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Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk) (Con):
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State's statement and the measures that
he has announced. They are a sign that the Government are at last addressing the task of decarbonising Britain with the necessary urgency. In view of the importance of early progress towards what he has set out, does the Secretary of State accept that disentangling the effects of the recession on what will probably be a short-term reduction in emissions from the effects of the measures that he has announced is important to the process of evaluation over the next few years?
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. He does important work in the Environmental Audit Committee on these questions, and I enjoy talking to him about them. It is true that in meeting our carbon targets we should not rely on what has happened in the economy in the past 18 months or so. That is part of the reason why it is right that we have been ambitious in the numbers that we have set out and why I said that we should over-achieve on our carbon budgets. We also have to tighten the budget when it comes to an ambitious deal at Copenhagen.
Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab): I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is recognising the potential contribution of wave and tide technology towards our renewables targets, and I am glad that he has made provision for its support. However, that provision does not account for even 50 per cent. of the £405 million provided in the Budget for renewable energy support. Furthermore, on the face of this statement, it does not take into account the special difficulties faced by the wave and tidal industry at present: there is a zero market for it.
Offshore wind, however, has the double renewables obligation certificates regime, which is fine for such a well established technology. Many severe problems face the wave and tide technology industry, which needs Government help to get it over the hurdles. Can my right hon. Friend be more specific about what he plans to do about that?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend has made an important point. We need to consider how to drive forward marine and tidal technology, including in respect of the ROCs issue, which he raised. As for the £405 million, we are spending the money carefully and will make further announcements in due course.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): When will work begin on the first new nuclear station and carbon storage plant identified in the Secretary of State's statement? If it is not soon, the epitaph of this Government will be that they turned the lights out and left us all in the dark.
Edward Miliband: The right hon. Gentleman obviously practised that one in advance. Construction of the new nuclear stations begins in the early part of the next decade because we have to go through the consultation, the strategic siting assessments, and so on. It is a bit rich of the Conservatives to accuse us of being too slow on these questions given that they opposed our proposals right up until the last minute. We want to move forward as fast as possible on carbon capture and storage.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op):
I welcome the statement, particularly in relation to
transport. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that spending restrictions will not cut across any of these proposals?
Edward Miliband: That depends on how quickly the plans move forward. From 2018, the new stations will start to be built. As I said, the companies have plans for about 12 GW, which is more than existing capacity. I do not think that all of it will be built by 2020, but it will probably be built in the early part of the following decade.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will appreciate that the Government have set themselves some challenging targets for reducing CO2 emissions. What role will the Climate Change Committee have in monitoring the progress and success of the substantial measures that he has announced?
Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): As Longannet power station is in my constituency, I am obviously keen for it to win the CCS competition, in which Scottish Power is an enthusiastic bidder. We are keen for the decision to be announced as soon as possible. Can the Secretary of State go further than saying that he is enthusiastic for it to move forward as fast as possible and give us an indication of when the result will be announced?
Edward Miliband: We are engaged in a competition and the invitation to negotiate has gone out to the companies involved, which will put forward their proposals. They will then have to do the engineering and design studies, for which they will receive funding to help them, and we will choose a winner next year.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Kingspan on recently winning the Queen's award for enterprise? As he knows, Kingspan, which has a factory in Glossop, creates high-quality insulation materials. What will he do to promote the use of insulation, both in retrofitting and in new property, before the 2016 zero-carbon new homes limit, not just in the homes of the fuel-poor but in all buildings?
Edward Miliband: I had the pleasure of attending a Kingspan reception before it got its Queen's award, and I pay tribute to the work that it does. I did not get a chance to announce in my statement that we are extending the CERT scheme to the end of 2012, which means that on top of the plans that we have already announced, another 1.5 million homes will be insulated. I hope that that will involve the use of a whole range of materials from a whole range of companies.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): The Secretary of State may not know of my long-standing support for renewable energy, but he will know of the plethora of planning applications for onshore wind farms in the crowded east midlands. I shall not oppose those on the grounds that they are in my back yard, which they are, but my constituents are concerned about the proximity of some wind turbines to dwellings. Will he please look carefully at the paper by a consultant in sleep disorders that I have sent him, which says that the low-frequency noise resulting from proximity to wind turbines can have an impact on sleep? I would be grateful if he would take account of those concerns, address the issue quickly and give a clever answer.
Edward Miliband: I am not sure that I can give a clever answer on the spot, but I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman is a "yimby" rather than a nimby on these questions. I will look at the paper that he has sent me.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): As the world's only new nuclear power station is already three years late in its construction and €2 billion over budget, is it not better to concentrate on the wonderful opportunities that we have for marine energy? In this country, we have half the amount of all the potential in Europe for exploiting tidal power. Is not the way forward to concentrate on power sources that are carbon-free, British and eternal? Why is the opportunity vast but the investment puny?
Edward Miliband: I think that the investment is quite significant. On the delay to the Scandinavian nuclear power station, those involved did not undertake the generic design assessment that we shall undertake in this country. Part of the delay was caused by their not agreeing the design with the regulators in advance. As I said in my statement, we need all the low-carbon technologies. Marine is important and wind is important, but nuclear is also important.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Does the Secretary of State appreciate that scepticism about his policy on wind turbines, fed by the feeling that insufficient account is taken of their cumulative impact on flat landscapes such as the fens, where they can be seen in all directions for miles, would be exacerbated if he granted permission for new fossil fuel power stations fed by imported gas in those same vulnerable landscapes?
Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): May I particularly congratulate my right hon. Friend on his announcement that the Government, not the regulator, will set the grid access regime? Does he agree that our centralised transmission system means that on microgeneration we are years behind countries such as Germany and Denmark? On the feed-in tariff, which he understands is absolutely vital, will he do all that he can to move forward with urgency, for which, of course, we need the full co-operation of National Grid plc?
Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): The Scottish Government have a world-leading target of a 42 per cent. reduction in emissions in anticipation of agreement at Copenhagen. That obviously involves a large increase in renewables. I welcome what the Secretary of State said about grid access, but will he also think about transmission charges and balancing charges, which are a real problem for some renewables generators in Scotland? Any help that he can give us in prising the fossil fuel levy from the Treasury would be very welcome.
Edward Miliband: I do not want to get involved in an argument between the Treasury and the Scottish Government, as I might come off worse. We will consider the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. Grid access is a very important in every respect. Separately from my decisions, Ofgem is looking at the rates that will be set for the fifth round of grid access charges. I hope that that may help on the issue that he raises.
Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and welcome many of the commitments made in it, although some of us are not persuaded on the cost or contribution of nuclear in this context. The test will be in the detail of delivery. Does he recognise that there are eight different Administrations in these islands who have different interests and involvements in energy, renewable energy, conservation measures and fuel poverty, and that he will therefore need to co-ordinate all those Administrations, possibly through the British-Irish Council, to ensure that these islands become a positive and strong centre for renewable energy?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. The British-Irish Council plays an important role in working on some of these energy issues. We need to co-operate across the whole of the United Kingdom as much as possible.
Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): In developing these policies, what account has the Secretary of State taken of two recent but rather unexpected pieces of scientific evidence? One is the Hadley Centre's series of global temperatures, which is one of the four series used by the intergovernmental panel on climate change, and which shows cooling since 1998. More recently, the American series developed by NASA, which uses measurements from satellites in space and is thought to be the most accurate of all, shows global cooling over the past 30 years.
Edward Miliband: I was not aware of the second piece of evidence that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. On the first piece of evidence and more generally, one problem is that the results of studies taking 1998 as a starting point are very adversely affected by the impact of El Niño, which caused a significant amount of global warming. Therefore, it may look as though there has been overall cooling since 1998, but the evidence over a longer period of two decades that I have seen and have been advised on suggests that climate change is getting worse, not better.
Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall that in the 1980s this country was the world leader in the development of clean coal technology via the fluidised bed plant at Grimethorpe colliery in my constituency-until the Thatcher Government pulled the plug on its funding? Does he agree that Yorkshire again has a leading role to play, this time not just in the development of clean coal technology but in the development of carbon capture and storage?
Edward Miliband: I agree with my hon. Friend. I know that the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) was not in the Conservative party in those days-he was in a different political party-but mistakes were made. There are imaginative proposals from Yorkshire Forward about these matters, as well as from a number of other regions of our country. I hope that they can benefit from our proposals on carbon capture and storage.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): I am sure that everyone will welcome the Secretary of State's announcement of a definite day-1 April 2010-for the introduction of feed-in tariffs. For those companies and individuals that are producing renewable energy with the benefit of the ROC system, will there be an opportunity to change to a feed-in system if that is more appropriate?
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We want to ensure that people have certainty going forward and that we have the right arrangements in place. They are set out in detail in our renewable energy strategy, which has been published today.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the environmental impact of uranium mining, the energy usage in refining uranium and the long-term costs of storage and clean-up after nuclear power stations have run over their time?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend asks an important question. On the first part, we are convinced that the carbon gains from nuclear power far outweigh the costs that he was talking about. On the second part, waste and clean-up are a big legacy issue in Britain. That is why we passed legislation to place the responsibility for those costs on the private sector.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): The Secretary of State said that cuts in emissions in agriculture would be made possible by new commitments on farming. Can he tell the House how he expects the agriculture industry to face those challenges? Surely it is important that we do not challenge the profitability and sustainability of farming throughout the UK.
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman is completely right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will want to work with farming communities across the UK on how that can be done. Innovative methods have been produced by a range of farmers across our country, and we will want to do this sensitively.
Nick Ainger (Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire) (Lab): I welcome the statement, and particularly the fact that households will now be incentivised. The idea of spreading the cost of energy-saving equipment in the home is excellent.
May I come back to the issue of social tariffs? Hundreds of thousands of rural households cannot benefit from social tariffs for their heating. Can the Secretary of State assure me that, in the legislation that he is proposing, rural households and particularly the oil companies that supply them, which are currently making billions in profits, will be part of a social tariff for rural communities?
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Was the Secretary of State slightly disappointed by the Chancellor's U-turn in putting up air passenger duty rather than taxing planes-in other words taxing passengers rather than the polluter?
Edward Miliband: No; I think that the Chancellor made the right decision. There are different ways in which we can have an impact on aviation and air travel. There needs to be more carbon accounting for the costs of air travel, and that is what we are doing.
Albert Owen (Ynys Môn) (Lab): I very much welcome the recommitment to both renewable and nuclear power as part of the trinity that my right hon. Friend described. He has answered the very important question about developing a skills base for the future, but we also need a UK supply base for these exciting developments. Will he ensure that that happens and work with local assemblies and local authorities so that we get a proper UK supply base for the future?
Edward Miliband: I agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope that the money that we have made available for renewable energy will help people throughout our country. There are important opportunities, and we want the UK to take them up.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): Will the autumn national policy statement on nuclear set out detailed time scales for the programme of the building of new nuclear plant and its coming on stream, and of the decommissioning of the old Magnox stations?
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