HC Deb 27 March 1996 vol 274 cc1119-39
Mr. Simpson

I beg to move amendment No. 25, in page 17, line 21, at end add `provided that any refund made pursuant to paragraph (b) of subsection (1D) below may, unless the Treasury decides otherwise, only be a refund of a least nine and one half per cent. on the VAT chargeable'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, it will be convenient to discuss also the following amendments: No. 26, in page 17, line 24, after 'they', insert `(a)'.

No. 27, in page 17, line 26, leave out `(a)' and insert `(i)'.

No. 28, in page 17, line 27, leave out `(b)' and insert `(ii).

No. 29, in page 17, line 29, leave out `(c)' and insert(iii)

No. 30, in page 17, line 31, at end insert 'or (b) involve the conversion of a dwelling by the installation into or on the dwelling of energy saving materials as defined under subsection (1F) below.'. No. 31, in page 17, line 35, at end insert— '(1F) For the purposes of subsection (1D)(b) above energy saving materials shall be such materials or products as are by Order designated by the Secretary of State and the materials or products so designated

  1. (a) shall include all such materials or products which in his opinion are used solely for the purpose of improving the energy efficiency of buildings; and
  2. (b) may include any material or product of which in his opinion, the primary purpose is the improvement in the energy efficiency of buildings.
(1G) The Secretary of State
  1. (a) shall within one year of the passing of this Act make the Order referred to in subsection (IF) above; and
  2. (b) may make further Orders designating other materials or products if in his opinion it is expedient to do so; and any such Orders shall be subject to approval by resolution of the Commons House of Parliament.'.

Mr. Simpson

I am sorry if I misled the House a few moments ago with my enthusiasm to get on to this debate. This is not a probing amendment, but a genuine one. It aims to address an important energy conservation issue that I have attempted to raise in the House before.

The amendment is not the channel through which those of us who tabled it would have preferred to go. We were compelled to go through it to get an amendment on the Order Paper which was not ultra vires. During our proceedings, I have discovered that the other options—to propose a reduction in VAT or VAT relief—were not open to me as a Back Bencher to move.

I reflected on the fact that, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I are neighbours, there are important differences between us. He is Chancellor and I am a Back Bencher. I also understand that, in troubled times such as these, he often has cause to envy the security of my position. Although his occupation of the Chancellorship may be temporary, he has the opportunity to introduce proposals relating to VAT reduction and relief. Those opportunities were not available to those who have tabled these amendments. However, the issues and the principles at stake are the same. The principle underpinning the amendments is that it is quite wrong in tax law to pursue a policy of taxing energy conservation more heavily than energy consumption.

9.15 pm

I am not the first—and I suppose that I shall not be the last—to make that point. I always try to give credit where it is due, so I pay particular tribute to a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont). In his Budget speech on 16 March 1993, he said: For the first time, the rate of VAT on domestic fuel and power will be the same as that charged on goods like loft insulation material, which improve energy efficiency. This will bring to an end the current anomaly, which makes nonsense of any attempt to use the tax system to improve the environment".—[Official Report, 16 March 1993; Vol. 221, c. 183.] In its infinite wisdom, the House decided to retain VAT on domestic fuel bills at 8 per cent., but it did not then address the anomaly to which the Chancellor had drawn our attention. So that anomaly—the "nonsense" to which the former Chancellor referred—remains. This group of amendments seeks to remove that anomaly and to restore a level tax field to environmental policies.

As the Treasury would not do that via VAT reduction or relief, we were forced to explore the possibility of VAT rebates. I am grateful to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer for introducing the administrative framework of a rebate system into the Finance Bill. The amendments slot quite comfortably into that system. It is not simply the administrative system that matters: I shall remind the House of the extent of public support for that sort of proposal.

I should not be coy, but attribute praise to all those who deserve it. In a way, they are not my amendments, as they were formulated on the basis of wide, cross-party support. In a matter of days, 201 right hon. and hon. Members put their names to the group of amendments. Over a slightly longer period last year, 343 right hon. and hon Members put their names to an early-day motion that said substantially the same thing. A majority of hon. Members have backed the principle that we should tax energy conservation no more heavily than energy consumption.

I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) and for Truro (Mr. Taylor) who have worked to ensure that the amendments before the House are of an all-party nature. It is also important to pay tribute to the 350 local authorities around the country that have given their support to the proposal. The Confederation of British Industry energy policy committee, the Builders Merchants Federation, local chambers of commerce, pensioners' rights organisations and Friends of the Earth support the measure. A national survey commissioned by the Association for the Conservation of Energy found that Conservative councillors around the country support the proposal by a ratio of six to one. That is the scale of public support for the measure around the country on a cross-party basis.

I have attended a number of public meetings up and down the country, and I have not met anyone who opposes the proposal. However, there is one exception: Her Majesty's Treasury. The Treasury has advanced four reasons why it objects to the amendments.

First, it says that they are too bureaucratic. I shall answer that charge in three parts. The amendments would not create any new bureaucracy, as they would slot into the rebate scheme as set out in clause 28 of the Bill. It is not cumbersome in relation to generating an unsupportable level of demand on a civil service, because the terms of the amendment are targeted to the trade.

Clause 28(1C) makes it clear that the measure is aimed at contractors, and it makes it administratively simple for that to take place. If the Government's objection is that it is not wide-ranging enough, it would be open to them to come up with a proposal that widened the basis of that uptake—they could introduce it on the basis of an across-the-counter refund system. New clause 19 gives an indication of how the Government might do this, if that were their preferred path. It is not beyond the wit of the House to extend it in simple, non-bureaucratic ways if that is what the Treasury wants to do.

The second objection is the problem of definition. How will people define what is or what is not an energy-saving material? The Treasury has said that it is not competent to define that list. The truth is that we would not be asking the Treasury to define that list; it is written into the amendment that we would be asking the Secretary of State for the Environment to draw up that list over the next year.

