Report (2nd Day)

Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 6:19 pm on 8th March 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Amendment 167

Tabled by Lord Whitty

167: Before Clause 99, insert the following new Clause-

"Compensation where the Secretary of State requests termination of offshore lease or agreement to lease

(1) The Secretary of State shall make a scheme (in this section, an "early termination compensation scheme") to have effect where-

(a) a lease granted or agreement to lease has been made by the Crown Estates for the purpose of construction and operation of a generating station powered by wind, wave or tidal energy, or of equipment for transmission of electricity at a site in United Kingdom territorial waters or the REZ;

(b) that lease or agreement to lease gives the landlord power to determine the lease or agreement where the Secretary of State so requests on the basis that the whole site, or any part of it, is required in connection with oil or gas works or rights; and

(c) the landlord proposes to determine the lease or agreement, as regards the whole site or any part of it, as a result of such a request.

(2) An early termination compensation scheme-

(a) must require the owner of, or person seeking to exploit, the oil or gas works or rights in question to pay compensation to the full extent of the loss which is likely to be incurred including the recovery of any wasted expenditure, loss of profits and any consequential loss suffered as a result of such works, by the lessee or holder of the agreement to lease as a result of the determination;

(b) may, subject to paragraph (a), make such provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for the computation of compensation;

(c) must make provision for the procedure applicable to the making and determination of claims, including provision for resolution of matters, in the event of disagreement, by an independent body;

(d) must provide for the Secretary of State, when satisfied that compensation as required by the scheme has been agreed or resolved, so to certify in writing; and

(e) may contain such other provision as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

(3) The landlord must not determine the lease or agreement to lease until the Secretary of State has certified the determination in accordance with subsection (2)(d).

(4) Subsections (1), (2), (5), (6), (7)(b) and (8) of section 33 apply, with the necessary modifications, to an early termination compensation scheme."

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Shadow Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales) 6:25 pm, 8th March 2011

My Lords, I had hoped that we would have a replacement to move the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who is not able to be here. However, we have no one, so the amendment is not moved.

Amendment 167 not moved.

Amendment 168

Moved by Lord Judd

168: After Clause 99, insert the following new Clause-

"Bodies able to produce and supply renewable energy

Production and supply of renewable energy by National Park authorities and the Broads Authority

(1) Section 11 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (production and supply of heat etc. by local authorities) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) insert-

"(1A) In subsection (1) the definition of a "local authority" shall be understood to include the Broads Authority and National Park authorities when applied to subsection (1)(a), (b) and (d) (production of heat or electricity or both; establishment and operation of generating stations for production of heat or electricity or both; and use or sale of heat or electricity)."

(3) In subsection (3), after "a local authority" insert "including the Broads Authority and National Park authorities"."

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, we live in an age of communication, but I was in a meeting at the other end and there was no Lords screen; it was just intuition that brought me back. The amendment is intended to raise on Report a matter that we discussed in Committee. The aim is to put the parks and broads authorities on the same footing as local authorities in being able to develop alternative energy possibilities in the national parks and in the broads authority area, and to feed back into the national system. That has been made possible by legislation for other local authorities, but somehow these authorities were not included. The purpose of the amendment is simply to ensure that they are put on an equal footing.

I will make two points. First, the park authorities are very keen to do this. They have found all sorts of imaginative ways in which it could be done, and which would be very much in keeping with the purposes, environment and character of the parks. Small projects done appropriately by park authorities could be a great generator of interest in the possibilities that could be undertaken by other people; they could have great demonstrative value. For all these reasons, I hope that we will get some firm reassurance from the Minister that we will see the possibilities opened up for the park authorities without further delay. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

My Lords, having been rather critical of the national parks in the past, I support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. They should be accepted with one small caveat; namely, that the national parks ought in these circumstances to do everything in their power to make sure that others who are in the national parks should be able to play a part in this, and do things independently as well. My one concern is that the national parks should not feel that this is something only for them. It should be something for everyone who lives in the national parks, and when it is more suitable for other people to do something, I hope that they will be able to do it. Not all, but one or two national parks are inclined to believe that only what they do is acceptable. With that caveat, I hope that the Minister will help the House to agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, seeks to do.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Shadow Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, I am grateful for that last contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Deben. He indicated that past experience of the national parks was not always entirely satisfactory. As we all recognise, what Minister ever finds that a group for which he is responsible is entirely satisfactory? However, the noble Lord indicated that he did not quite subscribe to the perspective that my noble friend Lord Judd proposes in his amendment, and I am very glad that today he has indicated that he supports the amendment, which is an important contribution to the Bill. I am sure that the Minister will look upon it favourably. The national parks will not be asking for anything outrageous, merely that they should play their part.

