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Energy Bill [Lords]

Volume 607: debated on Monday 14 March 2016

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 2

Onshore wind power: renewables obligation

“The power to make a renewables obligation closure order in respect of electricity generated by an onshore wind generating station in Scotland may only be exercised by Scottish Ministers.”

This new clause would return to the Scottish Ministers the power to close the renewables obligation in relation to electricity generated by onshore wind generating stations in Scotland.(Callum McCaig.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 24, in clause 79, page 46, line 20, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

This amendment and amendments 25, 26, 40, 41, 42, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 have the effect of closing the Renewables Obligation for onshore wind a month earlier than the original date set out in the Statutory Instrument: Renewables Obligation Closure Order 2014: 2388, rather than a year earlier, as the Bill does in its present form.

Amendment 25, page 46, line 25, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 22, page 47, line 22, leave out clause 80.

Amendment 26, in clause 80, page 47, line 27, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 27, page 47, line 30, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 28, page 47, line 36, leave out “31 March 2017” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 29, page 47, line 42, leave out “31 March 2017” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 30, page 48, line 3, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 31, page 48, line 6, leave out “31 March 2017” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 32, page 48, line 20, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 33, page 48, line 33, leave out “1 April 2017” and insert “2 March 2017”.

Amendment 34, page 48, line 43, leave out “1 April 2017” and insert “2 March 2017”.

Amendment 35, page 49, line 8, leave out “1 April 2017” and insert “2 March 2017”.

Amendment 36, page 49, line 17, leave out “1 April 2017” and insert “2 March 2017”.

Amendment 37, page 50, line 13, leave out “18 June 2015” and insert “18 May 2016”.

Amendment 1, page 50, line 18, leave out “planning permission” and insert

“an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission”.

Amendment 38, page 50, line 19, leave out “18 June 2015” and insert “18 May 2016”.

Amendment 2, page 50, line 20, leave out “or judicial review”.

Amendment 3, page 50, line 30, after “Act” insert

“(excluding an extension agreed for the purposes of section 78(2) of the 1990 Act or section 47(2) of the 1997 Act)”.

Amendment 52, page 50, line 34, after “application”, insert

“(provided that this period does not include any extension agreed for the purposes of section 78(2) of the 1990 Act or section 47(2) of the 1997 Act”.

Amendment 4, page 50, line 35, leave out paragraph (iii).

Amendment 39, page 50, line 40, leave out “18 June 2015” and insert “18 May 2016”.

Amendment 53, page 50, line 40, after “18th June 2015”, insert “whether”.

Amendment 6, page 50, line 40, leave out “following an appeal”.

Amendment 5, page 50, line 40, after “following an appeal” insert—

“or a decision made by the Secretary of State, Welsh Ministers or Scottish Ministers following directions given under section 77 of the 1990 Act or section 46 of the 1997 Act, and”.

Amendment 54, page 50, line 40, after “appeal”, insert “or otherwise”.

Amendment 23, page 50, line 46, at end insert

“, or

(e) evidence that—

(i) an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was made on or before 18th June 2015 for the station or for additional capacity,

(ii) a grant of planning permission was resolved by the relevant planning authority on or before 18th June 2015,

(iii) planning permission was granted after 18th June 2015, and

(iv) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 7, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was made on or before 18 June 2015 for the station or additional capacity,

(ii) the period allowed under section 78(2) of the 1990 Act or (as the case may be) section 47(2) of the 1997 Act (excluding an extension agreed for the purposes of section 78(2) of the 1990 Act or section 47(2) of the 1997 Act) ended on or before 18 June 2015 without the things mentioned in section 78(2)(a) or (aa) of the 1990 Act or section 47(2)(a) or (b) of the 1997 Act being done in respect of the application,

(iii) the application was referred to the Secretary of State, Welsh Ministers or Scottish Ministers in accordance with directions given under section 77 of the 1990 Act or section 46 of the 1997 Act,

(iv) 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was granted after 18 June 2015, and

(v) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 8, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was made on or before 18 June 2015 for the station or for additional capacity,

(ii) the relevant planning authority resolved to grant 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission on or before 18 June 2015,

(iii) 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was granted after 18 June 2015, and

(iv) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 9, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) an application for consent for the station or for additional capacity was made under section 36 of this Act,

(ii) the consultation period prescribed by Regulations made under paragraphs 2(3) or 3(1)(c) of Schedule 8 to this Act had expired on or before 18 June 2015,

(iii) the Secretary of State caused a public inquiry to be held under paragraph 2(2) or 3(3) of Schedule 8 to this Act or decided that a public inquiry need not be held,

(iv) consent was granted by the Secretary of State after 18 June 2015, and

(v) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 10, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) an application for development consent for the station or for additional capacity was made under section 37 of the Planning Act 2008,

(ii) the deadline for receipt of representations under section 56(4) of the Planning Act 2008 had expired on or before 18 June 2015,

(iii) consent was granted by the Secretary of State after 18 June 2015, and

(iv) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 11, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) planning permission for the station or additional capacity was granted on or before 18 June 2015,

(ii) planning permission under sections 73, 90(2), 90(2ZA) or 96A of the 1990 Act or sections 42, 57(2), 57(2ZA) or 64 of the 1997 Act, a consent under section 36C of this Act, or an order under section 153 of, and paragraph 2 or 3 of Schedule 6 to, the Planning Act 2008 varying the planning permission under clause 32LJ(4)(i)(i) was granted after 18 June 2015, and

(iii) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 12, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission for the station or additional capacity was granted on or before 18 June 2015,

(ii) consent under section 36 of this Act that permits a greater capacity for the station than that permitted by the planning permission under clause 32LJ(4)(j)(i) was granted after 18 June 2015, and

(iii) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 13, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) planning permission for the station or additional capacity was granted on or before 18 June 2015,

(ii) planning permission under clause 32LJ(4)(k)(i) was superseded by a subsequent planning permission granted after 18 June 2015 permitting a station with the same or a lower capacity than that granted under the planning permission referred to in clause 32LJ(4)(k)(i), and

(iii) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”.

Amendment 14, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

“( ) evidence that—

(i) planning permission for the station or additional capacity was granted or refused on or before 18 June 2015, and was subsequently confirmed or granted after that date following a statutory challenge under section 288 of the 1990 Act, section 237 of the 1997 Act or section 118 of the Planning Act 2008, or following a judicial review, and

(ii) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”

Amendment 15, page 50, line 48, leave out sub-paragraph 5(a) and insert—

“(a) evidence of an agreement with a network operator to carry out grid works in relation to the station or additional capacity and was originally made on or before 18th June 2015 notwithstanding the fact that may have subsequently been amended or modified, and

(ab) a copy of a document written by, or on behalf of, the network operator which estimated or set a date for completion of the grid works which was no later than 31 March 2017; or”.

Amendment 40, page 50, line 49, leave out “18 June 2015” and insert “18 May 2016”.

Amendment 41, page 51, line 10, leave out “18 June 2015” and insert “18 May 2016”.

Amendment 16, page 51, line 26, at end insert

“and includes planning permission deemed to be granted in accordance with section 90 of that Act”.

Amendment 17, page 51, line 31, at end insert

“and includes planning permission deemed to be granted in accordance with section 57 of that Act”.

Amendment 18, page 52, line 6, leave out “from a recognised lender”.

Amendment 42, page 52, line 16, leave out “31 March 2017” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 19, page 52, leave out lines 27 to 29, and insert—

“In this section “recognised lender” means a bank or financial institution or trust or fund or other financial entity which is regulated by the relevant jurisdiction and which is engaged in making, purchasing or investing in loans, securities or other financial instruments.”.

Amendment 20, page 52, line 32, leave out subsection (6).

Amendment 43, page 54, line 19, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 44, page 54, line 21, leave out “31 March 2017” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Government amendment 50.

Amendment 45, in clause 81, page 56, line 3, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

Amendment 21, page 56, line 3, leave out subsection (a) and insert—

“(aa) by a 33kV connected onshore wind generating station consented after 30 September 2015, or

(ab) by a cluster connected onshore wind generating station consented after 31 October 2015, and”.

Amendment 46, page 56, line 6, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.

New clause 2 is straightforward. It would re-devolve the power to issue a closure order in respect of the renewables obligation for onshore wind back to the Scottish Government, where it used to belong. That power was re-reserved, so to speak, on the explicit understanding that there would be no changes—no closure and no material impact on Scotland from agreeing to that proposal. The proposal would have allowed for closure of the renewables obligation later next year, as had previously been agreed.

We have been through this. There has been extensive debate on the renewables obligation. It is worth reiterating briefly some of the concerns. As I said, power over the renewables obligation was removed from Scotland against the explicit undertaking that the Government had given to Scottish Ministers. An element of betrayal of trust has come about. That has woven its way through the entirety of the Government’s handling of onshore wind and the closure of the renewables obligation. For a long time the industry had trust in the Government. That trust has vanished.

Today’s debate and a number of the amendments offer the opportunity to improve the measure that introduces the closure of the renewables obligation, notably the numerous amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell), who has meticulously detailed how the closure of the RO and the accompanying grace periods could be carried out in a way that is fairest to developers.

Last week the Energy and Climate Change Committee produced a report on investor confidence which suggested:

“Sudden and numerous policy announcements have marred the UK’s reputation for stable and predictable policy development.”

That is fairly damning. I am not steeped in the ways of Select Committee reports and how Committees finesse their arguments, but that is a clear criticism of the Government’s policy and how it has been implemented. It did not need to be done that way.

Through the various stages of the Bill we have accepted that the Government have a commitment to pursue that policy. We disagree with it. Their policy is short-sighted and is not the correct way of going about things. Onshore wind, in the view of the Scottish National party, has a significant role to play in the energy mix in the United Kingdom and should not have been taken out of the mix in a rather crude and cack-handed manner, but the Government have chosen to act in that way. [Interruption.] If the Government are to do that, they should do so in the best way possible. [Interruption.] I feel there is something else happening that I am not aware of.

Very disorderly conduct. The hon. Gentleman is pressing a serious case. If I may, at the risk of making an in-joke, be permitted to say this, that whatever is the subject of this debate, fortunately, not least for him, Otis is not.

Fortunately for the hon. Gentleman, he does not need to do so. He is innocent. He has been transgressed against; he has not transgressed. He can now speed ahead with his oration, to which we look forward.

Speed is the operative word, I think. We have called for the re-devolution of the power and for the grace periods to be dealt with in the most appropriate manner. In its manifesto and in debates the Conservative party has professed a desire to see local control of this matter, and nobody would argue with that. However, that requires that we respect local decisions, but the grace periods as they stand do not do that. That is why the new clause and the amendments are necessary, particularly amendment 8, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, which relates to planning decisions at committee that were dealt with before the closure date, but where the approval certificate was not granted, in Scotland, owing to section 75 of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, on planning gain—in England, I think it is section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. This issue is clearly about local decision making, and the Government should give their consent so that it can be included in the Bill.

We accept that the change is going to happen. Having been explicitly opposed to it, the industry now sees that it is better to have some certainty, rather than continued uncertainty. However, that certainty needs to be correct certainty—it needs to be fair certainty and it needs to be certainty that does what it is intended to do.

We should respect local decision making. Where locally elected bodies—councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, although there are different stipulations there—have agreed to projects but have not been able to get their certificate to allow them access to the renewables obligation because of the technical nature of decision making around planning gain and other such issues, that is simply wrong.

Will the hon. Gentleman remind the House why he wishes to burden his constituents and others with much dearer electricity from an interruptible source we cannot rely on?

Onshore wind has clearly been demonstrated to be one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy. If we were having a tête-à-tête, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman why he supports the obscene waste of money that will be spent on the Hinkley power plant, which will cost considerably in excess of what would be spent on onshore wind. However, as we are not having a back-and-forth, I will resist that temptation.

The issue is straightforward: we need to press ahead. The industry needs to be given certainty. The issue has been handled incredibly badly, but there is time, particularly taking cognisance of last week’s Energy and Climate Change Committee report, for the Government to make amends, to change some of the stipulations on the grace periods and to allow things to happen in the best way possible. Repenting, however late, is better than carrying on regardless.

No. We will take Mr Chris Heaton-Harris and then come to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead).

Thank you for calling me early in the debate, Mr Speaker.

I sat on the Energy Bill Committee, along with many right hon. and hon. Members present today, and I want to add a bit of balance to the Scottish National party’s contribution. We had this debate in Committee. The SNP would very much like the responsibility for the renewables obligation sent back to Scotland, and many people on the Government Benches would probably like the SNP to commit to paying for that, if it were to happen. However, only half of that is covered in the SNP proposal.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we had that debate, but does he accept that we will be paying an extortionate price for the Conservative party’s nuclear power plans if he gets his way?

If we are talking about paying for things, I wonder how the SNP would have paid for its proposals had Scotland gone independent, given that the oil price is residing around $30 or $40 a barrel. Let us make sure that we talk about energy in a sensible way. We did have a constructive and sensible debate in Committee, even though it was good fun to fall out occasionally on different points.

Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, you did not select any of the amendments to which I put my name. I was not being cheeky in tabling them; I just wanted to make a point. The Conservative party had a manifesto commitment on removing the renewables obligations a year earlier than expected, with no new subsidies for onshore wind, and on some planning changes. Those provisions were in the Bill, but Members of the House of Lords did not like them. In Committee, we debated what would happen if we reinserted that clear manifesto commitment, and how that would be quite a foolish thing to do because there are other methods within the planning rules that we could use.

It would be fair to talk about amplitude modulation in relation to planning requirements. There is a huge amount of concern about noise from wind turbines. I thought that I would identify a couple of the concerns in a tiny bit more detail so that Members could understand my approach.

My hon. Friend has a great deal of knowledge of and expertise in these issues. The other place set a very unfortunate precedent in disregarding the post-war Salisbury convention and considering it appropriate to decide that the British public were wrong to re-elect the Government on a manifesto commitment to undertake the proposals that he has elucidated.

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I actually think there has been some sensible debate about this at the other end of the building. A number of sensible Labour peers, and a handful of Lib Dems, understand this point. It would be foolish for a once-coalition partner that has very few MPs in this place, but way too many peers in another place, to use that bulk of unelected opinion to force down a Government manifesto commitment. However, there are many ways to get around this problem. We can solve one planning problem in a way that would be good for communities affected by onshore wind, but it might not be the route that the peers at the other end of this building would like to go down. Perhaps they should think very sensibly about how they view this Bill in future, just in case.

A couple of years ago, I put in a freedom of information request to every planning authority across England because I wanted to see whether any of them had experienced, or had knowledge of, an element within wind noise called amplitude modulation, which is a kind of low whooshing sound that causes people great concern. I asked every environmental health officer across the country whether they had any experience of this. A large number, especially from rural areas where there are lots of onshore wind turbines, said yes, they did have had some experience of amplitude modulation, but as the current Government guidelines did not cover it, there was nothing they could do, and they wanted more information on it and better guidance from the Government. In fact, neither the wind industry nor the Department recognised that amplitude modulation existed until only a couple of years ago. That is quite bizarre considering that it was well recognised across the world at that time.

Fortunately, after I presented my findings to the Department, it came up with this statement:

“DECC has recognised that amplitude modulation (AM) noise produced by wind turbines can be a cause of concern for some residents. DECC has appointed an external consultant to review the available evidence on AM, with a view to recommending how excessive AM might be controlled through a planning condition. The INWG’s study”—

the independent noise working group study that I helped to commission, which studied what causes amplitude modulation and how it can be tempered—

“will be considered alongside other evidence that is being gathered as part of this review.”

The evidence that I presented showed that lots of communities and individuals up and down the country are living in houses close to wind turbines that are directly affected by excessive amplitude modulation.

In fact, it is a significant factor in people’s lives. Noise complaints from wind farms are primarily related to the phenomenon of the whooshing noise. In many cases, it means that people cannot get to sleep in their own houses, which puts them under a great deal of stress. The “whoomph”, swish or beating noise is known about by engineers, and we experience it when we stand next to helicopters or other turbine-like blades when they are turning. It is the most intrusive element of noise from wind turbines.

The Scots are at the forefront of everything to do with—I was going to say noise, but I will say onshore wind turbine knowledge, and leave it at that. A Scottish study found that at a distance of 1 to 2 km from a wind farm, 72% of people who suffered audible noise strongly disliked it, and that a vast number of those were suffering from the effects of excessive amplitude modulation. That noise is not covered by the current Energy Technology Support Unit noise guidelines.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the issue that he rightly raises is compounded by the complementary problem of shadow flickering, which has caused distress to many people in the environs of onshore wind infrastructure? The movement of very large plant and machinery on suboptimal rural roads can also have an impact on the quality of life of people adjacent to those facilities.

Those are two very valid points. I have seen flicker for myself. Although I stood in the flicker of a wind turbine for only 10 minutes on one occasion, I understand how intrusive it could be if it affected someone’s house or their place of work. I know from my constituency—I am sure that other hon. and right hon. Members will have had similar experiences—that when those turbines are moved through small villages, sometimes they cannot get through without some sort of remedy having to be made to the road. A number of people visited me this morning from the lovely village of Guilsborough, where, if a turbine shaft were to be driven through the village to a nearby wind farm, there would be a gap of inches between the turbine shaft and the houses on each side of the road. Those things do cause concern. I would say that flicker causes more concern than traffic movement, and amplitude modulation probably more than flicker.

Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern about the fact that in Wales, policy is concentrated in strategic zones, and all developments are put into five or six big development zones? The fact that there is a series of different projects makes enforcement difficult when noise levels go above what they should be. Although technically we are talking about one giant development, as far as the planning regime is concerned it is a series of smaller developments within the strategic zone, so the issue about noise enforcement becomes acute.

That is a very wise point, and one that I will come to later, if I may. I will just tease the hon. Gentleman briefly. It is possible to monitor such noise and predict where it might occur. Therefore, when amplitude modulation is causing distress to nearby residents and that is being monitored, it is possible with the agreement of the wind farm developer to stop the turbines turning during that period of time—this has happened in a couple of places in England—so the noise stops and everybody goes about their business happily.

I know that some of the proposals in Wales have been massive, and I have been working hard with my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) on some amazingly large proposals for his constituency. I know that the matter is of real concern to many people across Wales.

As I have said, the current guidelines do not require amplitude modulation to be monitored at all. In fact, the noise falls outside ETSU monitoring. I know of only one wind farm planning decision in the United Kingdom in which a planning condition for amplitude modulation noise was imposed, which was the Den Brook development in Devon.

My concern is that everybody has known about this issue for a very long time—for decades—but no one has spoken up about it. We gave the green light to this industry, and I have previously spoken in this place about how some of the developers have not been particularly kind to villages and constituents of mine when proposing developments, because they knew everything was stacked on their side. I have previously made the argument to the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) that developers could have done a lot better in the past, and we might not have the current problem if it had been recognised that local people’s views should carry a great deal of weight.

For decades, there was no such recognition. The wind industry has consistently denied the existence of excessive amplitude modulation, even though I can point hon. Members to experts who have demonstrated that amplitude modulation is a frequent occurrence that potentially affects all large industrial wind turbines. It often does so for long periods, and more frequently than not during the night. I point to my survey of environmental health officers and planning authorities, many of whom said that they knew amplitude modulation or something of that ilk was happening, but had no powers to deal with it and did not have the correct guidance from Government to point them in the right direction.

People complain about amplitude modulation to Members of Parliament and local planning authorities, but I think there is a hidden silent majority. People are willing to suffer such noise in silence and do not want to complain because they fear the adverse implications of getting involved, such as having to disclose any complaint they have made to a planning authority or a council when they come to sell their house.

