7 Sep 2015 : Column 1209

House of Lords

Monday, 7 September 2015.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

Deaths and Retirements of Members


2.36 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the deaths on 30 August of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, on 31 August of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, and on 4 September of the noble Lord, Lord Moser. On behalf of the House, I extend our sincere condolences to the noble Lords’ families and friends.

I should also like to notify the House of the retirements, with effect from 23 July, of the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and, with effect from 30 July, of the noble Lord, Lord Simpson of Dunkeld, pursuant to Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I should like to thank the noble Lords for their much-valued services to the House.

I should also like to notify the House of the resignation of the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, with effect from 30 July.

Debt Management Advice


2.38 pm

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the thematic review Quality of Debt Management Advicepublished by the Financial Conduct Authority in June 2015.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, the Government are very concerned about the problems in the debt management market, including the quality of advice, which was highlighted by the Financial Conduct Authority’s thematic review. This is why we reformed debt management regulation, transforming responsibility to the FCA’s more robust regime to better protect consumers. Debt management firms are currently going through the FCA authorisation process. Firms that do not meet the FCA’s threshold conditions will not be able to continue in the market.

Lord Sharkey (LD): My Lords, the Government are right to be concerned. The fact is that the FCA found that a staggering 60% of fee-charging debt advice cases posed a high risk of harm. The requirement to disclose the availability of free debt advice at first contact was often not done or was rushed, not impartial or not sufficiently prominent. It is not even clear whether cold-calling lead generators are obliged to

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disclose the availability of free debt advice at all. Cold-calling lead generation is banned for mortgages. Will the Minister agree to meet me to discuss banning it for debt advice as well?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, although lead generators are independent and not regulated, the FCA requires debt management firms accepting leads from lead generators to satisfy themselves that the business has been procured fairly and in accordance with data protection privacy in electronic communication laws. The FCA is going through the authorisation process at the moment, as I said, and that is one of the things that will be taken into account. It has to ensure that the lead generators do things such as signpost to consumers the availability of free debt advice. The FCA has committed to undertake a review of its rules on unsolicited marketing calls, emails and text messages from consumer credit firms. Lastly, of course I am always pleased to meet the noble Lord.

Baroness Kramer (LD): My Lords, the House will remember that the Government dithered on tackling the abuses by payday lenders until the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon—the Minister in the Lords at the time—took personal action and drove the change. Will Ministers today consider doing the same, because cold calling is making victims of vulnerable people on a daily basis?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: As I just said to the House, the FCA is looking at this. We are not in a position to instruct the FCA on what to do, but there are actions that can be taken on unsolicited calls that I can go into if noble Lords want.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, on the broader issues of debt, will the Minister confirm that household debt is on course to reach a new level of 183% of GDP by 2020? That is above any level that it reached under 13 years of the last Labour Administration. Is it not clear that this faltering economic recovery that the Chancellor boasts about is being backed by household debt, with serious consequences in the longer run for the economy and for all households?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, the noble Lord opposite has decided not to mention that household debt as a proportion of income has fallen to 145% in Q1 of 2015—down from a peak of 169% in 2008 under the Labour Government. We accept the forecast that household debt will rise by 2020, but this is driven by households investing in financial and housing assets. At the moment, three-quarters of debt is secured by property.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, given that the FCA report discovered that not-for-profit organisations were better at giving impartial debt advice, will the Minister tell us what plans Her Majesty’s Government have to ensure that those organisations have sufficient funding to be able to offer that service to the 8.8 million people in the UK who are in need of debt management advice?

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Lord Ashton of Hyde: The Government have increased funding to the management advice service to £47 million —an increase of nearly 23%—this year. We also accept that there is a position for fee-paying debt advice, but it has to be regulated properly and to treat consumers fairly. That is what the FCA is in the process of doing. The authorisation process will make some decisions on those individual firms by the end of this year. I should mention that the FCA’s thematic review took a sample of eight firms out of approximately 200.

Lord Low of Dalston (CB): My Lords, picking up on the Minister’s reference to quality, have the Government formed an assessment of how debt advice from the Money Advice Service compares, in quality and amount, with what was previously available under legal aid?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I cannot tell the noble Lord that, but I will write to him on the subject.

House of Lords: Membership


2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Rennard

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to limit the size of the membership of the House of Lords.

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, our manifesto recognised that the House cannot keep growing indefinitely, but we must refresh our expertise and experience. My first priority is promoting the purpose of the House and enhancing our accountability to inform our individual responsibility as Members. I also intend to make every effort to build cross-party support in finding the right solution to addressing the size of the House.

Lord Rennard (LD): Does the Leader of House agree that there should be a moratorium on further appointments to this House until sensible measures are agreed to reduce its size and that seeking consensus through a constitutional convention, involving all parties, is the best way forward for reform of this House in the long run?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I find it a little surprising that the noble Lord suggests—particularly from his Benches—that there should be a moratorium on appointments to this House. It is very important that we continue to refresh the membership of the House, and the new Peers who will be joining us over the next few weeks will add greatly to the work it does. I do not agree with the way forward proposed by the noble Lord: radical reform was tried in the last Parliament. We stood on a clear manifesto and I am now looking forward to talks with other party leaders, informed by things like the debate on this topic scheduled by my noble friend the Chief Whip for next week.

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Baroness Trumpington (Con): My Lords, the Question is very similar to one I already have down on the Order Paper. I am looking for brevity and accuracy. The brevity applies to the Minister as much as it does to the questioner. Can the Minister, as well as those who are asking questions, be more brief in future?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I accept the point made by my noble friend.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): Does the policy which the Government outlined in the last Parliament—having membership of this House in proportion to the popular vote in the country—stand? If so, does this imply a moratorium on any particular group?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord points to something which was in the coalition agreement. We are no longer in coalition; this is a Conservative Government and we therefore stand by what was in the Conservative manifesto. I have already made clear my view on the size of the House. The noble Lord directs an interesting point to the Liberal Democrat Benches.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, could not the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, and his colleagues lead by example? Believing, as they do, in proportional representation, and having just been inflated into the most unrepresentative party in this House, if he and 40 of his colleagues took retirement, under the advantages of the 2014 Act, then the problem would at least begin to be addressed.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My noble friend is using me as a channel to ask questions to the Liberal Democrat Benches. He is quite right that we are all responsible for the effectiveness of this House and making sure that that happens.

Lord Grocott (Lab): My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Leader of the House to act as a channel to the Prime Minister from this House, initially to tell us whether he was accurately reported when it was implied, at least, that he felt that the political majority in the Commons should in one way or another be reflected as a political majority in the Lords. If that is the case, will she ask him to reflect on the fact that in 1997 when the Labour Party had a majority of some 170 in the House of Commons, it was in a significant minority in the Lords; ditto in 2001 after the 2001 election; and ditto after the 2005 election? It was not until 2006 that the Labour Party became the biggest single group in the House of Lords, which was quickly reversed of course by the coalition after 2010? Will she at least make sure that the Prime Minister is aware of those facts?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I can certainly reassure the House that the Prime Minister is not seeking in any way to make a government majority in this House. We recognise that the importance of this House is that it holds the Government to account and that the party in government should not be in a majority. The House should also understand that, even after the introduction of the new Peers announced the week before last, the Government still face a combined opposition of 80 Peers, which is twice the size faced by the last Labour Government when they were in power.

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Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): Will my noble friend clarify the position in respect of the appointments of new Peers who are also special advisers to the Government and, in particular, whether it is correct that they will be appointed to this place but not able to speak? That surely would make a nonsense of the importance of the role played by Peers on both sides of the House.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: There is a convention that if a new Peer is a special adviser, they will be able to participate in the Division Lobbies but not contribute to debates. We do not necessarily know what decisions those individual special advisers will make as far as when they will make changes that will allow them to make a contribution, such as the most recent special adviser to join your Lordships’ House, my noble friend Lady Helic, who I am sure all noble Lords will feel has been a very welcome addition to our ranks.

