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Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): While our European competitors such as Germany are rolling out far larger energy-efficiency programmes, progress here is still too slow. Indeed, the Government have now cancelled the launch of their heat and energy-saving consultation for the second time. Given the sad failure to transform the energy-efficiency of our housing stock over the last decade, may I invite the Secretary of State to borrow yet another ambitious Conservative policy and offer all home-owners a £6,500 entitlement to energy retrofit their homes, thus creating real efficiency, real savings and real green jobs?

Joan Ruddock: Let me respond immediately to the hon. Gentleman’s final point. He says that every home owner would be entitled to such a package, but when we made inquiries of the shadow Front-Bench team we were told that 1 per cent. of the population would receive it. If the hon. Gentleman has now resiled from that, may I ask him how the Conservatives will find the £150 billion that the programme would cost, given that they intend to cut the Department of Energy and Climate Change budget?

Our heat and energy savings consultation will indeed be delivered. It has certainly not been cancelled.

4. Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): What recent assessment he has made of progress towards meeting the Government's target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010; and if he will make a statement. [249985]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): Carbon dioxide emissions are expected to be reduced to 15 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010. That will help to make Britain one of the few countries to exceed our Kyoto target, although it is short of the more challenging unilateral 20 per cent. goal. So progress has been made, but we need to do more. Later this year I shall set out a carbon budget for the coming years to enable us to make our contribution to a successful global deal at Copenhagen this December.

Mr. Kennedy: Let me thank the Secretary of State for his courtesy in choosing to reply as well as for the content of his reply, and then move quickly on.

Will the Government be building the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change into the consultation on carbon capture and storage, and would he or his colleagues and officials be willing to meet me—along with, perhaps, the non-governmental organisations—for discussions at some stage between now and July, when my private Member’s Bill will be up for debate, to establish what further progress can be made?

Edward Miliband: I shall meet the right hon. Gentleman with pleasure to discuss his private Member’s Bill.

Lord Turner’s recommendations in his report published in December represent an important step forward in the ways in which we can drive carbon capture and storage into any new coal-fired power stations. We are examining those recommendations carefully, and will say more about them in the next few weeks.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, energy generation is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide, and if any major and worthwhile reductions are to be made, our means of power generation will have to be addressed. Will my
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right hon. Friend speed up our moves towards carbon capture and storage, given that people are now protesting against any form of coal burning, and will he also look at what Newcastle university is doing in connection with underground coal gasification?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend has made a good point. One of the important aspects of the climate and energy package that was agreed in the European Union last December was the €9 billion of investment in carbon capture and storage. That will make a huge difference to carbon capture and storage across Europe, and will build on the demonstration plant that Britain is seeking to build. I believe that we will be in a strong position to secure at least one of the European demonstration projects in addition to our own.

My hon. Friend is also right to suggest that we need to encourage the whole range of technologies and draw on the work of the academic community, including Newcastle university.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that the Government’s success in wrecking the national economy will result in lower CO2 emissions?

Edward Miliband: Obviously, I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s description of our programme. What has happened to CO2 emissions in the last decade is interesting: we have, for the first time, decoupled economic growth, which has been at about 38 per cent. in that period, from carbon emissions, which have fallen. That is a major step forward, and it is an indication of what we need to do in the future.

Ms Patricia Hewitt (Leicester, West) (Lab): As the Government focus on the carbon reduction targets, will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to ensure that green jobs and a green new deal remain at the heart of the Government’s programme to stimulate the economy during the global downturn?

Edward Miliband: My right hon. Friend speaks as a former Business Secretary who made great strides on energy, and she is absolutely right that, as we think about the future of our economy, we have to think about the low-carbon sectors where jobs are available, such as renewables, nuclear—in my view—and carbon capture and storage. Britain has unique assets in this area, not only in terms of renewables, but also in relation to carbon capture and storage. We need to turn those unique assets into employment for people in this country.

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): Given its effect on emissions, does the Secretary of State personally approve of the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow?

