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The hon. Lady referred to the problem, which was particularly prominent in Cornwall, of people investigating complaints about matters for which they were responsible or in which they had colluded. That is completely unacceptable, and it should be standard good practice for the board of any trust that provides services to ensure that complaints are investigated.
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When they are investigated internally, that should be done by someone who is not implicated in the matters to which the complaint relates. As for ensuring that proper attention is given to complaints even from a single user or family, we have already taken steps to strengthen the NHS complaints procedure. From my own constituency experience, I have been impressed by CSCI’s response to concerns—for example, about the treatment of a vulnerable elderly person—raised by one family, and by the way in which it has looked at the situation in the care home or whatever is the subject of complaint. We certainly need to ensure that the voice of the most vulnerable people in our community is heard by the staff who look after them, by the board responsible for the organisation that employs those staff, by commissioning organisations and by the regulators. As Members of Parliament, we can assist with that process, but we must ensure, too, that the regulatory and complaints system is as it should be, and that is what we are doing.

Matthew Taylor (Truro and St. Austell) (LD): People both inside and outside the House will be shocked by those appalling events, none more so than people in Cornwall. While there were terrible shortcomings at a local level, the Minister will accept that the inspection regime, which should have guaranteed that those individuals’ interests were well protected, failed. Can she confirm that there will be an immediate step up in unannounced inspections so that that can never happen again for such a long time without it being picked up? Finally, will she reflect on the fact that while appalling events have taken place, nationally and, indeed, in Cornwall, many people caring for individuals with learning disabilities do not treat their patients that way. An enormous amount of good work is done by many people, not least in the NHS in Cornwall, but they may believe that their efforts are unappreciated.

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Ms Hewitt: I have made it clear that the Healthcare Commission and CSCI, in particular, have changed their inspection regime, both to ensure that they look at organisations when there is reason to believe that people may be at risk and to use unannounced inspections. In Cornwall, the problem was not an absence of unannounced inspections but the fact that the inspections did not look at what was happening in learning disability services, partly because of a curious arrangement for services provided in what appeared to be a health service establishment. The regulators are looking at that problem. As for the excellent services provided by many staff and organisations in different parts of the country, I entirely concur with the hon. Gentleman and stressed that point earlier.

Mr. Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): Further to the Secretary of State’s comments on the good work that is being done, many families in Cornwall who have experienced the care provided by the trust are far more positive about smaller establishments. They are particularly nervous about change, so can the Secretary of State provide reassurance that the needs of those clients and the preferences of their families will be taken into account as we move forward?

Ms Hewitt: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. In its report the Healthcare Commission stressed that most of the staff to whom it talked were warm, kind and committed to doing their best for the people in their care, but did not have the training, support and the proper systems in place to enable them to do that. Of course, it is a central principle of good care for vulnerable people that they and their families are fully consulted about any changes that may need to be made in the services that are provided. That is part of the purpose of the care assessments that have already taken place.

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Energy Review

3.55 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the energy review which was announced by the Prime Minister last November. Today I am publishing a report setting out the conclusions of that review. Copies will available in the Vote Office in the usual way. The report is extensive, and of necessity my statement has to cover proposals in some detail.

We face two major long-term challenges—first, along with other countries, to tackle climate change and the need to cut damaging carbon emissions, and secondly, to deliver secure supplies of cleaner energy at affordable prices. Increasingly, we will come to depend upon imported gas and oil as our own plentiful but harder to exploit North sea oil reserves decline. The proposals that I am announcing set out our approach to meeting our energy needs over the next 30 to 40 years. Many of the proposals contained in the report will need further consultation. Thereafter, the Government intend to publish a White Paper around the turn of the year.

The starting point for reducing carbon emissions must be to save energy. If we are to meet our goals of a 60 per cent. reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, we need not just to reduce carbon intensity through low energy sources such as renewables, but also to save energy. We therefore make a number of proposals to encourage greater energy efficiency.

For consumers, we need better information about the amount of energy used, smart metering, real-time energy use displays, better and clearer energy bills, and more information for new buyers and tenants on energy efficiency in homes. It is estimated that leaving electric appliances on standby uses about 7 per cent. of all electricity generated in the UK, so we will work with industry and others to improve the efficiency of domestic appliances and to phase out inefficient goods, thus limiting the amount of standby energy wasted.

We also propose a range of measures to take us towards a long-term goal of carbon-neutral developments. New homes can use around a quarter of the energy to heat, compared with the average home. We aim to make the Government estate carbon- neutral by 2012. We will also provide strong support for the use of on-site electricity generation, such as solar panels. Energy efficiency will help people on low incomes especially. The review sets out our approach.

If we are to make a real difference to reducing energy demand, we need a radically different approach. We need a stronger obligation on energy companies to provide energy saving measures and a radical plan to change the way in which they sell their services. Yes, we will encourage Britain’s 27 million homes to become more energy efficient, but it is also essential that we incentivise Britain’s big six energy suppliers to work with homeowners to make their houses more energy efficient. Today, companies have the incentive to sell as much as they can. Instead, we need to give energy producers incentives to make homes more energy efficient and to sell them more insulation products. We are consulting on the most effective way of doing that.

