Energy Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:16 pm on 23rd March 2004.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 3:16 pm, 23rd March 2004

My Lords, I rise to support the amendment. My name is added to it, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for explaining her reasons for bringing it back. It is hugely important. As the noble Baroness said, the environmental issue that she raised in Committee has been addressed. I do not know whether she is fully satisfied, but it has been addressed. We do not feel that the issue of sustainable development has been addressed and we support her on that issue. Now the principal duties have expanded to include social and economic impacts it is important that the Government respond in a positive way.

Other noble Lords who have already spoken are anticipating that the Minister will say, "No". As it is the start of a new day, I am hoping that the Minister will say, "Yes". If he cannot say yes, he may at least say that he has heard what noble Lords have said and that he recognises the reasoning behind the amendment. If he does not like the wording of the amendment, at the start of this day we issue him a challenge for the Government to come back with a wording that will meet all our concerns.

The noble Baroness is quite right that this is a very important amendment. I was part of the team that took the Utilities Bill through the House and my noble friend Lord Jenkin has reminded us that Ofgem had to take the amendment on board in the end. The Government took it on board with great reluctance because it was not their idea but they had to accept it. I hope that we can start this afternoon in a more positive spirit. The amendment has much to recommend it. It is not asking for too much. All it is asking, in new subsection (2a), is that:

"the Secretary of State and the Authority shall carry out their respective functions under this Part in such a manner as to ensure the contribution to the achievement of sustainable development".

We are all very conscious that we live in the present but that we must plan for the future. If this responsibility is not put in the Bill I fear that it may slip down the line of importance behind other matters that have to be dealt with. I support his amendment.