The existing legal remedies have been found wanting. Remedies are available for neighbours of wind farms who are affected by turbine noise under ETSU, but they are simply not fit for purpose, and they are certainly not fit for measuring amplitude modulation. Taking action for statutory nuisance has been actively advocated by the wind industry and supported by planning inspectors, but the evidence suggests that an abatement notice is not an effective control to protect nearby residents from excessive amplitude modulation. Other remedies, such as taking action for private nuisance and similar legal actions, have been considered, but they place too much risk and burden on residents for a problem that is not of their making, with the likelihood of adverse long-term financial implications.

In addition, the recent trend is for secondary operators to form individual shell companies for each wind farm. The impact of that was highlighted in July 2015 when my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) introduced a Bill to require wind farm developers to obtain public liability insurance for any nuisance they caused to nearby residents. That was particularly aimed at noise nuisance. One of his constituents had had a problem with noise from a local wind farm, but had found it impossible to sue because the operator was purely a shell company and had very limited assets.

Of more concern is the effect of amplitude modulation on health. I have read studies demonstrating adequately that wind turbine noise adversely affects sleep and health. It is abundantly clear from evidence examined by a world-renowned expert, Chris Hanning—I asked him to help me, and he worked with the group that I got together—that wind turbine noise adversely affects sleep and health at set-back distances and noise levels that are permitted by the current ETSU noise regulation. There is no reliable evidence—not one single study—that wind turbines are safe at those distances and noise levels. By contrast, an increasing volume of studies and evidence have outlined the contrary. There is a particular concern about the health of children exposed to excessive wind turbine noise. The inadequate consideration of amplitude modulation is a major factor in why I believe that ETSU fails to protect the majority of people who live near wind turbines and why I believe that it needs to be reformed. The wind industry’s denial is reminiscent of other denials of health issues in the past. It could be a very big public health issue.

I contend that the current noise standard, ETSU-97, is not fit for purpose and I have plenty of evidence to suggest that its methodology is completely incorrect. I do not have to go into that evidence because I am fortunately supported by the findings of a recent Northern Ireland Assembly report in January 2015 on wind energy. The report recommends a review of the use

“of the ETSU-97 guidelines on an urgent basis, with a view to adopting more modern and robust guidance for measurement of wind turbine noise, with particular reference to current guidelines from the World Health Organisation.”

I therefore contend that we need an effective planning condition for amplitude modulation. The wind industry’s claims that an amplitude modulation planning condition is not necessary, and that the legal remedy of statutory nuisance provides adequate protection, are thoroughly discredited by the evidence I have seen and that I have published on my website. Without a planning condition, there is no effective remedy for wind farm neighbours who suffer from excessive noise. The relevance of amplitude modulation in causing noise complaints has driven the wind industry to ensure that a planning condition of that type is not applied as standard planning practice. That is why I raise it today when we are having a conversation about renewables obligation certificates and the planning guidance that goes alongside them as part of our manifesto commitment.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the decision on whether projects go ahead should sit with the local people via the planning process, so that when local people have agreed to and are in favour of the project, it should be allowed to go ahead?

I have long contended—I have said it in pretty much every speech I have given on wind in the House—that, if local people want a wind farm, who is the local MP or any politician to get in their way? I want it to be subsidy-free and I want people to benefit from it, but if the majority of local people believe that it is a benefit to their local community, I have no issue with it whatever.

People should be aware of the potential health concerns from the noise from amplitude modulation. We have the opportunity to ensure that those concerns can be mitigated. When a local community steps forward and says, “Yes, we’d desperately love to have 100 wind turbines surround our village, devalue our houses and hide us from our rural hinterland,” they can do so knowing that they could get the turbines that produce amplitude modulation turned off, so that they could at least sleep comfortably in bed at night.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the work of Professor Peter Styles of Keele University, who published a study on vibrations from 60 metre-high wind turbines at Dun Law in Scotland? He states that

“when the windfarm starts to generate, even at low wind speeds, considerable infrasound signals can be detected at all stations out to”

about 10 km. He adds that some developers propose to install bigger turbines, so the older studies that showed that turbines are safe for the purposes of noise are out of date. He says that modern wind turbines in excess of 100 metres high cause more problems.

I am very much aware of that study and obviously agree with what Professor Styles found. The interesting thing is that, as turbines get larger, amplitude modulation is generated over a slightly larger area. We have gone past the 80-metre stage. My constituency has dozens of wind turbines of 126.5 metres and upwards. That is about the size of the London Eye. When the blades move around and chop the wind, they create amplitude modulation. There is an understanding now that this is happening, so we need a suitable and sensible planning condition to ensure that local communities affected by this problem have a way of stopping it happening to them.

This is why I wanted to talk about the application of an amplitude modulation planning condition, such as the one that came forward in 2009 for Den Brook in Devon. That represented a serious risk to the wind industry, which fought it tooth and nail. A planning condition of this type can add cost and make it more difficult to get turbines through the planning process. People might well decide to campaign even more against a big industrial turbine being placed near them if it has potential health risks.

Can my hon. Friend tell us what the fix is for this? Is there a realistic way of suppressing the noise?

The best way to suppress the noise is to turn the turbine off for the period of time when the noise is likely to occur. As acousticians have demonstrated to me, the noise is more likely to occur at night when other background noises have dropped down. We can predict it, because we know which way the wind is blowing and at what speed. It drops down to ground level in a certain way, so we can know exactly which houses and which zone it will affect. Therefore, with sensible meteorological readings using the correct monitoring equipment, which is now remarkably cheap to purchase—it used to cost an awful lot—we can do a lot better.

Not me personally, but certainly the residents in my constituency have. Everything my hon. Friend has said is right. I find it staggering, given that the world of physics and wave technology is well understood, that amplitude modulation should suddenly be a surprise to us in relation to wind farms. It is a natural occurrence of wave technology. We have a wide knowledge and evidence base in my constituency, mostly because of Cotton Farm wind farm, which is just outside my constituency in Huntingdon. The residents have been blighted for years by the wind farm. They cannot sell their houses and they cannot open their windows. The data are available and the Government would be wise to make use of them and incorporate them in their review.

I thank my hon. Friend for her contribution and I agree with her. I have been to Cotton Farm to see the wind farm for myself and to meet some of the residents. I met the illustrious Bev Gray—I do not know if he is a constituent of my hon. Friend—who has provided me with more information than any man could ever possibly want about amplitude modulation readings and the noise his community suffers on a regular basis. As my hon. Friend suggests, this is not rocket science. Where there is amplitude modulation, people suffer and genuine health concerns have for too long been swept under the carpet.

The Den Brook planning condition, as it has become known, was a chance to introduce a sensible planning condition that evoked amplitude modulation and tried to deal with it. The wind industry could have welcomed it as a method to defeat wind farm opponents across the country who say “You don’t deal with the problem of wind” by saying, “We understand there is a problem with wind noise, and we will deal with it and mitigate it when it happens.” Instead, the industry went into complete denial and actual upfront aggressiveness. It fought the planning condition through the courts over an eight-year period to ensure that it was not applied, and to get it removed and then sufficiently weakened so as to make it pretty pointless if it were ever to return. In fulfilling our manifesto commitment and making this change to the renewables obligation as of the end of the month, I suggest that we also bring forward the appropriate planning conditions to address the problem of amplitude modulation and make wind developers and farms a bit more acceptable in the parts of the country where they already exist.

My hon. Friend is making an interesting speech about amplitude modulation. Is it predictable—is it possible to say, given a certain design, “There will be this much modulation”—or is it something that just happens, depending on other factors, and therefore quite hard to plan for?

It is as predictable as the wind. We know which direction the wind will come from and how fast it will be, which means we can predict a zone that will be affected by amplitude modulation on any given day. So yes, we can predict it.

I ask the Minister not to give up on the changes to the renewables obligation, which were part of a manifesto commitment, and to hear our plea about amplitude modulation. I have some concerns about the report she has commissioned from her Department and would like it judged against the evidence I have given her. Had the wind industry behaved more pragmatically and sensibly a few years ago, we probably would not be in this position. I am known for my views on this subject, but I know that there are sensible developers of wind technology who try to do their best for the local communities in the areas in which they install turbines. Unfortunately, I do not have an example of that in my constituency. It might be that the wind industry has woken up to this issue after the horse has bolted.

I rise to speak to our amendments 24 to 33 and 40 to 46, which, although standing individually, form a collective whole and refer to successive amendments the Government made to the Bill in another place in Committee to bring forward the closure date of the renewables obligation from 31 March 2017 to 31 March 2016. Our amendments would move that date and those of the various grace periods to 1 March 2017. They would therefore bring forward the closure date by one month, rather than one year, as is the present proposal.

I have some fears about the robustness of the present closure date in the face of the Bill’s passage. We are discussing a closure date that is very close to the day on which we are actually discussing it. The passage of the Bill, given that it came from the other place in the first instance, will have to finish in the other place shortly. The fact that the closure date before us is just a fortnight or so away from today creates considerable difficulties for the closure of the RO itself. It is not the case that we are discussing something that does not exist that can be brought into existence under legislation. We are discussing something that not only exists but, if we do nothing by way of legislation, will continue to carry on until 31 March 2017. We are discussing something that is in the legislation already, in that there is a specific mention in the Bill that the RO comes to an end on 31 March 2017, so if nothing happens to stop the RO carrying on, it will carry on until that date. In a sense, then, we have just one go in this place at changing the date in the legislation. If the Bill continues its passage through Parliament after the closure date has come into being, we will be dealing with retrospective legislation.

Is it not the case that from the moment people knew who had won the general election, they knew what would be Government policy in this area and they knew that it would be done as expeditiously as possible? Surely everyone could plan perfectly well around that obvious point.

The right hon. Gentleman might have jumped the gun in respect of the point he wanted to make about the effect of the proposed closure, but it is a different point from the one I am making about the closure. My point is that we stand in danger not only with respect to investor confidence, investor certainty or other considerations about what investors should do, which I shall come on to in a minute, but in respect of what we do, potentially exposing this House to legal action. Although the Government will have closed the renewables obligation administratively, they will not have closed it legislatively. There could be difficulties if discussions here and in the other place mean that the Bill receives Royal Assent after 31 March 2016.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but is there not an issue of fairness and social equity here? He is making a special plea on behalf of the renewables companies for what is effectively a de facto fiscal payment from some of the poorest consumers who are in fuel poverty to those individuals and those companies. Is that not the bigger issue, not least when we also have an electoral mandate to carry through this policy, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware?

I shall come on in a few moments to the question of whether the Conservative party has an electoral mandate to carry through this particular policy. This is not the point I am making right now. My point is that we stand in some danger of making legal action available to those who do not want this RO to be closed. The hon. Gentleman might like to reflect on the fact that if there is a mandate, it is to get on and do it, but to do it properly, not incompetently, so that exposure to legal action can be avoided. The point about the fact that the RO is here, has been here for quite a long time and, as the legislation states, will continue until 31 March 2017—unless someone does something to stop that—is that, in principle, if no one does anything to stop it by 31 March 2016, then claims can still be put forward for receipt of an RO after that date, because that is what the legislation says. Although I do not think that in practice very many people would venture to seek certification of an RO after 31 March 2016 if we are still discussing this in the House, that possibility is nevertheless open.

Is the hon. Gentleman inventing a new doctrine: that Governments should never try and change the law because the Opposition might delay it?

Again, the right hon. Gentleman misses the point I am making. This is not about the Opposition attempting to delay the imposition of the law. It is about the rush to close the renewables obligation on the part of the Government, not the Opposition, and the subsequent, rather dilatory way in which the Energy Bill was placed before this House—and, indeed, the way in which it has been scheduled in this House and the distinct possibility that further stages of the Bill may be scheduled. The net result of that dilatoriness in the legislative process is that the Government, not the Opposition, may put us in a position where retrospective legislation is apparently the case and the possibility of legal action is also apparently the case. It is important that we remember that today. One reason I am suggesting that the closure of the RO ought to be much later, albeit still early, is that it would avoid that potential legal action.

In reality, we know that the proposed closure of the renewables obligation a year early is not about implementing a manifesto pledge. The RO is not a new subsidy—that is what was in the Conservative manifesto. Indeed, we had discussions about that in Committee. The proposals before us are not only about putting an end to something that has been in place for a considerable period, that has worked well and that was about to change, in good time, to a new system that allows for degression in underwriting and a path towards effectively dissolving subsidies for a technology that has achieved close to market parity; they are about putting an end to something that industry investors were clear and confident about. Investors were confident not just because the renewables obligation had worked for a while; there was also a clear process whereby it would come to an end and a clear line of progression to contracts for difference—the new system, which we discussed at some length during the passage of the Energy Act 2013—and an orderly roll-out of renewable energy as something progressively more effective and cheaper.

In formulating his amendments, has the hon. Gentleman had time to consider the recent excellent report by the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, which said that the Government’s current policy would lead to bills increasing due to uncertainty?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to that report and, indeed, to the issue that has arisen not just from these changes, but from a series of other abrupt lurches in policy from the Government in the field of renewable energy. The net result has been a dramatic drop in investor confidence and a dramatic fall from our advanced position as a country that was regarded as a safe, good place to invest in renewable energy. This policy lurch has led to a feeling among many investors that they are now living in a world of confusion, in which it may be recommended in the boardroom that—perhaps in light of the competitiveness of many other countries—they should invest elsewhere when it comes to renewables. It has thrown a great many programmes into confusion and affected a great deal of potential investment in this country, not just in onshore wind but in many other renewables. Policy lurches of this sort tend to creep and spread across confidence in other areas of investment. If things had been left well alone, it would have been possible to envisage the continued progression of a secure investment circumstance, along with a clear understanding of what investors were doing and of how investments would change over a period.

This is not about putting an end to new subsidies; it is about the removal of a well-understood, long-lived subsidy before the point at which investors, the market and everyone else had expected it to be replaced by another system. As late as the spring of last year—after, I imagine, the Conservative manifesto had been written—the Secretary of State announced that the renewables obligation would close in March 2017, and the changeover would then be undertaken. I think that that came as a particular surprise to investors and the market because the Government had previously seemed to be so confident that the procedure would be as it had been originally set out.

It has been claimed that the removal of the renewables obligation at an early date is okay because we are reaching one of our European targets relating to the proportion of renewable energy that should make up our overall energy mix by 2020. The claim is that because the component that is represented by wind, and particularly by onshore wind, is reaching its target, it is okay to throw the market into its current confusion. We must, however, bear it in mind that we are failing substantially on the two other components of our European 15% target, heat and transport. Incidentally, the United Kingdom can be fined for missing that target.

The target can be achieved through overachievement in some areas, even if there is underachievement in others. The 12% renewable heat target, on which we are failing fairly miserably at the moment, and the 10% renewable fuel target, on which we are also failing, could be supported by our continuing to deploy onshore wind in particular. It might be suggested that to cut onshore wind at this time, given the extent of the failure to keep up with the overall energy target, is irresponsible to say the least.

A further claim that we have heard during the Bill’s passage is that all this is being done to help the customers who will have to pay for the underwriting of onshore wind. Of course it is important for us to consider the bills that customers are paying when deciding how best to establish our energy mix for the future.

We will have to establish an energy mix that is the most affordable, the most secure and the least carbonising over the next period, but the claim that this change is being introduced to help customers is in reality paper thin.

If the Government were serious about renewables in general, as they claim, the hole left by onshore wind over the next period as a result of the early closure of the RO—estimates suggest that a loss of investment of £1 billion is on the cards, as the Select Committee has noted—would have to be filled by other renewable sources that are currently more expensive to underwrite than the onshore wind they would replace. The net outcome of this measure could well be that the cost to customers is considerably more than it would have been if the present arrangements had been allowed to continue to their conclusion.

Onshore wind is at the leading edge of market parity. As the Government will be aware, it was on a sustained glide path down to parity, with investor confidence high and costs coming down. I emphasise that the damage to investor confidence as a result of this essentially retroactive Bill will be enormous. If it goes through, it will effectively replace a steady path down to market parity in which competitive deployment could progress—a cliff over which investment will fall.

A further claim that the proposed change is necessary is connected to the levy control framework, the éminence grise in many of our discussions on energy, particularly renewable energy. It is a control framework formed in obscurity by the Government and continuing in background gloom as people attempt fruitlessly to find out about its calculations, its variations and its consequent prescriptions. The levy control framework was devised in 2011 by the Government to get us into a position where about £7.6 billion at 2012 prices of levy payers’ money—money derived not from Government sources but from levies on energy companies, which would pass those costs on to their customers—would provide a framework within which renewables could develop.

However, the levy control framework is based on a static endpoint—2020 in this instance—even though prices will be variable over the period. It is based on the idea of a strike price that renewable energy will receive and that has been agreed, certainly for onshore wind, at an auction process, set against a reference price, which is the median price for energy at a particular time. The strike price is considered in relation to what rewards will be undertaken for that renewable energy. When and if energy prices go down, the difference between the strike price and the reference price widens. Although a renewable energy developer will receive the same amount of money for their energy, the make-up of the amount paid to the developer will be different. The more prices go down, the less the developer will get in relation to the reference price and the more they will get in relation to the difference between the reference price and the strike price, which will come from the levy control framework. Therefore, over a period of time the levy control framework, as designed, increases the reward to those inside the system, even though they do not get a total additional reward. New entrants are squeezed out, because the money goes to rewarding those who are already in the system and less money is provided to new entrants outside the system. Indeed, many commentators consider the present form of the levy control framework to be, in essence, bust as far as new entrants are concerned. The relatively small amount of change that the levy control framework will undergo through the ending of the renewables obligation period a year early is all about how the framework balances itself, which is a pretty thin claim bearing in mind the range of theoretical headroom in the framework and the difficulties it has experienced.

I was recently struck by the Government announcing they were closing the RO early for an equally cheap and verging on competitive renewable technology—small commercial solar—to save customers an estimated £1on their bills by 2020. Almost in the same breath, they announced a hugely expensive and dubiously effective programme for capacity market auctions, which have precisely the same funding origin in that levies will eventually be paid for by customers and which will, in this instance, put at least £20 on bills by 2020. It is estimated that early closure of the RO will save bill payers some 30p while potentially increasing our carbon emissions by 63 million tonnes. It is far more about appeasing the obsessions of several Conservative Back Benchers—[Interruption.] the hon. Member for Daventry and his hon. Friends—about wind than a surgical strike on an area of difficulty for the levy control framework.

As shown by the inadequacies of the grace periods provided for in the Bill, it is not even as if the Government are changing the rules to benefit only those schemes that those Back Benchers have been praying in aid for some time. The Opposition support the need to ensure that local decision making favours onshore wind, provided that it really is the case that if a wind farm gets local support through the planning process and has community backing, as many schemes currently outstanding do, it will get the go ahead from Government. If the Government really support that as a principle behind the future deployment of onshore wind, they should immediately include rather than exclude, which is the case currently, those schemes that always have gone down the path of seeking local support and local planning agreement in their programmes. Instead, the Government have put in place an arbitrary cut-off date for such schemes, even if the schemes were in an advanced position, such as having plans agreed and being supported locally, and were just awaiting the final certificate following agreement on administrative matters.

A few moments ago, the shadow Secretary of State appeared unhappy that the capacity auction announced by the Government two weeks ago had been brought forward. Is the Labour Front-Bench position that the auction should not be brought forward?

The question of whether the capacity auction should have been brought forward is secondary to the extent to which the Government believe that the auction will actually produce new capacity, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is fully aware. Like the levy control framework, capacity auctions warrant a much deeper reorganisation than the rather tepid arrangement undertaken by the Government. Simply bringing an auction forward by a year, using roughly the same parameters about the likely clearance price and the distance between the clearance price and the likely price necessary to secure any new investment over a 15-year period for new gas-fired power stations, does not strike me as the smartest way to procure longer-term capacity in the capacity market. A deeper reorganisation of capacity auctions is required to secure that aim over the next period.

