“Despite these facts, onshore wind projects are under threat from misguided Tory and UKIP policies aimed at stifling their development”—

blah, blah, blah. It was lobbying against a manifesto commitment that he says it did not know about.

Matthew Pennycook: We will have to disagree. I would assume it was lobbying against the closure of new investment in onshore wind, not against a retrospective change to commitments already made.

This is no way to treat investors or to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for overseas investment. In all the months I have sat as a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, I have not heard one expert witness make the case for indefinite subsidy for onshore wind or any other renewable technology. What many have argued for, often powerfully, is a stable and secure policy environment and a graduated reduction of subsidy. They know that to do otherwise would risk jobs, damage investor confidence and cut the legs from under technologies that we know are delivering—by driving down prices. Those technologies, particularly solar and wind, are great British success stories, and I have heard the Minister describe them as such many times. However, those success stories, at least in the short term, now have a much more uncertain future.

I will finish by touching briefly on what the Bill does not contain. As I have made clear, parts of the Bill are sensible and other parts, when they came before peers, were removed with good reason and should not be reinserted without considered thought or appropriate safeguards; but there are also notable omissions. There is nothing about storage. It is deeply regrettable that the Bill is completely silent on the need to reduce energy demand. If ever there was a chance to make energy efficiency an infrastructure priority, which it needs to be if we are to solve the trilemma and meet our emissions targets, this was it. It is sad that the Bill, which could have done so much more, does not do so, as it stands.

Given the energy challenge that faces our country and the ambition required to realise the full promise of the historic climate agreement reached in Paris, there is a great deal of room for improvement in the Bill. I hope that in Committee we will find some way to address many of its deficiencies.

7.15 pm

Rishi Sunak (Richmond (Yorks)) (Con): It is a privilege to follow so many well-informed contributions in a debate that I am sure everybody would agree has been characterised by good humour and moderation on both sides.

Too often we hear that the interests of British business are somehow at odds with those of working people and strong public services, but that sentiment flies in the face of the facts. In 2012, Britain’s oil and gas industry paid enough into our public coffers to fund every GP surgery and every accident and emergency unit in the UK. Even in today’s depressed oil market, the industry pays enough tax to bankroll MI5, with change to spare. Meanwhile, across our country, the oil and gas industry employs 375,000 people—equivalent, almost, to the entire

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population of Teesside. For 30 years, this great industry has supported jobs and our public services, but today it is suffering and needs our help. When Sir Ian Wood first published his report on the future of the UK continental shelf, Brent crude was trading at $110 a barrel. Last year, when the bill was first read in the other place, the price had halved to $60. Today, it is under $30 a barrel —a 70% drop. As Unite’s regional industrial officer said:

“Approximately 65,000 jobs have been lost…this is affecting workers, their families and the economy as a whole”.

By creating a new regulatory body and giving it enhanced powers and strong industry funding, the House can ensure that we realise the potential of a great national asset. We have harvested 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent from the North sea, but the further prize is the 24 billion more that lie undiscovered. Yet, in the last two years, we have only discovered 150 million barrels—just 0.6% of this vast, untapped opportunity. The new Oil and Gas Authority can help to reverse this decline. Today, there are more than 300 operators in the North sea, often small, often interdependent. Sir Ian Wood’s review found more than 20 instances, in the last three years alone, where operators’ inability to collaborate on shared access to infrastructure, such as shipping and pipelines, had led to higher costs, delays and stranded assets.

The many new powers the Bill gives the OGA will help it bring parties together to resolve disputes quickly, ensure assets are used more efficiently and increase transparency. Our goal must be to send a clear and unequivocal message to the world that, far from declining, the North sea is an industry poised for growth and innovation. In order to do that, however, the OGA must have a single driving focus: to maximise economic recovery. To dilute this clear, simple mandate, however well intentioned, would put at risk the jobs, investment and tax revenues that Britain needs. For an industry already in deep crisis, this is a risk we cannot afford to take.

Vital as it is to safeguard the livelihoods of our energy workers, however, it is equally important that we protect those who heat their homes with that energy. In closing the renewables obligation to onshore wind projects one year early, we can save bill payers hundreds of millions of pounds while still meeting our renewables targets. In the last Parliament, the then Secretary of State announced that between 11 and 13 GW of onshore wind power would be required for the UK to meet its 2020 renewables commitments. It is clear that we now have enough capacity in the pipeline to deliver that, so the fact that the renewables obligation will close early is not a change of direction, but simply reaching our destination earlier than planned.

Furthermore, one of the most basic principles of sound public finance is that subsidies should not become a permanent feature of an industry’s financing. That is the road to corporate welfare. Subsidies cost money—bill payers’ and taxpayers’ money—and should be limited specifically to immature technologies to help them to become competitive in the market. Onshore wind is clearly now a mature industry, and according to the UK Energy Research Centre, levelised costs for wind have been reasonably flat for more than a decade. By ending the renewables obligation for onshore wind, we can divert our scarce resources for subsidies to less mature technologies, help them to realise their promise and deliver our renewables commitments.

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In conclusion, what a good energy policy demands above all is balance between affordability for Britain’s households, security for the future of British industry and sustainability for the next generation. In its original form, the Bill does all three, and I commend that vision to the House.

7.21 pm

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), although I cannot say that I will be quite so enthusiastic about the Bill, and the other hon. Members who have spoken on Second Reading.

Having recently returned unexpectedly to the Back Benches, it was with considerable excitement that I saw we would have the Second Reading of the Energy Bill today. Frankly, that was before I realised we would be talking about sado -masochism in an energy debate, which I must say is a first for me and an interesting development in matters of this kind. With a different electoral outcome at the general election, I would have hoped to be one of the people presenting a different energy Bill today—one from a Labour Government. Although we may have different views on this Bill, there is no doubt that the UK certainly needs an energy Bill. Many policy questions need a direction and many energy issues require some political leadership. Because of that, I must say I find this Bill quite disappointing. A fairer title would be the offshore oil and gas Bill that does some quite harmful things to the renewables industry.

By any measure, I am not opposed to the oil and gas provisions we have talked about. We should do all we can to protect the industry, which has been vital for the UK. The Wood review was a good piece of work and made many sensible and impartial recommendations. However, we must acknowledge the reality about the supply and demand prevailing in the international commodity market, especially for oil.

With oil at $30 a barrel, we cannot deny that there will be an impact on investment in the North sea. In many ways, we should take two notable things from that. First, to follow the logic of successful energy policy across the world, divesting and getting more into low-carbon generation will reduce demand for oil, which will be reflected in its price. Secondly, we cannot mention the oil price without remarking how silly it has made the SNP Members’ economic case for independence appear. It is a matter for them, but it should not go unmentioned. That deals with the entirety of one section of the Bill.

The section of the Bill on renewables is equally straightforward in that, except for the local consent provisions, we should not do it. I understand from the many times I have attended energy debates in the House what the general feeling of Conservative Members is about the wind industry. I would simply say that when we talk about this, whatever the personal positions that may come into it, we should not try to introduce personal facts, because some of the things said today are simply untrue. The figure for the contribution of UK wind to our electricity mix during the past 24 hours is 5%, not 1%. That information is very easy for anyone to obtain from their smart phone. It is equivalent to the contribution of biomass and, frankly, it is about a quarter of the contribution of our entire nuclear fleet, so it is not insignificant.

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Constraint payments are a feature of any electricity system, which is a system that requires supply and demand. The best way for any hon. Member to see that for themselves is to go to the control centre, which is quite a fascinating place to visit. Constraint payments apply to every form of generation, and they go disproportionately —the numbers are much greater—to fossil fuels than to renewables. It is simply not the case that that feature applies just to our renewables sector.

The main point I want to raise on the provisions for onshore wind is that although financial support should of course be tapered out as the industry matures, ending it for what are seen as arbitrary or political reasons based on Conservative Back Benchers’ prejudices will damage not only that industry but all energy investment. I have been in the Chamber so many times to hear Conservative Members say, “We don’t like wind. We need some solar farms. The price of solar is coming down, and it looks great.” A few months later, the same people are back saying, “Actually, I don’t like solar farms now. Let’s talk about marine technology and tidal generation.” The fact is that if they undermine investor confidence in one sector, they will undermine it across the board.

It is true that there has been a set of long-standing opponents of wind energy in the Conservative party, and the industry might reasonably have been expected to anticipate that. I would say that there must be due regard to sunken costs, and amendments were made in the Lords that reflected the need to protect investor confidence, but they have been disregarded by the Government. For much of the time, especially when we talked about the price freeze proposed by Labour during the last Parliament, investor confidence were buzzwords for Conservative MPs. Frankly, in looking at such provisions, they seem to have deserted such a case. It must be acknowledged as factually true that if the cheapest form of renewable energy is scrapped, bills will increase. It is hypocritical to have one set of provisions for renewable energy and a completely separate set of provisions for fracking: if one set is good for one sector, it has to apply to all of them. That is the kind of inconsistency or incoherence that many people find frustrating.

Having dealt with those two parts of the Bill, I cannot help but use the rest of my speech to lament the issues and the sectors that have been missed, and to lament the missed opportunity that the Bill represents. The first such issue, which my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) mentioned, is energy efficiency. The Government’s record on energy efficiency is frankly abysmal. It has cost thousands of jobs, made fuel poverty worse, made bills worse and has hindered our ability to tackle climate change. Whatever form of generation people favour—there are cases for different forms and there is certainly a need for a mix covering almost everything—such generation will be expensive, and I would say that not getting the most efficient use of energy we already have is a scandal. In our access talks when we were in opposition, we looked at all kinds of things—from short-term measures we could bring in to emergency legislation to extend some obligations on energy companies—because we are going to need the jobs we have lost if we are to have any hope of hitting our targets and keeping bills low.

The second missed opportunity is carbon capture and storage technology, which, broadly, is essential to any of our plans. We know that it works, and the UK

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could be a world leader in it. Frankly, it is worth a punt: we should put some money into it. We are all left wondering whether any financial support at all will be available from the Government for carbon capture and storage. This is not just about electricity, but a principal means by which we can decarbonise industry. It seems tragic for the Government to have retreated from that area.

The third missed opportunity is decentralisation. The comments on that by the hon. Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) were extremely thoughtful. There is a need to decentralise and diversify the benefits and costs of energy subsidies, as well as where they are put, to make the situation more equitable and to deal with the issue of local opposition to planning new energy infrastructure. My own political party—not the Labour party, but the Co-operative, by which I am dually sponsored—has a fine record of being consistent and actively campaigning for that.

If we want communities to host electricity generation closer to their homes than has been the case historically because of the system we have used, we must find ways to bring them in and for them to see some benefit from it. Some of the hon. Gentleman’s comments were a little harsh, because some developers offer, for example, substantial reductions on energy bills for people who host nearby onshore wind. We should, however, look at ways in which to diversify the ownership structure of many such developments, as has happened on the continent. As he rightly said, if local communities feel that they are receiving a benefit, they will pay greater heed to the need for such developments close to them.

The last thing I want to mention is low-carbon heat. I try to get it into all debates, because if we are talking about hitting our targets or about trying to tackle climate change, heat is as important as electricity. Frankly, big political decisions need to be made during this Parliament if the UK is to make any progress whatsoever in this field. I still believe that we are nowhere near making such decisions, but we cannot wait much longer before starting that process.

In conclusion, the Bill has many worthy provisions, but it does not feel in any way as if it tries to meet the challenges in the UK energy market today. There is a sense that that is no longer a priority for the Government, when it should be a major one, not just because of the international climate change agreement that we made in Paris, but because of jobs and energy security in the UK. The right policies are available—policies that would simultaneously cut bills, tackle fuel poverty and cut emissions. My hope is for a much greater level of ambition from this Government and subsequent Governments.

7.30 pm

Oliver Dowden (Hertsmere) (Con): With your permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will speak briefly about the provisions in the Bill that relate to onshore wind generation. Many Members have mentioned that the provisions in the original Bill reflected Conservative manifesto commitments. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) said, they had a much longer genesis. Having played a small part in the formulation of the policy during my time in Downing Street, I think it is important to understand the wider background to this debate.