Lord Tyler (LD): My Lords, given that there are now many more people who favour the total abolition of your Lordships’ House than support its retention of an appointments basis, do the Government recognise just what a dangerous game they are playing by resisting all serious democratic reform? Do the Government also recognise that the previous Government succeeded in getting a Bill through Second Reading in the House of Commons with a very large majority? Does the Leader of the House think that the Prime Minister, who says that he regrets the lack of progress of that Bill, has the guts now to reintroduce it?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord and I had exchanges on this matter only recently just before the Recess, when I reminded him that the Bill to which he refers did not succeed in leaving the House of Commons. In our manifesto, we made it clear that that is not a priority for this Parliament. We see it as a priority to address the size of the House, and that is where we will focus our energies

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, the noble Baroness will have heard the views expressed from across your Lordships’ House about size. I have to say that it is not enough to suggest, as she did in her recent article, that Peers should turn up less often. If we are effectively to address this matter, which we believe we should, it cannot be against a backdrop of more and more appointments. This Prime Minister has appointed more Peers per year than any other Prime Minister, with a greater proportion of Peers to the government Benches and fewer Opposition and Cross-Bench Peers. What discussions has the noble Baroness had with the Prime Minister on this issue? Did they discuss the constitutional convention? Does he recognise that if meaningful change is to be made, he cannot continue with the scale and number of his appointments?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Baroness knows my party’s position on a constitutional convention. We do not feel that that is a priority at this time. For me, as Leader of the House, it is important that we are

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an effective Chamber and that we make a very important contribution to the legislative process. It is right to focus on attendance rather than absolute numbers because the average rate of attendance is under 500. As effective Peers, we make our contributions when our experience and expertise are relevant to the matter at hand.

Disabled Children: Sexual Exploitation


2.54 pm

Asked by Baroness Benjamin

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect children with learning difficulties and disabilities from sexual exploitation.

Baroness Benjamin (LD): My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and declare an interest as a vice-president of Barnardo’s.

Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): My Lords, the Government’s report, Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation, sets out the steps that the Government are taking to protect children from sexual exploitation, including children with learning difficulties and disabilities. For example, we are exploring how personal, social, health and economic education training and resources for schools might be tailored for staff and special schools, and have provided £4.85 million for services supporting child sexual abuse survivors, including vulnerable children with learning difficulties.

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. This week the report “Unprotected, Overprotected”, by Barnardo’s and other organisations, concludes that children with learning difficulties are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The Rochdale serious case review showed that five out of six children who were sexually exploited over a long period had learning difficulties and disabilities. What action have the Government taken to improve the support for this group of children, who often miss out on the information and advice they need to keep safe? Will they issue new guidelines on how sex and relationship education should be taught to vulnerable young people who suffer from learning disabilities? I hope they will show that they take this case really seriously.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, there are few things that we take more seriously. Existing guidance and training for safeguarding professionals includes reference to the particular vulnerability of children with learning difficulties and disabilities. We are currently revising the 2009 Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation guidance, and we will strengthen it so that professionals are better equipped to support children who are particularly vulnerable to CSE, including those with learning difficulties and disabilities. As I mentioned in my earlier Answer, we are considering how PSHE materials might be best adapted and used

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by staff in special schools. This Thursday my honourable friend the Home Office Minister Karen Bradley will be speaking at the event hosted by Barnardo’s in connection with the report mentioned by the noble Baroness—I pay tribute to Barnardo’s for its work in this field—and she will reiterate the Government’s commitment to supporting vulnerable children.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, I commend the Government for the work they are doing in education, but education alone will not improve the welfare of children. I would like the Minister to say something about what he is doing to support social workers, the people in the front line of this work, who have to pick up such cases and take them forward.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, it is true that this problem is a multidisciplinary one, and involves not only social workers but the police, teachers and the health service. We are trying to co-ordinate that across the piece, and the Prime Minister has appointed a task force chaired by Nicky Morgan, who is going to take the whole issue of child protection and try to bring to bear the necessary government resources, including social workers. That will continue to be a high priority.

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, I declare an interest, in that I have an adult son with autism. In the light of the Barnardo’s report, what is the Minister doing to make sure that all educational institutions ensure that independent advocates are available, particularly to those with learning difficulties, when a child or a parent reports sexual abuse? In my experience there are still serious shortfalls in many of our institutions.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: The noble Baroness has highlighted a particular instance. The training is constantly being reviewed, and that could of course be taken into account: the ministerial task force will also take such things into account. For example, the Ministry of Justice has just recruited 100 more registered intermediaries to help especially vulnerable children and witnesses go through the criminal justice process, which is a difficult but necessary part of dealing with this problem.

Lord Wigley (PC): My Lords, I declare my interest as vice-president of Mencap on a UK-level and in Wales. Are the Government giving any attention to the possible need for an augmented level of punishment for those guilty of such crimes against people with learning disabilities?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I did not quite catch what kind of punishment the noble Lord mentioned.

Lord Wigley: Augmented.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I have no knowledge of that and have not been told anything, but I will find out about it.

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The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, given that abused children often do not show symptoms for some years, and that children with learning disabilities tend to show symptoms in different ways that are not as easily recognised, does the Minister agree that all children who are subject to sexual harm prevention orders or sexual risk orders should receive assessment of their needs and therapeutic support even before signs or symptoms are shown?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: That is a very sensible suggestion. These symptoms take time to manifest themselves. However, we realise that people with special needs have needs which go on beyond the conventional age of adulthood. The relevant statutory guidance for young people with special educational needs and disabilities extends to the age of 25.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, will the noble Lord reflect on the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and tell us what impact he thinks cuts to local authorities will have on the services that are necessary to link up the various agencies helping with child protection that he mentioned?

Lord Ashton of Hyde: As I said, this is one of the Government’s highest priorities. Across the piece, we are spending more money on social services and the police to deal with this problem, so I do not expect a difficult situation to arise. I could give a list of additional money that we have spent in this area; it is one of our highest priorities.

Airports Commission


3.01 pm

Asked by Lord Spicer

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their estimate of the cost of the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, including the costs of commissioning and analysing the commission’s final report.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport and Home Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con): My Lords, up until the end of August 2015, the cost of the Airports Commission is around £13.4 million across 2012-13 to 2015-16. This covers buildings, staff and IT costs, consultancy, publishing, travel and hosting public consultation events. The final cost will be known once the commission secretariat has been dissolved, following which we intend to publish the final figures. We do not hold estimates of the cost of commissioning or reviewing the findings and conclusions of the Airport Commission’s report.

Lord Spicer (Con): My Lords, would it not therefore be a terrible waste of money if the Government were to reject the unanimous advice of the commission to go ahead with developing Heathrow through a third runway in such a way as to make it again the No. 1 international airport in the world, which it certainly was when I was Minister for Aviation?

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My noble friend makes a very valid point about the detailed work done by the Airports Commission. I again put on record our thanks to Sir Howard Davies and his fellow commissioners for their work. As I said before the Recess, the Government have received the report. As my noble friend will be aware, the Prime Minister has established a Cabinet sub-committee on this issue and will announce the way forward by the end of this year.

Lord Soley (Lab): Will the announcement be made before the end of the year, and if not, why not?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear to the Leader of the Opposition in the other place that the decision will be made and will be made by the end of the year.

Baroness Randerson (LD): My Lords, is it the Government’s view that the Davies commission’s remit gives sufficient consideration to the impact of a third runway on the Government’s plans for a northern powerhouse? Are the Government convinced that the development of Heathrow will not have an adverse impact on, for instance, Birmingham and Manchester Airports?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Government believe very strongly in the regional airport network. As I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, Manchester announced earlier this year—at the beginning of the summer in June—a £1 billion investment over the next 10 years. Indeed, we have seen further investment in, for example, road surface improvements around Birmingham, Bristol and Doncaster Airports, so various investments are being made which will reinforce the northern powerhouse.