Edward Miliband: It was the right decision, and let me explain to the hon. Gentleman why. Some may argue that people should stop flying, but that is not my opinion. I believe that we should have constrained expansion of aviation, and that is why we have been very clear in the Heathrow decision about the fact that only 50 per cent. of the slots have been granted and any future expansion beyond that will be conditional on the
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target we have set—we are the first Government in the world to have set it—according to which aviation emissions in 2050, at which time we have set our target to achieve an 80 per cent. cut in carbon emissions, must be back to 2005 emission levels. We have taken the right decision: constrained expansion of aviation.

Greg Clark: The Secretary of State is an intelligent man. He knows that these mock concessions fool no one. Indeed, it is telling that the Prime Minister’s old tactic of briefing against his predecessor and claiming victory for spurious concessions is now being employed by his protégé against him. On emissions, will the Secretary of State confirm that one quarter of the progress claimed by the Government on emissions is bought in from other European countries?

Edward Miliband: Of course credits play a role, but I am surprised at what the hon. Gentleman says about aviation because he wrote a pamphlet in 2003 called “Free to Travel” and in it—I here refer Members to the position that there should be no more flying—he said:

He also said:

So once again we see that the hon. Gentleman has not thought his policy through.

Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): The Secretary of State has mentioned support for carbon capture and storage, but is he aware that people in the industry are concerned about the slow progress that is being made and also that the demonstration projects might not be extensive enough? Is he prepared to meet me and representatives of the industry to try to resolve this?

Edward Miliband: I will definitely meet my hon. Friend. He is right that we need to make progress in this area. There is a huge amount of expertise and talent around the country, and research that we need to draw on, and I look forward to discussing those issues with him and his colleagues.

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): Following changes that Germany secured in the next stage of the EU emissions trading scheme, some commentators have calculated that up to 96 per cent. of processing firms could receive free credits. Has the Secretary of State identified which sectors of the UK economy will receive free credits and what impact that will have on future emissions targets?

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman asks an important question. We will judge who gets free credits by a rigorous analysis of which sectors are really exposed to so-called carbon leakage—the UK argued very strongly for that in relation to the directive. What there must not be is simply a blanket exemption for everyone in relation to free allowances. This process will take place during this year, and we will then come up with the sectors that are affected. I think the import of the hon. Gentleman’s question is that we must be rigorous and we must make this as demanding an EU ETS as possible, and I share that view.

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European Supergrid

5. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): What discussions he has had with his EU counterparts on proposals for a European supergrid. [249988]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Departmental officials have had discussions with the European Commission and other European countries about improved grid connections for offshore wind and to link up to European grids. A European supergrid is a big, long-term, interesting but expensive concept.

Dr. Whitehead: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that reply. He will be aware of the proposals for North sea grid interconnectors using direct current cables and for wider connections using such cables across the whole of Europe to connect various forms of renewable energy together. Is he willing to meet representatives of the European e-Parliament, who are promoting that latter initiative in order to connect the whole of Europe’s renewable output for resources delivered across Europe as a whole?

Mr. O'Brien: In principle, I am happy to meet those representatives. However, in terms of linking up renewables, particularly wind power, to the UK, we have a massive programme to link up to 33 GW of electricity, at a cost of about £15 billion. The cost is already substantial, so I would not want my hon. Friend to think that we are other than cautious about this. As a long-term concept it is interesting, but in the short term we must focus on the things that are more at hand: getting offshore wind farms properly connected to the UK, so that we ensure that we get the electricity generated here.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Minister aware that more than 600 wind turbines have either been completed or are planned for sites in the Wash and along the Norfolk coast, and that those could be linked up to a supergrid? Is he aware that those offshore wind farms command widespread public support, in complete contrast to the small clusters of onshore ones, which do a huge amount of damage to the environment and are very unpopular?

Mr. O'Brien: It is the case that we will need both onshore and offshore wind power in order to ensure that we reach the level of capacity that we need for renewables—I see some nodding of heads on the Conservative Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman has to appreciate that although those who oppose onshore wind farms are often speaking for some of their constituents, there is a national objective of ensuring that we develop the wind and renewable generation capacity that this country needs. That means that we need to continue to develop both offshore and onshore wind power.

