Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, clearly the noble Lord and Members on this side of the House do not agree. The amendment that we have tabled is simple and straightforward:


I should have thought that the Government would want to have that. I can assure the Government that if people sit in the cold and dark they will not blame any of the divisions that the Minister talked about; they will blame the Government. Therefore the Government should take the responsibility. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

3.23 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 119; Not-Contents, 84.

Division No. 2

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Ampthill, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Avebury, L.
Barker, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Biffen, L.
Blaker, L.
Bradshaw, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Byford, B.
Caithness, E.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Chorley, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Condon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Dearing, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elles, B.
Elton, L.
Ezra, L.
Ferrers, E.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Fowler, L.
Freeman, L.
Geddes, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Hanham, B.
Hannay of Chiswick, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Higgins, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kingsland, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laming, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Listowel, E.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Marlesford, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Moynihan, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Newby, L.
Noakes, B.
Northesk, E.
Northover, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Onslow, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plumb, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Renton, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selborne, E.
Selsdon, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Slim, V.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Tebbit, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tombs, L.
Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Wakeham, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
Williamson of Horton, L.
Windlesham, L.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Amos, B. (Lord President of the Council)
Andrews, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blood, B.
Borrie, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Craig of Radley, L.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L. (Lord Chancellor)
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Hussey of North Bradley, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jordan, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lockwood, B.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Ouseley, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Strabolgi, L.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Tomlinson, L.
Triesman, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Wilkins, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.

18 Mar 2004 : Column 397

3.34 p.m.

Baroness Miller of Hendon moved Amendment No. 2:


    Insert the following new Clause—


"ANNUAL REPORTS UNDER SECTION 1 OF THE SUSTAINABLE ENERGY ACT 2003
(1) In addition to the matters specified to be included in the annual reports required under section 1 of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003 (c. 30), the reports shall contain information on the development of new energy sources including, but without prejudice to the generality of those words, energy derived from—
(a) clean coal technology
(b) biomass
(c) biofuels
(d) fuel cells
(e) photovoltaics
(f) wave and tidal generation
(g) hydrogeneration
(h) microgeneration and
(j) geothermal sources.
(2) The information to be given shall describe any research, development and demonstration work done in the reporting period on each of the energy sources covered.
(3) The annual reports shall set out what is being done by the Government, by government agencies, by UK research establishments, by UK Universities and by industry to ensure that the UK retains and expands, if necessary, the scientific and engineering expertise and the resources to develop effectively sources of energy enabling the UK to avoid undue reliance on imports and if the decision is taken to develop any other energy source or technology, including nuclear, the UK will have the ability to do so.
(4) The annual reports shall set out what is being done by the Government, by government agencies, by UK research establishments, by UK Universities and by industry to ensure demand is reduced and efficiency is increased in UK energy supply.
(5) Information given under this section shall exclude any information for which commercial confidentiality, within the meaning of section 43 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (c. 36), is claimed and upheld.
(6) This section shall apply to any annual report published after the first day appointed by the Secretary of State under section 169(2) of this Act."

18 Mar 2004 : Column 398

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding. It is also in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer. This amendment serves a similar purpose to the previous one. It relates to the Government's responsibility for ensuring security of supplies. It approaches the problem by requiring the Government to make specific annual reports on the progress—or otherwise—being made on the development of new energy sources. The Government have plenty of policies about energy. However, they are critically short of strategies to carry those policies into effect. With all the vacillation in which the Government are engaging, time is slipping away. We are rapidly approaching an era when for the first time in our long history, we will cease to be self-sufficient in the fuel to heat and light our homes and to power our factories. I do not speak of petrol and diesel fuel of which we have had our own supplies for only a comparatively short while. However, there too our resources are finite.

I shall not repeat the litany of dates when our coal will be finished and our gas and nuclear power gone as well. The Government are failing to take advantage of the short time that we have left before we are utterly dependent on unstable regimes such as those in Iran and Algeria, for the majority of our vital fuel supplies. Supplies from the Caspian Sea area will have to travel a long and expensive way through pipelines vulnerable to sabotage by terrorists. That has already happened to pipelines that Iraq depends on for its vital oil exports.

We need to safeguard our ability to live the normal life of an industrialised first-world country and not to descend into the regime endured by the Eastern Bloc until very recently and from which they are only just emerging. Almost certainly the Government are relying on supplies of gas. While they are also encouraging heavy wind power investment which as your Lordships know is only an intermittent and unreliable source, there are many other resources that have to be exploited and not neglected. Over these the Government are dragging their collective heels. In some instances they are positively ignoring or refusing to support other sources.

I invite the House to look at the list of nine potential sources of fuel in subsection (1) of my new clause—it contains quite a menu. One of those listed is clean coal technology. Far from encouraging this technology in which this country is a world leader, it is withering on the vine. I shall not take up our limited time in discussing all the nine fuel sources, but if everything goes perfectly well, the contribution of these nine sources will make only a comparatively small dent in our future fuel requirements, albeit a very important one.

The Government must not allow those sources to be neglected and the reporting requirements in this clause will make sure that they are not overlooked. On the basis of the Government's own optimistic estimate, renewable sources will make just a 10 per cent difference to our Kyoto commitments by 2010. It is important that a close

18 Mar 2004 : Column 399

eye should also be kept on progress—or lack of it—that is made in the exploitation of other renewable fuel sources. That is the reason why we have tabled this very important amendment. It will facilitate monitoring of the progress—or otherwise—in respect of the Government's policy on renewable energy sources.

