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I believe that every encouragement should be given to green initiatives and technologies, and that green technologies should be used on all new, large-scale development projects. If they cannot be used, there should be a good reason why not. Some used cooking oil is converted and used-I know that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), who also spoke in my previous debate on this issue, has a used cooking oil company in his constituency. Such investment by companies is welcome, as is the fact that used cooking oil is being used in that way.
It has been in the news today-I do not know whether anyone has been reading the papers-that the famous supermarket chain, Tesco, has opened its first zero-carbon store in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire. I understand that Tesco is combining a host of energy-saving features in the store, which is part of its plan to make the company a zero-carbon business by 2050. The store is powered by an on-site generator that runs on renewable sources such as vegetable oil. The store's heating is provided by the generator, and there are a host of other green features. All that must be welcomed. It demonstrates what is possible, as well as the company's commitment to being zero-carbon.
Much is being done to reduce the impact of domestic properties, particularly in the new-build sector, but large industrial and commercial buildings often have very little provision for saving energy. I have to ask why such measures were not included in the Bill. Other hon. Members have raised this issue, and my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) has said that there should be more joined-up thinking in that regard, particularly in relation to planning. That is the way forward. There is nothing in the Bill that will commit large projects to having to explore at least some form of green energy and microgeneration on their sites. That is a totally missed opportunity.
I will give an example of a missed opportunity. I do not want such a development in my constituency, but the totally non-green plans are there for everyone to see for a massive strategic rail freight interchange at the former Radlett aerodrome site. They include huge warehousing, covering more than 3.5 million square feet. The hangars are colossal-hon. Members can imagine the amount of roof space. The development will concrete over acres of green-belt land. It is claimed that a rail freight development is a green initiative. However, although the plans provide for aesthetic improvements to the surrounding area, there is little foresight about energy use and environmental impact.
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an important point about the use of extra space. It is a tragedy that Germany, France, Japan, Spain, Norway, America and Korea all outperform the UK on solar photovoltaic installation. Does she agree that that would be an excellent use of the roof space that she just described?
My hon. Friend has knocked the nail on the head. I have heard much in the debate about wind farms and how people are resistant or otherwise to them. Yet so little attention is paid to the vast amounts of space, particularly industrial space, that could be used efficiently. I believe that people who intend to develop large projects that communities are supposed
to accept should be compelled to consider that. It would make them greener and improve their carbon footprint and could overcome some of the resistance in communities to built development.
There are no plans for the solar energy generation that my hon. Friend just mentioned. There are no plans for water recycling and no microgeneration provisions for the site. It is a scandal and a huge wasted opportunity. As I said, wind farms have been much criticised today. Why are we talking about building wind farms, nuclear power stations, and so on on the green belt, when we are not saying that buildings that are already being constructed should be made as energy efficient as possible and hopefully generate energy that would go into the grid?
Surely more should be done to encourage applicants to build and invest in environmentally sustainable structures. That would lower their carbon footprint. Such disregard for green technology should mean a rejection. We should not allow plans to go ahead if they have not made even a nod to green technologies. How on earth are we supposed to meet our stringent targets when developers can simply build what they like without having to do that? That is important.
David Taylor: The hon. Lady referred to wind turbines. I believe that her party, were it elected, is likely to introduce a policy whereby wind turbines would not be allowed within a minimum distance of any houses. What sort of distance does she consider appropriate for such an embargo?
Anne Main: I am afraid that I am not good on planning distances, but I am good on the planning distance for the rail freight terminal, which will come within 100 yards of some houses. If the Government allow that, I shall look to the hon. Gentleman to ensure that he gets his yardage right, too. The development is totally wrong.
Anne Main: No, I have only a few minutes left. It has been a long debate and the Labour Benches were empty for a while, so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive my not giving way, given that I have sat through the graveyard shift, as it is sometimes called.
Part 2 deals with fuel poverty. The Bill includes various schemes to reduce fuel poverty, and that must be welcomed. The most recently available sub-regional split of fuel poverty figures, which relate to 2003, showed that there are approximately 1,900 fuel-poor households in St. Albans-which is considered to be an affluent constituency-and around 22,200 fuel-poor households in Hertfordshire. Since then, the number of fuel-poor homes nationally has risen sharply from 1.2 million in 2004 to 3.5 million. I can extrapolate rises of a similar magnitude in my constituency. This year, the Government announced that 4.6 million households in England could be fuel poor, despite a pledge to end fuel poverty by 2016. Does the Minister agree that an undelivered pledge is a worthless pledge?
