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Lord Ezra: My Lords, everybody will be delighted at what the noble Lord has just said. It will fill all of us with great pleasure, not only those directly involved in the farming community but those involved in energy and energy efficiency who have fought so hard to transform the energy scene. This is an important step forward—it has really made the day for many of us. Other attempts at getting amendments accepted have not been so successful. I thank the Minister as well as the noble Lords, Lord Carter, Lord Palmer and Lord MacGregor, for the part they have played in this. I wish this amendment well when it wends its way through the other place.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 20:


"CHAPTER 5
CLEAN COAL TECHNOLOGY

PROGRAMME FOR CLEAN COAL TECHNOLOGY
(1) The Secretary of State may by order establish a programme for clean coal technology that introduces demonstration plants for the development of clean coal technology.
(2) Such an order may also set out additional programmes that will facilitate the application of clean coal technology both in the United Kingdom and overseas.
(3) Before making such an order, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the effect of clean coal technology on—
(a) protecting the global environment,
(b) responding to the foresight initiative,
(c) exploiting market potential,
(d) ensuring the security of United Kingdom energy supply, and
(e) maintaining a presence for the United Kingdom in a global energy market.
(4) In this section "clean coal technology" means specified technologies for the generation of electricity from coal that meet specified pollutant emission performance criteria."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another amendment that has been through Committee and Report. I have returned to it because of my long association with the coal industry. It relates to clean coal technology. I moved a similar amendment in an attempt to persuade the Government to introduce some form of obligation to stimulate the development of cleaner coal technology. However, it was rejected. Therefore, this amendment, like the previous one, is much more permissive. It follows the lines of what was said to about clean coal technology in the energy White Paper, which indicated that the Government were minded to have a programme for clean coal technology that would lead to the introduction of demonstrator plants.

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That is precisely what the amendment proposes. It follows the lines of the White Paper. It is therefore not a new development. It would give great encouragement to the coal industry, which is worried about its future. It would enable us to do a great deal of additional export business through having demonstrator plants showing how this technology could work, as the Energy White Paper indicated. Therefore, I very much hope that, in this revised form, the Minister will be prepared to accept the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, although I accept that there is an important role for cleaner coal technology, I am afraid that I cannot be quite as helpful on this amendment in its precise form as I was on the previous one. That is principally because, although we are involved in trying to draw up a carbon abatement technology programme for fossil fuel-based power generation—which we are doing in collaboration with the industries and which will build on existing DTI support for cleaner coal technologies—and cleaner coal technologies will play an important part in reducing carbon emissions and maintaining a source of power that minimises those emissions, the amendment relates to the demonstration of cleaner coal technologies and the case for the Government to support a demonstration plant.

Experience around the world, particularly in the United States, suggests that cleaner coal technology demonstrators do not fulfil their objective of moving the technologies into the marketplace. Therefore, in a value-for-money sense, a legal obligation to engage in such a demonstration plant is not a useful option. The Government therefore acknowledge the importance of cleaner coal technology, but the intention that would arise from the amendment is not the most effective way forward. We would rather engage with the industry over the next few months and, indeed, with the noble Lord and others who are interested in this matter to see how cleaner coal and carbon abatement technologies should develop. I am sure that my colleague Mr Stephen Timms at the DTI, the Minister with executive responsibility in this area, would be happy to meet the noble Lord and others to see whether they could take the matter further. However, I cannot accept the amendment.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I find that extremely disappointing. In fact, it seems to go back on what the Government wrote in the energy White Paper, in which they said:


    "With this in mind, we have already put in place a programme of support for advanced traditional cleaner coal technologies which is intended to bring forward demonstrator projects that may help to showcase the relevant technology more widely".

That is in cold print in paragraph 6.64 in the energy White Paper.

It seems to me that that is very far away from what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has just told us. Is he therefore saying that the Government are going back on the intention so clearly stated in the Energy White Paper? If so, it is an extremely sad day for coal. It is, I would suggest, an extremely sad day for the Labour

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Party, which traditionally has had the closest possible historic connection with the coal industry. I should have thought that it would have been the first party to have grasped at any way in which the future of coal can be provided for.

I am really disturbed by what the Minister said. He said that he would be open to further discussion, with himself and with Mr Timms. I would certainly like to take that up. However, I want to emphasise that what he has just told us is at extreme variance with what is written in the Energy White Paper. I do not wish to say any more about the matter and, at this late hour, I certainly do not want to divide the House on it, although I would have done so if we had discussed it earlier. I shall take up the Minister's offer of talks. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 151 [Applications for energy administration orders]:

[Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

Clause 153 [Energy administrators]:

10.30 p.m.

Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment No. 22:


    Page 117, line 5, at end insert—


"( ) salaries, other contractual terms of employees, and their occupational pension provision, including rights conferred under Schedule 14 to the 1989 Act (the electricity supply pension scheme);"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am moving the amendment now because it was not possible for any of the noble Lords who put their name to it to be present to move it at Report stage.

Schedule 14 to the Electricity Act 1989 empowered the Secretary of State to make regulations, which would protect employees then in the industry from detriment in respect of their pension provision. These were enacted as the Electricity (Protected Persons) (England and Wales) Pension Regulations 1990. Similar protection was provided for employees in Scotland under Schedule 15 to the Act and the Electricity (Protected Persons) (Scotland) Pension Regulations 1990. The regulations impose a duty on the relevant employer to maintain or provide its protected employees and protected beneficiaries—together called protected persons—with pension rights, both on an ongoing basis and, in particular, in the event of the partial or total winding up of the scheme; the restructuring or change of ownership of the participating employers; or the transfer of employees from one employer to another within the electricity industry.

This clause appears to lay a duty on the administrator to prioritise the interests of creditors and, subject to them, the interests of members of the company. Through the amendment we are seeking confirmation that the arrangements for a special administration regime do not, and are not intended to,

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override the statutory duties on employers of protected persons under the Electricity Act 1989. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that I am able to give such confirmation and confirm that, in the event of a special energy administration, the duties in this respect of employers of protected persons under the Electricity Act 1989 and the protected persons regulations will not be overridden by the duties of the energy administrator. The fact of the company being in administration, whether ordinary or energy administration, will not in any sense terminate the company's duties in this respect. In both cases, the trustees of the pension fund, if the fund is owed money by the company, will be treated as an unsecured creditor of the company.

The provisions of this clause follow the precedent of existing insolvency law, adapting it only where necessary for the purpose of energy administration. Therefore, the rights of employees and pension rights are unaltered as compared with any other administration situation. I hope that that goes far enough for my noble friend to accept it as the reassurance that he sought.


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