This is a vital Bill, and there have been plenty of opportunities in this House and the other place to give it proper scrutiny. Having spoken on Second Reading and sat on the Bill Committee, I feel that I am nearly as familiar as the Minister with some of the debates.
I have a particular local interest in the wider issue. A proposed new electricity interconnector facility linking France and the UK comes ashore at Chilling in my constituency. The development, called IFA2, will provide the capability to export or import more than 1,000 MW of power and provide benefits to consumers through increased flexibility of supply and downwards pressure on prices. It is because I want the Bill enacted that I share the Minister’s frustrations at the continued blocking by the Opposition in the other place. It also defies long-held conventions such as the Salisbury convention, which is that a manifesto commitment of a party elected with a majority of support from the people should be enshrined in law—without opposition from the other place. And we should not forget that the other place gains its majority from Members who come from the Liberal Democrats or other parties that are not elected and do not reflect the political make-up of this elected Chamber. This undermines parliamentary democracy and the will of the general public.
This amendment addresses one of the narrowest aspects of the Bill—and the issue of the cut-off date and potential grace period has become the sticking-point. Debate on the merits of the arguments have been exhausted by now, so I shall not dwell on them too long. We can all appreciate the concern of those directly affected, who understandably want changes in the rules to benefit themselves. They have the right to lobby the Government and put their case. In the end, however, a decision has to be made, and a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Every deadline is arbitrary in some sense because it draws such a line. Some will be on one side and some on the other side. The fact of setting a deadline itself, however, cannot be considered unfair—otherwise we would be unable to set them at all.
Dr Whitehead put forward a proposal for a grace period, but where will it end? Some people will benefit; others will not. The Government have made a very clear commitment to this policy in their manifesto, and I support it.
Question put, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 7TB.
The House divided:
Ayes 286, Noes 260.