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What more can the Government do in this regard, and what kind of job creation can this technology achieve in the north of England?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the private sector can play a role in this, but the risks relating to this new technology-and, indeed, the gains-do not justify one company making the kind of investment required. That is why we are introducing the carbon capture and storage levy, which will provide a stream of funding for CCS over the next two decades. It is the largest such investment in the world.

Mr. Brian Binley (Northampton, South) (Con): We have heard evidence in the Energy and Climate Change Committee of the great enthusiasm of some generators for connecting carbon capture and storage with extra production from the North sea to the tune of about 15 per cent. That has not been mentioned much, and I want to ask the enthusiastic Secretary of State whether he will get enthusiastic about this particular point. [ Interruption. ]

Edward Miliband: I am always enthusiastic, as one of my hon. Friends has just helpfully pointed out. We should look at all the technologies that exist. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, because he, among others in the House, is a great advocate of carbon capture and storage and the role that it can play. Britain is uniquely placed in relation to CCS because of the North sea.

11. Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of carbon capture and storage technology; and if he will make a statement. [308897]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): We are planning four demonstration projects funded by the CCS levy. We have also successfully argued for money to be set aside for up to 10 demonstration projects across Europe, and we are working with countries across the world on moving forward CCS technology.

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Gwyn Prosser: What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the overall job creation potential of CCS over the next five to 10 years? What will he do to ensure that such jobs are created right across the regions, and not just in the areas local to the plants?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend is absolutely right-across all regions there are opportunities relating to low carbon and, in a number of regions, relating to carbon capture and storage. We shall shortly look at where the CCS clusters can be, and how we can take proper industrial advantage of CCS. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of jobs could be created in this area.

Nuclear Waste

12. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What progress his Department has made on the proposal of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management for deep geological disposal of nuclear waste; and if he will make a statement. [308900]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): The Government accepted in 2006 the recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management on geological disposal, coupled with safe and secure interim storage. Following public consultation, the Government published the White Paper, "Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal" in June 2008. The first step is an expression of interest from a community that may be interested in hosting a geological disposal facility. To date, we have received three expressions of interest relating to the Copeland and Allerdale districts in Cumbria. Officials are in discussion with these authorities, but it remains open for other local authorities to express an interest.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his extensive answer. The Secretary of State said in an evidence session in the late summer that by late autumn we would have a statement on how to deal with nuclear waste and how to store it geologically. May we have this statement as soon as possible and why has there been a delay?

Mr. Kidney: My hon. Friend has great knowledge of, and speaks with great authority on, this subject, so I take to heart his request that we hurry up and make the statement he seeks. I cannot answer him today regarding the reason for the delay, but I can assure him that the work I described in my answer to him will go on, and that we are looking forward to the construction and operation of a facility that will be a multi-million pound project, providing skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does the Minister accept that even those of us who are sceptical about the more exaggerated theories of global warming want to see rapid moves towards greater diversity of supply, less reliance on imported hydrocarbons and therefore the rapid development of nuclear energy? Is it not a disgrace that it has taken so long to get to any kind of resolution to this problem of the disposal of nuclear waste?

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Mr. Kidney: No, this is the first Government who have got a grip on the decision about the long-term future disposal of nuclear waste. It is good, however, that there is common ground between us on the security of energy supply and its coming from diverse sources; on that we can agree. There has certainly not been any delay in planning or policy for new nuclear, as we have seen three consortiums coming forward with plans for about 16 GW of new power from nuclear.

Copenhagen Conference

13. Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to tackle climate change following the outcome of the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen; and if he will make a statement. [308901]

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): The Copenhagen accord sets out a framework for international action to tackle climate change, in which the UK will play its full part. The UK has so far committed to cutting emissions by 34 per cent. by 2020; our low carbon transition plan sets out the pathway for achieving this.

Mr. Reed: I thank the Minister for her reply. Everybody will have noticed the splendid efforts of her Department at Copenhagen, but there was some disappointment at the United Nations framework. If these disappointments continue, will the Department consider pursuing separate bilateral negotiations with the biggest polluters, namely the US and China?

Joan Ruddock: I think we would not specifically do that; we would not seek to undermine the UN process. We have not lost our hopes that we can proceed from the Copenhagen agreement. This was a kind of success-not as much as we wanted, but the fact is that there is so much on the table and we need to get on with it. The most important thing the UK can do at this point is to push forward on what we have got. We must ensure, for example, that the fast-track financing for developing countries comes on stream and we are going to make our own contribution of up to £1.5 billion on that. We also need to establish the high-level panel to look at the $100 billion financing proposals for 2020 and beyond, and we need to support the Danes in getting a critical mass of countries to support the accord. Furthermore, we have just a short time to get the most ambitious commitments put into the document by the end of this month. We will do our utmost, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, to ensure that that happens so that we do not lose the dynamic that exists, despite the disappointments of Copenhagen.

