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As far as anaerobic digestion is concerned, the noble Lord knows that I, too, have a considerable interest in that. It does have great potential. Whether we can go as far as his estimate is another matter. I am grateful that he gave me a little notice of this, because I am advised that anaerobic digestion is covered in section 2.57, which refers to biomass and waste combustion. It refers specifically to biogas, sewage, sludge and animal manure. These are all technologies associated with anaerobic digestion. I hope the noble Lord is reassured.

Lord Lea of Crondall: I declare an interest as the patron of Trade Unions for Safe Nuclear Energy. This has kept the flag flying for nuclear for the past 20 years since Chernobyl and we are now seeing pretty firm dates for increases in the nuclear share.

On the question of consultation, I welcome the French involvement. However, I point out, perhaps tongue in cheek, that when we recently met some French energy experts from parliament, they had a joint committee deciding on nuclear sites. We asked them what the procedure was and how much consultation there was with people who would be affected in the localities. The chairman of the French delegation said, "That is an interesting question, but let me tell you that when one is draining a swamp, one does not consult the frogs".

We do have consultation built into the Statement, and I shall read the sentence:

"The Infrastructure Planning Commission will make its decisions on the basis of a clear timetable".

It would be nice to see, on a bi-partisan basis from the Opposition Front Benches, a little more strategic agreement up front that we will need all the political leadership we can get on this.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I welcome my noble friend's comments and obviously the work that he has been doing over the years. I believe that nuclear generation has a great contribution to make to this country in the future, and I am delighted that we can see a renaissance in the nuclear industry as a result of the decision to give the green light to new nuclear. As far as consultation is concerned, in a sense we have a consultation on the national policy statement, but also there will be a site-specific consultation that will take place during this consultation period. That will then come to be considered and there will also be parliamentary scrutiny.

I believe it is right for there to be proper consultation and it is right for people to make their views known. Since the announcement of the Government's decision on nuclear, I have been pleased by the general response which I think has been as positive as one could expect. I agree that it is important that we move forward with as much consensus as possible.

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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I welcome much that is in the Statement; I agree entirely with my noble friend on the Front Bench that it is probably 10 years too late. However, I find it quite astonishing that the Secretary of State has said, and indeed the Minister has repeated it today:

"That is why we were right last year to end the moratorium on new nuclear in this country".

They had been pressed year after year by people from all walks of life, not just the trades unions, though they were very active as the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, has said, but by Members of both Houses, that they were taking a very serious risk in turning their backs on nuclear. The phrase used then was "keeping the nuclear option open". That they can now seek to take credit for deciding to move forward with nuclear actually passes understanding, and I would have thought that there might have been some greater sense of shame that so much time on this has been wasted.

I have a couple of questions for the noble Lord. He referred in the Statement to the announcement that:

"Today we are opening consultation on the proposed regulatory justification for two different reactor designs".

I had been given to understand that in fact there was going to be a justification statement made today, alongside the six documents which the Government have published. As I understand the matter, the justification is required under the 1996 Euratom BSS Directive 96/29, and is implemented in regulations made in this country, the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004. Is this document that the Government have referred to in their Statement that justification, or is it yet another preparatory stage before there can be justification?

I am asking this question-and I am sure Ministers have been warned of this by their officials-because the legal challenge that they are likely to face from some of the diehard anti-nuclear brigade is going to centre on this justification document. I should be grateful if the Minister could say something about that.

There is one other point, not related directly to energy. I have just one of the six documents here, which clearly states:

"Presented to the House of Commons pursuant to Section 5(9)(b) of the Planning Act 2008".

Section 5(9) of the Planning Act says:

"The Secretary of State must-

(a) arrange for the publication of a national policy statement, and

(b) lay a national policy statement before Parliament".

Why do they put "House of Commons" in these documents? In fact, the Planning Act contains in Section 9 a provision indicating that this House will have as much say in the discussion of the applications and the advice to the IPC as the other place. What is the purpose of being deliberately provocative towards Members of this House by putting the words "House of Commons" in these documents? They are pandering to those in the other place who have always disliked this House. I find it very shaming that Ministers should yield to that sort of temptation.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am a long-standing admirer of the noble Lord, and he put his points with his usual forthrightness. I do not agree with his analysis or the implication that the Government have delayed making key decisions on energy. However, he knows that I share his view of the importance of nuclear energy. We now have a great opportunity to go forward with a great deal of confidence and look forward to a hugely positive impact in jobs, skills and investment in the nuclear sector.

The justification is in the consultation that we have issued. The noble Lord is right that regulatory justification is a process required under the Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004. I understand his frustration; he thinks that, because it is a consultation, it will delay the statement of justification. However, we are doing this for the very reason that he mentioned-the potential for this to be looked at very carefully by all sorts of stakeholder interests. We must ensure that we get it right, which is why we think it better to have a consultation first before we make the formal statement.

