Report (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 8th March 2011.

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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.