Lord Bilimoria (CB): My Lords, Sir Howard Davies and his commission have put a lot of work into coming up with their recommendation, which has been decided as the one to go forward with. Why do the Government now have to appoint another sub-committee and take even more time? There is probably need for expansion of both Heathrow and Gatwick, but let us get on with Heathrow because it is affecting our competitiveness as a nation. Could the Minister assure us that this is going to be taken quickly and it will be established and put in place really fast?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The noble Lord is quite right. I agree with him that this has been a detailed report, which the previous Government, under the current Prime Minister, commissioned in 2012. The report has been received, and I am sure the noble Lord would agree with me that it is time now to give the detailed report considered opinion. It is quite right that there should be a sub-committee of the Cabinet to take this decision forward. I reiterate the point that the Prime Minister has made quite clear: a decision will be made by the end of the year.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, does the Minister recall that I spent the first two years of the last Parliament dodging this very issue? The reason was

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the helpful policy input from the Liberal Democrat party. Does the Minister recognise that the Government really will have to make a decision on this matter this year?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I would never accuse my noble friend of dodging anything. If he did so that was his assessment; I thought he handled questions in this respect very ably from the Dispatch Box. I reiterate that the Government—and indeed the Prime Minister—have made it clear that a decision will be made and it will be made by the end of the year.

Lord Clinton-Davis (Lab): Whatever option is pursued, is it not clear that the cost will be enormous? Is not the real issue this: how best and how quickly we can advance British aviation in the best possible way? Surely it is apparent that there is only one answer and it is becoming blindingly obvious—Heathrow.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Again, I feel I am repeating myself. The Government have made their position very clear. The report has been received, it is being considered and a decision will be made. Of course the Government recognise the importance of Heathrow as well as other airports around the country. We continue to regard the importance of aviation in developing, furthering and strengthening the British economy.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, as well as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, presumably the Secretary of State for Transport from time to time considered the issue of Heathrow and answered one or two questions on it in the other place. It is inconceivable that the Government are acting as if they are in total ignorance of the main features of what the report has been considering. I cannot understand—nor can the House, I believe—the additional delay in either endorsing that conclusion or saying that, in fact, the Government had an alternative strategy all along.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: There is no dithering. Let us be quite clear here: it was the previous Government under the current Prime Minister, the same Prime Minister, who commissioned the report. The report was commissioned in 2012. The findings were received—very detailed analysis I am sure the noble Lord recognises—and there were 70,000 responses contained within the commission’s report. Therefore, it is quite right that a considered opinion is given to the commission’s recommendations, and that decision will be made not in due course, as I say again, but as the Prime Minister—the head of the Government—has made clear, by the end of this year, that is 2015.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, I wonder if the Minister would make an educated guess—

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): Order. It is actually the turn of the Liberal Democrat Benches.

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Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, in making the decision on Heathrow or Gatwick, depending on which it is, will the Government publish after the decision the considerations of the legal delays that might occur depending on which decision is taken? It would seem to me that the advocates of Heathrow should surely want for the first spades to start the construction work as soon as possible. However, Gatwick seems more plausible in terms of fewer political and legal interventions.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The Government have already made clear that they wish to proceed on whatever option is pursued on a speedy basis. That is why we set up the commission report in the first place and the Government have made clear that they will take a decision. In terms of the proposal about legal issues or whatever, it would be speculative for me to comment on those on this occasion because that decision has yet to be taken.

Chairman of Committees

Motion to Appoint

3.09 pm

Moved by Baroness Stowell of Beeston

That Lord Laming be appointed to take the Chair in all Committees for the remainder of this Session.

Motion agreed.

Energy Bill [HL]

Energy Bill [HL] 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee,4th Report from the Constitution Committee

Committee (1st Day)

Relevant documents: 6th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 4th Report from the Constitution Committee

3.10 pm

Moved by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee upon the Bill.

Baroness Worthington (Lab): My Lords, I rise briefly before the House commences Committee to raise a very serious objection and concern that relates to the Bill. At present we do not have the impact assessment for the Bill, which we were promised before our deliberations began, and they begin now. I would like to hear from the Minister why this delay has happened—in fact, why the Bill was not published with an impact assessment in the first place. I also seek assurances that when the impact assessment is published, it will contain full details of the assumptions on which the Bill is based. Namely, there is the Government’s continued assertion that we are on track to meet our renewables targets, which relates to Part 4. That is incredibly important and sensitive, since we have had many representations from industry about the impact of the Bill. It should be recalled that those elements of the

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Bill were not subject to public consultation, so the impact assessment is incredibly important for us to be able to consider the impact of the Bill. The other assumption that the Government now seem often to quote is that the levy control framework is spent and there is no more money left. We need to see details of those assumptions and the figures that underlie them but we do not have an impact assessment. I am very concerned about this issue and I look forward to a response from the Minister.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend Lady Worthington because this is not just an isolated example of the Government treating this House, and Parliament, in a cavalier fashion. If I may give another example, next week we were due to have a debate on English votes for English laws. It was promised again and again by the Leader of the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell—I noticed that she has disappeared—yet it has been switched. We are to have a debate on the size of the House, which is not an immediately urgent matter, yet the Commons will make a decision at some point about English votes for English laws and we were given the assurance that we would be able to feed into that. My understanding—I hope that the Chief Whip will answer this—is that the decision to move the debate on English votes for English laws off the agenda for next week was taken unilaterally by the Government and that when the Opposition were consulted, we said that we did not want to change. We wanted to have the English votes for English laws debate because it was promised to this House. That is another example of the cavalier way in which the Government treat this House, wanting to bulldoze their business through. It is about time that some people in this House stood up and said that Parliament has a responsibility to challenge the Government. The Leader of the House may think that we should come in only one day a week when we want to say a few words but we are here to hold the Government to account.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): The noble Lord has asked that I say something about the decision to change the agenda for the coming two weeks to allow the House to discuss the whole business of its membership. I think the House is acutely conscious of the issues raised in the media and by other noble Lords. I felt it was right and proper, as did the Leader of the House, that we should have an opportunity to debate this while we are here. As the noble Lord will know, we had promised a debate on EVEL. He made a point about that. Subsequently, this House decided to support very strongly a Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Butler, for a Joint Committee of both Houses to consider this matter. There has been no reply to this Motion from the House of Commons and, in the absence of a reply, if I am honest, there is not much that the Government could say in this House on this issue at this time.

I felt it was proper that we should deal with something of immediate concern to this House. That is why the Leader informed all sides of the House. There were consultations and there were reservations about changing business, but nobody does this freely or without proper

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consideration of what is right and proper. I am sure all noble Lords are pleased that we will have the opportunity to debate in full the future of this House and its future reform in terms of the Motion tabled by the Government and the Motions of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, and the noble Lord, Lord Steel, which will be debated at the same time next Tuesday.

3.15 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con): My Lords, perhaps I may address the points raised quite fairly by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, in relation to the Energy Bill and the impact assessment. I had anticipated that we would have an impact assessment on the Bill by this stage, to be published ahead of Committee. I have been chasing the matter through the Recess, including this morning. I heard just before I came in that it has now been cleared on the Oil and Gas Authority. We have instructed that it be separated because the issue that caused the delay was the dialogue about the grace period on wind. No later than tomorrow, we will publish the impact assessment, which the noble Baroness has rightly been chasing. I hope that satisfies the noble Baroness.

Motion agreed.

Clause 1 agreed.

Clause 2: Transfer of functions to the OGA

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Worthington

1: Clause 2, page 2, line 5, at end insert—

“( ) The Secretary of State shall, within one year from the date of coming into force of this section, undertake an assessment of the fitness for purpose of the OGA’s powers in relation to relevant activities, and shall lay before each House of Parliament a report of the findings.”

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and for chasing the impact assessment. Can I take it that the full impact assessment will be published tomorrow, or will it be just the oil and gas part? Perhaps he could clarify that point for me.

Looking at Clause 2, our Amendment 1 is essentially a probing amendment but it is intended to enable us to debate this part of the Bill. At Second Reading, several noble Lords raised the fact that things are changing fast in the North Sea and in the oil and gas sector more generally. We have an undertaking to implement the findings of the Wood review and I am sure the cross-party consensus on that remains strong. However, the Wood review was published in June 2013. Here we are in September 2015 and the pace of change since that date has been quite remarkable.