We all recognise the uniqueness of the national parks' ability to commit themselves to aspects of renewable energy. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Deben. The national parks should not be able to operate in an exclusive manner; they must also look towards canalising within their areas others that can make this contribution. However, there is no doubt that providing an opportunity for the national parks to contribute to these renewable energy developments will be advantageous, and I hope that the Minister takes the same view.

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 6:30 pm, 8th March 2011

My Lords, I very much welcome the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. In Committee, we all spoke very favourably about this particular aspect. At the time, I said that I would, through my officials, actively look to see whether we could include this measure, and I have good news. We have consulted and carried out research, though counsel, and the good news is that the national parks have the authority to undertake this role. We now have to encourage them to understand that they have that opportunity. I know that, in addition to the message that I shall be sending the national parks myself, I can count on noble Lords here to ensure that this message gets back to them. I am extremely pleased with this development, as, I hope, is the noble Lord, because it saves us having to move a government amendment, which would only have taken more of your Lordships' time.

I re-emphasise what my noble friend Lord Deben said. It is important that national parks understand their responsibility and how they transfer that responsibility to the people who live within them. It is important that they exercise the authority that they have through this amendment, and that they support renewable activities and microgeneration for those who live in national parks. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

This is very encouraging news and I hope that it is not just in the world of aspiration. I have absolutely no doubt about the Minister's personal commitment to, and hopes for, this area. However, I hope that a way will be found by the Government to get firmly on the record what the parks' powers are in this respect. I hope that he can give me an assurance on that.

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Perhaps I may reassure the noble Lord that we will get something on the record, and I shall be very happy to write to him outlining the details.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

In those circumstances, I thank the Minister. His response has been very constructive throughout our deliberations on this matter, and this is very encouraging news. I just say to the noble Lord, Lord Deben, that every time he speaks on the national parks, I am dying to know which two national parks so obviously got under his skin when he was Secretary of State.

With regard to the point about the role of the parks and the role of the people within them, as I understand it, that is very much how the authorities envisage the future. They have to be certain that people who undertake projects of this or any other kind do so in the context of the purposes of the parks and that they do it in the most sensitive, environmentally friendly way, respecting the objectives and not breaking them. However, if people want to undertake possibilities of this kind within that firm commitment, I am sure that the park authorities will welcome such co-operation with those who want to play a part.

Above all, I thank the Minister and, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 168 withdrawn.

Amendment 169

Moved by Lord Lea of Crondall

169: After Clause 101, insert the following new Clause-

"PART 4AEnergy revenues, taxes and subsidies: equitable price effects

Energy revenues, taxes and subsidies: equitable price effects

(1) The Treasury shall publish an annual financial abstract of all fiscal and quasi-fiscal instruments, including revenues, tax expenditures and subsidies, which relate to the supply of energy, including hydrocarbons.

(2) The Office for Budget Responsibility shall produce annual assessments, having regard to each carbon budgetary period specified under the Climate Change Act 2008, of the incidence on each sector of the economy, including-

(a) manufacturing and services;

(b) public and private transport, including-

(i) road travel (by bus and private vehicles),

(ii) rail and air travel (both personal and freight);

(c) home and industrial heating.

(3) The Office for National Statistics shall publish in easily assimilable form an assessment of how each fiscal instrument or market intervention affects consumers with different levels of income.

(4) Both assessments shall be tabled for discussion at a periodic forum of industry, trade unions, consumers and other stakeholders; and the forum shall publish its minutes and executive summaries of documentation shall be circulated widely."

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, the proposal in this amendment is, in some respects, complementary to the green industrial strategy. I think that the Government are doing rather well, in terms of the co-ordination within government, in getting their act together on a green industrial strategy, and this Bill bears witness to that. I know that a couple of weeks ago the Green Economy Council had its first meeting on the green industrial strategy. The council is chaired by Vince Cable and attended by Chris Huhne and Caroline Spelman, together with, I believe, junior Ministers from the Treasury and other departments. Apart from Ministers, there is very wide participation from members of industry, including the modern energy industries, and trade unions.

However, that is totally separate from where I think there is currently a gap in the narrative so far as concerns the general public, although it is in the same family of issues relating to carbon and so on. I refer to the tax subsidy side of the jigsaw puzzle. There is concern at the lack of an easily understandable narrative about how the tax and price side affects industry and how what one might call the fiscal energy accounts affect the consumer.

