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Energy National Policy Statements

Volume 499: debated on Monday 9 November 2009

With permission, I shall make a statement about the energy national policy statements and our proposals on clean coal.

In the summer we published the low carbon transition plan, which explained how we would meet our commitments to carbon reduction for 2020 and beyond. New infrastructure is being provided for the coming years, with 20 GW under construction or consented to—more than the amount that will close by 2018—but in order to meet our low-carbon energy challenge, and owing to the intermittency of wind, we shall need significantly more generating capacity in the longer term. As our documents explain, over the next 15 years to 2025, one third of that larger future generating capacity must be consented to and built. Given that challenge, the imperative of reform in the planning system is clear.

The current system is characterised by duplication, with several bodies responsible for different aspects of consent, overlapping responsibilities for politicians and independent decision makers, and delay. Today, to guide the decision making of the new Infrastructure Planning Commission, we are setting out for consultation six draft policy statements on energy, the most important being those on the trinity of fuels of our low-carbon future: renewables, nuclear power and clean fossil fuels. We need all of them in the long term, because the challenge of the low-carbon transition is so significant. We need renewables, which are a home-grown and plentiful source of supply and are already powering 2 million homes in the UK; we need nuclear power, which is a proven, reliable source of low-carbon energy and an important base load in the system; and we need fossil fuels—with carbon capture and storage—which make possible a flexible peak-load response.

Last year, offshore wind generation increased by two thirds and onshore wind generation by one quarter. However, we need to increase the rate of progress significantly in order to meet our objective of 30 per cent. of our electricity coming from renewables by 2020. The national policy statement on renewables covers onshore renewables over 50 MW and offshore wind over 100 MW. Other onshore decisions remain with local authorities. The policy statement seeks to strike the right balance between achieving national objectives and avoiding adverse impacts on the local environment and biodiversity. While Government set out the framework in the policy statements, each application will be decided upon by the independent Infrastructure Planning Commission. The IPC will have to take account of regional and local plans drawn up by local authorities, and developers will have to ensure that they have consulted locally before any application is made, with local authorities submitting local impact reports.

The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable of a year from the acceptance of an application to a decision. That is a crucial change from the system that operated in the past. This system is right for energy security. By meeting our commitments on renewables we can limit the need for gas imports, holding them at 2010 levels for the rest of the decade. It is also the right thing to do for the environment, because there is no bigger threat to our countryside than climate change. But, according to the estimates that we are publishing today, even given our ambitious targets for renewables there will be a need for additional new non-renewable power. We need to use all available low-carbon sources, which is why we were right to end the moratorium on new nuclear power stations in this country last year. In response, energy companies have announced intentions to build 16 GW of new nuclear power. In the spring, we invited comments on the 11 sites that had been nominated for new nuclear, all of which are on or near existing nuclear sites. I can tell the House that 10 of the 11 sites have been judged potentially suitable and have been included in the draft policy statement. The next step will be consultation in the 10 selected sites, as well as nationally. The consultation proposes that the 11th site, Dungeness, not be included in this national policy statement. That is because, following advice from Natural England and others, the Government do not believe that a new nuclear power station can be built there without causing an adverse effect on the integrity of the internationally unique ecosystem.

Under the habitats directive, we are obliged to consider alternative nuclear sites. An independent study has suggested that three—Kingsnorth, Druridge Bay and Owston Ferry—are “worthy of further consideration”. We have concluded, however, that all of them have serious impediments and none of them is credible for deployment by the end of 2025, the period of the policy statement; nor do we believe they are necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Therefore, we have excluded all of them from being potential sites in the draft policy statement.

On waste management, the Government are satisfied that, on the basis of the science and international experience, effective arrangements to manage and dispose of the waste from new nuclear power stations can be put in place. In addition, today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs.

New nuclear is right for energy security and climate change, and it will be good for jobs too, creating up to 9,000 jobs to build and operate power stations at each site and helping leading companies to access the international market.

As well as renewables and nuclear, the third part of our low-carbon future is clean fossil fuels. There is no solution to the problem of climate change either at home or abroad without a solution to the problem of coal—cheap and reliable, but the most polluting fuel. Already, €180 million has provisionally been offered from the European budget to assist Hatfield power station to fit carbon capture and storage, and I can confirm that we have received bids from E.ON and Scottish Power for the next stage of the current CCS competition for a post-combustion power station. Early next year, we will allocate the up to £90 million that has been set aside for the bid or bids that will go forward to the detailed design and engineering stage. Our aim is clear: for carbon capture and storage to be ready to be deployed 100 per cent. on all new coal-fired power stations by 2020. We are determined to ensure that, with the right combination of regulation and incentives, we make this happen, so I can confirm that, under our new framework, there will be no new coal-fired power stations without CCS. With immediate effect, in order to gain development consent all new coal plant will have to show that it will demonstrate CCS from the outset on around 400 MW of total output.

