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Dr. Jack Cunningham: The hon. Gentleman talks pejoratively about the nuclear industry and mentions a "huge bail-out". Does he recognise that the overwhelming part of the nuclear legacyestablished over 50 years in this country has nothing at all to do with BNFL, but arises from the military programme carried out by successive Governments? It is a national legacy and liability, not a liability of the current civil nuclear industry.
Mr. Stunell: The right hon. Gentleman is extremely knowledgeable about these matters and will recognise that the Bill provides for the purchase of existing civil nuclear power reactors by the nuclear decommissioning authority from the private sector and BNFL. Therefore, what I said was legitimate. I agree with him on the requirement that the NDA should have a social commitment to the local west Cumbria community. I was sorry to hear the Secretary of State indicate that she might want to reverse that in Committee.
The Bill, as outlined by the Secretary of State, covers three broad and important areas, one of which is nuclear decommissioning. We broadly welcome the establishment of the NDA and the opportunity to separate the operation of that authority and the issue of decommissioning and waste disposal from the semi-commercialised sector in which it has been placed in the past. However, the Bill still provides no clear direction or long-term system for managing and disposing of nuclear waste, an issue that we will want to test in Committee.
I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) criticising the Government's failure to set out the future of the nuclear industry; he described it as a missed opportunity. He then quoted, at some length, from various Government documents
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about their uncertainty about the future of the industry. He went on to say that he did not have an idea, or a Conservative policy, to put on the table. He was kind enough to outline Liberal Democrat policy, which is that the existing plants should continue in use for as long as they are safe and economic, but that there should be not be a new generation of civil nuclear plant built.
I shall move on, appropriately, to deal with the second section of the Bill on which I wish to comment in detail: offshore renewables. Broadly speaking, we welcome the proposals in the Bill on this subject but, again, the Secretary of State has missed an opportunity to say how she intends to ensure that Government policy in relation to the White Paper, the Kyoto commitments and the Government's further commitment to have a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 is achieved to any significant degree.
Mr. Kevin Hughes: I thought that the Secretary of State and the Government had made it clear: it will all be left to market forces, which will deliver everything that we could possibly want. Not only that, but there will be no problem with security of supply. I think that is what the Secretary of State was trying to say from the Dispatch Box.
The House of Lords has referred to the consideration of further technologies. Given the Government's targets, it is astonishing that, again, the Secretary of State seemed to say that she wants to backtrack on that in Committee. We shall try to prevent her from doing so.
Thirdly, the Bill deals with the extension of NETAnew electricity trading arrangementsto Scotland. We have identified problems with NETA, some of which were drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State's predecessor during the passage of the Utilities Act. We have seen the shutting down of two thirds of the combined heat and power generating capacity in this country and the total collapse in investment in CHP for the future.
The Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services (Mr. Stephen Timms): The hon. Gentleman says that we have seen the shutting down of two thirds of CHP capacity. If he reflects on that, he will realise that that is not the case. Will he correct that?
Mr. Stunell: I was trying to say that there has been a significant reduction in the amount of electricity contributed to the grid from the combined heat and power plant already installed because of the collapse that has taken place as a result of NETA.
Mr. O'Neill : Is not it also the case that CHP plants are run on gas, the price of which has gone up greatly? Coal is cheaper and although it is environmentally less friendly, it is certainly more attractive to the accountants who often make the decisions.
Indeed. CHP plants, with an efficiency of about 70 per cent., are being shut down, whereas coal plants, with an efficiency of 35 per cent., are being
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reopened. Those plants are only half as efficient, producing twice the carbon dioxide emissions for a given amount of electricity.
The Lords have done their best to improve the original Bill and have made some important improvements. I was disappointed to hear that the Secretary of State intends to attempt to reverse every improvement made by the Lords on which she chose to comment. I hope sincerely that she can be talked out of that in Committee.
My colleague in the other place, Lord Ezra, christened the Bill the Energy (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which is pretty much what it has become. It is not the decisive move forward that is essential if we are to achieve the UK's Kyoto targets, the aspirations in the performance and innovation unit report or the aims of the White Paper. It does not even plug the gaps that were described to the Government during the passage of the Utilities Act four years ago.
Mr. Evans : After eight minutes, I remain unclear as to what the hon. Gentleman is saying about wind power. I saw his party leader being interviewed by Jeremy Vine yesterday on "The Politics Show" and, quite frankly, he took a hammering. The accusation was that the Liberal Democrats were in favour of wind power generally, but not in specific cases. Would the hon. Gentleman care to say whether the Liberal Democrats are in favour of wind power?
Mr. Stunell: We are certainly in favour of all renewables where appropriate. Our policy paper that was passed last year set out those terms, and I have previously referred hon. Members to the book I have written on the subject. The hon. Gentleman is welcome to read it.
Year by year, step by step, little by little, the Government are backing away from the targets that they set. Carbon dioxide emissions are going up and the energy efficiency targets are being watered down: last week the target went down from 5 million tonnes of carbon to 4.2 million tonnes, a reduction of 16 per cent.
Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman made that point in an intervention earlier. Although we said in the White Paper that we thought that there would be about 5 million tonnes of carbon savings from household energy efficiency, and we now think that there will be 4.2 million tonnes, that is more than made up for by the increase that we now expect in business energy efficiency savings compared with what the White Paper said. The total is now 12 million tonnes of carbon savings, rather than the 10 million mentioned in the White Paper.
Mr. Stunell: That is a disappointing reply, because the domestic sector of our economy uses 30 per cent. of our energy. If we are not going to make a significant improvement in the efficiency with which we use energy in the domestic sector, the Government's chances of reaching their overall targets are considerably reduced.
NETA has been a serious handicap to renewables, and it is sad that the Government now plan to extend it to Scotland. The Minister is well intentioned, and so were his predecessors, but the policies change and the intentions are not delivered. In seven years, we have had
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five Energy Ministers and three different policies, and none of them have had any clout. There has been a long list of them, and it was only when the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) was Energy Minister in 1997 that we had a Minister solely dedicated to energy. He was followed by the right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Mrs. Liddell), who was Minister for Energy and Competitiveness, then the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), who was Minister for Energy and Competitiveness, then the right hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), who was Minister for Industry and Energy then for Energy and Construction. The current Energy Minister is doing his best, but his main jobs are supervising the closure of thousands of post offices and trying to wean the Child Support Agency staff off their pocket calculators as yet another Government IT project bites the dust. It has so often been the case that energy policy has been a hobby for the DTI.
Mr. Jack: The hon. Gentleman talks about an energy policy. Given his party's support for the eventual closure of Britain's nuclear industry, and if that capacity were replaced by renewables, could he spell out to me in some detail how the base-load requirement for UK electricity supply would be met, against a background of the desire to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which has been the substance of many of his remarks so far?
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