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As my hon. Friend said, the policy reflects a long period of campaigning. I pay tribute to the work that he and other Members of Parliament did before I entered the House to bring the policy to fruition. The policy also reflects the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr Hayes), the former Energy Minister, who played a large part in persuading the Prime Minister to take it forward when we were in coalition.

The policy reflects three principles. The first is local consultation—the idea that local people should have a say in decisions that affect them.

Lisa Nandy: I just want to highlight the inconsistency between the principle that local people should have a say, which the hon. Gentleman has set out, and the Government’s approach to decisions about fracking.

Oliver Dowden: I have great sympathy with the argument that local people should have a say, whatever the circumstances. Indeed, my constituency has faced a terrible situation with the Radlett rail freight terminal, in which local decision making has been overridden by national planning policy. I know that adverse sentiments persist for a very long time after such decisions so, wherever possible, one should give priority to local feeling.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) said, a lot of the anger about onshore wind farms has come about because local people have not had their say. That is why they have become the cause of such political contention, which was not the case previously. Local communities feel that wind farms have been forced upon them when this has patently been against their interests.

The second principle that the policy reflects is economic viability. There has been much debate about the exact amount of subsidy, but there is clearly large public subsidy for onshore wind. Whether the figure is £20 million or, at the higher end, £270 million, it is still money that is being paid by individual energy consumers, and those individual energy consumers are the least able to pay it. Since every consumer pays pretty much the same amount of subsidy, aside from variations in the size of their house, the impact on the poorest members of society is far greater than on the richest. It surprises me that Opposition Members do not take into account the regressive effect of subsidies on individual energy bills.

The third principle, which is one that we do not talk about enough in this House, is the value of the landscape, the general wellbeing of people who live in beautiful places and the need to preserve those beautiful places. Many of the most beautiful parts of this country have been defiled by ghastly, ugly, enormous wind farms that nobody has consented to. [Interruption.] Opposition Members mention fracking from a sedentary position. A fracking station tends to be a small building and most of the work is done underground. The ghastly great wind farms are often dozens of feet high and block the landscape for miles around. It is not a sensible comparison.

The important point is that if Members are arguing that we should protect our environment in the long run —I agree that we must do so if we believe the scientists that there is a threat, and I have to accept the overwhelming balance of evidence—why should we destroy what we so love in the short term by failing to conserve some of the most beautiful parts of this country?

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The important point about these principles is that one cannot take one individual element, as Opposition Members have tried to do. One cannot say, “We agree with giving local people a say on the planning element, but we disagree with the removal of the subsidy.” The two are part of a coherent policy that has been developed over a number of years in opposition and then in government. Most importantly, those policies have been voted for. They were clearly flagged in the Conservative party manifesto and the Conservative party won a majority. The extraordinary thing is that the people who were defeated in that election—principally the Liberal Democrats—have used their superior force in the other place to defeat the elected will of this Chamber.

James Heappey: Will my hon. Friend join me in expressing astonishment that the Liberal Democrats have chosen not to attend this debate at all? It is about three hours since their one representative left the Chamber.

Oliver Dowden: I agree with my hon. Friend entirely. From being a party that long advocated the abolition of the other place and its replacement with an elected Chamber, the Liberal Democrats seem to have become the party of the unelected other place who seek to impose their will on this democratically elected place.

I wish to address the idea that these measures are somehow extreme. That is quite extraordinary when one looks at the amount of onshore wind we already have. We are on track to generate 30% of our energy from renewables. Renewable energy capacity has trebled under the coalition Government and this Conservative Government. At the moment, there is Government subsidy worth £800 million for renewable onshore wind, with 490 farms and 4,751 turbines. Onshore wind farms already account for a large part of the energy mix in this country. They have an important part to play, but they really should not play a dominant part. That is why it is important that we start to scale back the level of subsidy that is given to them so that we have a balance between different renewable technologies.

Onshore wind has many flaws. We have heard that it is not reliable and often requires large amounts of back-up. It is often in the wrong place, far distant from the industry that requires the energy. That means that further pylons and other forms of transmission are required to get it from where it is generated to where it is needed, which further adds to the subsidy that is required. It is often against the wishes of the local community.

In conclusion, I argue that the Government’s policy is a reasonable proposition. It has the support of the British people, as reflected in the general election. We should resist attempts by unelected Members of the other House to force a view that is not shared by the British people on this place. I urge Members to support all the measures outlined in the Conservative manifesto when they are reintroduced by Ministers, as I hope they will be.

7.38 pm

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow such interesting and thoughtful speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) and for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), who talked about the poverty of

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ambition in the Bill. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), who talked about the regressive nature of fuel subsidies. One thing that he did not talk about was the regressive nature of fuel poverty, which is something that I will talk about in my speech.

I will begin with the big picture. A couple of months ago, scientists declared that we are now living in the Anthropocene age. That is something that we will all have to learn to spell and pronounce properly. I hope that I have spelled and pronounced it properly, although I am sure that Hansard will step in if it is badly spelled. It basically means that humanity’s impact on the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and wildlife has created a new geological epoch. The challenge for our age is how we eradicate fuel poverty and lower carbon emissions to keep global warming well below the 2° increase agreed at Paris, while ensuring that we reach the sustainable development goals that were agreed in New York a couple of months earlier. We must protect our planet and pass it on in a good condition to our children and grandchildren.

We take our warm homes and electricity supply for granted. I remember—as, I am sure, do other right hon. and hon. Members of a certain age—scrapping the ice off the inside of my bedroom window as a child. That was a common feature in my home in Coventry, and the discovery of North sea oil and gas transformed this country’s energy infrastructure and meant that families such as mine were able to have heated bedrooms instead of just a gas-bar heater. That has changed people’s lives immeasurably for the better, so today I will talk about warm homes, the importance of low bills, and green energy—I have perhaps a different trilemma to some Conservative Members.

Energy must be affordable, and when we were in government we understood that. We invested £20 billion pounds in the decent home standard, making people’s homes warm and weatherproof. We installed 1 million new central heating systems, rewired 740,000 homes, and helped a further 2 million homes through the Warm Front scheme. That stands in sharp contrast to the 16,000 homes that have been retrofitted since 2013 under this Government’s Green Deal. Such things have a very real impact on people’s lives—there were more than 40,000 excess winter deaths among old people last year.

Five years ago in Wakefield, I discovered that Derwent Road and Windermere Road—both built from prefab homes—were not connected to the national grid and there was no possibility of a gas connection. I conducted a survey in 2009 with my colleague, Councillor Margaret Isherwood, and we discovered that the average fuel bill there was £2,000 pounds a year. We fought for those homes to be connected to the national grid, and we got Government help to warm up that cold spot, together with the local housing association, Wakefield District Housing, and Community Energy Solutions. Those were some of the 1,000 homes in Flanshaw, in a western area of the city, that were connected to the grid. One resident from those roads came to a recent surgery. and described her joy and how much she enjoyed seeing all the little gas boilers and their condensing pipes puffing out steam during the recent cold snap. We take such things for granted, but if someone has been paying £2,000 to heat what is essentially a metal home, that change makes a

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real difference. Each home that was insulated and had a new central heating system saved 2.6 tonnes of carbon every year. Warm, well-insulated homes make an impact in the virtuous circle of reducing our carbon emissions.

Sadly, Wakefield still has nearly 4,000 households in fuel poverty, and nationally bills have risen from an average of £500 a year in 2010, to £606 in 2015. The Government’s advice for people to switch tariff is simply not enough. Most people have to go online to switch, but the people that we are talking about do not have the landline, computers or computer skills to switch. I know that colleagues across the House have held switch sessions so that people can come in and switch tariff, but often the lowest fuel bills are internet-only and paperless, and people simply do not trust them. I for one will never switch to an internet-only bill—hashtag “just saying” [Laughter]—or banking, or anything like that.

Briefly, I want to mention the Government’s record, and particularly solar subsidies that have now been reduced by 87%. Plans to sell off the Green Investment Bank were criticised by the Environmental Audit Committee, on which I sit, for risking the bank’s unique green identity. The Government have cancelled proposals for carbon capture and storage technology, which could have been a huge new industry in Scotland and Yorkshire. People in Yorkshire were ready to bring in subsidy from the EU and to use the subsidy that the Government offered. That cancellation will have a massive impact on the creation of new jobs in Yorkshire and Scotland, and we must quickly come up with a new CCS strategy to ensure that we do not miss out on opportunities from that new technology.

The Bill also scraps support for onshore wind—one of the cheapest low-carbon energy options—and that will have a big impact on business confidence and inward investment. Figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance published today forecast that over the next five years investment in renewable energy could “fall off a cliff”. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) spoke about the big investment, but the world in 2016 is a more uncertain place for such investment. Bloomberg predicts that the country will lose at least 1 GW of renewable energy generation because of the early closure of the renewables obligation, which is not good news. As with solar feed-in tariffs, the Government are changing energy policy with very little notice, and that damages investor confidence and puts at risk jobs and our energy security.

Hundreds of those jobs, particularly in the solar industry, are in Wakefield. Kingspan Renewables has its main manufacturing plant in my constituency and employs 140 people. Crompton Solar also wrote to me five years ago with the first proposed changes to the feed-in tariffs. It is an electrical engineering company that manufactures excellent inverters that are used in solar installations, and it is based in the city. I want those high-skilled jobs at Crompton and Kingspan in Wakefield to be safeguarded and secured for the future.

The Government’s programme on smart meters is behind schedule and behind time. They have tasked energy suppliers with installing those smart meters by 2020, but will the Minister consider using that installation as a way of educating householders about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning? More than 200 people a year go to hospital with suspected carbon monoxide

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poisoning, and around 40 of those people die. We have a once-in-a-generation chance of going into people’s homes. People should wear the carbon monoxide monitors so that staff are not at risk, but they should have that opportunity to educate people about any difficulties with their boilers. At a conference that I hosted on carbon monoxide poisoning in November, that was one concrete area that we wanted the Minister to consider.

In conclusion, our energy policy should focus on the trilemma of warm homes, low bills, and green energy. The Government’s track record in all those areas has been chequered, and they need to stop changing the goalposts on green energy. All changes reduce and affect our ability to meet our climate change targets. They affect families, businesses and growth, and we must live up to our past record as a leading player, not just on the big picture of climate change, but on green energy investment and tackling fuel poverty.

7.47 pm

James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con): It is a privilege to speak about this Bill and to be asked to serve on the Bill Committee, as well as to follow so many excellent contributions, especially from my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), and my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden) who made a passionate defence of the beautiful English countryside.

It is also an honour to follow the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), although I will not attempt to spell or pronounce the age that she said we lived in. She spoke a lot about fuel poverty, but I cannot think of a single measure to help my constituents tackle fuel poverty that even begins to compare with the fact that, with so many people heating their homes with oil tanks, it is now 60% cheaper to fill those tanks than it was a year ago. The same goes for petrol and diesel, although the percentage falls are not as steep. I welcome that fall in oil and diesel prices, particularly for our hauliers who have been so hard hit of late. I was intrigued to hear the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) call on those on the Labour Front Bench to lobby the American Government to curtail shale, so that we can increase oil prices. I would be interested to know what the leader of the Labour party thinks about that policy.

Oil prices are key, and the most important part of this Bill is that it brings forward the Oil and Gas Authority in what is clearly a time of crisis for the industry. Hon. Members have mentioned the cost of oil falling to $29 a barrel. In fact, according to the internet, today it fell to as low as $27.70, and Ladbrokes are now offering odds of 10:11 on its falling to below $25 in the coming weeks, and 10:1 on oil being below $10 a barrel—incredible prices.

As several hon. Members have said, 65,000 jobs have been lost in the oil sector since the beginning of 2014. It is a difficult time for the industry, but there are roughly 24 billion barrels of oil left in the North sea, which one day will not sell for tuppence ha’penny. We need an effective regulator, because that can bring stability and encourage investment.

I have no expertise or background in the industry—my background is as a director of a small business that was regulated by the Financial Services Authority and is now regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It is fair to say that the FSA was not a brilliant regulator—it

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failed fundamentally—but it is incredibly important that there is now a trusted regulator in the sector. I am sure it will be the same in the oil and gas industry. Oil & Gas UK has said:

“We believe the OGA is a critical catalyst for the work being undertaken to sustain offshore oil and gas activity and the associated employment in the sector, and its tools and capabilities should remain focussed solely on this task”.