At the end of my speech I shall come back to the nature of the body that I am proposing to deal with this issue but, first, the question to be asked is: what sort of information flow on the taxation and price effect side is needed? I have set out briefly in the amendment the role of the Office for Budget Responsibility in providing verification of, and therefore greater credibility to, the picture presented by the Treasury. I also mention the role of the Office for National Statistics. It is a very important part of the governance of Britain but in some respects it has its own independent role, as must be the case in all countries. We all go round the world talking about the independence of audit and statistics as being central to a properly run modern mixed economy. Statistical bodies certainly have to be seen to be independent, and the ONS can, separately from the Treasury, produce independent studies-for example, on the income distribution aspect, which is measured in several ways, including through the composition of the retail prices index and the consumer prices index.

However, we need two sorts of information. One is what one might call a flow chart of the final incidence of all the taxes and subsidies faced directly by consumers today and indirectly through industrial sectors-transport being a notable example of that, given the weight of hydrocarbon fiscal imposts, and heating being another good example. Of course, that is information that can be presented at a point in time, but more significant in the dynamics of the hugely changing scenario over the next five to 10 years-and it is more or less a revolution in how the fiscal context of energy is governed-is the carbon floor. Over time, there will be a hugely important set of indirect subsidies relating to the carbon floor compared with if it were not there. Broadly speaking-you could have a very complicated debate on this-you can underpin a carbon price agreed nationally or internationally, or you can have a carbon tax, and we could debate that.

Another idea is the new entry tariff for electricity. That was announced by the Treasury and DECC in a Statement last December. You do not have to look into a crystal ball when you can read the book. A straightforward carbon tax-I shall use that as a proxy for all other hydrocarbon taxes-is highly regressive. We know that four times as much share of income is spent on carbon by the bottom decile compared with the top decile. That information is often fed to journalists. The person in the Rolls-Royce pays more but not as a percentage of his or her income. Unless people are deliberately setting out to mislead, it is not sensible to say that.

It is also not sensible for people to say on the BBC or anywhere else, unless they want to be mendacious, that people who no longer own cars because they cannot afford them are no longer part of the calculation under the heading of cars. Although that is the rule in the Office for National Statistics, there is a linking mechanism. If you are a youth looking for a job and you do not have a car, there is not much comfort in someone saying, "By the way, you haven't got a car so this is not a cost to you as measured in the retail prices index". People have to get their brains round that-this is the central theme of my speech and my amendment-so that they do not think they are being sold a pup. On home heating, currently the top decile of people pay 2 per cent of their income and the bottom decile pay no less than 16 per cent of their income.

I think the Treasury, DECC and others collect an amazingly interesting variety of statistics, some of which are hidden. Officials very kindly took me through some of the things available. I thought I knew roughly what was available but there were two or three things I had not heard of. That is not hiding one's light under a bushel; it is a failure to factor in or agree, a priori, the fact that statistics do not speak for themselves but they need some relevance to a narrative that is presented to people in Burton upon Trent. That does not happen at the moment. It is vital and it will be increasingly challenging to ensure that that happens in future. I put it to the Treasury-some of my best friends work in the Treasury-that they deliberately confuse the need for confidentiality and secrecy when it comes to the Budget. There is a question of how open they should be when it comes to simplifying information for popular consumption. You cannot get away from the fact that the Treasury is a highly political department because it and the Chancellor take a lot of heat from the public and the media on the big issues of the economy, taxation, employment and so on.

Against that background, I strongly welcome the creation of the Office for Budgetary Responsibility. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I think that the precursor to that was a statement by Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling before the election; they were present at the conception. I think it is now separate from the Treasury in terms of the building; it has its own Act of Parliament and I think it even has a telephone number. I spent months trying to ring it up and someone said, "Who do you want?". I said, "Who are you?", and he said, "I'm in the Treasury". I said, "I'm trying to get the Office for Budget Responsibility". There was a lot of shuffling around and then I heard, "Jonathan, are you the Office for Budget Responsibility?"-I am caricaturing it of course. That will be an increasingly important part of the national governance furniture.

The OBR fits the requirement in my amendment like a glove. It is a cross between the Treasury and the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In other words, you can ring it up, you can go and see the people, you can discuss things and you can say, "How does that add up?", and so on. That will be a bit of a culture shock for the Treasury, but I am sure it will get used to it and come to love the OBR.

I am underlining this so heavily because the analysis on this increasingly complex area-I echo a phrase from the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, who I believe is on a skiing holiday at the moment, although I do not think that should be in Hansard-has to be at the unimpeachable end of the spectrum. It will be open to ordinary mortals as well as to Select Committees and so on to ask questions. Those questions will not be batted off, as questions to the Treasury often are, on the grounds that the Treasury high priesthood is not running public seminars in understanding statistics.

