Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill — 10 Mar 2000
Order for Second Reading read.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
If the Bill becomes law, it will undoubtedly improve the quality and well-being of a great many people. I have no doubt that that statement will raise expectations.
People go into politics for all sorts of reasons. I have been in politics for a long time. I decided at the age of 11 that I wanted to be a Member of Parliament, and it was a childhood ambition come true when I arrived in the House in 1983.
As we all know, we are very modest people. None of us really wants to be here; friends, neighbours and relatives twist our arms to stand for Parliament, and hey presto! we arrive here full of modesty. We are all content to be Back Benchers: ambition never enters our minds.
It probably has not escaped the notice of my colleagues that I am neither Prime Minister nor Leader of the Opposition. My mother and my wife still believe that I am a late developer--we shall see what happens--but I believe that, once one realises one's limitations, it is rather churlish to remain here and become bitter and twisted because no one notices the talent that one's relatives alone believe one to have.
When I entered the ballot for private Members' Bills year after year and never got the opportunity to speak, I became rather frustrated. I entered the ballot 16 times and, at last, on the 16th occasion, I was successful. There is no significance in the number 16, but it was third time lucky in this Parliament.
If I had been told that I would have the marvellous opportunity to speak first and not wait to be tail-end Charlie--the opportunity to have a few people listening to what I say, whether the House enjoys it or not and whether or not hon. Members are persuaded to adopt my point of view--I would have said, "How wonderful." However, I never imagined that I would seek leave of the House to present the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Bill. There were two issues on my agenda that were very dear to my heart: the pro-life issue, and animal welfare.
On the second count, I have convinced myself that I have already done my duty. There is an Act in my name, with which I am sure hon. Members are familiar: the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act 1988, which prevents horses, ponies and donkeys from being tied up and ensures that they are properly watered and fed. I rather feel that I have done my duty by animals.
I did, however, agonise about the pro-life issue. Would I make a glorious speech, enthral the House, convince it of my argument and win the day? Then, without wishing to stir things up, I pondered on the House as it now is, and concluded that, although I might make a decent speech, I would probably be wasting my time.
I therefore did not have an issue to bring to the House. I found that I had suddenly become popular: people were interested in me. It was a little like the 1992 general
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election all over again. For 30 seconds, it seemed that the nation's attention focused on my good self. All sorts of organisations and interest groups suddenly wanted to know me.
Simply shovelling money at people to heat the skies above our cities is hardly a sustainable use of resources. Nor will it help the fuel poor much.
How many of our pensioners will go cold this winter?
To require the Secretary of State to draw up and facilitate the carrying out of a programme of action to provide households with a comprehensive package of home insulation, heating and other energy efficiency improvements for the purpose of reducing fuel poverty; to require the setting of targets for the achievement of that programme; and for connected purposes.
any power to require any person to carry out works.
One of the obscenities of the 1980s was the failure to tackle the problem of keeping our elderly people warm in winter.
The preventable scourge of fuel poverty still remains an indictable menace in our society.
accept the concept of "fuel poverty"?
About one in 20 households were classed as being in severe fuel poverty, needing to spend over 20 per cent. and 30 per cent.
switched gas suppliers can save around £65 each and in electricity 4 million have switched saving £20 a year each.
the old, the poor and the people in the lowest social groupings.
The solution to the problem lies in the long-term improvement of housing stock.
The Government has promised to eradicate fuel poverty. Labour's manifesto for the Scottish Parliament promised to do this in two terms. Senior Ministers are on the record saying fuel poverty must be ended, that it is a "scandal" and a "preventable scourge". Recently, an "Inter-Ministerial Group" has been set up to look at the problem and set a target date to eradicate fuel poverty.
Despite this, the Labour leadership has a poor record. Ministers have effectively "removed" over 1 million households from fuel poverty by attempting to change the definition.
the difference between the number of deaths during the four winter months (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding autumn (August to November) and the following summer (April to July)---[ Official Report , 20 December 1999; Vol. 341, c. 436W.].
measures which the appropriate authority believes are required to ensure that households in fuel poverty have access to appropriate fuel tariffs which encourage the efficient use of energy.
appropriate fuel tariffs which encourage the efficient use of energy.
In preparing a report . . . the appropriate authority shall consult--
(a) such organisations as appear to it to represent--
(i) local authorities,
(iii) persons in fuel poverty;
(b) such other persons as it sees fit.
the elimination of fuel poverty is essential to meet Britain's international climate change obligations. . . . A policy of paying people to heat the skies above their homes is simply unsustainable.
of customers of persons who supply gas are treated less favourably than other customers of theirs . . .
I have always tried hard to be as supportive as possible--this is why I am surprised to see that I am not listed as being supportive in other ways.
Now that he is Chief Secretary to the Treasury, he has every chance of being as supportive as he could want to. Responsibility has been accepted by the Cabinet Minister responsible for controlling public expenditure, so he must know how the aims of the Bill can be achieved without increasing public expenditure. Otherwise, the figures that the Chief Secretary has published would be misleading, and that cannot be the case. I hope that the Minister will enlighten the House about the funding mechanism and how it fits in with the Government's current spending targets.
Question put, That the Question be now put:--
The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 0.
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