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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, the Governments stance on piracy off Somalia has recently been reviewed, resulting in a more proactive posture. Royal Navy units in the region will now actively seek out pirates and are issued with robust guidance to deal effectively with any pirates encountered. The Royal Navy is actively participating in counterpiracy operations with Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 and Combined Task Force 150. We have also offered to command a planned EU mission from our operational headquarters.
In the past six months, there have been 28 attacks on vessels off Somalia. For too long, the pirates have been terrorising the shipping lanes, and it must have been enormously frustrating for our Navy and other western navies to have to stand back and not to be allowed to take action. This more robust approach is clearly to be welcomed. Does the Minister accept that peace will not come to the shipping lanes and the sea until governance, stability and law are restored in Somalia? Specifically, when pirates are caught, where will they be brought to trial?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, all Royal Navy vessels and those of other countries have a responsibility to tackle piracy under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We are taking a more proactive role along with other partner nations because of the severity of the problem and the concern that it is causing. The Transitional Federal Government in Somalia are very unstable, and the situation is very difficult. We and other allies are offering aid. There is a problem about what will happen to anybody who is apprehended because we do not want to see the Royal Navy having to bring back a lot of individuals to this country. Part of our purpose is deterrence, but we are also seeking a memorandum of understanding with coastal states in the area to see what possibility there is of landing anybody who is apprehended on those shores for local action.
Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, there is now an EU mission in the area as well as the US Fifth Fleet and the NATO Maritime Group. What are the Government doing to promote synergy and avoid friction between all these groups?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the noble Lord is right: we now have an EU operation, which is at the planning stage. We have offered to have the headquarters at Northwood, which is a step in the right direction. We intend to offer a frigate for some part of the mission, subject to other countries coming up with resources so that it is a truly comprehensive
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Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept my declaration of interest, as having made representations to the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown, on this matter some weeks ago in favour of a more proactive response, which the Government have now taken, no doubt purely coincidentally?
Can the noble Baroness reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lee, that Somalia is an example of a place that has come far too low down the list of international priorities for far too long? During all that time, it has been nothing but a growing source of instability and mayhem in the Horn of Africa. Is it not time for the Government, as a permanent member of the Security Council, to promote a little more proactively, like the good work that it is doing on piracy, a process that leads to stabilisation of that country?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I doubt that anyone would disagree with the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. We are all concerned about the situation in Somalia and the instability in the whole of that region. I know from words with my noble friend that we are very active in the Security Council in trying to get action on issues of this kind and Resolution 1838, which encourages states to be more proactive on piracy in this region, was generally welcomed.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I think that it is the turn of the Liberal Democrats.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, although I welcome the decision to allow the use of force against pirate vessels operating off the coast of Somalia, would it not have been sensible at the same time to extend that role to action against the land-based dens from which the pirates are operating along the coast of Somalia, which were identified in an article in the Los Angeles Times last week? Will the Government take action via the Security Council in consultation with the TFG and the World Food Programme to see that action is extended in that way?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I do not think that we have any mandate for land-based action in that area. I know various African countries have looked at the situation and tried to help by way of peacekeeping forces, but it is a very complex issue. We
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The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Energy Bill, have consented to place their prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, before turning to the specifics of the amendment and the other government amendments grouped under my name, I open proceedings by thanking noble Lords in advance for bearing with the Government, given the large number of amendments that we are bringing forward at this stage. Since taking over this responsibility shortly before Report, I have been struck by the consensual nature of the process, which I am sure we will want to continue today. There is much agreement on all sides of the House on many of the issues that we have debated. In scrutinising the Bill, noble Lords have made persuasive and influential arguments. In particular, we have made promises at a number of stages of the Bill to consider those matters carefully and, where appropriate, to bring back suitable amendments at Third Reading to deliver on those promises. The government amendments today are all concessions in response to points made by noble Lords at earlier stages.
The amendments will enable the introduction of a feed-in tariff; respond to concerns about the offence provisions in relation to nuclear; make it clear that only parties that have a primary interest in a station will be liable for meeting its decommissioning liabilities; address problems of strategic investment in and access to the electricity transmission grid; give greater priority to sustainability in the duties of Ofgem; enable distribution network operators to resume in certain circumstances the efficient and accepted practice of charging in advance for assessment and design costs associated with making offers of connections; and keep options open relating to the degree of centralisation of services in the rollout of smart meters to the domestic sector. In addition, we have tabled a number of minor and technical changes to the drafting of the Bill.
For that reason, there are a considerable number of amendments. Because many of them have been prepared at a pace, some have been tabled only recently. I apologise to the House for that, but I hope that noble
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On the first group of amendments in my name, the operation of the renewables obligation in Scotland is already devolved. Previously, these powers have been transferred to Scotland using an Order in Council made under Section 63 of the Scotland Act. Noble Lords will know that the RO runs on a financial-year basis and it is our aimstrongly supported by investors and developers of renewable generationthat the reformed RO will be introduced from April 2009. Clearly, this is a tight timetable, which will be made more difficult by the need to debate any RO-related amendments made in this House in the other place.
