David William George Chidgey, Esquire, having been created Baron Chidgey, of Hamble-le-Rice in the County of Hampshire, for lifeWas, in his robes, introduced between the Baroness Williams of Crosby and the Lord Livsey of Talgarth.
Jennifer Louise Tonge, having been created Baroness Tonge, of Kew in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, for lifeWas, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Hamwee and the Baroness Williams of Crosby.
Whether the interview given by the Department for International Development programme manager about the proposed airport for St Helena, reported in the St Helena Catalogue, gives a satisfactory account of their plans; and when they will set out their position on the protection of endemic species and the provision of facilities for tourists.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, a project memorandum, which provides more
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information about these and other issues, has been placed on the DfID website and in the House of Lords Library. It offers a better account than the report of the interview referred to in the Question, which contained a number of omissions and misunderstandings.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I am indeed grateful to the Government for that Answer and for the actions they have taken, at long last, to try and restore some life to the rather dwindling population of St Helena. However, it is important that we are able to follow the progress in solving the many problems, two of which were mentioned in the original Question. I am delighted to know that there is a better answer in the House of Lords Library. Will the Government be able to continue to keep us informed so that we can see how they are solving the very difficult problems which they have to confront?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Whitley, that a full independent environmental impact assessment will be conducted before there is any invitation for the design, build and operate contract. Action to mitigate any negative impacts will be set out in an environmental management plan, which will be legally binding on the contractor. I know that the noble Lord is particularly concerned about the endemic species involved.
Longer term protection could be afforded by the establishment of a protected area around the site under existing legislation in St Helena. With respect to tourism, we will also be looking at the St Helena Government's tourism strategy.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. Is she aware that to reach St Helena takes two days from Ascension Island, three and a half from Namibia, 14 from the UK and seven from Cape Town? It is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world. There are at least 20 endemic
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invertebrate species in the plain where the airport is scheduled to be built that exist nowhere else on the planet. Following her Answer, will she tell us what steps will be taken to relocate the endemic species on St Helena to avoid their extinction during the construction of the airport?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I understand that there will be no need to move the endemic species. There will be a full environmental impact study out of which will come an environmental management plan which the contractors will have to take on board. There may be an impact on about 15 per cent of the area, but it is anticipated that once the environmental impact assessment is done, there will actually be longer term benefits for a wider area which the contractor will have to take on board because it will be part of the contract.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, what effect will the expected airport and therefore the expected removal of RMS "St Helena" from the area have on other islands in that area, especially Tristan da Cunha?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, RMS "St Helena" calls at Tristan de Cunha only once a year, so the other routes will remain as they are. With respect to Ascension Island, which is likely to be more of an issue, once the contract for St Helena airport is let and there are negotiations with a service provider, we anticipate that there will be charter flights between St Helena and Ascension, but those have yet to be negotiated.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, we are working to a timescale of 2010, although for a project such as this it would be a brave person who would say that the airport would definitely be open by then. However, we are working to that date. There will be negotiations with a service provider; it is anticipated that the services will be between St Helena and somewhere in southern Africa. The number of flights a week will also be part of that negotiation.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, is it sensible that that very isolated island and the adjacent islands will have contact with the outside world only via aircraft? Is it sensible as well for there not to be any form of shipping service for freight?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, there will be a continuing shipping service for freight on a commercial basis. At the moment the part of the service on RMS "St Helena" which needs to be subsidised is the passenger service, so I do not in any way anticipate that the commercial freight element will not continue.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the Government are concerned about the decline in research, development and training in energy and have taken action to increase the amount of publicly funded R&D. DTI and research council expenditure on energy R&D increased from £34 million in 199899 to an estimated £60 million in 200405. That amount is projected to rise to at least £95 million by 200708. The Government are also supporting a range of demonstration activity worth more than £300 million between 2002 and 2008. A UK energy research partnership, bringing together public and private funders of energy research, is being set up and the Energy and Utility Sector Skills Council is working with industry to develop a strategy for training and development.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that response, but would he not agree that over the years there has been a continuing falluntil very recentlyin the level of R&D and training in energy? It now represents a mere 5 per cent of what it was pre-privatisation, and only 10 per cent and 20 per cent respectively of what is being spent in France and Germany. Furthermore, would he not agree that the reduced level of expenditure in that area is itself too fragmented to have a major impact? What is now required is an urgent review of the whole area of investment in energy, in view of the importance attached to energy policy, with a view to increasing the quantum and concentrating the impact.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there has obviously been a very considerable fall over the years in spending on R&D. The major part of that has been the fall in nuclear R&D. I agree that, with regard to the international comparisons, we appear still out of line with what other countries are doing, even with the substantial increases that we have made in recent years. As part of the spending review for 2006 we shall revisit that area.
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