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Let me pay tribute to my right hon. Friend because he took the very brave decision on nuclear power, which has not quite a universal consensus, although perhaps a growing consensus, in this House. As for the carbon price, we do want a more robust carbon price than we have at present. The best way of achieving that, in my view, is plan A, which is Copenhagen,
and getting an ambitious deal at Copenhagen. He was also right, in my view, to rule out a specific public subsidy for new nuclear, but our focus is on getting that deal at Copenhagen so that we can ensure a more robust carbon price.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): The Secretary of State said that he foresaw 150 MW of wind power capacity being installed. Can he confirm that on average 27 per cent. is the typical usage, so that typically 100 MW of that 150 MW will not be in use at any one moment?
Edward Miliband: I think the right hon. Gentleman has got his megawatts and gigawatts a little confused, if I may say so. The point I was making in my statement was the scale of application that would be below or above the threshold. He is right in that wind power is what we call de-rated in terms of its impact on the electricity system, and the calculations that we put forward take account of that.
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): What is there in place to ensure that there will be full environmental impact assessments in order that there can be a level playing field for deciding whether to invest in nuclear or renewables? I have concerns about investment in nuclear.
Edward Miliband: I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about these issues. Local environmental impacts are built into the assessments. Whether on renewables or on nuclear, those decisions are for the IPC. It is important to say that the advance of the planning reforms is so that the question of need is settled in consultation at this stage in the national policy statements. The question of specific applications and their impact on biodiversity and other matters is then a decision for the IPC, so I can reassure my hon. Friend that the IPC will have to make judgments on those questions.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): May I welcome the Secretary of State's well justified refusal to put Druridge Bay in Northumberland back on the list of potential nuclear sites, and, as someone who has campaigned for 20 years ago to get it off that list, assure him that any future Secretary of State who sought to put a nuclear station on such a magnificent and environmentally diverse site would face a similarly intense and successful campaign?
Edward Miliband: Again, I know from speaking to the right hon. Gentleman that he feels strongly about these matters. We made a judgment about Druridge Bay and, indeed, the other two sites identified as worthy of further consideration-both that there were serious impediments to their being placed on the list, and that they were not necessary for our plans for new nuclear. Hence, they have been excluded from the national policy statements. I hope that that acts as reassurance to the right hon. Gentleman and his constituents.
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab):
As French, Finnish and UK regulators have all recently agreed that the current control systems for the evolutionary EPR reactor are to be subject to architectural change-in other words, the reactor is still being designed-
how can the Government possibly sanction the justification of nuclear plant before reactor design is finally decided? Is that not a classic case of putting the cart before the horse?
Edward Miliband: No, it is not. I said earlier that we were benefiting from the fact that other countries are constructing and using power plants-in the case of both Westinghouse and AREVA-before they are constructed here. That and the generic design assessment represent precisely the advantage that we in this country have of being able to get the design right, so that we can stick to the timetable and avoid the cost overruns that would otherwise result.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): Instead of being a world beater regarding civil nuclear power, we are now a client state because of 10 years of drift and neglect. Will the right hon. Gentleman atone for that, at least in part, by working with the further education colleges of Somerset to make our county a centre of British nuclear engineering, particularly as Somerset is likely to be the site of the first of the new generation of nuclear power stations?
Edward Miliband: I have to say that the right hon. Gentleman has a funny way of advancing his constituents' interests, but I am not going to engage in the question of atonement. I welcome the work that local organisations in Somerset and elsewhere are doing as part of the nuclear renaissance and to push nuclear skills. As I said in my statement, I think that there are big opportunities in this country in terms of new nuclear and employment and skills.
Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend make sure that the reduction in the time taken up by the planning process is not portrayed by the nuclear industry as guaranteeing that nuclear power stations will be completed shortly? The fact is that apart from at Sizewell B, the principal cause of delay in getting electricity out of nuclear power stations was the vast delay in construction. For instance, Dungeness B was actually a decade late before it started producing any electricity, and it has never produced the amount for which it was designed.
