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Lord Triesman: My Lords, the issues of aircraft and radar and other signals are being actively pursued. We made it very clear during the passage of the Energy Bill in this House that there remains a desire to site a large number of successful wind farms in appropriate areas
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off the coast of the United Kingdom, particularly of England, Wales and Scotland. That remains the policy.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, although my noble friend has a sense of déjà vu in revisiting the subject, would he accept that there was a sense of déjà vu in the House about the inadequacy of the answer? It is not fully acceptable to say that the Government have not closed their mind to the nuclear option. That in itself is a negative reply. Will he give us a very clear assertion that all steps will be undertaken to maintain the existing supply and our future needs for electricity generated by nuclear power unless and until we have adequate alternatives in place? None of the options should be forgone or allowed to degrade unless and until those renewables that we all want are actually in place, not merely a wish, a dream or a hope.
Lord Triesman: My Lords, as ever, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend for providing so robust a question. I cannot add to the general point. We have not closed the door on any of the fuel sources that we believe will be required. It is not right to make a distinction of the kind that may have appealed to one or two noble Lords about the intention to drive down carbon fuels, find new forms of renewable energy, and make sure that we have not closed the doors to some technologies that have proved extremely valuable in the recent past providing an envelope within which we will meet the fuel and energy needs of the country.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I revert to the Question. Is not the Government's response wholly related to the question of taxation, not to the supply of oil or indeed to carbon emissions, wind farms or whatever?
Lord Triesman: No, my Lords. It could not conceivably be argued that that was the case. There is no need for panic, but the anxieties expressed by governments as diverse as those of China, India and many other countries around the worldtheir requirements for fuel have grown because demand in their economies is growingcannot all be attributable
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to the tax regime in the United Kingdom. We all want consistent supply, because we all want a buoyant economy and stability in the world economy.
Lord Desai: My Lords, despite all the fuss, is it not true that the real price of oil is below what it was in 1973? Oil is cheaper in real terms than it was. There is no energy crisis to justify a nuclear revival.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, the oil producer knows full well that, of the pump price of petrol in this country, 75 per cent is tax and only 25 per cent is there to account for the whole cost of production, transport, refining and retailing. Does the Minister agree that, from the oil producer's point of view, it looks a bit rich for the Government to complain about him increasing his share?
Lord Triesman: My Lords, I do not think that there have been complaints. Indeed, the dialogue that has been opened between OPEC and non-OPEC nations about greater transparency in all issues of pricing has been one of the central features of contemporary negotiations about oil prices. World economic stability is as much in the interest of oil producers as it is, if I may say so, in our interest.
Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but is he not aware that we are still receiving reports that ballot papers have not been received by electors? In fact, in the ward of Aspull in Wigan, people were informed on Friday that they will have to go to the town hall to vote. In the light of all the assurances that were given during the passage of the elections Bill and the fact that his right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister appeared to pioneer the process, would the
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Minister agree that if any evidence emerged showing that anyone was unable to vote in the election or that people had been disfranchised it might be a resigning matter?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I shall not go into specifics about the detailed situation in the local authority to which the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, refers. I shall outline the overall position and try to give the House a little more detail about why we are confident that the process is on course. We had a debate about that following a Statement that I repeated to the House just before the Whitsun Recess, when we signalled that we were confident that returning officers would comply with their legal obligation to issue ballot papers by the deadline of 1 June. They achieved that: 99.24 per cent of ballot papers were issued by that date and the 0.76 per cent were late were late by five hours and the Post Office incorporated them into the delivery. Therefore, there was no disadvantage to the public.
I am further advised by the Royal Mail that ballot papers had, to the best of its knowledge, been delivered to everyone and that 99.9 per cent were delivered by Thursday last week. The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, is right that there are isolated examples, as is true in most elections, where there appears to be a glitch in local areas. But there is ample opportunity and time for electors in those areas or the returning officers, if they are aware of an issue, to ensure that replacement ballot papers are provided or that alternative or additional electoral arrangements are put in place.
Baroness David: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, in Cambridge, my postal vote had not arrived by this morning? I have had a postal vote for a long time. I have been in touch with the Electoral Commission in Cambridge. It told me that it will send me a postal vote here. That may not arrive in time, but I have to take that vote to the polling station or to the Guild Hall myself. I do not think that that is satisfactory; does the Minister?
Lord Filkin: My Lords, I share my noble friend's concern about the inconvenience. We would not want to lose her from the House by her having personally to deliver the ballot paper to Cambridge during the next few days. I am sure that her words will have been marked in Cambridge and that the authorities will ensure that they fulfil the promise that they have given her, so that she is adequately enfranchised.
Lord Renton: My Lords, the elections to the European Parliament are due to take place within three days. Will the Government make an immediate statement to the electorate in this country that there are now so many members of the European Community and their legal systems and other circumstances differ so much that the European Parliament will be unable to make laws of universal application within the Community?
Lord Filkin: No, my Lords, we will not issue such a statement for two reasons. First, the question is wide of the mark of the Question on the Order Paper. Secondly,
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the Government do not share the view that that is an accurate description of the position of the European member states.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, does the Minister accept that most of us think that his statement is remarkably complacent and that there have indeed been some disastrous reports of what has been going on in the four areas in the north where there is all-postal voting? Will the Minister today give an unreserved assurance that for all future elections, especially the regional referenda that are coming up, voters will again be given the opportunity to cast their vote in the ballot box in the traditional manner?
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