Another reason why transparency is highly important -comparing apples with apples-is that to gauge the subsidies per kilowatt hour of different forms of generating electricity, it is essential to make sense of the economics of each source and maybe that can be monitored and corroborated by the forum on carbon taxation, the body that I am suggesting in my amendment.

I draw attention to an interesting supplement in this week's New Statesman, where there are various examples of why it is very important that people are not conned into giving large amounts of money to different interests on different forms of energy without total clarity about what is coming in return. I quote from one of the authors:

"certainly with potentially very large amounts of money to be made-and lost-by different energy industries there will be some intense lobbying on all sides".

You can say that again.

Another aspect of the playing field-

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:45 pm, 8th March 2011

Perhaps I could remind the noble Lord that, according to the Companion, he is expected to keep to 15 minutes. Given the time on the clock, he might want to draw his remarks to a close.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

I am sorry. I have read the Companion. I am moving a Motion so the time limit is 20 minutes.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

The important thing is for us to focus on the matter in hand; perhaps the noble Lord might bring his remarks to a sharp conclusion.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

No, I am sorry, but I think that that is a bit rough when I planned on the basis of what I was told this afternoon was the interpretation of the Companion. Are you making a ruling?

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I am reading what it says in the Companion. We are losing time. Whether it is 15 minutes or 20 minutes, I am sure that the noble Lord will wish to bring his remarks to a clear conclusion.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

I will take another three minutes as a compromise, if I may, because I am not there yet.

Carbon capture and storage is another good example where lobbyists say that they need to give confidence that they can recover their up-front costs. That is in fact a demand for an open-ended subsidy. I could go on. Those are all difficult questions to put into the jigsaw puzzle that the statisticians have to put together. We cannot just have random subsidies all round.

I could mention the electricity market reform proposals, where there are four options-the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, will be pleased to know that I will not read them all out. How many people in this country -how many people in this House-know about them? If we are talking about baseload nuclear and the problems of making wind power work, we cannot shut down wind power, so will nuclear have to shut down when the range of electricity use between the summer night and the winter night is between 25 gigawatts in summer and 50 gigawatts in winter? What will the rules be about that?

I make my last point. We may think that this is complicated, but it is against the background of a spike in the world price. We must be clear which is the world price effect and which is domestic subsidies for people in the street. That is essential politically. I hope that no one thinks that I am talking in a partisan sense. It can mean less need for higher indirect taxation if people take the view that the important thing is the reduction of carbon growth, but the Treasury will not be keen on seeing that as a scope for lowering indirect taxation.

I am on my last thought. I am very pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, in our last day in Committee, said that she agreed with a few ideas in my amendment then-there were some things with which she disagreed, which I have therefore taken out. The Government are ticking the box of transparency. Secondly, they are taking the first tentative steps to what I call saleability. We still have to jump the next fence of how to get a high degree of responsibility around the country. That is the signal, which I hope can be taken on board, that there is a good deal of convergence on the view that the approach of the amendment is rational and reasonable. It is very much in the Government's interest, as well as the wider public interest. I hope that the Minister will now, having heard about the rationale and future adjustments that can be made, give careful consideration with her colleagues before the Bill reaches the other place.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, has adumbrated a number of very important issues. I do not dispute that for a moment. It was not altogether easy to follow all the details, but there is no doubt that we have been moving through a consumer revolution in how energy is priced and sold, and the impact of that on the population at large. There are clearly attractions to the noble Lord's proposal. He mentioned the new green economy council. I, too, have studied the proposals for that and welcome that initiative. We look forward to seeing what comes from that. I am not sure how far that differs from the forum that he proposes in the last paragraph of his amendment.

The noble Lord's amendment goes very wide. It covers not just prices but taxes and the whole question of the impact on different sections of the community. There is a need for more clarity on this. I cite just two examples. In case some noble Lords feel that they are being singled out, I shall not mention any names. I find it absurd that people can in two successive amendments or speeches demand that this or that renewable should be supported by the renewables obligation certificate-which, as we all know, is fed straight through the supplier companies and falls on to the bills of consumers-and then in the next amendment set up a great cry of woe because of the impact that this will have on the fuel poor. Some people do not seem to have been adding those two things together and realising that there must be some conflict between them: to ask for more subsidy and say that they are very sorry that it will put the price up.