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): On the subject of the Government's leadership, will the Minister ask her colleague the Secretary of State to work in close association with his close friend at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to persuade our embassies to ask the United States Congress to support the initiative, and also to persuade the European Union not to be divided on the issue?

Joan Ruddock: Indeed. I pay tribute to the Foreign Office and all its staff for their enormous efforts in the run-up to Copenhagen, and we can be assured that they
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will continue those efforts. Our bilateral discussions are critical to progress, not least in the EU, where we continue to strive for the most ambitious possible target: a 30 per cent. reduction in emissions by 2020.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I welcome the $100 billion fund and the United Kingdom Government's leadership in that context, particularly given that part of the fund relates to adaptation to climate change. Will those moneys be in addition to, or a substitution for, development moneys that already go to developing countries?

Joan Ruddock: We have made it absolutely clear that there should be no question of countries' saying, "Because we give overseas aid, we do not need to make additional moneys available." We have suggested that no more than 10 per cent. of existing and promised official development assistance should be provided for adaptation or other climate-related purposes. We consider that limit very important. There are legitimate overlaps between development and adaptation to climate change, but they are limited, and we must make them so.

Topical Questions

T1. [308910] Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): One of my Department's responsibilities is helping people to cut their bills and their use of carbon. That is why this week, following the allocation of £50 million in the pre-Budget report, the Government launched the boiler scrappage scheme, which will give 125,000 households a £400 reduction in the cost of replacing a G-rated boiler with a much more efficient A-rated one. Further details can be obtained from the Energy Saving Trust.

Mr. Bone: Can the Secretary of State give us an insight into what happens to his Department, and what delays are incurred, in the event of one of these coups-a Prime Minister scrappage scheme, if you will? How much time is diverted from the running of his Department? Conservative Members find the position very difficult to understand, because we are all united behind our leader.

Edward Miliband: That is a ridiculous question. It is clear from the launch of initiatives such as the boiler scrappage scheme that the Government are getting on with the business of government and helping people in these difficult times.

T4. [308914] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): What assessment has my hon. Friend made of the electric car trials in Coventry and elsewhere in the west midlands, and how does he intend to support those schemes?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): I am glad that my hon. Friend has asked that question. This is a very exciting trial involving 100 electric vehicles in Birmingham and Coventry. We are observing the results keenly as we clearly need to move away from fossil fuels, given the volume of road traffic in this country.

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T2.[308912] Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): In the context of tackling climate change, the Minister is doubtless aware of the key report produced in the 1990s by the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment for the Department for Transport, which demonstrated that providing extra capacity generates journeys that would otherwise not be made. Why are the Government bumping up carbon emissions unnecessarily by promoting a third runway at Heathrow and widening motorways for hard-shoulder running?

Edward Miliband: On the question of the third runway, I hope that the hon. Gentleman has seen the report from the Committee on Climate Change, which shows that we have a clear target for carbon emissions from aviation and explains how it can be accommodated within constrained demand from aviation. Our policy is not one of unconstrained demand, but nor does it assume that we will somehow freeze the amount of flying that people do. That is not realistic, and it would not be good for our economy. It would not be good for our society either, because many more people are emigrating to this country and will want to travel for business and other purposes.

T5. [308916] Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): I have pointed out on a number of occasions that, while wind farm applications are often passionately opposed when they are seen to be imposed on the local community by big business, applications owned and promoted by the local community are often supported with equal passion. Will my right hon. Friend commit himself to making community ownership the norm for wind energy in the United Kingdom?

Edward Miliband: My right hon. Friend, who has been a great fighter for the co-operative movement, is entirely right. Community ownership plays a very important role. The feed-in tariff will also help to encourage communities to come forward with their own proposals for renewable energy.

T3. [308913] Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): Will the Government stand by their pledge last year and include micro-combined heat and power in the forthcoming statutory instrument on feed-in tariffs?

Edward Miliband: We are in the middle of a consultation on that and the hon. Gentleman will have to wait for the results. The micro-CHP industry-we were looking at a micro-CHP boiler recently during the launch of the boiler scrappage scheme-is important and needs to be supported.

T8. [308919] Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): Now that clean-coal technology looks to be a certainty, how many coal mines does my right hon. Friend envisage will be opened shortly?