Our plans are based on up to four projects between now and 2020, including up to two post-combustion projects and up to two pre-combustion projects. The pre-combustion demonstration projects are expected to have 100 per cent. CCS on their coal capacity from day one. The post-combustion projects will be expected to retrofit CCS to 100 per cent. of their capacity within five years of 2020. That will be enforced by the Environment Agency, and there will be a review to confirm it by 2018. If we conclude at that time that CCS will not be proven, we believe further regulatory measures will be required to restrict emissions from these plants, such as through an emissions performance standard.

Even with the right regulation, however, if we leave the funding of CCS simply to private companies, it will not happen in time. To make CCS financially viable, our proposed energy Bill contains powers to introduce the levy to support demonstration that the Chancellor announced in the Budget; and, in response to points made in the consultation, the levy will also be available to support the move to 100 per cent. retrofit of CCS. Taken together, these policies are the most environmentally ambitious set of coal conditions of any country in the world, and they provide the opportunity for Britain to create thousands of jobs in carbon capture and storage throughout our country.

On coal, nuclear and renewables, the aim of our national policy statements is clear: consistent with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, we need to be on course for the long-term goal of near-zero carbon emissions from power. In the spring, we will publish further work on the pathway from 2020 to 2050 consistent with this trajectory.

Alongside the overall policy statement and those for nuclear, renewables, fossil fuels and gas storage, we are also publishing the policy statement for electricity networks. Together, these documents represent a framework for the future of our energy supplies.

In every area—onshore and offshore wind, and other renewables; nuclear; and clean fossil fuels—there will be people who wish to oppose specific planning applications. Their voice must be heard in the process, and we believe that it will be. The planning process must ensure that we give consent to the right projects in the right sites. Although of course we need a process that can turn down specific applications, saying no everywhere would not be in the national interest. As a country, we need nuclear, renewables and clean coal for our energy future. They are necessary for security of supply, tackling climate change and the future of our economy. That is why we are reforming the planning system and publishing our statements today. I urge all those in all parts of the House to unite behind these proposals, and I commend this statement to the House.

What we have heard softly spoken is a declaration of a national emergency for our energy security. The question that the Secretary of State must answer is why did the Government leave it so late? The statement is made necessary by the Government’s admission in July that they expect power cuts in 2017—that was the first time since the 1970s that a British Government have had to make such a disclosure. The cause of this national emergency has been obvious for many years. Over 12 years, 15 successive Energy Ministers—a new one every nine months—have behaved like the ostrich and stuck their head in the sand rather than face up to the action that was needed to address our energy black hole.

Will the Secretary of State say whether the Government knew that most of our nuclear power stations would reach the end of their planned life before 2017? Will he tell us whether anyone in his Administration was informed that North sea oil and gas production would peak and fall away? Did anyone tell them that our most polluting coal-fired power stations were about to close? Every one of the measures contained in this statement should have been brought forward 10 years ago, when the Government had the chance to secure the investments that are so desperately needed to keep the lights on, to keep prices down and to cut carbon emissions. So will he answer the question: why did they leave it so late?

On the planning statements themselves, we support the Government, but does the Secretary of State accept that to give the certainty that investors require they should be endorsed by a full vote of this House, so that they have the democratic legitimacy that will entrench them against future judicial review? We agree with him that it is absolutely right to create a fast-track planning process for large infrastructure projects, with a dedicated secretariat and time-limited decisions, but does he agree that the final decision should be taken not by an unelected, unaccountable official, but by a Secretary of State responsible to this House?

Nuclear power must be part of a diverse energy mix, provided it is commercially viable, but does the Secretary of State accept that it is now too late for nuclear to come on stream fast enough to replace our current capacity before it shuts down, and that this will increase our dependence on gas imports before 2020? The moratorium was this Government’s and they are responsible for that. Why did they leave things so late?