I have one other point to mention on oil and gas. I am glad the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) is back in his place. When I intervened on him earlier and asked what the SNP could do, he suggested that it was naive to think that the Scottish Government should try to do anything about the crisis. It is a UK crisis, but it is hitting Scotland hard, particularly his constituency.

Callum McCaig: That is not a fair assessment of what I said. In response to the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that the Scottish Government should use their new fiscal powers to support the oil and gas industry, I said that I did not see that as manageable, and that to think otherwise would be naive. Support is being provided by the Scottish Government and is being well received.

James Cartlidge: The Scottish Government will have the power to raise tax. They can do that and say to the Chancellor, “We are extremely worried about the crisis hitting our countrymen and countrywomen. We will contribute to a fund to reduce the tax rates on North sea oil.” What is so controversial or naive about that? We had all that passion from the SNP at the referendum about Scotland. Now that we have a crisis in Scotland, what are the SNP Government doing about it? They have a duty to pull their finger out, put their hand in their pocket and step up to the breach.

On the subject of devolution, we also have devolution in England. I have a question for my Front-Bench colleagues. There is an important measure in the Bill on planning and onshore wind. The result of the Bill is that power will go to local people, but I ask the Minister what will happen if a combined Suffolk and Norfolk authority has strategic economic powers. Will that take over the planning powers that will be devolved to local authorities under the measure in the Bill? That is a question about the impact of the measure and English devolution.

As in other constituencies, there have been significant cases in my constituency. In the run-up to the general election, there was a major case of a wind turbine in Pannington farm in Wherstead, near the famous “Jimmy’s Farm” of BBC TV fame. I am pleased to say that it was soundly rejected by Babergh District Council, with great support from the affected communities of Pinewood, Belstead and Wherstead in the northern part of my constituency bordering Ipswich. Of course, those communities will very much welcome the measures in the Bill.

On the subject of planning, several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), asked this question: if communities have a say in onshore wind, why should the same not apply to fracking? I see the point they make, but that planning currently rests with the minerals planning authority of the higher

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authority—in Lancashire, that meant Lancashire County Council. As a result of the time that it is taking, I understand that the decision will eventually go to the Secretary of State.




Is the hon. Lady trying to intervene?

Lisa Nandy: I wanted to make the point that Wigan rests within Greater Manchester.

James Cartlidge: I did not say that it did not; I was talking about Lancashire, which obviously has an extremely important fracking issue at the moment.

My position is that fracking is clearly incredibly controversial. The point is that, because of some of the stuff coming out in the media—warnings of terrible things that could happen—I do not see how a district council in that climate would ever approve a fracking application, and yet that industry potential offers so much. We at least have to give it a go. Indeed, shale production could create up to 74,000 jobs, many in areas of high unemployment. It has to be said that it is easier for the MP for South Suffolk to support it—east Anglia apparently has no shale deposits—but we have to recognise the different context. Renewables is a developed industry and shale has not got going. We have exploratory drilling but no commercial drilling. We at least need to give it a chance to get commercial drilling going to see what impact it has in reality, so that we can get away from some of the hysteria and examine the potential. It could be a vital economic resource for this country.

Lisa Nandy: I am sorry to detain the hon. Gentleman on this matter, but is he really arguing—I cannot honestly believe he is—that, because fracking is incredibly controversial, communities should be denied a voice? Surely that is a reason why communities should be given a say.

James Cartlidge: That is the point I am making. If there is a lot of hysteria about a sector, it can be very difficult to achieve a rational, objective decision. Let us not forget that the whole point of planning applications is that they must be considered in a semi-judicial and balanced fashion. That might not be possible—that is just a statement of fact—and yet, strategically, we need that industry. That is my view. I know it is divisive and that not all hon. Members share that view. As I have said, if I were an MP in Lancashire and had the problems that some of my hon. Friends have had, it would be difficult to cope with that pressure, but there is no doubt that shale has huge strategic potential.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my view that, with the plummeting price of oil and while the oil price is as low as it is, there is no way that the OPEC countries will allow another country to develop a commercial fracking enterprise, and therefore that the costs associated with the planning process, land acquisition and so on will not present a sufficient dividend on the investment to support a UK fracking sector?

James Cartlidge: That is a very interesting question and I am not sure I am qualified to comment. I saw in some of the City commentaries today the first predictions of US shale production falling in response to the price and predictions that they will go lower.

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James Heappey: Be that as it may—US shale production might be about to fall—but the US has not yet started to export what it has. When it does, it will undoubtedly have a big impact on the liquefied natural gas markets both in Europe and the far east.

James Cartlidge: I hope that that is the case. The point I was about to make is that there is no doubt that US shale has had the single biggest impact on the falling oil price, although it is not the only factor—there are many factors. I am grateful for that because the economic impact will be huge. Many in the other place said in that debate that, because the oil price was so low and energy prices were falling, we should use the opportunity to introduce new charges for renewables or whatever. First of all, we know those prices will not be temporary. Secondly, energy prices are low but there are other, negative impacts of the energy crisis, such as loss of jobs, lack of confidence and the up and down in the stock market. In effect, falling energy prices are an automatic economic stabiliser—they relieve economic pressure and help the economy to keep growing, supporting the consumer and so on.

I support the Bill because I believe it will give stability and a future to an industry that is struggling at the moment. That is the single most important part of the Bill. I also support the measures on the renewables obligation. I look forward to going through it thoroughly in Committee.

7.58 pm

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak after so many engaging and insightful contributions this evening. As we meet today, it is easy to forget that it is almost 10 years since the Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, decided it was time to hug a husky, and five years since he declared his determination to lead the greenest Government ever. As soon as he had walked down Downing Street and made his way through the rose garden, and once he was out of the earshot of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), what did he do? He instructed his advisers to “cut the green crap”. I say that not to imply that the Prime Minister and his party were lacking in sincerity—of course they were not—but because it shows the undeniable truth that talking is easy but action is hard.

We saw that today in the Government’s failure to act to support the steel industry and jobs in my constituency, and we see it on climate change. Warm words will not stop global warming; only concrete action will. The connection between how we tackle climate change and how and where we get our energy is self-evident. It was for that reason that the Department of Energy and Climate Change was set up and why the Climate Change Act 2008 committed to reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. Alongside the Act was a detailed plan for moving to a low-carbon economy. Today, however, the Government are enthusiastically dismantling it, injecting as much uncertainty and instability into the energy sector as possible.

When I worked at the World Economic Forum, I was privy to the thoughts of CEOs and leaders of some of the world’s biggest companies. I have to say that most of those people got it. They would simply tell me, “Look, our business is not sustainable if our planet is not

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sustainable.” It is not just the case that business and the private sector could or should be partners in sustainability; the truth is that the business community desperately wants and needs to partner government on green growth. Like me, they have seen the reports that unchecked climate change threatens at least $4.2 trillion of assets around the world. They know that a sustainable business needs a sustainable planet.

I have seen the revolutionary capacity of private sector actors in attaining public goals—but that requires support from government. Part of that government support must be about creating an environment of certainty. Business can only mobilise and invest its intellectual and financial capital in green energy if it can have some sense of certainty—if it can be sure that the floor will not be pulled up from underneath it overnight. It is on this, and with the Bill in particular, that the Government are failing. Already the Government have decided effectively to block the solar industry from any certainty over the feed-in tariffs it will receive once projects are finished. Now we see greater uncertainty being injected into the issue of carbon capture and storage and wind farms with the early closure of the renewable obligation.

Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective and low carbon energy sources available to us in the UK, so the Government’s decision retrospectively to close the existing subsidy scheme, which was not in the Conservative manifesto, is an example of the Government’s reckless chopping and changing of energy policy. It should be particularly worrying for the following reasons. First, it will cost jobs. Hundreds of highly skilled workers will be laid off because of the Government’s mismanagement of clean energy subsidies. Secondly, the Government claim that ending solar and wind support will save households 80p on their annual bill, but most of the savings will be offset by hand-outs they have announced to more expensive energy projects, such as Hinkley Point B. The Government’s approach is inconsistent: stripping support for clean energy—for the cheapest energy we have—just when it is on the verge of reaching parity with non-renewables, while announcing new subsidies for the most expensive forms of energy. That is not about a fair market, but about ideology.

Thirdly, all this has been done with almost no notice, so it will totally wreck investor confidence. I have to ask the Secretary of State to put herself in the position of an investor in the energy market. Faced with the choice of investing in the UK or the US, where renewables investment has doubled under President Obama, where would she choose? Faced with the choice of investing in the UK or Germany, which has seen renewables rise from 6% of the energy sector in 2000 to almost a third of the sector by 2014, where would she choose?

David Mowat: The hon. Gentleman mentions Germany. He is right that there are more renewables there than in the UK. It is also a fact that in Germany carbon emissions per capita are one third higher than in the UK and one third more per unit of GDP because of its reliance on coal. Does he not accept that the Government have a responsibility to decarbonise as cheaply as possible? There was a terrible announcement today in his constituency. The cost of electricity for making strip products in Port Talbot is double the price for an equivalent company in Germany. Does he not accept that part of what Government must do is mitigate that?

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Stephen Kinnock: I absolutely accept there have to be exemptions for energy-intensive industries. The steel industry has needed the energy-intensive industry compensation package for over four years. The Chancellor recognised the need for that in 2011 and it has taken until now to get it sorted. One reason for that is that we are expending so much political capital in Europe trying to negotiate a Brexit, but that is another case altogether.

Does the Secretary of State really think that investors are going to choose the UK, where one could be liable to see governmental and regulatory support wiped away overnight with no warning, or choose to invest in an environment of ever-increasing certainty? In fact, would she not consider investing in emerging markets, such as China, which is now investing more in clean energy than the whole of Europe combined, or in India, which is planning a fivefold increase in its clean energy investment by 2020, instead of putting money in an uncertain British market? We must be clear: the uncertainty will affect not only the renewable sectors explicitly covered by the changes; there will be contagion elsewhere from this assault on investor certainty.

On today of all days, I feel the need to talk about a specific example of where the Government’s failure to act decisively to support sustainable energy and create certainty for investors is costing our country dear: the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. As hon. Members will be aware, Tata Steel announced over 1,000 redundancies today, with 750 of them at the Port Talbot plant in my constituency.

Mr Lilley: I can scarcely believe that I would hear such a clear example of sado-masochism: an hon. Member representing a steel constituency calling for the highest-cost energy in the western world to go ahead. That can only make the problem of the jobs of his workers even worse. I just cannot imagine how he stands any chance of being re-elected.

Stephen Kinnock: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his excellent advice. I will leave the last bit of his intervention for my constituents to decide. As I explained to the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), there is a need for a compensation package for energy-intensive industries. As I have mentioned many, many times in interventions and speeches on the steel industry, the Government’s foot-dragging on the compensation package is a major reason why we are seeing the crippling of the steel industry. It has been too little, too late.

This happened because of the Government’s failure to act against the dumping of subsidised Chinese steel, the failure to produce a long-term industrial strategy for steel, and warm words backed up with no concrete action on procurement and energy. The priorities for my constituents are preventing further job losses and Government action to support retraining and transition for those made redundant. The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon project is an opportunity for both job creation and support to the steel industry, because steel turbines would be at the heart of the lagoon project. The Government, however, have dodged and delayed the decision. Every missed deadline sets the project back. Every day or week of delay costs months or years—and it costs jobs. The Swansea Bay tidal lagoon would be the first of its kind in the world and shows how important it is for the Government to act decisively and create

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certainty. My constituents urge the Secretary of State to take urgent and decisive action to support the project. We have been let down by the Government too many times, today being a prime example. It is about time the Government took action, so I would appreciate a specific answer from the Secretary of State about the tidal lagoon project in her wind-up.