I agree with the Macmillan campaign, of which I am a patron, that many groups must bear the cost of having to heat their homes. The ill, particularly people who
have terminal cancer, are an important group. If we cannot get fuel poverty measures right for the Government's designated groups, I hold out little hope that we can get them right for people with long-term illnesses, such as those who are supported by the Macmillan campaign.
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for St. Albans (Anne Main). We do not always agree, but I warmed to her defence of the green belt and agreed with it. She is exactly right, too, about utilising used cooking oil for biodiesel. As she said, I have raised the issue, and I was pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change agreed to meet my constituents and me. We all look forward to positive announcements, if not today, then perhaps in the pre-Budget report on Wednesday. We live in hope.
Liberal Democrats have given this limited Bill a broad welcome. The revisions to Ofgem's remit to take account of environmental considerations are long overdue, as is a more consistent framework for social tariffs. Millions endure fuel poverty, and social tariffs are patchily applied by private sector companies. Liberal Democrats have called for a more uniform framework ever since, in the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce), the time of former Prime Minister Mrs. Thatcher, so measures to tackle the problem more consistently are long overdue.
The measures to promote carbon capture and storage are welcome, too. CCS is a critical technology if we are to achieve our aims in tackling climate change, and while we-I hope-make the transition to a more renewable energy economy in the long-term future, we need transition technologies. I certainly support CCS, rather than nuclear power, as a means of keeping the lights on. I was astonished by the speeches by Conservative Members, which featured consistent attacks on renewable energy, particularly wind energy, and consistent support for nuclear power.
Chris Ruane: I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about Conservative policy on wind power. Does he agree that the description by the Leader of the Opposition of wind turbines off the coast of north Wales as giant bird blenders is despicable?
Martin Horwood: Not only despicable but wrong, as modern wind turbines, especially the larger ones that avoid providing perches for birds, have turned out to be perfectly safe for most bird life. Such an ill-informed attack on wind power is exactly the kind of thing that we should reject.
The Conservatives' support for nuclear power worries me just as much. That technology costs us billions even today, and we do not how, when or where to dispose of nuclear waste, which will leave a toxic legacy for future generations for as long as 1,000 years. I was struck by the speech by the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr. Reed), which was well informed and technically accurate. He is a gentleman who knows the nuclear industry very well, so it is instructive that he made a plea to open the door to public subsidy for the nuclear industry. I hope that the Government will take the opportunity tonight very firmly to reject that out of hand.
We agree with some of the criticism of this limited Bill. The encouragement of social tariffs is welcome, but it is very little and, I would say, much too late. There are weaknesses in the Bill, and there is still not a clear ban on differentiated fuel tariffs according to the method of payment, which have been widely condemned. However, there is not an absolutely clear commitment in the Bill to remove that inconsistency. We have heard a great deal about the lack of attention to rural fuel poverty in particular.
The steps towards more carbon capture and storage are welcome, but there is a loophole in the Bill, which I have mentioned to the Secretary of State on several occasions. There is no guarantee that by the 2020s, coal-fired powers stations will not emit large amounts of carbon, with only a proportion of their output subject to CCS. Ministers are nodding their heads, but I cannot do better than quote the progress report to Parliament by the Committee on Climate Change, issued in October. It is concerned that we have not given a strong enough signal that
"for any plant not fitted with CCS there will be little or no role further into the 2020s".
"The Government should make it absolutely clear now that whether or not CCS can be deemed economically viable any conventional coal plant still operating unabated beyond the early 2020s would only generate for a very limited number of hours."
We have been debating the Bill in an enjoyably cool environment. When Madam Deputy Speaker was in the Chair earlier, she considered turning the heating up so that we were all warmed up during the debate. I know that the Minister was feeling particularly chilly, but it is entirely appropriate that on the first day of the Copenhagen summit we have resisted that temptation, and for once seem to have saved some energy in this place and reduced the amount of hot air in the Chamber-which many of our constituents might think could be done on many other occasions.
As it is the first day of the Copenhagen summit, it is right that I should take a moment to express our unity across the House. We are critical of Government policy from time to time. We are critical of many aspects of the Bill, but when the Secretary of State goes to Copenhagen, if he goes to press for a tough deal on climate change and for a clear timetable for binding commitments-early in 2010, I hope-he goes with our best wishes and our support. It is quite possible that the future of human civilisation as we know it may rest on decisions taken in Copenhagen over the next couple of weeks. That obliges us to put aside national and party political divisions for the common good. To that end, we wish him well.
Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): We have had a thoughtful, constructive, well-informed debate which, on rare occasions, related to the content of the Bill. Most of the rest of it dealt with wider energy issues. The Secretary of State would probably say that the Bill is so good that we did not need to discuss it in the Chamber.
I listened in vain for the words that one usually hears-the senior Back Bencher who says, "This is a great Bill, which deals with the challenges that we face," or the energetic young Back Bencher who is keen to get promotion in the remaining few months, who says, "My
constituents will be very grateful that the Government have had the vision to bring forward these vital measures," but they have not been here. The word that has run through the entire debate is "modest". After 12 years, 15 Ministers, countless reviews, consultations and White Papers-more consultation than one could imagine possible-the culmination is a modest Bill.
The issues that have come through are clear. The first theme that has run through the debate is the lack of detail in the Bill. We do not know at what level the levy for carbon capture and storage will be set. The hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) asked who would be exempted from the levy. We need to understand that. We need to understand which technologies might be exempted. Will it be low-carbon technologies or zero-carbon technologies? Will micro-generation be exempted? We need a great deal more detail before we can give the Bill the approval that it needs.
On the fuel poverty issues, the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping) asked who would benefit from the fuel poverty measures. My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) and the hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) spoke about the need to protect people who live in rural areas and who are dependent on oil or LPG. We need to understand who the Government have it in mind to exempt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) asked who would own the intellectual property from the carbon capture projects. The hon. Member for Angus wanted to know whether the changes in the transmission arrangements would be damaging to investment in Scotland. If the Bill is to get the necessary agreement to proceed to Committee, we must have answers on those details. They cannot be left vague for the Secretary of State to decide in future. We need to know what is in the Government's mind, so that people can clearly understand what is being supported.
The second theme of the debate has been the lack of ambition. The hon. Member for Sherwood talked about carbon capture and storage as a competition without end; the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey talked about the slowness of the whole procedure, which has resulted in Britain moving from the top of the international league in CCS and slipping down the table; and the hon. Member for Angus talked about the need to understand the role of gas in the carbon capture model.
The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) talked a great deal about his concern that there was not more ambition on energy efficiency, but he also managed completely to reinvent Conservative party policy. He was wrong about what it includes, what it might cost and how it would be paid for-but apart from that, he was pretty close.
The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) talked about the need to be more ambitious in using the carbon price as a key driver of low-carbon technologies, and many hon. Members called for the need to be more supportive of emerging technologies. The hon. Gentleman talked about marine renewables and the absolute insistence that, with all our natural potential for such technology, we should not end up in 20 years' time looking back and saying, "How did we lose that advantage? Why did the Germans, the Danes and the others manage to master that technology? Why didn't we have the leadership that was necessary in those areas?"
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby talked about the importance of developing energy from waste technologies, because we must change our whole way of thinking. We have to think of waste as a resource, not just as a cost. We have to do so much to reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill or landrise, and we must ensure that we deal with it by addressing both the waste issue and the energy issue. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Anne Main), warming to the cooking oil theme that she has made her own, also made sure that we start to address those issues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West talked about pump storage and what we are going to do to realise the potential in that area. The hon. Member for Copeland (Mr. Reed) mentioned nuclear power and gave a broadly thoughtful and sensible speech, until it was taken over by some raging creature, and he launched into a vicious attack on the Opposition parties while trying to say that he sought consensus. It was the sort of speech that, when he re-reads it in the morning, may make him wonder whether he got the balance quite right.
Running through the debate is the issue of missed opportunities and the recognition that the Bill does not rise to the challenges that we face on energy policy. We face a genuine crisis, but we do not see any measures to address it. Again, I return to the hon. Member for Sherwood, who is the acting Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change. I always thought that he would be a very good Energy Minister. Indeed, there is still time-we have a change every few months-and he could still have the chance to be the Energy Minister before the next election.
The hon. Gentleman's words made it sound as if he were being critical of the Conservative party, but, when one listened to what he was saying underneath, one found that he was actually putting the boot into his own Government. There he was, talking about the £200 billion of investment that is so essential, and which we must make. He said that the investment needed a secure framework-but we have been waiting for that for 12 years, and we are still waiting. He talked about the need to work harder to encourage international companies to invest in Britain and to understand the potential that is here, and he also talked about power cuts.
The Secretary of State says, "No, there's no risk of cuts," but he writes articles saying that there may be power cuts. Even the Government's own documentation mentions power cuts: there they are, on page 86 of the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, although it does not say "power cuts", but "demand unserved", which is Government-speak for power cuts, and the equivalent of a city the size of Manchester being without electricity every night for three months. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman told us where we were failing to respond to the size of the challenge.
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