Thursday, 1 July 2010

Silent Devon MP told minister does not have eyes in the back of his head

It is tough being a new MP. Neil Parish, the newly-elected Tory MP for Tiverton and Honiton, tried to make a contribution to a debate on energy efficiency yesterday.

He stood up not once, not twice, not three times but FOUR times in the hope that energy minister Greg Barker would allow him to intervene. Each time he was overlooked, in favour of Labour MPs.

The problem was he was stood by the minister in the Commons, as quiet as a mouse.

Speaker Bercow, who even when trying to be helpful risks sounding patronising, had to tell him to be “audible” in the hope of getting called.

This is the full exchange from Hansard:

Gregory Barker: Renewable heat is a renewable form of generation; it is not equivalent to energy efficiency. However, we are committed to an ambitious renewable heat agenda. We have a challenging renewable energy target and renewable heat will be a key part of that. We will be looking at how to move forward and at having the right incentives in place. Because we are aware of the concerns of businesses, such as the one the hon. Lady mentions in her constituency, we will be making an announcement on this as soon as possible.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con) rose-

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I welcome the Minister to his position. He has taken a long and careful interest in the matters for which he has responsibility, and I welcome his enthusiasm. So far in this debate, however, he has been quick to parry any questions that are not specifically about energy efficiency and has responded in a very constrained manner. If we are to have the debate that all of us would wish this afternoon, we need to be able to discuss the energy context in which it takes place and the broader financial measures that will be available to the industry in the future, in order to consider the wider aspects of the green deal the Minister has talked about.

Gregory Barker: Obviously, I take on board the hon. Gentleman's comments, and he is an expert in this field, but the key point I made at the beginning of my speech is that energy efficiency has always been the poor relation and that all too often people leap to discuss other, perhaps more sexy, matters such as heat pumps, the renewables heat incentive or renewable energy. While I want a full debate-and, of course, I will answer the hon. Gentleman's questions as best I can-I also want to focus the discussion on energy efficiency, because it is the most important and the best value-for-money consideration in terms of saving carbon.

Neil Parish rose-

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): Can the Minister confirm that the coalition parties will agree to implement the previous Government's commitment to ensure that all new homes are carbon-neutral by 2015?

Gregory Barker: That is an important target. We are committed to carbon neutrality, and I know that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government are looking to see if there is any room for making the target more effective. Perhaps I may write to the hon. Gentleman with the very latest on that?

Neil Parish rose-

David Wright (Telford) (Lab): The Minister and I served together on the Environmental Audit Committee a few years ago. Will he comment on the future of the boiler scrappage scheme, a tremendous energy-efficiency measure that has been very successfully delivered, and will he look at the possibility of extending the scheme to cover gas fires? A company in my constituency produces very energy-efficient gas fires. If we were to support it, we would see real progress not only in boiler scrappage, but in the scrappage of other lower performing products such as wasteful gas fires.

Neil Parish rose-

Gregory Barker: The hon. Gentleman is right: the boiler scrappage scheme was highly effective. Although it was not a large scheme, it was both very good and very timely, and I will be closely examining whether we ought to take it further. I know that the hon. Gentleman has expertise on this, and if he would like to talk to me about it, I would be very grateful for the opportunity to pick his brains.

Mr Speaker: Order. May I interrupt the Minister to try to help a new Member? I very gently say to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) that whatever gifts and traits the Minister possesses, he does not have eyes in the back of his head, so if the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene, it is not enough simply to stand; he must make himself audible.

Gregory Barker rose-

Neil Parish: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Gregory Barker: With pleasure.

Neil Parish: Thank you for your advice, Mr Speaker.

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