On coal, will the Secretary of State confirm that the large combustion plant directive will close a third of our coal capacity, and that since it was agreed by the Government in 2001 not a single carbon capture and storage plant has been authorised to replace that capacity? Will he say which countries, in addition to China, Australia, Canada, Germany, Norway and Belgium, have used this delay to overtake Britain in CCS? Will he say whether 2014 is still the date by which any entry into his chaotic CCS competition must be up and running, or will he confirm what the industry tells me, which is that it has been put back yet again? I note that his statement was silent on this. Why did the Government leave it so late on CCS?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that Germany keeps 100 days’ worth of gas in storage and France keeps 120 days’ worth, but that Britain has just 15 days’ worth of gas storage? Was his colleague Lord Hunt of Kings Heath right when he said that the current measures would increase that by just five hours? Why did the Government leave it so late?

On renewables, will the Secretary of State confirm that Britain has the lowest proportion of energy coming from renewable sources of any EU country, apart from Malta and Luxembourg? If he intends, once again, to entertain us by blaming the gaping hole in our energy supply on rural district councils, rather than on the void in energy policy, will he say why his statement proposes no reforms to allow communities to benefit from wind farms? A decade on from the renewables target, will he tell us why he left it so late?

Britain’s consumers and businesses will pay through the nose for the last-minute scramble that the Secretary of State has announced today to cope with the black-outs that he predicted in July. Will he explain, clearly and simply, why the Government have allowed us to get into this state and will he accompany his response with an apology to the British people for 12 years of negligence, for which we are now paying the price?

It is hard to know where to start with the hon. Gentleman, and not for the right reasons. In the course of the day, he has managed to show a unique combination of alarmism and complacency. I say that he has shown alarmism because, if he had listened to my statement, he would have heard me say that if we look ahead to 2018 we will replace the 18 GW of infrastructure that is closing with 20 GW of infrastructure. I know that he is interested in the issue of energy unserved, so I direct him to the Redpoint analysis that we are publishing today, which will show him the updated figures as a result of the more recent data we have. I think that will put him right.

The hon. Gentleman showed both alarmism and complacency because what he did not say was that he wants to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission. We have gone through this process of years of reform, and the business community likes the system and says that it is the right thing to do. We know that it is necessary, as I said in my statement, to make the low-carbon transition, but now the hon. Gentleman comes along and says that he wants to abolish the IPC.

What do we have from the Conservative party? The Conservatives say that the Secretary of State would set the national policy statements and also decide on the specific applications. What kind of separation of powers is that? It would not only be wrong because it would disrupt a system that is coming into place, and rightly so in my view—it will hasten the low-carbon transition that we need—but wrong in principle, too.

The hon. Gentleman asked a series of other questions. On carbon capture and storage, we still do not know whether the Conservative party supports the levy that the Chancellor announced in April. My right hon. Friend announced a levy in the Budget in April and the Opposition say that they will fund CCS from the proceeds of the EU emissions trading scheme. For six months, I have told the hon. Gentleman—as the Treasury has told his hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry)—that those funds are already accounted for in the national accounts, so it is funny money that the Conservative party wants to use and we still do not know whether it supports our carbon capture and storage levy.

The truth is that what we heard from the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) is a clear example of why the Conservative party is not fit for government.

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, but can he tell us why the press were clearly briefed on Friday, contrary to Mr. Speaker’s ruling, and why the statements were supplied to our Whips Office only about 18 minutes before the statement was given in the House?

Although the Liberal Democrats have, as the Secretary of State would expect, consistently supported, and continue to support, a future with clean fossil fuels and renewable energy, nothing that he has said today about nuclear power persuades us that the arguments that it is safe and secure have been made in any way that is different from how they have been made in the past.

Will the Secretary of State make it clear that what he has announced today are draft policies, and will he tell us what the timetable is for consultation? Will all the evidence supplied in response be published, and do the Government still have an open mind on arguments that might persuade them that they are going down the wrong road? Does today’s draft hide within itself the necessary justification of the nuclear policy for European Union requirements, because he did not mention that in his statement at all?

How can the Energy Secretary say that the next generation of nuclear power stations are any more likely to be built without taxpayer subsidy than the last generation when he has not decided which sort of power station design to choose or where the sites will be, and when there is no scientifically justified and secure way of disposing of the waste? How can he tell us that he will go ahead with the plan when the Health and Safety Commission has expressed serious concerns about the proposed designs that are on the table?

How can the Secretary of State tell us that this is the right mix when nuclear power would make so small a contribution to our energy future, and so late in terms of the timetable that he has set out? If he were far more ambitious about renewables and willing to invest in them in the way that he has invested in the nuclear industry in the past, could we not have a safe, reliable and publicly much more acceptable future? Why did he talk about jobs in the nuclear industry but not say a word about the much greater potential for jobs in the renewables sector, which is evidently known and supported around the country?

