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In other words, he seems to be against it, and that will not achieve the low-carbon generation that we need in this country, will it?

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend say how much gas there is in 10 GW? I understand that demand is for something like 22 GW of gas-fired electricity. If that is correct, in the next 20 years we could be over-dependent on gas, so does he intend to take measures to cap gas in the energy mix?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend has asked exactly the right question. The majority is gas, and to obtain the low-carbon revolution that we need, we must press ahead with renewables, for example. The low-carbon transition plan that we published in the summer shows that we can stabilise levels of gas imports, but only if we move ahead with renewables and nuclear. Part of that involves standing up and saying, including to local councils throughout the country, that it is right to go ahead with renewables. Again, the Conservative party singularly fails to do that. Sixty per cent. of wind turbine applications to Conservative councils are turned down. That will not achieve the low-carbon revolution that we need, will it?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the negligence suffered by Britain's energy supplies was during the '80s and '90s, when the Tories blasted a hole and closed 150 pits? We are now importing 54 million tonnes of coal a year from countries that we do not even trust because of that action. May we have a guarantee that now that the world price of
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coal is going up, we will use coal technology to ensure that those pits that are reopening and the miners who work in them are given a chance?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is right in his historical analysis and his analysis of the future. The truth is that we know that carbon capture and storage can make coal a fuel of the future and not of the past. That is why we propose a levy to fund carbon capture and storage in this country. Again, I hope that we can have all-party support, because that is what will make coal a fuel of the future and create thousands of jobs in this country.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): It is good to know that dinosaurs are still with us.

If the Secretary of State does not want to listen to us, he should at least listen to his own advisers. In the past few weeks, Ofgem's excellent Project Discovery has said that the Government's estimates of energy supply are optimistic. Their own energy adviser, the excellent Professor MacKay, has said that power cuts are likely by 2016. Even the Government's low-carbon transition plan refers to power cuts in 2017, but in Government-speak it calls that energy demand unserved.

It is on the Government's watch that the mistakes have happened-

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am awaiting the question mark.

Charles Hendry: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the errors occurred on his watch? We have not seen investment in nuclear because of the Government's moratorium. Does he accept that his complacency has put our security at risk?

Edward Miliband: No, I do not accept that. The hon. Gentleman is normally a sensible fellow, but on this occasion he does not seem to be. On the crucial issues that will guarantee security of supply and make the low-carbon transition happen, the Conservative party is on the wrong side of the argument. It is on the wrong side of the planning argument, and it is on the wrong side of the carbon capture and storage levy argument. Also, the shadow Business Secretary has said that we should have "no onshore wind" in this country. That will do nothing for security of supply or low carbon. Therefore, the truth is that the Conservative party would be a risk to the low-carbon transition and to security of supply.

Economic Situation

4. Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effect of the current economic situation on prospects for an international agreement on climate change; and if he will make a statement. [297751]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): The latest analysis indicates a short-term fall in global emissions as a result of the global economic downturn, but long-term projections show a rising trend. Securing a global agreement at Copenhagen is essential to making the transition to a low-carbon economy.

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Mr. McGovern: I thank the Minister for that answer. Does she agree that the Government should use tackling climate change as an opportunity to develop green manufacturing jobs in the UK, which would be good for the economy, good for climate change and good for working people-our people?

Joan Ruddock: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend, and that is exactly what the Government are doing. In this year's Budget, we added an extra £1.4 billion of targeted support to help the transition to the low-carbon economy; that was building on previous commitments, so that £10.4 billion is now being enabled. The low-carbon economy currently supports about 880,000 people in work, and it is a fast-growing sector. This Government will continue to invest. We think that the 15 per cent. renewables target could create as many as 500,000 new jobs. Therefore, this Government will continue to make the investment that is necessary to create jobs, which is more than we can say of the Opposition.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): Is the Minister aware that the Committee on Climate Change reported that the reductions in carbon emissions in the United Kingdom over the last four years amounted to a very modest 0.5 per cent. per annum? Does she agree that if she is to have credibility at any international summit on this issue, she will need a better track record than that?

Joan Ruddock: No, I do not agree at all. The fact is that we have more than doubled our Kyoto commitment in respect of the basket of greenhouse gases, which has already been reduced by 21 per cent. on 1990 levels. Therefore, we have got a track record that is recognised in the international forum. Yes, we have had small reductions, but that was during a period of 34 per cent. growth in the economy, so that is still an achievement, and a step change is under way: levels are going down faster, and we have a transition plan that will make them go down faster still.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend knows that there is a double whammy for developing countries in the current economic crisis: not only are the poorest being hit by the state of the economy, but climate change affects them first. We hear that €100 billion is being made available for mitigation and working with developing countries, but can the Minister give an assurance that that sum will actually be achieved? Those of us who have worked on international debt relief for many years know that promises at conferences very rarely turn into cash on the ground, so can she give an assurance that that will happen?