The list would be divided into two groups: products that are solely for the purpose of energy saving, and products that are primarily for the purpose of energy saving. The Secretary of State would come to the House with that list, and he would have a year to draw it up. The Government would have a year in which they would be free to come back with a better method of delivering that reduction in VAT. I am sure that that would be ample time and would be welcomed.

The third objection I have heard is precedent—that, if we were to go down this path, a whole series of good causes would come and say, "You have done it for one, so you ought to do it for us." They are not the conditions within which the amendment is being moved. We have an unprecedented position, in which energy saving is actually tax penalised. We are not asking for tax favouring; we are asking for the removal of a tax penalty that favours the wasteful use of energy rather than the safe and responsible use of energy—we are creating a level playing field, not tax favouring.

The fourth objection that I have heard is that, if we go down this path, we will upset Europe—the objection is probably couched around it being in breach of the sixth VAT directive. I know that there are other countries in Europe—Belgium and Greece, in particular—that already use different rates of VAT to tax-favour energy conservation. If it is sauce for Belgium, it is sauce for Britain. That is not a sense in which we would be in breach—the practices are already being carried out elsewhere in Europe.

Secondly, I have managed to get a letter from one of the European Commissioners that says that, in relation to the sixth VAT directive, Certain Member States do tax the construction, renovation or alteration of social housing at the reduced rate. In such cases it may be that the contract to construct, renovate or alter the house in question might include the incorporation of energy saving materials". We are told that that is a possibility open to us. The Commissioner pointed out that it would not be an option on an individual basis, which reinforces the argument about targeting it on the trade.

My final comment in relation to this uncertainty about European rules and directives is this: what if we were challenged? If the European Commission told the House that its actions were VAT-illegal, surely that would be precisely the sort of ground on which Her Majesty's Government would want to challenge a European ruling. If European rules and directives prevent a country from tax-favouring energy conservation rather than the wasting of energy, surely that is the absurdity.

In the words of the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Thames, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, that is "the nonsense" that the House has a responsibility to tackle. If the nonsense resides at European level, it should be challenged there rather than consented to by the House. We hear much about subsidiarity, but if subsidiarity does not mean that a country has the ability to fend for its fuel-poor, it means nothing at all. The issue is as stark as that.

Against the detractors, I wish to focus on the positive points in the core of amendment No. 25, which represents a virtuous circle with four-way winners. One group of winners would be those who live in cold homes. The industry estimates that there would be a 10 per cent. increase in demand for home insulation products if we supported the amendment. It would be a real boost to the mileage of moneys left in the home energy insulation budget, which, as the House will remember, was cut by 30 per cent. despite assurances to the contrary, and it would target that greater mileage specifically on those who are suffering greatest hardship from fuel poverty.

The second beneficiary would be the environment. It has been estimated that the amendment would save 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, 290 tonnes of nitrous oxide and 530 tonnes of sulphur dioxide by the year 2000.

The third group of beneficiaries would be the unemployed. Industry has estimated that the increase in demand, simply from passing the amendment, would be the equivalent of 10,000 job-years in jobs created and jobs sustained. Finally, the industry itself would benefit. The industry is desperate for the 10 per cent. increase in demand that it estimates would come from the amendment.

The House should hear some of the comments that I have received from sections of the industry. The chief executive of Owens Corning Building Products has said: Market demand is very disappointing with no sign of improvement". More or less the same comment was made by Sheffield Insulations and Schlegel (UK) Engineering Ltd. The director of British Gypsum has said: Builders report that the past six months have been extremely difficult. We expect worse to come". Pilkington Glass Ltd. has said: The first six months of the year were very flat and we forecast a decline from here on". Dow Construction Products has said: Business is flat or even declining. The future looks bleak". Similar comments have come from Vencel Resil Ltd. and the directors of Honeywell Control Systems Ltd. Those are some of the major home insulation contractors working in Britain and they back the amendment. They have urged us to support it tonight.

The one question with which the Treasury should concern itself is the cost. The estimate for the worst case scenario for costs is £10 million. In Treasury terms, that is no more than a cup of tea between the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England. The figure assumes that there would be no increase in revenue to the Treasury from the increase in demand for products in the home insulation industry. It assumes that no savings would accrue from the retention and development of jobs in the industry.

The best case scenario suggests that the Chancellor would come out financially better off from the process. Even the worst case basis shows a minute price to pay for making serious inroads into the 50,000 avoidable deaths of people in the United Kingdom every winter through fuel poverty. That is the real bottom line of the costs borne by this country.

The reason why the Treasury does not support amendment No. 25, and why it has not come up with any amendments that would achieve the same end, is very simple. The Treasury does not want this because it does not want it. It will not come up with a simpler proposal because it does not want one—but the public do.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Has the hon. Gentleman been able to assess how much it would cost the Treasury to administer this scheme? Will he not concede that it will be quite complicated, and that it would be much simpler if we could vote in a straightforward way to reduce the rate of VAT?

Mr. Simpson

I said at the outset that there are simpler ways, but I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, so I am not in a position to introduce them. I do know, however, that the Treasury has massively exaggerated the administrative costs involved in this process. The necessary bureaucracy is being set up by the Chancellor in clause 28 of this very Bill. The new processes would simply slot into that, and the bureaucratic costs would be minimal.

Outside this place, there is massive support for the measure. Inside this House, I believe that there is massive support for the amendments too. I also know that the country will not understand if tonight we turn our backs on the simple principle that energy conservation should not be taxed more heavily than energy consumption. If we turn our backs on that idea, we shall be neither understood nor forgiven for spurning this opportunity. That is why I urge all hon. Members to support the amendments, to restore an equitable system in which sanity and environmental responsibility become the cornerstones of our tax policy.

