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30 Jun 2010 : Column 946

Barry Gardiner: I did sell Westinghouse. I was the Minister responsible at the time, and I remember being told by officials that we would be lucky if we got £1.5 billion for it. I said that I did not believe them for a moment, and we got £5.4 billion for it in the end. The reason we did so was that we had to take the liability off the balance books and we had an opportunity at that moment to sell it because it had the first place on an order in China, which made it extremely valuable. The Government benefited, and the British public benefited much more than the officials ever believed we would.

Thomas Docherty: I am grateful for that intervention, as it sums up entirely the correct decision taken on the basis of getting good value for the taxpayer because of the amount of revenue raised.

That leads me to my next point-that there is a myth about how long it would take to build new nuclear power stations. It does not actually take 10 or 15 years to build nuclear power stations. Westinghouse has an excellent model on the shelf, which they can take off it. It would take only three to four years; the problem comes in the planning process. I gently suggest to the Minister that I hope he will ensure, as part of the energy drive, that carbon capture and nuclear plants are not slowed down by the planning system, so that we can get them up and running as quickly as we possibly can.

Caroline Lucas: I am sorry, but I cannot hear all this talk about nuclear power without feeling the urge to leap up-so I have leapt. Will the hon. Gentleman please list those nuclear power stations that have been built, first, on time, and secondly, to budget?

Thomas Docherty: I am grateful. I do not have that long left; I cannot list them all.

Caroline Lucas: It would not take long.

Thomas Docherty: I suspect that if the hon. Lady looked at the number of wind farms built on time and on budget she would find that that list would be about the same length as for nuclear power stations.

I am very clear, as a champion of both the nuclear and clean coal industries-I have been throughout my whole time in politics-that there is no source of electricity that does not have some challenges and liabilities around it. The ones on nuclear are well documented, and I accept that some Conservative Members have raised some genuine points about clean-coal technology and the importing of coal. The problems surrounding both onshore and offshore wind farms are also well documented, as are problems with tidal power, which does not always work, so there are challenges to be overcome.

That brings me back to the central point that the previous Government were absolutely correct to promote a balanced energy. They said that we needed an element of nuclear power, an element of renewables, an element of coal and, indeed, an element of gas. It is quite surprising that we have heard so little in this debate about the role of gas in our energy mix. Again, I gently suggest to Government Members that the 3,000 mile pipeline presents an issue that we might need to look at.

We have had a fantastic debate. I very much welcome the Ministers to their new posts and I look forward to their perhaps providing some reassurance to my constituents when they sum up.

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5.58 pm

David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con): A lot has been said about renewables, about where we are going as a country with our energy policy and about how we are going to keep the lights on in 10 years' time. In my Morecambe and Lunesdale constituency, a paradox occurs. We have two nuclear power stations; one is due to be decommissioned very shortly; and we have a plethora of wind farm applications going through the Lune valley and all the way through the M6 corridor into the Cambrian region.

The nuclear power industry, it has to be said, gets a bad press. What is needed is education. I do not think anyone here could argue that a pellet the size of a 10p piece could power a town for, say, a month; yet we are trying to figure out how to keep the lights on in 10 years' time-and we all know that they are going to go out if we do not invest in nuclear power.

I really believe in nuclear power; I am 100% for it. When I was standing for election in Morecambe and Lunesdale, I said that as long as I am the Member of Parliament for the constituency there will be nuclear power there. It is the largest employer in my constituency, but it also accounts for 10% of the national grid.

We are due to have a new power station built in Heysham, if everything goes according to plan, and it should be noted that upgrades and new nuclear power stations are planned all through my region and up into Cumbria. Heysham is one of perhaps only two urban areas in the country that could possibly accept having a nuclear power station built in it.

Although we rightly want to promote wind power, I cannot understand why wind power has to be located in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Barry Gardiner: Because they are windy.

David Morris: Exactly. It is because of the wind, but the wind comes in from the sea, so why do we not put battalions of wind farms out in the sea? That is common sense. We do not have to put them all across the hills, valleys and mountains of this great country; we can put them out at sea instead, where they will generate more energy. There is evidence to suggest that turbines erected out at sea are more efficient than those erected on land in other ways too, because, as has been said, it can take quite some time to secure planning permission for the construction of both nuclear and wind sources of energy on land. This is a very contentious subject.

We have to figure out how we are going to power this country in future. Yes, the coal mines did get closed down in the '80s, but in the town I am originally from, Leigh, the pits were closed down naturally, purely and simply because they had been over-mined. I still hear stories in my home town that Thatcher closed down the pits, however. She did not. If we all remember rightly, we will recall that there was a political argument going on between the unions and the Government of the day.

