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Report (3rd Day)

Part of Infrastructure Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 10th November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Deighton Lord Deighton The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury 9:00 pm, 10th November 2014

I think the difference between the two opportunities is that, in one case, we are right at the beginning and, in the other, we are right at the end. Now is the time to explore the opportunity with respect to shale gas.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson pointed out that a sovereign wealth fund was implemented successfully in Norway, but that fund was established in 1990, which was nearly 20 years after oil was first produced. The fund was set up when the levels of revenue were already well known—this was a point that my noble friend Lord Forsyth was also getting at. The UK shale gas industry is still in the exploration phase. We will not be able accurately to forecast the scale or timing of shale revenues until more work is done to determine the extent of gas that can be technically and commercially recovered. Therefore, coming up today with a clear plan for how this might fit into issues related to determining how we reduce the deficit and how we invest in the long term is extremely difficult without understanding what the revenues will be—I fully take on the point made there by my noble friend Lord Forsyth.

It should therefore be for future Governments to think about how such a fund could be designed, but we commit to the principle. The Chancellor will demonstrate his commitment to bring forward a proposal in the next Parliament in his Autumn Statement. With respect to the request made by my noble friend Lord Hodgson for a peg in the board now, and for those others who support this idea, I think that the right timing is when we have better information and are able to look at this matter properly. On that basis, I trust that the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson, Lord Whitty, Lord Teverson and Lord Jenkin, will agree not to press their amendment.