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I shall deal briefly with the six amendments in my name in this group. Four of them concern the problems that confront disabled people when dealing with the planning system. Amendment No. 183 suggests that the register of applications should be available,

Clearly, this applies particularly to the visually handicapped, and seems to me a sensible thing to do. There should already be an obligation to do this under the Disability Discrimination Act, but I am advised that a large number of authorities and others do not do it.

As regards Amendment No. 186, it seems to me obvious that applicants should consult organisations which represent handicapped people. That ought to be in the Bill. Amendment No. 197, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, referred, also concerns disability, and seeks to double the period for response to an application. Documents that are produced in a format which disabled people and blind people can use often arrive days or even weeks after the original consultation. Are the 28 days to apply to those documents? The Government would be wise to consider a longer period here. The amendment suggests 56 days.

Amendment No. 201 suggests that, as well as advertising in the press, the statement should be advertised in a talking newspaper in the area, if one is available. This seems to me an obvious point. The other two amendments on disability in my name in this group, Amendments Nos. 193A and 225A, raise a very different point, but one which has given rise to a good deal of concern. The purpose of these amendments is to delete certain subsections in Clauses 43 and 55 respectively to limit the span of consultation to what is reasonable and achievable. These clauses concern people who have an interest in land or who the applicant thinks may have a compensation claim under Section 10 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 or Section 1 of the Land Compensation Act 1973. Both Section 1 and Section 10 claims are in principle capable of being made whether or not any land or interest is being compulsorily acquired from the claimant, and so both sections give rise to compensation claims potentially being made in respect of land which is not on the site of the proposed development but could well be affected by it.

A Section 10 claim is a claim for injurious affection for property depreciation exceeding £50 caused by the construction, as opposed to the use, of the relevant infrastructure. A Section 1 claim is a claim caused by the use of the relevant infrastructure. The problem is the near impossibility of identifying with certainty all the land interests in respect of which relevant claims could or might be made. For linear infrastructure, for example a pipeline or overhead electricity line, a judgment would have to be made as to how far away a property would have to be before it could be safely excluded from the notification requirements. This could involve

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tens of thousands of properties having to be notified if the proposed infrastructure was 50 kilometres long. We have had much discussion about airports. If Heathrow airport is expanded with the addition of a third runway, the number of people who will be affected must run certainly into hundreds of thousands, and possibly into millions. The relevant clauses seem to suggest that they would all have to be notified, which does not seem to me feasible. The notification process requires a written notice to be sent to each of the property owners affected. I should have thought it would be completely impossible to accomplish that with 100 per cent accuracy. If it were not 100 per cent accurate, somebody would claim in court that they should have had a notification but had not received one, and therefore the whole process would have to be quashed.

I do not know quite what is intended here. It seems to me that, as the Bill stands, there is no limit to the area of notification. That seems to take one into the realms of pure impossibility. That is what lawyers tell me and that seems to me a credible interpretation. However, it may not be what the Government intend. I hope that the noble Baroness will explain this or agree to bring forward amendments at a later stage which might allay the anxieties which have been expressed.

Lord Chorley: I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I do not want to take more than a few seconds of the Committee’s time; the noble Lord has said all that needs to be said. With the greatest respect to the Minister, her reply to the equivalent amendment on Tuesday was really quite inadequate. The national parks are the planning experts in their area, much more so than any local authority. They are indirectly appointed by local authorities and by the Secretary of State. I am not asking her to revisit the matter today, but I hope that she will have a rather more sympathetic approach on Report.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I support the amendment proposed by my noble friend. I shall speak to Amendment No. 188. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, for his support for the amendment.

Last Tuesday, we debated the impact of the forthcoming marine Bill on this legislation. Here, we are considering the pre-application phase and the role of local authorities in the pre-application phase. I favour that approach, which certainly has considerable advantages, in the sense that it is capable of getting out some of the difficulties in the early stages of planning procedure.