9.30 pm
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) rather spoiled his case by asking us to follow the examples of Greece and Belgium, which are both in a financial shambles, but every responsible person is aware that energy saving is important. We levy a tax of 8 per cent. on fuel, and it would seem only common sense to say that there should be no VAT at all on energy saving. The tragedy is—Opposition Members well know this because of their obsession with Europe—that under European rules, our Parliament is not permitted to abolish VAT on energy saving. As the Liberal Democrats will appreciate, even if every Member of this House, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, voted to abolish VAT on energy saving, we would not be allowed to.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, South is proposing something very clever—not because he is particularly clever, but because he has noticed that, in clause 28, the Government have discovered a clever way round the problem. Instead of reducing the rate of VAT, it can be done by means of refunds.

The amendment is worth supporting if for no other reason than to find out whether that is possible. I therefore hope that every Member of this House who cares about democracy, about the elderly and about preserving fuel will agree that it is worth finding out whether such a system will work.

Some people, especially the Euro-enthusiasts in the Government, claim that the sixth directive already permits what we want. But I have studied it and it is far from clear. It states that the Government could reduce—not abolish—VAT in the case of housing built as part of a social policy, referring to renovation and alteration of housing provided as part of a social policy. My hon. Friends and I would certainly like to take advantage of that if it would reduce VAT, but I very much doubt, for instance, whether my house was built as part of a social policy. But there is still just a possibility that it might work, so let us try—that is, if we care about saving energy.

I hope that the excellent Paymaster General is a sensible Minister who will let us know shortly whether he has today telephoned the European Commission to ask, "Look lads, are we allowed to do this? Could we reduce the rate of VAT to 8 per cent.?" If by any chance he has not done so—I know he is a busy man—I hope that Liberal Democrats, Labour Members and Conservative Members will form a popular front—a united British Parliament—and will tell the European Commission, once we have agreed the amendment, that we want permission to reduce VAT on energy saving to 8 per cent. Would not all the parties fighting for the restoration of just a little democracy be a fine picture?

We could do it, so let us try. Why should we bother trying? Because even Government Whips would accept that it is ridiculous to have a higher rate of tax on energy saving than on energy. We should encourage, not discourage, people to save energy. One has to be very careful in supporting unusual amendments, particularly when testing ourselves against the all-powerful European Commission.

Would the change involve massive bureaucracy? I was talking to a Minister the other day, who said, "If you pass this, it will mean that everyone who goes to a do-it-yourself store will be able to ask for a refund on the VAT. It will involve hundreds of civil servants and lots of paper, and we don't want to waste paper, just as we don't want to waste fuel." Happily, I am able to reassure my hon. Friends, because I have checked up on the amendment, which the hon. Member for Nottingham, South, with the help of the Government, has constructed so carefully. It relates to new subsection (1C), which applies only to jobs done by contractors. Even if the Government wanted to try to stretch this to cover DIY stores, they cannot. The amendment is absolutely clear and precise, so we do not need to worry about bureaucracy. If there is any bureaucracy, it is in clause 28.

The second thing that worried me—I am sure that it would worry all Conservatives—is that we should not do anything to undermine or upset the Government's brilliant economic strategy. We know that we are so fortunate to have such a splendid Chancellor of the Exchequer and such a fine Government, and when they have added up the figures carefully and put on the taxes, one is always terrified that one might upset them, but the amendment is brilliant, because we do not have to do this tomorrow. In fact, all we have to do is say to the Treasury, "We don't want you to cut the taxes now. All we are saying is, please go away for a year and think carefully about what should be exempt." That means that we do not need to do anything until the next Budget—in fact, the Budget after next.

I am absolutely confident that the Conservatives will get an even greater majority at the next election, but who knows, there might be—if people are silly—a change of Government, in which case this would have to be done by a Labour Government, or even a Liberal Democrat Government, supported, perhaps, by the Scottish nationalists. It would be they who would have to go to the European Commission to say, "Please, sir, can we do this?" I hope that if there were such a Labour Government, which I would deplore, of course, they would have the support of the Conservatives in the all-popular front.

But then again, it might not cost anything. I know that, because of the need to try to save money, which the Government are so good at—apart from in their dealings with the EC—we have had to reduce slightly the very expensive and nice little scheme to help to install energy-saving features in people's houses. Whereas we used to help pensioners, we now help only pensioners who are on income support. That means that hard-working pensioners, such as my mother, who worked so hard to save money, are not eligible. That is very sad.

I do not want to bring personalities into it—otherwise, I should have to declare an interest in the Register of Members' Interests—but pensioners who cannot get income support are cut out. That means that contractors will not be able to work on those pensioners' houses, and will have to ask, "Which of you has an income support book?" If we were able to do this, it would help jobs, and that might save money. There might be an increase in demand, which would also provide jobs and so on. The Government might even find, because they are so clever in these things, that they would make money, not lose it. If there is a prospect of making money, it should appeal to the Conservative party.

Thirdly, one thing that we must not do is upset the Conservative party. It is terribly important, whether we support something or not, that on no account must we upset the Conservative party. That is one of the rules that we should all obey. Unlike myself, my hon. Friends work so hard that they sometimes do not have time to keep in touch with everybody. I have found out—I hope that my hon. Friends are aware of this—that we have done a survey of all the Conservative councillors. I draw the attention of the House to that most wonderful Conservative council which has more Conservative councillors than any other—Westminster. All the members of that brilliant Conservative council replied that they were in favour. That is the view not only of the vast majority of Conservative councillors, but of Westminster councillors. We should certainly take that into account.

