Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord St John of Bletso: My Lords, what approaches have Her Majesty's Government made to the South African Government to inquire why they are not speaking out on press freedom in Zimbabwe, which is one of the very cornerstones of the democratic constitution of South Africa?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, will know that we have continued to talk about Zimbabwe not only with the President of South Africa but with others in the South African Government. President Mbeki is absolutely clear that the view of the South African Government is that dialogue between the MDC and ZANU-PF is the only way forward. The South African Government, with the Nigerians and the Malawians, have sought to facilitate that. Through their Foreign Minister, the South African Government previously made comments when there were concerns about attacks on MDC supporters as a result of a mass "stayaway", but I am not aware of any comments having been made in this particular instance.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, perhaps I may add our warmest congratulations from these Benches on the

8 Oct 2003 : Column 287

noble Baroness's appointment. It gives us great pleasure to see her still at the Dispatch Box dealing with the question of Zimbabwe.

Bearing in mind that the key player in this affair is the Southern African Development Community, what exchanges has the EU had with SADC since the ministerial summit of November 2002, when it was not possible to reach agreement between the parties? In particular, has the EU now sought to take a common line with SADC on the new press law and the banning of the Daily News? Has the Minister noted that yesterday the Media Institute of Southern Africa sent a delegation to SADC headquarters in Gaborone demanding strong action in respect of the threats to press freedom in the region generally and in Zimbabwe in particular? Would not this create a new opportunity for dialogue between the EU and SADC for that purpose?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. It does not matter how many times I change jobs, I still end up answering questions on Zimbabwe.

With respect to a dialogue between the European Union and SADC, there have continued to be discussions at troika level between SADC and the EU and, of course, between individual EU member states and individual SADC member states. I agree with the noble Lord that there is an opportunity for the EU and SADC to look again at issues relating to the press laws in Zimbabwe. However, given what happened in August at the SADC meeting, when there was a statement about EU sanctions and a complete misunderstanding of their role in Zimbabwe, those discussions may not necessarily result in the kind of initiative that we would like to see.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, while we are talking about discussions with other EU members about Zimbabwe, is the noble Baroness aware—I am sure she is—that this coming weekend, heading for an EU-ACP meeting in Rome are two members of the Zimbabwe Government, Mr Kangai and Mr Mangwana. Mr Mangwana is one of the chief suppressors of liberty in Mugabe's regime, and is on the EU travel banned list. What steps are we going to take to prevent him coming to Europe in defiance of that ban?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, will know, because we have discussed this issue on a number of occasions in this House, that while there is a travel ban, exemptions apply to those countries which have international obligations with respect to UN or other international organisations being based there or UN-related meetings. I am very happy to look into this, but I imagine that the two individuals to whom the noble Lord referred are going because it is an ACP meeting, which allows them to enter Italy. I shall also tell the

8 Oct 2003 : Column 288

House that today and tomorrow the Africa Working Group, an EU working group at official level, will be talking about Zimbabwe.

Lord Acton: My Lords, may I add to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said to my noble friend? I am delighted that she is continuing to answer questions on Zimbabwe—and, indeed, that she is the Leader of the House. I much look forward to my noble friend and I continuing to play a duet on this subject.

Can my noble friend say whether the Nigerian Government have had anything to say about the banning of the Daily News? If not, have Her Majesty's Government raised this matter with Nigeria and, if so, will they continue raising the matter with Nigeria?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments, although I am not so sure about the duet.

I am not aware of the Nigerian Government having raised this issue. I will check this with our High Commissioner in Abuja, and I will write to my noble friend specifically about whether we have raised this with the Nigerian Government. I am not aware that we have.

Electricity Supply

2.53 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in the next five years there will be sufficient electricity to meet all foreseeable demands and, if not, what action they propose to take to ensure that any likely deficiency is made good.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, maintaining the reliability of energy supplies is a key goal set out in the Government's energy White Paper. It is not the Government's role to second-guess the electricity market. Through competitive markets, participants have incentives to maintain reliable supplies of electricity. These incentives are backed by licence conditions and statutory obligations enforced by Ofgem.

The Government have a role to provide information to the market. A major component of this is our work with Ofgem, through the Joint Energy Security of Supply Working Group, to monitor energy security.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the lack of any underlying anxiety in his Answer causes one to regret even more the Government's decision to entomb the whole of this important subject in the mausoleum of the DTI? The noble Lord finds that very funny—unfortunately, it is not. I think that events are likely to wipe the smile off his face eventually.

8 Oct 2003 : Column 289

Have the Government stirred themselves yet to think about the possibly unpopular subject of the nuclear alternative, which has the immense advantage of being free of pollution, and their own neglect of the accompanying research?

Lord Davies of Oldham: Well, my Lords, I apologise if the noble Lord took offence at my smiling at his reference to the DTI as a mausoleum. I was in that entombment this morning and have emerged unscathed. I therefore feel that perhaps he was dramatising the point.

Let me make the obvious point that we are not complacent about electricity supplies—that is why we have acted with promptness over the past few months. We are concerned to hit that margin of spare capacity of between 15 and 20 per cent which the industry experts recognise as necessary. We were running at 16 per cent before the summer. I am pleased to announce that with the arrival back on scheme of part of the Grain power station, that margin goes up to 17.5 per cent for the winter. So without being complacent, I am merely indicating that the industry is hitting its targets.

Lord Tombs: My Lords, may I suggest to the Minister that he distinguishes between capacity margin and available capacity margin? There is a paper figure and there is a real figure, and they are quite different.

May I suggest to the Minister that the answer to the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, are, first, that it is almost certain that there will not be sufficient capacity over the next five years to meet central estimates? Secondly, whatever action is proposed, with one exception, it is unlikely to be effective over the next five years. That exception is peak lopping by industrial consumers. The outcome of that initiative is very difficult to see. If it is successful, it will involve some start-up costs passing to other consumers.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, of course I acknowledge the noble Lord's expertise in this area. I was feeling that I might be able to express gratitude to him for responding to the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, but I cannot agree entirely with his comments. As he will recognise from the White Paper, the Government have in place a proper concern for the security of energy supplies. We are therefore pursuing strategies to guarantee those supplies with regard to various forms of production. I can only state that the Government, while not being complacent, are confident that the strategies are in place.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, in addition to the problems of possible difficulties with the production of electricity, as referred to in the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, is there not also a possible problem with the transmission of electricity, as evidenced by grid failures in America and Europe in recent times? In

8 Oct 2003 : Column 290

order to limit the risks and the losses involved in long-distance grid transmission of electricity, will the Government place more emphasis on the promotion of local production of electricity, including CHP and micro-CHP—in which I declare an interest—and to which positive reference was made in the energy White Paper?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am quite sure that the power failures in the United States, Canada and Italy caused a shudder to run through all advanced countries in terms of the guarantee of supplies. The noble Lord is right that it is important that we effectively scrutinise the transmission of electricity.

I might just add that the supply failure in London, which was short-lived but nevertheless massively inconvenienced large numbers of people, was not to do with generation. It was to do with a really quite minor technical failure in the system, and we have asked for a full report to make sure that it does not happen again.

I agree with the noble Lord that we have to consider more local generation of electricity in order that we are not dependent on these long supply lines which have caused such difficulties in other circumstances.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page