It is not just on the tidal lagoon and the arbitrary scrapping of the renewables obligation that the Government are failing. The decision to axe the carbon capture and storage programme, just when Britain is on the brink of securing major investment from the private sector, puts the entire future of UK CCS at risk. CCS technology not only offers the chance of decarbonisation and of transforming non-renewable energy into something that can be made part of a viable sustainable energy mix, it supports jobs. But, again, we see a Government who are unable to create an environment of certainty for investors, employees and our country, and so our energy security is put at risk, as is the future of our planet. There can be no doubt about it, the Government’s actions are being noted around the world. The Prime Minister will parade his signature of the Paris accord, but colleagues around the world, as well as in this Chamber, see him slashing vital support for clean energy.

The UK's reputation as a world leader on climate change is under threat, and we now face an uphill battle to meet our legally binding EU renewable energy targets. We should ask: what is the theme running through all this? It is of a Government and a party driven by the politics of now: that is why in 2005 we saw “hug a husky” and in 2010 the pledge to be the greenest Government ever; that is why we saw the ditching of the green deal when those pesky Liberal Democrats had left the Cabinet table; and it is why today we see an end to support for wind, solar and CCS. Government Members have had too many complaints at their local association meetings. Government Ministers have been too preoccupied with expensive nuclear projects and cosying up to China. The Government—or Mr Lynton Crosby—do not feel green issues and the environment are fashionable any more, and the internal politics of the Conservative party pushes them again back to their comfort ground and away from a commitment to a sustainable future.

The climate challenge cannot be met by the politics of now. It cannot be met by short-term thinking and internal party management. The Conservative party claims to be the party of entrepreneurs. I say it is about time it started acting like it, with an entrepreneurial state willing to collaborate and work with the support of all those in the private sector who want to build a sustainable future. There has to be a collaborative approach between business and Government. At the heart of that, there has to be an environment of certainty. That is how we will secure investment and how we will secure jobs. Most importantly of all, it is how we will secure a sustainable future.

I implore the Government today to rethink and to go back and pay heed to those saying stop. They should stop destroying investor confidence, stop the uncertainty and start supporting a sustainable energy market and future.

8.10 pm

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I remind the House that I offer business advice to an industrial and investment management company.

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With oil at $28 a barrel, the North sea and its supporting investments face a very damaging threat. None of us can know whether in the near future OPEC might change its policy and suddenly reduce capacity to put the price up; and none of us can know exactly when enough capacity will be closed elsewhere in the world where there are exposed investments and very high costs to get supply back into line with demand and to get the oil price higher. All we can do at the moment is try to manage what we have. Today, we have a very low oil price by recent historical standards, and it has completely undermined the business model and the investment case for many parts of the industry.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State has pledged strongly that she sees the North sea as a fundamental part of Britain’s energy requirements in the future and a fundamental part of our whole industrial base, as indeed it is. The North sea has not just spawned substantial energy reserves and large tax revenues for us, but enabled the growth of a large number of highly skilled and technical jobs, with talented people working in a large number of companies.

The Scottish Nationalists are saying, “Let us review oil taxation again and have lower rates going forward”. At the moment, as there is no revenue coming into the Treasury from North sea taxes because the oil price is so low and the investments so damaged, I am quite relaxed about that advice, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will be thinking very carefully about how he can support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change going forward with more investment. I have to warn Members that even if he were exceedingly generous about future rates of North sea taxation, it is not going to be enough to make a difference against the background of oil costing $28 a barrel.

What we are now battling for is not the revenues we used to get from North sea oil taxes. What we are now battling for is the very substantial income tax revenues that we have been getting, as the United Kingdom and as Scotland, from the very highly paid jobs in the Aberdeen area and the other supporting areas for the North sea. If we are not careful, $28 a barrel oil will lose a large number of those jobs—some have already gone—and flatten the incomes of many others. It will mean a very big hole in the Scottish income tax revenues on top of the damage done to the United Kingdom/Scottish revenues from the oil itself. That is why I hope that the Treasury and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will work with the industry to come up with any kind of scheme to give us a chance of reinvesting. We need to use the best extraction techniques and the best modern technologies. Of course we need the industry to work on its cost base, but that will require something very major.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is also right that security of supply must be her single most important consideration. She is trying to balance security with costs and green issues, but I think she is right to regard security as fundamental. If there are tensions, the Government must surely put security of supply before all other considerations.

I notice that we are beginning to rely rather more in our policy on interconnectors. Let me provide a word of warning: they may provide a short-term solution, but to interconnect our supply to the continent of Europe—

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a continent very short of its own indigenous energy resources—does not necessarily make us more secure. Bearing in mind the importance of Russian gas throughout our continent, particularly the further east we go, I do not wish my country to be geared in the long term to an energy-short continent dependent on Russian good will. I think our security of supply must rest on indigenous UK energy resources—renewable and carbon-based in the right balance, but above all coming from generation sources that provide continuous and flexible supply.

I fully support the Bill in its wind provisions. I am a long-standing critic of wind, which I think is far too expensive. The main reason for it being far too expensive—let us be clear on the Conservative Benches, if not elsewhere in the House—is that we cannot rely on wind, requiring the building of two lots of power generation in order to be secure. There is the wind, which works sometimes, but 100% cover is necessary in many cases via other types of generation in case the wind does not blow. Given that the wind has a habit of not blowing when it is really cold and when industry might need quite a lot of energy, it is important to have that further back-up.

That brings me to the second most important proposition that my right hon. Friend has to handle, which is cost. We all witnessed an extremely sad announcement earlier today—one of a series of sad announcements about our steel industry. The Minister chided me when she said that if I believed in markets why would I want British investment projects to be buying British steel? Let me reassure Ministers that I always buy a British-made car because I live in this country. My salary here is paid from the taxes paid by people who go to work in my country, so I think it only courteous to buy some of its more expensive products when I have the money to be able to afford a car. Similarly, I like to holiday in England because it adds to the jollity of nations and provides circulation of the salary I am paid here.

I have always been someone who believes that if we live in a society or a political community, we should accept mutual obligations. I thus strongly believe that when we are voting on huge sums of money to go into very large investment programmes that have a large steel component, we should go to the next stage and say, “By the way, we want competitive British steel to be at the core”. We should be able to lay that down as a requirement. There would still be competition between the different British producers to keep them honest, but we should surely want to use our public money in that way.

Our problem on cost is that because we have so much wind in the system and we have to provide alternatives and back-up on top, the cost of our energy has become very high, which is undermining the industrial policy that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor set out in the previous Parliament seeking the march of the makers. We will get the march of the makers on the scale we want only if we offer cheap energy. Our energy needs to be cheaper than Germany’s, not dearer. It needs to be competitive with that in China and the United States of America, whereas it is far from competitive at the moment.

Modern industry is very energy intensive. It is not just the so-called energy-intensive industries that might attract some subsidy; the general process industry is energy intensive as well because it is highly automated

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and the grunt is now provided by electricity-driven machinery, not by human hands and arms. We need to understand that one of the core elements of any successful industrial policy must be cheap energy, so I wish my right hon. Friend every success in trying to bring together those three different components of her policy to put more emphasis on cheaper energy. To do that, we need to end these large onshore wind subsidies. To do that, we need a new generation of electricity plant that has cost as one of its main considerations. That may well be gas plant, but it will have to operate for considerable lengths of time in order to get the proper economies of scale.

The danger of the system we have inherited is that it makes sure that we pay as much as possible for energy at any given time. If very dear energy is available as wind energy, we have to run with that, which makes the cheaper energy dearer, because the base-load cannot be run any more, so the costs of switching on and off become rather large.

Three cheers for the Bill; I fully support it. Three cheers for the Secretary of State, but for goodness’ sake let us not rely on foreign supply and let us not rely on wind. Let us have some decent reliable base-load electricity at a price industry can afford.

8.18 pm

Philip Boswell (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood). In their manifesto for the 2015 general election, the Conservatives undertook to

“meet our climate change commitments, cutting carbon emissions as cheaply as possible, to save you money.”

Although I welcome action towards achieving this goal, and particularly the introduction of the OGA, recent action seems at odds with the climate change agenda. While I agree with the Secretary of State when she says that this is one of the biggest challenges facing this generation, with the advances in technology, clean renewable energy can be less expensive to the consumer than traditional carbon-based energy.

Mr Lilley: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that renewables are cheaper? If renewables are cheaper, they do not need subsidies. Discuss.

Philip Boswell: The £92.50 strike price at double the current rate for Hinkley C, guaranteed for 35 years, is a case in point. As for alternatives that might be cheaper in future, one possibility is compressed air energy storage, allied to the admittedly intermittent nature of wind power.

I could also tell the right hon. Gentleman about advances in technology in the context of the carbon capture projects in Scotland and Yorkshire. Before coming to this place, I was fortunate enough to work in the energy sector for 13 years, and for some time I was Shell’s contract leader for the carbon capture project. I moved it from the coal-fired power station at Longannet to the Peterhead gas fire power station, so I understand all too well what “advances in technology” means.

When we were talking about the amine process—before the rug was pulled from under our collective feet—we likened the technology to that of the mobile phones of

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the 1980s—the right hon. Gentleman is not young enough to forget those clunky phones—which would capture 90% of emissions. Given the advances in technology, were we to retain and develop that process, the figure could rise to 92, 94 or 96, with ever-reducing costs. This was a missed opportunity: that is the point that I was making.

Creating market incentives to achieve the two-pronged goal of cheaper and cleaner energy requires a reworking of the United Kingdom Government’s involvement in the energy sector, and a rethinking of their relationship with energy. In the Bill, the Government propose to close the renewables obligation to new onshore wind projects from April 2016, a year earlier than originally planned. Given that the RO is the only current mechanism that enables large-scale onshore wind to enter the power market, the proposed closure poses a significant threat to the future of the onshore wind sector and the United Kingdom’s growing green manufacturing, export and investment potential, while increasing the difficulty and costs associated with meeting the challenging decarbonisation targets.

In the House of Lords, the Government proposed a number of grace periods designed to allow projects that had already committed significant investment on the basis of an expectation to deliver before April 2017 to proceed. Peers rejected the clauses on the RO closure, calling for the Government to respond more fully to the substantive concerns expressed by industry about the closure and the grace periods. I support that position. Investors and developers need clarity from Parliament on the future of the renewables obligation. Without that certainty, investors will be unable to proceed with projects that were expected to be delivered on the basis of RO grace periods. The Government must also explain how new onshore wind projects will in future be able to access and compete in the market for low-carbon power.

John Redwood: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Philip Boswell: No, I will make some progress.

Without such a route to market, the Government risk increasing the cost of meeting our long-term carbon reduction targets.

The deployment of onshore wind has greatly helped to keep the cost of decarbonisation down, while creating business opportunities for UK firms. The onshore wind industry has grown significantly in recent years, and now supports some 19,000 jobs. In 2015, the 8.5 GW of operational onshore capacity in the UK met nearly 6% of the UK's electricity demand.

John Redwood: Why, then, was there such a high import component in the wind equipment that we needed, mainly from Germany?

Philip Boswell: We need to invest in research and development to establish that. R and D is another shortfall on the part of this Government and others, which is why we lag behind in respect of wind technology. We are well advanced with North sea and sub-sea technology, because we had the conditions that encouraged research and development, but since that time this Government and its predecessors have failed to do the same for wind.

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Scotland in particular has embraced the benefits of onshore wind, with over 5 GW of operational projects, and the country is home to around 70% of the onshore wind projects that are currently in the UK planning system. Onshore wind has been the driving force behind the fact that renewables now account for nearly half Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. It is also the cheapest source of renewable energy, and it will soon compete with conventional forms of power generation. According to the Committee on Climate Change, the full cost of onshore wind projects will be

“similar to that of gas generation in 2020 (e.g. £85/MWh). In practice, some of the best sites could be considerably cheaper and costs should continue to fall”

as efficiencies increase.

The Bill’s impact assessment states that the Government aim to achieve 11.6 GW of operational onshore wind by 2020, and that currently 10.4 GW is operational or under construction, leaving a further 1.2 GW to come forward before RO closure in April, or in the grace periods that the Government propose. It also states that that there is 2.9 GW of onshore capacity with planning approval awaiting construction which could have come forward under the RO. That means that up to 1.7 GW of capacity will be lost under the Government’s plans. That amount of onshore wind capacity would generate about 3.8 terawatt hours of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual power needs of more than 900,000 homes. Closing the renewables obligation without explaining how further onshore wind can access the market poses the risk that the UK will fall further behind on our 2020 renewable energy targets, and that the cost of continued decarbonising of the energy system will increase.