Before that intervention, I was briefly thinking about the subject of my amendments 23 and 52, to which I wish to draw the House’s attention. If the Government were serious about the proposals in their manifesto—that schemes that have local support should proceed—they should immediately adopt these amendments. They are about schemes where all the right moves in getting local agreement to the plans have been undertaken, all inquiries, concerns and planning arrangements have been dealt with, the schemes are on the cusp of getting agreement at planning and local authority level, and they have the support of local communities, but the Government have just pulled the plug on them and they now cannot proceed. The Government ought to adopt these amendments if they were, in principle, serious about their own principle that local areas should decide on local schemes and that those local schemes could be supported where local communities support them. Conversely, I fear that if clause 80 remains in the Bill, as amended, we will have in store a programme of onshore wind execution and not the execution of an onshore wind programme.

Labour’s vision is for a locally supported, appropriate programme of onshore wind deployment, complementing other renewables such as solar, biomass, offshore wind and tidal in reaching renewable targets, not because we have to, but because it is the right thing to do in ensuring that we have a balanced, low-carbon energy mix for the future. This clause points us squarely in the opposite direction and I urge hon. Members to support amendments that put us back on track again.

I rise to support the Government and to urge the rejection of amendments that would delay getting rid of the subsidies for wind power. Our country desperately needs more electrical power to be available, and I am pleased that the Government are now taking action, with capacity auctions, to try to get some more power available. We need more affordable power. We need to tackle fuel poverty and have power at prices that households can afford. We also need to have affordable power for extra industry, which is one of the Chancellor’s aims. We need reliable power; we want to know that the power is there whether the wind is blowing or not, and whether the sun is shining or not. People expect continuous power, in order to light and power their homes, and industry needs continuous power for its processes. On all those grounds, wind does not cut the mustard, and I am glad that we now have a Government who recognise that.

When the history of the past 15 or 20 years comes to be written, what the European Union is doing and what the previous Labour Government did on energy policy will go down as one of the catastrophic failures. It will be at least as big as the exchange rate mechanism, which destroyed so much activity, jobs and prosperity in our country. It may not be as big as the disaster of the euro, but it will be one of the big, classic disasters of the European Union that Europe as a whole is becoming an area of too little energy and very high-cost energy, driving industry out of the European Union area and into Asia and America, where more plentiful and affordable energy is available. Far from sparing the planet extra carbon dioxide, all this mad policy is doing is making sure that the carbon dioxide is produced somewhere else, rather than within the European Union itself.

Germany has much more wind power than we do and many Opposition Members admire it in this respect, but what happens when the wind does not blow? I will tell them what happens: Germany relies on a large number of extremely dirty coal power stations to churn out the electricity, producing more carbon dioxide than it would if it had opted for a fleet of modern gas stations in the first place. On average, that would have been better than this strange mixture of intermittent wind, which is very good on carbon dioxide when the wind blows, and back-up power, which in Germany and elsewhere in Europe is often generated from coal, and is extremely bad on carbon dioxide when the wind does not blow.

Germany uses coal all the time and the wind power is the intermittent stuff. Germany’s carbon emissions are 30% higher than the UK’s per unit of GDP and per capita just because it uses so much coal and fossil fuels, even though its renewables level is quite high as well.

Yes, but, as my hon. Friend will agree, when the wind does not blow, Germany has to use more coal. When there is no wind energy, the replacement must come from fossil fuel. A wind system with fossil fuel back-up does not even work on its own terms, and he is right that the German merit order is somewhat different.

I was going on to point out that from an economic point of view, we in this country have managed to damage every kind of power generation. If we insist on giving priority to dear, interruptible, intermittent sources such as wind, the more reliable, cheaper sources such as gas become intermittent, as they are switched off every time the wind blows and switched back on every time the wind is not blowing, which in itself is difficult and expensive. That undermines the economics of what would otherwise be good-value power. It means that we cannot run the plants flat out. We have higher operating costs because of the complications of switching on and off and managing the furnaces accordingly, with much less revenue coming in because less power is generated and power cannot continuously be sold to the market.

The ham-fisted interventions—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) does not seem to understand the policy that his party put in place and that the European Union supports. The ham-fisted interventions in our energy market mean that we have less reliable energy, because we deliberately subsidise a lot of intermittent and unreliable energy; that we have dearer energy, because, as is commonly accounted, renewables are considerably dearer; and that we have much dearer energy overall, because of the extra cost, which is not included in the way that the cost of renewables is accounted for, which means that non-renewable power becomes a lot dearer per unit as well.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to reflect on the complete U-turn by Energy UK, which now says that the Government need to promote renewables instead of fossil fuels? Indeed, it says that an energy policy based on fossil fuels is a smartphone equivalent of placing all our bets on Nokia as opposed to Apple and Samsung.

No, I have not had the chance to reflect on that, but it does not seem to be a very interesting observation given the fundamental truth that I have just given him, on which the hon. Gentleman has not reflected at all. The truth of our current energy policy—

Let me just deal with the hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefor (Jonathan Edwards), and then I will happily deal with the shadow Minister. The truth about our energy policy is that the various interventions have conspired to make less power available at a much higher price and that, unless we start to reverse some of those interventions, we will get those pernicious effects. If he is saying that, yes, the price of energy from fossil fuels is variable, depending on the world market price, that is self-evidently true, but it does not mean that it is a good idea to put in something that is very unreliable and intermittent and is dearer than fossil fuel at more or less any realistic market price that might be commanded in the market by fossil fuel.

Has the right hon. Gentleman had the opportunity to go to the national balancing services centre, which is in his constituency, as it undertakes a great deal of work balancing the system? There are substantial constraints on non-fossil fuel as well as fossil fuel inputs to the system, which cause shortages in power delivery at various stages, whether non-fossil fuel or fossil fuel delivery. Perhaps he could reflect on that in his comments.

Of course, as Member of Parliament for Wokingham, I have visited the centre on several occasions, and met the dedicated group of people there. The last time I visited was quite recently, and they were saying to me how much more difficult it is to manage a system that relies on wind, which is becoming more and more intermittent. That is self-evidently true. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reinforcing my point, although I am not sure whether that was what he was trying to do. It used to be much easier when we had baseload power that could be relied upon and that was not interrupted by changes in the weather or the wind, and where the swing factor could be accounted for primarily by the pumped storage systems at Dinorwig. A command could be sent from Wokingham to Dinorwig. The water would come down the hill very quickly, and the kettles could boil in the interval of the big movie or whatever it was that was causing the surge in power demand. It is much more difficult now to call up power if, at the same time, the wind suddenly drops.

That is leading to our having to put in more and more interconnectors with other countries, so we become a net importer of power on a more regular basis, which is not something I value. I want us to have security of energy supply in our own country. We are, after all, an island of coal in a sea of oil and gas, and one would think we could find environmentally acceptable ways of exploiting that and burning it to produce the power we need. As I want an industrial revival in this country, that could well start with us importing less electricity.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about security. Does he share the concerns that I have and that have been expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) about the operation of the capacity market? That is costing us a great deal of money and it is manifestly failing to bring on new gas, which is its central aim.

As I have been trying to explain, the reason we end up with dear gas is all the other subsidised interventions we have been making. We cannot run gas flat out and get the benefits of running it in the most economical way possible. Yes, I would rather have a much simpler market. The market worked a lot better in the 1980s and 1990s when we first set up a pretty open competitive market and power prices came down a lot. We had roughly a 25% margin of extra supply so that we were secure and we never had to worry that, if there was a cold day with the wind not blowing when industry was doing quite well, we would have to tell industry to switch its machines off. We did not get to such a position under that regime.

Now that we have a grossly intervened regime with all sorts of subsidies and priorities that do not reflect the economics of power production, we get to exactly the point that the hon. Gentleman rightly identifies, when we have to bid quite high to get people to provide gas-based power because we cannot guarantee full access to the market on a continuous basis. Of course, the more interventions there have been over the years of Labour and coalition and now the Conservatives, the more changes are needed in that intervention regime as the Government tinker or try to change it to make it work better, and the higher the prices tend to have to be because people become more suspicious if Government have so much power and if Government keep changing their mind.

So it is quite easy to get from a relatively free, successful market to a badly damaged, rigged, subsidised market. It is quite difficult getting from a badly damaged, subsidised market where the interventions are not very helpful to one that works better, because there is suspicion in the minds of investors, and they need longer contracts, bigger guarantees and higher prices to give them some kind of offset as they fear the Government may tinker unnecessarily.

This debate is about the amendment. I support the Government in their view. I want the Government to get on with removing the subsidies to onshore wind, as we said we would do. I hope the Opposition and the other place will not delay that further. We gave plenty of notice of this, and the sooner we do it the sooner we will get a bit closer to having a less damaged energy market.

Onshore wind is one of the most inexpensive forms of renewable energy, and it is therefore critical to maximise its input into a renewable energy solution across the UK to enable Scotland and the rest of the UK to meet our climate change targets.

Closing the RO early puts in jeopardy £3 billion-worth of onshore wind investment in Scotland alone for a forecast 30p saving in energy bills. This is a false economy because £3 billion of onshore wind investment equates to 63 million tonnes of CO2. That is from DECC’s own analysis and represents a missed opportunity both economically and in terms of hitting climate change targets.

I spoke at length in Committee on the grace periods and the importance of getting them right, so I will not labour the point here. However, it is important that they are fair and do not disadvantage projects which, through no fault of their own, fall through the crack owing to early closure of the RO.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) and the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), who is no longer in his place, spoke eloquently about the real and very difficult deterioration in investor confidence caused by the early closure of the RO. Now that that is proceeding, it must be done fairly and with a view to the critical part that onshore wind plays in the overall energy solution for the UK. We must keep the lights on, which is why we intend to press amendment 8 to a Division.

Before dealing with other proposals, I would like to speak to Government amendment 50. As I made clear during our last debate on this issue, I would like to see an equivalent approach taken right across the UK to the early closure of the renewables obligation to onshore wind, to provide consistency to industry and to protect consumer bills. Amendment 50 relates to clause 81—the backstop power regarding Northern Ireland.

In Committee, I introduced a clause with a view to protecting consumers in Great Britain from the costs of any additional support that Northern Ireland may decide to provide to onshore wind. I remind hon. Members that the clause received considerable support at that stage and that it is a backstop power—this is to say, it is intended to be exercised only if Northern Ireland decides not to close the Northern Ireland renewables obligation scheme to new onshore wind on equivalent terms to those in Great Britain.

The new amendment simply clarifies the drafting of the clause to ensure consistency with the provisions relating to the early closure of the renewables obligation in Great Britain by making it clear that the power in clause 81 extends to capacity added to existing onshore wind stations, as well as to new stations. I should highlight that the intent behind the clause has not changed at all.

I thank all hon. Members for their comments on the non-Government provisions. A number of them—specifically amendments 1 to 21, tabled by the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell)—were discussed in some detail and at length in Committee. As far as I can see, the amendments have not changed at all since we last discussed them. Following our agreement not to include them then, the hon. Gentleman has tabled them here once again.

To ensure clarity for hon. Members who did not attend the Committee debates and to move forward with this debate, and indeed the Bill, I am happy to set out the Government’s position again. I will first remind hon. Members of the intended effect of clauses 79 and 80. Clause 79 implements the early closure of the renewables obligation to new onshore wind in Great Britain. Clause 80 sets out the grace period conditions under which certain projects may continue to accredit beyond the early closure date.

Let me be clear: the Government remain committed to delivering our manifesto pledge to end new subsidies for onshore wind, and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) and my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) for the clear support they expressed. The Government are, however, also conscious of the need for industry certainty. Therefore, in response to the question from the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), I would like to make it clear that, if Royal Assent for the Bill goes beyond 31 March, the Government intend the provisions to come into force from the date of Royal Assent and do not intend to backdate them. I reiterate that there is absolutely no change to our commitment to end new subsidies for onshore wind, and our actions have shown that we will be tough on subsidies to keep bills down for families and businesses.

Onshore wind has deployed successfully to date. Based on our analysis, and taking early closure of the renewables obligation into account, we still expect the deployment of onshore wind to fall within our electricity market reform delivery plan projections of 11 to 13 GW by 2020. That is our best estimate of what is needed to meet our 2020 targets and of what is affordable under our low-carbon spending cap.

When we announced early closure on 18 June, we made it clear that it was appropriate to curtail further deployment of onshore wind, balancing the interests of onshore wind developers with those of the wider public. As I explained in our earlier debates, the grace period conditions in clause 80 were developed following extensive stakeholder engagement and have been designed specifically to provide certainty and clarity for industry. In particular, we engaged in detail on the core grace period conditions, referred to as the “approved development condition” in the Bill. This requires projects wishing to accredit under the RO beyond 31 March 2016 to provide evidence that, as of 18 June 2015, they had, first, relevant planning consents; secondly, a grid connection offer and acceptance of that offer, or confirmation that no grid connection is required; and thirdly, access to land rights.

Following further industry engagement and analysis by my Department, the Bill’s provisions have been improved in a number of ways: first, to capture those projects that had a planning application refused on or before 18 June 2015, or where the relevant planning authority failed to determine a planning application where a decision was due by 18 June 2015, and which are then subsequently granted consent on appeal; secondly, to introduce an “investment freezing condition” allowing certain projects that qualify for the grace period an additional nine months in which to accredit where they have been unable to secure debt funding due to legislative uncertainty; and thirdly, to provide that the existing grid and radar grace period will continue to be available so that projects that have suffered delays outside their control in this area will have a further 12 months in which to accredit.

Let me take a moment to reflect on the important point about investor confidence. The Government believe that the early closure and grace period provisions that we have presented within the Bill strike the right balance between protecting investor confidence and ensuring our ability to control costs under the levy control framework.

The Minister has outlined the criteria for closing the scheme. Does she share my concern that in Wales this has created some difficulty in understanding which schemes will now fall outside the RO and which will fall within it, because in Wales the generation applications and infrastructure applications come separately, whereas in England they come together in the same application?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, but I think that our grace periods are absolutely clear, and that developers who have sought clarity have been able to get it from the words in our debates and in the Bill.

Investor confidence seems to be the main reason used to support further changes to the grace periods, as proposed in the amendments from the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and in many of the other amendments that have been tabled. The Energy and Climate Change Committee’s inquiry into investor confidence concluded earlier this year. I want to reflect on one point in particular that was raised during the Committee’s very thorough evidence sessions. The evidence given by Peter Dickson from Glenmont Partners suggested that

“investments continue to attract capital in the UK—for example in offshore wind”.

Far from Government policies putting investors off investing in renewables in the UK, in fact it seems that significant investment is still coming forward.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry, my hon. Friends the Members for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) and for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) for raising with me the important issues around visual, amenity and noise impacts from onshore wind farms and the impact that they can have at local level. I can confirm that our manifesto commitment specifically called for a halt to the spread of onshore wind farms and a change in the law so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications. We are making sure that people’s concerns are addressed. Specifically, the Government are considering measures related to noise and amplitude modulation. We touched on this matter in Committee. As I said then, we are determined to address this and find a solution to the problem. This is possibly taking longer than my hon. Friends would like, but we are taking independent advice and will consider how best to act in the light of that advice, which I expect to receive shortly. At this stage, I cannot comment further, but I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry will continue to be patient with me in the knowledge that we are looking at this very closely.

On new clause 2, tabled by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), it is imperative that the early closure applies consistently across Great Britain in order to protect consumers from the risk of over-deployment beyond what has been agreed is affordable under the levy control framework. The new clause would allow Scottish Ministers to provide for further deployment of onshore wind in Scotland under the renewables obligation at a cost to consumers right across Great Britain. In fact, our estimates show that in 2015-16, £520 million, or approximately 60%, of RO support will already go towards funding Scottish onshore wind farms, even though only about 10% of UK bill payers are in Scotland.

The hon. Gentleman tabled the new clause in Committee at the beginning of February, and at that time we discussed the question of Scotland being willing to take responsibility for funding its own renewables obligation. During the debate, the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill expressly responded to that suggestion:

“The short answer to that is no.”––[Official Report, Energy Public Bill Committee, 2 February 2016; c. 133.]

I cannot imagine that his position has changed in the brief period since that debate.

Amendments 8 and 23 relate to projects for which a local planning committee may have indicated that it was minded to grant planning consent, but which did not have formal planning permission as of 18 June last year. That would include projects that just had an indication that they would receive planning consent subject to a section 106 or section 75 agreement being entered into, or projects for which the local planning committee was minded to approve a planning application before 18 June, but for which planning permission was not formally issued until after that date.

The amendments would lead to additional deployment and increased spend under the levy control framework, further blurring the clear, bright line that the Government have set out for projects wishing to accredit under the RO after 31 March this year. To be clear, those projects did not have formal planning permission as at 18 June last year, and therefore they would not meet the grace period criteria.

Further to my previous intervention, is the Minister in a position to inform the House and my constituents whether the Brechfa West project in my constituency will be eligible for the RO? It had generating planning permission but not infrastructure planning permission. Despite my requests to the Department and to Ofgem, nobody can tell me or my constituents whether the Brechfa West project will be able to claim the RO.

As I have said to the hon. Gentleman, I think our intentions are clear from words spoken in this Chamber and in the Bill Committee. I will certainly look into the case he mentions, but I do not have the information that he is looking for right now.

Amendments 24 to 46 are all intended to delay the early closure of the RO until 1 March 2017, closing it only one month earlier than the original closure date of 31 March 2017. It is therefore my understanding that the hon. Members who have tabled the amendments want the RO to close to onshore wind only a month earlier than planned, while maintaining the grace period provisions set out by the Government. Clearly, such a change would not meet the objectives of the early closure policy, which I have consistently set out in debates on the Bill and have explained again today. To change the early closure date to 1 March 2017 would go against the intentions of our manifesto commitment, and would be likely to make no reduction to overall deployment or costs under the levy control framework.

I remind hon. Members that those limits have been set for a crucial reason. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out in a speech in November last year:

“We can only expect bill payers to support low carbon power, as long as costs are controlled. I inherited a department where policy costs on bills had spiralled. Subsidy should be temporary, not part of a permanent business model.”

I remind hon. Members again that the Government have an electoral mandate to deliver on our manifesto commitment to halt the spread of onshore wind, and that is exactly what the clause is intended to do. However, the Government are mindful of the need to protect investor confidence and to take into account the interests of the onshore wind industry. That is why we have set out grace period provisions, which appear in clause 80.

I believe that I have consistently explained that the Government have an obligation to protect consumers from the risk of over-deployment of new onshore wind and rising energy bills. The date changes proposed in the amendments would simply put us back to where we started, providing no protection for consumers and putting us at risk of deploying up to 7.1 GW of additional onshore wind, which is well beyond what the Government have decided is affordable under the levy control framework.

To conclude, I stress the importance of swiftly moving forward with the proposals. I again quote the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill, who said in Committee on this very issue:

“We agree that swift passage of the Bill with clear and consistent RO grace period provisions is needed in order to provide certainty to investors in the onshore wind sector as quickly as possible.”––[Official Report, Energy Public Bill Committee, 2 February 2016; c. 127.]

Clear and consistent provisions are exactly what the Government are attempting to provide, and we need to be able to move forward with the debate to do so.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 79

Onshore wind power: closure of renewables obligation on 31 March 2016

Amendment proposed: 24, page 46, line 20, leave out “31 March 2016” and insert “1 March 2017”.— (Dr Whitehead.)

