Energy Policy

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th October 2004.

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Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South 11:30 am, 26th October 2004

What discussions he has had with colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry on ensuring that there is an integrated energy policy in Scotland.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

Ministers and officials from the Scotland Office and from the Scottish Executive are in regular contact with the DTI in relation to a range of energy-related matters.

Photo of Mr Bill Tynan Mr Bill Tynan Labour, Hamilton South

I thank my right hon. Friend for his response and congratulate the Government on their commitment to renewable energy and to the Kyoto protocol. However, renewable energy alone will not solve the problem of security of supply or reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The next time that my right hon. Friend has discussions with the DTI will he consider our dependence on imported gas, and will he pursue an integrated energy policy that includes nuclear power and clean coal technology to safeguard Scotland's future needs?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is quite right. It is important that we have a wide range of electricity supplies. The Government and the Scottish Executive have very demanding targets for increasing the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources, and it is a pity that the Conservatives in Scotland have set their face against renewable energy. It is important to keep our options open on nuclear energy. Both major nuclear power stations in Scotland still have some life left in them—Torness will, I think, be operational until the early 2020s—and that is something that we need to look at. It is important that we have security of supply, not just in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend is right that we need to press ahead with technologies such as cleaner coal and so on so that we can improve the environment as well as making sure that we have a good electricity supply.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Parliamentary Leader (Westminster), Spokesperson (Constitutional Affairs; Treasury), Leader, Scottish National Party

Mr. Tynan is well informed on many issues, but not necessarily this one, and most of us would not wish to follow him and the Secretary of State down the nuclear route. We would like to develop the vast array of energy resources in Scotland, but how on earth can we do so when there are proposals to charge £20 per kilowatt to connect to the grid in the north of Scotland and £14 per kilowatt in central Scotland, but for a subsidy of £10 per kilowatt in London? I know that the Secretary of State is concerned about the issue, but what is he doing about that discrimination against Scotland?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

As I have said before, it is important that generators in Scotland can sell electricity, not just in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom. Typically, the hon. Gentleman conveniently overlooks the fact that the proposals will remove interconnector charges for exporting electricity to England, and the charges suggested by the national grid are substantially less than they are at present. I have told the hon. Gentleman before that it is important that we encourage electricity generation in Scotland. The offshore regime that he complained about last time has not been settled at all, and it is entirely characteristic that he should make overblown and unfounded claims about offshore electricity, instead of concentrating on what is in fact the case and what is good for Scottish generators.

Photo of Mrs Anne Picking Mrs Anne Picking Labour, East Lothian

Does my right hon. Friend agree that although security of supply is paramount so is security of jobs? In my constituency, British Energy in Torness and Scottish Power in Cockenzie are good employers that have introduced apprentice schemes, and those jobs should be safe.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

My hon. Friend is right. Scottish Power is a good employer and has a good reputation, not just in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom and many other parts of the world to which it supplies electricity. She is rightly concerned about jobs but, as I said a few moments ago, Torness power station has a considerable time to run and a decision has not been made about its future. It is important, however, that we look at the question of energy in a rational and measured way and make sure that we have security of supply. It is essential that we increase the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources and that we guarantee continuity of supply. It is therefore Government policy to approach nuclear policy with an open mind and in a rational way.

Photo of Mr Peter Duncan Mr Peter Duncan Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Local and Devolved Government Affairs

Given the importance of continuity of supply, does the Secretary of State endorse the rush by the Scottish Executive towards wind energy at the expense of other options, specifically new nuclear build? Does he not think it rather inappropriate that the Scottish Executive have the first and last say on the largest wind farm developments? The larger the development, the more severe the impact on the local area and the further removed local people are from the decision. Should rural Scotland not have more of a say in whether tens of dozens of enormous wind turbines are erected on the landscape?

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling The Secretary of State for Scotland, The Secretary of State for Transport

The Scottish Executive are the planning authority, so it is not surprising that they have some sort of say. I know that the hon. Gentleman is not terribly keen on devolution, but that is a consequence of it. With regard to renewables, wanting to increase the amount of electricity generated from renewables over a 20-year period is hardly a rush. Most people are understandably concerned about the environmental impact of carbon emissions and want to do something about them. It is a great pity that the Conservatives have shown themselves yet again to have no idea how to deal with the problem in the future. They are against renewable energy and against the siting of renewable energy generation— in other words, they are turning their heads against solutions for improving the environment in Scotland, and it is not surprising that they have nothing to say about what is good for Scotland in the future.