On what is contained in these documents, where it says that it is presented to the "House of Commons", the noble Lord has me bang to rights. He is quite right; the Planning Act is clear that it is a statement that should be made to Parliament. A mistake has been made and, as Minister, I accept responsibility. I apologise to the House. My understanding is that we are printing new sheets to be pasted in to the documents to make sure that that is clear. I assure him that it was a mistake and not a deliberate effort to undermine the role of this House in these matters. I fully expect that there will be an opportunity for us to debate, perhaps at some length, the national policy statements as part of parliamentary scrutiny. I have no hesitation in apologising to the House.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, if the structure that the Government have introduced of national policy statements, which are to attract the bulk of the debate, leaving the IPC to do a rather narrow job, is to be successful, consultation must itself be successful. I see no detail-obviously I have not had the chance to spend very long on it-about how that consultation of the citizen is to be carried out. I am provoked by the misprint only to ask the Minister whether he does not believe that the NPS justifies long and detailed scrutiny and not simply a debate. More importantly, what is the process for consulting people outside this building? Planning policies in the past have regularly set out in detail the process of consultation. Although it is referred to in debate, there seems to be no indication of how the consultation is to be taken forward and how people are to respond to it. What we have heard is a Statement from the Dispatch Box this afternoon that the Government will drive forward their policy with determination.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, clearly the noble Baroness is absolutely right that in a new planning system that makes much of the need for members of the public to have a proper input into decisions, we should have a good consultation on the national policy statements, and we certainly seek to do that.

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There will be parliamentary scrutiny. I mentioned the word "debate";. it is entirely a matter for the House to decide how it wishes to scrutinise the national policy statements. In the Commons it is likely to be through a Select Committee, which one would expect to produce a report to which the Government would have regard, and the committee can recommend a debate in the House. In this House, it is very much a matter for the House to decide.

We are holding five events in different parts of the country to encourage the public and communities to respond to the consultation; we have commissioned an organisation called Planning Aid to publish leaflets setting out background information; and we are making it easy for people to respond on the website. I assure the noble Baroness that we want the consultation to be successful and that the Government will consider very carefully the responses made. However, we should not underestimate that a very important part of this process is parliamentary scrutiny, which is very much in the hands of Parliament.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: I thank the Minister for his Statement. In my capacity as chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association, I was getting rather impatient because of the delays. However, I well understand the need for the delays. This is an area in which we might well see vexatious litigation emerging as a major barrier to progress.

The comprehensive character of the Statement and its balanced nature, including not only nuclear but renewables and the potential-albeit somewhat long-term-for coal, is to be welcomed. It is flexible and pragmatic on nuclear sites, but our friend in the other House, Malcolm Wicks, the former Energy Minister, has indicated that we would have not only replacement nuclear generation capability but also an increase to something of the order of 40 per cent of the generating capability of this country accounted for by nuclear. This Statement gives reassurance to those looking for a degree of confidence that they can invest in the future, and to do so in the knowledge that it will not be subject to delay and long interruption.

I make one final point: this will be a very expensive programme of capital investment. We would like to think that disadvantaged sections of the community are not exposed to higher energy prices than necessary.. Uncertainty, as we have seen with gas supplies and gas prices, means that the cost to individual domestic consumers, particularly those in poorly insulated houses, becomes unacceptable. So we must have the lights on, but on at a cost that the public and industry together can afford.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I well understand the frustration of many in the industry about the length of time that it has taken to produce the national policy statements. He is right: we have to make sure that they are correct. It is better producing them now than in the summer.

On the question of how much nuclear generation there should be, the noble Lord will know that the Government do not believe that they should set a target. However, in setting out the energy need, the national policy statement has some helpful indicators.

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It is made clear that the nuclear sector should be free to contribute as much as possible of the 25 gigawatts of non-renewable energy required by 2025. That is not a target; it is simply stating that, on the best estimates we have at the moment, in 2025 we will require about 25 gigawatts of non-renewable energy. It is then up to the nuclear developers to see how much they will go for. It is noticeable that, as of today, the energy companies intend to produce 16 gigawatts of nuclear energy, but there is no reason why their current intentions should be a limit on what might occur in the future.

My noble friend is surely right about high energy prices. There will be a cost, but we must ensure that through energy efficiency we can reduce some of that cost. We also have to make sure that it is not at the expense of those who suffer from fuel poverty.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister for missing the first minute of his Statement. Like the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I was caught metaphorically speaking with my trousers down elsewhere.

I welcome the Statement. It is a good thing that at last we have one; .at last we have some movement. Having said that, we need to keep a rational perspective about nuclear energy, which I entirely agree we need and will have to put in place. The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, who we sadly no longer see in his place nowadays, remarked to me well over 10 years ago that, in the final analysis, mankind had only one source of energy and that was nuclear. We had a choice between having a power station here or 98 million miles away, and he knew which one he preferred. He was prescient.

I wish that the Government were paying more attention even now to 2050. We need to remember that most of the massive plant that is likely to be constructed as a result of this Statement today is likely to still be living and working in 2050. We are gambling with the 2050 target, particularly in relation to coal-fired generation. We are gambling that carbon capture and storage will work and that it will capture 100 per cent of the carbon. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister that it will do that because, if it does not, it will put an even greater question over the whole subject. We are also gambling that it will be economically competitive. There is a real possibility that that will not be the case. I could go on for another two or three minutes but I see that our time is up. I will give the Minister a chance to reply.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his interesting intervention. We seem to have a collection of trousers down and gin and tonics. Where is the noble Lord, Lord Rix, when you need him?