We are seeing a steady decline in North Sea production. Outputs of oil and gas are already around 40% lower than in 2010 and lower than at any time since 1977. The first quarter of this year marked the seventh consecutive month in which the UK has been a net

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importer of petroleum, after having been a net exporter since 1984. The figures for 2014 show that the oil and gas sector as a whole lost £5.2 billion—its worst figure since the 1970s—and total revenues were lower than at any time since 1998 at £24 billion. I quote these figures, which were sourced from DECC’s own analysis, to highlight how things are changing in this sector and in the North Sea specifically.

The other new element is that decommissioning is now a reality and is starting to incur costs. There was a feeling a few years ago that decommissioning was the beginning of the end. Now it is being seen as the beginning of a new industry and there is considerable decommissioning activity going on, not least because many of these assets have been in place for decades, perhaps well beyond their imagined timespan. They are therefore reaching the end of their usable lives, even if we wished to keep using them. The purpose of the amendment, then, is to ask for a report to Parliament on the fitness of the powers now being created for the OGA. We have suggested that it should be produced within six months but we do not have a fixed view; a year would be equally fine. However, we must make sure that we set off on the creation of this new quango or arm’s-length body with the right set of objectives.

We will debate amendments later today where we will talk more about the need to update the objectives, particularly in relation to the storage and transportation of waste greenhouse gases. It seems clear that, as we look at the implications of climate change, which are now uncontested—I think it is settled that we need to decarbonise our energy systems—that will change the economics of all fossil fuel activity. If we are to meet our targets, either we will be forced to decarbonise our use of fossil fuels using CCS or we will see a drastic reduction in the demand for those products. Either of those has significant implications for the UK economy and for the oil and gas sector, hence the desire to table an amendment that enables us to have this debate and to require that the OGA be kept up to date with the most recent developments in this sector.

As I have said, oil and gas prices have fallen and there seems to be no sign of their coming back up again any time soon—of course these prices fluctuate but this now seems to be a systemic drop—so we must have a body with the right remit and objectives to do the job of making sure that, while we maximise the economic return from the North Sea, we accept that this may not be solely through the recovery of hydrocarbons but might, of necessity, require a completely new industry that not only extracts hydrocarbons but returns the waste gases to under the sea. We are blessed with a natural repository for many billions of tonnes of waste greenhouse gases, which I am certain we will need if we want to keep the costs of decarbonisation under control and ensure that we are decarbonising cost-effectively.

I shall speak also to Amendment 3 in this group. Amendment 1 requires a report to be made on the fitness of purpose of these powers, but Amendment 3 is more specific and seeks to change the primary objectives of the OGA to include CO2 transportation and storage. It would negate the need for many of the subsequent amendments that we will talk about today

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because it would bring about a high-level change which would mean that we would not have to catch lots of subsequent clauses and add references to CCS and storage and transportation to the powers being taken here. Many amendments that we will come to today relate to how, as drafted, there is reference back to the principal objective of the Bill and the fact that currently that principal objective does not include the transportation and storage of CO2. Therefore, many of the amendments are trying to reinsert it. We could take another approach, such as the one set out in Amendment 3, which is simply to change the primary objective. There is merit in our discussing that, particularly as CCS offers a lifeline for the future development of hydrocarbon use in the UK by being able largely to decarbonise our use of those fuels.

CCS is essential in that it will enable us to keep using hydrocarbons but, as I alluded to earlier, it is equally important to keeping the costs of decarbonisation contained. At the global level, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that if we do not have CCS on a global scale, we are likely to see the costs of decarbonisation being double what they would be otherwise, while in the UK the Energy Technologies Institute has estimated that without CCS, by 2050 the costs of decarbonising to reach our targets could be in the order of £40 billion to £50 billion a year more than if CCS is deployed.

This is an important and timely subject. We are seeing projects in the UK moving forward to deployment to enable us to make use of the North Sea. I am sure that the OGA will say, “We would rather have our remit nice and narrow; please leave us alone”. That is fine, but we are moving to a time when the social contract between the citizens and taxpayers of the UK and the offshore oil and gas operators is changing. The oil and gas industry largely used to get on with what it was doing—delivering us rather nice, large sources of tax revenue—and everyone was happy. That is shifting. The revenues are falling, as we have seen in recent years, decommissioning costs are rising and the OGA itself, as we will come to debate later this afternoon, will potentially receive public funding to go about its business. This is no longer purely a commercially focused sector and it requires government to intervene to help it. It has the opportunity to receive public funding—the oil and gas operators already receive generous tax breaks that enable them to offset their decommissioning costs. The social licence between us, the citizens of the UK, and the offshore oil and gas operators is shifting. We need to make sure that the OGA reflects that change of balance and takes on a role fit for the 21st century.

We should always consider very carefully when we create new public sector costs. The Government have pointed out on numerous occasions that we are living through a time of austerity, and it seems a bit strange that we should be creating a new area of public spending here without requiring this to be a comprehensive body that takes into account a whole range of views and issues and keeps pace with current events. As good as it was, the Wood review—which I am sure will continue to receive cross-Bench support—is over two years old, and two years has been shown to be quite a

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long time in the oil and gas sector, hence the need for these two amendments. I look forward to the Minister’s response and I beg to move.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, I will say a few words in support of the spirit, at any rate, of this amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I declare an interest as chairman of the Windsor Energy Group, adviser to various energy companies, as in the register, and president of the Energy Industries Council. As the noble Baroness has rightly said, this is a sensible requirement for the future because, as she has also said, the North Sea is a mature province and the industry is clearly undergoing huge change—probably the biggest period of change since the 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the talk in the industry at the moment is about the impact of the halving of the oil price. Even in this morning’s papers, we see some pronouncements by experts on the possibility of whole areas of the North Sea shutting down unless completely new arrangements and management structures can be devised to cope with the new situation.

Obviously, behind this lies the question of whether the price will stay down. My own view is that, barring high-impact events like huge new political upheavals beyond the ones we already have in the Middle East, there will be no obvious bounceback in the price for a very long time. People talk as though the OPEC countries had some choice of policy—they could just cut production and the price would go up. Well of course that would not happen. They have lost control of the price. Russia has no intention of co-operating, and the shale industry in America, although there have been a few bankruptcies, will come back again and increase production as soon as the price rises. So the OPEC countries would gain nothing. Iran of course may be coming on stream as well. All this means that the industry in the North Sea is now facing a period when, on the supply side, there will be a lot more oil. On the demand side, there will probably be rather flat demand, whether from China, from Japan—which is going back to nuclear so will not need so much—or, indeed, from the United States or us, where the demand for oil is flat or even falling.

This is a completely new management challenge. We must have some reassurance, at least in a year’s time but preferably from the start, that the new regulatory authority—the OGA, with its expanded powers into a separate agency, as is now proposed—has the facilities, opportunities and abilities to manage completely new requirements. We have to see a province that is going to adapt to low prices, that develops completely new opportunities and new technologies, not unrelated to the points made by the noble Baroness about the possible disposal of carbon dioxide through CCS techniques, and that learns from other countries. Norway in particular may have a lesson or two for us on how to maintain a mature province and develop new opportunities at sea.

3.30 pm

When I had some responsibility for these things in the 1980s, I was told that the oil in the North Sea was going to run out in 1989. That was the experts’ forecast, but it turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Today we

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have seen a fantastic triumph of UK engineering over 20 or 30 years, a vast contribution to our revenue—I think it is estimated in today’s money at about £330 billion—and we have seen the ability of the industry to cut costs in the face of new challenges. It will have to cut costs dramatically in the immediate future if many areas are to stay in business. It will need major help with decommissioning, which would have arisen whether or not the oil price had fallen because a lot of the platforms and infrastructure in the North Sea are coming to the end of their life.

We will need to see much greater emphasis on and encouragement for rapid and extensive new drilling. We are not drilling nearly enough in the North Sea, and again the Norwegians could teach us a thing or two about this. The incentives for new drilling seem to be much too targeted and fussy, and perhaps should be more general and allow all kinds of new innovations in drilling and discovery to go on. Various figures are given but there are said to be between 12 billion and 24 billion barrels of oil still in the North Sea. This is big money, and that oil could still contribute a vast amount to both our revenues and our national production.