The marine Bill will bring into place the Marine Management Organisation, about which the Minister who was replying for the Government said:

“We expect the IPC to draw on the expertise of the MMO. The MMO can add additional conditions to an order granting development consent if new information comes to light and can even revoke consents if necessary. The MMO will be responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of IPC consents, and the Planning Bill guidance will detail the nature of the advice that will need to be given by the MMO to the IPC. My understanding is that there will also be a memorandum of understanding to formalise the arrangement. MMO enforcement officers will use Marine Bill powers to enforce the system”.—[Official Report, 14/10/08; col. 694.]

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Clearly, the MMO will be a considerable arbiter in all matters concerning marine planning, and yet there is no requirement in the pre-application phase to involve the MMO or, in advance of its arrival on the scene, the Marine and Fisheries Agency—that is why the reference in the amendment is to “the relevant marine body”. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to respond favourably to my amendment, which would greatly enhance the process in terms of marine applications or applications affecting the marine environment by having the body as a formal consultee at an earlier stage, rather than bringing it in to have a row with the new authority afterwards.

Lord Greenway: I support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. Regarding the statutory consultees in the marine sphere, should the relevant general lighthouse authority also be included as a mandatory consultee? In particular with the development of offshore wind farms, the authority is responsible for assessing the risks of the development to the safety of navigation and considering how best to mitigate those risks regarding the positioning of the development, the marking of it, if necessary, by day or by night and whether it needs to be buoyed. It is important that it should be consulted, because safety of navigation is vital and will become more so as we see the proliferation of offshore wind farms as proposed by the Government.

Baroness Thornton: I beg to move that the House be resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Department of Energy and Climate Change

12.45 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now make a Statement on the new Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The new department brings together the Government’s work on three long-term challenges that face our country: ensuring that we have energy that is affordable, secure, and sustainable; bringing about the transition to a low-carbon Britain; and achieving an international agreement on climate change at Copenhagen in December 2009. These are our goals, and the new department is a recognition that when two-thirds of our emissions come from the use of energy, energy policy and climate change policy should not be considered separately but together.

In tough economic times, some people will ask whether we should retreat from our climate change objectives. In our view, it would be quite wrong to row back, and those who say that we should do so misunderstand the relationship between the economic and environmental tasks that we face. Of course there are trade-offs, but there are also common solutions to both; for example, energy-saving measures for households

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which cut bills and emissions, such as those announced in September by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, or investment in new environmental industries, which both improve our energy security and reduce our dependence on polluting fuels. What we know from the Stern report in 2006 is that the costs of not acting on climate change are greater than the costs of acting. Only if Britain plays its part will a global deal to cut carbon emissions be possible. So, far from retreating from our objectives, we should reaffirm our resolve.

Over the summer, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asked the independent Committee on Climate Change to review the long-term target for Britain’s emissions. Based on a Royal Commission report in 2000, the target had been set at a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions. Since then, independent reports have added further to our knowledge. Arctic sea ice has melted faster than expected, global emissions have grown faster and the impacts of each degree of climate change are known to be worse.

Last week, the noble Lord, Lord Turner, wrote to me with the committee’s conclusions, and they have been placed in the Library of the House. His report found that to hold global warming to two degrees above pre-industrial levels, commonly accepted as the threshold for the most dangerous changes in the climate, global emissions must fall by 50 per cent to 60 per cent by 2050. The noble Lord concluded that for Britain to play its proper part, the UK should cut our emissions not by 60 per cent but by 80 per cent. He concluded that the target should apply not just to CO2 but to all six of the Kyoto greenhouse gases. He concludes that, while there are uncertainties about how to allocate emissions from international flights and shipping, they, too, should play their part in reducing emissions.

The Government accept all of the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. We will amend the Climate Change Bill to cut 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and that target will be binding in law. I hope that all sides of the House will support that. Indeed, I want to create as much of a consensus as we can on climate change.

However, we all know that signing up to an 80 per cent cut by 2050 is the easy part. The hard part is meeting it and meeting the milestones that will show that we are on track. For us in Britain, those will be shaped by the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change, which will advise us in December on the first 15 years of carbon budgets—national limits to our total emissions. We will report next year on how we will meet them.