I agree totally with the noble Lord that there is a need for more public understanding of what this is all about. I give another example very briefly. When the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made an extremely important Statement last October heralding electricity market reform-the noble Lord referred to that in his speech-he drew on the paper published by the department last July entitled Estimated Impacts of Energy and Climate Change Policies on Energy Prices and Bills. At least, I think he was drawing on that. However, there was a freedom of information appeal to the department reported in the Times this January. The headline read:

"Energy shake-up will lift electricity bills to £1,000 in 20 years".

That may be a massive exaggeration; I do not know, but there are great uncertainties in all this. That seems to be what the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, is seeking to identify and to provide a process whereby there can be more public understanding. I am sure that we would all applaud that.

The noble Lord proposes to add a major measure, or series of measures, to this Bill, which is quite specific. The Energy Bill is primarily dealing with the Green Deal.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

I have a problem with what the noble Lord said. Is he suggesting that the Table Office did not think that this amendment could be made to the Bill?

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

If the noble Lord will just wait a moment, that is the point that I am coming to. I think there is a lot in what he said, but I find it extremely difficult to see how we could add at virtually the last stage-although he raised it in Committee and mentioned it at Second Reading-a series of major proposals.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

The noble Lord must allow me to finish my sentence. How could we add a major series of constitutional and economic innovations which would clearly need infinitely more discussion? The House is extremely full at the moment, and we could go on discussing this for some time, but it is not for this Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will find other opportunities to bring this forward on other occasions, because there are many things that could be discussed; but at the moment, at this stage-on the last day on Report; we will have Third Reading next week-I just do not feel that we should accept this amendment.

I do not know what my noble friend is going to say from the Front Bench, but I think that it would be a somewhat bizarre action for this House, at this stage of the Bill, to add the very far-reaching amendment that the noble Lord has tabled. He has spoken to it eloquently and explained what he is trying to achieve. I have indicated that I think there is much merit in that for generating public understanding. However, I would advise the House against trying at this stage, with what would inevitably be a comparatively limited debate, to add a wholly new process of government in order to fulfil the requirements of the amendment. I just do not think that we should do that.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour 7:00 pm, 8th March 2011

Before the noble Lord sits down, I have to come back and say that he is totally misinformed about how this amendment was written, when it was written, where it has been placed in the Bill, and so on. This amendment was written for debate in Committee-just like the innumerable amendments that were debated with speeches of several hours at a time by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. That is the first thing. The second thing is that the fact that it has been placed at the end of the Bill was not my doing. I could have had it in Clause 2, and then that argument would have fallen. Thirdly, I have made it clear that we have reached a stage where a lot of noble Lords have said that the points are interesting in terms of scrutiny. The amendment also has to go to the House of Commons. I find it amazing that that is the best argument that the noble Lord can offer regarding an amendment to which I have given a lot of study and thought. I have looked at statistics and discussed it with civil servants-

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

I remind the noble Lord that he will have the opportunity to respond to all the points made in this mini-debate at the end of the debate, after the Minister has replied.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

I shall finish my speech, as I gave way to the noble Lord to allow him to make his intervention.

I am not complaining that the amendment is placed at the end of the Bill. Of course the noble Lord has placed his amendment where it appears to fit. I am concerned that he is proposing a major series of changes to the whole way in which all the organs of government-the Treasury, the Office for National Statistics and all the others-should conduct themselves, and a new forum to examine the assessments. With the greatest respect, I do not think that this can be added to a Bill of the very specific nature that we have before us.

Photo of Lord Deben Lord Deben Conservative

My Lords, I hesitated to break into my old mentor's speech, but I want to agree with him and to say to the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, that in his speech he proved why this is impossible. In this amendment, the Office for National Statistics is supposed to publish all this in an easily assimilable form. Your Lordships' House might suggest that after listening to the noble Lord, Lord Lea, it is quite difficult to feel that it would be easy to produce an easily assimilable form.

The second thing I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Lea, is very important. It is always true that the poorer you are, the more heavily any imposition weighs upon you. It is not new to say that a particular sum is heavier on somebody who has a small income than on somebody who has a large income. That is why it is very important in the way in which we deal with these matters to see that it falls as lightly as possible on those who are least able to bear it. To spend a great deal of time producing this material in a form that I fear will not be easily assimilable and will probably not be read by the very people for whom it is intended does not help this issue. This issue is that in everything the Government do, in everything the coalition do, they have to seek to do it in a way that is as equable as possible. I say to your Lordships that we are already placing huge responsibilities upon the system of government, and to add to those this very detailed, extremely expensive and, I have to say, probably not used collection of new statistics without any real indication that it is going to be of any practical value is unnecessary not only at this stage of the Bill but at any stage of the Bill.

