Previous Section Index Home Page

24 Feb 2010 : Column 326

Public Bodies (Procurement of Seafood)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

1.58 pm

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

I am delighted to introduce this Bill. Even as I speak, promising changes are afoot. A written answer to me that was published yesterday clearly put on the record the departmental fish procurement percentages, and I was pleased to see that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had-this is according to what I have read-refused to sign off the EU protocol on tuna because it was not sustainable enough. So, this Bill is appropriate at this time, if not prescient. I thank, in particular, Alex Jackson of Sustain for allowing me to introduce it, and all those Members-some 50 or more-who signed early-day motion 226 to draw attention to this important issue.

No one can be in any doubt that the way in which we catch and consume fish on a global scale is of great importance given that it is devastating the biodiversity of our oceans and endangering some of our best loved fish species. Stopping the destruction will require action to change both how we catch fish and how we consume it. The Bill focuses on the crucial consumption side of that solution and outlines how Government, as a huge consumer of fish in the public sector, can lead by example in the purchase of sustainable seafood.

What is the problem? It is important to understand that fish stocks need careful management and that fisheries that are over-exploited can collapse suddenly, causing irreversible damage. Probably the most famous example of such a collapse occurred off the east coast of Newfoundland in 1992 when cod stocks vanished, the local industry evaporated and 40,000 people lost their jobs. To this day, the cod have not returned.

Data from the United Nations fisheries and aquaculture department paint a very bleak picture of the state of our oceans. On a global scale, it estimates that

In British waters, we face an urgent problem. In the north-east Atlantic, the majority of commercial stocks are fully exploited, over-exploited or depleted, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's fisheries and aquaculture department's report of 2005. British salmon stocks are considered to be fully or over-exploited and North sea plaice, cod and sole are considered to be outside safe biological limits.

The experts also tell us that the threat posed by climate change will only serve to exacerbate those problems. In 2005, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that climate change will have a significant impact on the future abundance and distribution of fish stocks.

What will the Public Bodies (Procurement of Seafood) Bill do? It will help support the sustainability of global fish stocks and species by making it a legal requirement that public bodies in the UK can only buy fish that is
24 Feb 2010 : Column 327
proven to be sustainable. It would do that by prohibiting the purchase in the public sector of fish from the Marine Conservation Society's "Fish to Avoid" list, which includes all fish in danger of over-exploitation. It would also require that all wild-caught fish purchased by the public sector should come from stocks that meet the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation's code of conduct for responsible fisheries, which includes fish that meets the need for Marine Stewardship Council sustainability certification.

The Bill would aim to achieve three important things. First, it would ensure that the Government spend public money on fish in a responsible way that acts to solve environmental problems rather than causing them. Each individual British taxpayer spends approximately £70 a year on public sector food. They need to know that their money is being spent by Government to support the marine ecosystem and protect the sustainability of popular fish species rather than putting them at risk.

Secondly, the public sector should lead by example in the food we buy and serve to educate through best practice. It is especially important that public bodies lead by example in the purchase of fish, because the issues surrounding the sustainability of seafood are complex and not generally well known by the public. The Bill would guarantee that the public sector generates greater awareness of the issue and would also demonstrate to those who eat and prepare public sector food what sustainable fish is and how it can be purchased. That is particularly important when we consider that the public sector serves more than 1 billion meals a year to consumers including nursery and school children, hospital patients, elderly people in care homes and members of the armed forces.

Thirdly, the sheer purchasing power of Government has the capacity to drive the market for sustainable seafood, catalysing advances in the seafood industry. So, what about the public sector? The public sector is a big consumer of fish, but it is not an ethical consumer of fish. Sustain, the alliance for food and farming, estimates that each year the Government spend more
24 Feb 2010 : Column 328
than £40 million on seafood in the public sector. At present, public sector organisations are not required to meet any legal standard for the fish that they buy. There is Government guidance, but no rules. In fact, the Government do not even require the public sector to meet the rules they introduced under the fish labelling regulations, through which retailers must clearly label the origin and species, including the method of production, for all fish and fillets sold.

As a result, the public sector buys fish species that include some of the most vulnerable stocks in the world. The Ministry of Justice, for example, spends £1.25 million a year on fish and more than one 10th of that total is spent on haddock, without any regard to its sustainability. That is a huge cause for concern because, according to the Marine Conservation Society, some stocks of haddock are "unsustainable, overfished and vulnerable".

