Energy Policy

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 14 November 2005.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour 2:30, 14 November 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in the course of revising their energy policies, they will take into account the policies of the French Parliament (law 2005–781) which emphasise the need for both renewable and nuclear energy so as to safeguard self-sufficiency, the environment and competition.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, on 27 September, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would publish proposals on energy policy next year in the light of our continuing commitment to tackling climate change, preserving reliable supplies of energy and maintaining competitive markets. We remain committed to the energy White Paper goals, but in developing our proposals we will consider a wide range of options, including civil nuclear power.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful reply. But does he agree that in order to give a clear answer about nuclear energy in the UK uncertainty about dealing with long-term nuclear waste will need to be overcome? Why are Her Majesty's Government not supporting more strongly the programmes of the International Atomic Energy Agency that are seeking new techniques for this purpose?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I totally agree that solving the issue of nuclear waste, as the Prime Minister made clear, is central to this matter. The work that the International Atomic Energy Agency is doing is quite distant in terms of its impact. We support work on issues such as partitioning and transmutation through EURATOM.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Spokesperson in the Lords (Energy), Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Spokesperson in the Lords (Energy), Trade & Industry

My Lords, if one of the options that the Minister described in the new energy strategy is to be renewables, how much will the DTI be spending on wave power, because the money spent to date is a paltry sum and will not kick start that industry into a sustainable industry?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, this Question is clearly about whether we will be copying the French. I do not know what the French view on tidal energy is. However, as the noble Lord knows, we are supporting all the renewable forms of energy with considerable sums of money. In fact, through the renewables obligation, this will reach nearly £1 billion a year by 2010.

Photo of Lord Richard Lord Richard Labour

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we seem to have been waiting an awfully long time for this particular White Paper? Would he be kind enough to take back to his colleagues in the Government the feeling in all quarters of this House that it is time that it appeared?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I remind noble Lords that there was a White Paper in 2003. In that we said that we would review the matter at regular intervals. It is but a couple of months since the Prime Minister said that we would have one of these reviews and it is not usual for a White Paper to come out within two months of the Prime Minister suggesting that there might be one. We will be announcing the terms of reference shortly.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Hendon Baroness Miller of Hendon Spokespersons In the Lords, (Also Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland - Not In Shadow Cabinet)

My Lords, in a reply to me on 15 March the Minister said that,

"the initiative for bringing forward proposals to construct new plant lies with the market".—[Hansard, 15/3/05; col. WA128.]

What is Her Majesty's Government's reaction to the interest recently expressed by EDF and others in building new nuclear power stations? Will the Government now, at last, actively support and encourage these initiatives? The Minister would please me if he answered "yes" or "no".

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I will not remotely fall into the trap of saying either "yes" or "no". That would be an appalling prospect for a budding politician. Some interest is now being shown. The point of the review is to establish what our policy response to that show of interest will be.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Blackburn Lord Taylor of Blackburn Labour

My Lords, how many Section 36 notices have been granted and how many of them are likely to be taken up?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, if I had the faintest clue what Section 36 was I would do my best to answer the question. However, I will find out and let the noble Lord know.

(13)

Photo of Baroness O'Cathain Baroness O'Cathain Conservative

My Lords, following on from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about a White Paper, there was a White Paper in 2003, two years ago. However, at the end of the debate on energy in your Lordships' House on 27 October, I specifically asked the Minister to tell us when we were likely to get policies rather than proposals. We do not want proposals: we just want policies and it looks as though policies could be another three or four years off. He has still not written to me and I would like to know when I will get a reply.

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, we will issue the terms of reference shortly. We have said that we will produce the White Paper during next year, and out of that will come clear policies for what we will do.

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

My Lords, as to the renewables sector, has my noble friend seen reports in today's newspaper of a nationwide survey of wind, which confirms that Britain has the best wind output, as it were, anywhere in Europe?

Noble Lords:

In this House?

Photo of Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Lord Corbett of Castle Vale Labour

My Lords, not including this House. Even better news is that the peak winds arrive exactly to match peak electricity demands. Would it not make more sense to redouble the investment that we are putting into the development of offshore and onshore wind power and to steam ahead with tidal and wave power?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, it is true that we have the best wind in Europe. That is agreed by all experts. But, as I said before in this House, it is not a case of pursuing one technology alone. We are clearly agreed that to ensure that you have a diversity of energy resources is almost the most important requirement of an energy policy.

Photo of Lord Crickhowell Lord Crickhowell Conservative

My Lords, is it not really rather important that we take account of the policies of the French Parliament, as we already use a great deal of electricity from France that is generated by nuclear power—and, if the policies of Her Majesty's Government fail, we shall probably have to use even more French nuclear power?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, in these circumstances it is always sensible to consider the policies of other countries to see whether one can learn anything from them. However, in this particular case, we shall leave it to the review group to decide whether there are lessons to be learnt from the French experience.

Photo of Baroness Carnegy of Lour Baroness Carnegy of Lour Conservative

My Lords, have the Government studied why the people of France are perfectly happy to build an increasing number of nuclear power stations? They are still doing it, are very happy to do it and seem to have no problems with worrying about danger. Have the Government studied why that is, and are they going to learn the lessons from that?

Photo of Lord Sainsbury of Turville Lord Sainsbury of Turville Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Trade and Industry) (Science and Innovation)

My Lords, I do not believe that any study has been done on that, but it is an interesting fact that countries that do not have their own indigenous sources of energy tend to have a much greater enthusiasm for nuclear. The two obvious examples of that are France and Japan, and the reasons are obvious—that if you are reliant on sources from other countries, there is a real issue of energy security. Therefore, those countries are much keener to have nuclear, because they believe that it gives them energy security.