that device, I have helped to save the planet, I will be a modest and humble man indeed.

Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North

The general drift in respect of the joy of Committee members at serving under your chairmanship has been well established, Mr. Illsley. The only concern in my mind is whether the joy that has been expressed underestimates my own feelings on this occasion, not least because serving on the Committee gives me the opportunity to support the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East.

I understand the Minister's argument that there is a danger of too much prescription. We all understand that the Government's commendable desire to raise standards across public services, in all areas of our national life and in relation to different levels of achievement, has led to a concern with targets that has been counter-productive in some cases. In many cases, targets have been too ambitious. However, there is consensus that the targets in this policy area are achievable and necessary.

The Minister's argument would be credible in three possible circumstances. First, it would be credible if it were indisputably the case that there was not a single piece of primary legislation that contained performance targets. I do not think that that is the case, although it may not be common practice. If the Minister wants to convince us of his argument, he needs to tell us categorically that no other piece of primary legislation enacted in this or any earlier Parliament has contained targets, and that therefore a precedent has clearly been set in our written constitution.

Secondly, the Minister's argument could be credible if there were a possibility that the targets would be regarded as unambitious and revised upwards in the near future. Certainly in respect of the targets for 2010, that is unlikely. The targets for renewables are generally seen to be challenging. Our fear is that we might not meet them. I am not sure that there is a serious possibility that the targets would need to be revised upwards for 2010, and who can speak for 2050?

Thirdly, the Minister's argument about not being too prescriptive could be credible if there were no possibility of any future legislation that could easily amend the Bill. I would have thought that a future energy Bill was almost inevitable. Such a Bill is certainly necessary. I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), who called for an all-embracing energy Bill that rolls up all the important policies that are on the statute book and the others that need to be on it. The Minister made an important point, but his argument is not persuasive.

My only reservation about the amendment, to which I put my name, is not that the targets are too limiting, but that they are too few in number. I refer specifically to domestic energy efficiency. Domestic energy efficiency is only one part of the big picture of energy efficiency. In the targets, there is no reference to energy efficiency in the transport or commercial and industrial sectors. That huge gap needs to be plugged.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 3:00, 11 June 2003

It is a privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Illsley.

I want to add my name to those of others on the Committee who have expressed their disappointment at the fact that the Minister is not accepting real beef in the reporting measures that he proposes. Targets must be an important part of the reporting process, and there is precedent for that.

Yesterday, I was in a Committee Room, with the hon. Member for Guildford, and we heard the Minister commit himself to meeting targets in 2010. It is common practice. One might say that this Government have devalued or debased the currency of targets because so many of them litter Westminster. Perhaps that explains the Government's caution: they have realised that they have set many targets and they are increasingly not meeting them. I can understand their reticence over putting more targets in the public arena when they have not always done so well at meeting previous ones. On this important subject, however, it is necessary that we tie Ministers down far more than the amendment could.

There is a cynicism among the public, not just about the Government, but about politicians and those in public life as a breed. According to the public perception, those people twist and turn and do not always fulfil their promises. If we are to establish a bond of trust between the electorate and the Government, of whatever colour, once the legislation becomes law, it is important for those targets to be met and tied to specific measurable objectives, so that the progress made towards them can be seen year on year.

Many representatives from outside interest groups have written to me because I am on the Committee and I have expressed the hope that meaningful targets will be included. I was particularly struck by a letter from the National Federation of Women's Institutes—many women's institutes are active in my constituency—which says:

''We were disappointed that the Government's recent Energy White Paper failed to set a firm target for improving energy efficiency, in spite of the strong recommendations of a host of official Government advisory bodies including the PIU, the Sustainable Development Commission and the Environmental Audit Committee. Clause 2 of the Sustainable Energy Bill remedies this omission by requiring the Government to take reasonable steps to achieve a 20 per cent. domestic energy efficiency improvement by 2010. We believe that this target is vital if we are to tackle climate change and eradicate fuel poverty.''

I hope that, in the intervening period, the Minister takes stock of what other Departments have done by accepting targets. I realise that his default position must not be to accept targets readily and I understand his reticence, but given that we need to give clear signals to industry and to win the confidence of the public on this important issue, I hope that he will think again.

Photo of Ms Sue Doughty Ms Sue Doughty Liberal Democrat, Guildford

We have a strong case for further consideration and taking the opportunity that an extra week will give us to get a compromise. I understand where the Minister is coming from in wanting to deliver on the Bill as a whole, although I do not necessarily agree with his points about targets. The Bill is achievable with targets and it should be achieved with targets, but one of our difficulties is identifying those targets.

I am reminded of last August's summit, where one of the big objectives that all the Governments hoped for was setting global targets on renewable energy. There was a fudge on that, however. We did not get time-bound targets, and we could not even define renewable energy because a range of countries could not agree on what is renewable. One can understand the problems, even though we might have wished that they had been able to sort them out ahead of that very important gathering.

The reality is that, as one of the leading industrial and economic nations, we have a responsibility to set and achieve our targets. That is what the Bill seeks to do. It is a good Bill. It pushes renewables forward, which is good for Britain. It is good for our industry, our jobs and our environment.