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The European Union emissions trading scheme, which covers 11,000 high intensity users of energy, and the climate change levy are key to encourage businesses such as power stations or steelworks to save energy and to cut emissions, but there are in addition around 5,000 large businesses and public services in the UK that are not covered by the scheme. We want to reduce energy inefficiency for those companies too. One supermarket chain in the UK alone is one of the biggest single users of energy in the country. Those businesses should be incentivised to reduce their emissions, so we shall consult on a proposal for an emissions trading scheme for them, along with other options to cut the amount of carbon produced—something they support. That makes economic and environmental sense.

Saving energy in businesses and homes is essential, but so too is the need to cut emissions from road transport. Fuel efficiency in transport continues to improve. We will encourage the use of lower carbon fuels, especially biofuels, and there will be more cost-effective opportunities to save carbon as new technologies are developed. Company car tax and vehicle excise duty have been reformed to encourage energy efficiency, and we will continue to press the European Union to consider the inclusion of surface transport in the emissions trading scheme as well as aviation.

Last November, we announced the renewable transport fuel obligation—5 per cent. of all fuels to be from renewable sources by 2010. Today, we propose that that obligation, after consultation, should be extended after 2010, provided that some important conditions are met. That could provide a further carbon reduction of 2 million tonnes, which is equivalent to taking another million cars off the road, once it is fully implemented.

Providing the right incentives to reduce energy is critical, but we also need to do more to make the energy that we use cleaner. We have a number of proposals. Most of our electricity is generated in large power stations, and around three quarters of our heat comes from gas fed through a national network, which delivers economies of scale, safety and—crucially—reliability. However, the Government believe that we can do more to encourage the generation of electricity on a smaller scale near to where it is used. Today, less than 0.5 per cent. of our electricity comes from microgeneration, while combined heat and power provides about 7 per cent. We need to do more.

There are technical and other obstacles to overcome, but we want to remove barriers to the development of what is known as distributed generation. We can do more to make microgeneration more attractive and to make it easier to set up combined heat and power schemes. The Government believe that this is a major opportunity for the United Kingdom to invest in renewable energy and other low carbon technologies. The environmental transformation fund, which was announced recently, will provide investment for energy funding services. Details of the scale and scope of that fund will be announced in the spending review in 2008. We will also encourage low carbon alternatives such as biomass, solar and heat pumps.

Over the next two decades, it is likely that we will need substantial new electricity generation capacity as power stations, principally coal and nuclear plants, reach the end of their lives—their output is equivalent
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to about a third of today’s generating capacity. Power stations are long-term investments, and we need to implement the right framework to incentivise investment decisions to limit carbon emissions. We remain committed to carbon pricing in the UK through the operation of the emissions trading scheme, and it is essential that there is a carbon price to encourage us to use less of it. Today, around 90 per cent. of the UK’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels, so we need to do more to encourage the renewable generation of electricity.

The renewable obligation is key to support the expansion of renewables. It has resulted in major developments, particularly in onshore wind power generation, landfill gas and the use of biomass in coal stations. Far from getting rid of the renewables obligation, as some have proposed, we intend to increase it from 15 to 20 per cent. We also want to give a boost to offshore wind energy generation and other emerging technologies—for example, tidal—to encourage growth. We will consult on banding the obligations to encourage those developments.

The Government also see a continuing role for both gas and coal-fired generation. We will convene a coal forum to bring together UK coal producers and suppliers to help them find solutions to some of the long-term problems of UK coal-fired power generation and UK coal production. Coal-fired generation continues to meet around one third of electricity demand, and last winter it met as much as half, which shows the important role that coal can play in UK energy security.

If coal-fired generation is to have a long-term future, however, we need to tackle its heavy carbon emissions. Carbon capture and storage could cut emissions by 80 to 90 per cent., and we have some natural and commercial advantages such as a strong oil industry and old oil fields where CO2 can be stored. The next step is a commercial demonstration, if the technology proves to be cost-effective. We are working with the Norwegian Government and the industry on development, and a further announcement will be made in the pre-Budget report. Carbon capture could lead to our saving several million tonnes of carbon by 2020.

The Government believe that a mix of energy supply remains essential and that we should not be over-dependent on one source, which is especially true if we are to maintain security of supply in the future. We will continue to do everything that we can to promote more open and competitive markets, which is why we are backing the Commission in securing the effective implementation of the energy market. We will also take steps to secure gas supplies, maximising the exploitation of oil and gas from the UK continental shelf. Last month, we saw a record number of applications for further development in the North sea. We also need to facilitate the construction of sufficient storage and import infrastructure.