Against that background, we certainly need to see in a year’s time another very close review of how the new Oil and Gas Authority is getting on. I hope therefore that either the amendment or its spirit can be accepted and incorporated by Ministers.

Lord Oxburgh (CB): My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 7, 22 and 23 in this group. The main purpose of the Bill is the more efficient and effective management of the remaining resources in the North Sea, and it seems sensibly directed towards that end. However, it is important to remember, as others have touched on, that the Bill has enormous implications for the fledgling CCS industry. CCS is able to use the same infrastructure that was used for production and the same subsurface analysis, and it is important that it has access to those.

Before I go any further I should declare an interest as president of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association. Perhaps it is worth pointing out that I helped to establish this association around 10 years ago, just as I retired from Shell, because I saw no alternative to CCS—no other way of managing the emissions that were going to be produced by the continuing use of hydrocarbons over the coming decades, and avoiding the damaging climate change associated with those, unless we had something like CCS. For that reason, it is important that we bear this in mind today.

I hope that the Government will regard the amendments as helpful; they are certainly intended to be. Their main aim is to ensure that CCS is not inadvertently inhibited or prevented through the application of regulations and procedures that were not designed for those purposes. The Bill is based around the pre-existing Energy Act, by which CCS was not envisaged.

Amendment 7 is designed to remind the OGA that, over time, its priorities may change. The OGA is primarily staffed by people whose backgrounds are in a variety of aspects of hydrocarbon exploration, production, management and regulation. It is not beyond the realms

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of possibility that CCS is not at the forefront of their thinking. It is quite important that this should be made clear, and that is what the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, does.

Amendments 22 and 23 are both intended to ensure that practitioners of CCS have the appropriate standing and access in order to operate efficiently and effectively when doing their business. It is apparent from the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and other noble Lords that this concern is fairly widely held. Had this debate not been held today there might have been much more opportunity for Members with such concerns to consult with each other, with officials and with Ministers and we might well have ended up with fewer and more coherent amendments. We are where we are, but this is a real concern.

Given that CCS is a central plank in the Government’s energy strategy I hope that they will view these amendments positively. The amendments can certainly be improved and if the same objectives can be achieved in a more efficient way, I and, I am sure, others would be very happy to discuss this matter with Ministers and officials.

My final point is a trivial one in one sense but not in another. The Bill refers in a number of places to existing legislation—earlier energy Bills. It would be enormously helpful if officials preparing Explanatory Notes, who must have immersed themselves in the existing legislation, were able to include links in the Explanatory Notes to the online sources where that existing legislation can be found. We could all save a great deal of time and probably quite a lot of paper by following such links directly.

Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke (Lab): My Lords, I will not delay the House long because what I wanted to say has been said much more eloquently by my noble friend Lady Worthington and by the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Oxburgh. To echo the last point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, giving us some indication of the reference points in previous energy legislation really would make life a lot easier for all of us.

My primary point is that this is an opportunity for some lateral thinking. For those of us who have been listening to the trailers for Jim Naughtie’s programme about the North Sea over a period of 40 to 50 years of exploration, it is astonishing to recognise the change that has taken place just in the past two to five years, or slightly longer. The major change has been that many of the larger oil companies have reduced their footprint in the North Sea and we have seen the entry of a number of independents. As the Wood report set out the case for setting up a regime of collaboration, it is important to bear in mind that for the independents, who are competitors one with another, it can be harder to get that degree of co-operation at the moment, when the North Sea is becoming more difficult. So would it not make sense to review where we are in a year’s time to make sure that we do not have to have yet another energy Bill before both Houses? The change is phenomenal, and we must be prepared for it at every opportunity.

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I greatly admire the work of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, on carbon capture and storage. It is the holy grail for this country, which has so much fossil fuel. I am very concerned about the environmental impact of the continuing use of fossil fuels, but I am also concerned about security of supply issues. The flexibility that fossil fuels can give us when there is a potential security of supply crisis is very important, and we will take a lot of the sting out of the tail if we have operational carbon capture and storage.

This is not a political issue—it should not be a partisan issue across this House. This is a common-sense group of amendments that allows us a bit of lateral thinking and allows us to make legislation at a time when considerable change is still going on, not just in the UK continental shelf but across the energy industry.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Committee on Climate Change. I echo the words of the noble Baroness that this is not a party-political issue but is much wider than that.

As was clearly shown by my noble friend, we live at a time in which the issue of energy, in particular oil and gas, is changing so fast that we have to be extremely careful that we do not set up systems that are not capable of easing alteration to meet new circumstance. It may be that the major Amendment 1, which was proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, is not something that the Government will wish to be tied to; the particular time and so on might well be better expressed. However, I hope that the Government will take seriously the need to have within this legislation the means whereby this House can address the speed with which these things are changing and have the opportunity to make such alterations as become necessary—because we all know that however well one writes legislation, it is surprisingly easy to move to a situation in which you wonder why on earth you did not put that in, or why on earth that was not there.

Secondly, it would be very odd to produce legislation that did not allow specifically for the transportation and storage of greenhouse gases. This will not change in the future; it is central at the present time. The Committee on Climate Change has advised the Government of the importance and centrality of carbon capture and storage for many of the reasons that have already been addressed. However, the noble Baroness was right to say that there may well be an interim period in which we will need to use more fossil fuels than we would like, and the only way we can do that without having a damaging effect on the climate is of course by using carbon capture and storage. Britain has a leadership role in that and has already committed significant amounts of money to seek to ensure that we can do it. It would be simply odd to produce a Bill at this moment without enabling ourselves specifically to talk about carbon capture and storage.

Thirdly, it is important that this is in the Bill itself. I spent a long time as a Minister—some 16 years—and one thing I learned very rapidly was that it is very easy for institutions to say, “It’s nothing to do with us because it isn’t in the Act; that’s not where our responsibility lies”. I remember very nearly having a stand-up row with the person who was then responsible for the gas

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industry, because what should be done seemed so obvious, and she was determined to say that she could not do it because it was not in the Act. I thought that with a bit of imagination she would be able to do it, but that is a different issue. I do not want the need for imagination to be required here. It is one of the rarest talents and therefore it is a quite a good idea to make sure that we put into the Bill the ability—and also insist that it is part of the responsibility—of the new institution.

3.45 pm

Lastly, I want to echo the comment about the people who will naturally be at the heart of this process. All of us are creatures of our experience and knowledge and all of us find ourselves more at home with the things with which we are at home. In this particular area it is easy to have reached the sort of level that would mean that we would be suitable for work in this new authority without perhaps spending a great deal of time on carbon capture and storage. So there is a serious reason why we should add to the Bill in this way and I hope that my noble friend, if not necessarily agreeing to any of these amendments—and, like others, I say that it is a collection that might well have been brought together more effectively—will say, to benefit the Committee, that he will bring forward amendments to at least ensure that the transportation and storage of greenhouse gases becomes a serious part of the activities that we are discussing today.

Baroness Maddock (LD): My Lords, we on these Benches very much share the concerns voiced in all parts of the House today about this Bill. It may have two main parts—on the oil and gas industry, and onshore wind—but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, that we have been asked to deal with it in a very unsatisfactory way. We had Second Reading on the last day of Parliament before the summer recess, and here we are in Committee today. I find that quite difficult.

In addition, amendments were tabled in the middle of last week and we still do not have some of the information we need to look at the Bill properly in Committee—and it is not just me saying this. Other people may have big offices to help them, but the beauty of this House is that we have lots of Back-Benchers with expertise who would like to take part in debates such as this; if we treat Bills in this way, it is very difficult for them to take part. I feel particularly strongly about energy Bills. Some of us have dealt with several energy Bills in this House, and we often find that very few people take part. That is partly because such Bills are often technical and, if Back-Benchers are going to take part, they need time to look at what the amendments mean and to get advice on them. I hope the House authorities will look seriously at this issue. I can understand some of the reasons why this has happened, but the situation is very unsatisfactory.

