Report (2nd Day)

Part of Energy Bill [HL] – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords 5:15 pm, 21st October 2015

I think that the noble Lord almost makes my point because, as far as I understand what is being proposed by the Government, local authorities which have refused an application before 18 June, but which was subsequently appealed successfully on a decision taken by Ministers, will actually qualify. But an agreement reached by locally elected people and a locally elected planning committee after debate, consideration and engagement with the local community, but where the subsequent consent as part of that route due to the cycle of meetings was not given until after 18 June will not qualify. Perhaps he has done so inadvertently, but the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, profoundly makes the point that we are making. There is an inconsistency and an unfairness in what the Government are proposing. There is inconsistency between Section 36 applications for smaller developments added on to existing developments and those which do not need Section 36 applications. I do not believe that the Government have made out the case for fairness of treatment, given the test which their own Minister articulated yesterday.

I am sure that we will debate the Salisbury convention at some stage, and I hope that we will take note of the report of the House of Lords and House of Commons Joint Committee on Conventions, which sat around 10 years ago. My noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, who was then the deputy leader of my party in your Lordships’ House, emphasised the Liberal Democrats’ view that,

“‘the Salisbury-Addison Convention was an historical negotiation between the Labour Party in the Commons and the Conservative Party in the Lords’ and therefore not relevant to current circumstances”.

We articulated that position almost 10 years ago, and I think that the report itself accepted that things had moved on.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, said that it was an opportunity for the Government to think again. We certainly want to engage with them in thinking again, because I do not believe that what we have at the moment is fair to developers who had a reasonable expectation that a system which was due to close in March 2017 has been brought forward by a year. In the end, as the Government’s own impact assessment states, the central estimate is around 30p on the electricity bill of the average household. Given the potential damage to the industry and the damage that this is doing to investor confidence in other areas of the renewable industry, it is important that the Government should think again. They have not been able to come up with satisfactory ways of addressing some of the many legitimate complaints that the industry has expressed.