This amendment and amendments 25, 26, 40, 41, 42, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38 and 39 have the effect of closing the Renewables Obligation for onshore wind a month earlier than the original date set out in the Statutory Instrument: Renewables Obligation Closure Order 2014: 2388, rather than a year earlier, as the Bill does in its present form.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Clause 80

Onshore wind power: circumstances in which certificates may be issued after 31 March 2016

Amendment proposed: 8, page 50, line 46, at end insert—

‘( ) evidence that—

(i) an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was made on or before 18 June 2015 for the station or for additional capacity,

(ii) the relevant planning authority resolved to grant 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission on or before 18 June 2015,

(iii) 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was granted after 18 June 2015, and

(iv) any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached.”—(Philip Boswell.)

Question put, That the amendment be made.

More than two hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings on consideration, the proceedings were interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Clause 81

Onshore wind power: use of Northern Ireland certificates

Amendment made: 50, page 56, line 2, leave out from “generated” to end of line 7 and insert

“after 31 March 2016 (or any later date specified in the regulations)—

(a) using the original capacity of a Northern Ireland onshore wind generating station accredited after 31 March 2016 (or any later date so specified), or

(b) using additional capacity of a Northern Ireland onshore wind generating station, where in the Authority’s view the additional capacity first formed part of the station after 31 March 2016 (or any later date so specified).”—(Andrea Leadsom.)

This amendment expands the definition of a relevant Northern Ireland certificate to include a certificate issued in respect of energy generated using additional capacity which first formed part of the generating station after the closure date.

New Clause 3

Carbon capture and storage strategy for the energy industry

‘(1) By June 2017, the Secretary of State must develop, promote and implement a comprehensive national strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) for the energy industry to deliver the emissions reductions required to meet the fifth and subsequent, carbon budgets at the scale and pace required.

(2) In developing the strategy, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) HM Treasury;

(b) the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills;

(c) the Oil and Gas Authority;

(d) the National Infrastructure Commission;

(e) Scottish Ministers;

(f) Welsh Ministers, and

(g) other relevant stakeholders including the CCS industry.

(3) The strategy must include though shall not be restricted to—

(a) the development of infrastructure for carbon dioxide transport and storage;

(b) a funding strategy for implementation including provision of market signals sufficient to build confidence for private investment in the CCS industry;

(c) priorities for such action in the immediate future as may be necessary to allow the orderly and timely development and deployment of CCS after 2020;

(d) promotion of cost-effective innovation in CCS; and

(e) clarification of the responsibilities of government departments with respect to the implementation of the strategy.”

(4) The Secretary of State must report to Parliament on the progress of its implementation of the strategy every three years starting in 2020.” .(Callum McCaig.)

This new clause would compel the Secretary of State to bring forward a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 6—Emissions trading: United Kingdom carbon account

In section 27 (net UK carbon account) of the Climate Change Act 2008, after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) No carbon units deriving from the operation of the EU Emissions Trading System may be credited to or debited from the net United Kingdom carbon account for any period commencing after 31 December 2027.””

New clause 7—Carbon capture and storage strategy for the energy industry

‘(1) The Secretary of State must—

(a) develop, promote and implement a comprehensive national strategy for carbon capture and storage (CCS) for the energy industry to deliver the emissions reductions required to meet the fifth and subsequent carbon budget, as advised by the committee on climate change;

(b) develop that strategy in consultation with HM Treasury, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Oil and Gas Authority, the National Infrastructure Commission, energy intensive industries and other relevant stakeholders including the CCS industry; and

(c) have that strategy in place by June 2017 and report to Parliament on the progress of its implementation every three years thereafter.

(2) The strategy provided for by subsection (1) shall, amongst other things, include—

(a) the development of infrastructure for carbon dioxide transport and storage;

(b) a funding strategy for implementation including provision of market signals sufficient to build confidence for private investment in the CCS industry;

(c) a strategy for international co-operation on the development and implementation of relevant technologies;

(d) priorities for such action in the immediate future as may be necessary to allow the orderly and timely development and deployment of CCS after 2020.

(e) a strategy for co-operation through the European Union.”

New clause 8—Decarbonisation target range

‘(1) Section 1 of the Energy Act 2013 is amended as follows.

(2) Leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) The Secretary of State must by order (“a decarbonisation order”) set a decarbonisation target range, which shall be reviewed annually thereafter.”

(3) Leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5) The decarbonisation order shall be made within six months of the adoption of the fifth carbon budget set by virtue of the duty of the Secretary of State under section 4 (2) (b) of the climate Change Act 2008.””

New clause 9—Amendment to Energy Act 2013: Capacity agreements

After Section 28(4) of the Energy Act 2013, insert—

‘(4A) Electricity capacity regulations introduced by subsection (1) for any fossil fuel generating plant granted 15 year capacity contracts under the capacity agreements established by this section shall be subject to the Emissions Performance Standard as established by Section 57 (2) of this Act.””

New clause 10—Emissions trading: United Kingdom carbon account

In section 27 (net UK carbon account) of the Climate Change Act 2008, after subsection (3) insert—

‘(3A) In respect of any period commencing after 31 December 2027, the regulations must not make provision for carbon units to be credited to or debited from the net United Kingdom carbon account on the basis of the number of carbon units surrendered by operators of installations in the United Kingdom pursuant to the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.””

New clause 11—Zero net UK [carbon] emissions

‘(1) The Climate Change Act 2008 is amended as follows.

(2) After section (3) of the 2008 Act, insert the following—

3A Net UK carbon emissions target: zero emissions year

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall set a date by which net UK emissions must be zero or lower (“the zero emissions year”) by order no later than 12 months from the date on which the Energy Act 2016 comes into force.

(2) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK emissions for the zero emissions year and each year thereafter is zero or less.

(3) If an annual statement of UK emissions under Section 16 for a year after the zero emissions year shows that net UK carbon emissions are more than zero, the Secretary of State must, as soon as reasonably practicable lay before Parliament a statement which—

(a) explains why the zero net emissions target has not been met, and

(b) sets out proposals and policies to ensure that the target will be met in subsequent years.

(4) The Secretary of State may by order amend the zero emissions year.

(5) The power in subsection (4) may only be exercised if it appears to the Secretary of State that it is appropriate to do so due to significant developments in—

(a) scientific knowledge about climate change, or

(b) European or international law or policy.

(6) An order under subsections (1) or (4) may only be made by statutory instrument that has been laid in draft before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.

(7) Before laying a draft of a statutory instrument under subsection (6) the Secretary of State must obtain, and take into account, the advice of the Committee on Climate Change.

(8) As soon as is reasonably practicable after giving its advice to the Secretary of State, the Committee shall publish its advice in such manner as it considers appropriate.

(9) If an order under subsections (1) or (4) sets or amends the zero emissions year in a way that is different from the recommendation of the Committee under subsection (7), the Secretary of State must lay a statement before Parliament explaining his reasons for that decision.

(10) When the Secretary of State comes to any decision under this section, or the Committee on Climate Change considers its advice in relation to any such decision—

(a) the matters listed in Section 10(2) must, and

(b) other matters may,

be taken into account.”

New clause 12—Strategy for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels

‘(1) The Secretary of State must develop a comprehensive national strategy for the UK energy sector to move away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy by 2050, under the framework of a Just Transition outlined in subsection (5)(a).

(2) The strategy must be developed by June 2017 and the Secretary of State must report to Parliament on the progress of its implementation every year thereafter.

(3) The transition must ensure that UK carbon emission reductions make a fair contribution to the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

(4) The strategy must be developed in consultation with—

(a) energy sector workers,

(b) trade unions,

(c) the Committee on Climate Change,

(d) HM Treasury,

(e) the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills,

(f) the Oil and Gas Authority,

(g) the renewable energy industry,

(h) the National Infrastructure Commission,

(i) Scottish and Welsh Ministers,

(j) civil society organisations, and

(k) other relevant stakeholders.

(5) The strategy must, amongst other things, include—

(a) the adoption of the principles of Just Transition set out by national and international trade unions, including—

(i) full participation and engagement of workers, trades unions and communities most directly affected, and

(ii) training, education and skills policies to enable workers to make the transition to employment in sustainable, low carbon industries,

(b) an assessment of the proportion of existing UK oil and gas reserves that should remain unexploited,

(c) a strategy for redirecting all direct and indirect fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies into low carbon industry; and

(d) cooperation with EU institutions and EU member states to embed the principles of Just Transition at EU level.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to develop a strategy for a Just Transition away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy future.

New clause 1—Strategy for incentivising competitiveness of UK-registered companies in decommissioning contracts

‘(1) By June 2017, the Secretary of State must develop a comprehensive strategy for the Department of Energy and Climate Change to incentivise the competitiveness of UK-registered companies in bidding for supply chain contracts associated with the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure (the strategy), which shall be reviewed annually thereafter.

(2) In developing the strategy, the Secretary of State must consult—

(a) HM Treasury;

(b) the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills;

(c) the Oil and Gas Authority;

(d) Scottish Ministers, and

(e) any other relevant stakeholders that the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.

(3) The strategy must include, though shall not be restricted to—

(a) an appraisal of tax incentives that can be extended to oil and gas operators to incentivise their use of UK-registered supply chain companies; and

(b) an outline of other appropriate support that can be provided by the Government, or its agencies, to UK-registered companies which express interest in bidding for decommissioning contracts.”

This new clause would compel the Secretary of State to bring forward a strategy for ensuring that UK-registered supply chain companies benefit from decommissioning contracts.

New clause 4—Contract for Difference—

After section 13(3) of the Energy Act 2013 insert—

‘(3A) An allocation round must be held at least once in each year which the carbon intensity of electricity generation in the United Kingdom exceeds 100 grams per kilowatt hour.”

This new clause would compel the Secretary of State to hold a Contract for Difference allocation round at least once in each year that the carbon intensity of electricity generation in the UK exceeds 100g per kilowatt hour.

New clause 5—Amendment to the Petroleum Act 1998: definition of “the principal objective”

In subsection 9A of the Petroleum Act 1998, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

“(1) The “principal objective” is the objective of maximising the economic return of UK petroleum, while retaining oversight of the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure, and securing its reuse for transportation and storage of greenhouse gases, in particular through—

(a) development, construction, deployment and use of equipment used in the petroleum industry (including upstream petroleum infrastructure), and

(b) collaboration among the following persons—

(i) holders of petroleum licences;

(ii) operators under petroleum licences;

(iii) owners of upstream petroleum infrastructure;

(iv) persons planning and carrying out the commissioning of upstream petroleum infrastructure;

(v) owners of offshore installations.””

Government amendments 48 and 49.

Amendment 47, in clause 8, page 6, line 10, at end insert—

“Hierarchy of matters relating to decommissioning

The need to consider the most advantageous use of North Sea infrastructure for the overall benefit of oil and gas extraction prior to the decommissioning of such sites”

To require the OGA to have regard to the need to ensure most advantageous use of North Sea infrastructure for the overall benefit of oil and gas extraction prior to the decommissioning of such sites when exercising its functions.

Government amendment 51.

Having moved new clause 3, I shall speak to new clauses 1 and 4—I am rather confused by the ordering—and I shall support the cross-party new clause 10 on behalf of the SNP.

I was struck when, in the earlier debate on the previous group, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), who is no longer in his place, talked about how to find an environmentally sustainable way of getting power from the island of coal in a sea of oil and gas. I take it that he was referring to Great Britain in that regard. There might well be a way of achieving that in an environmentally sustainable way—through carbon capture and storage. My new clause 3 calls on the Government to bring forward a proper, well thought out and extensively consulted on plan and strategy for carbon capture and storage for utilisation in both the energy industry in particular and industry more widely, including energy-intensive industries, which might move offshore if they are not able to consume power in an affordable way that meets our higher environmental standards.

We have talked about the discussion and report from the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, which referred to the innumerable sudden changes to policy as having an impact on the reputation of the United Kingdom for investor confidence. The decision to withdraw the £1 billion funding available for the CCS competition at the same time as the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change was in Paris leading the “high-ambition coalition” on behalf of the country at the Paris talks is perhaps the most grave of the changes.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Does he agree with me that the fact that this information was extolled to the City of London and the stock exchange rather than this place on the very same day demonstrates this Government’s real attitude to this place?

I very much agree. I remember sitting on this very Bench, looking through the Budget statement and being somewhat relieved that the rumours I had heard about this competition being scrapped did not appear to be in that statement. Lo and behold, however, an announcement was made to the stock market a few moments after the Chancellor had left the Chamber, removing that funding. I understand that no greater certainty was provided to the companies involved in both White Rose and Peterhead.

Further to that point, on the very morning of that Budget, I intervened on another Member and asked the Minister to provide assurances that both the Peterhead and the White Rose projects would not be cut, but no answer was forthcoming. There was nothing in the paperwork that day to show that this was going to happen.

I agree with my hon. Friend. The fact that different parties have the same essential view not only about the Government’s abysmal handling of this process, but about how to salvage something from the ashes of the carbon capture competition suggests that there is not a huge amount of difference between my new clause and new clause 7, tabled in the names of Labour Front-Bench Members. The main difference—we discussed the issue in Committee—is that our provision includes the devolved Administrations as bodies that should be developing a strategy. I know that the Scottish Government—who, working with DECC, pursued what should have been the second phase of carbon capture and storage at Grangemouth—have high ambitions for the deployment of CCS and share the concerns of many Members here about the way in which the Government have handled this matter.

As for short-sighted decisions, I understand that the White Rose project had substantial European Union funding associated with it. The potential for Peterhead to use carbon capture and storage—or potentially carbon capture and utilisation to create a virtuous cycle for enhanced oil recovery—was there, but that potential has now been lost. The suggestion from the Energy and Climate Change Committee that this will make meeting our climate change commitments all the harder, highlights the need for the strategy that I am proposing.

We have seen that the Government are all over the shop when it comes to CCS. One minute they are for it; another minute they are against it. One minute it is not working; the next minute it is looking promising for the future. These represent severe mixed messages for investor confidence, when we need clarity. If we are to get investment from industry—I hope we do, and I gain the impression that Members of all parties want to see this become a reality in the UK—we need an unequivocal statement from the Government. Then we need an unequivocal strategy, which is what I am calling for today.

There is a tie-in between the utilisation of the infrastructure in the North sea and what can be deployed for CCS. I believe that it is also incumbent on the Government to bring forward a strategy for decommissioning, which is the subject of my new clause 1. Decommissioning is one of the sad realities of the North sea that is going to happen. We all, or at least the majority of us, hope that this will happen at some time in the future. The Government can take steps to deal with that. The industry has called for tax cuts, and loan guarantees for oil and gas companies are also a key part of ensuring that decommissioning happens as far in the future as possible. It is, however, going to come.

Decommissioning provides a huge opportunity, when there is upwards of £30 billion-worth of work to be done. A large part of the bill will be paid back by reimbursing the companies for previous tax paid. They have built up the tax to offset against decommissioning costs. Essentially, as we go forward, the Treasury will be footing the bill for a large part of decommissioning.

It strikes me and my party that we need to ensure that the greatest possible benefit comes to these shores. The east coast of this island is ripe with opportunities for ports and the like. Frankly, they should be champing at the bit to see the work come ashore. I believe that the Shell platform at Brent is coming to Hartlepool. That is a strong commitment and an investment in infrastructure, but also in skills.

The hon. Gentleman is spot on about Teesport work at Hartlepool and the decommissioning of rigs. Does he agree, however, that including the decommissioning of rigs also provides potential for extra surveys of where rigs are currently based to investigate syngas potential? The infrastructure is already there for looking at sub-sea coal, for example.

A large number of things need to be done before we commence wholesale decommissioning, and this includes the widest possible consideration of what the infrastructure could be used for. The proposals and possibilities are perhaps not endless, but they are numerous. Whether we are talking about carbon capture, storage of hydrogen or looking for further hydrocarbon resources that are yet to be discovered, there are vast possibilities. While the infrastructure is there, the opportunities for doing other things with it will remain; once it is gone, the opportunity is gone. The Oil and Gas Authority—which a large part of this Bill deals with, although not the aspects we are debating at this precise moment—has done a lot of work on that and is to be commended on that development.

Decommissioning is a reality. If we are smart collectively —if we can line up the ducks, in terms of the supply chain, skills and investment in the ports and suchlike—there could be a massive windfall. We have considerable leverage, as funders of a large part of this work, through tax receipts offset against previous earnings, and we should be looking to maximise that economic potential, in the same way as we were looking to maximise the economic recovery of the North sea.

On the point about that opportunity, does my hon. Friend agree that decommissioning goes hand in hand with the critical assessment, evaluation and management of the infrastructure that surrounds these isles to enable access to marginal fields, which would not otherwise be available, were the critical infrastructure not kept in place, as part of an overall plan with a long-term vision for the energy supplies of these isles?

I agree with my hon. Friend, and that is something the Oil and Gas Authority is set to look at. It will also be hugely beneficial to the oil and gas industry, so that work needs to take place. We need to be aware of what opportunities exist, but we also need to remember that this Government have a duty to support the oil and gas industry at this time, so I reiterate the calls made by me and others in my party to see substantial movement in Wednesday’sBudget.

It might seem somewhat ironic to some that I am moving from how we best exploit the North sea to how we best tackle climate change but, as I have said a number of times in this place, because we have been a major producer and user of hydrocarbons, there is a moral duty on us to do what we can. I note new clause 11, standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), among others, which is not something I would be ready to support, although I wholeheartedly endorse the principle. This is something we need to do, but I would see new clauses 4, 8 and 10—which deal more closely with the short term—plus the issue around carbon capture and storage, as being the correct pathway.

It strikes me that we are very much at a crossroads when it comes to the deployment of technology. It is likely—or, I am hopeful—that a zero-carbon future can be achieved, but the pathway to that is not clear to me, and I do not think it would be clear to the Government if they were to commence that work now. I would rather see things that are in the gift of the Government at this precise moment in time—if they were to focus on them, to deliver on them and act sooner rather than later—because the more work we do now, the less we have to do in future. It is about timing and priorities. The concept is to be wholeheartedly commended and supported, but I am not quite sure I am there when it comes to prioritising it now.

Finally, I would like to talk about new clause 10, to which I was happy to add my support—I imagine that a number of others who also put their name to it will talk about it in greater detail. Our carbon accounting mechanisms need to be brought into line with what is happening and going to happen. The fact that we can get to the stage where upwards of half our emissions do not properly factor into our carbon accounting means that we cannot set about achieving what we must in an open and honest way. Following on from Paris, numerous people have said that we need to get serious about this. If we are to get serious about taking the steps we need to take to make our contribution to tackling climate change, we absolutely have to be clear about what we are counting, which is the basics of this. The bean counting of climate change might not seem particularly appealing to some, but it is fundamental. If we do not know what the emissions are and we are not counting them properly, how can we tackle the challenge of reducing them properly?

I rise perhaps early in this debate but, in the absence of alternatives on this side of the Chamber, I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig). I agree with much of what he said about carbon capture and storage, but my comments will be about new clause 10.

I do not agree with the thrust of new clause 10 and want to set out to the House why not, but first let me be clear: I, like possibly everybody in this House, also regard man-made climate change as a clear and present danger. The concern I have, though, is that we in this country are acting increasingly unilaterally in what we are doing to fix it. Indeed, the emissions trading system was an attempt to find a pan-European solution to a pan-European problem and I do not want us to turn our back on it.

