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Energy Prices Bill

Volume 824: debated on Tuesday 25 October 2022

Third Reading

Moved by

My Lords, I have it in command from His Majesty the King to acquaint the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Energy Prices Bill, has consented to place his interest, so far as it is affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

My Lords, in respect of the King’s consent being signified, can the Leader of the House say exactly what that consent comprises? We have this in many Bills—I believe they are all sent to the palace, and the Duchy of Cornwall sometimes, for approval or comment. There is no transparency, so we do not actually know why the consent is needed here and whether it is for their private or their public interest. Is it to help them with electricity bills this winter in their many palaces, which might be private or public or both? Or is it because the Crown Estate—since a proportion of the income from it goes to the sovereign, and it is doing very well with offshore wind—is going to get an extra cut? Some transparency on this at the start of a new reign would be very welcome and interesting, so perhaps the Leader of the House can give me a little more explanation.

My Lords, it is a long custom in this House that we are extremely restrained in what we discuss which touches on the potential attitudes of the sovereign and the Royal Family. However, this is marginally tangential, and since the noble Lord was kind enough to give notice that he was going to rise at this point—and if I may humbly say so, it is a good courtesy of your Lordships’ House to give notice, and a good way of getting a response—I will on this occasion give an answer, because I hope it gives an example of the carefulness with which these matters are considered.

I can explain that consent was requested in relation to Clauses 16 and 19. Counsel had advised that Clause 16 may impact the interests of the Crown, as it confers a power on the Secretary of State to require certain electricity generators to make payment to a payment administrator, by reference to the amount of electricity they generate in a particular period. Implementation of these powers could, in principle, capture a generating station that the King or Duchy might own or have an interest in, and thereby could require payments by the King in relation to the generation of electricity at that generating station in a period.

Counsel also advised that Clause 19 is capable of impacting the interests of the Crown. The Crown Estate, Duchy or the King, through his personal property, may be required by regulations under Clause 19 to pass on energy price support that they receive—for example, in respect of gas or electricity supplied to premises of which they are landlords—to end-users, including tenants to whom they supply heating, cooling or hot water produced using energy in respect of which price support has been received. Those tenants might acquire a cause of action against the Crown in the event that such support is not passed on. Regulations under Clause 19 may also impose on the Crown requirements relating to the provision of information.

I hope that we do not have to go through this process on each occasion and that your Lordships will understand that this is a consent which the Crown makes to put its interests at the disposal of your Lordships. I also hope that that detailed response, which the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked for, will assure your Lordships as we go forward that extremely careful consideration is given to these matters.


Moved by

My Lords, it is my great pleasure to thank all those who have supported the progress of the Bill so far. Let me first thank the Opposition—the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord McNicol, and all their colleagues—for their co-operation in progressing this expedited Bill. I am extremely conscious of the fact—and the House should be aware—that we could not be doing this legislation as fast as we are without the consent of opposition parties. I am grateful to them for that. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his invaluable work and contributions, and thank all other Members who contributed to our debates, helping ensure that the Bill is of most benefit to our nation.

I thank the Welsh and Scottish Governments for their support for the Bill. I very much welcome the Senedd’s and Scottish Parliament’s decision to provide legislative consent for the elements of the Bill that impact on devolved competence. We got very late notice of the Scottish Parliament granting it, so I am grateful for that.

I thank the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department for the Economy and Department of Finance for their constructive engagement during the drafting of the Bill. In the absence of an Executive, a legislative consent Motion cannot be secured from the Northern Ireland Assembly. Given the urgent need for this Bill to give financial support to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland, the UK Government are legislating on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Ministers in Northern Ireland have been made aware of this, and my department will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Executive on devolved matters as the Bill is implemented.

Let me also thank the House of Lords Public Bill Office, the House clerks, and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for their extremely hard work in drafting the Bill at pace and ensuring that it could be expedited through this House. As always, Ayeesha Bhutta, the principal private secretary to the Leader and Chief Whip, has been a total star in keeping us all right on the procedure of the Bill.

My thanks go to all the policy, analytical and legal officials in BEIS for their expert advice, resilience and, above all, sheer hard work. Many of them worked round the clock and at weekends to deliver this package of support for our nation. They are a credit to the Civil Service, and I thank them for their work.

I would like to thank my private secretary, Matthew Sachak, and the senior responsible officer for the Bill, Jeremy Allen. I must also thank the Bill team: Jessica Lee, Safia Miyanji, Kirsten Horton, Nicholas Vail, Salisa Kaur, Abi Gambel, Luke Rawcliffe, James Banfield, Matthew Pugh, Laura Jackson, Phaedra Hartley and Nicholas Benjamin. I cannot forget the BEIS lawyers, who do their level best to keep me apprised of legal matters —and sometimes even succeed: Wei Lynn, Alex Bentley, Charles Grant, Stephanie Bisset, Matthew Orme, Genna King, Alex Ivett, Susie Squire, Giovanna Amodeo and Sylvia Campigotto.

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has affected families and businesses up and down this country. This is the moment to be bold. The Government have acted immediately and dealt with the crisis hands on, ensuring people can keep their homes warm and businesses are kept open during the winter months.

The Bill includes powers to stop volatile and high gas prices dictating the cost of electricity produced by much cheaper renewables, which will be to the benefit of bill payers. The Bill puts energy bills support for people, businesses, charities and the public sector across the nation on a secure legislative footing. It is a vital step in delivering an unprecedented package of assistance for the whole of the UK. I thank noble Lords for their patience and commend this Bill to the House.

My Lords, briefly, I thank the Minister and his Whip, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for their co-operation and hard work during the speedy passage of the Bill. I also thank both the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the Liberal Democrat Benches for his knowledge of these matters, and especially my noble friend Lord McNicol, who, while not in his place today, came in at the last minute to support me in the absence of my noble friend Lady Blake. Finally, I thank Milton Brown from the legislative team in the Labour office for keeping us up to date and on message throughout the process. The Bill will now be referred to the other place, and we wish it well in its speedy implementation.

My Lords, we on these Benches very much support the Bill, although it might have a few Henry VIII powers and go a little further than it needs to. However, it is clearly absolutely essential for households getting through the winter to come. I very much thank the Minister and the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for their work from the Government Benches, and all his other officials who have been involved. On our side, I also thank Sarah Pughe from our Whips’ Office. I also thank the Labour Front Bench, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for their co-operation and for the work we have done together. I make one least plea to the Minister, with which I am sure he will agree: it is very important that we manage to deliver the benefits that the Bill gives to those who are off-grid. I know that he and his officials will work hard to ensure that this is the case, although I understand that it will be difficult.

My Lords, while I have no wish to dissent from this unanimity, I think that we are owed an indication from the Minister as to where this fits in with the overall energy policy. We had an Energy Bill before us which is now in limbo and which in part overlaps with the Bill. From the new Secretary of State for BEIS—and indeed from the Minister himself, with the assumption, we hope, that he is still here—we need an early statement on the totality of energy policy, on which this is dealing only with the immediate emergency—profound though it is—facing so many families and businesses. We need to know the totality of the position from the new Administration, so can we have some indication from the Minister as to when we are likely to see that?

I am sure that the new BEIS Secretary of State, when he or she is appointed, will wish to convey at the earliest possible opportunity the future of the Energy Bill to the noble Lord.

Bill passed.