We should support the amendment. What will be lost if the Government accept it? First, I believe that people will be glad that we are moving away from the nonsense created by the EC, whereby we must charge more for energy saving than for energy. So many aspects of EC policy are mad; let us try to sort one of them out. Secondly, acceptance would unite us; we could all go together to the EC and say, "We want to change this. Please have the courage to let us do it."

We have very good Commissioners. We have one who is represented by the Conservative party, and one represented by Labour. The trouble with the EC is that it sometimes does illegal things that it is not entitled to do, such as banning exports of cattle all over the world. It does those things for funny reasons: in that instance, it is taking action not because it wants its action to work, but to deprive us of our subsidies.

The Commission is all-powerful, and I therefore hope that we can unite on a popular front. Let us help jobs; let us help pensioners who are not on income support; let us help democracy; and let us help to introduce a bit of common sense in the EC. I understand that more than 70 Conservative Members—they do not include me, of course—have put down their names in support of the proposal. Conservatives' word is their bond: I signed the pledge against alcohol when I was six years old, and, like all Conservatives, I have kept my promise. I know that Conservatives keep their promises, and I hope that they will support the amendment. It will be good for Britain, good for pensioners, good for jobs, good for the Government and, I believe, good for the whole nation.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

As a sponsor of the amendment, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) on tabling it.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), who spoke at length, said that the amendment contained flaws. He and I, and other members of the all-party parliamentary warm homes group, trawled through the Bill to try to find other ways of addressing the issues of energy conservation and fuel poverty, and this is the best method that we could come up with. Although it is not perfect, at least it is a step in the right direction, and, if accepted, it would send the country the message that we are trying to deal with such matters in Parliament.

Let me touch briefly on two principles. First, there is the question of the health and safety of the most vulnerable members of society. I thought it despicable that the Budget massively cut the home energy efficiency scheme, given the impact that that will have on the poorest members of society, who are often living in the worst housing. The safety aspect relates to the health issue that has already been mentioned. Many people are now taken into hospital during the winter, which costs the national health service a vast amount. If those people could heat their homes to a reasonable extent, that would not happen. I do not think that the Treasury has considered the saving that could be made.

Before the Budget, we made a substantial submission. We said that we did not want money simply to be thrown at the problem; the Treasury could benefit from some of the positive ideas that had emerged from the all-party group and, indeed, from many voluntary and statutory organisations throughout the United Kingdom. The Treasury should bang a few heads together, get its civil servants to do their sums and realise that our proposals will benefit not only the health of the most vulnerable in society, but—perhaps—the Treasury.

The second aspect is energy conservation and employment creation. When the Government introduced the concept of VAT on domestic fuel, they said that it was part and parcel of the Rio agreement. That seemed to paint a bright picture for the Government, but in reality they were looking for money and not adhering to the agreement at all.

Hon. Members who care about the environment should vote with us on the amendment because it is about the green issue of energy conservation and employment creation. From whichever part of the House he comes, no hon. Member should sit on his hands—he should join us in the Lobby. Employment creation is important and there are many opportunities to renovate the housing stock, which would take people out of unemployment and social security benefits and enable them to earn money and pay taxes.

9.45 pm

I listened to the speech by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). We all talk about the rights of an elective democracy. We are sent here to represent people, and the amendment would remove some power from the Executive, not just in Brussels, but in Whitehall, and would give members of every party in the House the right to say, "We will take the decisions affecting vulnerable sections of society." This is not just an argument about Europe: it is about the Executive and the rights of elected representatives. I hope that hon. Members will support the amendment.

Sir John Hannam (Exeter)

The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) made a powerful speech in promoting the amendment. I shall be brief, because the case in principle for removal of the VAT anomaly in energy conservation matters is irrefutable. Obviously, the problem is to try to find a method of achieving that objective, whereby customers would pay the same 8 per cent. rate on energy-saving materials as on the fuels that they consumed.

As the hon. Member for Nottingham, South said, new clause 10 was reasonably clear cut, in that it would have established relief from VAT for a designated list of energy-saving products. However, the new clause was ruled to be outside the resolution of the Bill, so instead we are debating a group of amendments that would enable refunds to be claimed by contractors carrying out energy conservation installations.

Over the years, like other hon. Members no doubt, I have engaged in many debates with Treasury officials and Ministers in an endeavour to obtain VAT refunds for charities and charitable operations. I am fully aware of the strong reservations of Customs and Excise and Treasury officials about giving VAT relief for specified products and services. I am sure that, as usual, Treasury Ministers will produce solid evidence against refund proposals, as well as showing them to be counter-productive.

Even if the refund system is not the answer to the VAT anomaly, I implore the Minister to recognise our case for a more positive approach to energy saving. It cannot be right that people have to pay more tax to save fuel than to use it. That is not how our tax system should operate. Many of my hon. Friends have shown their support for that principle by signing early-day motion 383.

If new clause 10 had been the subject of this debate, I have no doubt that it would have been supported by a substantial number of my hon. Friends. The refund amendments do not command the same enthusiasm. If the Minister has alternative proposals for the restoration of confidence in our energy-saving programme, which took a sudden battering in November from the 31 per cent. reduction in the home energy efficiency scheme, we shall be happy to go along with the Government.

Like many other hon. Members, in November, I took part in the home energy efficiency scheme week. I was mortified when, on the very day I was assisting an elderly couple with draught-proofing in their home, the news broke of the 31 per cent. cut in that scheme. Unfortunately, it was broken to me by the local press. That reduction in financial support will result in 200,000 fewer grants; with a national waiting list of 210,000 households, that was not good news.