The noble Lord makes an interesting point about nuclear power. We have reflected in the Statement what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State refers to as the trinity of nuclear, renewables and clean fossil fuels. Clearly, to ensure energy security, we need to have a diversity of both supply and generation, and we need to have it in a drive towards a low carbon future. The mix that we are proposing will enable us to do that.

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On coal, I said earlier that if we are not able to develop CCS, there is absolutely no way that this country and many countries of the world, including China and India, can meet the kind of targets that have been set for 2050. That reinforces the importance of CCS and why we should adopt a leadership role in this country. Of course, there is a safeguard in the Statement. If as a result of the independent evaluation it transpires that CCS has not worked in the way that we wished it to work, we will have to return to the issue of what to do about existing coal-powered stations and their emissions. That will clearly be a subject for review towards the end of this century. I, for one, remain optimistic about CCS and its potential for this country.

Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill [HL]

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Commons Amendments

Commons Amendments

7.45 pm

Motion on Amendment 1

Moved by Lord McKenzie of Luton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, this amendment introduces a new clause relating to local freedoms. It was introduced in the other place by the honourable Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central to, as he put it,

The amendment will mean that the daughter of a freeman can claim to be admitted as a freeman on the same terms as the son of a freeman. It also provides that the son or daughter of a freeman can request that they are admitted to a guild whether or not their parent had been admitted as a freeman at the time of their birth and whether or not they were born in the town or city in which the guild exists. Traditional activities need to reflect the modern world. In this day and age it is right that there should be equality of treatment between men and women. This amendment ensures that this occurs in relation to freedoms granted for an area.

When accepting that Clause 27 should be inserted in the Bill, my noble friend Lady Andrews stated that traditions needed to work in a non-discriminatory way and we attach great importance to seeking equality between men and women. As I have said, it is not acceptable in this day and age to treat women differently. There is also a need to make the guilds more relevant to today and ensure that they do not die out. Women must be allowed to become freewomen if they wish; that can only be to the advantage of guilds.

I understand that my noble friend Lord Graham may feel that the Commons amendment was unnecessary, given the provisions he introduced in Committee in

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this House, which were entirely permissive and so allowed guilds to decide among other things whether or not they wished to allow women to claim the freedom. However, in the other place it has been argued that providing equality should be a requirement rather than a choice and the Government have accepted that argument. We agree with the central argument that women should be afforded the same rights as men, particularly in relation to freedoms granted for an area.

I know that my noble friend Lord Graham has worked tirelessly on this issue and the freemen of our towns and cities have much to thank him for. Without his efforts many guilds would be facing real difficulties in bringing their admission rights up to date and in some cases even surviving. For our part, we believe that the amendment laid by my noble friend strengthens the Bill by allowing admission rights to be changed more easily and flexibility for the guilds to amend their rules to meet any challenges that may arise in the future. Importantly, it provides a considered framework to make changes consequential to allow daughters to become freemen and amend other admission rights.

The daughters of freemen can become freemen on the same terms as sons of freemen as a result of the Commons amendment-the rights and benefits equally apply-but admission to a guild can also grant benefits and rights to the spouses and widows of freemen and Clause 27 will allow the guilds to consider and amend such rights-those consequential on permitting women freemen. In some cases I understand that the widows of freemen have certain benefits, such as charitable payments or the right to certain accommodation in retirement. The freemen guilds, using Clause 27 and the new schedule to the Local Government Act 1972, introduced by my noble friend, will be able to amend their admission rights more easily so that these benefits can also be granted to widowers or, indeed, civil partners of freemen and freewomen.

Clause 27 will also allow guilds to consider widening their admission rights to individuals other than simply a son or daughter of a freeman. This might, for example, include permitting sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, nephews and nieces of freemen or freewomen to be eligible to seek admission. Of course, Clause 27 will also allow, as a result of the admission of daughters, that they might be called freewomen if the guild so resolves.

Clause 27 will also enable guilds to amend other admission rights, such as amending, perhaps, the terms of servitude as an apprentice to a freeman, or widening the rights of apprentices serving in the town generally. In addition, the framework introduced by Clause 27 will allow changes to be made more easily to other admission rights contained in the royal charter. It will enable guilds to change admission rights operated by custom by a simple resolution and provides an easier route for changes to rights contained in Acts of Parliament.

In summary, these two clauses work together. My noble friend's hard work has not been in vain-indeed, far from it. I am aware that concerns have been expressed about difficulties that guilds may have in adopting these new admission requirements. However, as I have

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said, the new schedule to the Local Government Act 1972 will ensure that consequential changes can be made to the rights and privileges of the freedom as a result of daughters gaining admission and the other changes made by the new clause introduced in the Commons. It will enable freemen to consider the implications of admitting daughters and change any of their rights accordingly if there is a need or desire to do so.

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