Some measures are good in relation to fuel poverty and social change, which is just as important, as the Minister has pointed out, but there is a problem with the Bill. There is inconsistency with the White Paper, which talks about annual reporting and targets. At a Smith Institute seminar at No. 11 Downing street on 2 April this year, the Minister said:

''It is crucial to deliver on the renewables target.''

At the New Statesman lecture at 1 Birdcage walk on 4 June—the same day that the Government told us that our amendment to clause 1 was unacceptable—the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said:

''We included the target''—

of a 60 per cent. reduction in CO?2? emissions by 2050—

''as one of the overriding goals of our energy policy.''

There are targets all over the place for what the Government want to do. I could go through the details in the White Paper, but I do not think that that is necessary at this stage because we have established that point. I strongly urge the Minister to do what the Minister for the Environment did yesterday: look again and see whether compromises might be reached.

When we were discussing the Municipal Waste Recycling Bill, the Minister for the Environment said that we would have not four sorts of waste, but two, which gave a huge boost to the whole debate—it is not perfect, but that took us a long way and set some worthwhile standards.

I hope that this Minister will look at the clause again to see what can be done not only to make progress on renewables and sustainable energy, but to do so in a visible way. When things are wobbling off course, we can have another look at them. There have been many practical recommendations on adjusting targets if they are not right, and I think that we have a long way to go. I hope that he will think again.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Minister started by saying that he was delighted to be here in this Committee. I, too, am delighted to be here, not only because I am serving under your excellent chairmanship, Mr. Illsley—just to make a full house—but because although I come to this Bill late, I have a long-standing interest in renewable and sustainable energy. I have been vice-chairman of Praseg—the all-party group on renewable and sustainable energy—for about 10 years. I come with a genuine commitment to sustainable energy which I think the Minister also has. Indeed, from the speeches that we have heard today, I think that everyone in this Room has such a commitment, and that is important.

Although it may be nice to josh the Minister about the Labour party manifesto, our points are serious. As the hon. Members for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) and for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) said, we are all keen to move in the right direction for the country and for the future of the planet. It is true that in a decade, people will be more concerned about the impact of climate change than they are now, although they should be concerned enough now because that change affects us every day in this country.

The Minister made a sensible general point about wanting to be flexible. I quite understand that very prescriptive legislation is difficult to implement, and we need to be pragmatic. However, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test offered one way of being pragmatic. I offer another, which is that we should say that we will keep to the targets that are in force at the time. If we wanted to change the targets—for example, the next Conservative Government, in a couple of years, may want to push them up—we would not need primary legislation. We need to consider that possibility.

I entirely accept that we need to keep the Bill simple but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) said, this has been a Government of targets. There have been targets for practically everything. They are coming out of the Government's ears and, frankly, few of us can remember them. That is where the problem lies. Notwithstanding the Minister's personal commitment, I regret to say that the Government are failing to meet their targets in this field.

The previous Conservative Government set a target of 5 GW of CHP capacity by 2000; we are still only at 4.8 GW and there is no likelihood of reaching 5 GW in the near future. The chances of meeting the Government's CHP target of 10 GW by 2010 are, as the Minister knows, extremely slim. That is why the Government do not want the commitment in the Bill.

I mentioned to the Minister yesterday that the Renewable Power Association, which consists of the people who will achieve the target, estimates that renewables will be 7 per cent. of energy generation capacity by 2010 and 12 per cent. by 2020, which will, of course, hopelessly fail to meet the Government's targets. We do not revel in that, but we do think it important that they address the issues.

The White Paper states that we must find new ways to do things in government, one of which is reporting publicly on performance. If the Government, who go on and on, endlessly and boringly, about modernisation, want new ways to govern, it does not matter whether there are no targets in any other Bill. This is the new method of government, and they should report on specific targets. The Minister discussed simplicity; the targets are simple. He discussed transparency; it is important that the targets are transparent. The essence of the matter, and of the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East, is clarity. The targets should be laid out clearly, simply and transparently.

I suspect that the Minister is about to wind up this short debate, and I hope that he can put our minds at rest. I do not know whether he has noticed that he is on his own. I do not impugn his motives because I suspect that he is having a lot of trouble with one or two of his ministerial colleagues, perhaps in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or the Treasury. The Bill is simple and asks the Government to put their money where their mouth is. It is terribly important that we can see the exact targets. The Bill will be hollow if those targets are not included.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

It has been drawn to my attention by my ever-vigilant Parliamentary Private Secretary that I am the only Member not to have said what a pleasure it is to be in Committee under your Chairmanship, Mr. Illsley, but I shall remedy that. The first Committee that we both served on considered the poll tax legislation.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

Sixteen years ago today—a lot has changed. At one point in that Committee, the Chairman, Sir Michael Shaw, noticed that three

Tory MPs, who were of course under a vow of silence, were reading books, which is not allowed. I raised a point of order indicating that that was unfair to the then hon. Member for Crawley because he was colouring his in. It has been so exciting today that no one has had to resort to other literature.

