New Clause 14 - Parish councils: power to set up local energy schemes

Part of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 9 February 2006.

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Photo of Malcolm Wicks Malcolm Wicks Minister for energy, Department of Trade and Industry 2:45, 9 February 2006

The best thing that I can do is ensure that my hon. Friend’s remarks are brought to the attention of the Minister responsible and the ODPM. That has already happened, as it were, and they will reflect on his suggestion.

The Government’s two pieces of statutory guidance on the framework for improving the well-being of communities make it absolutely clear that local authorities can use their power of well-being and community strategies to combat climate change. I understand that some local authorities have received legal advice. This is complex because it will depend on the action being proposed. Adding the suggested wording would not make anything legal that was not legal before. If an action to combat climate change is currently illegal, the new clause will not change that. The legal advice to which I think the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle was referring may have been about the specifics of what would be legal or illegal rather than a general statement about well-being.

I give this undertaking on behalf of my colleague in the ODPM. We will reflect on what has been a useful debate. At the moment, there is nothing to stop the kind of projects that the hon. Gentleman described. I understand that there is confusion. There is an issue here about further clarification, although not in terms of statute. We are talking about better communication of powers. Indeed, I hope there would be some encouragement that parish councils will use these powers. I was wondering about parish meetings, but that is perhaps going too far. We all have a vested interest in combating climate change. I will have to oppose new clause 15 if it comes to a vote. In principle, we agree to new clause 14 and are looking at that.