Constitutional Law

Part of Parental Rights (Rapists) and Family Courts – in the House of Commons at 2:25 pm on 10th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy) 2:25 pm, 10th April 2019

It is a pleasure to follow Stephen Kerr. He has made my day and cheered me up—honestly, I had to check my notes to see whether I was in the right debate or whether he was, because we seemed to go slightly off topic. It also seems strange to complain about SNP complaints while continuing to put the boot into the SNP—so, that was hypocrisy writ large. However, I take his point: where they can, it is good that the two Governments work well together. He kept talking about this good working relationship. He did not answer the intervention from my hon. Friend Neil Gray about how the Secretary of State for Scotland is currently blocking the development of onshore wind in Scotland. I want to challenge the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, who is at the Dispatch Box—if she could look up, please. Her Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland have refused to release correspondence between the two Departments where it is quite clear that he has voiced his objections. For full transparency, will they release this information so that what the Scottish Secretary is doing to block onshore wind in Scotland is out there in the public domain?

Let me turn to the SI. Its title on the Order Paper is “Constitutional Law (Motion)”—how grand does that sound? No wonder a constitutional law motion is in the main Chamber. Then we look at paragraph 2.1 of the explanatory notes:

“The purpose of this…is…to correct amendments made to the Electricity Act 1989”.

Paragraph 6.3 states:

“This instrument is made to correct an oversight in the 2015 Order by amending the definition of ‘relevant waters’
in section 36D(6) of, and paragraph 5B(6) of Schedule 8 to, the 1989 Act”.

Paragraph 14.1 on monitoring and review states:

“The instrument will achieve its policy objective of amending a legislative oversight and therefore monitoring and review are not required.”

This is a simple, technical amendment, as has been said, so why it is in the main Chamber? It is a complete farce and another indication of this zombie Government who have nothing to do because everything is stalled because of Brexit. We keep hearing about getting on with the day job, but it is quite clear that the Government are not getting on with their day job and that everything is stalled. We had a similar SI in a normal Delegated Legislation Committee and it took 10 minutes. Partly because the hon. Member for Stirling talked longer than the two Front-Bench spokespersons, we have thankfully managed to drag this out, and I am doing my wee bit to drag it out in the main Chamber as well.

That said, we welcome the streamlining of this process for challenging Scottish Ministers’ decisions about marine licence applications. As the hon. Gentleman was good enough to say, the Scottish Government are a world leader in the fight against climate change and in advancing renewable energy. The Scottish Government want to have 50% of all energy sources supplied by renewables by 2030. It does figure that it would be much better for the Scottish Government to have even greater powers over energy policy and for that not be blocked by the likes of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

In Scotland, we have the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, which is also a world leader, with the world’s largest tidal steam array and the world’s most powerful tidal steam turbine. A recent announcement heralds the world’s first centre aimed at accelerating the development of materials and structures for tidal energy, which will be based in Rosyth. It is a collaboration between Babcock and the University of Edinburgh. The FASTBLADE project is worth £2.4 million, so we look forward to seeing that being developed. What funds, if any, will the Government provide for that and for future projects? I note that the offshore wind sector deal gives the University of Hull £5.5 million for its technology development. We should like to see the same provision for marine development in Scotland.

When will the Government change the regulations on the Electricity Act 1989 to define electricity storage as a distinct subset of generation? That change will facilitate the co-location of batteries with renewable energy, as the Minister acknowledged in a parliamentary answer in March and in another last week. She described the amendment as “an important measure”, and said that it would be implemented “when parliamentary time allows.” I suggest that a full debate in the main Chamber provides sufficient parliamentary time to amend the regulations. That is part of the day job that the Government should be getting on with.

The Government also need to move away from their obsession with nuclear power. It is too dear, it is a dead duck, and it is clear that investors are walking away from it. I do not understand why they continue down that path.

We welcome the corrections of the previous oversight. They should mean that the appeal process is clear, within the remit of Scottish Ministers, and within the remit of the Scottish legal jurisdiction. The intention of the 2014 Act was to streamline the planning application and appeal process for renewable energy to facilitate business deployment and to give investors more certainty. We therefore welcome this measure, which has been agreed with Scottish Ministers. As the Minister said in her opening remarks, better regulation is good for everyone.