I speak also for the 900,000 people who work in energy-intensive industries in this country and the many other millions of people who work in manufacturing industries. The central premise of my remarks is that I do not believe it is possible to rebalance our economy, to have a march of the makers and to do more in the north of the country predicated on electricity prices that are approximately double what they are in continental Europe. Of course, nobody in this House wants higher electricity prices, but the fact is that some of our actions are resulting in higher electricity prices, in so far as similar actions are not taken by our trading partners. This morning, our energy-intensive industries were paying something like 9p a unit of electricity; in Germany and France, they are paying 4p a unit. Broadly speaking, the gap between UK and EU electricity prices is 80% to 90%. I am an MP for the north of this country. I want to see manufacturing re-established much more strongly in the north, but it cannot be re-established on the basis of differentially higher electricity prices.

In reference to new clause 10, it is quite obvious that the market in the European ETS is set, yet we decided as a country—or rather, the Government decided—to introduce the carbon price floor, which exceeded the EU ETS, so this is an issue for those on the Government Benches. Our European competitors also weight the cost of energy far more to the consumer than to industry, which is ultimately a Government decision, and by and large the costs are generally the same, varying from country to country.

The hon. Gentleman makes two points, the first of which is about the carbon price floor. As it happens, I do not support policy in that area. The consequence of that policy is that we are now importing electricity produced on the continent by power stations that do not pay the carbon tax at the level we do. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) said earlier, that is no sort of economic and industrial policy. I have forgotten the hon. Gentleman’s second point. Perhaps he could just remind me.

It was about the differential. The distribution of costs is much more on the consumer in EU member states.

That is true of Germany in particular. Apparently—I am not an expert in this area, but I hear Ministers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills talking about this—there is an issue with state aid, which does not apply to Germany because it started doing that in advance of state aid rules being set up, which is why it can charge such a differential and apparently we cannot. I agree that that is unsatisfactory.

I was talking about the 900,000 jobs in energy-intensive industries that we in this place need to be cognisant of as we legislate and move forward. These are jobs in steel and what is left of our primary aluminium industry—there were three smelters in this country until a few years ago; there is now one left, in Scotland, and a consultation is under way on its closure. This stuff matters. Of course, so does climate change. My only point is that we must get it right. There is a balance to be struck, and the people who pay for that balance cannot be the people who work in some of those industries.

I have four points to make about what I believe is an increasing difference between the approaches of the United Kingdom—with our climate budgets and our Climate Change Act 2008—and the European Union. The first relates to the Paris agreement which was reached in December, and which we have discussed in the House before. Some people describe it as a triumph, and in many respects it was. I personally do not think that it will be enough to limit the temperature rise to 2.7°; I think that that is an optimistic analysis. However, the key fact that we, as legislators, need to understand is that the United Kingdom did not have a submission to the “intended nationally determined contribution” process. Europe did, and Europe’s submission was a reduction in carbon emissions by 40% over 40 years. The UK is part of Europe, and it is therefore implicit that we must do the same, but the commitment for which we have legislated is to reduce emissions by—

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman is talking about individual states’ emissions and Europe-wide emissions, but I have a responsibility for people who work in energy-intensive industries, and I know that a far more acute problem for the Government is the problem of Chinese dumping. Of course we cannot talk about that now, but it is far more serious than anything that it coming out of the European Union.

I agree that Chinese dumping is an issue. I also agree that business rates are an issue. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong if he is suggesting that energy prices are not an issue as well. The steel industry, and indeed the aluminium industry, is not under such pressure in parts of Europe as it is here.

What the hon. Gentleman is saying contradicts comments from Eurofer and UK Steel. The two primary issues for energy-intensive industries, especially the steel industry, are market economy status for China and Chinese dumping. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will return to the point about the EU emissions trading system, but those are the main concerns of the industries themselves.

The hon. Gentleman’s position strikes me as rather odd. I agree with him that the ETS status is important, that dumping is important, and that business rates are important, but, as is made clear in report after report—there is one from the aluminium industry in my office now—so are energy prices.

I do not think that I am making a massively controversial point. I am merely saying that in an industry that uses significant amounts of electricity, it is not a competitive advantage if our electricity costs more than other people’s. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that Chinese dumping is probably more significant, but we are talking about economics, and in economics everything happens at the margin. The stuff that I am talking about matters to our manufacturing industry. My central point is that if we are intending to have a march of the makers that involves a rebalancing of industry predicated on high electricity prices, it is going to be tough.

As I was saying before the hon. Gentleman’s interventions, the cross-European Paris INDC submission is about 50% less onerous than the requirements of our own Climate Change Act. When I first saw that statistic, I thought it odd. Why had we allowed this to happen? Given that we have a stringent, rigorous and, in many respects, very good process involving carbon budgets driving down emissions, and all that goes with that, why did we become involved, at a big world summit, in a European submission that was so feeble? Although the requirements of the European submission are so much lower than those of the UK, in terms of the Climate Change Act, it is not allocated by country, even now. I believe that that process will start this year, or perhaps next year.

My second point relates to the European emissions trading system itself. New clause 10 was deemed necessary because it was felt that the system was not acting as enough of a brake on carbon emissions. The European price of carbon—which is implicit within the system—is too low: it is about €5 a tonne, as opposed to the €23 a tonne or so that we are paying. In 2013, precisely that point was debated in the European Parliament. It was proposed, in an amendment, that the emissions trading system should be “re-baselined” in a way that would have made it meaningful. The amendment might have prevented the need for a carbon price floor in the UK, and created a carbon price that properly reflected where the market needs to be in order to drive actions. However, the European Parliament did not pass it, probably in response to the vested interests of big manufacturers in a number of big countries in Europe. I think that that was a pity.

As a consequence, here we are now, saying that the ETS is not fit for purpose, that the accounting that it implies—which was intended, in the Climate Change Act, to serve as a way of controlling generated power—does not work, and that therefore we are doing something different. However, the right answer is not to turn our back on the European system. I am a Conservative. I may be an “inner”, but only just. It is odd that those in the Opposition parties who are deeply committed to the European ideal should turn their backs on this European solution.

My third point is that there is no country-based reporting or control of emissions in Europe. Since 1990, Austria has increased its emissions by 13%, Ireland has increased its emissions by 7%, and Holland has kept its emissions static. During the same period, the United Kingdom has reduced its emissions by some 28%. If the European Union were serious about getting to grips with emissions, and getting to grips with individual countries that are tackling the problem, it would have addressed that fact.

My final point is that we are seeing dysfunctional member state behaviour. Germany and Holland are building brand-new coal-powered stations—lignite-burning stations. I believe that those countries not only do not engage in carbon capture and storage, but have made it illegal, which does not suggest that they understand the challenge that must be faced.

I have just been given a note saying that I should wrap up. Let me end by saying that, while there is no doubt that we all agree that climate change is a clear and present danger, we must bring the rest of the world with us, and by turning our back on arrangements such as the European emissions trading system and allowing the EU to put a submission to the Paris COP talks that is frankly feeble, we are doing the opposite. We will not solve the problem of global warming by fixing our 1.5% of total global emissions.

I want to speak about new clauses that relate to a number of aspects of the Bill, and to the position in which we find ourselves in relation to a low-carbon economy for the future.

New clause 7 is very similar to new clause 3, and concerns an issue about which I think both Opposition parties feel very strongly: the need to develop a systematic strategy for carbon capture and storage. We have heard several references to what the Conservative manifesto at the last general election did or did not say, but the Government mentioned CCS in that manifesto. They also mentioned the least-cost routes to decarbonisation. Clearly—this is certainly the advice of the Committee on Climate Change—they will have to think carefully about CCS when they respond on the fifth carbon budget this summer, because CCS, among other things, represents a substantial implementation of least-cost routes to decarbonisation in the long term. The shameful pulling of the two CCS pilot projects mentioned by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), in essence on the grounds of cost, represents a missed investment opportunity that could have reduced the cost of decarbonisation at a later date. That cost is an important element of our approach to a future CCS strategy. It is important to be clear that the cancellation of the projects does not and should not mean the end of CCS in this country.

We will have to bring about large-scale CCS sooner than many people believe, if we are to stay even remotely on course to meet our climate change targets in the longer term. That is especially true because CCS relates not only to energy production but to energy-intensive industries and other intensive carbon emitters. The effect of the cancellation of the CCS pilots will be that this country will have to start importing technology from the rest of the world instead of taking the lead in technology as we might have done if the pilots had gone ahead.

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. How likely does he think it will be that any private money will ever be forthcoming, given the somewhat irrational manner in which the funding for the projects has been abandoned in this country?

The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Indeed, a carbon capture strategy that sets out a longer-term route for our carbon capture and storage would play an important part in ensuring that investment for CCS was available. He also makes the point that the cancellation of those pilot projects has cast quite a pall over the future investability of carbon capture and storage projects, despite the fact that many such projects are now getting under way across the world.

It is important to reflect on how we will import the relevant technology under a new CCS strategy and how we might keep as much as possible of the rest of the supply chain and other CCS arrangements in the UK, particularly the substantial developments and intellectual property gained from the White Rose and Peterhead projects, which must be retained in the UK for use in future CCS developments. All of that should be part of a strategy, but we simply do not have one at the moment. Having a strategy in place would enable us at least to recover substantially from the immense setback caused by the cancellation of those pilot projects. The new clause calls for such a strategy to be articulated at an early stage and for us to be clear about exactly how and why we will keep CCS on track for the future.

We have heard about targets today, but new clause 8 does not set a new target. It relates to the undertakings in part 1 of the Energy Act 2013 relating to setting a target for the decarbonisation of the energy sector by 2030. Part 1 makes it clear that the Secretary of State has a duty to ensure that the carbon intensity of electricity generation in the United Kingdom is no greater than the maximum permitted level of the decarbonisation target range. There is a clear undertaking in the Act to set a decarbonisation target range and a requirement for the Secretary of State to take related actions.

As I have mentioned, that target already exists. It has done so since the Energy Act 2013 was passed. The outstanding issue at the time was not whether there should be a target but what the target range should be. Under the legislation, it is up to Ministers to clear up that matter through secondary legislation. It is not a particularly small matter: it is in the gift of Ministers to decide whether the target for decarbonisation is strong or not. During the passage of that legislation, it became clear that Members across the Committee envisaged the target being strong and in line with the aim that carbon reductions should make a proper contribution.

Unfortunately, during the passage of this Bill in another place, we heard about a letter to the Opposition from the Minister in the other place. In Committee, I quoted the Minister stating in that letter that

“a power was taken within the Energy Act 2013 which gives the Secretary of State the ability to set a ‘decarbonisation target range’ for the electricity sector, for a year ‘not before’ 2030. This allows a target to be set on the same date or after setting the Fifth Carbon Budget which must be set before end of June 2016 (measured in emissions intensity in grams of CO2 per kWh)…it is the intention of this Government not to exercise this power. This position is consistent with our manifesto pledge not to support additional distorting and expensive power sector targets.”––[Official Report, Energy Public Bill Committee, 4 February 2016; c. 206.]

Clause 8 does not propose an additional distorting target. It is a target that was included in the Energy Act 2013, and it is incumbent on the Government to take action on the decarbonisation target range through secondary legislation. It is extremely disappointing that the Minister in the other place indicated that the Government were not going to exercise this power. The new clause would require the Secretary of State to set a decarbonisation target and discharge section 1 of the Energy Act 2013. I am sure that, in the light of our discussions this afternoon, Members would agree that it is extremely important that such targets should be placed as waystations on our way to 2050. That is what the new clause seeks to achieve.

New clause 9 addresses an aspect of that decarbonised structure for energy in looking at the perverse results of the first two capacity auctions in not procuring any long-term new large generating plant; instead, almost the only long-term outcome was the procurement of diesel sets as generators. More than 1 GW of generators was procured, and they are more polluting than coal, which the Secretary of State has pledged to take off the system by 2025. The new clause adds to the 2013 Act’s requirements relating to fossil fuel-generating plant that is granted a 15-year capacity contract. That plant must adhere to certain conditions if the contract is to be granted. One of those conditions is the emissions performance standard. Section 57 of the Act contains a target or formula that, under subsequent secondary legislation, has led to a performance standard of 450 grams per kWh being established.

The new clause clearly does not seek to capture gas, because new plant for gas comes in at about 370 grams per kWh and is below the emissions performance standard. It refers to diesel coming into the provision of electricity, particularly in the context of what has happened in the two previous capacity auctions. Those diesel engines escaped the provisions of the 2013 Act because they were individually below the size at which plants were caught by the legislation. However, in terms of their individual emissions, they are among the dirtiest of the energy generation devices.

Diesel is exempt from present EPS levels because of the individual size of the reciprocating sets, and it has therefore cumulatively obtained a substantial proportion of long-term capacity payments coming into the system. Diesel sets have been able to get into the capacity auctions not because they are particularly cheap to run but because until recently they were already receiving a substantial underwriting from the Treasury through the enterprise investment scheme payments for the establishment of such plants. It appears that the payments were originally introduced to encourage the plants to be established for standby purposes, but they have of course been used for other purposes in the capacity auction. Although that route has been changed in the autumn statement, the most polluting generating plants have managed to get two lots of subsidies for generating and have got in through the capacity auction process as well. That is not only bad climate policy but bad public policy in general.

The question of diesel sets was discussed in Committee, and in a recent ministerial statement on changes to the capacity auctions, the Government undertook to look again at the matter. They suggested that this might happen through proposals to change the air quality regulations under the large plants directive, which might include diesel sets. However, they said that those changes might not occur until 2019 at the earliest, which would be too late for the next series of capacity auctions. The new clause seeks the most straightforward route to ensuring that diesel is not the perverse beneficiary of auctions as of now.

New clause 10 looks further forward, to the fifth carbon budget, but perhaps not quite so much further forward, in that we will have to decide on the fifth carbon budget by the summer. The new clause seeks to strengthen the Government’s intention to use their powers to ensure that we keep on track by outlawing the use of private trading sector credits at and after the fifth carbon budget. The hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) made some valuable points about that.

Hon. Members will recall that when the Bill arrived in the House from another place, clause 80 sought to simplify the accounting of the UK’s carbon budgets under the Climate Change Act 2008. That clause was removed during the passage of the Bill in Committee. This new clause seeks a slightly different route to the goal of more effective carbon accounting in the fifth carbon budget and beyond. It seeks to make the Government directly accountable for emissions in the sectors covered by the EU emission trading system when determining whether the UK is staying within its national carbon budgets. The EU ETS covers emissions in the electricity sector and heavy industry, and the carbon accounting regulations currently allow the Government to ignore emissions from those sectors when determining whether the carbon budgets have been met. For that reason, the UK’s carbon budgets, as currently designed, fail to provide a framework that offers investor confidence in the UK power sector. In particular, it provides no assurance that the Government will put in place the necessary measures to ensure that the power sector is largely decarbonised by 2030 despite the fact that the Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly indicated that the power sector must reduce emissions to below 100 grams per kWh by 2030 in order to maintain a cost-effective trajectory to our 2050 climate target.

If the accounting rules are changed, the Committee on Climate Change has indicated that it will provide new advice on the appropriate level for the fifth carbon budget, and the committee will for the first time be able to recommend a budget that reflects a cost-effective pathway for UK emissions across the economy. The new clause differs from the original clause 80 in a key respect: while clause 80 prevents any carbon units in the EU ETS from affecting the UK carbon account, the new clause specifically prevents the carbon trading behaviour of private firms from affecting the national accounts, which is what allows the Government to ignore emissions from the ETS sectors. Under the new clause, the Government would retain the option of purchasing and cancelling ETS carbon allowances to offset UK emissions at state level, an environmentally preferable form of carbon-offsetting compared with the many types of international offset credits available to the Government. If exercised, the offsetting option would also strengthen the EU ETS.

Finally, amendment 47 reminds us of the first part of the Bill and the wide consensus for change regarding North sea oil. It seeks to give the Oil and Gas Authority new powers and oversight to ensure that decommissioning is used to best advantage in the North sea. Decommissioning should not operate in the short-term interests of those involved in it but in the longer-term interests of the co-operative use of infrastructure, which hon. Members have touched on, and for the benefit of not only the production of future, more marginal fields over the next period, but the future possible use of the North sea as one of the world’s finest repositories when carbon capture and storage gets under way. The amendment would add an important tool to the Oil and Gas Authority’s arsenal and I hope that the Minister will accept it.

I rise to speak to new clause 11, which was tabled in my name, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) and those of Members from five other parties across the House. I thank the hon. Members for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron), for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), for Belfast South (Dr McDonnell) and for Arfon (Hywel Williams) for their support. I also thank my Front-Bench team and Baroness Worthington in the other place for her support and advice.

The new clause would insert the commitment to zero emissions in the Paris climate change agreement into our domestic law, with the Committee on Climate Change advising on when it should be achieved. It is the right thing to do and the science is clear: the world needs to get to zero emissions early in the second half of this century, and it is worth reminding the House of the debate’s context.

We know from recent scientific analysis that 2015 was the hottest year on record. The record for global temperatures has been broken in each of the past five months, with February’s record broken in shocking fashion. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are now higher—this is hard to get your head around—than they have been for at least a million years. That is what the scientists tell us and it highlights the necessary urgency, which is shared by Members on both sides of the House.

My proposal makes economic, moral and political sense. It makes economic sense because we have to get to zero emissions eventually. It will be tough, so we need to start planning now. We are already aware of some of the tools we will need, but not all of them. We need clean energy supplies, a revolution in the household sector and reforestation. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), who speaks for the SNP, said, we need carbon capture and storage to trap emissions. We will also need other technologies that are in the early stages of development. Crucially, we need to start the work now so that we can get to zero emissions at least cost. The economic case is proven by the support from the business community, and I thank Aviva, GSK, Unilever, Kingspan, Kingfisher and the broader “We Mean Business” coalition for their backing. The proposal also makes moral sense. Achieving zero emissions is necessary, so it would be irresponsible to pretend otherwise. Future generations will look badly on a generation that stuck its head in the sand and refused to plan ahead.

My proposal makes political sense. Those of us across the House who care about such issues were pleased with the Paris agreement, but the danger is that we could lose momentum or go backwards, and there are some early straws in the wind suggesting that might happen. We need to build on the momentum, not squander it. The hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) is right that we need to close the gap between the Paris ambition to keep global warming to no more than 1.5° C and the reality of the current pledges, which are off track. We can make a difference. We may contribute only 1.5% of global emissions, but look at the experience of the Climate Change Act 2008—the hon. Gentleman and I have discussed this matter outside the House—which was passed with the support of all parties. It pushed others to follow us—perhaps not as much as we would have wanted, but others did follow.

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South is right about getting things right in the short term, but the long term affects the short term. The 80% target that we put into law in 2008 shapes the current discussions and holds Governments of all parties to account and the same would be true if we put zero emissions into law. Since we know that that will have to be the backstop, we might as well get on with it.

I have enormous respect for the right hon. Gentleman. I applaud his positive steps and everything that happened in the 2008 Act, but we must be economically realistic. I wonder whether this is the right time and whether it might be better to ask the Committee on Climate Change to have a closer look at the proposal. After all, we are in the process of agreeing the first carbon budget, so perhaps all the energy should be put into that.

I agree with the end of the hon. Lady’s point. My proposal is deliberately pragmatic. It would put zero emissions into law, but the date would be decided by Government on the basis of advice from the Committee on Climate Change. That is right and it would be the lowest-cost way of proceeding. We need the experts’ advice. After all, they were appointed with cross-party support.

I am delighted to say that since I made this proposal three months ago I have had constructive discussions with the Government. I will not try to predict the reaction of the Minister of State, but I want to record my thanks to her, the Secretary of State, and the Minister for the Cabinet Office for their willingness to engage. I hope that we can move the idea forward in the months ahead and demonstrate once again the cross-party commitment to tackling climate change that is shared by the vast majority of hon. Members. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

New clauses 5 and 6 stand in my name, but they are covered by other new clauses, so I do not intend to press either of them to a vote; the other new clauses lead in broadly the same direction.