On CCS, can I be clear that the Secretary of State is saying to the House as before that there will be a new generation of coal-fired power stations but they will not all have to be CCS-compliant from the beginning of their operation? Some of the next generation will, therefore, be dirty power stations from the beginning rather than the necessary clean stations.

Was there a commitment in the statement to a UK grid supported and funded by the Government? Was there a commitment to the European supergrid, which we need if we are to have energy security across the continent?

Finally, as a Labour Minister with all his good democratic credentials, the Secretary of State must find it difficult to come to the House and argue that in future the major energy decisions in this country will be taken by an independent body, not even answerable to Ministers of the Crown, let alone to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Is it not the truth that the one thing that has been disposed of is not nuclear waste, because the Secretary of State has no solution for that, but the democratic process in coming to all those difficult decisions?

Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, may I gently say to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) that he did somewhat exceed his time? This is not an example that should be imitated by other colleagues.

I will try to be brief in reply, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, it pains me to disagree with the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), but let me deal with the three specific points he made. He has an anti-nuclear position. I disagree with it and I shall briefly explain why.

We have very ambitious targets for renewables in this country. We all know the targets are ambitious, so to ask—as the hon. Gentleman did—why we are not more ambitious is, frankly, not realistic. We know that we have tough commitments, but looking at our needs in terms of low-carbon energy in the future, it is wrong to rule out nuclear power, because I think it can make a real difference. As for the hon. Gentleman’s point about nuclear not making a contribution, companies have already put forward plans—as I said in my statement—for 16 GW of new power, which is significant.

The hon. Gentleman made some specific points about nuclear. He said that we had not decided about the stations. Actually, we are saying that there is a choice of two stations—the Westinghouse station or the AREVA station. We shall benefit from the fact that the stations are being built elsewhere, because many of the issues that could be faced will have already been gone through.

On coal, let me be absolutely clear: we have said that there will be no new coal without CCS. That is absolutely clear. We are absolutely clear about that—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says, “Expected.” No, CCS will have to be demonstrated from the outset in any new coal-fired power station. That is very clear from my statement, and he will see it from the documentation as well.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned democratic oversight, which comes in the national policy statements, but when those statements are put forward by Ministers it is right to leave specific questions about specific applications and developments to an independent body. I think that will give more assurance in the process, and I wish the hon. Gentleman had supported our proposals today.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on his statement? It arises from the planning delay over important national energy requirements. I should like to ask him specifically about wind turbine power. As he is aware, we are doing well on offshore investment, but not so well in onshore investment, where a great deal more will have to be done. It appears that recently 75 per cent. of applications have been rejected, often against the advice of planning officers, by the elected officials who appear to feel that they will be overruled anyway. Will my right hon. Friend comment on that? We welcome his investment in Yorkshire in the Hatfield plant.

My right hon. Friend played an important role in Kyoto and his advice has been very helpful in the run-up to Copenhagen. He is absolutely right. He has been very brave, and has stood up for the issue of onshore wind and said that we need to go ahead with it. He is absolutely right about that. Part of the argument we need to advance in the House and in the country is not just for planning reform but for going ahead with onshore wind, which is why I wish the shadow Business Secretary had not said that he was against all onshore wind. I think it is right that all of us stand up and say that we need onshore and offshore wind. We cannot say no to any of the low-carbon alternatives.

Order. Thirty hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, so brevity is of the essence. I know that a good example will now be set by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard).

Is the Secretary of State aware that his decision to exclude Dungeness from his list of preferred sites will be greeted with consternation by many of my constituents, who will be bemused by the objection of Natural England, having regard to the fact that there are already two nuclear power stations at Dungeness? Will he assure me that he will continue to consult on the possibility of restoring Dungeness to the list, and will he confirm that Natural England will not have a veto on that possibility?

I know from our conversations that the right hon. and learned Gentleman feels strongly about these questions. I can confirm that this is a consultation. No, Natural England does not have a veto. We act on its advice and the advice of others. The specific issue with respect to the proposal for Dungeness was that the site was adjacent to the existing power station, which causes a lot more difficulties in relation to habitats than the existing power station. It is a question not simply of new habitats rules coming into place since the original station at Dungeness was built, but of the specific siting of any new station at Dungeness. As I say, there is a consultation and we look forward to hearing the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others.

I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and the plans that he announced for accelerating our plans for new nuclear power stations, which will be warmly welcomed in the country as a whole. His statement updates us on the planning reform changes that the Government have introduced, which will de-risk a lot of the investment that is necessary. Does he have an open mind about whether it might be necessary to go one step further at some point in the future, either in the form of a minimum floor price for carbon or in the form of a new low-carbon obligation on the power generators?