The central estimate in the Government’s impact assessment is that early closure of the RO would reduce annual household bills by 30p per year. While the Government and industry must ensure that we minimise the bill impacts of achieving our renewable energy and carbon reduction target, the potential impact of RO closure on the onshore wind sector and on wider energy investor sentiment could increase the overall cost of investment in our energy infrastructure. Moreover, unless a route to market for new onshore wind projects is set out, consumers could face higher bills, because the UK must rely more heavily on more expensive generation technologies as we seek to cut carbon from the power sector into the 2020s. The £92.50 strike price for nuclear generation at Hinkley C, guaranteed for 35 years, is an example of that.

The latest edition of the EY renewable energy country attractiveness index, which was mentioned earlier, now puts the UK at No. 11. For the first time, it has fallen outside the top 10, and it has fallen from its position as No. 5 in February 2014. Indeed, industry and business groups, including the CBI, have been warning of the damaging effect that short-term changes in the framework for renewable and low-carbon technologies are having on the UK’s ability to attract investment into our energy infrastructure more widely. Moreover, a recent EY survey of lenders in the onshore wind sector found that more than half those who responded were not prepared to lend until the Bill had received Royal Assent, largely owing to the current political and regulatory concerns about the RO and the lack of guidance on the process and timing of the Energy Bill’s amendment in Parliament.

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As a leaked letter from the Energy Secretary acknowledged in November 2015, the UK is not on track to meet its 2020 renewable energy target covering the use of renewables in electricity, heat and transport. Of the three sectors, only renewable electricity is on track at present. The overall shortfall—estimated at 50 TWh—is made up of under-delivery in heat and transport. Increasing the share of electricity sourced from renewable sources is a cost-effective method by which the UK could seek to make up at least some of the shortfall, and has the benefit of established industries with a track record of delivering significant capacity over relatively short periods. The lack of clarity for renewables projects in both the RO and its replacement, the contract for difference, means that Scotland is also now at risk of not meeting its own 2020 target to generate the equivalent of 100% of its annual demand for power from renewables by 2020.

In conclusion, I thank those Members who have contributed to this critically important debate, and while I welcome the Government’s energy market reform, as it is an essential step in achieving clean, cheap, and secure energy, I have serious concerns about the ways in which the UK Government have enacted it, particularly in regard to onshore wind, carbon capture, the retention of core oil and gas infrastructure, the green investment bank and solar energy.

The closure of the RO a year early has been a huge blow for small, independent developers, whose projects have now potentially been compromised. Amendments introducing a robust grace period scheme must be introduced in Committee. The UK Government’s backpedalling on the closure date of the RO has created uncertainty among investors.

I look forward to hearing proposals from the UK Government as to how these issues will be addressed and urge all involved to expedite the implementation of this Bill as quickly as is reasonably possible. The energy industry in the UK has been undermined by the Government’s continuous moving of the goalposts and needs legislative stability to attract and retain finance, and to bring back much needed investor confidence that is essential to the success of this industry.

8.30 pm

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell), who readily admits—although with undue modesty—that he has a huge wealth of knowledge about the British energy sector. That said, I cannot be alone on the Government Benches in being slightly surprised at the sanguine—I was going to say “relaxed”—nature of the SNP with regard to its trumpeting of the bona fides of renewables when one of Scotland’s largest industry sectors and employers is in such crisis. I am sure that commentators and others in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and elsewhere will note this.

It is a pleasure to speak in support of the Second Reading of this Bill. Those of us who look for what could be described as a golden thread to run through UK energy policy probably look in vain, because, as we have heard in many speeches, it has broken down into many sectors, all trying to generate one particular commodity, but looking to different modes of generation in order to achieve it. The Government have to wrestle between

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tensions which other Members have referenced. There is tension in cost-effectiveness for large-scale users in industry as well for domestic users, and in trying to reduce demand through energy efficiency in new-build and the type of refit that the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) was talking about to try to address climate change, and to ensure, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) made clear, energy security. Security of supply has to be absolutely at the top of the tree. I believe that the Government and the Department wrestle with those often competing tensions on a daily basis, but clearly have security of supply at the top of their agenda as well, which is to be welcomed.

A number of hon. Members have spoken about fuel poverty, and I share that concern. That is why I trumpet the huge reduction in the oil price. For a constituency such as mine, which has well below the average annual take-home pay, low oil prices for domestic heating are a godsend. I do not think there is a single house in North Dorset that has access to mains gas, so most of us will be looking to oil heating. Therefore, that is rather good news.

On the specifics of the Bill, it is good news that we seem to have bipartisan support for the creation of the Oil and Gas Authority, and I welcome its creation. There are, however, some notable points that could be focused upon. The fact that in the Bill the Secretary of State retains the environmental regulatory functions, notwithstanding the creation of the OGA, is important. Those environment regulations should be dealt with by democratically accountable people, as we have seen with regard to fracking.

I also welcome the fact that the OGA will have access to company meetings and to data acquisition and retention, and will have a role to play in dispute resolutions as well as imposing sanctions. I welcome the proposed changes to fees and charges to ensure that the OGA’s costs are far more closely linked to those who will benefit from its services and functions.

I hope that the Scottish National party will support the Government’s stance on carbon capture and storage when we come to debate the Bill in Committee. An amendment that was proposed and agreed to in the other place by another unholy alliance—Labour and Liberal Democrat peers—will only place a further burden on the industry, particularly but not exclusively those operating in the North sea, by requiring them to keep in place and up to scratch certain facilities that they might consider redundant and wish to decommission. That would only add to their costs. I hope that we will be able to reach agreement on that.

Following the vote in the other place on tax credits, I suggest that the Lords are skating on incredibly thin ice by voting against something that was clearly stated in our manifesto, which was endorsed as recently as May 2015. I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) has done on onshore wind. Our proposals on those changes were clearly set out in the manifesto. I welcome the Bill’s proposed changes to the planning regime that will result in such developments being determined by local planning authorities, irrespective of the amount of power to be generated.

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I share the view expressed earlier by the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), who is currently engaged in conversation with the Leader of the Opposition’s representative on Earth. The hon. Lady is still not listening to me. I am trying to agree with her, but she is engrossed in conversation with the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis). I agree with her point about the presumption of a principle of greater community consultation and involvement in determining planning applications for fracking. That would be a sensible conclusion.

When the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) considers the planning aspects of the Bill further, may I urge her to have a detailed conversation with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about the national planning policy framework? In my life prior to becoming a Member of Parliament, I saw too many instances of an inspector and/or planning officers saying, “Yes, yes, we hear all the arguments and we understand that this is an area of outstanding natural beauty, but the presumption of planning policy set by the Government is that in principle this development should go ahead.”

I do not expect my hon. Friend the Minister to be acquainted with chapter and verse of the national planning policy framework, but the second bullet point in paragraph 97 states that local authorities are mandated to

“design their policies to maximise renewable and low carbon energy development while ensuring that adverse impacts are addressed satisfactorily”.

Paragraph 98 goes on to state that a local authority is expected to approve an application

“if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable.”

I think the NPPF might need some tweaking to better reflect the Minister’s welcome ambitions with regard to planning.

This has been an interesting debate, and a lot of people have spoken forcefully. I hope that as the Bill proceeds through Committee, Report and Third Reading, it will take head-on the arguments deployed in the other place and shred them, because the basis for those arguments is very shaky indeed. I understand that I am to serve on the Energy Bill Committee, and I look forward to playing my role to ensure that my constituents in North Dorset and every constituent in this country, whether north or south of the border, can have reliable, secure energy that is cost effective to them and reliable to the Exchequer.

8.38 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. I want to focus my brief comments on three areas: the overall aims of the Bill; carbon capture and storage, given the Lords’ activity on that issue; and the Paris outcome, and why there is a strong economic and employment case, not just an environmental one, for going back to the drawing board with this legislation.

When the Energy Bill was first published, it appeared to be competing for an award for the least fit-for-purpose legislation of the year, and I have to say that competition for that award is strong. Some positive amendments have been made in the Lords, and since the Bill was first

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introduced we have had the Paris climate conference, but the overall picture remains unchanged. At a time when we should be speeding up the deployment of renewable energy, getting serious about energy efficiency and working out how to leave the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground, the Bill takes us in precisely the opposite direction. That is why I tabled a reasoned amendment to completely oppose it.

The bulk of the Bill takes forward the oil and gas industry’s Wood review wish list. It continues the delivery of the strategy to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas, which, quite shockingly, is made into a legal duty in the Infrastructure Act 2015. Were it not for the Lords amendments, the Bill would also be hammering a nail in the coffin of the UK’s onshore wind industry. The early closure of the renewables obligation for onshore wind undermines investment, destroys jobs and flies in the face of ministerial rhetoric on cost, especially compared with the eye-watering subsidies for new nuclear power. Moreover, this ideological attack on onshore wind will crush the aspirations of many local people and businesses to harness wind power for their own benefit. The Bill is also unfit for purpose because of what it leaves out. It contains nothing on energy-efficiency, fuel poverty, community ownership or maximising the economic energy security and employment contribution of home-grown renewables.

As I said, the Lords made a number of welcome improvements to all parts of the Bill, and I particularly welcome clause 80’s moves towards honest accounting of the UK’s carbon reductions, making sure that UK emission reductions count only when they happen here, rather than relying on the EU emissions trading scheme as an excuse to carry on polluting. The global carbon budget is so small that there is no room for free riders, least of all rich European countries such as those in the EU.

A lot of debate in the Lords was about carbon capture and storage, and there are new clauses on that, too. The fossil fuel industry is desperate for CCS as its get-out-of-jail-free card, but not only is CCS hugely expensive, uneconomic and largely unproven; it does not stand up to scrutiny, against either the speed or scale of the carbon reductions needed. To colleagues who may disagree on this, I recommend a Carbon Tracker 2013 report showing that even if CCS were deployed in line with an idealised scenario by 2050, it would only extend fossil fuel carbon budgets by 4% of total global reserves. Nor am I aware of any serious suggestions that CCS could even come on line before 2030, by which point the global carbon budget may already be used up—even that timescale is subject to a long list of “ifs”. If politicians fail to heed the climate science and if our actions continue to fail to measure up to our words, not only will we perpetuate widespread disillusion and disengagement with politics, but more citizens—students, grandparents, social workers and scientists—will be putting their bodies on the line and taking peaceful direct action to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This Bill demonstrates why they have my support.

Carbon is not the only reason to keep fossil fuels in the ground and go all out for renewables instead, and it is not the only reason why this Energy Bill is completely unfit for purpose—there are strong economic and employment arguments, too. Let me end by looking again at what the Paris climate agreement should mean

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for the UK’s energy policy. The conclusion from Paris is, unquestionably, a diplomatic triumph, and if the UK is serious about keeping well below a 2° goal, let alone making our fair contribution to the 1.5° goal, which is a matter of life and death for many countries, there are major implications for energy policy. It is important to emphasise that the response, including from business, has in many respects been positive. An increasing number of businesses are recognising the need and advantage of shifting to post-carbon economics. As James Murray, editor of

Business Green

, wrote recently:

“From the tech billionaire’s multi-billion dollar R&D commitments to the states and cities detailing plans to cut emissions by a level equivalent to the total current emissions of China. From the development banks unleashing billions of dollars of new climate funding to the various sector alliances promising to accelerate the development of solar power, green buildings, zero emission vehicles, and various other clean technologies. From the Financial Stability Board’s climate risk disclosure commitment to multinational firms sourcing all their power from renewables. It is increasingly clear the shift in corporate engagement with climate change that has been gathering pace for the past decade is finally starting to come of age.”