As I said, we agree with many of the things that have been said today. In setting up the Oil and Gas Authority, the Government are proposing, as we heard at Second Reading, to give some of their powers to this body. The Oil and Gas Authority will have ownership of carbon dioxide storage licensing but the responsibility for policy and strategy is going to remain, as I understand it,

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with DECC. The problems associated with this were highlighted by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. I understand from briefings I have received that DECC and the Oil and Gas Authority have been rather reluctant to consider applying the authority’s expertise to support future strategy development. I hope the Minister will tell us a little more about that. As the noble Lord said, the main reason seems to be that it is beyond the authority’s licensing remit. The problem is that if people do not think that something is within their remit, they do not think outside the box and they will not do anything else. The authority said that it was not very keen on that happening; it thinks that it is outside the scope of its remit and it is not willing to fund it. I hope the Minister will reassure us on this issue and that, as we scrutinise the Bill not just in Committee but on Report, we can deal with some of these matters. I have also received a rather interesting letter from Professor Stuart Haszeldine of the University of Edinburgh on how we might go forward, and perhaps there will be a chance to discuss that at a future date.

It seems to me and my colleagues on these Benches that there is a danger—I am not the only person to say this today—that the Bill might create institutional barriers to the development of carbon capture and storage. Other noble Lords have said today that that does not help us with the purpose of the Oil and Gas Authority, which is to make sure that we make the best of what is in the North Sea. I am sure that the Minister will try to respond to that.

Many of the amendments before us today cover these issues—as everybody has said, we have a whole series of amendments on the same area—and had we not been so rushed into considering the Bill, we might have been able to address them more logically. However, I hope that the Minister will sense the feeling of the Committee and be able to respond positively. I hope he will assure us that he and the department are considering these matters, so that we can put such concerns to rest and come forward with something a bit more sensible on Report.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, perhaps I may first pick up on a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington on the impact assessment. It is only by splitting the impact assessment between the parts of the Bill dealing with oil and gas, and those dealing with wind, that we are able to publish tomorrow the impact assessment relating to the Oil and Gas Authority. I will update the Committee on Wednesday on where we are on the wind issue and on the dialogue about grace periods.

I thank noble Lords for the amendments and for the non-partisan way in which points have been made. I do not think there is a material difference—certainly not from the speeches I have heard today—between the Government’s position on the importance of CCS and points made by noble Lords today. The best way forward might be if I go through where we stand at the moment in relation to the various amendments, and where we might be by Report.

My noble friends Lord Deben and Lord Howell, the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, the noble Baronesses, Lady Worthington and Lady Liddell, and various others spoke about the non-partisan nature of getting

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right on energy for this country and for the planet—that is a very useful way forward and we certainly have a shared interest in it.

Let me address the pot pourri of amendments in this group. On Amendment 1, I acknowledge that it is important that regulatory measures be kept under review and for Parliament to be informed of the outcome of such activities. I also acknowledge the point made about the rapid nature of change in this area and in many other areas.

The noble Baroness’s amendment would require a review to be undertaken within one year—rather than the six months that she mentioned; perhaps I misunderstood her—of the coming into force of Clause 2. Neither I nor the department think that such a period is sufficient to enable an effective review of the Oil and Gas Authority’s activities, it being a new body in a new area. For this reason, I am not able to accept the amendment. However, the noble Baroness and others have raised interesting and valid points about a review which my officials are already considering, and we will return to this topic on Report. I hope that that addresses the immediate concerns. It is clear that we need to see how the legislation is working, how effective it is and whether there may be a need for a touch on the tiller or more. I accept that there is some need to look at how the legislation is working.

I thank those noble Lords who spoke to Amendments 3 and 23, which are significant and would extend the maximising economic recovery principal objective and, in the case of Amendment 3, the subsequent strategy to include transportation and storage of carbon dioxide. I accept that CCS is central to what we are seeking to do on decarbonisation, but I reassure noble Lords that things are happening—it is not as though we are not doing anything on this issue. The Office of Carbon Capture and Storage is already committed to comprehensive programmes on CCS, perhaps the most comprehensive anywhere in the world, to support the commercialisation of the technology and develop the industry.

My noble friend Lord Howell mentioned Norway, which is indeed important. However, Canada—where it is working on a commercial basis—is especially important in this context. Officials from DECC are going out to look at this on a fairly regular and sustained basis.

It is not as though no work is happening on carbon capture and storage. We are committed to a competition with up to £1 billion capital—that is current, and we will make an announcement on it early in 2016—plus operational support for large carbon capture and storage projects and a £125 million research and development and innovation programme. That is already happening.

I accept that we need to ensure that this dovetails with the work done by the Oil and Gas Authority. From my study of it, the Wood review—I accept that things move very quickly—said only two things about CCS, which perhaps illustrates how quickly it is moving, and both those are being picked up. The review suggested that the Oil and Gas Authority should work with industry to develop a technology strategy that will underpin the UK strategy of maximising economic return, and should include enhanced oil recovery and

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carbon capture and storage. A draft is already being prepared on that, and it is going to happen. Page 49 of the Wood review goes on to say that the Office of Carbon Capture and Storage should continue to work closely with the Oil and Gas Authority and oil and gas licensees,

“to examine the business case for the use of depleted reservoirs for carbon storage and possibly EOR”—

or enhanced oil recovery. That, too, will be happening. I am sure that that provides some reassurance to the noble Lords who raised this issue.

If I may, I will come back to the purpose of the Bill, which seeks to incorporate all the key proposals of the Wood review into legislation. The Wood review has therefore to some extent tested and explored the new regime envisaged for the oil and gas industry, and the justifications for such changes are set out in the document. There has been no such exploration of how such an extension would affect carbon capture and storage, so I believe that more time is needed to consider fully how the OGA can take forward its role—it does have a role—in supporting carbon capture and storage.

Lord Deben: Would it not therefore be valuable if we give the new authority specifically the powers to do precisely that, rather than say that we will work on it and then do it? After all, if we give it those powers, work on it, and then find that it is not necessary, it will not do any harm. I always wonder why we do not do the things that will not do any harm when they might do some good.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: As my noble friend I think knows, I am always in favour of doing things that would do good and against things that would do harm. Therefore, I will, I hope, be coming on to some points that may provide some reassurance.

Amendments at this stage could cause delays to the strategy that is set out in the Wood review and the legislation enabling the Oil and Gas Authority to carry out the vital functions that we have set out in regulating and stewarding the United Kingdom continental shelf. That said, the Oil and Gas Authority will have a key role in relation to carbon capture and storage. It will issue carbon dioxide storage site licences and approve carbon dioxide storage permit applications. We are also considering—this is important—how carbon capture and storage may be considered as part of a proposed decommissioning plan. The Oil and Gas Authority will take into account the viability of utilising captured carbon dioxide in enhanced oil recovery projects. I am very happy to engage with noble Lords between Committee and Report, along with officials, to see how we can do that. I hope that that provides some reassurance.

In addition, the transfer and storage of carbon dioxide is an important technology, which is why it is likely to form a key element of the technology and decommissioning sector strategies that will be developed by the Oil and Gas Authority in consultation with industry. These strategies will help to underpin the overarching strategy related to maximising economic recovery. I can therefore reassure noble Lords that we are certainly open to looking at how we move this

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forward, but I do not want to give the impression that we will change the principal thrust of the primary object of the Act, which is to maximise economic recovery. Certainly, we can explore ways of seeing how we can ensure that carbon capture and storage is incorporated within the remit of the work done by the Oil and Gas Authority.

I hope that I have covered the key points. One point was made by my noble friend Lord Oxburgh and echoed by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, which as a Minister I have much sympathy with. That is making sure that we have some clear reference points on legislation. I hope that we can let noble Lords have that because it is a point well made in this area as no doubt in many others—taxation, company law and pensions spring to mind as just three areas that would benefit very clearly. With my assurance that we are happy to look at how we can move this forward on both of the points made—a timely look at the legislation and how we can ensure that carbon capture and storage is not forgotten, and we certainly do not intend that it should be—I hope that the noble Baroness will be willing to withdraw her amendment.