Mr. Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent, South) (Lab): In his discussions with his European colleagues about pan-European energy levels, will my hon. and learned Friend also raise the issue of the UK ceramics industry, which is, and has been for a while, at a disadvantage compared with other European producers because of the energy costs in this country?

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Mr. O'Brien: I am very happy to raise that matter. I am aware of the concerns, particularly in Staffordshire and the Stoke area, about the problems that those in the ceramics industry have had, particularly in getting access to some energy sources. I am happy to ensure that we continue to raise those issues, as my hon. Friend and some of his colleagues have been doing for some time.

Kyoto Protocol

6. John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with his foreign counterparts on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. [249989]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): In December last year, I participated in the United Nations climate change conference in Poznan, which was designed to prepare the way for a global agreement in Copenhagen this December. Over the coming year, the UK Government will try to make our own contribution to a global deal, through, among other things, our own ambitious domestic commitments, our work in the EU and co-operation with the new American Administration.

John Barrett: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He may wish to follow President Obama and

As such, will he ensure that the climate conference in December is not derailed by discussions over what developing countries must do and that it accepts that those who produced the most CO2 over the past century must take most of the responsibility for emission reductions?

Edward Miliband: All of us want to follow President Obama, who has certainly made an impressive start. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the commitment of developed countries. I think that they have to make strong and challenging commitments. We must find ways to ensure that developing countries are part of a global deal and can move away from a “business as usual” approach on emissions. Part of our responsibility is to find ways to finance those changes in developing countries. I agree with him about the approach that he suggests.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that, as per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom have risen in this century, the statutory target for cutting those emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050 will be impossible to meet, particularly with the continued expansion of aviation, and does he agree that 80 per cent. is an unrealistic target to achieve at Copenhagen?

Edward Miliband: No, I do not agree with my hon. Friend, which is rare. I think 80 per cent. is a realistic target. The Committee on Climate Change has shown in its report how that can be achieved through what we do with domestic transport, the power sector and the household sector. Yes, ambitious measures are required, but it is most important that they are driven by the science. The science says that the world as a whole must cut carbon emissions by at least 50 per cent. by 2050,
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and that developed countries must play their part in that. The target is non-negotiable. We must meet it, and I think we can meet it.

Topical Questions

T1. [250002] Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): The Department of Energy and Climate Change is committed to working to ensure security for Britain. During the past few weeks, we have been working with our EU partners to resolve the dispute over the gas supply between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to states of emergency in some European countries. The end of the dispute earlier this week was welcome and overdue. It is essential that the EU now takes effective steps in the European strategic energy review to improve energy resilience, and it is always important that we remain vigilant in ensuring UK security of supply by working with National Grid and Ofgem.

Mr. Baron: Residents living in fuel poverty in my constituency often do not have a bank account, so do not have access to the cheapest energy tariffs. Will the Secretary of State consider instructing energy companies to state on their bills whether customers are on the cheapest tariff and, if not, how much they would save if they were, and, more important, how they can gain access to that tariff?

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has suggested an ingenious idea, which we will consider. Ofgem has said that it needs to provide better information for customers, and the House will agree with his point about people who do not have access to bank accounts. It is important that Ofgem is proposing changes in the law and licence conditions to prevent unfair discrimination, but I agree that better information is also important for those customers.

T2. [250003] Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): May I ask about the miners’ compensation scheme? I speak with some passion as the son of a coal miner. Is it appropriate that almost half the money set aside for that scheme has gone into the pockets of lawyers, some of whom are detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure? Will he ensure that the money is properly directed?

Mr. Speaker: Order. This is topical questions, so supplementaries should be brief.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I have considerable concern about that—my constituency is also a mining one—and some of my constituents have been faced with solicitors who have claimed money not only from them but from the previous Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. That is a matter of considerable concern. The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal recently made some decisions that I welcome, but a lot more needs to be done to ensure that we get to the bottom of what seems to be a scandal of considerable proportions.

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