We have also had the entrepreneurs’ call to climate action, a joint statement from 121 chief executive officers with international operations issued in the run-up to the climate talks. They made an incredibly powerful point that the technology and the business models already exist for

“100% fossil free solutions, as opposed to a slightly better version of an already existing polluting alternative.“

That is the direction of travel and it is recognised by many businesses, yet this Government are lagging far behind and this Energy Bill appears blind even to the economic case. To make the Paris agreement meaningful, the Government have to do more than simply restate their commitment to the Climate Change Act, important though that is, and parrot out past achievements. There is a very big difference between meeting existing targets and being on track to deliver future commitments, and Ministers should stop conflating the two.

There are some red lines for a post-Paris Energy Bill, which include provision to get to 100% renewable energy by 2050 at the latest for the UK, and for keeping the vast majority of fossil fuels in the ground. Should this Bill proceed, I look forward to working with Members across the House to change its direction. At this stage, it falls short of those red lines. The Paris agreement provides an even stronger case to refuse to give this Energy Bill a Second Reading. We should reject it in its entirety and demand that the Government go back to the drawing board.

8.45 pm

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). It will not surprise the House to learn that there was not one paragraph in her remarks with which I agreed. [Interruption.] I am sure that she will wear my words proudly like a badge of honour.

We should remember why we are all here tonight, because, with a few exceptions, we have not really addressed the main purpose of this Bill, which was to implement the Wood review. That is why the Bill was initially introduced. That review, compiled by Sir Ian Wood, was very necessary as it looked to create a more participative and sharing environment in the North sea

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over the last decades of its life. At the time, the life of the North sea looked longer than it does now. We should recall that, over the past two decades, this country has had two world-class industries—banking, and oil and gas. The latter has been centred in Aberdeen and has made a massive contribution to the Exchequer, to jobs and to our prosperity. The situation that it finds itself in now—I think the House is a little sanguine about this—is worse than some of the speeches have implied.

Right now, the operating costs—not the development costs or the exploration costs—in the North sea are round about $28 to $30 a barrel. That is where the world oil price is now, which implies that, unless something changes, not only will we not develop new oilfields, but we will struggle at current oil prices to keep operating the platforms we already have and our current activities. It behoves this House to sort that out and do what it can. I do not think that the Wood review will make a big enough difference to make a big enough impact, but let us remember that there are 475 installations in the North sea that have to be decommissioned in the next few decades, 10,000 km of pipeline and 5,000 wells. The industry employs nearly 400,000 people, and it does not employ them all in Aberdeen. When I knock on doors in Warrington and speak to people, I ask where they are working. The answer is often that they work offshore or in some part of the supply chain. Every Member here will find that many of their constituents works in highly paid jobs in the North sea. It therefore behoves us to get this right.

We are trying to create a facilitative environment. In the future, for example, when Shell wants to abandon a platform, or no longer use a pipeline that might be useful to Total, it will be prevented from doing so because people will be looking at the bigger picture and trying to maximise the whole basin. That has to be a sensible target, as is the central objective of the Bill, which is the maximisation of economic recovery. That is why I really regret the fact that the Labour party has sought to change that in the Lords, with this point on carbon capture and storage. It is not that we do not agree with CCS, or that it is not important, but, to use the good phrase the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) used earlier, we need to have a laser-like focus on the objective of keeping that industry and those 400,000 highly paid jobs in existence for as long as possible. That is why the amendment is wrong; it is not because we do not believe in CCS. [Interruption.] If the shadow Secretary of State wants to intervene on me, she should please do so.

Lisa Nandy: I say to the hon. Gentleman that that is precisely why we need a long-term and a short-term strategy. We should not be seeking to pitch one against the other, which is why we will be seeking to amend this Bill to ensure that, where economically viable, those options will be considered.

David Mowat: I just go back to this point: how many objectives can we give a new agency such as this? The North sea is not that far from being unviable. We need to put our shoulders to the wheel in this House to come up not with caveats but with a practical set of solutions that were set out in the Wood review.

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Dr Poulter: My hon. Friend makes some important points. Does he agree that the challenges he has outlined in relation to the long-term viability of North sea oil and gas are further highlighted by the Iranian nuclear deal that has been signed, and the fact that that supply of oil will be coming on to the global market when prices are already depressed?

David Mowat: My hon. Friend is right. That development was probably already discounted in the market. Nevertheless, more oil will, of course, put the price down. Like the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell), I worked in the oil industry for a period of my life. During that time a phrase that was often used was that the solution to low oil prices is low oil prices. At some point there will be a market reaction, but it is a long way off. My hon. Friend is right—the Iranian thing does not look helpful.

I have two points on this part of the Bill. The first is one that the SNP may agree with. The new authority is to be based, apparently, in Aberdeen and London. I do not understand why any of it has to be in London. I leave it at that. We have a need in this country to have everything in London. If anything needs to be only in Aberdeen, it is the new authority.

The second point is whether the new authority is going to have issues with US competition law. I do not fully understand that, but my experience is that there could not even be a meeting between US oil companies in the same room without lawyers involved, because of their incredible concern about US anti-trust laws. I wonder how the authority will deal with that, but no doubt somebody cleverer than I am has thought about that.

We have spoken about CCS. Clause 80 is an interesting amendment proposed by the Opposition in the House of Lords. That clause says, broadly, that should we no longer take credits from the EU emissions trading scheme as part of the process. If we step back and think about that, it is the Opposition saying that they do not want a European solution to cap and trade. I made this point earlier and I think I am right. It is true that the European ETS system is useless; that is a different problem. It is completely useless because the European Parliament would not increase the cost of carbon as we have, for example, but that is no reason to give up on a European solution. It seems odd that the two more pro-European parties in this House—I think it is fair to say that—want to go away from a European solution to sort out emissions.

Caroline Lucas: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

David Mowat: I have taken two interventions and time is not on our side.

The two Opposition parties want to ignore the fact that what the world desperately needs—this might be a point on which the hon. Lady would agree—is a cost of carbon in the system somewhere. If there was a cost of carbon, the investment decisions right across the world would be affected in the same way—that is what the ETS was supposed to deliver—and we would be in better shape. It is little odd that the Opposition take that view.

I shall not speak at length on the wind point. Others in the House feel more strongly about it than I do and I have spoken about it previously. It is clear that it was in

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the manifesto and we need to do what we are committed to do. The wind point goes to the core of one of the issues in the climate change debate—the continuing confusion between renewables and decarbonisation. I have heard speeches today in which Members said that other countries are building renewables more quickly than we are, even though their carbon output is vastly more than ours. Germany is an example, but there are many others. We need to be focused with laser-like efficiency on decarbonisation. That brings in CCS, nuclear and other technologies which the focus on renewables has damaged.

On Paris, the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock), who is no longer in his place, made a speech that I found strange in parts. I say to the whole house—I make this point every time—that the European commitment on the rate of decarbonisation, which it put forward in Paris in its intended nationally determined contribution, and of which we were a part, implies a rate of decarbonisation that is half that which the Climate Change Act 2008 requires us to achieve. Now, it may well be that those countries do not yet realise that we are leading them. It may well be that they have not yet cottoned on to the fact that they are slower than us. Or it may be that they desperately want to protect their Port Talbots, their Motherwells and their Redcars, in a way that has not reached the consciousness of this House to the same extent.

I will finish with a point about jobs. We often hear how many jobs are at risk in solar and wind as a result of changing subsidy regimes, and of course that is regrettable, although I do not know the extent to which those numbers are true. However, it is wrong to say that higher electricity prices do not also cost jobs. It is not just about giving relief to energy-intensive industries. If we in this country expect to have a march of the makers—to use that phrase—and for that to be based on an energy regime in which our manufacturers are paying up to 50% more than manufacturers not in China, or even in the US and Singapore, but in France, Germany and Holland, it is going to be tough. I think that Members of this House need to respect the Government’s duty to balance cost with decarbonisation and all that goes with it.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am going to have to drop the time limit to seven minutes, but hopefully I will not have to drop it again.

8.56 pm

Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con): It is a great privilege to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat). He is modest, but his expertise in this area serves only to embarrass me by highlighting my lack of it. However, I am a passionate supporter of climate change action. I join other hon. Members in congratulating the Secretary of State on her work in Paris a few weeks ago. It does not necessarily support the campaign that I am helping with for the European Union, but it is a great shame that the EU did not follow where she was leading. I want to focus on two key aspects of the Bill and explain my concerns, and those of my constituents, and seek further reassurances from the Minister. I thank Ministers for answering some of these concerns over the past few weeks.

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As oil prices around the globe tumble, the Bill is obviously timely, as other Members have said. Workers across the UK who rely on this industry are starting to struggle, so we should be supporting them as much as possible. That is why I was a little shocked to hear the earlier comments from the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) about not necessarily supporting his constituents in the best way possible, as echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare). Companies are also seen not to be passing on these cost reductions at the petrol pumps, which the debate has not focused on so far. I hope that the Secretary of State will join the call from me and other Members for the cost reductions to be passed on to the consumer.

I welcome the formal establishment of the Oil and Gas Authority as an independent regulator. Like many of my constituents who have contacted me on the issue, I fear that the regulatory framework has not been helpful enough. As the hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr Anderson) said earlier—he is no longer in his place—the Labour party did little in 13 years in government to improve regulation. That is why I congratulate this Government on drafting the Bill. The creation of one independent regulator to oversee the whole sector is a positive step, ensuring that it grows and develops in the best interests of the nation’s health.

I am particularly pleased that the OGA will be able to consider and make recommendations to resolve certain disputes. As the Wood review suggested, that is necessary to guide the industry and ensure that one of the most crucial sectors is protected from major disagreements. Where there are disputes that have the potential to put the successful recovery of the oil and gas industry at risk, it is crucial that there is an independent body that can take action. As the OGA can choose to get involved in a dispute even without having the incident directly referred to it, it can take steps to mitigate any risk and resolve the issue. Looking forward, once the independent regulator is set up, I am keen for it to take greater control over the potential energy production industries. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that an independent body taking a holistic approach across the sector can ensure effective regulation of these new industries.

Secondly, I turn to the provisions relating to onshore wind. As I have said in the House before, I am a strong advocate of renewable energy—for me, it is where we should be focusing our attention. These sources of energy will ultimately save our environment, as other Members have said. Climate change exists, and we need to ensure that we are taking the essential steps to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Despite the fact that I want a greater reliance on renewable energy, I understand the Government’s reasoned decision to remove the subsidy for onshore wind. Combating climate change is essential, but it must be done logically. To this end, it is essential that in tight fiscal times developments are not relying on subsidies to survive and can instead develop into their own viable, successful entities.

Caroline Lucas: The hon. Gentleman is talking about a logical approach to energy. Why is it logical to lock ourselves into extremely high subsidies for nuclear for the next 30 years and not give a few more years of subsidy to renewables, which is all they would need to become commercially viable?

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Ben Howlett: Particularly as we have Hinkley Point, which will benefit the economy of Somerset, only a couple of miles away from Bath, I believe that the long-term impact of the nuclear industry on the UK economy will be vastly felt in the pockets of the consumer. The hon. Lady missed that point in her speech.

We already have enough onshore wind in the pipeline to meet our 2020 aim. It is interesting that only a tiny proportion of the constituents who have contacted me about the Bill have identified that the sector is projected to propose that more onshore wind farms can actually be achieved. Given the number of studies showing that onshore wind production produces fewer kilowatt hours of energy than offshore wind and a wide range of other forms of renewable energy production, would not this money be better spent on other renewable technology rather than wasting it on projects that will never be delivered? I would like the funds previously earmarked for onshore wind subsidies to be channelled towards alternative renewable energy that could be supported by an investment injection. In the west of England, renewable energy is emerging as one of the key new economies, and it is contributing to the national economy as well. I hope that the Minister can reassure the House on both those aspects of the Bill.

I am pleased that the Government have listened to the Wood review. However, I agree with hon. Members who need assurances from the Minister that the Government consider that we should be focusing on climate change as one of the most important areas affecting our planet today, and recognise the need to invest in our renewable energy sector sustainably, productively and effectively.

9.2 pm

James Heappey (Wells) (Con): The bishop will be delighted that the Members for Bath and Wells should speak so soon one after the other.

