The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): Action to support the Gaelic language is primarily the responsibility of Scottish Ministers. However, during his visit to Stornoway yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was delighted to announce the Government's decision to include for the first time Gaelic headings in the new e-passport, which is to be introduced later this year.
Mr. Reid: I welcome the Scottish Parliament's Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill, which will require Scottish public bodies to prepare development plans about how they plan to use the Gaelic language in carrying out their functions. However, Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Parliament have no say over how UK public bodies operate in Scotland. Will the Government ensure that when UK public bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence are operating in Scotland, they prepare and implement Gaelic language development plans?
Mrs. McGuire: The Secretary of State and I are keen to ensure that the Gaelic language is supported by Whitehall and Westminster, and I can advise the House that my right hon. Friend has written to all Departments to highlight the importance of the new Gaelic Language (Scotland) Bill. Of course, the hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that the Bill does not extend statutory responsibilities or obligations for UK public bodies, but the Scotland Office has hosted a constructive meeting between the Scottish Executive and Bord na Gàidhlig, with wide representation from Whitehall Departments, as a preliminary exchange on exactly how the voluntary arrangements might work in the spirit of the new Bill.
Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend tell the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) that the parts of Scotland where the Gaelic language is spoken are some of the most attractive in the whole of the United Kingdom?
The Secretary of State and I can give any hon. Member every assurance that the areas where the Gaelic language is spoken are definitely some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, and when the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) next visits Scotland, perhaps he might want to come further than the nearest grouse moor.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the First Minister. The development of wind farms in Scotland is a devolved responsibility.
Miss McIntosh: However, energy policy is a national and UK responsibility, and how can the Government have a energy policy whose sole commitment to renewable energy seems to be its obsession with wind farms? Does the hon. Lady think that with masses of onshore wind farms, Scotland will be a more attractive or a less attractive place to live?
Mrs. McGuire: I hate to correct the hon. Ladyno, I love to correct her: her interpretation of the development of renewable energy in Scotland is misleading. Everyone recognises the fact that wind farms are intermediate technology, but they are commercially viable and they are available at the moment. We have a renewables obligation, and until such time as other technologies, such as those that relate to wind, tides and energy crops, come on stream, we must consider how we reduce our emissions and provide clean renewable energy for Scotland. If the hon. Lady needs any reassurance that the greatest creative minds are looking at different ways of doing that, I assure her thattoday, in factthe Environment and Rural Development Committee of the Scottish Parliament is taking evidence from NFU Scotland, which wants dung power to become part of the energy mix in Scotland. In case anyone thinks that that issue is peculiar to Scotland, let me point out that there is already a dung power station in Devon.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab): My hon. Friend is aware from discussions that we have had in the past that the development of wind farms in the areas of most scenic beauty is extremely contentious. Does she agree that we need to consider the development of more wave and tidal power, and that much more needs to be spent on research? I honestly think that we have failed, over 20 or 30 years, by being so dependent on gas and oil for far too long.
My hon. Friend is correct. There is already significant investment in wave and tidal demonstration projects. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently visited the demonstration project in Islay, and as the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) will verify, a great deal of work is being put into such pilot projects. The Department of Trade and Industry is providing almost £500 million of funding for such research and development demonstrations. We are aware that we must have an energy mix, and we are doing as much as possible to ensure that when the time comes, we will have a renewable energy policy worthy of the name.
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Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale) (Con): Clearly, the Minister knows that it is important to get the energy mix right. So, too, does the Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Parliament, who said:
Mrs. McGuire: I think that the Deputy Minister said that there needed to be a mature debate. Most of us in the House[Interruption.] Perhaps apart from the Conservatives, who want to try to politicise the issue, most of us realise that we must have a mature debate on the energy mix that will take us through the 21st century.
Mr. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): One renewable energy project that has received welcome funding from the Department of Trade and Industry is the innovative Pelamis wave project developed by Ocean Power Delivery, which is based in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend examine ways of building on the success of that project to establish a focus for renewable energy in Leith docks, which would allow us to tap into the immense potential for manufacturing jobs in such a growing sector of the economy?
Mrs. McGuire: I am well aware of the project about which my hon. Friend speaksperhaps I will discuss the issues with him later. His question encourages us to appreciate not only that we must have renewable energy sources, but that creating such sources will be of benefit to economic development and job numbers in Scotland.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): Ministers and officials keep in regular contact with Scottish Executive and UK Government Departments on a range of developments affecting energy policy.
Pete Wishart: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Following on from the last question, the Prime Minister himself has described climate change as perhaps the world's greatest environmental challenge, yet Talisman, the company behind the 1,000 MW Beatrice offshore wind farm planned for the Moray firth, has described transmission charges as the biggest threat to such projects going ahead. Will the Secretary of State explain how transmission charges that are £20 per kW higher in remote areas will help to address the matter, and how they could possibly encourage such developments, which we dramatically require?
As ever with the nationalists, one cannot take what they say at face value. I, too, have held discussions with the company behind that proposal, and
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it has to look into a range of issues, one of which is transmission charges. We are mindful of that, and we made necessary changes to the Energy Act 2004 to ensure that we could help generation in the north of Scotland. I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I have said many times when we have discussed these matters in the House, that it is important for us to have a transmission regime that is reasonable not only for the north of Scotland, but for offshore generation. Although it is by no means certain that such sources will provide a lot of energy in the future, we certainly need to examine the situation if we are to get a proper balance between renewable energy and other forms of energy generation.
Anne Picking (East Lothian) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that in the energy policy for Scotland there is a place for all forms of energy, including nuclear power? Security of supply and safety are absolutely fundamental to the provision of energy in Scotland.
Mr. Darling: I agree with my hon. Friend that we need a sensible mix of energy generation to ensure continuity of supply. She will know that Torness power station has many years ahead of it and that decisions must be taken in due course about whether it should be refurbished so that it can continue generating. The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) was somewhat critical about this matter a few moments ago, but it was right for the Deputy Minister in the Scottish Executive to draw attention to the fact that we needed a mature debate on how to guarantee our energy supply in the future. That means having a proper mix of energy, which will no doubt include Torness.