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Orders of the Day — Utilities Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:44 pm on 31st January 2000.

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Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 7:44 pm, 31st January 2000

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate, which, so far, seems to have been based on the question: privatisation, good thing or bad—yes or no? With varying mixtures of embarrassment and triumphalism, it seems that the answer is that it was a good thing.

I was a little surprised, particularly by some of the things that the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff) said in relation to privatisation. He seems to have forgotten that one of the principal benefits of privatisation of the electricity industry as practised by the Conservatives is that it has allowed portions of it to be renationalised, but by the French. The idea that the Prime Minister was nationalising the whole country by the back door struck me, and, I think, quite a number of other hon. Members, as somewhat comical.

The hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) pointed out that it was easy to make calculations and to judge the correctness of policies in hindsight. I hope that the debate might turn its attention a little to foresight, and not dwell entirely on hindsight. A good foresight question is not about privatisation, but about energy policy. Should there be an energy policy and have we got an energy policy?

At the moment, it is not clear that the Government have such a policy. They have plenty of aspirations. I fully sign up to most of them, as do my colleagues. The Government set energy targets, many of which are commendable, although we are some way short of achieving them. They have commissioned many energy reviews. We must ask whether the Bill plays a constructive part in taking those three things—reviews, aspirations and targets—to a state where implementation can begin.

Having listened to Conservative Members, it seems that many of them are still in the age when oil and gas were laid down—the Jurassic age, when there was limitless oil, endless gas and plenty of fossils. Certainly, there was no threat of global warming.