We are also determined to ensure that the signal and the commitment come not just from Britain but, as the Prime Minister has been making clear in recent days, from Europe, too. That means an agreement by the end of this year on the strengthening of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and on the targets for 2020 that Europe should reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent unilaterally and by 30 per cent as part of a global deal, and that the EU should confirm its renewable energy target.

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Earlier this year we published our draft renewable energy strategy. What is clear to me is not only the scale of that challenge but also the urgency of getting on with delivery. The renewables obligation has tripled supply in the last five years, and we are making further changes in its structure, in planning policy and in access to the grid. However, having heard the debate on this issue, including from many colleagues in this House, I believe that complementing the renewables obligation for large-scale projects with guaranteed prices for small-scale electricity generation and a feed-in tariff has the potential to play an important role, as it does in other countries.

So, having listened to the views expressed, including those in the other place, we plan to table an amendment to the Energy Bill to make that happen. I also believe that renewable power can play a bigger role not just in electricity but in heating, too. Heating produces almost half of Britain’s carbon emissions, and cleaner sources of heat can help us meet our target in 2050 and the milestones on the way. I am clear that we need to make rapid progress on this, too, and I will make further announcements soon.

I said at the start that our objective was a climate change policy that was fair and an energy policy that was sustainable. Today’s structure of the energy market was designed in a world of abundant supply, British energy self-sufficiency, low commodity prices and an emerging debate, though not a settled consensus, on climate change. Today, all those assumptions have changed. There is international competition for resources, a need for new investment in supply, structurally higher energy prices and an urgency about carbon emissions. To respond to this new world, we need a market that secures future supply, including with investment in nuclear power and carbon capture and storage; more to incentivise cuts in carbon emissions; and more to help homes and businesses. These are big issues that we need to address for the future. Today, however, I want to signal a direction of travel on affordability.

Last week, the energy regulator Ofgem highlighted what it believed to be unjustified higher charges for 4 million electricity customers in areas not connected to the gas main. It also believes that, even taking account of higher costs facing companies from customers with pre-payment meters, many homes that use them are being overcharged. Unfair pricing which hits the most vulnerable hardest is completely unacceptable. I made that clear to the representatives of the big six energy companies when I met them yesterday. I also told them that the Government expect rapid action or explanation to remedy any abuses. I will meet them again in a month to hear what they have done. We and Ofgem are determined to see these issues addressed. Ofgem is consulting on its findings until 1 December as part of a due process. If the companies do not act in a satisfactory way, we will consult on legislation to prevent unfair pricing differentials.

For us, markets can provide enormous benefits in dynamism and efficiency, but they will work properly only if they are regulated effectively in the public interest, including with a strong independent regulator. There is more to do to help consumers, and we will not hesitate to act. A climate change and energy policy

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that is fair and sustainable, and meeting our obligations to today’s and future generations—that is the work that we are beginning in my new department, and I commend this Statement to the House.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

12.53 pm

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for his Statement, and I welcome him to his new position as Minister of State. This is his sixth department—I added them up this morning—but energy and climate change will undoubtedly be the most exciting. I hope that, between us, we might just manage to keep the lights on and save the world.

I am pleased to note that the Minister’s first Dispatch Box Statement contains so much that is welcome to us. I have a great hope that the new department will continue to listen and to be persuaded by our arguments on climate change policy. Unfortunately, I note that the new department has not managed to escape the usual government practice of prioritising the press over Parliament. I know that we on these Benches make that point frequently, but I live in hope that repetition will eventually have its effect.

In an article in the Guardian this morning, the new Energy and Climate Change Secretary complained that the green lobby groups have,

Does the Minister not feel that this unfortunate assumption may have arisen because the Government’s standard operating procedure is to announce policies in a way which has more regard for newspaper headlines than effective legislation?

Nevertheless, I was very happy to read this morning, and to hear this afternoon, that the Government have decided to accept the climate change committee’s target of an 80 per cent cut in carbon emissions. Can the Minister confirm that this target will continue to be kept under review and, if necessary, adjusted in the light of further scientific information?