First, let me deal with carbon capture and storage. When I intervened on the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), the term I used in relation to the Government’s decision to pull the funding from the project was “irrational”. I hope I was not unkind to the Government in saying that, but if it was not irrational it must have been ideological. In any event, it certainly did not make any sense. A competition was running and the point at which they withdrew the funding was significant. Had they allowed the competition to run a little longer, it might have reached the conclusion that there would be no more money to be spent—who knows? We will never know now. The decision was irrational, because of the impact it will have on getting our own CCS sector up and running in this country. As he said, the work on this is being done elsewhere and inevitably we will end up playing catch up and importing expertise that could have been generated here. Who will ever suggest that a shareholder put money into CCS in this country? This is the ultimate failure of evidence-based policy. Notwithstanding the provisions on the amendment paper tonight, I now wonder whether it is worth calling for any more rethinks, because even if we got new Government commitment, who on earth is going to believe it, given events thus far?

The hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) made the point that there is a synergy between CCS and the issues relating to decommissioning in the North sea. For some years, the technology used in CCS has been routinely and effectively used in the North sea in enhanced oil recovery; gas has been used to extract more oil from other parts of the existing substantial infrastructure network. It gladdens my heart that the Oil and Gas Authority goes from strength to strength, as I have followed the project closely from its inception, from the work of the Wood commission and through the creation of the shadow authority. To get the maximum benefit, it will be necessary for the OGA to get on, use the powers that we have already given it and those we give it in this Bill, and come forward with the strategy that will make these things happen.

Of course, for there to be a strategy there will first have to be survival, and the very real danger at the moment is that the age of the assets in the North sea, especially those in the north North sea, will mean that the critical mass may tip over and there is then a rush to decommissioning. Not only could any such rush be bad for the economy of the north-east of Scotland, and the Northern Isles in particular, but it would be tragic if it meant that the infrastructure was removed and the opportunities to develop CCS at some future date were therefore then lost.

I made the point about a large part of the tax liability for decommissioning falling on the Treasury. If there is the rush to decommissioning that the right hon. Gentleman describes, the Chancellor will find it more difficult to meet his fiscal target, as he will have to hand out the cash. Does the right hon. Gentleman therefore agree that there needs to be proper support from Government to delay that?

There absolutely has to be that support. We have seen the tax intake from the North sea fall off a cliff. I cannot recall the exact figures, but I seem to recall that about £20 billion is set aside to deal with this rush to decommissioning, if it occurs. That is a future liability at the moment, but if the liability were to appear on the left of the sheet, the Treasury would be dealing with a double-whammy; it would not only be losing the income, but it would suddenly be liable for expenditure at an earlier stage. The real significant event in that regard will take place not tonight but on Wednesday, when the Chancellor comes forward with his Budget. The Minister and the Secretary of State will doubtless have heard the measured and well-thought-out requests from Oil & Gas UK, and I trust that even at this stage they will be using all their influence in government to ensure that as many of these requests as possible are delivered when the Chancellor stands up.

The right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) spoke to his new clause 11, and he has been absolutely right in how he has brought it forward. It is measured and it future-proofs the commitments. Given the substantial commitment the Secretary of State showed in relation to the Paris negotiations, it would be a suitable way for this House to give that commitment some legislative heft.

I wish to speak mainly to new clause 12, which stands in my name and deals with the need for a strategy for a just transition from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy. I also wish to highlight a few of the other proposals in this group that I support.

First, I wish to speak in favour of new clause 11, tabled by the former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), and to thank him for the constructive work he has been doing on promoting zero emissions. The new clause would put one crucial part of the Paris climate agreement into UK law. The somewhat convoluted text of that historic agreement makes it clear that globally we must reach net zero emissions in the second half of this century. Many argued that this long-term goal should have been stronger, including by making explicit reference to phasing out fossil fuels. None the less, it seems immensely reasonable for the UK Government to set a date for zero emissions, on advice from the Committee on Climate Change. It seems like a win-win, both economically and environmentally, to have that date set, so that we can have a clear direction of travel and clarity for investors. I am reassured to hear that the right hon. Gentleman has had constructive conversations with the Government and I look forward to hearing their response.

I also support new clause 10, which deals with carbon accounting and the ETS, as it would mean the UK taking responsibility for making our own carbon emission cuts and is another immensely reasonable proposal. The need for such a change is underlined by the recent incredible claims that a new dash for gas would be compatible with our climate obligations. The UK’s renewable energy potential is vast. The costs of solar and wind power are falling, and the need to leave the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground gets more mainstream by the week. There is no longer a case for using the EU ETS as an excuse for not meeting our own carbon budgets by cutting our own emissions here in the UK. The global carbon budget is rapidly shrinking and there is simply no room for free riders. The UK should be leading the race to a zero-carbon economy, not weaselling out of making a fair contribution, which is why new clause 10 is so important.

My new clause 12 deals with a just transition, which is another aspect of the Paris climate agreement that should become a central tenet of the UK’s climate and energy policy. A just transition is about the essential steps a country needs to take to transform into a zero-carbon economy in a way that creates new jobs and supports and engages workers and communities currently reliant on high-carbon sectors.

Does the hon. Lady think the German strategy, Energiewende, offers a way forward for the UK? It is about that transition from fossil fuels to renewables, with specific targets.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I agree with what he says, as that strategy does point to a helpful direction of travel.

As we would expect, trade unions are at the forefront of campaigning for a just transition, in the UK, the EU and globally. During the Paris climate talks, the unions made an incredibly powerful case for stronger ambition and faster action to cut emissions, and for making this transition away from fossil fuels. Central to that is the huge opportunity for job creation in new low-carbon industries. I spoke a moment ago about win-win situations, but I should have said win-win-win, as we have the jobs, the economy and the environment and energy advantages of having a clear direction of travel for this transition.

The European Trade Union Confederation, which represents 90 trade unions from 39 countries, was very vocal on this issue. As it explained, a just transition means achieving ambitious climate action in a way that benefits the whole of society and does not simply pile the costs on the least privileged. It defines key elements of a just transition, some of which are incorporated in my amendment. For example, participation is included, as consistent and strong worker participation is essential so that change can be managed in a socially acceptable way. Secondly, on jobs, Sharan Burrow, the head of the International Trade Confederation, argues that there are no jobs on a dead planet. This is about not whether we embark on a transition, but a proactive approach to ensure that that transition happens in a way that protects, maintains and creates decent jobs and wages.

Thirdly, the ETUC looks at what this means in practice, which is essentially a Government-led active education, training and skills policy and a social safety net through active labour market policies, strong social protection and support measures. There is no lack of clarity on what a just transition might look like. At the minute, the political commitment and an inclusive plan of action are sadly lacking. During the Paris climate talks, Unison’s national officer for energy said:

“Thanks to the efforts of trade unions…the EU is committed to supporting the principle of Just Transition, but this commitment needs to be delivered in a meaningful way otherwise it is just words on paper.”

The same is urgently needed in the UK, although here we also need a first step, which is the commitment to the principle of just transition as well. I hope that, as what I have described here is fairly straightforward, the Government will at least support that part of my amendment.

New clause 12 also requires the Secretary of State to be clearer about the proportion of existing UK fossil fuel reserves that should remain unexploited. The Energy Minister answered a parliamentary question a few months ago in a very helpful way, repeating the fact that the International Energy Agency has suggested that around a third of global fossil fuel reserves are burnable under a 2° scenario. That means that two thirds are unburnable, and that is for a 2° scenario and not a 1.5° one. It is also a 2012 statistic. I would be really grateful if the Department gave us an up-to-date figure, both globally and for the UK, so that we have a bit more clarity on the matter.

Major new research from University College London found that, globally, 82% of fossil fuel reserves must be left underground. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, warned recently that the vast majority of fossil fuels are essentially unburnable.

The Government, as we know, have signed up to the Paris agreement, which goes even further, especially with the 1.5° goal. As delegates in Paris heard, that is essentially the balance between life and death for many citizens in poorer countries that are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, on unburnable fossil fuels, we need an up-to-date, clear number to aim for and concrete policies to get us there.

New clause 12 also requires the Government to redirect fossil fuel subsidies to low carbon alternatives. Ministers rather stubbornly stick to their own special definition of what a subsidy is—it seems to have a particular meaning only in energy circles, but that meaning allows them to claim that they do not have any subsidies. By any other definition—for example, that of the World Trade Organisation or the OECD—this is clearly nonsense. A study by the Overseas Development Institute revealed that the Government give the fossil fuels industry nearly £6 billion a year in subsidies, mainly through tax breaks. That is almost twice the financial support they provide to renewable energy providers, which urgently needs to change. The barriers to 100% renewable energy are not about technology or even about money, but about political will and vested interests. Those who argue against 100% renewable energy seem to think that perhaps they are the only people who are clever enough to know that the wind does not always blow or that the sun does not always shine, but they are not, and they need to get up to speed with 21st century innovation and technology. For example, why is the UK doing so little on things such as energy storage, energy efficiency and demand-side response? Those are practical, affordable and modern ways of meeting peak demand, rather than the backward thinking that simply says build more power stations.

During the Paris climate talks, a group consisting of 43 companies committing to get all power from renewable sources issued what it called “An entrepreneurs call to climate action”. That was a joint statement from 119 chief executive officers with international operations calling for 100% renewables by 2050, keeping 1.5° in reach, and an urgent end to fossil fuel subsidies. Those are the voices to which the Government need to listen. They should also be listening to leading academics. For example, last year, Stanford University laid out a road map for 139 countries to power their economies with solar, wind and hydro energy by 2050. It said that the world can reach 80% wind, water and sunlight by 2030 and 100% by 2050, with no negative impact on economic growth.

Here in the UK, a report last September from consultancy Demand Energy Equality detailed how the UK can get 80% of energy from renewables by 2030. Even if that were not the case, the sensible course of action is not to turn our backs on a goal of 100% renewables, but to invest in the research and development to ensure that we can get there. This is about fairness and justice as well as about jobs and creating a modern, resilient and successful British economy.

During the Paris climate talks, the Climate Vulnerable Forum issued the strongest call to date for full decarbonisation of the world economy, 100% renewable energy by 2050 and zero emissions by mid-century to keep the world on track for under 1.5° of warming. That group, which represents some 200 million people and which has contributed less than 2° of global emissions would suffer around 50% of climate impacts. This Energy Bill should be heeding that call for 100% renewables and putting in place policies to lead the way in getting there.

In conclusion, those are the reasons I have tabled new clause 12 on just transition. The Government urgently need to recognise the imperative of leaving the vast majority of fossil fuel reserves in the ground and to stop squandering taxpayers’ money in a suicidal search for new sources of oil and gas that we simply cannot afford to burn. In doing so, there is a huge opportunity to embrace the employment potential of renewables and energy efficiency, and to collaborate with workers, trade unions, industry and others to build a just transition to a secure sustainable economy for workers of today and the future.

I rise specifically in support of new clause 7 relating to carbon capture and storage, both as chair of the APPGs on CCS and energy intensive industries and as a Teesside MP who sees it as a major generator of jobs and potential saviour of many of the country’s manufacturing plants.

The absence of CCS policy in the UK is a major concern, it being a critical technology for reducing emissions from steel, cement and other industrial processes, as well as power stations. In the past 72 hours, another steel company at Stillington in my constituency has decided that it will close its doors in May with the loss of 40 jobs, so it is critical that we start making the right decisions now.

The Chancellor’s decision to axe the funding to develop the two power station projects on Humberside and at Peterhead was a major blow not just to those two projects but to the entire industry and also very specifically to Teesside, where the country’s first industrial CCS project is still being planned by the Teesside Collective.

When the Energy Minister attended a packed meeting of the CCS all-party group just over a month ago, she claimed that the economics did not add up, despite the fact that the final business cases were yet to be submitted. She said that an updated policy would be developed by the autumn, but then went on to suggest that we learn from other countries as they develop their CCS industries. Well, that is not good enough. Britain has tremendous capability in this area, and could be leading where the Minister says that we should follow. I am also worried that the Chancellor does not even understand what CCS is—a worry made all the worse when I asked him a question at Treasury questions a few weeks ago. I asked him what funding would be available for CCS projects once the Department of Energy and Climate Change comes up with its new policy in the autumn. He answered:

“We have set out our capital budget and our energy policy, which will see a doubling of the investment in renewable energy over the next five years.”—[Official Report, 19 January 2016; Vol. 604, c. 1269.]

There was no capital for CCS projects there. The Chancellor talked not of CCS but of renewable energy. I would like to think that he was just dodging my question, but I am not too sure that he understood it or the need for him to send a signal to industry that he was personally committed to making CCS a reality in our country.

New clause 7 provides the Government with a new opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to CCS and to develop a real strategy with a real intention to make the UK a leader in the field.

CCS is vital, because it gives a means by which steel—and other existing energy intensive industries—manufactures the very foundation product that then goes into wind turbines and other mechanisms that we need for renewables. This is absolutely and fundamentally dependent on carbon-intensive technologies, such as virgin steel capacity and oxygen burning intensive processes. If we want a renewable strategy, whether 42% or higher, we need to have steelworks that burn in the traditional sense.

My hon. Friend and near neighbour makes the point clear.

Being a leader is critical to our energy-intensive and other industries if we are to overcome the competition threat from across the world. It is no use hanging back when other nations look like stealing a march on us. I have mentioned the Teesside Collective project to develop an industrial CCS project on Teesside, home to some of the country’s most energy-intensive industries. I invite the Minister and the Chancellor to the next meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on 23 March to learn about those ambitious plans. I know the Chancellor will be busy until the night before, but I guarantee that the APPG will be much more focused on the needs of industrial Britain than will his Budget.

The Government have made clear their intention to build a new series of gas-fired power stations and nowhere is better placed than Teesside to build one. Not only does a site exist there, but so does the infrastructure to put the electricity out directly into the national grid. Developers Sembcorp believe it could house a conventional combined cycle gas turbine plant or an integrated gasification combined cycle plant, both of which could incorporate carbon capture. Although Sembcorp could develop its own power station, a potential partner is looking to install a 300 MW gas-fired power plant on the plot.

I know that some may have reservations about the use of fossil fuels, but what an opportunity for the Government to put some meaning into the much abused term “northern powerhouse”—a large-scale power plant, an opportunity to develop it with CCS, but with the immeasurable bonus of doing it with the Teesside Collective and developing an exciting project that could mean boom time for Teesside, with the kind of inward investment that only people in the south believe can be a reality.

I appreciate my hon. Friend’s generosity. He is right. At a time when Teesside has seen so many job losses in the past few weeks, carbon capture and storage could provide a huge opportunity for people there. Does he agree that in order to enable a transition to a low-carbon economy, we need to ensure that such jobs go to local people, and that nationally agreed terms and conditions are not undercut by recruitment from overseas?

Indeed. I know that local trade unions have been campaigning on this. There are examples on Teesside of companies undercutting what is, in effect, a living wage for the skilled people on Teesside.

I know that projects such as a power station are always fraught with planning complications, but I hope that when the time comes the doors of Ministers in both the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Communities and Local Government will be open to ensure a quick decision on the planning application.

It is difficult to see how some of our industries, many of them critical to our economy, can remain located in the UK without CCS if our long-term national carbon reduction commitments are to be met. The Government appear to have no strategy for CCS development, let alone a means of funding it.

New clause 7 could compel Government to fill this huge hole in their energy policy platform. It does everything that any self-respecting Government would want to do, but, more than that, it could send that much wanted signal to the sector that Ministers are serious about carbon capture and storage, understand it and are prepared to deliver, and our country could benefit from potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs if they got it right.

I shall speak briefly in support of new clause 11, to which I am delighted to have added my name, and I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) for the amendment, the consensual way in which he has built the discourse around it, and the work that he did as the country’s first Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Climate change is an issue on which all of us have been lobbied by many groups. Most strikingly for me, I was lobbied last year by a group of students from Notre Dame school, a secondary school on the edge of my constituency, who came to Westminster to make the point that their generation was conscious of the consequences they would face if our generation failed to act. It is an incredibly powerful point, but our responsibility goes beyond the immediate generation.

A report published only last month in the journal Nature Climate Change pointed out that much of the discourse has been focused on the consequences of failing to act by the end of this century. Looking beyond that, the problems are even more serious. According to one of authors,

“We are making choices that will affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren and beyond.”

He continued:

“We need to think carefully about the long timescales of what we are unleashing.”

That was Professor Daniel Schrag from Harvard University.

The need to act, and to act more ambitiously, has never been clearer. The agreement of the Paris summit is a step forward, but as last month’s report highlighted, even if global warming is capped at Governments’ target of 2 oC, which is already seen as difficult, 20% of the world’s population will eventually have to migrate away from coasts swamped by rising oceans. Cities including New York, London, Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Calcutta, Jakarta and Shanghai would all be submerged. We have seen the struggle to grapple with the refugee crisis that has grown over the last couple of years, a crisis driven by war in one country and a number of other related conflicts. Imagine for a moment what we will face if 20% of the world’s population is forced to do what people have always done when their homes become uninhabitable—to move to somewhere better.

So we need greater ambition and a greater sense of urgency. That is provided by new clause 11. In the words of Professor Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern, one of the other authors of the report:

“The actions of the next 30 years are absolutely crucial for putting us on a path that avoids”

the worst outcomes

“and ensuring, at least in the next 200 years, the impacts are limited and give us time to adapt.”

The reservations that the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) expressed in his comments on the new clause are taken into account in the careful and thoughtful way that the clause has been drafted and the role that it provides for the Committee on Climate Change. What we need is the ambition embodied in the clause. As my right hon. Friend said, we did it with the Climate Change Act 2008, passed with all-party support, which sent a signal to the world. We can do that again; we cannot afford not to. The future is bleak if we do not cut our emissions further than Paris suggested.

The role that the new clause proposes for the Committee on Climate Change is important for the robustness of that ambition and its workability. I am pleased to hear the constructive engagement that there has been between my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State. I hope that in her comments later we will hear that together we can move forward on the issue.

Government amendments 48 and 49 add the relevant provisions of the Oil Taxation Act 1975 and the Corporation Tax Act 2010 to the legislation listed at clause 2(6), which contains the Secretary of State’s relevant oil and gas functions. This ensures that the functions provided for by these Acts fall within the definition of “relevant functions” and can be transferred from the Secretary of State to the Oil and Gas Authority by regulations made under clause 2(2).

Schedule 1 to the Oil Taxation Act 1975 and chapter 9 of part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 contain the important oil and gas functions of determining oil fields and cluster areas, respectively. These functions form the basis of oil taxation. Petroleum revenue tax is applied by determined field, and allowances are given by cluster area to reduce the amount of profits to which the supplementary charge is applied. Both of these are functions currently undertaken by the Oil and Gas Authority in its capacity as an Executive agency, and are fundamental to our tax regime and to incentivising investment. These amendments are technical in nature and simply seek to put it beyond doubt that these key functions can be transferred to the OGA once it becomes a Government company, as we have always intended.

Let me briefly explain Government amendment 51, to the long title. The amendment is consequential on the removal from the Bill in Committee of the clause on carbon accounting under the Climate Change Act 2008, which was introduced in the other place. It ensures that the Bill is compliant with the parliamentary convention that Bills should move between the Houses in a proper state.

New clause 3 was tabled by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), and new clause 7 was tabled by the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and others. I should add that the hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) has been a long-standing advocate of CCS, which he and I have discussed on a number of occasions, so I hope he will acknowledge that I have studied the subject.

I am pleased to acknowledge the work the Minister has done, but the important thing is that we convince the Chancellor to fund CCS at some time in the future. How optimistic is she that we will be able to do that?