Edward Miliband: My right hon. Friend speaks with great authority on this matter. Indeed, I believe that he was shadow energy spokesman when some of those questions were being debated. I take his point, but I have to say this about the specific planning process at Sizewell: my understanding is that there were 300 and something days of inquiry at Sizewell; that only 30 were taken up with the specific issue of the Sizewell proposal; and that the rest were taken up with the debate about need. The virtue of our proposals is precisely that they try to make some progress on need, so that people's points about specific, local applications can be considered.
Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD):
I noticed that the Energy Secretary did not answer the question from the Conservative Front Bencher about the 2014 deadline for the carbon capture and storage pilot. I also noticed that the number of bidders has
dropped to two. I hope that that, together with the delay in construction at Kingsnorth, does not mean that the 2014 deadline will be put back.
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has an understandable interest in a particular competitor in the competition, and he will understand that we have to go through a due process before making decisions. I said that early in the new year we will announce the next stage, including the allocation of £90 million, so he will have to wait until then. To be clear about the matter, however, let me say that we are absolutely not downgrading our ambitions on CCS; indeed, we are upgrading them. I have said today that we will have up to four demonstration projects: up to two of them will be post-combustion, and two of them will be pre-combustion.
Malcolm Wicks (Croydon, North) (Lab): I very much welcome the statement, but, given the inevitably long time scales for the development of new nuclear and carbon capture and storage, and getting to where we need to be in relation to our renewables needs, is there not a danger that up to 2020 we could see a new dash for gas? Will that not inevitably increase import dependency, at a time when the world will be thirsty for energy; and will the Secretary of State comment on the national security implications of that scenario?
Edward Miliband: The Wicks report makes very good reading; I am glad to have the chance to plug it, as my right hon. Friend rather modestly did not do so. We showed in the low carbon transition plan that if we make the progress on renewables that we have set out-that is an "if" because it relies on planning reform, public consent, finance and grid connection, all of which we are acting on-then we will stabilise gas imports at 2010 levels. However, that requires a Government who support the drive to renewables, who do not have qualms about it, and who do not start saying that onshore wind is not part of the energy mix. That is why, in my view, we have to drive ahead with renewables and nuclear.
Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): I welcome the introduction of the first national policy statements, but may I press the Secretary of State on the timetable for ending consultation, both in the wider world and within Parliament? How does that fit in with Sir Michael Pitt's timetable inviting the energy producers to come forward with their plans?
Edward Miliband: It is worth saying that the IPC will be up and running and fully operational from next spring. Pre-designation of the NPSs, it will be making recommendations to Ministers, and post-designation it will be making the decisions itself. As the hon. Lady will see from the documentation, we have allowed extra time for consultation. We thought long and hard about this. We thought that it was the right thing to do, not least because of the big interest in nuclear, for example. The 15-week consultation period takes us to about February, and then the Select Committee has to deliberate. We want to move as far and as fast as we can by next spring.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab):
I thank my right hon. Friend for his courtesy in letting me know that Owston Ferry in my constituency was to be mentioned in his statement, and for his swift decision not to
include it as part of the list put forward by the independent consultants, who said that it was a site worthy of serious consideration. My constituents will very much welcome the swift decision announced today. However, can he assure the House that his Department has not spent a large amount of money on those independent consultants, who came up with recommendations that he, I and everyone else can see are just plain daft?
Edward Miliband: I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents and the independent consultants will have heard his views on the report. In all seriousness, I can assure him that we see serious impediments regarding all three sites, which is why they have not been included in the national policy statement. We want to offer reassurance to his constituents on that point. Also, as I said earlier, we do not need see the need for them as part of our nuclear plans.
Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): May I say that Hinkley Point is delighted with the Minister's announcement? One of the integral aspects of this is the infrastructure needed to get to the plant: we need a new bridge and a new road. Can he confirm or deny that that will be part of the planning application? If it is, will it come under the new planning rules?
Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman gives me a good opportunity to plug the benefits of the new system. He is right. At the moment, multiple consents have to be applied for from different organisations, but now a single set of applications will made to one body. That is a necessary part of proceeding on the basis of the timetable we have set out.