A refund of VAT on energy-saving material costs would represent only modest help to the home energy efficiency scheme, so I would prefer to see a restoration of the lost funding in the next Budget. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General will be able to reassure my hon. Friends and me that the Government are determined to strengthen our energy conservation policies and that they will look at the issue again if they are unable to accept the amendment. My right hon. Friend's reply to the debate will be crucial in determining my attitude in any Division that may be called later, and I am sure that that applies to other hon. Friends as well.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

The answer to the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) is that there is one simple alternative to the amendment before us: the Government could accept the original measure promoted by so many hon. Members. If the Minister so wished, he could choose to do that. It is clear that, sadly, the Government are not prepared to do so. Just one conclusion can be drawn by all those who signed the early-day motion, including many Conservative Members. If they believe in what they said they believed in by signing that early-day motion, they will vote in favour of the amendment.

If the Government pursue their current line, the Paymaster General will put his own colleagues in an extremely difficult position. He is asking them to choose between standing by what they said they believed in publicly by signing the early-day motion, and supporting their party. I understand that difficulty, but if the Government pursue that line, they will be defeated tonight. I certainly hope so, because that would be the only creditable position for the House to adopt, given the widespread support for the early-day motion.

The amendment deserves support, quite apart from the fundamental principle involved. It offers good news for the industry, which has been hit by the cuts in the home energy efficiency scheme grants, which were so unexpectedly announced in November, as the hon. Member for Exeter said. It would be good news for jobs and for the environment. It would also be good news for those currently living in damp, cold homes that they cannot afford to heat properly. Those arguments have been put very well already, and I do not intend to dwell on them.

It is nonsense for the House to be in the current position of supporting a regime whereby those who seek to save energy are penalised by the tax system, whereas those who use it wastefully are supported by it. That cannot be maintained. The Finance Bill already contains a refund system for certain building works, and all the amendment seeks to do is to add an extra category of goods for refund.

Although hon. Members would prefer a different system from that advocated in the amendment, that system works and the necessary bureaucracy has already been created. That is not at issue here. That system would offer the benefits to which I referred and, above all, it reflects the concern that so many hon. Members have already expressed by supporting the early-day motion. If they are honourable men and women, they will support the amendment.

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk)

I do not intend to reiterate the points that have already been made in the debate, most of which I agree with, but I have a couple of pleas to make to my right hon. Friend before he answers the debate. If he is unable to accept the amendment—and it will not be a great surprise to me if he is unable to do so, because I am sure he could find plenty of good technical arguments objecting to it—I hope that he will say something about his view of the principles involved. Both inside and outside the House, there is overwhelming support for what the amendment is designed to achieve: to produce the same VAT rate for energy use and energy saving.

Energy efficiency is one of those rare subjects where economic, environmental and job creation aims coincide. In that respect, it is a happy and unusual subject. That makes the principle that the amendment would establish genuinely difficult to fault. If in answering the debate my right hon. Friend deals only with deficiencies in the amendment and does not deal with the principles, the issue is bound to return. I hope, therefore, that, if he does not accept the amendment, for whatever reason, he will at least assure the House that the issue will be examined with a view to finding, between now and the next Budget, a satisfactory method of achieving the principle and the amendment's aim.

Reducing the VAT rate on energy-saving materials to the same rate as on fuel can be achieved in a variety of ways. I would be happy if my right hon. Friend said that he will perhaps introduce measures in the Budget, provided that—I recognise that the Treasury may be concerned about administrative costs and the cost of the concession—in the next eight months, he can be satisfied in relation to the total cost of the concession and the bureaucratic difficulties that some people suggest may arise. If he told the House that, subject to that, he would accept the principle, that would be a huge step forward.

My right hon. Friend's task has not been made easier by the change to the funding of the home energy efficiency scheme. My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir J. Hannam) referred to the change, which was announced just before Christmas. If there are to be alternative solutions, many hon. Members would be happy for that reduction in funding to be restored. That would be another way of dealing with the issue and of demonstrating the Government's commitment.

There are other ways of doing that. If the Government were able to give energy efficiency a higher profile—for example, if they could emphasise the importance of publishing energy ratings for every property, especially at the time when a property or tenancy changes hands—that would be a step in the right direction. Energy efficiency remains an unglamorous subject. If people understood it more clearly, they would find that the benefits that can be achieved from energy efficiency and energy saving are so great that they would have every motivation to take the necessary steps in relation to their property.

I should like to make one final suggestion to my right hon. Friend. If he offered even a temporary cut in VAT, for a year or two, that would be helpful. It would provide an incentive, boost the building industry at a time when jobs are still needed and give a higher profile to the subject. My right hon. Friend was once responsible for energy efficiency issues. I know of his interest in the subject and I look forward to his response, when I hope that he will demonstrate his commitment to the principle.

Ms Primarolo

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) on his creativity in drafting these complex amendments, which aim, by way of a refund, to reduce the VAT rate on energy-saving materials to 8 per cent., putting it in line with that on fuel. He acknowledged, as other hon. Members have, that there are some drafting problems in that the Budget resolution is drawn so tightly that it is the only way in which the House can express its view on a proposal to reduce the VAT on energy-saving materials.

As the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) rightly pointed out, there are easier, less complex ways to achieve the same objective, but that is prevented by way of the Budget resolution. The House is left with this rather complicated method of expressing a view.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) called for the formation of a popular front—one-nation Members of Parliament acting in unison to defend those who, through their poverty, are cast out by the Government by the prevention of reasonably priced energy-efficient materials.

Instead of giving us bureaucratic and technical excuses, the Government should be agreeing to take the proposals forward in the 12-month period provided by the amendments, and should come back next year with clear proposals on how the will of the House can be enacted. We disagree with the Government. We do not believe that the proposals would be ruled out by the sixth directive, but we are prepared—as the hon. Member for Southend, East rightly challenged us to be—to put it to the test.

We shall support the amendments, not because they are the best way in which to achieve our ends but because they are the only way that is offered to us. The Minister must explain whether he is against the principle that VAT on energy-saving materials should be the same as VAT on fuel, or whether he is telling us that Brussels prevents us from making them the same. If Brussels is preventing us, he should clearly explain why. We believe that he has no reasons to offer and we shall vote against the Government.