Let me pay tribute to my right hon. Friend because he took the very brave decision on nuclear power, which has not quite a universal consensus, although perhaps a growing consensus, in this House. As for the carbon price, we do want a more robust carbon price than we have at present. The best way of achieving that, in my view, is plan A, which is Copenhagen, and getting an ambitious deal at Copenhagen. He was also right, in my view, to rule out a specific public subsidy for new nuclear, but our focus is on getting that deal at Copenhagen so that we can ensure a more robust carbon price.

The Secretary of State said that he foresaw 150 MW of wind power capacity being installed. Can he confirm that on average 27 per cent. is the typical usage, so that typically 100 MW of that 150 MW will not be in use at any one moment?

I think the right hon. Gentleman has got his megawatts and gigawatts a little confused, if I may say so. The point I was making in my statement was the scale of application that would be below or above the threshold. He is right in that wind power is what we call de-rated in terms of its impact on the electricity system, and the calculations that we put forward take account of that.

What is there in place to ensure that there will be full environmental impact assessments in order that there can be a level playing field for deciding whether to invest in nuclear or renewables? I have concerns about investment in nuclear.

I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about these issues. Local environmental impacts are built into the assessments. Whether on renewables or on nuclear, those decisions are for the IPC. It is important to say that the advance of the planning reforms is so that the question of need is settled in consultation at this stage in the national policy statements. The question of specific applications and their impact on biodiversity and other matters is then a decision for the IPC, so I can reassure my hon. Friend that the IPC will have to make judgments on those questions.

May I welcome the Secretary of State’s well justified refusal to put Druridge Bay in Northumberland back on the list of potential nuclear sites, and, as someone who has campaigned for 20 years ago to get it off that list, assure him that any future Secretary of State who sought to put a nuclear station on such a magnificent and environmentally diverse site would face a similarly intense and successful campaign?

Again, I know from speaking to the right hon. Gentleman that he feels strongly about these matters. We made a judgment about Druridge Bay and, indeed, the other two sites identified as worthy of further consideration—both that there were serious impediments to their being placed on the list, and that they were not necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Hence, they have been excluded from the national policy statements. I hope that that acts as reassurance to the right hon. Gentleman and his constituents.

As French, Finnish and UK regulators have all recently agreed that the current control systems for the evolutionary EPR reactor are to be subject to architectural change—in other words, the reactor is still being designed— how can the Government possibly sanction the justification of nuclear plant before reactor design is finally decided? Is that not a classic case of putting the cart before the horse?

No, it is not. I said earlier that we were benefiting from the fact that other countries are constructing and using power plants—in the case of both Westinghouse and AREVA—before they are constructed here. That and the generic design assessment represent precisely the advantage that we in this country have of being able to get the design right, so that we can stick to the timetable and avoid the cost overruns that would otherwise result.

Instead of being a world beater regarding civil nuclear power, we are now a client state because of 10 years of drift and neglect. Will the right hon. Gentleman atone for that, at least in part, by working with the further education colleges of Somerset to make our county a centre of British nuclear engineering, particularly as Somerset is likely to be the site of the first of the new generation of nuclear power stations?

I have to say that the right hon. Gentleman has a funny way of advancing his constituents’ interests, but I am not going to engage in the question of atonement. I welcome the work that local organisations in Somerset and elsewhere are doing as part of the nuclear renaissance and to push nuclear skills. As I said in my statement, I think that there are big opportunities in this country in terms of new nuclear and employment and skills.

Will my right hon. Friend make sure that the reduction in the time taken up by the planning process is not portrayed by the nuclear industry as guaranteeing that nuclear power stations will be completed shortly? The fact is that apart from at Sizewell B, the principal cause of delay in getting electricity out of nuclear power stations was the vast delay in construction. For instance, Dungeness B was actually a decade late before it started producing any electricity, and it has never produced the amount for which it was designed.

My right hon. Friend speaks with great authority on this matter. Indeed, I believe that he was shadow energy spokesman when some of those questions were being debated. I take his point, but I have to say this about the specific planning process at Sizewell: my understanding is that there were 300 and something days of inquiry at Sizewell; that only 30 were taken up with the specific issue of the Sizewell proposal; and that the rest were taken up with the debate about need. The virtue of our proposals is precisely that they try to make some progress on need, so that people’s points about specific, local applications can be considered.

