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Lord Roper: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for giving way. I have been concerned in the debate on a number of Private Members' Bills which we have been consideringthe Fireworks Bill a few days ago and one of the Bills we debated todayabout the unsatisfactory situation which occurs in this House when Bills reach us from the other place in this way. My late noble friend, Lord Harris, when he was the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, was equally concerned about the problem.
It is a most unsatisfactory situation when we are presented with Bills in the same way as we are presented with affirmative resolutionswe can take them or leave them. But whereas in the case of an affirmative resolution the Government can immediately reintroduce the measure, in this case if we amend the Bill it falls.
In those circumstances, I believe that there is a serious procedural matter to which the usual channels must give consideration, including the possibility of carrying over Private Members' Bills which we could otherwise not amend.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I understand the strength of feeling expressed by the Liberal Democrat Chief Whip and I will ensure that the usual channels are aware of the concern. I know that he does not expect me to comment on any possible solution to the problem.
Unfortunately, on reading the original version of the Bill and then the reports of the Committee and Third Reading debates in the other place, one could not avoid coming to the conclusion that the Government might be wishing to draw back from some of their commitments entered into in the White Paper. Looking at the Bill as such, and leaving aside for a moment the assurances given by Ministers during the debates in another place, that view is supported by the specific amendments introduced in the various clauses. For example, in Clause 1 the Government pressed for the omission of targets mentioned in the White Papertargets to which Ministers had frequently and vigorously reaffirmed their commitment. It is a source of surprise to us that the Government should have wished those targets, which seem to be writ firmly in the hearts of Ministers, not to be confirmed in the Bill. No doubt the noble Lord will explain to us why.
There is also the omission of the detailed points which were intended to be covered in the annual report. These points would have dealt with many of the issues raised by the noble Earl, Lord Liverpool, and the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. It is unfortunate that those pointsall of which are referred to in the White Papershould have been omitted from Clause 1 of the Bill and replaced by very general phrasing. Therefore, whether or not those issues will be dealt with specifically remains to be seen.
In Clauses 2 and 3, in place of the home energy efficiency target of 20 per cent by 2010, which, we understand, although not specified in the White Paper, is, indeed, the Government's objective, they have proposed the designation of,
We really must have a confirmation of the commitment to a 20 per cent improvement in energy efficiency in domestic dwellings by the year 2010. That is where we are failing as a nation. Indeed, the ESTthe Energy Saving Trusthas gone further than that. This organisation, set up by government, has asked for a further 20 per cent saving up to the year 2020. Therefore, I should be very glad to hear what the Minister has to say about that.
Clause 5 deals with combined heat and power. I declare an interest here as chairman of Micropower, which is promoting micro-CHP. This is an area which the Government strongly support, and that support has been reiterated very clearly in the White Paper. The Government regard combined heat and power as one of the prime ways in which efficiency can be improved in terms of energy production and usage. The many obstacles currently standing in the way of CHP development have been referred to by noble Lords who have already spoken.
This would have been an opportunity for the Government to restate their intention of supporting CHP and alleviating the present problem, which is certainly likely to lead to under-achievement of the Government's target of 10 gigawatts by the year 2010. But, instead, the Government have replaced that with an obligation on the Secretary of State to introduce a target for the Government's own usage of CHP. That really seems to me to be de minimis.
The Government have been long committed to supporting CHP. In fact, there is a major scheme in Whitehall, introduced by the Government some years ago. We did not need a restatement of that. We wanted to know what they were going to do about CHP as a whole. Were they going to move in and try to overcome the present difficulties and, in particular, were they going to accept the proposal, which they have not, of ensuring that CHP installations were not subject to the renewables obligation as they are at present? Those are areas where we must raise question marks about the Government's intentions.
Indeed, it is regrettable that, faced as we are with so many serious energy issues, including growing import dependence, the security and reliability of electricity supplies and climate change risks, the Government should not have seized the opportunity presented by the Bill of reaffirming their commitment to solve these problems. As time has gone by, that commitment seems to have become progressively weaker.
The PIU report of February 2002 clearly set out a number of targets and objectives to deal with prospective energy difficulties. Some of those were included in the White Paper but some were replaced with aspirations. Now, in the Bill, the Government have insisted on the withdrawal of any reference to energy targets. If this situation were to be dramatised and converted into a television play, a title for it could be, "The Case of the Vanishing Targets". As time has gone by, the targets have diminished until they have disappeared altogether in formal documentation.
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, like other noble Lords, I too not only congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, but thank her for the clear and interesting way in which she introduced the Bill.
Despite those fine, warm words from the Minister, what the Government proceeded to do in Standing Committee was, in the words of my honourable friend the Member for Christchurch, to fillet the Bill of all of its important targets, an example of the usual practice of this Government of very fine words but no delivery and in this case announcing as soundbites ambitious targets and then preparing excuses in advance for failing to meet them. Usually, government targets are downgraded in the event to mere aspirations, but I notice in this case the Minister used the new and even more ambiguous phrase of "policy goals".
