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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord Sewel Lord Sewel Deputy Speaker (Lords) 4:15 pm, 2nd February 2012

My Lords, I hope that we can get through this in under 12 minutes and break the Foulkes record. Right at the beginning, I will come clean: this is purely a probing amendment, which means we can totally disregard the detail. I can only apologise if some poor civil servant somewhere has spent hours drafting notes on Part 1 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. I am sorry, but that was my way of getting the issue on to the agenda.

Quite simply, the issue is my concern whether, at a time when energy security is one of the greatest challenges that we face, we have the appropriate legislative framework to enable the implementation of a strategic British energy policy. It would be totally inadequate to try to deal with the issue of energy security by fragmenting policy so that you have English, Scottish and Welsh energy policies. The task that we face is too great for that sort of small, narrow-minded approach.

Schedule 5 to the 1998 Act reserved virtually all areas of energy policy: electricity, oil and gas, coal and nuclear energy; there are a number of exceptions and they are in the original Act. There has also been a degree of executive devolution since then. The reservation of energy was done quite deliberately in 1998, with the view that strategic energy policy was best devised and implemented at a British level. The point that I want to explore with the Minister is whether we are still capable of implementing a strategic British energy policy. This is where I use the peg of nuclear: we have to take account of the specific contribution that nuclear power can play. We have heard from the Scottish Government that they will not be allowed to build new nuclear power stations in Scotland, and that is a major factor in the debate on energy policy. Is the Minister satisfied that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers have powers which would enable them to prevent the construction of nuclear power stations in Scotland and, if that is the case, is it really possible or credible to think in terms of British energy policy?