Finally, the thing we should be concentrating upon is enabling individuals to influence their spending. That is what matters, not what the Office for National Statistics says. Individuals should be able to see how much energy they are using, how they can best prevent that energy being used, how they can opt-in to the Green Deal and how they can make their lives more comfortable and happier. That is what we should be concentrating on. We should be moving away from this determination constantly and centrally to mull over, reproduce, redo, represent and reargue all these cases and get down to the real issue. How does Mrs Jones do something about her own energy use? How does she make her home more energy efficient? How does she know when she is using that energy? How is she able to take advantage of lower tariffs by, for example, doing her washing at a time that is not a peak time? All those things demand the fast installation of smart meters. I hope they will not be prescriptive but will merely say what they are supposed to do rather than how they do it. I hear some rather unnerving information from the ministry that sounds as though it wants to be terribly detailed about it. I hope it is not going to be like that. That is what we should be emphasising: helping individuals to make choices that benefit them rather than providing a lot of statistics that I suggest will be read by nobody. If they will be read by nobody, they will do nobody any good.

Photo of Lord Oxburgh Lord Oxburgh Crossbench

My Lords, I, too, have some sympathy with the interest of the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, in proposing this amendment. However, I, too, do not feel that this is the way forward. This is a very big matter and requires very careful consideration. At this point, I think I have an opportunity to offend all political parties in the House by saying that within the energy industry there is bewilderment that pretty much all the political parties believe that energy poverty should be treated separately from every other sort of poverty at the expense of distorting our energy market and our energy costing. In the view of many outside, it would be much more sensible to let energy prices do what they must. It is inevitable that we go into a more expensive energy world and handle the whole poverty problem together.

Photo of Lord Teverson Lord Teverson Chair, EU Sub-Committee C - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy

My Lords, I, too, sympathise with a number of the themes that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, has brought forward, but I remind the House that this is Report stage and, to be honest, I find this amendment quite muddled. I find it very difficult to understand its detail or even what it is trying to achieve in terms of its words. I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Lea, what he is trying to achieve, but I am not even sure that if we put this into the Bill it would achieve that. Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause refers to a range of things including quasi-fiscal instruments. I do not know whether that is a technical Treasury term that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, has got from his friends in the Treasury, but I do not understand it.

I seriously do not understand what proposed new subsection (2) means. It seems to connect carbon budget periods, which as we know are five years, with annual assessments, and I am not sure what it is trying to do. The list in proposed new subsections (2)(a) to (c) exclude the industry that paid for my mortgage in the first 20 years-the road freight industry-inland waterways and shipping, and I am not sure that its purpose is comprehensive.

Proposed new subsections (3) and (4), again, come back to statistics that I think are generally available. It has not been difficult for me to find most energy statistics that I have tried to find.

I agree that we have an issue with the amount of money that ROCs and feed-in tariffs actually cost consumers, as my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding reminded us, and with the way in which these charges affect groups in fuel poverty differently. However, I honestly do not feel that this amendment achieves what we want to achieve within a reasonable understanding of what this amendment actually says. For that reason, I find it impossible to support it at this stage of the Bill.

Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Shadow Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Spokesperson (Wales)

My Lords, this has been a fairly substantial debate that justifies at least one decision which the House came to the other evening: that we would not be able to rush consideration of this and the other amendment and deal with them within the time limit that we had at that time. I am grateful to my noble friend for having generated quite a significant debate on the issues.

It is a little unfair to suggest that this amendment comes somewhat late in the Bill, as we discussed it extensively in Committee. I indicated from the opposition Front Bench that we did not find parts of it entirely acceptable at that stage. In particular, we could see Treasury colleagues bridling at the concept of hypothecated taxation, which is an additional complicating dimension to the proposals. My noble friend Lord Lea has worked hard, and harder, to take out that part of his amendment and still retain the merits of the original amendment.

This amendment has come in its proper place in our consideration of the Bill. It is not as though we are at the last stages of our consideration of this Bill in Parliament. The Bill started in this House, and our job in a sense is to clarify the issues and to make amendments where we think amendments should be made so that our colleagues in the other place can address the Bill with the benefit of the considerable expertise that this House brings to bear on matters of this kind. We therefore owe my noble friend a considerable debt for having raised these issues.

Does this matter fit within the Bill? I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, but I fear that that point can be made about every Bill that is likely to come before the House. I can think of Bills that relate to energy, Bills that relate to the environment and green issues, and Bills that relate to a Treasury position. All will say that their Bill focuses on particular issues, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, spelled out accurately, and that we should not try to drop a load of matters into it that are not extraneous but that bring other dimensions into the Bill that are not its primary purpose.