I reiterate my remarks about how my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East has handled the Bill. There is a shared desire to get his Bill on to the statute book because it is worth while, because it will deliver a solid outcome and because it will make a real contribution to the Government's energy agenda and environmental obligations. The overriding priority is to get a worthwhile Bill. As discussions progress, we should keep our perspective between the wood and the trees.

I noticed that everybody who spoke, with the exception of myself, took the same point of view. Let us see what we can agree on: first, the White Paper is unambiguous in its targets; secondly, no one is reneging on them. I reaffirm all the targets, goals and aspirations set out in the White Paper; the Government are firmly and publicly wedded to them. Thirdly, we have an obligation to report on many fronts, and that is now to be enshrined in the Bill.

The Opposition spokesman made a very good point when he said that it is inconceivable that we would report in a way that does not draw attention to, and reflect on, the progress that has been made towards those publicly stated targets. Frankly, if we tried to report in a way that did not measure our achievements against the targets, others would promptly do it for us.

Perhaps I come from an odd direction on the issue, because I recognise what the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle said about the setting of targets. I am slightly allergic to them because I believe that there is a real danger that targets could become a form of substitution therapy, in that one sets a target, feels good about it and thinks that the job is done, when, conspicuously, it is not.

Our target of generating 10 per cent. of energy from renewables by 2010 is extremely challenging. Unless many things are done by the Government and beyond—my Devon point was not trite but described a very real problem—and unless many people play a role, it will be very difficult to achieve such targets. When I speak publicly, I do not retreat behind targets or say, ''Haven't we done well in setting targets?'' Instead, I say publicly that we have set them, but that is the easy bit. Let no one think that setting targets is in itself an achievement worthy of the name. I certainly am not hiding behind targets or hiding from the responsibility to report on progress towards achieving them.

We are discussing a very narrow point: whether targets that are publicly known, to which the Government subscribe and on which they are inescapably hooked, should be in the Bill. If hon. Members are reasonable and step back a little, they will realise that there are real problems with including targets in a Bill; those stem not from a lack of

commitment to, or a desire to avoid responsibility for, targets but from wider considerations.

Targets inevitably change in light of experience. They may go up, or they may—I had better watch what I say. I am not suggesting for a moment that they will go down, but they might be widened or acquire a different time scale. That would be a very public process. We cannot keep going back to amend what I hope will become an Act of Parliament in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East.

I return to the point that the matter is extremely important and is recognised as such in the White Paper, in which it is one of four pillars. If a different selection of Committee members were discussing different legislation, some would certainly consider fuel poverty to be just as important as environmental obligations. There are certainly Members in the House who view economic competitiveness as extremely important. There would be disagreement from Opposition Members and, I suspect, Government Members, to the idea that we should just willy-nilly, at any cost, pursue environmental targets without any regard to what that would do to energy costs. In addition, security of supply, which is probably the most fundamental political responsibility of all, may be impinged upon by a statutory commitment to very specific targets. No Government would put themselves in such a position.

The pillar of the White Paper that matters to the Committee—the one on the environment and meeting the targets—is extremely important to me, but so are the other three. It would be out of proportion to enshrine in a Bill as a target the one that related to our environmental ambitions. I reaffirm all the goals, aims and targets in the White Paper and the commitment in it to an annual report on progress, implementing all aspects of it. I will table an amendment that commits us to reporting our energy policy goals.

The target that we have discussed most today—the 10 per cent. target for renewables—is not only synonymous with what my hon. Friend is trying to achieve; it is already enshrined in legislation. I refer to SI 2002/914, otherwise known as the Renewables

Obligation Order 2002. It has been approved by the House, and Ofgem is obliged to report annually on the obligation, so it is already in statute.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Shadow Minister (International Development) 3:15, 11 June 2003

I did not know that, but does it not undermine the Minister's case that he does not want to put the targets in statute?

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson Minister of State (Industry and Energy), Department of Trade and Industry

No, it does not, as I want to explain. In that case not only the target but the mechanism is embedded in statute. The process that we went through before the target was incorporated in the order—I would describe it as an obligation rather than a target—is instructive, because none of what was done in that case is being proposed in this case.

Before enshrining that target in legislation, we consulted extensively on the end and the means, and we carefully assessed the costs and benefits. We undertook to review progress in 2005–06 and then to elaborate a strategy for the decade to 2020. I do not want to impose another target on the industry and its customers, many of whom are in fuel poverty, before completing a thorough review. The amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes, North-East suggest, for all the right reasons, the outcomes that he seeks, but they do not propose that proper approach, which must be the basis on which any such commitments are enshrined in legislation.

I hope that I have answered some of the points. I repeat that we are not retreating on targets. We support the principles and aims of the Bill, and the major target is enshrined in legislation. A report will be made on progress which, for the reasons that have been given, is bound constantly to cross-refer to the publicly stated targets, but we do not want targets in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Brian White Mr Brian White Labour, North East Milton Keynes

Given what the Minister has said, I am happy for the debate to be adjourned.

Photo of Eric Illsley Eric Illsley Labour, Barnsley Central

May I just say that I had no idea how good my chairmanship was?

Debate adjourned.—[Brian White.]

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-three minutes past Three until Wednesday 18 June at five minutes to Nine o'clock.