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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 17:37 GMT
Solar panel tax breaks are backed
Solar panels
MPs want to see more solar panels
Plans to cut council tax for people who generate their own electricity have been backed by the government.

Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz's private member's bill aims to increase the number of homes with solar panels and wind turbines.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks told MPs he would help it become law.

But a second bill to try to force ministers to take more climate change action by reforming planning laws failed to get any further.

Market prices

Ministers said they would back Alan Whitehead's Management of Energy in Buildings Bill, but it was effectively derailed by Conservative opponent Eric Forth.

This ought to be the harbinger of things to come - a tripartite effort to advance the climate change agenda
Oliver Letwin

Mr Lazorowicz's Sustainable Energy Bill says energy firms should be forced to buy any spare electricity from home generators at market prices, and proposes targets for micro-generation levels in the UK.

Speaking at its second reading, Mr Lazarowicz said more should be done to make energy production at the home and community level affordable.

He said homes that produced their own power should have their council tax bills cut.

"There are a whole array of potential measures which could encourage energy efficiency and micro-generation: council tax rebates for householders who install energy saving devices, stamp duty rebates for house purchasers, measures to encourage the purchase of energy conservation for houses," he told MPs.

'Valuable bill'

Up to 10 million homes could generate their own electricity, experts suggest, with optimistic predictions saying they could supply 10% of the nation's energy needs.

Mr Wicks said the government supported the principles behind the bill but had some concerns about the detail.

He said he could not back its call to make the prime minister report annually to Parliament on climate change progress.

But he offered to work with Mr Lazarowicz on changes to get the micro-generation and other measures into law. Talked out

Liberal Democrat spokesman Norman Baker welcomed the bill as "extremely valuable", insisting "drastic action" was needed to tackle climate change.

And shadow environment secretary Oliver Letwin hailed the cross-party approach as the way of the future.

"This ought to be the harbinger of things to come - a tripartite effort to advance the climate change agenda, of which this bill could be the beginning," he said.

The bill received its second reading without a vote and will now be debated in more detail by a committee.

Mr Whitehead's bill also received the backing of the front benches of the three main parties.

Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said it "raises important issues, will contribute to improving energy efficiency in buildings and promoting new technologies to protect the environment".

But although she said concerns over the details could be resolved, the bill now looks almost certain not to make it to the committee stage, as the time limit for debate was reached.


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