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West) (Lab): I compliment my right hon. Friend on so clear-sighted and realistic a statement, but is he aware that the targets he sets for all three areas of energy supply are very ambitious, not least in respect of carbon capture and storage? I accept entirely what he says about the private sector, left to itself, not doing this on time, but could he set up a small team of capable officers in the Department to drive matters forward?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge about these issues. We have set up the office of carbon capture and storage precisely to do what the Office for Nuclear Development has done in our Department, which is to drive this forward on a proper timetable. He is right that we need to make progress. The next stage has been reached today with the bids for the competition, and the so-called feed studies-the engineering demonstration projects-will be awarded early next year.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that the investment in and strengthening of the grid and the emergence of new connection points is an essential part of delivering a renewable energy strategy, and of renewing other forms of energy in future. What plans are there in the documents he has published today to ensure that linear planning applications and associated applications can receive the attention of the IPC, for example, in the same way that it is intended larger, single-site applications will?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of that matter as part of the IPC's work. That is why networks are part of the IPC's consideration and remit. He is also right on his more general point about grid connection.
Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The proposed Oldbury B power station, unlike the existing one next to it in my constituency, would have a very high cooling tower. If my constituents objected to that because of the visual impact and other factors, would they actually be listened to-not just heard-or would their views be overridden? The document states that the national need for stations is the most important factor.
Edward Miliband: The distinction I have tried to draw is between the national need, which is important to establish, and specific developments, on which it is important that the IPC can take a view. To reassure the hon. Gentleman, the IPC will absolutely take a view on whether that specific development is appropriate.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Climate change is accelerating and sea levels are rising. Of the 10 potentially suitable sites for new nuclear power stations, how many are less than 20 metres above sea level?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend asks a characteristically important question. Let me put it to him this way: flooding and coastal erosion issues are taken account of, as he will see from the documents, in all specific site representations. The question for us is whether to rule out any of those applications on the grounds that he mentions, which we have not done. Although we raised the issue of flooding and coastal erosion in relation to Dungeness, we did not feel that it was enough to rule it out. It is a matter to consider, and he will see that we commented specifically on it in relation to a number of the applications that the IPC will have to take a view on.
Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): In South-West Norfolk there is a growing number of wind turbines, without any tangible local benefit. Will the Secretary of State allow communities that host wind farms to keep all the business rates, to ensure that there is true local benefit from the local energy supplied?
Edward Miliband: I am not going to make up policy on the hoof, tempting as it is. The hon. Gentleman's general point about local people having an interest in wind turbines and in having them in their area is absolutely right.
Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): Should the Copenhagen summit not produce a robust price of carbon-the Secretary of State's plan A-will he look closely at other, domestic measures that will secure the price of carbon and secure new investment in new technology in this country?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend tempts me towards plan B, and I shall try to resist the temptation. We need to focus on plan A, which is getting a more robust price for carbon. We have recommendations from the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, as he knows, and we will obviously consider them as part of the 2020 to 2050 road map that we will produce in the spring.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): What has been the involvement and input of the devolved nations in drawing up the national policy statements? They are likely to be required to provide a disproportionate amount of the UK energy need.
Edward Miliband: As the hon. Gentleman will know, many of these matters are devolved, including specific planning issues. I wish that we had more of a consensus in some parts of our nations and regions, for example on nuclear power, but he will be pleased to hear that we have been in contact with the devolved nations to consult them on the specific proposals.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the NPSs before us today have been fully assessed for their carbon impact, so that they transmit a clear message to the IPC about the need to meet national climate change targets and priorities?
Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. In drawing up the national policy statements, we are very clear about the need to decarbonise our power supply and take the carbon out of our energy. That is why I emphasised in my statement the importance of the new generating capacity we need by 2025. The truth is that we could carry on producing more gas-fired power stations-that is a high-carbon lock-in way of proceeding. The real challenge for us is, in my view, not above all a security of supply challenge, because we are making progress in building new infrastructure, but low-carbon security of supply-meaning nuclear, renewables and other low-carbon sources of fuel.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): What specifically will the Government do, however, at Copenhagen on emissions trading to ensure that carbon pricing is fixed at a sufficiently high level to ensure that the base supplies of clean coal and nuclear are made viable?
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