The new clauses seek to place a duty on the Secretary of State to produce and implement a CCS strategy by June 2017 and to report to Parliament on progress every three years. They also set out that the strategy must help to deliver the emissions reductions needed to meet the fifth and subsequent carbon budgets.

As I emphasised in Committee, the Government’s view remains that CCS has a potentially important role to play in the long-term decarbonisation of the UK’s industrial and power sectors, the long-term competitiveness of energy-intensive industries and the longevity of North sea industries. However, CCS costs are currently high, which is why we remain committed to working with industry to bring forward innovative ideas for reducing the costs of this potentially important technology.

I thank the Minister for her commitment to carbon capture and storage. However, in terms of our commitment on climate change, we have seen the increased construction and usage of coal-fired power stations around the world, and it has also been well noted in the House that the removal of the CCS competition was a missed opportunity. In Scotland, we still have the Grangemouth CCS project, involving a facility fitted with CCS technology that would cut 90% of emissions. Does the Minister agree that the CCS advisory group should look at that, as an opportunity to get us back on track?

What I can say is that the Government have invested more than £220 million in CCS since 2011. This financial year alone, we have invested £6 million, including £1.7 million in October 2015, to support three innovative CCS technologies—from Carbon Clean Solutions, C-Capture Ltd and FET Engineering—and £2.5 million to investigate potential new CO2 stores. We have also invested £60 million of our international climate fund to support CCS capacity building and action internationally. The hon. Member for Stockton North will be aware that DECC provided £1 million in 2014 for a feasibility study into industrial CCS on Teesside, as part of the city deal.

As I said, CCS prices are currently high, so we are committed to working with industry on bringing forward innovative ideas to reduce costs. A key part of that is our continuing investment in CCS through innovation support, international partnerships and industrial research projects.

I recognise that industry and others are keen for the Government to set out our approach to CCS as soon as possible. As I emphasised in Committee, we will do that by the end of 2016. In doing so, we will continue to engage closely with industry, the all-party group on carbon capture and storage, the CCS strategy group and Lord Oxburgh’s CCS advisory group, which is planning to deliver its findings and recommendations to the Government by the summer.

I hope I have reassured hon. Members that the new clauses are unnecessary. I therefore hope they will be content not to press them.

Before the Minister moves on, will she hazard a comment on the proposed project on Teesside, which would see a 300 MW power station built on the Wilton site and wrapped up with CCS?

As I have said to the hon. Gentleman, I continue to engage with him and others, and Lord Oxburgh’s CCS advisory group will publish its findings. We will be looking at individual projects, but as the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will know, CCS costs are currently extremely high, so I absolutely cannot make any commitments on particular projects right now.

New clauses 6 and 10, tabled by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), the hon. Member for Wigan and others, are intended to restrict the carbon accounting rules that are allowed under the Climate Change Act from 2028—from the fifth carbon budget period. Under the current rules, we count the UK’s actual emissions for some sectors; for other sectors, we reflect how the EU emissions trading system works.

The new clauses would prevent us from continuing with that approach beyond the fourth carbon budget. Instead, the intention is presumably that the UK’s actual emissions for all sectors would be counted, but without the ability to offset any of those through a system of carbon accounting. As I have said previously, we would still participate in the EU emissions trading system even with that change, and the effect of the new clauses would simply be that we would not reflect how the EU emissions trading system works in our carbon budgets.

Of course, there are arguments for and against different accounting methods, and the issue requires careful consideration of several different factors, including the impact on consumers, businesses and industry, and on our ability to meet our domestic, EU and international commitments in the cheapest way. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) clearly set out some of the challenges for energy-intensive industries in that respect.

It is absolutely right that we keep under review our carbon accounting practices, but now is not the right time to make the proposed changes, because we are focused on setting the fifth carbon budget. We have to do that by 30 June, as required by the Climate Change Act, and that is less than four months away. Accepting new clause 6 or 10 at this point in the process would threaten serious delay in setting the fifth carbon budget. That cannot be right, and it cannot be what hon. Members intended. I just cannot accept putting us at risk of not complying with our legal commitment under the Climate Change Act. I therefore hope hon. Members will be prepared not to press the new clauses.

New clause 11, tabled by the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), would set a new climate change target for the UK. Specifically, it would require the Government to set a year by which net emissions will be zero or less, and to ensure that that target was met for that year and subsequent ones. The year would have to be set within 12 months of the Bill coming into force and following advice from the Committee on Climate Change.

I sincerely thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue and for his statements to the House on the matter over a long period. I know the House was delighted with the Paris agreement, which included a goal for global net zero emissions by the end of this century. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State played a crucial role in securing support for that goal in Paris, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support in securing such an ambitious deal. I am grateful for his past and continued commitment to the important subject of climate change.

The Government believe we will need to take the step of enshrining the Paris goal of net zero emissions in UK law—the question is not whether, but how we do it, and there is an important set of questions to be answered before we do. The Committee on Climate Change is looking at the implications of the commitments made in Paris and has said it will report in the autumn. We will want to consider carefully its recommendations, and I am happy to give the right hon. Gentleman the undertaking that we will also discuss with him and others across the House how best to approach this matter, once we have undertaken that consideration.

This is an example, once again, of the House demonstrating on a cross-party basis a determination to tackle climate change, as we showed in the Climate Change Act. The Government are determined to build on the momentum of Paris, and our positive response to the right hon. Gentleman today is a clear example of that. On that basis, I hope he will not press his new clause to a Division.

Next I will respond to new clause 12, tabled by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). This would require the Secretary of State to develop and publish a national strategy for the energy sector towards 100% renewable energy by 2050, under the framework of a so-called just transition. I want to start by recognising the areas where I hope the hon. Lady and I can agree. She is a passionate advocate for action to tackle climate change, to which this Government are firmly committed. Our domestic Climate Change Act is world leading, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State played a critical role last year in securing a strong global deal in Paris. We can also agree on the important role for renewables in helping to reduce emissions. In particular, I welcome the progress we have seen so far in driving down the cost of renewables technologies such as offshore wind and solar.

While I hope that we can indeed agree on those points, we do have different views on the best way to go about reducing emissions. There are three reasons why I cannot accept the hon. Lady’s new clause. First, it goes against the principle of technology neutrality, which ensures that we can cut emissions at the lowest cost to consumers. Secondly, we already engage very widely on our approach to decarbonisation. Thirdly, the new clause overlaps significantly with the existing legislative requirement for us to publish policies and proposals for tackling climate change. We are committed to ensuring that the UK continues to do its part to tackle climate change, but we want to cut emissions as cheaply as possible and to drive down costs for families and for businesses.

Will the hon. Lady elaborate a little more on her point about technology neutrality? All I am talking about is renewables, energy efficiency, storage and so forth. If she knows of some wonderful new technology that can get our emissions down more quickly and more cheaply, I would love to hear about it.

As the hon. Lady well knows, one transitional approach to decarbonisation is to move away from coal and towards gas as a bridge to a low-carbon future. She will also be very aware that new nuclear offers a low-carbon technology for the future, and this Government are committed to supporting that.

I appreciate the intent behind much of the hon. Lady’s new clause, but I hope that she can see why I cannot accept its specifics and that she will be content to withdraw it.

I turn now to new clause 8, tabled by the hon. Member for Wigan and others. This would require the Secretary of State to set a decarbonisation target range for the electricity generating sector. We debated very similar amendments in the previous Parliament, and during the passage of this Bill in the other place and in earlier Commons stages. The Government have made our position on this matter very clear. We are committed to ensuring that the UK continues to play its part to tackle climate change, in line with the Climate Change Act and our international and EU obligations. However, we want to do this as cost-effectively as possible in order to keep costs down for families and businesses while delivering on legally binding commitments. We cannot do that by locking ourselves into additional expensive and inflexible targets relating to the power sector. There are too many things we cannot predict about how the energy system will develop over the next 15 years and beyond. The costs of getting this wrong now would be picked up by families and businesses for decades to come.

I find it strange that Opposition parties often argue that we are not doing enough to tackle fuel poverty, and yet they are urging us to sign consumers up to a distorting and expensive power sector target. Investors want to know that we have clear, credible and affordable plans. The Government are now setting out the next stages in their long-term commitment to move to a low-carbon economy, providing a basis for electricity investment into the next decade. The huge investment we have seen so far is evidence that our approach is working. Between 2010 and 2014, our policies have secured an estimated £42 billion of investment in low-carbon electricity, including £40 billion in renewables, and we have more in the pipeline for the future. I therefore cannot accept this new clause, and I ask hon. Members to withdraw it.

I would now like to deal with new clause 9, tabled by the hon. Member for Wigan and others. This seeks to introduce additional capacity market eligibility criteria requiring any new-build capacity accessing 15-year capacity agreements to be made subject to the emissions performance standard, or EPS. As I have explained previously, the new clause does not achieve its intended aim, so I am surprised to see it reappear. The EPS sets an annual limit specifically on CO2 emissions from new fossil fuel plant with an output above 50 MW. Any new fossil fuel generators above 50 MW seeking to participate in the capacity market will already be subject to this limit, so nothing would be gained by introducing this as a further eligibility requirement in the capacity market. Existing generators, which form the majority of capacity market participants, cannot access 15-year agreements, so the new clause would also have no impact on those generators.

As I have set out before, the emissions impact from smaller generators that sit below the 50 MW threshold is often assumed to be larger than it is in reality. Small “peaking” generators have a relatively small impact on overall CO2 emissions due to the short hours that they run. These generators typically run for less than 100 hours a year, in the case of diesel engines, while larger fossil fuel plants will run for 2,000 hours or more. The new clause is therefore not effective, for the simple reason that the annual EPS CO2 emissions limit would be very unlikely to have any impact on small generators participating in the capacity market.

Is not the proposal that the Minister herself is putting forward for the future inclusion of small diesel sets in air quality standards subject to exactly the same problem, in that smaller diesel set generators are brought into a scheme that was originally proposed for larger generators, thereby including them in the system? That is exactly what the new clause proposes through smaller diesel sets coming into an emissions performance standard that otherwise would apply to larger plants.

As I have explained to the hon. Gentleman, his new clause would not actually have that effect.

However, I am not complacent about concerns associated with local pollutants from small generators. I am very aware of the concern about diesel, in particular. Later this year, the Department will consult on options that will include legislation that would set binding emissions limit values on relevant air pollutants from smaller engines, with a view to having legislation in force no later than January 2019, and possibly sooner. These limits would apply to generators or groups of generators with a rated thermal input equal to or greater than 1 MW and less than 50 MW, irrespective of their number of hours of operation during any given year. This shows that the Government are taking appropriate action to avoid any disproportionate impact on air quality from smaller engines where those could contribute to harmful levels of air pollutants and the exceeding of existing air quality limit values. These limits, along with other proposals we have recently announced, send a clear message about the viability of developing and running diesel generators in future. I hope that hon. Members have found my explanation reassuring and will be content to withdraw their new clause.

I turn now to new clause 5, tabled by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael). This seeks to reinsert the clause added by the Opposition in the other place, once again rewriting the Oil and Gas Authority’s principal objective of maximising economic recovery of UK petroleum. This topic has been debated at length throughout the passage of the Bill. The Government successfully removed the previous iteration of this clause in Committee, with the support of Scottish National party Members. Importantly, I note that it was agreed across the room, including by Opposition Front Benchers, that diluting the focus of the OGA in such a way was undesirable. In light of this, I am surprised and rather disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has tabled this new clause, not least because of the serious implications it has for jobs and growth in Scotland. As I have said many times, any amendment that detracts from the OGA’s focus on maximising economic recovery is damaging to the North sea. Such a move is unacceptable, particularly at a time of unprecedented challenge for the oil and gas industry.

I am as disappointed with the Minister as she claims to be with me. To suggest that the OGA, which is an exceptionally effective public body, is incapable of doing more than one thing is rather insulting to the body that we worked so hard to set up.

The right hon. Gentleman misses the point. The OGA is going to have an enormous brief. The point about its principal objective being to maximise the economic recovery is that that would focus its efforts on the long-term sustainability of the North sea and not what the other House tried to put in place, which is related to short-termism and trying to maximise profitability and so on. That would be counter to the interests of jobs and growth in his constituency and others. Removing the OGA’s focus on that principal objective seriously risks weakening its ability to provide support to an industry that is urgently in need of it, and the potential knock-on effect would be significant. Doing so would risk the premature decommissioning of key North sea infrastructure and would seriously jeopardise vital skills and experience, including those that could help to promote the longevity of the industry through carbon storage projects. From that perspective, the amendment is self-defeating. Furthermore, the “Maximising the Economic Recovery” UK strategy has now been published and is currently before Parliament. The amendment would undo the significant amount of work that has been undertaken with industry and would require the OGA to revise its MER UK strategy to take into account the expansion in the principal objective.

As the hon. Member for Aberdeen South has mentioned on several occasions, it is mission critical that the OGA maintains a “laser-like focus” on maximising economic recovery above all else. Without such a focus, we risk conflicting the OGA—setting it up to fail in its crucial mission to protect our domestic energy mix and to support hundreds of thousands of jobs. That is not what is best for the UK continental shelf now or in future.

I thank the Minister for drawing attention to that. It is absolutely fundamental that the OGA has that laser-like focus. It is also fundamental for the industry that the Chancellor has that laser-like focus. I reiterate to the Minister the need for her to use her good offices to make sure the industry gets the support it needs on Wednesday.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that. He will be aware that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister have looked carefully at the matter, so I hope that he will be pleased. I assure him that his interests and the interests of the UK continental shelf are being carefully considered. I hope that the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland will be content not to press the new clause to a vote.

Finally—hon. Members will be pleased to hear that—I turn to amendment 47, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Wigan and others. The amendment would oblige the OGA to consider the most advantageous use of North sea infrastructure for the overall benefit of oil and gas extraction prior to the decommissioning of such sites. I am delighted to note the support across the House for the measures to establish the OGA and give it the powers needed to maximise economic recovery. The impact of the fall in oil prices on industry makes that even more critical.

Although we are taking urgent steps to stimulate investment in exploration, it is equally important to the overall viability of the North sea that we make the best use of infrastructure in order to mitigate the risks of premature decommissioning. That requires a holistic approach in which operators, licence holders and infra- structure owners collaborate to ensure the maximum economic recovery of petroleum from the UK continental shelf. That is precisely provided by the OGA’s principal objective set out in section 9A of the Petroleum Act 1998.

The strategy to maximise economic recovery further addresses that issue. It includes duties to plan, commission and maintain infrastructure in a way that meets the optimum configuration for maximising the value of economically recoverable petroleum, taking into account the operational needs of others. The strategy and the measures in the Bill ensure that before commencing the decommissioning of any infrastructure in relevant UK waters, the owners of the infrastructure and the OGA must ensure that all viable options for its continued use have been suitably explored. The OGA is already working to support a stable and sustainable decommissioning framework focused on improving late-life management. The OGA will publish its decommissioning sector strategy early in the summer. I hope that hon. Members have found my explanation reassuring and will be content not to press the amendment to a vote.

New Clause 8

Decarbonisation target range

“(1) Section 1 of the Energy Act 2013 is amended as follows.

(2) Leave out subsection (2) and insert—

“(2) The Secretary of State must by order (“a decarbonisation order”) set a decarbonisation target range, which shall be reviewed annually thereafter.”

(3) Leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5) The decarbonisation order shall be made within six months of the adoption of the fifth carbon budget set by virtue of the duty of the Secretary of State under section 4 (2) (b) of the climate Change Act 2008.”” —(Dr Whitehead.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

New Clause 10

Emissions trading: United Kingdom carbon account

“In section 27 (net UK carbon account) of the Climate Change Act 2008, after subsection (3) insert—

‘(3A) In respect of any period commencing after 31 December 2027, the regulations must not make provision for carbon units to be credited to or debited from the net United Kingdom carbon account on the basis of the number of carbon units surrendered by operators of installations in the United Kingdom pursuant to the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme.’”—(Lisa Nandy.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Clause 2

Transfer of functions to the OGA

Amendments made: 48, page 2, line 39, at end insert—

“( ) Schedule 1 to the Oil Taxation Act 1975,”

This amendment adds functions under Schedule 1 to the Oil Taxation Act 1975 to the list of functions that can be transferred to the OGA under clause 2. It is likely to be used to transfer the function of determining oil fields under paragraph 1 of that Schedule.

Amendment 49, page 2, line 41, at end insert—

“( ) Chapter 9 of Part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010,” —(Andrea Leadsom.)

This amendment adds functions under Chapter 9 of Part 8 of the Corporation Tax Act 2010 to the list of functions that can be transferred to the OGA under clause 2. It is likely to be used to transfer the function of determining cluster areas under section 356JD of that Act.


Amendment made: 51, line 8 leave out from “power;” to “and” in line 10.—(Andrea Leadsom.)

This amendment is consequential on the removal of the provision about emission trading schemes from the Bill in Public Bill Committee.

Our consideration having been completed, I will now suspend the House for no more than five minutes in order to make a decision about certification. The Division bells will be rung two minutes before the House resumes. Following my certification, the Government will table the appropriate consent motion, copies of which will be made available in the Vote Office and distributed by the Doorkeepers.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming

I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in my provisional certificate issued on 9 March. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

Under Standing Order No. 83M, a consent motion is therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motion are available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website, and have been made available to Members in the Chamber. Does the Minister intend to move the consent motion?

Under Standing Order 83M(4), the House must forthwith resolve itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales).

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England and Wales) (Standing Order No. 83M).

[Mrs Eleanor Laing in the Chair]

There will now be a debate on the consent motion for England and Wales. I remind hon. Members that all Members may speak in the debate but, if there are Divisions, only Members representing constituencies in England and Wales may vote on the consent motion. I call the Minister to move the consent motion for England and Wales.

I beg to move,

That the Committee consents to the following certified clause of the Energy Bill [Lords].

Clause certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) as relating exclusively to England and Wales and being within devolved legislative competence.

Clause 78 of the Bill as amended in Committee (Bill 128).

The consent motion stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, as set out in the written ministerial statement tabled on 10 March. Nothing has changed since the Bill was introduced. I urge hon. and right hon. Members to support the consent motion.

Question put and agreed to.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decisions of the Committee (Standing Order No.83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair, decisions reported.

Third Reading

Queen’s and Prince of Wales’s consent signified.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This Government are focused on delivering measures that support our long-term plan for secure, clean and affordable energy supplies. This Bill puts in place key manifesto commitments to achieve those objectives—first, by meeting our commitment to support the development of oil and gas in the North sea. The Bill provides the Oil and Gas Authority with the direction and powers it needs to be an effective regulator and to maximise recovery of resources in the North sea to the benefit of Britain’s energy security. Secondly, the Bill meets our commitments to ending new public subsidies for onshore wind and giving local people the final say on wind farm applications. In doing so, the Bill will protect bill payers by helping to control the costs to the public of support for renewable energy.

Let me take those in turn, addressing the action we have taken since the Bill’s Second Reading in January, before touching on other measures in the Bill. As I set out on Second Reading, amendments made in the other place sought to expand considerably the objectives of the Oil and Gas Authority. Our view is that this would dilute the focus of the OGA at a crucial time for the oil and gas industry. This House has reinstated the OGA’s original principal objective for maximising economic recovery. Both the industry and the unions are agreed on that. The OGA must have clarity on its primary objective. The Bill as it now stands provides that.