Joan Ruddock: What I can tell my hon. Friend is that we have learned the lessons from the donor conferences of the past where many countries made promises but did not deliver. We believe there needs to be a new architecture and a new framework, within which the money will be collected according to a formula possibly based, we think, on greenhouse gases and emissions combined, and with every country except the least developed of them having to contribute to the pot. That is the way in which we can make a difference, and that is what we are hoping to achieve in the Copenhagen agreement.

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Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): Vestas and Siemens, which manufacture wind turbines, calculate that for every gigawatt installed, 3,000 new jobs are created. Given the amount of offshore wind that is planned around our shores-and, indeed, off the coast of my constituency-what can we do to ensure that these jobs are created in this country, rather than exported?

Joan Ruddock: We are incentivising the generation of offshore wind. We have already made a commitment of £120 million, and we have seen that by increasing the renewables obligation certificates and agreeing to review them, we are encouraging that industry to come to Britain. I recently visited Aberdeen. The industry there, which has so much expertise in oil and gas, is standing ready to make that transfer into renewables, for which it is very well suited.

International Co-operation

5. Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on reaching an international agreement on climate change; and if he will make a statement. [297752]

6. Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of efforts to tackle climate change in international forums; and if he will make a statement. [297753]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): I am in intensive dialogue with my international counterparts, as I was last weekend in Barcelona at the United Nations talks and last month at the Major Economies Forum in London. Along with the Prime Minister and others, I expect to engage in further discussions in the run-up to Copenhagen. We are determined to do all that we can to secure the best possible outcome in December.

Mr. Jenkins: In recognising the excellent lobbying of this Government by environmental campaigners in this country, will he use his offices to urge those campaigners to contact their sister groups around Europe and the rest of the world in order to put pressure on their leaders, so that they take climate change seriously at the Copenhagen summit and, like our Prime Minister, promise to step up to the mark, if needed?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is right. The role of campaigners, not only in Britain, but around the world, in securing the agreement we need is very important. There is still a long way to go to get the kind of agreement that we need, despite the summit being only a month away. The ambition has to come not only from Governments and from leadership, but from popular pressure, so I completely agree with him.

Nia Griffith: Can the Secretary of State tell us what talks he has had about including forestry in the discussions at Copenhagen to try to prevent the indiscriminate destruction of forests by fuel-hungry nations looking for biomass fuel, which is obviously causing global warming and often rides roughshod over indigenous peoples and their needs?

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Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is right to say that deforestation is a very big part of the climate change problem. The issue also involves how we help people in forest nations to carry out the environmental service that we want them to provide to the world, which is not cutting down the forests. Any agreement at Copenhagen needs to include a way to provide the necessary finance for those countries, so that they are incentivised to do the right thing-to manage forests sustainably, rather than cutting them down, as often happens at the moment.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Copenhagen on securing this conference, which is a measure of Denmark's record on this issue? Why should any other country take any lectures from his Government on climate change policy, given that they have failed, on adaptation policy, to implement the Pitt recommendations following the floods two years ago?

Edward Miliband: We do not tend to lecture other countries, and if the Conservative party were ever in government, it would find that that is not necessarily the strategy that works. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is implementing the recommendations of the Pitt report. I must say to the hon. Lady that when one talks to people around the world, one finds, as my ministerial colleague has said, that people see that Britain has achieved a huge amount on tackling climate change-it is one of the few countries to exceed its Kyoto targets. Of course there is more to do, but the question is: who is going to make that low-carbon transition happen? As I have tried to explain, it is this Government, not the Conservative party.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Following up the excellent question put by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), may I ask how much discussion there is in these international forums about the use and development of clean-coal technology in ensuring future energy supplies to this country, which are so crucial?

Edward Miliband: There is discussion about this matter, and the hon. Gentleman has asked a pertinent question. The International Energy Agency has estimated that without finding a carbon capture and storage solution, the cost of the world's tackling climate change will be 70 per cent. higher. In my view, there is no solution to the problem of climate change without a solution to the problem of coal. It is part of the discussions that we are having, and I very much hope that the finance that might be made available will ensure that we have demonstrations in not only developed countries, but developing countries. The good news is that a country such as China, which was more sceptical about CCS a couple of years ago, is now enthusiastic about taking it forward. That is a sign of the way the mood is changing on these issues.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): I wish to remind my right hon. Friend of his very good visit to Ensus on Teesside, which related to some very complex scientific analysis. During that visit, he stated that his chief scientist would visit Ensus. When will that visit take place, because we seriously look forward to it?