The object of the Bill, when introduced by the honourable Member for Milton Keynes North East, Mr Brian White, a former energy Minister, was to hold the Government to account for their energy policy targets. One can feel enormous sympathy for the honourable gentleman who, having won a high place in the Private Member's Bill lottery, and having produced a carefully drafted Bill, which had full cross-party support, found it ostensibly supported by the Government on the one hand while on the other, to repeat the phrase, they took a filleting knife to it.
For the benefit of those noble Lords who did not have the opportunity of studying that Bill as originally presented, and which the Government said they supported, the key Clause 1 was replaced by a completely new Clause 1. Clauses 2 and 6 were replaced by new Clauses 8, 9 and 10, and Clause 3 was replaced by new Clause 11. I simply cannot imagine what the Government would have done to the draft Bill if they really had not liked it.
In the end, at Third Reading in the other place, the sponsor was reduced to conceding that what he called the "stringent targets" in his Bill were changed by what he called "a long series of negotiations" to "a generalised proposal". For "a long series of
In the final stages in the other place my honourable friend the Member for Christchurch was persuaded by the Bill sponsor from pressing an amendment to restore some of the original teeth to the Bill because it was clear that the Bill would be lost.
However, it is our intention in Committee to reintroduce provisions deleted in the other place, to enable the Government to have the opportunity simply to persuade your Lordships' House both of the appropriateness of their wholesale redrafting of the Bill and to repeat to your Lordships, on the record, the assurances given to a handful of honourable Members attending Standing Committee. It is right that this House should actually hear what happened.
I say at once that I understand the Bill would be lost if we were to pass any of the amendments. If our understanding is correctand I know it to be soI would act very responsibly. But I believe that the House is entitled to hear the reasons for the change and that the Government should give them. I notice this point was made very strongly by the Chief Whip for the Liberal Democrat Opposition and by the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and I am very grateful for the remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, about ensuring that the appropriate people knew the views.
I hasten to say that the reason I would do that is certainly not because for one minute do I doubt the Minister's word on the assurances being given in the other place, but because of what the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State said at Second Reading which I partially quoted in my opening paragraph. He said:
The Labour Party in various manifestos has set ambitious targets for renewables and combined heat and power. Since the Second Reading debate in the other place when the Government said one thing and then proceeded to do another, and since "the long series of negotiations" to which the Bill's sponsor was subjected, the Select Committee on Science and Technology has published its fourth report. I want to quote from it. It said:
The problem with the Government's energy policy is that there does not seem to be a coherent one. There is a plethora of confusing and contradictory schemes being pursued by the Government which rely on literally dozens of separate policy instruments. That is why it is essential that the Government must be obliged to set proper targets and to account to Parliament annually about their successor possibly their failureto meet them.
Let us look at some of the failed energy policies which the Government are understandingly coy about being required to report about every year. It is currently presiding over the third annual rise in CO2 emissions; an increase in electricity generation from plants not equipped with clean coal technology; and the collapse of CHP generation.
There is some talk about the wholesale construction of wind farms. But when we debated it previously, I said that I thought it would mean building 22 new ones a week. The Minister challenged that by saying that he did not know where I got my figures. It was from the Government's own Performance and Innovations Unit. But whether those figures are right or wrong, the White Paper reports that 250 megawatts offshore wind capacity has been installed worldwide, but only 4 megawatts of that in the United Kingdom waters.
While the fact that the Government have entered into agreements with developers for a further 1,400 megawatts capacity is of course to be welcomed, when will this actually be built? This same industry claims that a further 3,000 to 4,000 megawatts can be built by 2010. They say, "Can be built", but the question is: will they?
Apart from the capital costs of creating wind farms and the environmental aspects of their siting, there is the unreliability of the sourcenamely, the wind itself in our climatewhich means that it can be only a supplement to other sources and requires substantial back-up. The Government acknowledge the serious problem of what they call intermittency in such sources as wind and wave power. A source cited in the White Paper claims that we have more wind off our coast than anywhere else in Europe. That may be so but, last month, we had hardly a breath of air in this country. That is the problem. When he challenged my figures about wind farms, the Minister referred to other renewable sources, such as biomass, landfill gas and photovoltaics, which, he said,
The White Paper also referred to the problems faced by smaller generators due to red tape. I read with great interest the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, in The Times, in which he advocated the stimulation of localised generation of electricity by small-scale plant to relieve pressure on the grid, which in turn would
However, his letter, written in the lightor perhaps the darkof last month's north-east American blackout, calls on the Government to encourage more clean projects such as Coalpower's proposed integrated gasification plant and the use of clean fossil fuels with carbon capture which produce no harmful emissions. He also called for the removal of obstacles to undersea storage of CO2 and planning for further nuclear stations.
The fact is that the looming gap in our electricity supplies which is arising from the depletion and shortly the exhaustion of our North Sea gas supplies and the fast-approaching obsolescence of our existing nuclear power plants cannot be bridged in the short term by renewable sources, even if the necessary technology existed on a commercial scale. Unquestionably, we will be forced to rely on overseas sources from such places as the Caspian Sea, North Africa and France. Apart from the political implications, there will be a further enormous effect on our already huge balance of payments deficit.