The picture is not any better in hospitals, where tiger prawns, dogfish and swordfish-species which are often produced particularly unsustainably-are available to purchase from the big catering companies. Research compiled by Sustain showed that of 341 fish, seafood or fish-based sandwich filling products provided by the biggest supplier of food to the NHS, which trades using an NHS logo, only one is listed in its catalogue as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

There can be little doubt that the future of popular global fish species lies precariously in the balance. The Bill provides a clear legal framework that would ensure that the millions of pounds of public money spent on seafood each and every year is invested in a way that would transform the long-term sustainability of seafood species throughout the world.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr. David Drew, Peter Bottomley, Andrew Stunell, Annette Brooke, Mark Durkan, Mr. Andrew Dismore and Alan Simpson present the Bill.

Mr. David Drew accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 March and to be printed (Bill 72).

24 Feb 2010 : Column 329

Energy Bill

Consideration of Bill, not amended in the Public Bill Committee.

Charles Hendry (Wealden) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware that fuel poverty and energy efficiency are key elements of this Bill. There was significant debate in Committee about a Government document called the household energy management strategy, about which the Under-Secretary told us on 14 January:

A week later, he said that they were

We were given those assurances five and six weeks ago-the strategy has not come out so far. It is fundamental to our consideration of the Bill. Can you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, put pressure on Ministers, even at this late stage, to produce this important document?

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for Wealden (Charles Hendry) and remind the Under-Secretary, through you, of the undertaking and the conversation between all three parties. It is nonsense to try to debate the future of this part of policy without the relevant Government document, which must be available somewhere.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Mr. Speaker is always anxious that all the documents necessary for a debate should be available before that debate takes place. That is obviously even more important if assurances have been given that the document will be ready. Those on the Front Bench will have heard the points of order. On the question of whether it is possible to do anything about it, there is nothing more that I can do from the Chair but repeat that it is important that all the documents necessary for a debate are ready and available before that debate begins.

New Clause 8

Reports on decarbonisation and CCS progress

'(1) The Secretary of State must, for each reporting period, prepare a report on progress during the reporting period-

(a) in decarbonising electricity generation in Great Britain (covering separately generation by coal-fired generating stations), and

(b) in the development and use of carbon capture and storage technology in Great Britain.

(2) Each of the first three reports under subsection (1) must include an assessment by the Secretary of State-

(a) of whether use of carbon capture and storage technology in generation of electricity on a commercial scale has been, or when it will be, successfully demonstrated;

24 Feb 2010 : Column 330

(b) of whether coal-fired generating stations for which appropriate consent is given on or after 1st January 2020 that are built in Great Britain can be expected to be constructed so as to enable use of carbon capture and storage technology on all their generating capacity.

(3) A report under subsection (1) must also include a review of whether, having regard to the other matters contained in the report, any government policies should be revised and, if so, why.

(4) In preparing a report under subsection (1), the Secretary of State must-

(a) consult the Scottish Ministers and the Welsh Ministers;

(b) take into account any relevant points raised by reports by the Committee on Climate Change under section 36 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (reports on progress).

(5) The Secretary of State must, within 1 year after the end of a reporting period, lay before Parliament a document containing the report under subsection (1) for that period.

(6) In this section-

"appropriate consent" means consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 or section 114(1)(a) of the Planning Act 2008;

"coal-fired generating station" means an electricity generating station powered wholly or mainly by coal;

"decarbonising electricity generation" means reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from electricity generation;

"reporting period" means-

(a) the period beginning with the passing of this Act and ending with 2011;(b) the 3 year period beginning with 2012 and each subsequent 3 year period;

and "the reporting period", in relation to a report under subsection (1), means the reporting period to which the report relates.'.- (Joan Ruddock.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

2.9 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Joan Ruddock): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 6- Carbon emissions performance standard -

'(1) The Secretary of State shall make provision by regulations or otherwise for a carbon emissions performance standard to set the maximum level or levels of carbon dioxide that may be emitted per unit of output by all individual generating stations.

(2) The Secretary of State shall review the emissions performance standard established under subsection (1) no less frequently than every three years.

