New Clause 4 - Reports under section 1 of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003: energy efficiency of residential accommodation

Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 9 February 2006.

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‘(1)Section 1 of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 (c. 30) (annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims) is amended as follows.

(2)In subsection (1)—

(a)omit “and” at the end of paragraph (c), and

(b)at the end of paragraph (d) insert “; and

(e)achieving the target set out in section 217(1) of the Housing Act 2004 (target for the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in England).”

(3)After subsection (1A) insert—

(a)emissions of carbon dioxide in England, and

(b)the number of households in which one or more persons are living in fuel poverty.”.’.—[Dr. Whitehead.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Labour, Southampton, Test

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

I hope that the Committee will agree to the new clause, whose aim is straightforward: to bring into the mechanism of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003, which contains requirements on annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims, the targets that are set out in section 217 of the Housing Act 2004. That section requires the Secretary of State to

“take reasonable steps to ensure that by 2010 the general level of energy efficiency of residential accommodation in England has increased by at least 20 per cent. compared with the general level of such energy efficiency in 2000.”

The purpose of the new clause is to add to the annual reports on progress towards sustainable energy aims provided for in the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 an annual report on that particular aim referred to in the Housing Act 2004. The new clause would also require a report to be given each year that examines both the

“emissions of carbon dioxide ... and ... the number of households in which one or more persons are living in fuel poverty.”

Such a provision would give some reporting milestones to the aim set out in the Housing Act 2004.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Again, I shall not detain the Committee long. The Opposition strongly support the clause and urge the Government to reach the target. That is particularly important given that they are behind on reaching their climate change targets. Perhaps I will go into that at greater length in respect of my own new clauses.

Energy efficiency is central to our efforts to combat climate change and represents the quickest, cheapest and perhaps the most easy way among all the different levers under our control to reduce carbon emissions. It has the double impact of helping the planet and helping to eradicate fuel poverty, and can therefore improve the lives of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in the UK who are still suffering fuel poverty or are at risk of doing so.

I am pleased to be chairing a Warm Front seminar tomorrow in Bexhill. Warm Front is a terrific campaign. It was initiated under the previous Government, and I am glad that it has been followed through positively and enthusiastically by this Government. There is still a great deal more for the campaign to achieve, however, and I hope that tomorrow in Bexhill I will get an opportunity to help to promote it locally. The new clause would bring back to the centre of government the importance of doing far more on energy efficiency. There is no better way to ensure that the Government do that than holding them accountable and auditing and monitoring their performance, which to date has not been good enough.

Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Chief Whip (Commons), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

I very strongly support the new clause moved by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead). I know from previous debates that the Government do not like making reports and producing targets unless they themselves have set them. It is a question of the Government taking some ownership of the need for progress and for the new clause to be added to the Bill. It is a low-cost option for the Government, as well as a simple step. It is a question that they should be happy and enthusiastic to answer. I very much hope that the Minister will take ownership and accept the new clause.

We need to take a look at how the Government deal with private Members’ Bills and how seriously they take their reporting and accountability role. My own Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004 gave the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister some additional powers to deal with sustainable buildings and housing. The Minister may refer to the fact that a code of practice on sustainable housing is currently out for   consultation. He may say that it is premature for targets to be set. He may suggest that the process is working in non-statutory ways and that the Government are expecting the market to deliver or local authorities to act out of the goodness of their hearts or the fatness of their wallets to improve the sustainability of social housing. Perhaps the housing associations are intended to do that.

There is a big gap between the words that Ministers utter in this place and the performance on the ground in new building, let alone anything that might happen with the existing building stock. Accepting the new clause would be a good way for the Minister to unjam the ODPM’s current view about imposing, as it would see it, additional requirements on housing and to ensure that the Government’s intention to improve energy efficiency and to increase the sustainability of housing takes priority. It would send a signal to other Departments, and particularly the ODPM, that it is not enough to rely on the market to produce the environmental and sustainability benefits that everybody in this room wants to see.

I urge the Minister to take a serious look at the new clause. It would not cost him very much, it would send an important signal to other Departments and it could be an important way to help the United Kingdom meet its sustainable energy targets.

Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry

We do indeed support new clause 4. Back in 2004, we published a new residential energy efficiency aim, as required by the Sustainable Energy Act 2003. We felt that we could save 3.5 million tonnes of carbon emitted from homes in England. Later that year, the Housing Act 2004 set a second target for household energy efficiency, requiring the Secretary of State to take reasonable steps to improve residential energy efficiency by 20 per cent. by 2010, with the year 2000 as the baseline.

The Housing Act 2004 did not require the Government to publish a report on progress toward the energy efficiency targets. The reporting requirement in the 2003 Act was addressed by the Energy Act of 2004, which obliges the Government to report annually on progress. Therefore, it seems logical to include in the Bill before us an equivalent reporting requirement for the Housing Act 2004 and its targets.

Should the Bill obtain Royal Assent with the clause in place, we would fulfil its requirements as part of the Government’s annual reports on implementation of the energy White Paper objectives. That would be consistent with the approach currently taken for other reporting obligations under the Sustainable Energy Act 2003. I am bound to say that combining those reports would also be energy efficient. I am pleased to confirm that the Government fully support the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

We will now come to new clause 13. I call Mr. Barker to move the new clause.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Thank you, Mr. Benton. I wish to start by withdrawing new clause 13 in favour of new clause 14.