I noticed that the Energy Secretary did not answer the question from the Conservative Front Bencher about the 2014 deadline for the carbon capture and storage pilot. I also noticed that the number of bidders has dropped to two. I hope that that, together with the delay in construction at Kingsnorth, does not mean that the 2014 deadline will be put back.

The hon. Gentleman has an understandable interest in a particular competitor in the competition, and he will understand that we have to go through a due process before making decisions. I said that early in the new year we will announce the next stage, including the allocation of £90 million, so he will have to wait until then. To be clear about the matter, however, let me say that we are absolutely not downgrading our ambitions on CCS; indeed, we are upgrading them. I have said today that we will have up to four demonstration projects: up to two of them will be post-combustion, and two of them will be pre-combustion.

I very much welcome the statement, but, given the inevitably long time scales for the development of new nuclear and carbon capture and storage, and getting to where we need to be in relation to our renewables needs, is there not a danger that up to 2020 we could see a new dash for gas? Will that not inevitably increase import dependency, at a time when the world will be thirsty for energy; and will the Secretary of State comment on the national security implications of that scenario?

The Wicks report makes very good reading; I am glad to have the chance to plug it, as my right hon. Friend rather modestly did not do so. We showed in the low carbon transition plan that if we make the progress on renewables that we have set out—that is an “if” because it relies on planning reform, public consent, finance and grid connection, all of which we are acting on—then we will stabilise gas imports at 2010 levels. However, that requires a Government who support the drive to renewables, who do not have qualms about it, and who do not start saying that onshore wind is not part of the energy mix. That is why, in my view, we have to drive ahead with renewables and nuclear.

I welcome the introduction of the first national policy statements, but may I press the Secretary of State on the timetable for ending consultation, both in the wider world and within Parliament? How does that fit in with Sir Michael Pitt’s timetable inviting the energy producers to come forward with their plans?

It is worth saying that the IPC will be up and running and fully operational from next spring. Pre-designation of the NPSs, it will be making recommendations to Ministers, and post-designation it will be making the decisions itself. As the hon. Lady will see from the documentation, we have allowed extra time for consultation. We thought long and hard about this. We thought that it was the right thing to do, not least because of the big interest in nuclear, for example. The 15-week consultation period takes us to about February, and then the Select Committee has to deliberate. We want to move as far and as fast as we can by next spring.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his courtesy in letting me know that Owston Ferry in my constituency was to be mentioned in his statement, and for his swift decision not to include it as part of the list put forward by the independent consultants, who said that it was a site worthy of serious consideration. My constituents will very much welcome the swift decision announced today. However, can he assure the House that his Department has not spent a large amount of money on those independent consultants, who came up with recommendations that he, I and everyone else can see are just plain daft?

I am sure that my hon. Friend’s constituents and the independent consultants will have heard his views on the report. In all seriousness, I can assure him that we see serious impediments regarding all three sites, which is why they have not been included in the national policy statement. We want to offer reassurance to his constituents on that point. Also, as I said earlier, we do not need see the need for them as part of our nuclear plans.

May I say that Hinkley Point is delighted with the Minister’s announcement? One of the integral aspects of this is the infrastructure needed to get to the plant: we need a new bridge and a new road. Can he confirm or deny that that will be part of the planning application? If it is, will it come under the new planning rules?

The hon. Gentleman gives me a good opportunity to plug the benefits of the new system. He is right. At the moment, multiple consents have to be applied for from different organisations, but now a single set of applications will made to one body. That is a necessary part of proceeding on the basis of the timetable we have set out.

I compliment my right hon. Friend on so clear-sighted and realistic a statement, but is he aware that the targets he sets for all three areas of energy supply are very ambitious, not least in respect of carbon capture and storage? I accept entirely what he says about the private sector, left to itself, not doing this on time, but could he set up a small team of capable officers in the Department to drive matters forward?

My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge about these issues. We have set up the office of carbon capture and storage precisely to do what the Office for Nuclear Development has done in our Department, which is to drive this forward on a proper timetable. He is right that we need to make progress. The next stage has been reached today with the bids for the competition, and the so-called feed studies—the engineering demonstration projects—will be awarded early next year.

Order. May I appeal to the House for very brief questions and brief answers, so that we get as many people in as we possibly can?

Can the Secretary of State say why the contents of his statement were leaked to the press over the weekend before it was made to Parliament?