I want to make it clear that, despite the fact that the director of Friends of the Earth on "Today" this morning seemed to know by telepathy what the Front-Bench team of Her Majesty's Opposition were going to do, he was wrong. We shall be voting against the Government, we intended to vote against the Government, and I ask all hon. Members in the name of justice, jobs, democracy and energy efficiency to vote with us.

10 pm

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

It is clear from this debate and other debates that the House is strongly committed to the cause of energy efficiency. No one who heard the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) can doubt his commitment to that aim, which is shared by me personally and by the Government as a whole. We give considerable help, practical advice and grant assistance to improve the way in which the country uses energy. We can all unite behind the amendment's motive, even if we disagree on the mechanism.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, South pointed out that he—as well as perhaps other hon. Members—has previously raised the issue of cutting the rate of VAT for energy-efficient material. I must make the point, however, that that request must take its place alongside many others that I receive for favourable and reduced rates of VAT on a range of other goods and services. Many right and hon. Members who are present have written to me—often on behalf of constituents—urging lower rates of VAT for hotel and tourist accommodation, for example. There has been a strong campaign for that recently. Requests have also been made about repairs to buildings, particularly historical buildings and churches. People have also asked for lower rates on sanitary products for women—that is strongly urged on the Government from time to time—and for more favourable VAT treatment for the disabled and for charities in general. All those cases—

Mr. Simpson

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister's winding-up speech, but does he understand that what I was asking for was no more than what was requested by a former Chancellor of the Exchequer—a level playing field, so that we do not tax energy saving more heavily than energy consuming?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Yes, but other people urging other cuts use precisely the same argument. For instance, we apply VAT at the full 17.5 per cent. to repairs to listed buildings, whereas alterations to listed buildings are zero-rated. So people writing to me make the same point: why not have a level system, with zero rating applying to both?

I promise the hon. Gentleman that he is not unique in drawing our attention to perceived anomalies in the VAT system. As a Minister, I have inherited a system containing within it anomalies that doubtless we would like to correct in various ways—but to choose between the well-argued and plausible cases put to us would be highly invidious.

The other examples that I gave are all well argued and heartfelt, yet to concede on all of them would seriously erode the VAT tax base, and would mean that taxes had to go up elsewhere. I also urge another reason on the House. Our long-standing policy is to favour a simple VAT system with a single positive rate operating with our zero rates.

The single exception to that, as the hon. Member for Nottingham, South pointed out, is VAT on fuel and power. We originally wished that rate to increase to the standard rate. Indeed, all other countries with VAT systems have a standard rate for fuel and power. But here, Parliament decided that the rate should stay at 8 per cent., so 8 per cent. is where it will remain. In administrative terms, that is not a serious erosion of the principle of simplicity, because fuel and power are easy to define and there are comparatively few suppliers, so it creates no undue complexity either for taxpayers or for Customs and Excise.

However, I contrast that starkly with the case before us. Building materials are in an entirely different category. We are dealing with an enormous range and quantity of products, some of which are, and some of which are claimed to be, energy-efficient. To draw up a definitive list of energy-saving materials and services that would receive favourable tax treatment would be extremely difficult.

Some products and services are used solely to improve energy efficiency, but there are many others whose energy-efficient qualities are secondary to their main purpose, or even incidental. For example, gas-fired condensing boilers are more expensive than ordinary boilers, but also markedly more fuel-efficient.

I am sure that the purpose of the amendments is to encourage the installation of such boilers by giving them favourable VAT treatment. But it is not clear that the primary purpose of such a boiler, or of any boiler, is energy-efficiency. The primary purpose of a condensing boiler is to produce hot water. It would not fall within the definition drawn up by the supporters of the amendment.

A more general objection that applies to any scheme to reduce VAT for this diverse range of products is that someone would have to decide when a boiler was sufficiently energy-efficient to qualify for the reduced rate of VAT. Who would decide? Who would draw up the list? When would a new switch on a boiler sufficiently improve its energy efficiency to qualify for the tax privilege?

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I am listening to my right hon. Friend's explanation, but will he stop reading from the brief prepared by either Customs and Excise or the Inland Revenue and give a guarantee to Conservative Members that he will look seriously at ways of exempting energy efficiency from the higher rate of VAT? If he fails to do so, he will fail to get the full support of Conservative Members.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I am not reading from a brief prepared by Customs and Excise. I am referring to my notes made for the purpose of resisting the clause. I confidently expect to see my hon. Friend in the Division Lobby with me, because he has been a proponent of deregulation and the simplification of the tax system.

The proposed scheme and the proposed reduced rate for the complex range of energy-efficient materials would be a recipe for doubts and litigation that would make nonsense of our pledge to simplify the tax system and deregulate burdens on business—particularly small businesses. My hon. Friend has been a doughty champion of small businesses and the need to remove burdens from them. The amendment would add to their burdens, because small businesses would have to make sense of the secondary legislation and the complex borders and dividing lines between what is and what is not energy-efficient material.

The points that I have made about the complexities are emphasised by looking at the amendment, as the House is being asked to approve a repayment scheme. The clause is aimed to help DIY converters—for example, someone who is converting a barn into a house. The clause as it stands allows that person to reclaim VAT on the construction and conversion of that dwelling. The amendment would bolt on to that clause a measure, the result of which will be that the person will not receive a refund for a large building project as was intended under the clause. Hundreds of thousands of energy-efficient conversions would be added to the measure, creating a regulatory paper chase.