Members need to acknowledge that we are now in 2010, and in 10 years' time the lights will go out unless we start building nuclear power stations and battalions of wind farms out at sea.

Caroline Lucas: I am in danger of repeating myself a lot, but given that it will take at least 10 or 15 years to get nuclear power up and running, if it is really the
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case-which I do not believe-that the lights will go off in 10 years, nuclear power simply will not help us. I find it ironic that this is supposed to be a debate about energy efficiency, yet the hon. Gentleman is spending his time talking about nuclear, wind and coal. Let us talk about energy efficiency. According to the previous Government's own figures, 40% of our existing energy could be saved using energy-efficiency measures alone.

David Morris: I thank the hon. Lady for her comments, and they are good comments, but we are talking about energy efficiency. Nuclear power is very efficient; it has a low carbon footprint.

One subject that has not been addressed is how we in this country use energy. I use card meters in my domestic home. When I bought my house, an old gentleman had lived in it beforehand, and he used card meters so I carried on using them. When my family was growing up, I was one of those dads who was always saying, "Switch the lights off." Using card meters started to make us change our habits and how we used energy in our home. The Government might want to consider that. Perhaps we could top up through the internet as we might with a T-Mobile phone-excuse me for unintentionally plugging a particular company. We might usefully consider how we obtain our energy.

Thomas Docherty: The hon. Gentleman has touched on an important point-education-so does he agree that our schools have a key role to play in teaching our children how vital energy efficiency is?

David Morris: I totally agree. What the public need to be educated in is how nuclear power can benefit this and other nations in solving their energy problems. I urge the House and the Minister to consider seriously where we will be going in 10 years' time. I think that nuclear power is the way forward. There is a place for wind farms and renewable energy, but two nuclear power stations in my constituency power more or less 10% of this national grid and if they are taken out of commission, the lights will go off.

6.5 pm

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): May I welcome you to your post, Mr Deputy Speaker, and the Ministers to theirs? I also congratulate all hon. Members who have made very eloquent and interesting maiden speeches today, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon), who raised pertinent issues about workers in the civil service. I am conscious of the fact that some Back Benchers on both sides of the House are still waiting to speak and that we are yet to hear the wind-ups, and as I am particularly interested in what the Minister is going to say, I shall keep my comments brief.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in a debate on an issue as important as "Progress and prospects in energy efficiency". I am glad that we have heard a bit more detail today about the green deal-the detail provided in the Budget and the coalition agreement was sketchy. What we have heard about the green deal today has raised as many questions as answers. The Minister talked about energy-efficient products, including loft insulation and plugs. I wish to focus briefly on another very simple element of energy-efficient products, which was not discussed. The Energy Saving Trust
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estimates that 23% of the heat energy lost from a house escapes through inefficient windows, so it is vital that efficient windows are included in measures under the green deal.

I know from dialogue that I have had with the Glass and Glazing Federation-the trade association that represents companies, including those in my constituency, who make, supply or fit glass and glass-related products-that the current economic downturn has been particularly damaging to the glass and window industry, and that at the current rate of installations the dates in the carbon emissions reduction target will not be met. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) highlighted the fact that glazing can cost about £10,000. That will not be met by the green deal at the limit stated by the Minister-that is if the green deal is to extend to energy-efficient glazing at all. Can he clarify whether the support for insulation that he outlined through the green deal and other projects will include that provided by energy-efficient windows? Will he consider a windows scrappage scheme? Estimates made by the Glass and Glazing Federation's energy savings calculator, which have been supported by the Energy Saving Trust, demonstrate that such a scheme could provide even greater benefits to energy conservation than those obtained from the excellent boiler scrappage scheme introduced under the Labour Government.

A number of references have been made to the number 10 during this debate. A number of Members on both sides of the House have signed the 10:10 pledge to reduce our emissions by 10% over the course of this year. We learnt today from the Committee on Climate Change that the UK's carbon emissions have been reduced by 10% in the past year. If energy-efficient windows were installed in all properties nationally, our emissions would reduce by a further 10%, saving nearly 4 million tonnes of carbon and decreasing our national domestic energy expenditure by 10%. I urge the Minister to consider energy-efficient windows in his plans.

6.9 pm

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): Thank you very much for letting me join this important debate, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wish to support what the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) said about the fact that a lot of today's debate has focused on energy generation, whereas in a debate on energy efficiency we should be focusing on energy consumed in the home, because that is a very large contributor to energy consumption in the UK and to our use of carbon fuels.

I also wish to associate myself with some of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood). I grew up in Cornwall, so I can remember the catastrophe of the Torrey Canyon and the oil spills that we saw off the coast of Cornwall, which in their day were as catastrophic as those we are seeing in the gulf of Mexico. That is, I think, a spur to us to reduce our dependence on oil and move swiftly to find more sustainable sources of energy.