4 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford: Can I press the Minister a shade more on something that we tend to forget when we debate these great issues of carbon capture and the future of the industry, and that is cost? It has been estimated that about £40 billion will be required to handle the decommissioning of outdated, redundant infrastructure in the North Sea. This whole process may be greatly accelerated if, as I earlier predicted, oil prices stay well down or go very much further down than they are already in the next four or five years. There is a huge cost there.

There is obviously vast cost involved in the piping of CO2 into the North Sea, if that is the technology used, although brilliant minds like those of my noble friend Lord Oxburgh have thought of new ways of handling carbon without having to pipe it away into the North Sea into reservoirs. In some cases, reservoirs have to be suitably designed both to enhance oil production and to store the CO2. All of these involve huge sums, which have not been mentioned. On top of that, the Government appear to be thinking in terms of further tax reliefs of all kinds in the North Sea, and I hope a great simplification of tax—it has been obvious that we have needed that for the past five or six years and I am glad that it is coming now, but again that is a lost revenue. Should we not give a little attention, as we push forward with this major reorganisation of the administration of North Sea and UK continental shelf affairs, to the enormous sums and where they will come from? I imagine that the answer is probably from the consumer and energy prices, but the Government have a duty to the public to explain some of the implications of what is now unfolding before us, including that colossal figure for decommissioning.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, my noble friend makes a valid point about the decommissioning costs and costs in general, which are very much at the forefront of the Government’s thinking. He will be aware that the Oil and Gas Authority is essentially

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being paid for by the industry. Other than initial seed corn support of a small amount from the Government and the Government conceivably stepping in in an emergency situation, it is self-financing. But there are aspects that we will come to later in the legislation that talk about the public purse, this being one consideration that has to be borne in mind in relation to relevant activities. I need no persuading that costs are central to what we are looking at here.

Baroness Byford (Con): My Lords, the Minister has said that he is unhappy about having a review within a year, which is too soon. I can understand that, but can we press the Minister to come back with a suggestion of two years? Having followed other Bills through, I fear that this period will get extended. I hope that serious thought can be given, between now and Report, to putting forward a time before the final stages of the Bill are considered.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I thank my noble friend. I do not want to give a figure on the hoof; I am sure noble Lords would appreciate that that would be dangerous. We can look at this clearly between now and Report. If we are going to have a review we will have to say when it should take place. I would not anticipate coming back without a definitive idea of that.

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, which has demonstrated the breadth of opinion and the cross-party consensus on the need for the Bill to be amended to ensure that carbon capture and storage—or certainly the storage and transportation elements of it—is on the face of the Bill, for the avoidance of all doubt. On these Benches, we will not be content for the Bill to leave this House without that issue being addressed. That said, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. I look forward to sitting down and engaging in the discussions he offered with officials and interested parties to see if we can come to an agreement on the review period for the legislation and the objective of the OGA. I understand the points that have been made, but if you create a body that has licensing powers over the storage of CO2, which may well involve itself in meetings in relation to storage and transportation and which may be charging fees, how can this all be possible unless its primary objective includes a reference to that? The potential for judicial reviews or objections from industry would be much wider if we do not make it crystal clear from the outset that this is what we intend the OGA to do. The noble Lord has referenced the fact that this will be self-financing, but government amendments to be tabled today would mean that public money was potentially being given to the OGA. I reiterate that we will not be content unless something appears on the face of the Bill, but I look forward to sitting down with the Minister and his officials and, on that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Oxburgh: I join the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, in thanking those who have participated in the debate and the Minister for his reply. I have one final question for him. Have the officials in his department

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conducted a study of how the Bill might impact CCS? There are serious questions there: if they have not done that, could they do so? It would be extremely useful as a lead in to the next stage.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: In answer to the noble Lord, officials have certainly been looking at how CSS fits in and dovetails with the Bill. We will continue to consider that and look at it if we are able to engage in discussions between now and Report. I am grateful for the noble Lord’s comments.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed.

Schedule: Transfer of functions to the OGA

Amendment 1A

Moved by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

1A: The Schedule, page 38, line 37, at end insert—

“( ) Omit paragraph 1(2).”

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, Amendments 1A to 1F and Amendment 43 seek to amend the Schedule to the Bill to make amendments to other Acts and the Title of the Bill. Because the power for the Oil and Gas Authority to charge fees is provided for in Amendment 16, Amendments 1A to 1D are required. In particular, we amend the power to charge in Section 188 of the Energy Act 2004 and remove some other powers to charge fees. This illustrates the points that were made about the need for a destination table.

Amendment 1E amends the Schedule to insert a definition of the Oil and Gas Authority into the Energy Act 2011. This is consequential on government Amendments 33 and 34 relating to access to upstream petroleum infrastructure and on the transfer of functions to the Oil and Gas Authority in relation to access to upstream petroleum infrastructure. Amendment 1F amends the Schedule to remove the levy provisions from Section 42 and Schedule 7 of the Infrastructure Act 2015. These will be set out with amendments to this Bill—noble Lords should see Amendments 17 and 18—so that those using the legislation can find all the Oil and Gas Authority provisions in one place. I hope that that is helpful.

Amendment 43 amends the Title to include,

“to make provision about rights to use upstream petroleum infrastructure”,

in consequence to Amendments 35 and 36, which insert new clauses on this topic. I beg to move.

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, as these are largely technical amendments bringing into line various pieces of legislation, I have no real objection and we support the government amendments.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for that.

Amendment 1A agreed.

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Amendments 1B to 1F

Moved by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

1B: The Schedule, page 40, line 7, at end insert—

“Energy Act 2004

(1) Section 188 of the Energy Act 2004 (power to impose charges to fund energy functions) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (7), omit paragraphs (b), (h), (m) and (n).

(3) In subsection (8), omit paragraphs (da), (db) and (f).

(4) In subsection (12), in the substituted subsection (7A)(b), for “mentioned in subsection (8)(db)” (in both places) substitute “for which a licence under Chapter 3 of Part 1 of the Energy Act 2008 is required”.”

1C: The Schedule, page 40, line 12, at end insert—

“( ) In that subsection, omit paragraph (e).”

1D: The Schedule, page 41, line 15, at end insert—

“(c) subsection (2)(d) does not apply.”

1E: The Schedule, page 43, line 9, at end insert—

“In section 90(1) (interpretation), after the definition of “gas processing facility” insert—

““the OGA” means the Oil and Gas Authority;”.

1F: The Schedule, page 43, line 9, at end insert—

“Infrastructure Act 2015

The Infrastructure Act 2015 is amended as follows.

Omit section 42 (levy on holders of certain energy industry licences).

In section 55(4)(b) (statutory instruments subject to affirmative procedure), omit “or 42(11)”.

Omit Schedule 7 (the licensing levy).”

Amendments 1B to 1F agreed.

Schedule, as amended, agreed.

Clause 3 agreed.

Amendment 2

Moved by Baroness Worthington

2: After Clause 3, insert the following new Clause—

“Report to Parliament on decommissioning costs

Within one year of this Act coming into force, and annually thereafter, the Secretary of State shall report to each House of Parliament on estimated decommissioning costs for North Sea oil and gas infrastructure.”

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 2 and 9. Amendment 2 is the requirement on the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on an annual basis on the,

“estimated decommissioning costs for North Sea oil and gas infrastructure”.

This amendment has been tabled because an important facet of this debate is that the costs involved are hugely important, which the Minister mentioned earlier. Decommissioning is under way, it is likely to increase over time and we will see bits of infrastructure being removed, which will cause considerable costs to be borne. The upside is that we may well be about to invent a wonderful new industry in which we can get a global lead. The engineering excellence that we have demonstrated in the North Sea will be repurposed and we will apply that knowledge and expertise to the task of decommissioning, which I am sure will stand us in good stead both here and overseas.