It was not leaked to the press, and I take our responsibilities in the House very seriously. It was right that Parliament was the first to hear about the details of the statement.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that the investment in and strengthening of the grid and the emergence of new connection points is an essential part of delivering a renewable energy strategy, and of renewing other forms of energy in future. What plans are there in the documents he has published today to ensure that linear planning applications and associated applications can receive the attention of the IPC, for example, in the same way that it is intended larger, single-site applications will?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of that matter as part of the IPC’s work. That is why networks are part of the IPC’s consideration and remit. He is also right on his more general point about grid connection.

The proposed Oldbury B power station, unlike the existing one next to it in my constituency, would have a very high cooling tower. If my constituents objected to that because of the visual impact and other factors, would they actually be listened to—not just heard—or would their views be overridden? The document states that the national need for stations is the most important factor.

The distinction I have tried to draw is between the national need, which is important to establish, and specific developments, on which it is important that the IPC can take a view. To reassure the hon. Gentleman, the IPC will absolutely take a view on whether that specific development is appropriate.

Climate change is accelerating and sea levels are rising. Of the 10 potentially suitable sites for new nuclear power stations, how many are less than 20 metres above sea level?

My hon. Friend asks a characteristically important question. Let me put it to him this way: flooding and coastal erosion issues are taken account of, as he will see from the documents, in all specific site representations. The question for us is whether to rule out any of those applications on the grounds that he mentions, which we have not done. Although we raised the issue of flooding and coastal erosion in relation to Dungeness, we did not feel that it was enough to rule it out. It is a matter to consider, and he will see that we commented specifically on it in relation to a number of the applications that the IPC will have to take a view on.

In South-West Norfolk there is a growing number of wind turbines, without any tangible local benefit. Will the Secretary of State allow communities that host wind farms to keep all the business rates, to ensure that there is true local benefit from the local energy supplied?

I am not going to make up policy on the hoof, tempting as it is. The hon. Gentleman’s general point about local people having an interest in wind turbines and in having them in their area is absolutely right.

Should the Copenhagen summit not produce a robust price of carbon—the Secretary of State’s plan A—will he look closely at other, domestic measures that will secure the price of carbon and secure new investment in new technology in this country?

My hon. Friend tempts me towards plan B, and I shall try to resist the temptation. We need to focus on plan A, which is getting a more robust price for carbon. We have recommendations from the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, as he knows, and we will obviously consider them as part of the 2020 to 2050 road map that we will produce in the spring.

What has been the involvement and input of the devolved nations in drawing up the national policy statements? They are likely to be required to provide a disproportionate amount of the UK energy need.

As the hon. Gentleman will know, many of these matters are devolved, including specific planning issues. I wish that we had more of a consensus in some parts of our nations and regions, for example on nuclear power, but he will be pleased to hear that we have been in contact with the devolved nations to consult them on the specific proposals.

Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the NPSs before us today have been fully assessed for their carbon impact, so that they transmit a clear message to the IPC about the need to meet national climate change targets and priorities?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. In drawing up the national policy statements, we are very clear about the need to decarbonise our power supply and take the carbon out of our energy. That is why I emphasised in my statement the importance of the new generating capacity we need by 2025. The truth is that we could carry on producing more gas-fired power stations—that is a high-carbon lock-in way of proceeding. The real challenge for us is, in my view, not above all a security of supply challenge, because we are making progress in building new infrastructure, but low-carbon security of supply—meaning nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon sources of fuel.

What specifically will the Government do, however, at Copenhagen on emissions trading to ensure that carbon pricing is fixed at a sufficiently high level to ensure that the base supplies of clean coal and nuclear are made viable?

The hon. Gentleman asks an important question. The most important thing we can do at Copenhagen is to get an ambitious deal that enables Europe to go from a 20 per cent. reduction in its emissions by 2020 to 30 per cent. If we do that, it will most likely lead to a more robust carbon price. That is the most effective thing we can do.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating employees at British Energy in my constituency? More than 1,000 will benefit from this announcement. Will he also join me in congratulating E.ON and RWE, which want to create more than 200 jobs in the nuclear industry at Gloucester business park? Will he resist any attempt from the Opposition to do away with the IPC, because ultimately, that will result in greater instability in the nuclear jobs market?

I agree with my hon. Friend. He is right to say that nuclear can create big job opportunities in this country and that we should capitalise on them. I pay tribute to the employees in his constituency for the work they are doing. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Opposition will, having pondered the issues, think again about abolishing the IPC, which I think is the wrong thing to do.

The Secretary of State claimed that his statement was consistent with the Committee on Climate Change’s projections, but actually, it said last month that unabated coal should not form any part of our energy generation plans after 2020, whereas the statement only compels clean carbon capture and storage on 400 MW for each power station, and only expects the rest to be retro-fitted later. Does that not leave exactly the same dirty great loophole in his policy as existed before?

