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Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, the Minister warned us at the beginning that his was going to be a long answer. Indeed, it was long, but it did not say anything that we wanted to hear. He need not have bothered. It was an appalling answer, because the Minister did not take note of many of the things that I said. There was no point in talking at length about how securitisation might work, or how mutualisation might work, or being flexible. I have argued those, both in Committee at great length and on Report at great length, and I know the pluses and minuses. We did not need to hear all of that.

The last time that we spoke, the Minister said that this would be taken away, and that they were consulting. They have been consulting; they have been consulting; they have been consulting. They cannot even get around to saying that they would be prepared to put something down at some stage during the course of the life of this Bill, when it reaches the other place. He did not take note, he said that it was an enormous cost to consumers—I mentioned that. I said that either route would involve some cost, but that it was not clear to us which route would be the cheaper, and a combination of both might be the answer. Whatever it would be, it would clearly be a more efficient use of consumers' money in support of renewables than the current system, which is absolutely appalling.

This new amendment could be called the middle way—which I would have thought suited the Minister's party. One might have thought that this might be an approach that could be helpful. It so happens that lots of discussions have been held with industry in the light of revised drafting, and the consensus on the amendment, so far as industry is concerned, is that this is the right way to move forward.

I am well aware that the Government have had a strong whip, and they have said that Members must stay until half past ten. I am going to give the Minister some relief that people will not feel that they stayed for nothing. They will at least have a chance to walk through the Division Lobbies. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

20 Apr 2004 : Column 258

9.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 38; Not-Contents, 68.

Division No. 5

CONTENTS

Addington, L.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Byford, B. [Teller]
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Craigavon, V.
Cumberlege, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Ezra, L.
Geddes, L.
Greenway, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Higgins, L.
Hooson, L.
Howe, E.
Kingsland, L.
Laird, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Montrose, D.
Newton of Braintree, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Palmer, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Steel of Aikwood, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wakeham, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.

NOT-CONTENTS

Acton, L.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. (The Lord President of the Council.)
Andrews, B.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Borrie, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Chan, L.
Crawley, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
Desai, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Filkin, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Lipsey, L.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Pitkeathley, B.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Rooker, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Simon, V.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Triesman, L.
Turnberg, L.
Warner, L.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Whitaker, B.
Whitty, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

20 Apr 2004 : Column 258

20 Apr 2004 : Column 259

10.7 p.m.

Lord Ezra Amendment No. 19:


    After Clause 126, insert the following new clause—


"RENEWABLE TRANSPORT FUEL OBLIGATION
(1) In order to comply with EU Directive 2003/30/EC, which requires Member States of the European Union to demonstrate how biofuels are to be placed on their markets in increasing quantities, the Secretary of State may, by regulations, introduce a renewable transport fuel obligation.
(2) Regulations made under subsection (1) may—
(a) require relevant parts of the road transport fuel industry to demonstrate that a specified proportion of their product is renewable,
(b) set targets for the proportion of road transport fuel to be renewable, and
(c) provide for penalties for failure to meet targets.
(3) For the purposes of the obligation, renewable transport fuels shall be defined as liquid or gaseous fuel for transport produced from biomass or other renewable fuels.
(4) The power conferred by this section on the Secretary of State to make regulations is exercisable by statutory instrument subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
(5) In this section—
"biomass" means the biodegradeable fraction of products, waste and residues from agriculture (including vegetable and animal substances) forestry and related industries, as well as the biodegradeable fraction of industrial and municipal waste;
"other renewable fuels" means fuels, other than biofuels, which originate from renewable energy sources and are used for transport purposes."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment deals with the renewable fuel transport obligation. Like the previous matter, this subject was discussed in Committee and on Report. On both occasions, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, expressed sympathy with the intent of the amendments, but he thought that they were too precisely drawn. Full account has been taken of his remarks in drawing up the present amendment, which begins by referring to the EU directive and then leaves it open to the Secretary of State to make such regulations as may be required in relation to that directive. I do not think that anything could be more broadly drawn than that.

I hope, therefore, in the light of the real effort that has been made and the discussions which I know have taken place since the Report stage, that the Minister will be prepared to accept the amendment. It should be borne in mind that when the Bill goes to another place, if for any reason a further amendment is made, obviously that would be possible. If necessary, we would be able to consider it again when the Bill comes back to us. On that basis, and speaking briefly given the hour, I beg to move.

Lord Palmer: My Lords, as usual the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has given a most succinct introduction to this, our third attempt at trying to persuade Her Majesty's Government to have a renewable transport fuel obligation. As the noble Lord said, an enormous amount of work has gone into the rewording of this amendment since we originally tabled it with all-party support in Grand Committee, where it even seemed to receive tacit support

20 Apr 2004 : Column 260

from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. As always, I must declare an interest as the unpaid president of the British Association for Biofuels and Oils.

It is terribly difficult to find anything new to say on this amendment as the arguments were so well supported in Grand Committee and from all parts of the House at Report stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, emphasised the point that if this amendment was accepted we would be talking about a minute percentage of our total fuel requirements, and I think that this is indeed an important factor. Although the amounts of biofuels potentially available may be relatively small, they could nevertheless be significant—5 per cent is certainly achievable; and 10 per cent is a realistic target over time.

For a brief moment I would like to reiterate some of the salient points behind our thinking on this amendment. This amendment could make a major step forward in achieving our national aims for cutting CO2 emissions. It would improve local air quality. It would boost the productivity of our depressed farming sector at an affordable cost. It would give the United Kingdom a degree of self-sufficiency. Surely this must be welcome in the current political unrest in the Middle East. It would make certain that we try not to lag too far behind our European partners, who are currently way in advance of us in terms of technology, usage and of course most importantly, enjoy a much more relaxed tax regime.

I have seldom been involved in a Bill where one particular amendment has such overwhelming support throughout the land, not least of all from another place. The Daily Telegraph recently ran a headline:


    "Whitehall warms to 'fuel from crops' initiative".

Only last week, there was a major editorial in Crops Magazine, and I quote:


    "The energy time bomb is ticking as predictions for depleting fossil fuel reserves in the North Sea and elsewhere suggest. Government has a real chance to provide the UK with sustainable energy alternatives".

Every countryside body supports this amendment; every farming body supports it; every environmental body supports it, and not surprisingly, all the farming press support it. I really hope that the Government, this time, will embrace this with open arms as it really will be of enormous benefit to our nation.


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