It is an honour to rise to speak in this debate, not least in my capacity as a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee. The Bill is relatively limited in scope, but the energy challenge faced by the Government generally is significant. For too long, the energy policy of previous Governments has focused exclusively on climate change and not on the cost to consumers and energy security. I therefore applaud the current Front-Bench team for their work on rebalancing that so that all parts of the energy trilemma receive equal prominence.

As we transition from mostly carbon generation to carbon-free generation, it is important to recognise that, while that is absolutely the target of this Government, we must employ technologies of some sort—gas and biomass seem the most obvious—to bridge the gap until the renewables sector is fully ready to stand alone to meet the needs of this nation. We cannot risk the lights going out by jumping to that too soon. I entirely agree with the Government that coal’s race is run. However, it is important to understand that an enthusiasm for gas generation, biomass and any other bridging technology that we employ is not mutually exclusive from continuing to promote and invest in other renewable technologies that are available.

Much has been made of the reductions in subsidies to the solar industry, but members of the Committee have been struck by the fact that other things hamper the industry just as much, not least the European Union’s insistence that British consumers pay more to Chinese

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producers of photovoltaic cells for their solar installations, which results in price inflation. There is also an insistence that VAT is charged on solar cells, as if they were a home improvement rather than necessary energy generation. As we have heard, tidal, wave and offshore wind offer opportunities, although there is a clear challenge in making sure that those technologies are cost-effective before they can be employed and charged to the bill payer.

Onshore wind forms a big part of the Bill and I make no apology for having been involved in some successful campaigns to keep wind turbines off the Mendips and the Somerset levels. The Conservative party—now the Government—made a manifesto commitment to deliver a reduction in onshore wind, so I urge the Government to reinstate the original clause 66 so that we in this elected Chamber of Parliament can vote on our manifesto pledge without the intrusion of the Liberal Democrats, who seem to have abandoned this Chamber altogether and are instead using the Lords to do whatever it is that they have left to do.

I encourage my Front-Bench colleagues to be similarly enthusiastic about pushing on with the development of large-scale storage; the digitisation of our energy system, particularly the roll-out of smart meters; and the decarbonisation of the transport system. I think that every member of the Committee has been struck by the collegiate way in which the Secretary of State has dealt with her colleagues in the Department for Transport, even though they might not be running at her desired pace.

The green technology about which I have a reservation is carbon capture and storage. Undoubtedly, the technology is exciting and the Government have invested £130 million in research into it, but the reality is that it is simply too expensive to push on with at present. To require our and gas industry to maintain spent wells in the North sea for the purposes of carbon capture and storage would be a wholly unnecessary complication for and, indeed, additional burden on the industry at a time when it is struggling enormously. I therefore hope that clause 8 will be removed.

Ditto clause 80, where the House of Lords has been most unhelpful in adjusting the carbon trading legislation. It would make no sense for us to account for the totality of our carbon emissions when, under the EU trading scheme, anything that we do not use will simply be used by another country. We would make no saving whatsoever in carbon emissions by employing clause 80 as drafted by the other place.

I want to conclude by speaking briefly about security of supply, the reinvigoration of the oil and gas industry in the North sea, which I applaud, and my reservations about the onshore oil and gas industry. Both the Secretary of State and the Minister have been very kind in working with me to deal with the concerns of my constituents and to help me to fully understand what recent legislation will mean for them. There is an inconsistency, however, whereby the localism that we advocate so strongly for wind turbines is not being extended to fracking and gasification, so I hope there might be some scope for incorporating that.

None the less, I think that our push for a fracking industry may be premature, given that there is already a surfeit of liquefied natural gas on the European and Asian markets. A significant amount is also being stored in the United States, which is awaiting the opportunity

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to export it, and that will serve the European market further. Moreover, the Iranian rapprochement gives an opportunity for even more oil and gas to flow.

Graham Stuart: How does my hon. Friend square his argument? He is in favour of maximising returns from the North sea but cannot see the same argument for maximising gas on land, to keep money here and avoid handing it to a foreign regime.

James Heappey: I square it simply by having a profound concern for how the industry might affect the areas in which it is sited. Some areas will have a geology and a community that support it, and that is for them to determine, but my plea is that Ministers extend to fracking the same localism as we advocate so strongly for wind.

To conclude, the Lords amendments are unhelpful, so I would be grateful if Ministers could strike them out and bring back the original Bill. More than anything, however, it is important that the Bill makes quick progress from here onwards. The delay is causing great uncertainty, which is having an impact, in particular, on our oil and gas industry, which can ill afford it at this moment. If the Government can restore clause 66 and remove clauses 8 and 80, they will have my full support thereafter.

9.10 pm

Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con): It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Wells (James Heappey).

There is a remote chance that either you, Mr Deputy Speaker, or my hon. Friend have not yet booked your summer holiday to the fine resort of Skegness. If you have not, I know that the booking is imminent. As everybody knows, a visit to Skegness is a bracing experience. When you arrive, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be able to look out, while enjoying the finest fish and chips in the country, on to one of the finest skylines in the country, dotted with a few offshore wind turbines. In a couple of years, you might be able to look out on to many more wind turbines, if the Triton Knoll project goes ahead. When originally proposed, it was on course to be the largest offshore wind development in the world. On my behalf and that of many tourists, I say that this view demonstrates that we can have economically successful offshore power generation that is not entirely unpleasant to look at and works well for everyone.

That said, Mr Deputy Speaker, the journey to Skegness offers a sad indictment of what happens when energy policies go wrong, because you might find yourself driving past, on the beautifully resurfaced A52, grade 1 agricultural land studded with solar panels. The finest land in the country, thanks to a broken subsidy market, is better used for solar panels than for growing the finest crops that Lincolnshire so often provides. We see in Lincolnshire what happens when these sorts of policies go wrong.

Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way. If one chose to approach Skegness from the north, rather than the direction he suggests, one would be unfortunate enough to see a great many onshore wind farms. On a swift calculation, I counted six wind farms, with well in excess of 40 wind turbines, that scar the

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local landscape and have been paid for by subsidies. I am sure he will join me in asking whether that is the best use of land in my constituency.

Matt Warman: Indeed. Bearing in mind the scars on the landscape, I would advise you to take a different route on holiday to Skegness, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): It is Mrs Hoyle you need to convince, not me.

Matt Warman: I trust you refer only to the route, rather than the destination, which I know is a fixture.

My hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) makes a fair point: these developments emphasise why it is only right we give local communities a greater say over onshore wind farms.

On a subject even more serious than your holiday, Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make one major point about the Bill. The establishment of a regulator providing genuine certainty over the coming years will be the single greatest thing the Government can do to try, I hope, to put the oil and gas industry on a more sustainable footing. We know that, in the past 10 days alone, the oil crisis has been one of the many issues that have wiped £113 billion off the FTSE market. We know that the number of people employed in the oil and gas industry has fallen from 440,000 to 375,000. We know that, in the last financial year, the Treasury has received the lowest level of taxation from oil and gas in 20 years. More than ever, we now know that a stable regulator will provide the stable footing that the industry desperately needs.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) said that

“certainty is the friend of business”,

the shadow Secretary of State said that we need to provide a stable environment if we are to encourage growth in an industry that employs many people now, and will, I hope, employ many more in future. As has been said, there is therefore cross-party support for much of the Bill. I hope that that will continue, and that some of the uncertainties introduced to the regulator’s role by amendments in the other place will be removed so that the regulator has a set of clear and very stable objectives to allow it to improve the position of an industry that this country needs to be stable. As hon. Members have said, as we rely more and more on interconnectors, we must make sure, when Europe does not have the energy reserves that we are lucky to enjoy in this country, that we are not in the unfortunate position of exporting some of that energy, rather than ensuring our own stable supply.

Apart from referring to your newly sorted holiday, Mr Deputy Speaker, I conclude simply by saying that I hope the Bill will provide the certainty that the oil industry needs to grow for the future, rather than continuing to suffer from the terrible situation that threatens it and which indicates that even the strictures in the Wood review may yet need further revision to safeguard the industry better for the future.

9.17 pm

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I should point out at the outset that I am the chairman of the all-party group on offshore oil and gas, and that the industry is a significant employer in my Waveney constituency,

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with Lowestoft and its port being an important service centre. I am also a partner in a family farm that has a solar farm, but I will not comment specifically on such technology this evening.

Most of the Bill focuses on the Oil and Gas Authority, so I will concentrate my comments on the offshore oil and gas industry on the UK continental shelf. The Bill also contains provisions on onshore wind farms, about which I will say a few words. It is right that all such planning applications should be determined locally, regardless of their size. Local communities and local planning authorities know their areas best, and planning decisions should rest with them.

The Government should remove support for onshore wind and, indeed, other renewable technologies openly and transparently. Investors need to see a clear and smooth pathway to a point in time when there will be no subsidy. That best attracts investment, creates secure long-term jobs and reduces costs to the consumer in the long term.

The oil and gas industry on the UKCS faces very serious challenges. It is fighting for its very existence. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of people are on the line. Some 75,000 jobs have gone in the past 15 months. That is primarily due to the dramatic collapse in oil prices. An example of the problems facing the industry is that, at the beginning of the year, the combined market value of 112 publicly traded oil companies—the entirety of Britain’s listed oil and gas industry, excluding Shell, BP and BG—was, at £7 billion, the same as that of Marks & Spencer. Two years ago, one of those companies, Tullow Oil, was worth more than M&S on its own.

The UK offshore oil and gas industry still has a vital role to play over the next 30 years. First, as the Secretary of State has stated, energy security is the No. 1 priority. Maximising the production of oil and gas at home will reduce our dependence on imports. Secondly, while 42 billion barrels of oil equivalent have been produced from the UKCS, there are known reserves of 20 billion barrels of oil and gas to be recovered from our offshore waters. As she set out in her resetting speech, gas has a key role to play in powering our future economy.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I wanted to be here earlier for this very good debate, but unfortunately my travel arrangements got in the way. The hon. Gentleman mentioned oil reserves. Does he lament the loss of carbon capture and storage for the enhanced recovery of oil reserves, as the maximisation of that would have added further to our energy security?

Peter Aldous: The Bill, in its original form, was right to concentrate exclusively on maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas in the North sea. I regard carbon capture and storage as an important technology that has a future in the UK energy mix, but it is not yet mature. We need to home in on the challenges facing the oil and gas industry.

The Secretary of State’s resetting speech set out a potentially exciting future for offshore wind. This industry has the potential to bring exciting opportunities to my area. The offshore oil and gas industry has an important

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role to play in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Its supply chain is broadly the same as that of the offshore wind industry.

We have heard about the importance of setting up the Oil and Gas Authority and endorsing the Wood proposals so that we can move forward. I will not go over that, but in the time remaining to me I will comment on what else the Government need to do within the framework laid down by Sir Ian to help and support the industry at this crucial time.

In the March Budget last year, the Government brought forward a package of fiscal measures to support the industry and encourage investment and exploration. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) has mooted, we need to look closely at those measures again. We should look to reduce the supplementary charge and the petroleum revenue tax still further or, I suggest, get rid of them altogether. We should also consider providing more funding for seismic surveys, which will be the very lifeblood of the industry going forward.

Secondly, in line with Sir Ian’s recommendations, there is an urgent need to commence work on regional plans. I want a regional plan to be started as soon as possible for the southern North sea, where there are still significant gas reserves.

Thirdly, although the North sea is a mature basin in many respects, we are embarking on a final chapter of oil and gas recovery there, which is, in many ways, a new venture, built on a cornerstone of co-operation, collaboration and consolidation. In the past, innovating, investing in technology and reducing costs have been done by the big oil companies. I suggest that we look at what has happened with the catapult industry of offshore wind, in which the Government have led the way.

In conclusion, we need to get on with it. Time is of the essence. The approach that Sir Ian has advocated is in the best interests of energy security. It will give the jobs on which the industry depends the best chance of a secure future in what are very uncertain times. Moreover, it will give the UK offshore oil and gas industry the real prospect of an Indian summer.

9.24 pm

Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate) (Con): I am delighted to speak in this important debate, not least because I follow many excellent speeches from Members from both sides of the House, and especially my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) who chaired the GLOBE conference so ably in Paris in December. I have also now managed to make my holiday plans. When driving up the beautiful A52, which has been freshly resurfaced, I will have some of the most beautiful fish and chips in the country and look over the Boston and Skegness skyline—I hope my hon. Friend will join me on my holiday. I attended the conference in Paris in December, and I extend my congratulations to the Secretary of State for her leadership during that conference. She did an excellent job.