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The Committee on Climate Change is very clear that there is a limited role for unabated coal in the 2020s, and we agree.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to 16 GW of new nuclear energy. He knows, as I do, that nuclear is now clean, green and safe. May I also welcome the thousands of jobs that will be brought into the industry, including high-tech jobs, and in particular the hundreds of jobs that will be created at the nuclear fuels plant at Springfields near my constituency?

In a sense, we see from the contributions of hon. Members the jobs impact that new nuclear can have in this country, as well as on energy security and our climate change targets. My hon. Friend spoke very eloquently about what it will do in his constituency.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that a lot of people want to know not only that the lights will stay on, but that they can also afford the bills? What assurances can he provide to people that the energy mix he set out will provide secure and affordable energy supply?

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. That is why, in the energy Bill, which was in the draft legislative programme, we want to propose social tariffs on a mandatory basis—precisely to help the hardest-pressed consumers. At a time of rising prices and when pressures on prices are upwards, we need tough regulation, and help for the most vulnerable.

Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that the nuclear industry will not be given an insurance indemnity subsidy from the taxpayers?

We have made clear that on the question of public subsidy for nuclear—it was clear in the White Paper produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton)—we are not going to provide public subsidy for the construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power stations.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that during the two-week cold spell in Scotland last year, renewables contributed only 0.01 per cent. of Scottish needs. What guarantee can he give me that the base load that keeps this country running will be maintained when the wind does not blow?

My hon. Friend is a passionate advocate for the new nuclear industry and the role that it can play in this country, and he is right. I have tried to set out in my statement the combination of low-carbon fuels that we need, with nuclear providing the base load, renewables as a plentiful source of supply, but intermittent, and flexible peak load response.

My right hon. Friend has made a big call today and I commend him. On his proposals for the management of radioactive waste, can he comment on proposals for the deep waste repository, and what date does he think that it might be constructed, as it is important to building a public consensus around nuclear rebuild?

My hon. Friend asks an important question, and there is more information in the documentation we have provided. The truth is that deep geological storage is a long way off, because—as I said to the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes)—waste will stay on the site for many years to come after decommissioning and will then go into deep geological storage. It is also worth saying that several councils in west Cumbria have expressed an interest in being the site for the deep geological storage.

With the single caveat that my right hon. Friend should revisit the decision about Dungeness, I warmly welcome his statement today. Can he assure me that he will talk to those colleagues responsible for higher education to ensure that we create the training places to produce British graduates in physics and engineering to man this industry in the future?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to ensure, both for reasons of national prosperity and, frankly, energy security and climate change, that we have a supply chain that can accommodate the increase in nuclear power we are talking about. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is working on this with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Much as I have concerns about the IPC process, I welcome what my right hon. Friend has said about nuclear. Following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) said, will my right hon. Friend put into the final national policy statement a clear requirement for an investment in British jobs if we are to have new nuclear power stations?

It is tempting on these occasions to load the IPC with a huge number of responsibilities. Part of what I have tried to set out is a balance of powers, so that it is the role of Government to set out need, get the skills strategy right and obtain the investment. The job of the IPC is to make a specific judgment about specific developments. That said, I am sympathetic to the point my hon. Friend makes about ensuring that we get the jobs in this country.

Bill Presented

Installation of letter box guards (Protection from dogs) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Ann Coffey, supported by Ms Karen Buck and Janet Anderson, presented a Bill to require householders to fit a letter box guard if they are in possession of a dog; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 161).

Coroners and Justice Bill (Programme) (No.4)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Coroners and Justice Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Orders of 26 January and 4 and 23 March 2009 (Coroners and Justice Bill (Programme), Coroners and Justice Bill (Programme) (No. 2) and Coroners and Justice Bill (Programme) (No. 3)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

1. Proceedings on consideration on Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption at this day’s sitting.

2. The proceedings shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

3. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.


Lords Amendments

Time for conclusion of proceedings

Nos. 1, 2 and 216

One and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments.

No. 55

Three hours after the commencement of those proceedings or the moment of interruption, whichever is earlier.

No. 59, 119, 121, 236 and 239

Five hours after the commencement of those proceedings or the moment of interruption, whichever is earlier.

Nos. 66, 3 to 54, 56 to 58, 60 to 65, 67 to 118, 120, 122 to 215, 217 to 235, 237, 238, 240 to 244

The moment of interruption.

Subsequent stages

4. Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

5. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Mr. Heppell.)