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My noble friend is absolutely right that we constantly review this issue. I am very hard on people, when they try to come up with a control order, to see that it is absolutely necessary. It is interesting that those in the party opposite, who earlier said that they were going to get rid of these things, have, amazingly, slightly changed their view-which is much more sensible, because all of us are interested in the security of our nation.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, all the time we are looking at threats, possible threats and what might happen. It would be foolhardy of me to say on the Floor of the House what we would do. Clearly, we would ensure the safety of the nation. It might cost a huge amount more, and take a great deal more effort, and it might mean we could not be quite so sure of our safety, but that is what we would do.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, is the Minister happy with the Government's approach to legislation and to its implementation? The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, has not been uncritical of the implementation and detail of control orders. The approach seems to be to push at the boundaries and wait to see whether the courts knock them back.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I would not accept that that is the way we go about it. We look at this all the time: we have very good methods of scrutiny of control orders and we go through many checks to make sure that they are looked at properly. I do not accept that we do it by pushing to the boundary and then waiting for a court to push it back.
Lord Carswell: My Lords, does the Minister recollect that in the earlier case, the appeal of MB, which came before the Appellate Committee, the majority of the committee, of whom I was one-I declare that as an interest-favoured an approach that would have admitted some flexibility and the application of the concept of reasonableness in the spirit of the common law; but that a subsequent decision of the European Court of
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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for that interjection. He is absolutely right. The quote from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hoffmann, was very interesting. He agreed that the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in A v United Kingdom requires these appeals to be allowed, but stated:
"I do so with very considerable regret, because I think that the decision of the ECHR was wrong and that it may well destroy the system of control orders which is a significant part of this country's defences".
Have we been able to think of a way around it? The answer is no. I am constantly meeting the control order team, because I do not like the orders. None of us in our party or in this House likes them; but I believe that they are necessary, and that is why they are there. We are constantly looking for some other way of achieving this.
Lord Scott of Foscote: Is it not a fact that the judgments from the court at Strasbourg are not binding on courts in this country-they have to be taken into account, but are not binding-and that the final court of appeal in this country is the Supreme Court? The European Convention on Human Rights cannot, and the 1998 Act did not, prevent this Parliament, if so advised, passing legislation which is incompatible with one of the convention articles, provided that the intention of Parliament is made clear by an appropriate statement of incompatibility from the promoting Minister, in which case the courts will be bound to accept the legislation as it stands. That nettle has not been grasped by the Government.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I might get myself into a difficult legal argument on this. I now understand why 80 per cent of the cost involved in control orders is legal costs. It is due to the complexity.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the comments made by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in an interview with the Times on 1 February, they intend either to make changes to the six draft national policy statements on energy, laid before Parliament on 9 November 2009, or to table amendments to the Energy Bill.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, as the issues covered in the Times article do not materially affect planning decisions, I do not expect
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Was the interview intended to pre-empt this morning's very disturbing report from Ofgem that we are now in serious danger of the lights going out during the course of this decade? Does the Minister recognise that Ofgem's first recommendation to encourage investment-not mentioned by the Secretary of State-is for greater certainty about the carbon price, something for which many of us have been arguing for quite a long time?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, certainly the report was published by Ofgem this morning. I am sure that we shall all look at it with interest and I am sure that it will contribute to the debate. One must go beyond the headlines, because clearly it sets out a number of scenarios, some of which I think are most unlikely, and it does not give any quantification of the probability of each scenario. The work referred to by my right honourable friend is not in relation to the energy requirements, but much more about whether, going into the future, there are enough levers in the market to ensure that we can make the transition to a low-carbon economy. On the energy crunch, I point out that a considerable amount of construction is taking place at the moment in terms of generating capacity as regards primary energy, increasing import facilities and other measures to ensure that we have the right energy strategy in place.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, on Monday the Secretary of State made a very profound statement in an interview about energy matters, calling for fundamental reform and a number of other things, and two days later we have a report from Ofgem-a regulator-which, more or less, says exactly the same thing and talks about capacity tendering and basic reform. Is that not a remarkable coincidence? Does that not bring into question the independence of the regulator and how that coincidence can take place in such detail over a period of two days?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the fact that Ofgem has produced this report this morning shows that it is independent. It always feels to me that it is very independent. The work to which my right honourable friend referred is very important in relation to the future and ensuring that the market is fit for purpose as regards moving towards a low-carbon energy structure. However, I reaffirm that, as regards the rather alarmist statements which seem to have emanated from the Ofgem report, we are confident that the policies that we have in place will ensure energy security in the years ahead.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, is the Minister not embarrassed by this? The Government of the day should be telling Ofgem what it should be doing. It is not for the general public to have to read that the price of their electricity and heating is to go up and up to the point where poor people cannot pay it and that our lights will not stay on. How have we got to a situation where Ofgem, a regulator, can frighten the general public because the Government of the day cannot come up with the answers in the first place?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, if the noble Baroness is suggesting that Ofgem has strayed into the territory of policy by government instead of sticking to what it should be doing in regulation, that is a comment I would be happy to pass on to the regulator. But if the Government were to say to Ofgem that we did not think it should be doing this, we would be accused of interference, and we do not do that. The regulator is there to regulate.
