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Energy: Draft Energy Bill

Volume 740: debated on Wednesday 14 November 2012

Question

Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how the provisions set out in the draft Energy Bill will deliver reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

My Lords, as the Prime Minister said, we are committed to being the greenest Government ever. We acted quickly to put our own house in order by reducing central government carbon emissions by almost 14% in our first year in office. At Durban last year, we secured a roadmap to negotiate a new, global and legally binding agreement on climate change to be in place no later than 2015. Across the EU, we have led calls to increase the EU emissions reduction target to 30% by 2020. The noble Baroness asked about the forthcoming energy Bill. I could not think of a better example of what this Government are doing to reduce carbon emissions.

My Lords, when I tabled this Question I hoped that we would have an energy Bill. Sadly, that is not the case. We have the Corby shambles and a Government at war with themselves over wind farms. Who is responsible for Government policy on wind farms? Should we take it from the comments made by Minister John Hayes last night that the Government consider that it will soon be “game over” for the British onshore wind industry?

My Lords, I expected the noble Baroness to come back with a serious question and I am disappointed that she did not take this opportunity to further reach out to the work that we are doing. I will not comment on remarks made that I cannot attribute, so I will resist the noble Baroness’s call to comment on my honourable friend.

My Lords, leaving aside all the green waffle, I welcome the inordinate delay in bringing forward the energy Bill, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, referred. Does my noble friend think it conceivable that this delay is connected with the fact that all the scrutiny that the draft Bill received—including from the group of which the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and I were both members, but more importantly from all the leading energy experts in this country—showed the Bill to be a complete nonsense? Among other things, it would give the Secretary of State arbitrary powers without any parliamentary scrutiny, and it would raise energy costs both for business and consumers. Does my noble friend not agree that the only sensible thing is to go completely back to the drawing board and abandon the present form of the energy Bill?

Of course, my noble friend does not expect me to agree with anything that he has just said. We very much took on board the recommendations and comments made by noble Lords in the Committee led by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, and also by the Energy and Climate Change Committee. However, the Bill will arrive. As with all Bills that need proper scrutiny, we will come to the House with a Bill date when it has reached the stages that it needs to reach.

My Lords, how can the Government be the greenest ever, when the MP running the Tory campaign in Corby has sabotaged the Government’s policy by supporting an anti-wind farm candidate? My spies tell me that yesterday the Minister described her own brief as “all a load of hot air”. With Tories like the Minister and Mr Heaton-Harris undermining the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, is this not another coalition shambles?

My Lords, the noble Lord has tried very hard to deviate from the Question on the Order Paper. Therefore, it is not worthy of a response.

My Lords, I strongly welcome the Government’s recent strategy on energy efficiency, which the Secretary of State hopes will save some 22 power stations. How do the Government intend to bring some of these demand-side issues into the new energy Bill, which we need quickly to establish international investor confidence?

I thank my noble friend for bringing the House back to the Question. Of course, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to consider seriously how we reduce electricity demand and that this should complement our work on electricity market reform. I paid tribute to my noble friend Lord Lawson and the work of the committee of which he was a member. We are consulting on potential policy approaches to reducing electricity demand. That must be one of the options open to us, and I am sure that the noble Lord will be part of that consultation.

My Lords, I understand and sympathise with the Minister for having to appear at the Dispatch Box and answer for government policy. However, the fact is, she does have to answer for government policy. Will she therefore answer the Question? This is very serious: what is the Government’s policy on onshore wind farms?

My Lords, as I have stated at this Dispatch Box before, wind farms are part of our energy mix. They need to be part of our renewables energy mix and we continue on that path.

My Lords, will my noble friend accept that when Mr Hayes said “enough is enough”, he echoed the feelings of many people throughout this country? We believe that he is a hero and we hope the Minister agrees.

My Lords, I reassure my noble friend and noble Lords in this House that our policy remains the same.

My Lords, the noble Lady seems uncharacteristically reluctant to answer some questions today. Could she answer this one: does she wake every morning thanking the Lord that she is not the Minister responsible for wind farms?

My Lords, I came to this Dispatch Box to answer Questions. I was hoping that the Question would relate to what was on the Order Paper.