I believe that the green deal will offer significant positive benefits to people living in my constituency. Fuel poverty in Cornwall is among the highest in the
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country. That in part relates to the profile of our population: we have many people living in poverty, with average incomes some 25% lower than the national average, and the fastest-growing population of 80-year-olds. We are also a very rural area, with more than 63% of the population of households living in rural areas-that figure is only 19% for the rest of the country. As a result, people do not have access to mains gas, which is, of course, the cheapest form of energy. Many homes, especially in villages-as many as 80% of the homes in villages-have to depend on Calor gas or on fuel oil, which are the most expensive ways of heating a home and tip a lot of people into fuel poverty.

There are also a lot of old properties, bungalows and properties built before the war with solid walls, which are difficult and expensive to insulate, as well as a large number of detached properties compared with the rest of England. As hon. Members will know, flats are usually the most energy-efficient properties and we have low numbers of those in Cornwall.

I believe that the green deal will enable many people in my constituency to switch from expensive and carbon-intensive forms of energy to more low-carbon and cheaper alternatives, especially ground heat. Ground heat pumps are manufactured in my constituency and, using the CERT programme and working with social housing providers around the country, they have lifted many people out of fuel poverty. However, like some of my hon. Friends, I am slightly concerned. Although the initial amount of money available through the green deal-about £6,000-is a good start, I would appreciate it if, over time, Ministers considered increasing the amount of money that could be made available for the green deal to take into consideration the considerable costs of insulating solid wall properties and putting in ground source heat pumps.

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): For a long time, energy efficiency has had Cinderella status in the energy debate, despite the fact that in terms of value for money it is second to none. I am hugely excited by the green deal and think it will transform the way in which we interact with energy in this country, but would my hon. Friend support moves to extend the green deal to the commercial sector, too? That sector is responsible for about a fifth of our emissions and it has been calculated-I have not done the maths myself-that if we were to raise the energy performance certificate standard for commercial buildings to level C, we would save about £5 billion a year. It seems to be a no-brainer.

Sarah Newton: I would be delighted to support my hon. Friend. It is important that schools, hospitals and commercial organisations can benefit from the green deal. There is a huge appetite for people to have renewable energy, but the capital costs can be prohibitive.

Gregory Barker: May I quickly assure both my hon. Friends that the commercial sector-particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, but the sector in general, too-will be included in the green deal?

Sarah Newton: That is extremely welcome news. That is marvellous, and-to return to my ground heat pump manufacturers-they will be able to provide ground heat for businesses, hospitals and schools, as they do at the moment.

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I should be grateful if Ministers would consider one other matter in the context of renewable heat, and that is the incentive. The renewable heat incentive, as hon. Members will know, was designed to support the installation of a wide range of renewable heat technologies by compensating owners for the increased capital costs of such systems. I think it is an extremely bold and good idea, and Ministers will be receiving replies to the consultation process that was started by the last Government. Having listened to manufacturers in my constituency, I believe that although it is a good idea, some unfortunate anomalies have crept into the calculation of the tariff.

The Carbon Trust and ground heat pump manufacturers have highlighted an inconsistency in the tariff calculations for the RHI that is having the unintended consequence of effectively doubling the rate of return for air source heat pump installations. It has been well proven that ground source heat pumps are a far more efficient way of producing energy over time than air source pumps. If the tariff continues as it stands in the proposals, it will severely disadvantage the ground source pump industry and other renewable technologies; indeed, it might, sadly, eliminate both of those technologies just when we need to be encouraging businesses to supply and manufacture such products in this country. I would be very grateful if Ministers would urgently review the consultation process and look at the tariff for small air source heat pumps.

6.16 pm

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): May I start by congratulating all hon. Members who have made their maiden speeches today? Unfortunately, I was not in the Chamber to hear all of them, but I want, nevertheless, to congratulate them all because I know what a daunting prospect it is to make one's maiden speech in this Chamber.

In opening the debate, the Minister quoted the Prime Minister saying that he wants to make this Government "the greenest Government ever"; well, it needs to be-and so does every subsequent Government, because the scale of the challenge facing not just the UK but the whole world requires radical steps to be taken. Climate change is probably the single biggest challenge that we as a civilisation have ever faced. We should therefore try to achieve cross-party consensus on the radical measures that need to be taken. The Stern review, which the previous Government commissioned, talked about the possibility of 40% of domestic energy requirements being generated by micro-technologies, and this Government need to do everything they can to encourage and support making that a reality. If we can secure a huge increase in micro-energy technology, that will reduce the problems caused by carbon emissions and will diminish the need for nuclear power stations.

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