The problem is that there are 23 million households in this country, a high proportion of whom in any one year undertake additions to their houses involving energy-efficient goods. Under the provisions of the amendment, all of them would have to have the work done by a VAT-registered contractor who would have to be familiar with the complex secondary legislation and be able to make sense of it. The contractor would then have to submit a VAT invoice to the householder, who would then have to go along to Customs and Excise to receive back the VAT. That is a regulatory and bureaucratic nightmare.

Mr. Simpson

Has the right hon. Gentleman received similar representations to those that I have received from small builders' associations, saying that they do not regard the proposals as too complex to administer or undesirable? They are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposals in the amendment.

10.15 pm
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

I have received representations from many people wanting a reduced rate, but it is my duty as a Minister to point out the practical effects of passing such an amendment and the regulatory consequences.

In Standing Committee, I was pressed, as were my right and hon. Friends, to simplify the tax system. Indeed, the Labour party voted on its own new clause to the Bill to insist on further simplification of the indirect tax system. I do not understand, therefore, how in the same sentence Labour Members can claim that they are in favour of simplification and deregulation of the tax system and urge on the country a system of bureaucratic regulation such as the one that I outlined.

I must deal with one further point—that raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). I do not know whether the proposals conflict with European Community law. because of the very complexity of the method used to achieve the refund of VAT, it may well be that a way has been found of complying with the requirements of EC legislation—I certainly do not want to inflame my hon. Friend by denying that that is possible—but that has been achieved only by putting before the House a proposal that is complex, regulatory and bureaucratic. To repeat the point, it conflicts with everything that I know my hon. Friend believes about shrinking the size of the state, getting complexities and regulations off the back of business and making our tax system comprehensible to the public.

Finally, to return to the argument with which I started, I take energy efficiency seriously. We believe in working to improve the way in which the country uses energy. I have listened carefully, particularly to my hon. Friends the Members for Exeter and for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo), both of whom have a long and honourable record of promoting energy efficiency. During the coming public expenditure round, we will look with more than the usual care to find out what needs to be done to improve energy efficiency. If we can find a way to achieve by other means, what the amendments seek to achieve, I will certainly endeavour to meet the points raised in the debate.

question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 279, Noes 280.