Against a background where Britain’s nuclear power stations are ageing, decisions will have to be taken on their replacement in the next few years. If we do nothing, the proportion of electricity generated by nuclear could fall from just under 20 per cent. today to just 6 per cent. in 15 years’ time. Moreover, nuclear has
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provided much of the electricity base load, contributing to consistency of supply as well as security of supply. While some of that capacity can and should be replaced by renewables, it is more likely than not that some of it will be replaced by gas, which would increasingly have to be imported. The Government have concluded that new nuclear power stations could make a significant contribution to meeting our energy policy goals. It will be for the private sector to initiate, fund, construct and operate new nuclear plants and cover the cost of decommissioning and their full share of long-term waste management costs.

The review makes a number of proposals to address barriers to new build, and the Health and Safety Executive is developing guidance for providers of new stations. For nuclear new build, considerations of safety and security will be paramount, as they are now. We are setting out a proposed framework for the way in which the relevant issues on nuclear should be handled in the planning process, and we will consult on that before the publication of the White Paper. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management—CoRWM—published its interim recommendations in April, confirming its preference for geological disposal of nuclear waste. The committee is to be congratulated on the open and transparent way in which it has conducted its work and the broad consensus that it has developed for securing the future long-term management of the UK’s nuclear waste. It will publish its final report this month, and the Government will respond thereafter.

If we are to see any of these developments, whether they be renewables or conventional power stations, we believe that we need to change the planning laws in this country. We will work with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we have an effective planning regime. We can make some changes now—for example, bringing together the planning process and consents on the Electricity Act 1989—but the Government believe that the current planning regime needs fundamental reform, and we will consult on proposals to do that later this year.

The proposals that I have set out will result in a reduction of between 19 million and 25 million tonnes of carbon by 2020, over and above the measures already announced in the climate change review programme. We are on course to achieve real progress in cutting emissions by 2020 and on the right path to attaining our goal of cutting the UK’s carbon emissions by 60 per cent. by about 2050. The proposals will help us to meet our twin objectives of tackling climate change and providing security of supply. The scale of the challenge is great. The proposals show how we can overcome them to secure our prosperity and the health of our planet. I commend the statement to the House.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): First, I thank the Secretary of State for his courtesy in giving us advance sight of his statement.

This review has been much heralded, but sadly we find today that it amounts to almost nothing. After six months’ work, 2,000 submissions, and hundreds of thousands of civil service hours, the conclusion is that nuclear power

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to meeting our energy supply goals. This statement is not carbon-free but content-free. We have been told for months that urgent decisions must be made now. We have been told that delaying those decisions would risk the lights going out and that this is the most fundamental review of our energy needs ever undertaken—and then all we get today is this statement.

The statement proposes six new consultations—[ Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Mr. Duncan: The statement proposes six new consultations and the convening of a new forum, and says that there is much to consider, yet there are no real policies, no real action, no real decisions, and no real energy review at all. There is nothing here. Everybody believed that the Prime Minister had made a decision to build new nuclear power stations and that this review followed to provide the air cover for that decision. Instead, the Secretary of State announced at the end of his statement that the Government believe that

Did the Prime Minister realise that he was so out on a limb that his views are not shared even in his own Cabinet, and that the Secretary of State for Wales agrees with us rather than with his Prime Minister?

Last week, we set out our findings. We said that the key aims are reducing carbon emissions and securing supplies—exactly what the Secretary of State echoed on the radio this morning.

We proposed a tougher carbon regime to tackle emissions; a capacity payment scheme to build security; a long-term framework to encourage investment, and a change in market structures to encourage decentralised energy and efficiency measures. Those combined proposals will spark a green revolution and guarantee reductions in carbon emissions. Almost everybody, even Stephen Hale, who used to be special adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, welcomed our proposals.

The subject is very important. Does not the Secretary of State believe, like us, that political consensus is essential if we are to build the climate for investment in the energy sector that is badly needed? Even the Liberal Democrats announced today that they were not against nuclear power in principle.

Where there is agreement, we welcome it. The Government attacked our position on nuclear power, but now they seem to have changed their stance. They attacked us for saying that the renewables obligation was not working, but now they agree with us and say that they will consider—only “consider”—reforming it. They claim that they want to streamline the planning system—we agree. They say that there should be no subsidies for nuclear—we also agree. If they say that the costs must be transparent and a solution for waste must be found, we agree with that, too.

The Government say that they want to promote energy efficiency—we agree. They say that they approve of the EU emissions trading scheme—we do, too. Indeed, we went further because we made proposals for extending carbon trading. However, where is Government action? Perhaps we will have to conduct another energy review.

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We do not agree that Nirex and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority should be joined up. Independent bodies are better placed to ensure that safety remains paramount in the nuclear industry. Will the Secretary of State therefore confirm that those bodies will remain separate?

What are the proposals in the statement for increased gas storage? Where are the exact proposals for supporting decentralised energy? When will genuine action be taken to amend Ofgem’s remit? We have to wait until paragraph 55 out of 60 to reach the words,

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