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Lord Whitty: Indeed, my Lords, or the opposite may happen. That would be reflected in the requirement which the Sustainable Energy Act already places on the Government and it will be covered in annual reports which, again, are already required. But, to say the least, this degree of prescription for an annual report is unusual in legislation and it should be seen as the motivation for a particular objective. On both counts, I believe that the House should not adopt the amendment.

There may have been other, more mild amendments under which the Government would have been required to consider spelling out our obligations in the annual report. But, in reality, the requirement which already exists covers, and will be interpreted by the Government as covering, the vast majority of the issues which have been referred to in this debate and in the amendment. We do not need the issue to be set out in a more prescriptive and perhaps slightly unbalanced way, as is the case in the amendment. Therefore, I hope that the matter will not be pursued.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, with regard to the Minister's last point, in which Bill was it laid out so clearly?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, in the Sustainable Energy Act there is a requirement for an annual report which should cover everything raised in the energy White Paper. That includes the role of renewables, the role of energy efficiency, the role of CHP, the role of keeping the nuclear option open, and so forth. Therefore, we

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are already required to detail most of the issues—in practice, probably all the issues—included in the prescription.

However, the prescription sets out the order and the method, and it is clear that what might appear to be a fairly innocuous reference to nuclear power is being interpreted by the noble Baroness's colleagues—and, to some extent, by the noble Baroness—as being the way in which we obtain a shift in policy rather than a report on the facts and the degree to which the policy is being delivered. In that sense, I do not believe that this is entirely a matter of what is reported; it is also an attempt to shift the policy.

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way. I wish to make a brief point. He said that it is unusual to take such a step in requiring annual reports to be so detailed, but surely he will appreciate that we are in an unusual situation so far as concerns energy. In a previous debate, a right reverend Prelate described the climate change phenomenon on the world as perhaps being ahead in terms of significance of even terrorism. When we are considering the security of supply and climate change, this is not unusual; it is surely prudent.

Lord Whitty: Yes, my Lords, and, in addition to a legislative requirement on reporting on energy policy, the Government are also required to report periodically on the climate change programme. That reflects the fact that the Government agree with the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord and the chief scientist that this is, indeed, one of the most important issues—possibly the most important issue—facing the world today. However, the obligation is already in place. This detailed prescription of it is somewhat misleading and it is not particularly helpful in ensuring that the information on the delivery and deliverability of the energy White Paper, which is what should be covered by the annual report, is any clearer than the way in which the Government are already obliged to present it.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, this amendment is in no way prescriptive. If the Minister reads the amendment carefully he will see that it says,


    "if the decision is taken".

He impugns motives to me that I do not have. I made it perfectly clear in my speech that I was not saying that. I hope that the Minister will have the courtesy to read carefully what I have said and accept it. Furthermore, he impugns or suggests that somehow we have persuaded the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, who can speak very well for herself, that this is all right. The whole thing is—my noble friend says "outrageous"—an absolutely unbalanced view. It is unusual for the Minister to speak in that way. There is no point in saying any more. It is appropriate to test the opinion of the House.

4.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 110; Not-Contents, 82.

Division No. 3

CONTENTS

Addington, 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.
Chorley, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Colwyn, L.
Condon, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Crickhowell, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundee, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Ezra, L.
Fookes, B.
Fowler, L.
Freeman, L.
Geddes, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goodhart, L.
Goschen, V.
Hanham, B.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Hayhoe, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howe, E.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howe of Idlicote, B.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
Jacobs, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Jopling, L.
Kingsland, L.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Laird, L.
Laming, L.
Livsey of Talgarth, L.
Lucas, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monro of Langholm, L.
Monson, 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.
O'Cathain, B.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Quinton, L.
Rawlings, B.
Razzall, L.
Reay, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rees, L.
Rees-Mogg, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Roper, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Selsdon, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Swinfen, L.
Taverne, L.
Taylor of Warwick, L.
Tebbit, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Swynnerton, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Trumpington, B.
Wakeham, L.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Wilcox, B.
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.
Boothroyd, B.
Borrie, L.
Brennan, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, 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.
Finlay of Llandaff, B.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Healey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L.
Jordan, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Levy, L.
Lockwood, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Mitchell, L.
Moser, L.
Ouseley, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Rea, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sewel, L.
Sheldon, L.
Simon, V.
Temple-Morris, L.
Triesman, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
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 411

4.31 p.m.

Clause 2 [Constitution of NDA]:

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority]:

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Designated responsibilities]:

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 5:


    Page 3, line 11, at end insert—


"( ) where the primary purpose of a designated installation has been the generation of electricity, to ensure that the decommissioning does not preclude the future use of the site for the generation of electricity;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I suspect that the Minister will be glad to move into somewhat calmer waters. Clause 3 sets out the principal functions of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. I will begin simply by reading the start of Clause 3(1):


    "The principal function of the NDA shall be to have responsibility for securing—


    (a) the operation, pending the commencement of their decommissioning, of designated nuclear installations;


    (b) the decommissioning of those and other designated nuclear installations;


    (c) the cleaning-up of designated nuclear sites".

My concern is that, at some point in the future, electricity generation in power stations will be required to be constructed in this country. It is never uncontroversial to put in a planning application for a power station. Where we have existing power stations that are going to be decommissioned, in planning

18 Mar 2004 : Column 412

terms there is an existing user, so that another generating station, not necessarily nuclear—it could be gas or coal—could be constructed on that site without causing any planning difficulties. This would therefore be a prudent step. There are also other reasons: all the infrastructure is already there; the high-powered transmission lines are there—they do not have to be run across new areas of countryside, as I heard from my noble friend earlier in the debate. So there are very positive reasons why we should secure that situation.

One has to make a good many assumptions in this amendment before one gets to this situation. We do not know from the Bill how far the decommissioning process will go. There is the whole question of the future of the sites and of the communities around, all of which are mentioned subsequently in the Bill. When British Steel, for instance, was running down, I well remember that it invested enormous sums in bringing new industries into former steel communities in order to diversify their economies and to replace the steel industry. It had government help for that, of course. I infer that there will be a similar process.

The amendment does not call for action by the Government but it does call for thought. It may be that, in the future, new generating plant will be more sensibly sited, close to major urban areas, where not only will they generate electricity but the heat that they use in the generation can be piped off and used by the community, instead of being run out to sea or cooled down in cooling towers. We have not reached that stage.


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