In the same way, it is no less important that research into nuclear power should be kept under continual review so that the essential skills and this country's expertise as a world leader are not lost. Our scientists should not be compelled to take part in a brain drain to continue their work. The Government frequently talk about "keeping the nuclear option open". They are paying only lip service to the concept because it is perfectly obvious they are trying to kick the topic into the long grass. Or they are frightened to grasp the nettle. Your Lordships can pick whichever metaphor you think is better.

In Grand Committee, I proposed Amendment No. 12, which said:


    "Within five years from the passing of this Act, the NDA shall submit a plan . . . to the Secretary of State on the feasibility of building and commissioning new nuclear power stations to replace those becoming or likely to become obsolete within the ensuing fifteen years".—[Official Report, 15/1/04; Col. GC 185.]

The Minister did not really understand the plain words of my amendment. It is clear that he did not really understand what my amendment said. Omitting some irrelevant words, he said in reply:


    "The NDA has been given the crucial . . . task of carrying out the secure . . . clean-up of our nuclear legacy . . . The . . . estimated time-scale is 100 years. The noble Baroness suggested that after the NDA had done that, it might like to move on to something else."—[Official Report, 15/1/04, Col. GC188.]

My Lords, I suggested no such thing. I did not suggest that the NDA should wait 100 years. I suggested that, using its expertise, it should prepare a plan within five years to cover the situation for the ensuing 15 years. I do not suggest for one moment that the Minister deliberately misconstrued what I was proposing. However, it is perfectly clear that he did not understand what I was saying. I shall try and explain it again. I am not—I emphasise this—suggesting that the Government should commit themselves to a policy of new nuclear build which they clearly do not wish to do. I am just asking that as a part of—in the Government's own words—"keeping the nuclear option open", they make sure that a nuclear policy is constantly under review. This will be done, in the words of proposed new subsection (3), by ensuring that the Government and their agencies and the United Kingdom research agencies and universities maintain a degree of interest—to use the mildest word I can—in the topic of nuclear power and that the Government include in their annual report the current state of play of all these energy sources.

I repeat that I am not asking for anything more than that the issue should be kept under review. I stress emphatically that this is without any commitment by the Government to any future course of action. All they have to do is review the energy sources. As the Minister, in rejecting my previous amendment, suggested that the NDA would either be too busy to keep an eye on the future potential revived nuclear

18 Mar 2004 : Column 400

power industry or would not be capable of doing two things at once—cleaning up the present nuclear legacy at the same time—I am proposing simply that we hand it straight back to the Government who can either do it themselves or find someone else to whom they can delegate this watching brief.

A few moments ago I used the phrase "keeping a close eye" in relation to topics covered by the proposed new clause. "Keeping a close eye" means receiving annual, accurate and authoritative reports from the Government, not spin, not waffle or mere pious hopes irrespective of the amount of actual delivery. The Government profess a belief in openness. Complying with the reporting requirements of this amendment would keep them right up to the mark and the consumers of electricity would be fully informed. I beg to move.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, my noble friend made a powerful case for what seems to me to be a very sensible addition to our armoury. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I concentrate on subsection (3) of the proposed new clause although I shall return to the rest of the amendment before I sit down.

First, it is useful to remind ourselves of the words in the energy White Paper issued last spring. It referred to what my noble friend referred to as—it is a kind of shorthand—keeping the nuclear option open. I have coined the acronym KNOO. However, it is not called that. Paragraph 4.68 states:


    "While nuclear power is currently an important source of carbon free electricity, the current economics of nuclear power make it an unattractive option for new generating capacity and there are also important issues for nuclear waste to be resolved. This white paper does not contain proposals for building new nuclear power stations. However, we do not rule out the possibility that at some point in the future new nuclear build might be necessary if we are to meet our carbon targets".

Many people regard those as wise precautionary words. Of course, some, such as Greenpeace, herald it as the end of the nuclear age. However, that is rather absurd. We shall be depending on nuclear stations—Magnox, AGRs, Sizewell B, our pressurised water reactor—to continue to operate right through the 2020s—and Sizewell B into the 2030s. It is right to note that other countries are now investing in new nuclear capacity in a number of ways through the improved methods that are becoming available.

However, on one matter the statement in the White Paper was quite wrong when it simply asserted as a matter of fact that the cost of supplying power from nuclear was uneconomic. In this context I draw the House's attention to a very recent report published by the Royal Academy of Engineering, The Cost of Generating Electricity. A substantial piece of work was carried out for the Royal Academy of Engineering by the consultants, PB Power, who have a high reputation. One is tempted to quote large chunks of the RAE report but I shall quote two paragraphs from the press release that was issued by the Royal Academy of Engineering when the report was published:

18 Mar 2004 : Column 401


    "'This may sound surprising', says Academy Vice President Philip Ruffles, who chaired the study group, 'especially as we have included the cost of decommissioning in our assessment of the nuclear generation costs".

The press release continues—this is the point—


    "The weakness of the Government's Energy White Paper was that it saw nuclear power as very expensive. But modern nuclear stations are far simpler and more streamlined than the old generation—the latest are only about half the size of Sizewell B—and far cheaper to build and run".

I have heard a number of lectures recently from people who are—


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page