Mr Stephen Timms (Minister of State (e-Commerce & Competitiveness), Department of Trade and Industry; East Ham, Labour)
I beg to move, To leave out from "House" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:
"regrets the problems that have recently occurred on the National Grid and the disruption that was caused particularly to transport services;
further notes that the report published by the National Grid last Wednesday shows that the problem was not caused by under-investment on the network, shortage of capacity or its contractual relationship with any of its customers but rather by a local transmission failure;
notes that security of supply is one of the key responsibilities of the regulator, that Ofgem is considering the incident in the light of the National Grid's licence obligations and will be reporting at the end of September;
and further notes that the Government's engineering inspectorate will also be conducting its own investigation."
I welcome the opportunity that this debate gives us. As the House will know, on 14 August a large area of eastern Canada and the north-east United States, including New York, was hit by cascading power cuts. Sixty million people were affected, trains and subways in New York ground to a halt, thousands were left stranded, and some people slept in the streets. No one expected that to happen here, but in the early evening on 28 August electricity supply was lost to parts of south-east London and Kent. What followed was not comparable with the failures in the United States. Here, power was restored everywhere within 41 minutes, but there were serious consequences: disruption to overground and underground rail in particular, but other disruption as well. I agree that it was a powerful reminder of how dependent we all are on electricity. That is why we placed maintaining the reliability of energy supplies at the heart of the energy White Paper in February. Mr. Yeo made some disparaging comments about the White Paper, but people in the energy industry to whom I have spoken have warmly welcomed it, not least for the coherence of its analysis and the fact that it has provided us with a coherent energy policy, which the party that he represented in government never did.
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