Our solution to this timing issue is to amend the Bill to transfer the functions to Scottish Ministers in the Bill rather than waiting until the Bill is finalised to start the Section 63 order process. The alternative process is in line with the devolution settlement and will still allow the transfer of functions to be debated in both Houses and by way of a legislative consent motion in Holyrood.
In government Amendments Nos. 17, 18 and 20, as set out on Report and following a commitment to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, we propose a small technical amendment to proposed new Section 32E of the Electricity Act 1989 under Clause 37. It relates to grants awarded to projects that may want to benefit from the new banding proposals under the renewables obligation. As we stated, we believe that the current draft of proposed new Section 32E would not allow projects awarded a grant after the introduction of banding to receive more than one renewables obligation certificate per megawatt hour. That was never our intention and is not consistent with our stated policy. This amendment therefore makes a minor technical drafting change to rectify the problem.
I realise that, in bringing this matter to our attention on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, was arguing for a rather wider issue in relation to the relationship between a grant and the new banding system. In so doing, he identified a defect, for which I am grateful. We are making this amendment to deal with that.
Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 make a minor technical change to the provisions in the Bill relating to the proposed offshore electricity transmission regime, which the Government and Ofgem are developing. Under this regime, Ofgem will run competitive tenders to determine to whom it will grant offshore transmission licences authorising the conveyance of electricity from offshore generators to the GB onshore grid.
In order for that process to be effective, the Government have sought powers under Clause 2 of the Energy Bill to enable Ofgem to make a scheme for the transfer of property rights and liabilities from offshore generators or developers to offshore transmission licence holders. This provision would give those parties an avenue for expediting the transfer of property in situations where commercial agreement has not been reached. Our amendments change references in paragraph 26 of Schedule 2 to asset owner to clarify that the provisions
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Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I wish to acknowledge the amendments tabled in the Ministers name in fulfilment of the obligation that he made on Report. Conferring powers on Scottish Ministers is consistent with both the spirit and the letter of the Scotland Act. The purpose of doing it in primary legislation rather than through a Section 63 order is to have things in place for 1 April 2009, which is eminently sensible and much to be welcomed. The other amendments in the group are technical in nature but put beyond doubt the fact that it will be possible for grants, not least research and development grants, and upbanded ROCs to be available for future developments. That was a concern expressed by the industry. The Minister has acknowledged that this does not go quite as far as I wanted at the Report stage, but nevertheless those to whom I have spoken have welcomed the Governments move to clarify the situation. I want to put on the record my appreciation of the Ministers response.
The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, as the Minister said, the renewables obligation legislation was devolved to Scotland under SI 1999/1750. It has proved to be a policy of great potential. Can he tell us what level Scottish Ministers have currently laid down for the percentage of renewable energy that will be required by electricity generators in Scotland and whether any assessment has been made in the light of that of what surplus renewable energy and its certificates they expect to be available to generating stations in England and Northern Ireland? I raise this because yesterday I received a fact sheet from Ofgem, which states:
There is a significant problem in Scotland where there is already too little transmission capacity, and the National Grid is already spending substantial sums of money which they have increased from £114 million to £170 million per annum.
How much control does Ofgem have over the construction and management of these improvements? If a line is being upgraded without changing the route, at what point would planning permission be required from the local authority or Scottish Ministers?
If there was a potential for a surplus of renewable energy in Scotland that had to be shut down because of a lack of transmission capacityeven though that generation could make a significant contribution towards meeting the UKs renewable energy targetwhat powers in addition to financial incentives would Ofgem have to expedite the construction of the necessary capacity? I realise that the full answer to these issues might not be available to the Minister at this moment, but would he be good enough to write a response and put it in this Library and that of the Scottish Parliament?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for his support. It was with some trepidation that I brought forward amendments relating to Scotland, given his extensive knowledge and experience of both the order-making
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(a) in the case of Scotland, the Scottish Ministers,
(b) in any other case, the Secretary of State.
(a) so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland, and
(b) a Renewable Energy Zone, or any part of such a Zone, which is designated by order under section 84(5) of the Energy Act 2004 (areas in relation to which Scottish Ministers have functions).
( ) Except as provided by a renewables obligation order, a renewables obligation certificate counts towards discharging the renewables obligation regardless of whether the order under which it is issued is made by the Secretary of State or the Scottish Ministers.
(a) in the case of an order made by the Scottish Ministers, means a generating station which is situated in Scotland;
(b) in the case of an order made by the Secretary of State, means a generating station which is not situated in Scotland.
(a) the generating station is of a specified description, or
(b) the circumstances of the case meet specified requirements.
( ) If the grant in respect of which an amount falls to be paid under paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (5) was paid by the Scottish Ministers, the references in those paragraphs to the Secretary of State are to be read as references to those Ministers.
( ) A renewables obligation order is not to be made by the Scottish Ministers unless a draft of the instrument containing it has been laid before and approved by a resolution of the Scottish Parliament.
(a) in the case of a renewables obligation order made by the Secretary of State, England and Wales (including so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to England or Wales);
(b) in the case of a renewables obligation order made by the Scottish Ministers, Scotland (including so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland);
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