Division No. 90] [10.17 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Adams, Mrs Irene Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'I)
Allen, Graham Denham, John
Alton, David Dixon, Don
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Dobson, Frank
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Donohoe, Brian H
Armstrong, Hilary Dowd, Jim
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ashton, Joe Eagle, Ms Angela
Austin-Walker, John Etherington, Bill
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Evans, John (St Helens N)
Barnes, Harry Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Battle, John Fatchett, Derek
Bayley, Hugh Faulds, Andrew
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beggs, Roy Fisher, Mark
Beith, Rt Hon A J Flynn, Paul
Bell, Stuart Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Bennett, Andrew F Foster, Don (Bath)
Benton, Joe Foulkes, George
Bermingham, Gerald Fyfe, Maria
Berry, Roger Galbraith, Sam
Betts, Clive Galloway, George
Blunkett, David Gapes, Mike
Boateng, Paul George, Bruce
Bradley, Keith Gerrard, Neil
Bray, Dr Jeremy Godman, Dr Norman A
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Godsiff, Roger
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Golding, Mrs Llin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gordon, Mildred
Burden, Richard Graham, Thomas
Byers, Stephen Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Callaghan, Jim Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Gunnell, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hain, Peter
Campbell-Savours, D N Hall, Mike
Canavan, Dennis Hanson, David
Cann, Jamie Harvey, Nick
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomery) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Chidgey, David Henderson, Doug
Chisholm, Malcolm Heppell, John
Church, Judith Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Clapham, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Hodge, Margaret
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Home Robertson, John
Clelland, David Hood, Jimmy
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hoon, Geoffrey
Coffey, Ann Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George (Knowsley North)
Connarty, Michael Howells, Dr Kim (Pontypridd)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hoyle, Doug
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cousins, Jim Hutton, John
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Roseanna Ingram, Adam
Dalyell, Tam Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Darling, Alistair Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Davidson, Ian Jamieson, David
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Janner, Greville
Davies, Chris (L'Boro & S'worth) Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys MÔn) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Purchase, Ken
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Quin, Ms Joyce
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Radice, Giles
Jowell, Tessa Randall, Stuart
Keen, Alan Raynsford, Nick
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Reid, Dr John
Kennedy, Jane (L'pool Br'dg'n) Rendel, David
Khabra, Piara S Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Kilfoyle, Peter Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Kirkwood, Archy Roche, Mrs Barbara
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Rooker, Jeff
Lewis, Terry Rooney, Terry
Liddell, Mrs Helen Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Litherland, Robert Ross, William (E Londonderry)
Livingstone, Ken Rowlands, Ted
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Ruddock, Joan
Llwyd, Elfyn Salmond, Alex
Loyden, Eddie Sedgemore, Brian
Lynne, Ms Liz Sheerman, Barry
McAllion, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McAvoy, Thomas Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McCartney, Ian Short, Clare
McCartney, Robert Simpson, Alan
Macdonald, Calum Skinner, Dennis
McFall, John Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
McKelvey, William Smith, Chris (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McLeish, Henry Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Maclennan, Robert Smyth, The Reverend Martin
McMaster, Gordon Snape, Peter
McNamara, Kevin Soley, Clive
MacShane, Denis Spearing, Nigel
McWilliam, John Spellar, John
Madden, Max Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Maddock, Diana Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Maginnis, Ken Steinberg, Gerry
Mahon, Alice Stevenson, George
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John Stott, Roger
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Strang, Dr. Gavin
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Straw, Jack
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Martin, Michael J (Springburn) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Martlew, Eric Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Maxton, John Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strgfd)
Meacher, Michael Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Meale, Alan Thurnham, Peter
Michael, Alun Timms, Stephen
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Tipping, Paddy
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Touhig, Don
Milburn, Alan Trickett, Jon
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby) Trimble, David
Molyneaux, Rt Hon Sir James Turner, Dennis
Moonie, Dr Lewis Tyler, Paul
Morgan, Rhodri Vaz, Keith
Morley, Elliot Walker, A Cecil (Belfast N)
Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wy'nshawe) Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Wallace, James
Mowlam, Marjorie Walley, Joan
Mudie, George Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N
Murphy, Paul Watson, Mike
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Welsh, Andrew
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Wicks, Malcolm
O'Brien, Mike (N W'kshire) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
O'Brien, William (Normanton) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Olner, Bill Wilson, Brian
O'Neill, Martin Wise, Audrey
Pearson, Ian Worthington, Tony
Pendry, Tom Wray, Jimmy
Pickthall, Colin Wright, Dr Tony
Pike, Peter L Young, David (Bolton SE)
Pope, Greg
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prentice, Bridget (Lew'm E) Mr. Jon Owen Jones and
Prescott, Rt Hon John Mr. John Cummings.
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Durant, Sir Anthony
Aitken, Rt Hon Jonathan Dykes, Hugh
Alexander, Richard Elletson, Harold
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Amess, David Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Evennett, David
Ashby, David Faber, David
Atkins, Rt Hon Robert Fabricant, Michael
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Fenner, Dame Peggy
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Baker, Rt Hon Kenneth (Mole V) Fishburn, Dudley
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Forman, Nigel
Baldry, Tony Forsyth, Rt Hon Michael (Stirling)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Forth, Eric
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bates, Michael Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Batiste, Spencer Fox, Rt Hon Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Bellingham, Henry Freeman, Rt Hon Roger
Beresford, Sir Paul French, Douglas
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fry, Sir Peter
Body, Sir Richard Gale, Roger
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Gallie, Phil
Boswell, Tim Gardiner, Sir George
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Garnier, Edward
Bowis, John Gill, Christopher
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Gillan, Cheryl
Brandreth, Gyles Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Brazier, Julian Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Bright, Sir Graham Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Gorst, Sir John
Brown, M (Brigg & Cl'thorpes) Grant, Sir A (SW Cambs)
Browning, Mrs Angela Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Bruce, Ian (South Dorset) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Budgen, Nicholas Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Burns, Simon Grylls, Sir Michael
Burt, Alistair Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Butcher, John Hague, Rt Hon William
Butler, Peter Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Butterfill, John Hampson, Dr Keith
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Hanley, Rt Hon Jeremy
Carlisle, Sir Kenneth (Lincoln) Hargreaves, Andrew
Carrington, Matthew Harris, David
Cartfes, Michael Haselhurst, Sir Alan
Cash, William Hawkins, Nick
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hawksley, Warren
Chapman, Sir Sydney Hayes, Jerry
Churchill, Mr Heald, Oliver
Clappison, James Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hendry, Charles
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence
Coe, Sebastian Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Colvin, Michael Horam, John
Congdon, David Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Conway, Derek Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hughes, Robert G (Harrow W)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Couchman, James Hunter, Andrew
Cran, James Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Jack, Michael
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Jenkin, Bernard
Davis, David (Boothferry) Jessel, Toby
Day, Stephen Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Deva, Nirj Joseph Jones, Robert B (W Hertfdshr)
Devlin, Tim Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Dicks, Terry Key, Robert
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knapman, Roger
Dover, Den Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Duncan-Smith, Iain Knight, Rt Hon Greg (Derby N)
Dunn, Bob Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Sackville, Tom
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Sainsbury, Rt Hon Sir Timothy
Legg, Barry Scott, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Leigh, Edward Shaw, David (Dover)
Lennox-Boyd, Sir Mark Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Lester, Sir James (Broxtowe) Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lidington, David Shepherd, Sir Colin (Hereford)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Shersby, Sir Michael
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Sims, Roger
Lord, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Luff, Peter Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames, Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
MacKay, Andrew Spicer, Sir Michael (S Worcs)
Maclean, Rt Hon David Spink, Dr Robert
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Spring, Richard
Maitland, Lady Olga Sproat, Iain
Major, Rt Hon John Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Malone, Gerald Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mans, Keith Steen, Anthony
Marland, Paul Stephen, Michael
Marlow, Tony Stewart, Allan
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Streeter, Gary
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Sumberg, David
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian Sweeney, Walter
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Sykes, John
Mellor, Rt Hon David Tapsell, Sir Peter
Merchant, Piers Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mills, Iain Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Temple-Morris, Peter
Mitchell, Sir David (NW Hants) Thomason, Roy
Moate, Sir Roger Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Monro, Rt Hon Sir Hector Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Townend, John (Bridlington)
Needham, Rt Hon Richard Townsend, Cyril D (Bexl'yh'th)
Nelson, Anthony Tracey, Richard
Neubert, Sir Michael Tredinnick, David
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Trend, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Norris, Steve Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley Viggers, Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Ottaway, Richard Walden, George
Page, Richard Walker, Bill (N Tayside)
Paice, James Wailer, Gary
Patnick, Sir Irvine Ward, John
Patten, Rt Hon John Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Pawsey, James Waterson, Nigel
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Watts, John
Pickles, Eric Wells, Bowen
Porter, Barry (Wirral S) Whitney, Ray
Porter, David (Waveney) Whittingdale, John
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Widdecombe, Ann
Powell, William (Corby) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Rathbone, Tim Wilkinson, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John Willetts, David
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Richards, Rod Wolfson, Mark
Riddick, Graham Yeo, Tim
Robathan, Andrew Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S) Tellers for the Noes:
Robinson, Mark (Somerton) Mr. Tim Wood and
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Mr. Patrick McLoughlin.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 4, in page 17, line 22, leave out from '(1D)' to 'to' in line 23 and insert 'For the purpose of this section works constitute a residential conversion'.

No. 5, in page 17, leave out lines 32 to 35.—[Mr. Wells.]

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