The danger is that we fail to address the very issues which my noble friend Lord Lea has worked so hard to address. How do we get coherent energy policy that is transparent enough to be conveyed effectively to our fellow citizens? Of course I presume, as my noble friend Lord Lea did in his opening remarks, that we are all straining towards the same objective. We all know that to hit the carbon reduction targets and to tackle the energy crisis over the next 30 to 40 years we will need a consensus that goes beyond all of us in this House. It will have to be a consensus that obtains on Governments who are 20 years away and who will be composed of the next generation or the one after of our fellow citizens, so of course we seek to be consensual. However, to be consensual we need to take our citizens with us.

The merit of this amendment is that my noble friend is struggling to identify the framework in which we establish degrees of transparency and orderliness on issues that span government departments and successive Bills on energy and other matters but that need to be seriously considered. My noble friend must be right when he says that the danger is that we identify meritorious things for subsidy and are then involved in an accumulation of individual actions and support that lack coherence and that do not have a strategy that is necessary for the task that we face.

I respect the reservations of noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, but surely it must be right for the Government to face up to the complexity of this issue. We ought to take as many opportunities as we can to identify this complexity. If by accepting this amendment we send a signal to the other place that it, too, must engage in this debate, and even if at the end the Government are not convinced that they can make the strategy in this amendment workable-and we know the strength of the Government when it comes to their majority position-at least we will have significantly advanced the cause of identifying for our fellow citizens crucial aspects of energy policy that it will certainly be difficult to win their support for and agreement to. Excessive division on some objectives would render nugatory the whole consensus that we require in such a crucial area.

I hope that the Minister, when he comes to respond to this amendment, will take it warts and all and accept that its broad proposals are worth continuing to debate, given that we are far from the final stages in Parliament of consideration of this very important Bill.

Photo of Lord Marland Lord Marland The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change 7:15 pm, 8th March 2011

My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this matter. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Lea, has yet again provoked a substantial debate-43 minutes on Report so far, and an hour and 15 minutes in Committee-on a very complicated subject. He identified in his speech the complications of getting to grips with this. To some extent-and I will make a partisan point here-we have in his view inherited a complicated situation that could perhaps have been solved over previous years but that is so complicated it is probably very difficult so to do. In fact, he has spent time with our officials, and with Treasury officials whom we put at his disposal, discussing this matter and, I hope, better understanding the complications.

The noble Lord is perhaps concerned that there is not enough information. Well, there is the Office for Budget Responsibility. There is the National Audit Office, which produces annual statistics. There is our own departmental publication, our annual report, which produces the statistics that are being mentioned. We have the Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics and an annual publication on energy prices. I could go on.

My noble friend Lord Deben makes an extremely good point. How much continual burden of statistics and information are we going to put on people, which they would have to digest in order to work out what is going on, in the name of transparency? As we have agreed through these debates, transparency is fundamental. That is one reason why we are bringing the smart meter into people's homes to make readily available the information on the electricity that they will be spending. We have discussed throughout the merits of smart meters, a fundamental platform for this Bill.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, it is fundamental that we have better public understanding of the cost of electricity and it must be the aim of the Government to do that. Not for one moment do we not accept that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, makes some important points, but we cannot sort this out in nine months of government or, with a click of the fingers, in the short period of time that has been available to this Bill.

However, it should be reviewed and we should look at it. We should embrace it in our electricity market reform programme, which is under consultation, and we will consider it through that process. Perhaps appropriately, as the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, suggests, it will be part of a Bill that looks at this area and not be part of one which has fundamentally been driven by the Green Deal, admittedly with a few add-on bits. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, recently proposed an addition in an excellent amendment.

The Government do not feel that this is an appropriate amendment for this Bill. We believe that it is something that we should consider. Like the previous Government, we constantly believe in transparency and helping the general public to better understand this complicated issue of energy and electricity prices. Perhaps I may remind noble Lords that we are committed to this. On that basis and with that assurance, and in recognising the important and great value that this amendment has brought to the debate, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, will withdraw his amendment accordingly.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

My Lords, I hope that I do not have to come back in three years' time because there are riots in the streets and name all noble Lords who said that this did not need to be done. There will be great anxiety in the everyday lives of people because matters will have got mixed up in their minds about the obligation. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, is now so intellectually confused that he does not remember that it was him, following Kyoto, who brought in a degree of hypothecation whereby we are transferring funds to mitigation in Bangladesh and so on. These are all part of the deal. It involves a huge amount of money, which soon will approach $500 billion a year. Therefore, people should have a chance to understand.