I wish to speak about clause 79 and how it relates to my constituency in South Gloucestershire. The clause sits alongside changes made last year by the Department for Communities and Local Government to transfer decision-making powers from the Secretary of State to local authorities, allowing them to become the primary

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decision makers for planning applications for onshore wind farms in England and Wales. That pledge in our manifesto to decentralise decision making on new community developments such as onshore wind farms, and to give the green light to a project only if supported by local residents, was welcomed and supported by the vast majority of my constituents. This issue is close to the heart of many in my constituency. In Thornbury, Yate and the surrounding towns and rural villages, we have seen significant expansion and development in recent years, including applications for onshore wind farms across South Gloucestershire. Development continues to be one of the burning issues for rural communities in my constituency.

One concerns that gets raised time and again is that local people feel their concerns are not heard during the planning process. Indeed, a number of people said that no matter what they did, they felt that their voices were being ignored. There are many examples of local community groups in my constituency opposing wind farm developments, including several examples across South Gloucestershire. Those include an application for two 130-metre wind turbines on a farm in Olveston, although because it lay on the green belt, thankfully it was protected. In 2013, an application for a 37-metre turbine on Wapley Road—which I and many of my neighbours see from our kitchen windows—was refused because it sat within the green belt and there were a large number of local objections. However, that decision was appealed and overturned, against the express wishes of local people. The further devolution of powers in the Bill is an extremely welcome additional protection to allow communities to have more say over their local area. I am a passionate advocate of local people being given the right to appeal.

Mr MacNeil: What the hon. Gentleman says about communities is important. I come from an area where many communities want wind farms. Would he support communities that want wind farms and the Government not taking away the mechanism to enable that to happen?

Luke Hall: If the hon. Gentleman’s constituents want to support wind farms, I am delighted that he will hopefully support any further measures that will allow people a greater say. People in South Gloucestershire continue to come to me and say that they are frustrated by applications such as those for 37-metre wind turbines being allowed or overturned against the wishes of the community.

I have campaigned time and again for a community right of appeal, and it is especially concerning that decisions could be taken contrary to an existing or pending neighbourhood plan, especially when that conflicts with the local development objectives of a community. I am therefore delighted that clause 79 of the Bill addresses that imbalance, as that will help to reassure local people in South Gloucestershire of the Government’s commitment to devolving power and including people in the planning process.

I am also reassured to hear that provisions in the Bill will ensure that onshore wind farm applications will be granted only in an area already outlined as suitable for wind energy development in the neighbourhood plan, and following a consultation in which the concerns of the local community have been addressed.

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Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): May I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to my constituency, which is one of the most beautiful in the country—perhaps those who do not wish to go to Skegness should go there? My constituency has the prospect for perhaps 500 turbines, and 40 miles of cable, and the scale of what is happening is outrageous—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Mr Davies, you know you cannot make speeches. We want short interventions.

Luke Hall: It sounds like the second half of my holiday plans have been made, so I thank my hon. Friend.

The formal establishment of the Oil and Gas Authority as an independent regulator is a welcome step forward. I see it in the context of the Government’s target of combating climate change in a cost-effective manner. That approach can be taken alongside action in local communities. Volunteers in Thornberry run an effective community composting site, encouraging local composting, which takes wagons off the road and helps to reduce carbon emissions. Just today I have called on South Gloucestershire Council to continue to support that scheme.

The Government support renewable technology standing on its own two feet rather than encouraging it to rely on subsidies. I wholly endorse the further devolution of power to local communities. I will support the Bill this evening.

9.30 pm

Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con): Providing affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is a key commitment of this Government, because climate change poses a threat not just to the environment, but to poverty eradication abroad and economic prosperity at home. The global deal secured at Paris last year goes far in tackling that threat head-on. I commend the Secretary of State for all her efforts in securing that historic agreement.

UK energy usage fell by 18% between 2000 and 2014, and yet domestic energy bills almost doubled during that time, driven largely by gas prices. Since 1990, the proportion of the UK’s electricity generating from renewables has increased by about 19%, which is good news and encouraging for the renewable energy sector.

At this point, I must mention Fareham and the role it is playing in keeping the lights on. IFA2, an electricity interconnector between France and the UK, is due to be connected at Chilling near Warsash on the south coast in Fareham, with a convertor station at the Daedalus site in Gosport. IFA2 will provide the capability to export or import more than 1,000 MW of power and provides three important benefits, the first of which is in relation to affordability. By giving Great Britain access to the European electricity market, IFA2 will help to create downward pressure on wholesale energy prices. Our wholesale energy price is forecast to be higher than the price in France for many years to come, but it is estimated that, with each 1,000 MW of new interconnector capacity, there is the potential to reduce wholesale prices here by about 2%.

Secondly, interconnection will give us access to a wider range of electricity generation sources, increasing our supply from elsewhere, which will only assist our

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energy security. Lastly, on sustainability, IFA2 will help to manage the fact that not all electricity sources can generate consistently and predictably, and that electricity cannot be stored efficiently on a large scale. IFA2 will help to forge a lower-carbon economy in Great Britain and Europe.

I am proud that the Government have committed to meeting their objectives on cutting carbon emissions and continue to make progress towards the UK’s 2020 renewable energy targets. The renewable electricity programme aims to deliver 30% of the UK’s electricity demand from renewables by 2020, and we are on course to achieve that objective. Renewables already make up almost 20% of our electricity generation, and there is a strong pipeline to deliver the rest.

As we decarbonise, it is imperative that we manage the costs to consumers. Although renewable energy costs have been coming down, subsidies still form part of people’s energy bills. As the share of renewables in the mix grows, so the impact gets proportionally larger. That is why the Government’s priority to bring about the transition of our carbon generation as cost-effectively and as securely as possible reflect their approach to fairness and sustainability. The levy control framework covering the period up to 2020-21 is one of the tools that will help to achieve that—it limits the impact of support for low-carbon electricity on consumer bills. We have a responsibility to manage support schemes efficiently within the levy-controlled framework to ensure we maintain public support for the action we are taking to bring down carbon emissions and combat climate change. Government support is designed to help technologies stand on their own two feet, not to encourage dependency on subsidy.

We therefore need to take tough decisions on which projects to subsidise. Onshore wind has been deployed successfully to date and is an important part of the energy mix. In 2014, onshore wind made up approximately 5% of electricity generation, supported by £800 million of subsidy. At the end of April 2015, there were 490 operational onshore wind farms in the UK, compromising 4,751 turbines in total. The wind farms have an installed capacity of 8.3 GW, which is enough to power 4.5 million homes. It is projected that we will require between 11 GW and 13 GW of electricity provided by onshore wind by 2020 to meet our objectives. We have enough wind in the pipeline, including projects that have planning permission, to meet that requirement comfortably.

This is the right approach, because otherwise we could end up with more onshore wind than we can afford. That would lead, ultimately, to higher bills for consumers, or to other renewable technology, such as offshore wind, losing out on support. The Government now need to refocus investment on less mature technologies. I am proud that we are acting on our manifesto commitment. The Bill has my full support.

9.36 pm

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): We have had a wide-ranging debate on the Bill. Indeed, it has been so wide-ranging that in some instances I forgot there was a Bill in front of us. I was pleased to hear from the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) who, in a

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thoughtful contribution, kept us on track. I intend to talk about the Bill in my closing remarks, as well as about what various hon. Members who did address it had to say.

My hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) spoke about the original Bill in another place being thin gruel, improved by amendments in another place. He is exactly right. My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) dispelled some of the myths and inaccuracies of some of the anti-renewable contributors tonight. He was also right about the missing parts and the ambition of the Bill, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) who reminded us, in the light of our move to an Anthropocene age, of the ambition we need to have for our energy policy, in particular in relation to fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) appeared to suggest that the best idea we could take was to close down the North sea. That is not something I buy into. Since we know gas and oil will be with us for some time, albeit in reduced amounts relative to the overall energy mix and more concentrated in transport and heating, it is better that it is sourced from a secure resource in the North sea than bought in from across the world. The North sea is a great sustainer of jobs, industry and supply line for the UK, as we have heard from a number of hon. Members. It is right we look to gain the best out of it for those jobs and that industry and for the security of the UK. It is not an either/or. It is right that we should pay full attention to the climate change commitments we have made. Labour will be seeking to strengthen some of the commitments as part of the Bill. The creation of the OGA to secure the best outcomes for the next phases in North sea development is an essential plank of Sir Ian Wood’s report. We fully support its creation as a free-standing body with powers to develop and co-ordinate the industry.

The North sea is, as Sir Ian Wood states, a mature resource. While we inevitably strain to know knowns and known unknowns, a number of authorities estimate that the North sea is up to 80% exploited already. Future finds and future fields will be small, possibly increasingly difficult to exploit, and will require support from existing infrastructure to ensure that production is logistically and economically possible. Increasingly, production will be underpinned from now on by co-operation and sharing of resources. One of the OGA’s particular tasks will be to ensure that this works equitably and effectively—a point underlined by the hon. Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Rishi Sunak), who in his contribution quoted a reminder from his local Unite official about the importance of jobs and security in his region.

There must be concerns about current responses to the low price of oil and their effect on longer-term considerations of the future development of the North sea. BP has just announced further job losses in the North sea that may well impact on maintenance work, safety and operation, and readiness for exploration, which reminds us of the sort of short-termism that, if the OGA works well, it can tackle effectively. Through the MER—maximising economic recovery—consultations, we need to see that the OGA really has suitable powers to sustain the UK offshore skills space and that phrases such as “cost reduction” are about efficiency and operation, not just code words for stripping back safety and imposing longer shift patterns and cuts to pay and conditions.

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In thinking about the future of the North sea, it is right that we take care to ensure that what is there in the form of infrastructure—both in structures and skills—is used to best advantage. That is not a theoretical point about future exploration; it is a very practical point about present realities. According to Oil & Gas UK, there are currently some 300 finds that have not been exploited further, some dating back 10 or so years. That is due not only to the current low oil price but to difficulties with infrastructure, and since the bulk of those fields are below 50 million barrels of oil equivalent, they are unlikely to sustain infrastructure connections by themselves.

The OGA has some powers in the Bill to ensure that decommissioning is thought about, and that platforms and pipelines are not just taken away and disposed of in a rush to develop what some might see as a new industry for the North sea—important though that is. That thought carries over to what could be a very important future for the North sea as a repository for carbon dioxide sequestered as part of the carbon capture and storage process. This is not just for the UK, because the capacity and extent of potentially available strata for deposit mean that the North sea could be Europe’s depository of choice in the future. An elegant underpinning of the need for a carbon capture strategy came from my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich.

The fact that the Government very unwisely scrapped the UK’s plans to get ahead of most of the world in CCS at scale technology does not mean that CCS will not come or that it is needed any less for future energy and intensive industry production. It just means that we will be buying someone else’s technology more slowly at a greater cost, but the least we can do now is to ensure that the storage end of the process is secured in one of the best places in the world to undertake such activity and, on the back of it, to develop jobs, supply chains and income in parallel with the continuation of that mature field—and possibly at some stage even securing crossover between what is happening with oil recovery and the storage of CO2.

I do not agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), who said that these two issues, though connected, should be proceeded with separately. They are completely connected in respect of how the North sea will work now and for the future, so it is important to take careful note of what CCS has to offer the North sea in the longer term. We will therefore be pressing in Committee to secure a better overview of CCS by the OGA, and indeed to ensure that for the future the Government have a full strategy for dealing with CCS both in the North sea and across the country.

We will not divide the House tonight because some of the work to improve the Bill, which comes to us from the other place, has already been done. We shall seek in Committee to maintain those improvements, particularly in the part that deals with renewables and low-carbon energy, most notably in the Government’s clear intention—it is yet not with us as the Bill goes into Committee—to close the renewables obligation for offshore wind early. I am reminded of the strong contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), who told us just how wrong-headed a decision that looks to be.