I set out our intention on Second Reading to re-introduce clauses on onshore wind that were removed in the other place. This was a clear Government commitment, and I am pleased to see those provisions put back. Let me be explicit: this Bill enacts a manifesto commitment. Clause 79 helps to implement that commitment to end new public subsidies for onshore wind. Onshore wind has deployed successfully to date, but without control there is a risk of over-deployment beyond the range we have set for 2020—the range that we consider affordable. Over-deployment could add extra costs to consumer bills or reduce the amount of support available to less mature technologies such as offshore wind that need help to bring their costs down, just as public subsidies have brought down the costs of onshore wind. To protect investor confidence, we have inserted clause 80, which sets out in legislation the grace period for those projects meeting certain conditions as of 18 June last year. That allows such projects to continue to seek accreditation under the renewables obligation after the early closure date.

I have also introduced a clause relevant to Northern Ireland. It remains my position that consumers in Great Britain should not bear the cost of Northern Ireland providing additional support to onshore wind. We have been clear about that throughout the process. The intention of the backstop power is to ensure that, should Northern Ireland choose to provide additional support for onshore wind, consumers in Northern Ireland, not Great Britain, will bear the cost.

The Government are committed to the Climate Change Act 2008 and our target to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050. We will meet our obligations and responsibilities by setting the fifth carbon budget by the end of June this year, covering the period 2028 to 2032. As the Committee on Climate Change has said, while we are on course to meet the second and third carbon budgets, the fourth carbon budget will be tough to achieve. We will set out our proposals for meeting our targets in our new emissions reduction plan. Our working assumption is that this will be published at the end of the year. Work on the fifth carbon budget is well under way across Government and has been progressing for over a year.

I understand the intentions of those who have sought to amend the Bill to change the way we count carbon for the purposes of the fifth carbon budget, and of course it is right that we keep our accounting practices under review, but I am afraid that accepting such an amendment to the Bill this far into the fifth carbon budget process would have risked serious delay, at a time when the UK should be showing clear, decisive leadership in the aftermath of the Paris climate change conference.

Before I conclude, I wish to express my thanks to those who have supported the proper scrutiny of the Bill. First, I give thanks to my team on the Front Bench: the Minister of State, who has expertly steered the Bill through the House, and Lord Bourne for his management of the Bill in the other place. I would like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and for South East Cornwall (Mrs Murray) for their excellent contributions and support. We are very grateful.

Let me also express my gratitude to Opposition Members for their measured approach to the scrutiny of the Bill. It is fair to say that there have been moments of disagreement, but we have also agreed on many issues, including the need swiftly to complete the work started in the previous Parliament to implement fully the recommendations of the Wood review. I therefore thank the hon. Members for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), for Norwich South (Clive Lewis), for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), and for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell) for their considered scrutiny. I am also extremely grateful to my hon. Friends for their participation in our proceedings and in discussions both in and outside the Chamber, which has been very helpful.

During the passage of the Bill, my colleagues and I have listened carefully, and, where appropriate, have made amendments or added details to provisions. However, when it comes to the fundamental purpose of the Bill, we have stood firm on our commitments, and we intend to continue to do so.

With the important exception of its provisions relating to the North sea industries, the Bill has absolutely nothing to say about the major energy challenges that we face. It constitutes a missed opportunity to mend our broken energy market, and to make good the promise that the Prime Minister delivered four years ago when he told the House that he would legislate to put every household in Britain on to the cheapest energy tariff. It is extraordinary that, during the Bill’s passage, we have learnt that that broken promise has cost Britain’s households an extra £1.7 billion every year, and that, once again, an Energy Bill led by this Government has let the energy companies off the hook.

Despite our best efforts, the Bill is also silent on the growing risk of power shortages. That is astonishing, given that official figures from National Grid show that next winter Britain could be forced to rely on back-up measures and imports from abroad just to keep the lights on. We sought to address that in Committee, especially in view of the doubt that has been cast over Hinkley Point C, the failure of which would blow a major hole in the Government’s energy policy. Where is the plan B? It is not in this Bill.

Against a background of failure—the failure to get new power stations built—it is a great shame that Ministers rejected our attempts to amend the Bill in order to correct that failure and provide incentives for the building of a number of new gas plants by changing the design of the failing and expensive capacity market scheme. Our proposals would also have had the benefit of ending the absurd practice of increasing household energy bills to provide generous handouts for dirty diesel generators. Now, however, there is nothing in the Bill that will help to address the power crunch and secure the investment in the new power stations that we so urgently need.

Will the hon. Lady remind us why, when Labour was in office for all those years, it made no decisions to put in new capacity?

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. As a matter of fact, he is wrong about a number of other things, but I will stick to the point that he has just raised. It was a Labour Government who initiated the new nuclear process for Hinkley Point C, but, six years after the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) became Prime Minister we have seen no further progress. In fact, the only new gas station that has appeared under the present Government was initiated and commissioned by the last Labour Government.

Remarkably, the Bill will actually make our energy security position worse. It seeks to shut down, a year early, a major energy investment scheme that has been helping to ensure that wind farms are built. Wind farms already provide a substantial amount of electricity—enough power for more than 8 million homes every year—but, because of their ideological crusade against green energy, the Government do not want to increase their number even if that means that they are sending our power supply into the red. [Interruption.] Ministers can protest, but the reality is in front of us. It is there for us all to see—not just Labour Members, but Ministers’ constituents, who will pay the price for it. The Government will pursue their proposal even if it means retrospectively blocking projects whose development is well advanced and even if it means ruling out one of the cheapest energy options that are available to us, thus breaking their manifesto promise to cut emissions as cheaply as possible.

The aim of every one of our amendments has been to attract new investment in new energy projects, to create jobs and to improve our energy security, but the Government have rejected all of them. Energy UK, the trade body that represents businesses across the sector, recently called for more clarity from the Government about what was expected from companies on reducing carbon pollution. It stated:

“It is essential the industry gets a clear signal of the focus, direction and speed of travel to 2030 and beyond.”

It is hardly surprising that Energy UK wants more clarity, because while Ministers talk about their action on climate change, they are simultaneously dismantling the clean energy schemes that could help to address the problem. We proposed to amend the Bill, in response to calls from business leaders, by requiring the Secretary of State to offer clarity on the direction and speed of emissions reduction to 2030, but the Government rejected our proposals. Together with other parties from across the House, we tried to close a loophole that will enable Ministers to square this circle through carbon accounting tricks, but that move was also rejected. This all means more uncertainty for investors, rather than less.

I welcome the fact that the Government have accepted the principle, put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), that we must ultimately build a carbon-neutral economy. I welcome the spirit in which they accepted that principle and the basis on which they accepted it, which was that we need to develop a strategy that will give a clear signal to the top businesses that are supporting my right hon. Friend’s campaign as well as to the leading environmental campaigners who have shown that energy policy need not be contentious.

The truth is that few people in this country beyond those on the Conservative Back Benches doubt the need to act on emissions. Only today, NASA reported shocking levels of global warming, and one top scientist said this morning that we are in a “climate emergency now”. Despite the Energy Secretary’s words today, however, people will be left scratching their heads over what exactly the Government’s plan is to make good on their new commitment and on the promises that the Prime Minister made at the historic Paris summit in December.

Let us take carbon capture and storage as an example. The Government’s own advisers say that without this cutting-edge technology the cost of achieving emissions reduction in Britain could double. Some experts say that, without it, making good on the Paris agreement might even be impossible. As my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) pointed out, however, the Chancellor has shamefully pulled the rug from under from businesses that were on the cusp of pioneering CCS projects in Yorkshire and Scotland. Investment and jobs have gone, and the possibility of a new maritime industry in our North sea has been put on hold. We proposed that a comprehensive new CCS strategy should be adopted within a year to undo the damage caused by that decision but, despite strong cross-party support, our reasonable proposal was rejected.

When the Bill arrived here from the other House, it was in a much better state than we now find it in. That makes it difficult for us to support it this evening, but the low oil price means that our North sea industries need and deserve our support. We have all benefited from the revenues produced by North sea oil in better times, and we owe it to those industries to support them now that times are hard. The Bill contains important measures that act on the recommendations of the Wood review which can support workers in this crucial sector of our economy.

Yesterday, with my support, colleagues in Scottish Labour rightly called for the Government to go further and to invest directly in strategically important offshore assets in the North sea. I hope that the Energy Secretary will support that call. The fact is that substantial reserves remain unexploited and it is essential that we work on a cross-party basis to support investment in those untapped opportunities. For that reason alone, we will not oppose the Bill tonight.

However, I say to the Energy Secretary that the poverty of ambition encapsulated in the Bill is increasingly clear, and that it is increasingly untenable to dismantle plan A without putting a plan B in its place, to duck the challenges of the coming century and to set Britain’s face against the opportunities that that century presents. I should like to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) and for Brent North (Barry Gardiner). Together, we will look to Ministers to do much better than this in future.

I welcome the Bill because it attempts to deal with some of the damage that has accumulated in recent years as a result of the policies of the Labour Government, who neglected the need for more energy and security of supply, and some of the European Union’s interventions.

I welcome the cross-party attempts to breathe some life into the North sea industry, which has been crucial over many years. As many have pointed out, it is going through a troubled time and anything that can be done by the Oil and Gas Authority or directly by the Government is to be welcomed. For example, now is a good time to remove the petroleum revenue tax, which is a rather silly, unpleasant tax introduced by the Labour party for internal political reasons near the beginning of activities in the North sea. It yields no revenue at the moment, so it would be a good time to get rid of it to show that we want normal profit and revenue taxes, not super-taxes, on North sea activities when the good times return. I hope that the Chancellor will bear in mind the needs of the industry in his forthcoming Budget, because things could be done on tax to promote more investment against the background of a weak oil price, which is no great incentive for making new things happen.

I hope that the Bill will contribute towards taking security of supply seriously. The Government regularly tell us that they want our country to be secure—an aim that I hope is shared across the Chamber. An important way for a country to become more secure is through controlling its own energy resources. The United Kingdom is a relatively privileged country geographically, because it has substantial reserves of oil, gas and coal. We have recently discovered the likelihood of new gas reserves onshore, which should be available to exploit sensibly. We also have plenty of water around that allows us to have hydro-type renewables, which are genuinely renewable and continuously available, unlike the unreliable wind, about which we had a good debate earlier. As the Government go about implementing the Bill, I trust that they will have security of supply at the forefront of their mind.

Where does the security of supply lie in the Prime Minister flying to Paris to ask the French President to fund a nuclear power station that will supply 7% of our electricity, when France clearly will not do so?

That must be worked out between the contracting parties. I have not been urging them to do that, but I wish them well in whatever negotiations are under way. I accept that if they can find a way of producing relatively sensibly priced power on a continuous basis from a nuclear power station, that has all sorts of advantages for the security of supply. I assume that they will ensure that all the technology and the ability to control, repair and maintain the station will rest in the United Kingdom, because we can have true security only if we control the technology and have the industrial resources to be able to build and mend the facility being created. We must also bear that in mind for weapons procurement. If we want a secure country, we need an industry that can support it and is capable in adversity of seeing us through. We cannot rely on imports for everything, and we are already relying too much on imports in the crucial area of energy, so I hope the Bill will help us to stop thinking that we can automatically rely on French electricity and Russian gas indirectly through the European system.

On that point, after France, the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems bent on handing over the entire British nuclear industry to China.

I trust not. I have not seen all the documents, but I am sure that we will see more of the detail in due course as and when more decisions are taken. If my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is negotiating such a deal, I urge him to ensure that we have control over and an understanding of the technology. I see from the nods from my Front-Bench team that that is exactly what they have in mind. A country does not have secure power if it is dependent on those abroad to maintain a power station and does not understand how to mend it, improve it or make it function at a crucial moment. Of course we need to probe to make sure that the Government are doing the right thing, but we get that security only if we control the technology.

Let me return to the point about security vis-à-vis imports and our own capability. We are becoming too dependent on imported power, and we have to remember that if our imports are to come from the European continent, that area is short of energy in general, and it has a policy to make energy scarce and very expensive. The west of the continent does not get on well with Mr Putin, yet indirectly it relies on his gas, and that is not a strong strategic position to be in. I want our country not to be in any way beholden indirectly to Putin’s gas or to the general network on the continent, which is clearly weakened by the necessity to have Russian supplies in the eastern part of the system. The UK, as an island nation, with access to such riches both onshore and offshore, and with the ability to generate more genuine renewables that are continuously available, should be able to have a secure supply and sufficient capacity in reserve when need arises.

We wish to be a greater industrial power than we are. We are the fifth largest economy in the world but we are very dependent on a very big service sector and our industrial sector has, under Governments of all persuasions in the past 30 years, shrunk as a proportion of it. We still have some great companies and some great technology but we need more of them and we need to broaden the industrial base. In order to have that capability in Britain, so that we can make our own power stations, generators and engines, we need to make sure that we have sufficient and cheap energy to fuel those factories, forges, facilities and blast furnaces.

We meet tonight against the backdrop of our steel industry gravely at risk. One of the main contributory factors to the risk to our steel industry is scarce and dear energy; there are also chronic problems with steel prices and Chinese competition now, but this began with an energy problem. We cannot hope to be one of the big world forces in energy-intensive industries if we do not have more plentiful energy at cheaper prices.

I wish the Bill and the Secretary of State well. The Government must have as their fundamental aim security of supply, because without secure energy a country is very limited in its foreign policy options and has to tailor its diplomacy accordingly. I see us becoming too dependent. We wish to correct our balance of payments, and getting into energy surplus would not only be a very good contribution to that aim, but would strengthen our diplomatic and political security. As we wish to reindustrialise, we need more and cheaper energy. We are not going to get that on a diet of wind farms and speculative renewable technologies that are not yet available, and are very expensive and difficult to scale up. We can get that affordable energy if we extract the oil, gas and coal, and process it in an environmentally friendly way to the extent that can be achieved, if we have more gas turbine power stations and more reliable baseload power stations. We are going to leave ourselves vulnerable and insecure if we depend on a combination of European imports and too many wind farms. I therefore say: may the OGA do well, may it find ways of bringing on stream the new reserves we are just discovering and may it find ways of extending the lives of the existing fields and of the pools of talent and expertise we have, particularly in Scotland, where we need them still.

I have learned a lot from this process, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell) for helping me to work things out as we have gone along. This has been an interesting process, but I am happy that I will not have to go through it for the first time again.

Throughout the process, as is natural in a political environment, we have focused on that which divides us, and there have been significant and, in some cases, profound divisions on aspects of this Bill. I do not wish to go back over that at this stage, because the discussions we have had repeatedly about onshore wind are a matter of record. I am aware that the Bill will go back to the House of Lords, so I make a final plea to the Secretary of State to look once again at grace periods. We accept that the Government have a mandate to do this, but we disagree with how it is being done and we ask that it be done in the best way possible. If there are concessions to be made in the Lords, please make them and take the possible benefits into account.

We have had some good suggestions and individual contributions from Members from all parts of the House. The Government have said that they are prepared to listen to a number of those suggestions. In fact, generally speaking, there has been a spirit of open-mindedness. The view was expressed that now is not the time for some measures to be put into practice, but the time will come soon, so I hope that we will continue to see that open-mindedness to suggestions, particularly to those from my party about making the most of the opportunities arising from decommissioning. We need to create a stable and sensible platform to ensure that the United Kingdom can develop a carbon capture and storage industry.

I wish to focus on one part of the debate that has received little attention, but which, to my mind, is the most important, and that is the creation of the Oil and Gas Authority. Broadly speaking, there has been unanimous support for that across the House, which is impressive in and of itself, but what is perhaps more impressive is the fact that in Aberdeen and in the north-east of Scotland—and probably the oil and gas industry the length and breadth of the United Kingdom—the Oil and Gas Authority is seen as the correct body with the correct tools at its disposal. That will be even more so once this Bill has completed its passage, as the authority will be properly equipped.

There is also tremendous support for Andy Samuel and his team in the work that they are doing, and I wish to pay tribute to him and all his staff for their endeavours. The OGA was envisaged in very different times. The role that Andy Samuel and his team have taken on was not what they expected, and they have taken to it impressively with sheer determination. They have taken the industry with them on a journey that none of them was expecting. The work that they have done, which was not really in their remit, has fostered the collaborative spirit that the industry needs if it is to ride out this time, and that is to be commended. In large part, this industry will survive if those in it work constructively together and stop some of the needless competition that adds unnecessarily to cost merely for the sake of differentiating themselves from their competitors.

The industry was rife with daft practices, by which I mean unnecessary duplication. By bringing people together and facilitating the exchange of ideas in a constructive way, the OGA has a major part to play. It is interesting that it has such support in the House, but it also has the support of the trade unions and the large and small players in the industry, and that is something that needs to continue. I wish the OGA well in its efforts.

We must recognise that the OGA was formed as part of the Wood review, which has also had cross-party support, but both come from different times. The Wood review was commissioned and completed at a time when oil was trading at above $100 a barrel. We cannot expect the creation and the formalisation of the OGA’s powers to be enough to solve the difficulties of the oil and gas industry at this moment in time.

I welcome the comments from the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) about the need for fiscal concessions. [Interruption.] I see that the hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), chair of the all-party group on offshore oil and gas, is seeking to intervene on that point, and I would expect nothing less from him than to be pushing for that too. This is critical. The Oil and Gas Authority will do what it can. Industry is doing what it can. A 40% reduction in costs has been achieved, which is impressive. More needs to be done, but the one thing that has not moved on since last May are the changes to taxation. The suggestion was welcome then, but we must recognise that that was a different time. Oil was selling at about $60 a barrel then as opposed to $40 a barrel now. These are changing times. The oil price has been lower and lower for longer and longer than anyone expected, and to expect the taxation regime from the time of super-profits to work for this basin at this time would be naive at best.

In the Budget on Wednesday the Chancellor will have the opportunity to provide the oil and gas industry with the shot in the arm that it requires. That opportunity cannot be missed.

As we have heard, this Bill is predominantly about setting up the Oil and Gas Authority. We need to complete this task as a matter of urgency. The North sea oil and gas industry is facing significant challenges. There have been 75,000 job losses in the past 15 months and there is a risk that whole communities along the North sea coast could be very badly affected.

The United Kingdom continental shelf is now a mature basin, but the remaining reserves are significant and they are vital to the UK in many different respects. These resources are best managed through a new tripartite approach, with the Oil and Gas Authority, industry and the Treasury working together—the Oil and Gas Authority promoting the maximisation of economic recovery, industry working to deliver efficiencies, building on the good work that it has carried out since 2014, securing a 40% fall in operating costs, and the Treasury. This is a last minute plea to provide the low tax regime that will attract footloose global investment.

The UKCS has so much to offer in terms of promoting energy security in an uncertain world, facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy and continuing to be the cornerstone of British industry. Perhaps we could have done this better over the past 50 years. To do so now it is essential that the OGA continuously promotes collaboration. That must be ingrained in its DNA. What is needed is not just collaboration between the OGA, industry and the Treasury; it is collaboration between operators, as evidenced by the partnership of Faroe, Petrofac and Eni working together, collaboration between operators and their service providers, building long-term partnerships and learning lessons from other sectors, such as aviation and the car industry, and collaboration with other sectors, in particular offshore wind. I urge the Chancellor to consider introducing measures on Wednesday that encourage such collaboration.

The North sea oil and gas industry has been the leading actor in the country’s post-war economy. In the past we have perhaps taken it for granted and perhaps at times not managed it prudently. If we had our time again, perhaps we would do it differently. It now needs us to act and work for it to ensure that it can move forward. We must not let it wither on the vine. We must grasp the opportunity tonight and the Chancellor must do so on Wednesday to give the industry every opportunity to survive and then thrive. We owe it to those working in the industry and the communities in which they live.

The final chapter of oil and gas exploration on the UKCS must not be a harsh, bleak winter. It must be an Indian summer. Let us pass this Bill tonight and get on with the task of securing that Indian summer.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.