Tuesday 5 January 2016
Energy and Climate Change
The petition of residents of the UK,
Declares that more action needs to be taken by the UK Government to address the threat of global warming; and further that steps should be in place to promote the use of renewable energy as part of a wider strategy to tackle climate change before the problem gets worse.
The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to implement a comprehensive energy strategy that will address the threats of climate change, both here in the UK and abroad.
And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Official Report, 19 October 2015; Vol. 600, c. 7P.]
Observations from the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom); received 18 December 2015:
The Government have set out clear strategic priorities for Energy and Climate Change policy for this Parliament. These are:
secure energy so people can get on with their lives and businesses can plan for the future;
affordable energy so bill payers get a good deal; and,
clean energy to safeguard the country’s future economic security and ensure we meet our climate change commitments.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change has outlined a range of initiatives to deliver on these priorities by developing an energy system that puts consumers first, delivers more competition, reduces the burden on bill payers and ensures enough electricity generation to power the nation.
A cornerstone of our new energy strategy is the planned consultation to close all unabated coal-fired power stations by 2025, and restrict their use from 2023. This is significant as even with the huge growth in renewables over the past decade our dependence on coal has not reduced. Indeed a higher proportion of our electricity came from coal in 2014 than in 1999. If the UK takes this step we will be one of the first developed countries to deliver on a commitment to take coal off the system.
New nuclear power stations will also have a central role to play in Britain’s energy future as a means of providing low carbon generation. We are dealing with a legacy of under-investment and with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid-2020s, this is already changing. There are also plans for new nuclear stations at Wylfa and Moorside and the Government will explore new opportunities, like Small Modular Reactors, which hold the promise of low cost, low carbon energy.
Renewable energy sources have increased dramatically over the past decade. In 2005 just 1.3% of UK final energy consumption originated from renewables. That has increased to 7.0% in 2014. Renewable electricity generation is driving that change, and in 2014 almost 20% of electricity generated in the UK was from renewable sources. With the current pipeline of projects, we are confident of achieving our ambition of 30% renewable electricity by 2020.
This deployment has led to some significant cost reductions. For example, the cost of solar has fallen by 60% since 2010. At the same time, some technologies have deployed at a fast rate. For example, with existing and planned future onshore wind projects the UK will be within the 11-13 GW range for 2020.
Some renewable technologies will continue to require Government support as costs fall. The Government have announced their intention to hold three auctions this Parliament, provided that the offshore wind industry meets conditions on cost reduction.
On the use of renewables in transport, the Government have taken a whole system approach to decarbonising the sector—promoting electrification alongside controlled biofuel deployment to maximise carbon reduction whilst continuing to make progress towards EU targets. To date this has included a £500 million commitment to make ultra-low emission vehicles more accessible to families and businesses and a requirement on fuel suppliers to ensure that 4.75% of transport fuels are sustainable biofuels.
Alongside this progress in developing renewable electricity and transport, the Government have announced a substantial increase in support for renewable heating. This will see funding for the world-first renewable heat incentive reaching £1.15 billion in 2020-21, as well as a commitment to spend an additional £300 million over the next 5 years on heat infrastructure, such as local heat networks.
As the petitioners note, climate change represents a significant threat to the welfare of the planet. As a country we have set ourselves the ambitious goal, one of the toughest in the world, of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050. Progress to date has been strong and emissions were 30% lower in 2013 than in 1990. The actions outlined above in the energy sector will help us achieve this goal, and we will bring forward plans in 2016 for Carbon Budgets four and five—the interim steps on the way to 2050.
However collective, global action is required to address climate change, not just activities in one country. That is why achieving a global deal at the on-going climate talks in Paris was so important. To this end, the Government have also increased by 50% the funding provided to help the most vulnerable countries protect themselves from the effects of climate change. This £5.8 billion from April 2016 to March 2021 will help countries reduce their emissions as well as adapt to the weather extremes and rising temperatures associated with climate change. Alongside this funding, the most important task for the UK is providing a compelling example to the rest of the world of how to cut carbon while controlling costs.
Overseas doctors and nurses
The petition of the people of Stoke-on-Trent,
Declares that we object to overseas doctors and nurses being forced to leave the UK after a six year period if their pay is below the amount stipulated by the government given that we the taxpayers have paid for additional training for these doctors and nurses and our NHS is at risk of collapse through staff shortages.
The petitioners therefore urge the House of Commons to reverse this policy.
And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Robert Flello, Official Report, 16 September 2015; Vol. 599, c. 1156.]
Observations from the Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire); received 22 December 2015:
The Government believe that in the past it has been too easy for employers to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home. The Prime Minister has said that we need to do more to change that, which includes reducing the demand for migrant labour. We do not believe that it is sensible to rely on recruiting doctors and nurses from overseas, and the long-term aim is that we train our own staff in this country.
There will be a £10 billion real terms increase in NHS funding in England between 2014-15 and 2020-21. The Department of Health will reform the funding system for health students by replacing grants with student loans and abolishing the cap on the number of student places for nursing, midwifery and allied health subjects, enabling the provision of up to 10,000 additional nursing and health professional training places this Parliament. We are also investing in return to practice programmes and improving retention of existing staff. Health Education England forecast that more than 23,000 additional nurses will be in place by 2019. By 2021 there will be an extra 5,000 doctors in general practice.
As an interim measure, the Home Secretary has agreed, exceptionally, to place nurses on the shortage occupation list (SOL) pending a full review by the independent Migration Advisory Committee. This means that nurses will be prioritised for allocation of places within the annual limit of 20,700 places for non-EEA nationals admitted to the UK under Tier 2 (General)—the visa route for skilled workers.
From 2016, non-EEA workers will need to earn a salary of at least £35,000 to remain in the UK for longer than six years. However, as workers are exempt from the settlement pay threshold if they are in a role that is or has been on the shortage occupation list at any time while they have been sponsored to do that role, all nurses currently sponsored in Tier 2 will be exempt from the £35,000 threshold when they apply for settlement.
Several types of doctor, including those working in emergency medicine, are also recognised shortage occupations and will be exempt from the £35,000 settlement pay threshold. For those doctors in a role that has not been in shortage, we would expect the minimum earnings threshold to be achievable within the maximum six years’ leave that they may spend in the UK on a Tier 2 (General) visa.
For the future, the Government intend that employers should only bring in workers from outside Europe where we have genuine skills shortages or require highly- specialised experts. The Migration Advisory Committee has been asked to advise on how to achieve this, but with sufficient flexibility to include high value roles and key public service workers. The Committee is looking at selection criteria such as, but not limited to, salaries, particular attributes, economic need and skills level and we await their report with interest.