Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300 - 310)



  300.—to be given to renewables in various forms of subsidy, but that pales into insignificance in terms of the subsidies given to other forms of energy such as nuclear, for example. Do you have a view on that?
  (Margaret Beckett) We are talking historic now, are we not? The nuclear industry was set up many years ago. It has always had substantial public funds, but it is under this Government that a more forthright and sustained drive to promote and to develop renewable energy use has begun to take shape and I anticipate that that will continue.

  301. Is there no truth in the rumours in the press that the Government is planning to build 15 new nuclear power stations?
  (Margaret Beckett) If this is a reference to what it says in the PIU Energy Review we shall see when that review is published.


  302. Your department has been working on a grand CHP strategy for some time.
  (Margaret Beckett) Yes.

  303. But are you saying that this is going to be held up until after the PIU energy report?
  (Margaret Beckett) As I say, we hope to consult on the strategy around the turn of the year.

  304. We are talking about January or February?
  (Margaret Beckett) Yes, probably around then. We are not talking about a long delay, but we are talking about having the PIU review which obviously is an important backdrop to this strategy.

  305. Could I just ask you on the Carbon Trust what is your responsibility for that? We are not quite clear which department is responsible for it.
  (Margaret Beckett) That is because it was set up jointly by ourselves and the DTI. It is one of the joint initiatives between the two departments.

  306. So it is a joint responsibility?
  (Margaret Beckett) Indeed.

  307. As you know, the Council for Business and the Environment has expressed a lot of concern about the small level of revenue coming into that from the Climate Change Levy and has called for a review of that situation. Have you a response to that?
  (Margaret Beckett) The Trust has only just been set up and it is in its formative stage. It is a perfectly legitimate view to be expressed that in time the scale of its work is something that might cause people to say—

  308. You are at an early stage yet?
  (Margaret Beckett) Yes. It was only set up in April so I think it is a bit early to say it has not got enough money.

David Wright

  309. Secretary of State, the Marine Conservation Bill is in front of the House at the moment. Clearly we have to find a workable compromise between serving the marine environment and our drive (positive drive, you might think) towards harnessing offshore wind and wave power. What work have you been doing with colleagues in DTI—indeed have you been doing any work with colleagues in DTI—on this and what is your overview about promoting alternative forms of energy?
  (Margaret Beckett) Obviously it is part of the work that DTI is engaged in, the promotion of renewables, and it is something that my department is engaged in as well, but I think you will find that both DTI and my department are committed to safeguarding marine biodiversity and to safeguarding the marine environment. In fact we jointly fund something called the Joint Nature Conservation Committee whose role is to provide us with the kind of information we need to identify special areas of conservation and special protection areas in the marine environment, particularly close to our own shares, and to help us to meet the provisions of the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive.

  310. Are there any protocols for that or any background notes for that which we can look at?
  (Margaret Beckett) Pass. I will find out.

  Chairman: Secretary of State, that was a very worthwhile session from our point of view and I hope you found it so too. Thank you very much indeed.

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