Energy Bill [Lords]

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Norman Baker: May I ask the Minister about the mechanics of government? He mentioned a number of Departments that are involved, including the DTI, the Department for Transport and DEFRA. He might also mention the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which I imagine has a planning role in the wider sense. Can he satisfy the Committee, first, that the synergy between the different Departments is such that the environmental objectives can be delivered and, secondly, that for those wishing to develop, the plethora of Departments does not represent an unnecessary hurdle?

Mr. Timms: The hon. Gentleman asks me to respond to criticism from both sides. That is quite fair, but it is clear from his question that there is a balance to be struck, which we think we have got right. Each Department that I described has a specific part to play, and it is important that all the interests, of which account will be taken by such scrutiny, are represented.

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Equally, all the Departments that I mentioned are party to the sustainable energy policy network and are part of the reality of achieving the commitments set out in the energy White Paper. I think that the balance has been set at the right level. I take the hon. Gentleman's point that there are risks of impeding development or of letting things go through that ought not to. However, it will be necessary for each specific project to have all three consents to progress.

There is a robust process in place with a number of stages of consultation, so that decision making can properly ensure that the environmental impact of offshore renewable energy development is minimised. I welcome what members of the Committee have said about the importance of that. Of course, there is no such thing as totally impact-free development, not only in relation to the marine environment or to other users of the sea. We cannot guarantee to ''preserve the marine environment'', in the words of the amendment, because clearly there will be an impact.

The hon. Gentleman drew attention to the difficulties involved with the word ''paramount''. There certainly are for Britain very considerable natural resources offshore—reference has rightly been made to wind, waves, tidal currents—to produce electricity in a sustainable way and without pumping carbon into the atmosphere, thereby helping to meet our goal of cutting CO2 emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050. Offshore renewable technologies have a big part to play, and these measures will make a big contribution to the UK effort to tackle global warming. Global warming itself poses a serious threat, specifically to the marine environment, as members of the Committee know all too well.

Norman Baker: I am grateful to the Minister for his response. It is useful to set the scene as we go into consideration of this part of the Bill, and we have had some useful exchanges. Having heard that response, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

        It being twenty-five minutes past Eleven o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

        Adjourned till this day at half-past Two o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Sayeed, Mr. Jonathan (Chairman)
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Blizzard, Mr.
Challen, Mr.
Key, Mr.
McIntosh, Miss
Page, Mr.
Picking, Anne
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Ruffley, Mr.
Stewart, Ian
Timms, Mr.
Tipping, Paddy
Turner, Dr.
Walley, Joan
Weir, Mr.
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr.

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