Edward Miliband: It is hard to estimate how many will be reopened but it is important to say that that will provide important support for our indigenous coal industry, and that carbon capture and storage can make coal a fuel of the future and will provide the certainty that our indigenous industry needs.

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T6. [308917] Mr. Edward Timpson (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con): Recently released figures show that just over one in eight households in Crewe and Nantwich are living in fuel poverty. In attempting to tackle that growing problem, energy suppliers have committed collective social assistance spending of about £150 million in 2010-11, but what commitment have they made beyond 2011?

Mr. Kidney: I encourage the hon. Gentleman to help such households in his constituency by referring them to assistance such as Warm Front and other energy efficiency measures, and to the energy supplier obligation. I also encourage him to seek to ensure that they have the benefits to which they are entitled and that they receive social tariff support from their energy supplier, if possible. The answer to his question lies yet again in the deliberations of the Committee that is considering the Energy Bill, about which we have heard so much today. We do indeed intend to put the voluntary agreement for social price support on to a statutory basis, and we propose to double the amount of support under that scheme.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): I am encouraged by what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said about feed-in tariffs. Will he confirm that, if feed-in tariffs are not sufficiently high to encourage community-owned, small-scale green power schemes, they will not succeed in that respect? In the light of that, will he redouble his efforts to find a space in his diary to visit the Torrs hydropower scheme in New Mills, the country's first 70 kW community-owned hydropower scheme?

Edward Miliband: I am looking forward to visiting the scheme my hon. Friend mentions. Such schemes can benefit from the feed-in tariff and other measures that we are taking. It is important that in April, when the feed-in tariff comes in, many communities and indeed individuals take advantage of it.

T7. [308918] Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): As has been mentioned, those households that do not have the benefit of mains gas are more liable to suffer fuel poverty because of the cost of alternative fuel. Historically, the liquefied petroleum gas market has been very uncompetitive, but the Office of Fair Trading has now introduced regulations to bring more competition into the market. Unfortunately many consumers do not realise the opportunities that they now have to reduce the cost of fuel. Will the Secretary of State consider a publicity programme so that those consumers can understand the opportunities they have and reduce their fuel costs?

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his suggestions. He is absolutely right. There is continuing concern about that matter and about people who are off the gas grid and do not have options. We are looking at ways of dealing with that, particularly through the Energy Bill and mandated tariffs, which could be of some help but not sufficient-I agree with him on that. He suggests publicising what is available to people, which is a good idea and we will certainly look at that.

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Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State reassure domestic gas consumers that, even in extreme cold weather, good management of the grid, the use of North sea reserves and the interconnector mean that there is no prospect of their supplies being cut off?

Edward Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. We have seen, on successive days this week, record demand on the grid. Obviously, I am in regular touch with the National Grid about that. It assures me that supply can meet the demand out there, despite the quite extreme weather conditions we are facing. I maintain vigilance on that and talk regularly to the National Grid.

Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): Given the confusion caused by energy companies having more than 4,000 different tariffs, many Opposition Members believe that in order to help people who are paying too much for their energy, and particularly those living in fuel poverty, energy companies should be obliged to publish on all domestic bills whether their customers are on their cheapest tariff. When I raised this issue with the Secretary of State last year-

Mr. Speaker: Order. For the avoidance of doubt, let me say that we do need brief questions. May we have a question now, please?

Mr. Baron: When I put this idea to the Secretary of State last year, he initially welcomed it, then backed away from it, and then said it would be included in Ofgem's annual statement. What-

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I did give him a chance to ask his question.

Edward Miliband: The hon. Gentleman has been a doughty fighter on this issue. My understanding is that Ofgem is introducing, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary mentioned in an earlier answer, an annual statement that must be provided to customers, and which gives the information the hon. Gentleman wants. I am sure that if that is not the case, the hon. Gentleman will take the matter up with my hon. Friend or myself.

Gwyn Prosser (Dover) (Lab): The village of St. Margaret's in my constituency is working hard to become a low-carbon community. Can the Secretary of State assure us that the funding for the challenge scheme will continue, and will he join me in paying a visit to St. Margaret's to see the excellent work the community is doing?

Edward Miliband: I pay tribute to the community my hon. Friend represents and to the people of St. Margaret's for what they are doing. The low-carbon communities challenge has been a great success in terms of the number of applications received, and we want to help as many communities as possible to be trailblazers for low carbon, showing how the transition to it can make a difference to people's lives through the introduction of smart meters, insulation, renewable energy and a whole range of other measures. All this is part of the positive vision that we must offer for tackling climate change.

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