I am afraid that everyone from the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, on has contradicted themselves and has made totally inconsistent remarks. It seems that if people do not understand the statistics, presumably that is their fault and the poor dears will never be able to understand them. We should put the statistics in a form that people can own and understand, giving them a picture of the problems, and reasons for the price increases, that they can accept. I do not know whether the noble Lord thinks that he is living in ancient Athens, but we have a wider electorate than they had there.

Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative

I think that the noble Lord has totally misunderstood what I said. I went to great pains to indicate that I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Lea, had raised a number of extremely important points. My only argument, which has been supported by other speakers around the House, is that this is not the right Bill in which to do it. There needs to be much more discussion and probably a separate Bill-perhaps the next energy Bill.

Photo of Lord Lea of Crondall Lord Lea of Crondall Labour

On that point we can both read tomorrow's Hansard to check who used which argument. Certainly, the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, deployed the argument-no doubt one of them will put their hand up and say whether it was them-that this is an expensive statistics-gathering exercise. I do not think that we are talking about gathering more statistics, which are very expensive to produce. We are talking about £60 billion or £80 billion. What a ridiculous argument.

I hope that Ministers will think about this proposal before the Bill goes to the Commons and that our Opposition colleagues in the other place will want to take it forward. We are moving into a dangerous area of potential misunderstanding. We have a huge spike in the world oil price and on top of that an alternative between a carbon floor and a carbon tax-not exactly the same thing-both of which will be regressive.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, is no longer in place because he made a sweeping statement of socioeconomic doctrine that we should achieve all this through original income distribution and not try to help people with their home heating Bills. I do not know what responsibilities he has had in the world of meeting actual citizens-he is a very distinguished scientist-but we have to look at the wider public interest and the acceptability of peaceful governance of this country. I think that there is something like that in one of the prayers that the right reverend Prelates read from time to time. Something along those lines at least is in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England. That argument is a total red herring at this stage. It has been put down as an amendment just like the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin. We will have to consider what to say at Third Reading.

Things are changing fast. In another astonishing aside, the Minister said words to the effect that we are rushing things. For a coalition, which has an agreement to change the world, the constitution, the Parliament, the way in which we elect people, this dog's breakfast of the Public Bodies Bill, and a long list of other things coming forward, such as the health services Bill, to say that we cannot take these measures in this sort of timescale is not a very telling argument.

In my opening remarks, I made the point that this is not a partisan amendment at all. I am very sorry that the Minister felt that he had to say that this mess, or words like that, has been inherited from the Labour Government. That is ridiculous. Things are happening all the time. We have the world oil shock and the new EU framework, which I understand is about transparency and subsidies as regards renewable energy. All these things are happening and we are trying to get ahead of the curve. All that I can say to noble Lords is "Mark my words". For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 169 withdrawn.

Clause 103 : Extent

Amendments 170 to 173

Moved by Lord Marland

170: Clause 103, page 77, line 18, leave out "sections 9 and 11(2) to (4) and (8)" and insert "section 9"

171: Clause 103, page 77, line 21, at end insert-

"( ) section (Acknowledgment of green deal plan in connection with other transactions etc)(3) (further provision made in regulations for acknowledgment of such a plan);"

172: Clause 103, page 77, line 28, leave out "sections 10 and 11(5) to (7) and (9)" and insert "section 10"

173: Clause 103, page 77, line 31, at end insert-

"( ) section (Acknowledgment of green deal plan in connection with other transactions etc)(4) (further provision made in regulations for acknowledgment of such a plan);"

Amendments 170 to 173 agreed.

Clause 104 : Commencement

Amendments 174 to 180

Moved by Lord Marland

174: Clause 104, page 78, line 7, leave out "sections 10 and 11(5) to (7) and (9)" and insert "section 10"

175: Clause 104, page 78, line 10, at end insert-

"( ) section (Acknowledgment of green deal plan in connection with other transactions etc)(4) (further provision made in regulations for acknowledgment of such a plan);"

176: Clause 104, page 78, line 22, leave out "88" and insert "(Amendment of section 166 of the Energy Act 2004)"

177: Clause 104, page 78, line 35, leave out ", 8(1) and (5)(a)"

178: Clause 104, page 78, line 35, after "11" insert ", 12(1), (2)(a), (3)(a) and (4)"

179: Clause 104, page 78, line 38, leave out "(except sub-paragraphs (1) and (5)(a) of that paragraph)"

180: Clause 104, page 78, line 39, after "12" insert "(2)(b), (3)(b) and (5)"

Amendments 174 to 180 agreed.