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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, does the noble Lord recollect that on 8th October he gave those figures in answer to a question from my noble friend Lord Peyton? The noble Lord, Lord Tombs, then asked the noble Lord to distinguish between capacity margin and available capacity margin. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, did not respond to that question by stating which margin the Government are usingwhat is actually available or some kind of hypothetical figure.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the margin we have been identifying is the one common to all in terms of the figure of between 15 per cent and 20 per cent capacity. That margin has been moving up quite steadily as a result of the increase in prices available to the companies and the indication that extra resources need to be made available. We are moving towards the upper end of the target of security. When the NGT announced that it would like a more secure cushion, it was predicating that against the most extreme conditions that could obtain in the winter. That would require three distinct factors to come together before the system came under undue strain.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the noble Lord has done his best with the material provided for him by theI shall not repeat what I said about it the other dayDepartment of Trade and Industry. I wonder whether the noble Lord could stir the department into
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I do not believe that that charge holds water. As soon as difficulties have occurred with transmission on the grid, the department has moved quickly into action with a full investigation into what has gone wrong. For example, the recent incident which caused considerable misery to people in the Birmingham area as regards New Street and parts of the city turned out to be a problem which involved a fraction of a second during transmission. As yet, we do not know the reasons for it. It has nothing to do with under-investment or the adequacy of supply. It was a technical fault which needs to be examined. I and my officials are not in a position to give precise answers as to why that incident occurred until the full inquiry has been carried out.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the capacity to which the Minister referred include the Norwick pump storage system, which can deliver 2,000 megawatts in 12 minutes, if it is still working? Is it still going to be valid in 10 years' time or so when the nuclear programme is allowed to run down and when we seem to be relying on the Government's policy on wind farms to fill the gap? Will they really be able to do that?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is not the case that the Government are relying on wind farms to fill the gap created by the nuclear programme in 2010. As regards wind farms and all renewables, the target is only 10 per cent. It is clear that we shall need to generate and purchase electricity from other sources. That is why quite significant contracts have been entered into for overseas supply of electricity to this country.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord is not being complacent. I speak as someone who has worked in a power station. The 18 per cent margin is the very lowest there should be. Is the noble Lord aware that, since we have not had any very hard winters, maximum demand has not been tested? Therefore, will the noble Lord look further at the figures he has been given? If there is an abnormal winter and abnormal plant outage, I fear that we shall have very severe power cuts in parts of the country.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I recognise the fact that the noble Lord has the advantage of having worked in the industry, albeit a little while back and things have changed quite significantly. I believe that the noble Lord would claim at best old Labour and probably further back than that. As regards the question, the noble Lord is right in that we have been fortunate in having had relatively mild winters in recent years. But I assure him that the capacity can easily and readily cope with the problems of a colder
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that he has not answered the question put by my noble friend Lord Jenkin? It went to the heart of the problem. Will the noble Lord leave a letter in the Library, at his convenience, so that we may have the answer?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am happy to do that, although it is a confession of failure on my part if it is thought a letter is necessary to clarify the answers which have been given. The noble Lord has made his point. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, was fairly emphatic on the matter. A letter will be deposited in the Library.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, if the underlying anxiety that exists on this issue is a result of the fact that we are increasingly having to rely on sources of supply which are less secure such as imported gas, which unlike oil and coal, cannot be stored, and 10 per cent wind power, what happens if there is a large anticyclone over the country and there is no wind? There are also ageing nuclear plants, which are more likely to break down. When they do, we have discovered that, over the years, that tends to be for longer. Is that not a reason why the historic target of l5 per cent to 20 per cent may need to be made even higher?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate has a point in that we are having to change the basis of the supply of electricity generation. It is the case that we shall import more in future. We hold that situation in common with the rest of Europe, where there is no self-sufficiency in any of the advanced economies. If it is indicated that we are not entirely self-sufficient in energy supply, largely because of the running down of the natural gas fields and so forth, it is a situation we share with others. It is an aspect which we have to take into account with the rest of Europe.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is true that the technical problems are being overcome and that it can be done. We will need to do it. I am grateful to my noble friend for putting forward a more optimistic perspective on the country's future with regard to energy than that put forward in several of the contributions today.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, I should like to make a short Statement about future business. As the House will know, the Committee stage of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill was left unfinished this morning. The intention is that it will be resumed on Thursday morning. That means that the Report stage of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill will then follow whenever the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill is completed. The Report stage of the European Union (Accessions) Bill is rescheduled to next Monday, first business.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the Government Chief Whip for making that brief Statement and doing it so speedily at the first available opportunity so that everyone can rearrange their diaries. We all appreciate the trouble the Government have got themselves into on the timing of legislation and that is another reason to welcome this announcement.
It is worth reiterating that we accept that the Government have the right to secure their business, but last night we sat until five o'clock in the morning, which was seven hours beyond the recommended cut-off of 10 o'clock in the evening. In all conscience we should not have allowed that to happen. I know that the noble Lord agrees that the current problems do not result from actions in your Lordships' House, which is simply doing its job. That is what it is for and that is what it must do. I hope that the noble Lord will recognise the co-operation he has had from the usual channels in what has been an unusually busy Session. After all, good will is a valuable parliamentary commodity never wisely lost.
I hope that both the Government Chief Whip and the noble Baroness the Leader of the House can be assured of our support if they take a much firmer line with departments and business managers in another place to ensure that such a bottleneck of major and controversial legislation does not arise next Session. We cannot continue to sit at five o'clock in the morning.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I, too, welcome the brief Statement from the Government Chief Whip and say in particular that we appreciate that he has done his best to try to meet the problems which the House confronts. I remind him and the House that those problems do not arise only under one government: governments of both parties have consistently found themselves trying to get through more legislation than this House can handle.
Having said that, it is the case that many, many Peers are now being kept for extraordinarily long hours which the 10 o'clock rule suggested would not happen. It is also worth reminding the House that members of our staff, who often have to be here within
There is one new factor: as the Commons now timetables all the Bills that pass through it, far more legislation comes to this House without having been fully debated in the other Chamber. The House is therefore faced with the dilemma of whether to undertake the job of thorough scrutiny, which it believes to be its main purpose in life, or to abandon that job in the interests of maintaining reasonable hours. The House should not be faced with that dilemma.
I wish to raise two matters that the Chief Whip might consider. The 10 o'clock rule may not be as effective as trying to reach a particular amendment. It tends to make people feel that they can continue for longer than they might otherwise. Secondly, will he consider closer liaison with his colleagues in the other House so that the allocation of Bills between the two Chambers, and the whole weight of government legislation, could be considered to the benefit of both Houses at a very early stagethat is to say, very shortly before the new Session begins, rather than at the end of the old Session, when we are dealing with an almost impossible load of legislation?
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