§ Order for Second Reading read.2.19 pm
§ Mr. Clive Efford (Eltham)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) on successfully steering his Bill through Second Reading. In the short time that I have left, I sincerely hope that I can join him.
I understand that the Bill is opposed by the right hon. Members for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean). I hope that, in what will be a short debate, we will have an opportunity to find out exactly what their opposition is. I shall try to give them some time to make a speech.
The Bill reached Third Reading, steered by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett), in the first Session of the Parliament. I pay tribute to him. I was drawn number 18 in the Back-Bench Members' ballot at the time. I picked up the Bill in November 1997. Later, he indicated that he was also interested in the Bill, which was slightly controversial. I felt that it had a better opportunity of success with him as he came sixth in the ballot and would be more likely to secure the time needed for it to pass through all its stages. I wished him well at the time.
I have a letter from the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst in which he says that it should not be easy to get private Member's Bills through Parliament. I accept that, but, given that I have been associated with the Bill since November 1997, I do not exactly consider it easy to get such Bills through the House.
Some comment has been made about the fact that I put the Bills forward as presentation Bills. That is purely a tactical move. The Bill and the next Bill on the Order Paper—the Energy Conservation (Housing) Bill—went through all their stages in a previous Session. Their Second Reading was unopposed. They went through the Committee stage. They were redrafted by parliamentary counsel. They reached Third Reading and then a voice from the back shouted, "Object." After all that work and dedication, the two Bills were shot down. That is unprecedented in the history of the House.
The Bill was the subject of a Supply day motion that was tabled by the Liberal Democrats. We voted on the wording of the Bill as it was amended in Committee, so effectively it had a Third Reading. The whole House voted on it and supported it, yet, on a Friday morning at private Member's business, a lone voice from the Back Benches shouted "Object" and the whole thing fell apart. No other Bill has been shot down in those circumstances ever before.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)
I wonder whether I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. A number of us on the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons are determined to improve that process.
§ Mr. Efford
I am grateful for the intervention. I understand that, under the procedures of the House, if the Bill were introduced by a Minister, six Members would be required to object to stop it progressing any further. It would progress in those circumstances, because only two Members oppose it.
§ Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)
I endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. The Bill in the earlier Session, which I was fortunate enough to be able to promote, had almost unanimous support in the House. I had enormous encouragement.
§ Mr. Efford
I concur. During the previous Session, I tabled an early-day motion that attracted 323 signatures. Ten different early-day motions on energy efficiency have attracted widespread support from Members. It is clearly something that Members of all parties and from all parts of the UK fully support.
The Bill is about creating a level playing field in relation to domestic energy efficiency. It provides that, if a house is more than three years old or has not been subject in the previous 12 months to an energy efficiency survey, an energy efficiency survey should be done as part of the valuation survey conducted before someone purchases that house. An energy efficiency survey conducted at that time will add about £25 to the cost of the valuation survey. If such a survey were done independently of a valuation survey, it would probably cost £100 to £200.
Those who oppose the Bill are seeking to deny home owners across England—the National Assembly for Wales would have to adopt the Bill's provisions for application in Wales—cheap access to crucial information that, in the long term, could not only save them money, but benefit the environment.
The Bill is supported by the Council of Mortgage Lenders. It is supported also by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors—which represents the people who will have to do the work. Those bodies accept the Bill as practical legislation. The issue of the Bill's practicality was addressed in the 1997–98 Session.
The Bill's provisions will have to be not only easy to implement, but easily understood by consumers. The Government were determined that the provisions should not place an overly heavy burden on either mortgage lenders or consumers. The amendments made to the previous Bill achieved those goals.
Information on energy efficiency is available in many spheres. Parliament has required vehicle emissions testing to be included in the MOT test, which motorists pay for. My Bill is very similar to the one promoted by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon. It is a sensible Bill, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border)
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this debate—although it will last for only three more minutes. The hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Efford) has not left me much time to explain a few concerns that I have about the Bill. First, however, I must correct him on some fundamental matters.
The hon. Gentleman said that two Opposition Members opposed the previous Bill, and he mentioned my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and me. Although I had some objections about the way in which, in the previous Session, the hon. Gentleman tried to bounce the previous Bill through the House without debate, if he had bothered to do his homework, he would have seen that, on 6 February 1998, in my Second Reading speech on that Bill—which was promoted by the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr. Burnett)—I began by saying:I welcome the Bill … My only concerns are with the regulations … It has been my experience that the devil is always in the etail.—[Official Report, 6 February 1998; Vol. 305, c. 1353.]I went on to say that I was not opposed to the Bill in principle.
We cannot have in the House a new concept of Second Reading and of democracy providing that, simply because a Bill had been considered extensively in one Session, it should be passed on the nod in a subsequent Session. I do not think that any of us could accept that as a constitutional principle.
§ Mr. Efford
In the previous Session, I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman and to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) to suggest that, because of the special circumstances pertaining to the legislation, we should commit my Bill to a Second Reading Committee. They declined the offer.
§ Mr. Maclean
I do not think that there are any special circumstances relating to this private Member's Bill that would warrant a Second Reading Committee. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Bill is so important, he must prevail on the business managers and get it included in the Queen's Speech. If the Bill is vital to him and to other Labour Members, I am sure that he will be able to persuade Ministers to include it in the Gracious Speech. If that happens, I may have any concerns that I wish about the Bill, but I shall not get very far with them, as the Government will be able to bounce it through with their large majority.
It is unacceptable for private Member's Bills to be bounced through on the nod without debate. The hon. Gentleman asks me to let the Bill through today, when, in the 11 minutes that we shall have to debate it, he has allowed me fewer than three minutes to outline some of my genuine concerns about it. As I was saying—
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
Debate to be resumed on Friday 24 March.