The object of my remarks is not to revisit the debate on the very inadequate White Paper entitled, "Creating a Low Carbon Economy". We discussed that on 24th February. We also touched on one of the problems when we discussed the Electricity (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill between 3rd March and 3rd April and we discussed clean coal and disposal of CO2 in the debate on coal mining introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, on 9th April.
The White Paper, after stating the problems, of which we are all only too well aware, states what the Government believe to be the solutionsof which we are also well aware. Further than that, on the very day that the White Paper was publishedno doubt just by coincidencethe Prime Minister made a statement to the Sustainable Development Commission in which, after challenging the anti-environment stance of the United States of America, he admitted that:
The purpose of Mr Brian White's admirable Bill was to concentrate the Government's mind both on actual firm targets, not mere aspirations or policy goals, and to hold the Government to account on an annual basis for their achievement or otherwise of them. The government amendments to the Bill have been completely to emasculate it and to make it another piece of window-dressing to give a semblance of credibility to the White Paper.
By the time the Bill leaves your Lordships' House, we hope that the Government will consider restoring some provisions to meet the original intentions of its promoter; namely, to make the Government supplement their words with real action and to compel them to face the music if they do not.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Whitty has taken a great deal of interest in the Bill during its passage in another place, but he is unfortunately unable to be with us today. That is why I am delighted to be appearing in his place.
First, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, on her able introduction of the Bill. We know that she has a strong personal interest in the issues that it addresses, through her championing, in an earlier career and in another place, of the Home Energy Conservation Act. I am sure that she will guide the Bill through its remaining stages with equal skill and determination.
Sustainable energy policy is of great importance to everyone in this House, the Government and particularly the wider community. The energy White Paper, Our energy future: creating a low carbon economy, published and discussed on 24th February this year, was the first comprehensive forward-looking statement of energy policy for more than 20 years. It reflects and reinforces this Government's commitment to sustainable development, and its scope reflects the enormity of the challenges that we face.
The Bill builds on that White Paper and its commitmentssome 135 of them. Some noble Lords expressed reservations about the Government's commitment to the policy and the Bill. I will return to those issues in a moment. The Bill enables us to deliver on some of those commitments earlier than we might otherwise have hoped, and we very much welcome that.
Several noble Lords have expressed, with force and eloquence, disappointment that the Bill does not address particular issues, or that it does not go far enough for their liking in some respects. It is not a panacea. Implementing fully our sustainable energy policy is a task that will take years, not months. We are committed to bringing forward major legislation on a number of issues at the appropriate time.
However, we are making progress. We have established the sustainable energy policy network and published details of an ambitious work programme to deliver our White Paper commitments. For example, we have announced the competition for a second round of offshore wind farm leases, we have issued revised social and environmental guidance for Ofgem for consultation, we have set out a detailed timetable for implementing the EU emissions trading scheme and we have announced a £268 million budget for programmes to support energy efficiency and fuel poverty.
Briefly, given the time, I shall deal with some of the questions raised. If I fail to deal with any question, I promise to respond in writing. The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, and other noble Lords have doubted the Government's commitment to the White Paper. I can confirm that the Government are enthusiastic about the paper and intend to deliver on it. To use the words of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, there will be no drawing back.
We will report on progress towards achieving all 135 commitments in the White Paper, on our future commitments, on current and future targets and goals, and on the policies that we propose to deliver them. I assure noble Lords that the Government will work to achieve all 135 commitments.
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked about HECA officers. Under the use of the power, money would be allocated to meet the direction. It would be up to local authorities to decide how the money is best spent to meet their commitments.
I reiterate the Government's commitment to this policy. I wish to lay to rest the notion that, having supported the Bill, the Government will try to draw back from implementing both the letter and the spirit of it.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, was kind enough to warn me of the difficult question that he asked. He said that he would like a "yes" or "no" answer. I cannot give that, but I can give an answer that I am quite convinced he will be happy with. In Standing Committee C on 11th June, Brian Wilson said:
Crucially, the White Paper included a commitment that the Government would produce an assessment of the overall energy implications of both a hydrogen economy and of large-scale use of biomass-based fuels in transport. Work has started on that assessment and it will be published early next year.
The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, asked about targets and why the Government appear to be rather coy about them. We will report on the progress towards achieving all 135 targets, as I have already said, but it is not appropriate to enshrine a particular set of current numerical targets or aspirations in statute, or to require continued reporting on them in perpetuity. It is essential to monitor progress towards our goals, and we will. But it is essential that we retain the flexibility to adjust policies and programmes in the light of experience.
On the energy efficiency targets, we believe that improved energy efficiency can contribute about half of the 15 million to 25 million tonnes of carbon saving that we are likely to need to meet by 2020 to put ourselves on the right path towards 60 per cent cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. Improvements in residential energy efficiency could deliver about 4 million to 6 million tonnes of annual carbon saving towards that needed beyond 2010.
These clauses are therefore very much in line with our policy on energy efficiency and our wider climate change objectives. We are already working with key stakeholders to develop an implementation plan for the strategy set out in the White Paper, which we will issue by February next year. We therefore envisage designating
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