I am also extremely pleased to hear that the Government have finally accepted the necessity of a guaranteed price for small-scale electricity generation. Peers from these and other Benches, including those behind the Minister, have for some time been pushing for that to be included in the Energy Bill. I look forward to examining the government amendment in the hope that it will satisfactorily replace the amendment that I have already tabled.

The Minister has just made some reassuring noises about the Government’s concern about continuing fuel poverty. However, his promise to talk to six energy companies is rather less than we on these Benches would like to hear. Does he not think that the Conservative Party policy to expand the role of the Post Office card account, whereby lower income people who do not have bank accounts could take advantage of preferential rates available via direct debit payments, would do much more to benefit these people?

The Statement contained some very welcome assurances, but there are many more issues, and many more decisions that the Government will need to take.

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The Government would have us believe that the creation of a new department is a sign of their commitment to taking the necessary steps towards making meaningful progress on climate change and energy. A restatement of their commitment is certainly necessary after a decade of delay and dithering in this area. I therefore look forward to hearing much more from the Minister in the very near future about specific proposals in the many areas that need addressing urgently. I hope that this reorganisation will indeed signal progress rather than just mask continuing indecision.

12.56 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, from these Benches, I very much welcome the Minister to this portfolio and we very much look forward to what I know is his strong commitment and his ability to persuade not just the rest of the House but the rest of the Government about the importance of this area. He is clearly already making good progress.

We absolutely welcome this Statement. It goes further than I could have hoped and would have expected. That is a very positive sign indeed. We also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Turner, on his work in the climate change committee and in many ways regret that he will be moving on, although his appointment to the FSA is clearly good.

On the movement from a 60 per cent to an 80 per cent target, the Statement shows how Britain can indeed lead the global debate around the need for action on climate change, but I remind the Minister that the way that that 80 per cent is defined allows all sorts of ways in which this country can get around that target internally. No doubt, we will have that debate when the Climate Change Bill comes back to the House.

Including other greenhouse gases in those targets is logical and ties in with the Kyoto process. We on these Benches were arguing for that within the Climate Change Bill. The Government will have a 10 per cent better start in terms of the 1990 figures than they would have had if they took account of carbon dioxide only. I hope that that will help us to meet the targets.

Aviation and air was an area that I was particularly interested in. The Statement, says that,

We would all agree with that, but I ask the Minister to clarify whether those emissions will be within the 80 per cent target or not. That is what we need to understand.

The feed-in tariff has been particularly successful in generating renewable energy, particularly within Europe. Another reason that we welcome it is that it has one other effect, which is that it allows much greater participation by smaller organisations and individuals, households and families, who can involve themselves in, and benefit from, the generation of renewable energy.

However, there is still a huge challenge in the area of fuel poverty. Clearly, we welcome the fact that oil energy prices have come down to a more sensible level over the past couple of months, and I hope that the same will also apply to gas, but at the same time we do

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not want those energy prices to be too low. However, there will be great challenges to households. Reining in the number of people who move back into fuel poverty will require the Government to take decisive and strong action—perhaps more than is suggested in the Statement—and we look forward to a further report from the Government on how this action will move forward.

Again, we on these Benches congratulate the Government on taking the bull by the horns in terms of the Turner recommendations, and we very much welcome this as the Minister’s first Statement in his new role.

1.01 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, first, I warmly welcome the comments of both noble Lords on the Statement. They set a very good foundation for the consensual way in which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has today intimated he wishes to proceed. Given that we are talking about matters which fall to be dealt with immediately and have huge long-term impacts, I am sure that a consensual approach is the right way to go forward.

I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that the noble Lord, Lord Turner, has done an extraordinary piece of work. The balance of national interest is a nice judgment, and he will be very much missed from the Committee on Climate Change. I also wish to point out the outstanding work that he did in relation to pensions, of which of course I had experience as a pensions Minister. Indeed, the noble Baroness pointed out that with my current role I have now been round Whitehall quite a few times. I hope that that adds to what I bring to the job, as I think that experience within different government departments is helpful.

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