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Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 19 April 2022


Tuesday 19 April 2022


Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Acorn Project

The petition of residents of the constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk,

Declares that the UK Government’s decision not to back the Acorn project in Scotland was incredibly disappointing; further that a significant energy sector expertise exists in Scotland and that this decision will damage not only the energy sector in the North East, but also the downstream sector across the country, including Grangemouth; and further that this decision will have a serious detriment on Scotland meeting its 2045 net zero target.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to acknowledge the blow this decision will have on the energy sector in the North East and beyond, including its impact on climate change, and reverse its decision to give the Acorn project reserve bidder status, and thereby honour its commitment to support a just transition to a low carbon economy in Scotland.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Martyn Day , Official Report, 1 February 2022; Vol. 708, c. 256.]


Observations from the Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change (Greg Hands):

In November 2021, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced that the HyNet and East Coast clusters have been confirmed as Track-1 clusters for the mid-2020s and will be taken forward into Track-1 negotiations. If the clusters represent value for money for the consumer and the taxpayer, then subject to final decisions of Ministers, they will receive support under the Government’s CCUS programme.

We also announced the Acorn project as a reserve cluster. A reserve cluster is one which met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria. As such, we have continued to advise the Acorn project throughout phase 2 of the sequencing process, to help it continue its development and planning. This means that if Government choose to discontinue engagement with a cluster in Track-1, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead.

This announcement followed a transparent and objective assessment period, consistent with the criteria and process laid out when we launched the process in May 2021. By adhering to the published assessment process, we are ensuring that key principles of objective assessment and transparency are upheld. I would emphasise that the criteria used in our assessment provide a faithful and accurate representation of the Government’s strategic priorities for CCUS deployment specifically in the mid-2020s.

While I recognise the benefits of the Acorn project’s proposal, and its importance to the UK’s net zero transition, I remain confident in the robustness of our assessment, which found that both HyNet and the East Coast cluster performed better against the weighted criteria. I can also assure you that my officials have provided the cluster with feedback on their performance directly.

Given its status as reserve cluster, we have engaged with Acorn since the Track-1 announcement and will continue to do so throughout phase 2 of the sequencing process, to help it to continue its development and planning. The cluster has also been allocated over £40 million in development funding by the UK Government in recent years, and we are keen to ensure that the cluster is able to derive as much value as possible from this support. I have also met with representatives of Storegga, the T&S company, to explore next steps for the cluster, and my Department remains open to further contact where we can be of help.

We have also invited emitter projects seeking to connect to the Acorn project to participate in phase 2, with the aim of maintaining as credible a reserve option as possible, and we are grateful for the cluster’s ongoing co-operation in this regard. On 22 March this year, BEIS announced the phase 2 projects that have met the eligibility criteria required to proceed to full assessment1, including those intending to connect to the Acorn project.

This means that, if Government choose to discontinue engagement with either HyNet or the East Coast cluster in the event of delivery challenges arising, we can engage with this reserve cluster instead. Given the inherent delivery risks associated with these first-of-a-kind clusters, we place significant value on maintaining this credible reserve option, and the importance of this has been communicated to the cluster.

Looking beyond Track-1, the Government will seek to bring forward a process to facilitate the deployment of additional ‘Track-2’ clusters this decade, following our announcement in the net zero strategy that these clusters will enable an additional 10Mtpa of CO2 capture capacity by 2030. While I am not able to provide any further assurances regarding the Acorn project’s status in relation to Track-2, any cluster proposal which is mature and well-developed is likely to perform well in a future assessment process.

In the long-term Government remain committed to helping all industrial clusters to decarbonise as we work collectively to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and I am clear that CCUS will continue to play a key role in this process. I am also clear that, in transitioning to the net zero economy, we must ensure that the benefits of our action are distributed across all four nations of the UK; the net zero strategy includes measures which will benefit the people of Scotland across areas including heat and buildings, transport, heavy industry, and our net zero innovation portfolio.

Health and Social Care

Sodium valproate

The petition of residents of the United Kingdom,

Declares that many families have been greatly and negatively impacted by the use of sodium valproate in pregnancy which has impacted many children for the rest of their lives; and notes that the Cumberlege Review, written by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, found that the use of sodium valproate in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of developmental problems, spina bifida, hare lip, cleft palate, limb defects and other serious birth defects.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government immediately implement, in full, every recommendation in the Cumberlege Review.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Cat Smith , Official Report, 1 March 2022; Vol. 709, c. 1011.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Maria Caulfield):

The Government published their response to the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review (the “Review” (also known as “the Cumberlege Review”)) on 21 July 2021. The Government accepted the majority of the Review’s nine strategic recommendations and 50 actions for improvement.

The Government did not accept two of the Review’s recommendations:

recommendations 3 and 4, which called for the establishment of a redress agency and separate redress schemes for those who have been affected by pelvic mesh, sodium valproate and hormone pregnancy tests. The reasons for this are set out in the Government response, which include focusing efforts to improve the future safety of medicines and medical devices. The Government have no plans to revisit this position.

The Government are committed to making rapid progress on all areas set out in their response. Work is well under way to implement the accepted recommendations, which includes legislating for the first Patient Safety Commissioner and setting up nine specialist mesh centres for those who have been adversely affected by implanted mesh. As set out in the Government response, the Government aim to publish an update on progress to implement the accepted recommendations in summer 2022.

The Government recognise the adverse impact that sodium valproate, when taken by mothers during pregnancy, has had on the lives of women and their families. The Government are taking forward a programme of work to ensure that sodium valproate is only prescribed when clinically appropriate. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has implemented a strengthened regulatory position on sodium valproate, which includes ensuring that valproate is not prescribed to a woman or girl who is able to have children, unless she is fully aware of the risks and understands the need to avoid becoming pregnant.

Future safety of sodium valproate is managed by the Medicines in Pregnancy Valproate Registry (the Registry). The Registry currently includes all women in England who are receiving NHS-prescribed valproate and identifies when they are pregnant and accessing NHS care for that pregnancy. Work is ongoing to understand how to extend the Registry to all women in each of the Home Nations.