(3) In establishing the level or levels of the carbon dioxide emissions performance standard in subsection (1), and in carrying out the review required in subsection (2), the Secretary of State must-

(a) take into account the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about climate change; and

(b) obtain and take into account the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, particularly in relation to carbon budgets, medium- and long-term emission reduction targets, and future emissions from the electricity generating sector.

(4) The Secretary of State must introduce the standard under subsection (1) no later than 12 months from the date on which this Act is passed.'.

New clause 15- Emissions performance standard -

'(1) The Secretary of State may by regulation introduce an Emissions Performance Standard to apply to new electricity generation plant.

24 Feb 2010 : Column 331

(2) In this section "Emission Performance Standard" means a restriction on the amount of carbon dioxide that electricity generation plant can emit.

(3) In setting such a level, the Secretary of State must take account of the latest information available to him on-

(a) the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about climate change;

(b) the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, particularly in relation to carbon budgets, medium and long-term emission reduction targets, and future emissions from the electricity generating sector;

(c) the affordability of electricity prices for consumers; and

(d) national energy security.

(4) The Secretary of State must set out his proposals for consultation within six months of the passage of this Act, with final proposals to be placed before Parliament within 12 months.'.

New clause 25- Emissions performance standard -

'(1) The Secretary of State shall, within one year of the passing of this Act, make provision by regulations or otherwise for a carbon dioxide emissions performance standard to set the maximum level of carbon dioxide that may be emitted each year by any coal fired electricity generating station.

(2) The maximum level of carbon dioxide under subsection (1) will be no more than 25 per cent. of the emissions that would be produced by a coal fired power station of an equivalent size operating without any carbon capture and storage equipment.

(3) The emissions performance under subsection (1) will come into effect no later than 2025.'.

Amendment 1, in clause 4, page 4, line 17, at end insert-

'(2A) An electricity supply levy will not be charged in respect of supplies of electricity, derived exclusively from renewable sources of energy.'.

Government amendments 5, 9 and 36.

Joan Ruddock: First, let me say that the document is not central to the features of the Bill. When my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave that undertaking in Committee, he did so in good faith. We want to get the document right, and it will be published shortly, but I do not believe that it is vital to the conduct of this debate.

Let me now address new clause 8 and Government amendments 5, 9 and 36. There has been much discussion during the passage of the Bill about the need to reduce the emissions from electricity generation and particularly from fossil fuel generation. In many ways, this issue is at the heart of my Department's mission. The decarbonisation of the electricity sector is central to achieving our statutory goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050. The low carbon transition plan, which was published last July, set out our plans for getting about 40 per cent. of our electricity supplies from low carbon sources by 2020. Those plans include a comprehensive package of measures such as increasing support for renewable technologies, facilitating the development of new nuclear power stations, and demonstrating, then deploying, carbon capture and storage technology in our fossil fuel plants.

We have not stopped there. The lead times for investment decisions in energy infrastructure are such that we now need to develop clear pathways towards our 2050 goal; we cannot just stop at 2020. Our decarbonisation pathways to 2050 document, which will also be published shortly, will build on our low carbon transition plan and set out possible pathways to a low-carbon UK, including the decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

24 Feb 2010 : Column 332

The need to decarbonise the electricity sector means that the issue of emissions from fossil fuel power station has to be addressed. Coal-fired power stations generate about 30 per cent. of UK electricity and about 40 per cent. of global electricity. Tackling emissions from coal-fired power stations must therefore be a priority if we are to avert dangerous climate change while enabling countries to maintain energy security.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): How many new power stations do we need to commence building this year to avoid the risk of the lights going out because of the incoming, much tighter emissions standards and the retirement of old plants? On how many will construction start this year?

Joan Ruddock: I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands that we have an energy mix and a privatised energy market. It will be up to the companies to decide what investment they make. What we endeavour to do in the Bill is make it possible and profitable for companies to invest in new coal. We believe that if it were not for the provisions of the Bill, we would not get the new coal-fired stations that we will need, because we will lose a third of existing coal-fired capacity by 2015.

These are issues with which Parliament should be rightly concerned. We have set out clear ambitions that any new coal plant constructed from 2020 will be fully carbon capture and storage from day one and that coal-fired power stations with demonstration projects will retrofit CCS to their full capacity by 2025. Let me make it absolutely clear that there will be only a limited role for unabated coal in the 2020s.

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): The Minister might be about to come on to this point. I note that new clause 8 mentions the need to decide

Next Section Index Home Page