Energy Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:00 pm on 12th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 6:00 pm, 12th April 2016

It is unprecedented, as my noble friend Lord Hain says. I also want to reassure the Minister that no constituencies of English Conservative MPs will be affected by this because I know some of them are genuinely worried about the effect on their constituencies. What I am suggesting in my amendments and what others are suggesting in theirs deals with proposals principally in Scotland and with very important community projects in Scotland. Two categories are dealt with in my amendments. The first category is those covered by Section 75 which are unable to go ahead not because they do not have planning permission —they have managed to get that—but because of some technicality. We are suggesting that that technicality is creating huge problems for them. The other category is in relation to grid connections. There is a particular problem in Scotland with the transmission and distribution grids not necessarily being as easily available as south of the border and having different arrangements. Some projects have fallen foul of these regulations.

If we put the schemes together, they amount to only just under 90 megawatts of generation. It is not a huge amount we are asking for. It is a relatively small amount. They all have the democratic consent of the local council, which is one of the matters raised in the Conservative election manifesto. I shall give the House a couple of examples. There is a scheme in Sorbie, a working dairy farm in Ardrossan in north Ayrshire, that has full planning consent and for which bank finance has been secured, a turbine contract has been agreed and design work has been started. Nearly £1 million has been spent on the scheme by the people concerned. The family-run working dairy farm is already suffering because of the low price of milk. If this project were to be cancelled because of the Government not accepting the amendments being put forward today, it would be in real difficulty. That is the kind of problem that is being faced.

The Minister said that representations from stakeholders were considered. With respect to the noble Lord—as I said, I do have respect for him—I do not think that the representations put forward on behalf of these small, independent projects have been properly considered. They have been frozen out. The Minister quoted the honourable Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill about concern about uncertainty. I say to him, and to the honourable Member, that uncertainty can arise in different ways. There can be uncertainty because Parliament has not come to a decision, but if the Minister were to accept our amendment, that uncertainty would go completely. It would be gone, there would be no problem in relation to that uncertainty, and Sorbie would go ahead.

I shall give another example, that of Inverclyde. It is another wind farm project. The earliest available grid connection date for it is November 2016, which has been accepted, albeit after the 18 June cut-off date. The connection distance to the grid is less than 100 metres, hence the extremely quick connection date, and in this instance there is a very limited requirement for additional infrastructure. At present, Inverclyde would not qualify because a grid connection offer had not been accepted as at 18 June 2015. That is another technicality. Again, we have a number of projects—not a large number, a small number—which lose out because of technicalities. I hope that the Minister will seriously consider this because it is important for Ayrshire, an area I used to represent, for Lanarkshire and indeed for Dumfriesshire in the constituency of the Secretary of State for Scotland. My understanding—and I hope the Minister will confirm this—is that Mr Mundell is strongly in favour of this scheme going ahead.

I have spoken long enough. I hope that the Minister will give this serious consideration. It is not going to be a problem. It is not in conflict with the Tory election manifesto pledge; it is not going to upset Tory MPs in England. Apart from one, all the projects are in Scotland, and they are losing out because of technicalities. To make sure that they do not suffer as a result of the Government’s arbitrary decision, I hope that the Minister will genuinely and sincerely consider accepting, if not my amendment, then the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Grantchester, before we come to a Division today.