As far as the issue of energy security is concerned, I am confident, looking at the actions that have been taken, the construction that is taking place and the consents that have already been agreed, that, although a lot of plant has to be replaced in the next few years, we can ensure energy security in the future. As far as the issue of price is concerned, there is no doubt that the cost of climate change policies will lead to an increase in bills, but as the noble Lord, Lord Stern, has shown, it is much more cost-effective to do it at the start, rather than wait for many years to come.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is it not the case that pretty well all reputable economists have pointed out that the economics of the noble Lord, Lord Stern, are absurd? Is it not also the case that, while the Secretary of State may be understandably positioning himself for a bid for the leadership of his party after the election, what Ofgem has said is a serious problem? There is a serious problem of energy security and a lack of generating capacity lying ahead because of the Government's absurd subordination of energy policy to a low-carbon policy focused on wholly uneconomic and impractical wind power.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I wholly refute that comment by the noble Lord. The fact is that it is absolutely right that as part of our response to the climate change challenge we move towards a low-carbon energy structure, but we are doing this in a way which will secure our energy supplies in the future; it will secure more home-grown energy in the future, and it will be done in such a way that the technology that we will be developing in this country will stand us in good stead and will also enable us to export technology to many countries of the world.
That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Wednesday 10 February to allow the Fiscal Responsibility Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.
Lord Colwyn: My Lords, if I may detain noble Lords very briefly, I had the pleasure and indeed honour of chairing the debate on this order in Grand Committee last Monday afternoon. There were four or possibly five noble Lords present, including myself. I listened with great interest to the noble Lords, Lord Hunt, Lord Marland and Lord Teverson. The noble Lord, Lord Marland, stressed the importance of consultation with local communities. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, referred to the size of the pylons, asking whether he would know one when he saw one. No noble Lord made any comment on the way an individual's health can be affected by a high-voltage cable. I considered passing a note to my noble friend Lord Marland, but I decided that it would not be correct procedure to become involved in any way.
The order allows the installation of certain electric lines without the consent presently required under the 2008 Act. Any legislation that removes a requirement for consent is immediately suspicious, as it is believed by many that electrical currents and magnetic fields such as those set up by 400-kilovolt, 275-kilovolt and 132-kilovolt cables may have links to various diseases, ranging from leukaemia to headaches and insomnia. Before the order is approved, can the Minister give an absolute assurance that the health of people living close to these power lines will be carefully considered?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath:I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord for raising this subject and I confirm that, while we did not attract a very large audience, the comments made by the noble Lords, Lord Marland and Lord Teverson, were apposite and that we had a good debate. On the specific point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, the balance of scientific evidence to date suggests that exposure to electromagnetic fields below the international guideline levels set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection is not harmful to the health of the general population. I confirm that we maintain a precautionary approach; we have adopted those guidelines and we will keep emerging science under review.
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed on operations in Afghanistan recently. They are: Captain Daniel Read of 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps; Rifleman Luke Farmer of 3rd Battalion, The Rifles; Corporal Lee Brownson of 3rd Battalion, The Rifles; Rifleman Peter Aldridge of 4th Battalion, The Rifles; Lance Corporal Daniel Cooper, of 3rd Battalion, The Rifles; Lance Corporal Graham Shaw of 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment; and Corporal Liam Riley of 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment. I am sure that our thoughts are with all of their families and friends and, indeed, all who are serving in Afghanistan at the moment.
"Mr Speaker, today I am publishing a Defence Green Paper which paves the way for a Strategic Defence Review, set in the context of the national security strategy, early in the next Parliament. At the present time, Afghanistan is the main effort for the Ministry of Defence. Where choices have to be made, Afghanistan will continue to be given priority. Our forces there are fighting hard, protecting our national security by preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Two hundred and fifty-three British service personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. Many more have suffered life-changing injuries. Their bravery in the face of a ruthless enemy has been a stark reminder to us all that conflict is difficult and dangerous. We certainly cannot assume that the conflicts of tomorrow will replicate today's, but we must anticipate a wide range of threats and plan for the requirements necessary to counter them.
We have come a long way since our last major defence review in 1998, which gave us the platform to modernise our Armed Forces. Looking forward, we will need to make decisions about the role we want the United Kingdom to play in the world and the capabilities that the Armed Forces need to support that role. We will need to balance those considerations with the financial implications in what will inevitably be a resource-constrained environment.
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