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Edward Miliband: I unfortunately did not bring with me the diary of the chief scientist, but on returning to my Department I will make sure that he is reminded of my suggestion that he visits my hon. Friend. It was a good visit, and it related to one particular point about the biofuels debate in this country. We all know the dangers of biofuels in relation to issues of food security and other things, but we also know that we have to have a nuanced debate about these questions. Biofuels can play a role-and a very important one-if they are managed in the right way and if we ensure that they have the right land use effects. I think that that example was demonstrated in my hon. Friend's constituency.


7. Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): When he last discussed with the Government of the Maldives the contribution of the UK towards reducing the risks to that country arising from climate change. [297754]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): We attach great importance to ensuring vulnerable countries are engaged in discussions on climate change. At the London-hosted Major Economies Forum on 18 and 19 October, participation was widened for the first time to bring vulnerable countries to the table. The Maldives was among those in attendance and Minister Aslam participated in the finance session. Last week, I also met Vice-President Waheed at climate change negotiations in Barcelona.

Alistair Burt: I think we were all moved by, and not a little admiring of, the recent cabinet meeting held by His Excellency President Mohamed Nasheed underwater to highlight the plight of his country and show what climate change will mean to them. Following an initiative this year, when he said that his country would go carbon neutral by 2019, the President said that that in itself would not decarbonise the world and save them from annihilation but

Does the Minister believe that following Copenhagen every world leader will be able to say exactly the same, no matter how dramatic it was?

Joan Ruddock: I hope very much that that will be the case. We are working tirelessly to that end. Of course, our Prime Minister has said that he will be there, if necessary, to get a deal. There is no question about the Government's commitment. We support the Maldives and encourage it to keep its voice very strong in these negotiations to make the facts available to the world. Its argument is, of course, the most powerful one. If a whole country is to be lost, there can be no more powerful argument than that. We need to keep hearing those messages.

Energy Pricing

8. Greg Mulholland (Leeds, North-West) (LD): What steps he plans to take to prevent energy companies overcharging their customers; and if he will make a statement. [297755]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): We announced in the low-carbon transition plan last July our proposals to strengthen the enforcement powers of the regulator Ofgem in order to improve consumer protection. Ofgem itself has also made major changes to industry rules to prevent unfair pricing as a result of its retail markets probe.

Greg Mulholland: Reports show that last year npower changed its tariff year for gas customers three times in 12 months, ensuring that customers were kept on the higher rate for charging longer than advertised and overcharging customers by £100 million. What steps can the Minister take to ensure that a tariff year is a firm 12-month commitment and cannot be changed at the whim of energy companies?

Mr. Kidney: I fear that the hon. Gentleman prepared that question before he listened. The Government intend to strengthen the powers of Ofgem in order to ensure that the consumer's interest comes first and that Ofgem has the powers to act immediately when abuse is affecting consumers.

Mr. Elliot Morley (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that one of the best things for consumers in the business sector and the domestic sector is to have the best knowledge of what they are using and the prices that they are paying? In that respect, can he give some indication of the progress in the roll-out of smart meters, which contribute towards that? I have heard that there is some delay and wonder whether he can comment on that.

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for reminding us all that consumers include business customers as well as domestic customers. This country has a very ambitious smart metering programme to complete an entire change in all businesses and domestic properties, with more than 40 million meters by the end of 2020. There is no delay to that programme, and I assure my right hon. Friend that we are very excited about it and that we intend it to go ahead.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Given that Energy Ministers in the past, and Ofgem up to now, have been so feeble in dealing with abuses by the big energy companies, will the Minister commit to giving us the opportunity to have an energy Bill in the next session whereby we can give real tough powers to Ofgem? Secondly, will he consider referring the energy industry to the Competition Commission?

Mr. Kidney: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the power to announce the Government's next legislative programme. As I said in my first answer, subject to the proper procedure of this House we do intend that there will be legislation. The regulator, Ofgem, has the principal responsibility for referrals to the Competition Commission, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will have regard to the new quarterly publication of the relationship between wholesale and retail prices. I think that is starting to turn consumers' heat onto their energy suppliers.

Some licence changes have taken place, and some are about to, but three things taken together-the results of the probe, the licence changes and our legislative proposals-will ensure that the heat continues to be kept on suppliers.

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