Committee (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 9th September 2015.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 5:00 pm, 9th September 2015

My Lords, we have been treated to a veritable tour d’horizon on this amendment, going far beyond the amendment itself. I certainly do not criticise that; I think that in a sense it is important, and it has been a very good debate. I shall try to pick up the points that were made.

To echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, has just said, there is an attraction in getting everybody on the same side, including my noble friend Lord Deben, who is not in his place today—he is just in his place; I am sorry. Getting everybody on the same side of the argument as my noble friend Lord Ridley in relation to CCS is indeed seductive, if for no other reason than that this matter certainly demands close attention, although it demands close attention for many other reasons.

The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, introduced his amendment with great authority. He spoke widely about something being in the air and the challenges that we are facing as a global community, as well as the Conference of the Parties that is taking place in Paris at the end of this year. I associate myself entirely with what he says about the challenge there and the fact that there are positive moves and ambition in the air. However, I would not want anybody to think that this is a done deal. There is a lot of hard work going on. Our own Secretary of State, my right honourable friend Amber Rudd, is spending most of her time on this, working around the clock. She has been given a major role on finance by the French President to try to bring countries together. That, again, is a good thing for us as a country and for all concerned, as she is the right person to do that. It is important to try to keep the 2 degrees centigrade increase in sight, and that is a real challenge. However, it is right that there is ambition in the air and many positive things are happening.

The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, was right when he said that this is a germ of an idea, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that it was the start of an idea. I agree with that. This is very much a nascent amendment and it certainly deserves attention in the broader context of looking at carbon capture and storage, which, I repeat, we are very happy to do within the context of this Bill.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, spoke with great passion—and understandably so—about the narrow focus of this legislation. It is narrow in many ways but I understand that we have the support of the Opposition in ensuring that the Wood review becomes law. That is important. I am very aware that we do not want to lose sight of the central focus, which I think my noble friend Lord Howell referred to with words of caution. The jobs are important, as is gas, in our move to a carbon-free environment. Maximising the economic return in getting gas and oil from the North Sea is vital and we do not want to lose sight of that.

That said, we are very keen to ensure that CCS features centrally within the legislation. The Government have in place one of the most comprehensive programmes in the world on CCS, as recognised recently by the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. This includes a carbon capture and storage competition, with up to £1 billion capital, plus operational support for up to two commercial-scale carbon capture support projects and a £125 million research, development and innovation programme. That said, my noble friend Lord Ridley is absolutely right that it is only Canada that we can look to as somewhere where this is working commercially. DECC officials have spent a lot of time looking at that. They have visited Canada on many occasions and will continue to do so.

I am keen that CCS remains very central to what we are thinking about. I repeat the undertaking that all Peers are invited to join in this process, and all Peers who have spoken will receive a letter inviting them to indicate their availability. If it is difficult to get one meeting because of lack of availability then we will put on two, but we will not be splitting them on a party basis, because I think that there is a genuine cross-party feel on this issue. I do not think that there is any real difference between people on this, which is a very good thing.

I am very keen that we should move forward in relation to this carbon capture and storage issue. I appreciate the debate that we have just had. It has been very helpful, although, as I said, it was much more wide-ranging than the amendment. However, I respectfully ask the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Government have given an undertaking to look at carbon capture and storage in relation to the Oil and Gas Authority and to do so between Committee and Report.