Energy Bill [HL] - Commons Amendments

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 12th April 2016.

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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 7:00 pm, 12th April 2016

My Lords, we have had a wide-ranging debate on the opposition amendments which I shall try to cover in my response. I shall take the speeches in the order in which they were made.

I acknowledge the great efforts that have been made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, the noble Lords, Lord Foulkes, Lord Grantchester and Lord Hain, and the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, and I thank them for their comprehensive suggestions and the detailed drafting of the amendments. I also thank them for their hard work and forensic skill—particularly that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace—in putting them forward.

I understand the points that are being made. There is, by and large, a doctrinal difference in attitudes to onshore wind between the Opposition and the Government. Hence it was in our manifesto and not in those of other parties. That should be our starting point.

I should make one thing clear that I hope I do not need to make clear. There were many references to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and projects being in his constituency and I hope no one was suggesting that there should be special treatment in that regard. Let me make it clear that there will not be—nor would the right honourable member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale expect such.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, for his unusual, unprecedented and almost unique accolades. We go back a long way on devolution and, as he knows, I have the greatest respect for him. I am about to damage him with his Benches in the same way as he damaged me with mine but I thank him for his contribution. I contest the point he is making about these being mere technicalities—they are much more than that.

As noble Lords will appreciate, I cannot respond to all of the detailed projects because I do not have knowledge of every single one. Of those I do, I will endeavour to say what I can on them, but I cannot specifically carry the knowledge of where we are on them all. I certainly would encourage noble Lords and the developers to be in touch with the department because officials are keen to engage, to be helpful, and to give clarity in relation to these different projects.

I pay tribute to the noble Lord, who I know makes great efforts on behalf of his part of Scotland and the area he used to represent, and he has put forward a powerful case. I shall pick up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, and say that of course there would be an impact on deployment. Obviously if we alter the law it will not be just in relation to Scotland, it will apply to the whole of the country. It will not be laser-like on a particular area, so it will increase deployment, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, indicated in his remarks. His figure was higher than that suggested by my noble friend Lord Lindsay. Further, as has been indicated, we have undertaken extensive consultation.

I turn to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and I thank him very much indeed for making me aware of what he was going to say in relation to Llynfi Afan in the Afan Valley and the Gamesa project there. As he knows, DECC officials have already been engaged with the developer and they are happy to continue to do that. I am also certainly happy to write to Gamesa, as he indicated. From what I gather, this is not a difficulty with the Welsh Government, as has just been suggested. I do not think that that is the case at all. This project has planning permission so we will certainly take a close look at it and clarify the position. If I can help in that regard, of course I will.

I turn to the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, on the issue of the grid and radar delay as set out in the letter that we sent to him. If I can, I will get officials to contact him again in case there is a lack of clarity on that or if there is an ambiguity; I do not think there is. I know that it is an issue that matters to other noble Lords as well.

I turn to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, who raised many points with forensic skill, as he does. As he has been around the legal block a bit he will know that cut-off dates are always a problem. It can be suggested that they are capricious or arbitrary, but virtually all legislation has cut-off points in it, and there will always be someone on the other side of them who you wish you could help. But in reality a cut-off point has to be set, and that is what we have done. I can understand that it does not appeal to some people, but of course it is arbitrary only in the sense that any date is arbitrary, so even if we moved in the way he has suggested, there would be other projects that would fall just the other side of the line.

I think that the noble and learned Lord’s ultimate conclusion was that there is no hybridity in this Bill. If that was his conclusion, I agree with him; this is not an issue about hybridity. Scottish developers are subject to Scottish planning law and those in England and Wales are subject to English and Welsh planning law. It is not unusual for differences in law to arise on either side of the border these days, and indeed it is now happening more and more in relation to Wales as well, producing different practical results. I do not think that that causes hybridity unless a specific private interest is affected, but I do not see that being the case here. So, with regret, I do not think that I can move on any of the points he has raised. We have made our position very clear.

Perhaps I may just say in response to some of the matters that have been brought up in relation to Scotland—I understand the particular interest in Scotland because of the massive deployment there; it has benefited massively, there is no doubt about that—that it was not a significant issue in the House of Commons. I did not think it was and so I double-checked it. That is not to say that it is not a matter that needs to be addressed, but it is interesting to note that it did not seem to be a massive issue in another place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, set out a position in relation to CFDs and the Scottish Government. We have set the rules for CFDs and we have said that they will not be considered for the round of CFDs in this year, but I am very willing to ensure that we engage with the Scottish Government, as we do on energy issues, to see if there is anything that we can do in relation to future CFD rounds. I will take that away and look at it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, raised an issue about what he saw as the improved clarity set out in the letter that I sent to him. That is the correct position, and we will ensure that the letter is circulated to noble Lords who have participated in the debate and we will make use of it too if it is helpful to developers, as indeed we do. The correct position is set out in it, so I will be happy to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, spoke kindly about our unexpected election victory as he saw it, and he also said quite rightly, for which I thank him, that one has to draw the line somewhere. That is a very realistic position. We can take different views as to where the line should be drawn. He talked about democratic control, but I would make the point that this does not stop wind farms deploying onshore, it ends the subsidy. People need to grasp that. The position is that we do not want to carry on subsidising where there is no continued need for subsidy. That is the basis on which we are moving and one of the prime reasons for this provision.