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Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. I should like to make a comment. I happen to have in front of me a letter from Swalec to BP, which was written in January 1998. It spells out in some detail some of the risks of interruption, and so on, that exist at

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present. It makes absolutely clear that Swalec considers that this plant would improve the security of supply and produce considerable benefits, quite apart from cost.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I acknowledge that. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, referred to Swalec's views. However, it is important for us to take a national view and that is why I quoted the views of the National Grid.

The stricter consent policy to which I referred will be temporary and is only required for as long as it is needed to enable our market reforms to be carried through. I can confirm the quotations which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, gave from the White Paper; he certainly quoted correctly. During that period, new natural gas fired generation, except for combined heat and power and black start units, will normally be inconsistent with the Government's policy. While the policy remains, all applications to build gas-fired generation, including Baglan, will be measured against it.

At this point I believe that I should attempt to clarify the situation of the status of the BP application, to which the noble and learned Lord referred in detail. On 27th November BP wrote to the Department of Trade and Industry stating that it does not propose to submit any new application for the 1100 megawatt plant. The noble and learned Lord referred to the two possibilities of smaller plants--one for combined heat and power and the other a 400 megawatt plant. Clearly, the economic justification for a combined heat and power plant depends on the ability of the developers at Baglan to attract the right kind of industry. I have in mind, most notably, chemicals and food and paper, which have heavy steam use and would therefore justify the construction of a combined heat and power plant. However, the example of Shotton given by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, was a combined heat and power plant. We are sympathetic to that suggestion and have set it out as a reasonable exception to the general policy. We are also prepared to listen to arguments about the other smaller plant, which the noble and learned Lord referred to as coming from BP.

The result of all this is a challenge for the promoters of Baglan to find a way in which the park can proceed which is in accordance with the Government's energy policy. The Welsh Office has discussed options with the partnership and remains willing to contribute to the process of finding a way to develop a successful business park. I give way to the noble and learned Lord.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I am grateful for what the noble Lord says. Of course we understand the objectives and constraints set out in the policy document, but in any particular case--perhaps above all in this case--there remains available to the Government a discretion to take account of circumstances. Accepting a smaller plant at this point would be an enormous contribution and the decision

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would be widely acclaimed. Does the noble Lord acknowledge that the discretion exists to consider the case in that way?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I acknowledge that the noble and learned Lord was quoting correctly from the White Paper. My use of the word "normally" makes that clear. I cannot deny that the Member of Parliament for Aberavon will see the Secretary of State on Monday next. That is evidence that the issue is not closed.

I have to resist the notion that somehow the Government are opposed to this business park. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, said that we are keeping it waiting; the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said that we were blocking it; the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said that there was an urgent need to approve the development. The development is approved; it is all going ahead. There remains only the secondary issue of the contribution of electricity generation there, and that is open for negotiation.

We are committed to the business park at Baglan. We will continue to work with the development partnership, drawing on the advantages which we have all recognised to give the project the best possible chance of success. The Government have concluded that the new energy policy which, in the longer term, has been designed to ensure that market conditions deliver competitive, low-price electricity for the whole country, should not be a barrier to the development of the business park at Baglan Bay.

Business

Lord Carter: My Lords, I had intended to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 3.30 p.m. The House will meet at 3.30 p.m. for Royal Assent and, following a short Business Statement by myself, the Statement on Iraq will be repeated by my noble friend the Leader of the House with a subsequent debate. It has been agreed through the usual channels that the normal Christmas tributes should be paid at this point during this afternoon's proceedings rather than at the end of what might be a rather sombre debate later this afternoon. I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 3.30 p.m.--I am told that I can move the adjournment now and then withdraw it. One learns something every day about the procedures of the House.

It is a great pleasure to move the adjournment as we run up to the Christmas Recess. It has been a long year and, in many ways, a fascinating year. I find it hard to think of a year in which proceedings in your Lordships' House have been so exciting or, indeed, so thoroughly scrutinised by the media. It may be a sign of things to come.

It has been a long year, as I have said. I am sure that the noble Lord the Opposition Chief Whip will remind us all that we have just concluded a very long Session. There was never any doubt in my mind that we would conclude the Session before the Christmas Recess. The House sat on very many days indeed. It has been said

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that it was the longest Session of the House of Lords since the Long Parliament of Oliver Cromwell. If it was not, it sometimes certainly felt like it.

The long Session is occasionally cited as a criticism of your Lordships' House but I regard it as a tribute. Despite the immense upheaval caused by the general election, your Lordships' House has, almost without exception, continued to proceed with Business in the usual way and has observed the normal conventions. I will not say anything about the exceptional proceedings on the European Parliamentary Elections Bill. For obvious reasons I am pleased that the House resolved the question of this Bill in the way that it did earlier this week.

My second point on the length of the last Session--and it was indeed a very long Session--is that the House was not often asked to sit extremely late into the night. Indeed, despite one or two scares, we managed to avoid an all-night sitting. I have learnt that the threat of breakfast is an effective weapon as a show of discipline in your Lordships' House.

All in all it has been a fascinating year. I am sure that the year ahead will be even more interesting. It is therefore more appropriate than ever that I should pay tribute to all those who serve your Lordships' House with quiet efficiency and dignity, both visibly and behind the scenes. Although your Lordships' House is staffed by a small and dedicated band, there are too many individuals or groups involved in the work of the House for me to praise them all. I believe it would be unfortunate were I to single out any groups for particular comment as I would not be able to mention them all. However, I should say a particular thank you and farewell to the Yeoman Usher, Air Vice-Marshal David Hawkins-Leth, for whom today is his last day on duty. He has served the House well. I know I speak for the whole House when I say that he has our very best wishes for the future.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Carter: My Lords, under these circumstances, I hope that the entire staff of your Lordships' House will allow me to give them a well deserved thank you from us all for their hard work and efforts over the past year. I therefore wish all of the staff of the House a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

In conclusion, perhaps I should say how much I am looking forward to working with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his new capacity as Chief Whip for Her Majesty's main Opposition party in the Lords. The noble Lord will remember well that when he was a Minister in the Department of Social Security I was his shadow for a time. We got on well then and I am sure that we shall get on well now. I am also sure that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, will not mind me saying, as a new Chief Whip and new to government, that I benefited enormously from his wisdom and understanding when he was Opposition Chief Whip. I am absolutely certain that I will have the same positive and constructive relationship with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his new capacity. I do not expect an easy

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ride; nor indeed did I do so last Session. It is the duty of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to oppose and I fully expect the Opposition in your Lordships' House to maintain that tradition in the coming Session--so long as they do not overdo it. But I am certain that opposition will be conducted in the co-operative and constructive spirit which so characterises your Lordships' House.

I should also say thank you to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for his advice and counsel throughout the year and to the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, who performs the difficult task of convening what I can only describe as the unpredictable ranks of the Cross Bench Peers. My Lords, I wish all of you, in the usual channels and indeed throughout the House, a very merry Christmas.

Moved, That the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 3.30 p.m.--(Lord Carter.)


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