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However, through the course of my engagement with this Bill, it has come to light that those decommissioning costs will now partly fall on the taxpayer. The Treasury produced an estimate of the costs of decommissioning and how much will be expected to be a burden on the taxpayer. In the five years from now until 2020, HMRC estimates that something in the region of £9 billion will be expended, half of which will fall on the taxpayer. That is not an insubstantial amount of money, particularly as we hear, in the context of energy, an awful lot is made of the cost of the renewables subsidies and the green energy contracts. A levy control framework is applied to those costs. But here we have a liability on the taxpayer for essentially finishing off the job in the North Sea and assisting the oil and gas sector in bearing those costs.

Those costs are quite generous and the way in which they are calculated is that tax can be claimed back through the petroleum revenue tax, the PRT, and the ring-fenced corporation tax, the RFCT. Both provisions are very generous and enable costs to be claimed dating back throughout the time of the activity. They allow the use of retrospective taxation that has been paid to claim tax back against decommissioning costs. This evidently means a loss of revenue to the Exchequer, and therefore extra pressure on taxpayers to make up the difference somewhere else.

4.15 pm

I am not saying that the oil and gas sector has not been a great contributor to the British economy. However, as I said in my opening comments, although the oil and gas sector used to be left to its own devices, by and large, and generated a lot of tax revenue, the social contract between us and them is changing, and from now on we will revisit the topic of decommissioning often. The total cost is, of course, an estimate; it may be higher.

The purpose of the amendment is to require some transparency and give us an opportunity to debate the subject. The decommissioning costs would be regularly reported and we could debate the rightness, or otherwise, of continuing the arrangement whereby taxpayers foot the bill for a substantial amount of decommissioning, with a liability that appears—although I would be happy to be contradicted on this—to be relatively unlimited. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that. Is there a back-stop? Is there a point at which we say, “No, we will not pay”?

My second question on the amendment, to which I would welcome an answer from the Minister, is about what happens if a company goes bankrupt. It is unlikely that the big oil majors will disappear overnight—it might take a little longer than that—but we will probably see assets being transferred from some of the big oil majors to smaller organisations, perhaps companies with more appetite for risk or different funding profiles, which can continue to act when the majors might choose otherwise. That raises a risk: what happens if those entities are no longer with us, or get themselves in too deep and find themselves on the point of liquidation? Who will then take on the costs of decommissioning, and what provision is being made to protect the taxpayer in those circumstances? I hope that that will not be the case, but unfortunately we

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have to imagine the worst—these are turbulent times, and things are changing fast. Amendment 2 is designed to probe on those issues, and I hope I can look forward to some words of reassurance from the Minister.

The second amendment in the group, Amendment 9, relates to the matters that the OGA must take into account under Clause 4. Many more amendments have been tabled to those provisions, and we will debate them in the next group, but Amendment 9 has been grouped under the heading of decommissioning, because it raises an important issue. Obviously some parts of the infrastructure will be able to be reused, both by people seeking to extend the lives of the wells and by those wishing to repurpose them and use them for storage of waste gases, but timing will be an issue. With lower oil prices, decommissioning may be more rapid than we first expected, which could mean infrastructure being removed sooner than we thought it would. We could then be out of step with what we hope will be a new industry to invest in to do with the transportation and storage of waste greenhouse gases.

We want to avoid a situation of accelerated gas decommissioning and possibly delayed carbon capture and storage, although I hope we shall not see that anyway because CCS has been rather slow to start with and should not be delayed any further. Such projects may well come on stream after the decommissioning decisions have been taken, which would be regrettable. I am sure that the Minister will say, as he said about the Wood review, that the OGA is fully cognisant of CCS, but CCS does not appear to be one of the key things to which it has regard. That is the problem. Where we want the OGA to focus on an issue, we should specify that issue in the Bill. A hierarchy of consideration, which requires it at least to think about potential reuse for carbon capture and storage before people press ahead with decommissioning, should be listed as one of the matters to which the OGA must have regard, and that is the purpose of Amendment 9. I beg to move.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, in case any eyebrows were raised over the apparent difference between the noble Baroness’s figure of £9 billion and my figure of £40 billion, which are slightly different, I should make clear that I think the noble Baroness was talking about the next five years whereas I was talking about the next 25 years, over which time it is estimated that £40 billion will have to be spent removing redundant platforms and pipelines as well as plugging spent oil wells.

My noble friend said that the companies would fund all this. I wonder whether that makes reassuring sense in the light of what the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, said about these companies being increasingly strapped for cash. If we are only half right about the evolution of world oil and gas prices—and it looks as though we are going into a period of prolonged glut in that field—the North Sea companies will have very tight budgets. This additional cost—whether it is £9 billion over five years or £40 billion over 25 years—will have to be found from somewhere. As we advance into this era and ask the OGA to take on these new responsibilities, and as we work out the practicalities of CCS, which have not yet all been solved, and the costs of it, we must be careful that we do not

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store up colossal financial problems for the future that will lead people in years to come to ask why we did not make clearer preparations. I wish to make clear the difference between the two figures of £9 billion and £40 billion and suggest yet again that we focus very carefully on where the money will come from.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her amendment and my noble friend Lord Howell for his comments. Without wishing to be too much of a doomsayer, I appreciate that there is always the chance of any business going into bankruptcy or company going into insolvency. The legal position is that decommissioning costs are picked up by industry under the Petroleum Act 1998—and industry does, of course, get tax relief.

I will address the noble Baroness’s points on Amendments 2 and 9. Minimising the costs of decommissioning in the North Sea to both industry and the taxpayer will be a central focus of the new legislative landscape. It is essential that we create an environment that encourages collaboration and co-operation in order to bring down overall costs. The reuse of viable North Sea infrastructure is a top priority for the Oil and Gas Authority. As I outlined earlier, the Wood review suggested that the Office of Carbon Capture and Storage would work closely with the Oil and Gas Authority in moving this forward. That, indeed, is what is happening in line with the recommendations made by Sir Ian Wood in his review.

That said, I understand the thrust of what is being said and can confirm that decommissioning is high on the Government’s agenda. Obviously there are costs associated with it and it is essential that we do it in the most cost-effective way, bringing in the possibility of reusing decommissioned sites in relation to CCS. I hope that noble Lords have had a letter indicating that the Government will bring forward amendments on decommissioning on Report. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to bring them forward earlier, but it is my intention that these amendments will address the issues of decommissioning costs and the viable reuse of infrastructure in the North Sea. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment. I look forward to debating decommissioning in more detail on Report when government amendments on these issues will be brought forward.

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Howell, for his clarification. He is absolutely correct that, obviously, over a longer time period we will incur higher costs. I thank Minister for his response. Possibly I did get the letter about the decommissioning amendments. I have to confess it has been a rather chaotic last few weeks so I will look again in my inbox. I would welcome that and I think that this issue must be addressed in the Bill. It is clearly a subject that we are going to see a lot of parliamentary time devoted to. Could the Minister write to me or give me clarification, as soon as possible, about the nature of the liability that taxpayers will face and about any safeguards that will be put in place to prevent it becoming an unlimited liability?

I notice from the industry side that the tax breaks that were granted have been underwritten by private law contracts to avoid any reverses being introduced

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by subsequent Governments. That seems to be quite a nice safeguard for the industry. As we know, Finance Bills are famous for being quite changeable. In fact, we saw quite a shift from the 2011 Budget where what were described as disastrous tax regimes brought in for the oil and gas sector were rapidly reversed and changed over subsequent Finance Bills. Therefore, one can see why the industry is keen to have these things underwritten and uses private law contracts now for those tax breaks. However, where are the reassurances for the public purse that this will not be a ballooning cost for us over decades to come?

I understand that it should be the industry that pays, but it does receive tax breaks, which amounts to a subsidy from the public purse. However, on the basis that there are amendments coming forward and that we will have another opportunity to debate decommissioning in full, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.

Amendment 3 not moved.

Clause 4: Matters to which the OGA must have regard

Amendment 3A

Moved by Baroness Byford

3A: Clause 4, page 3, line 12, after “from,” insert “its existence and”

Baroness Byford (Con): My Lords, I begin by declaring my interests, which are in the register, and I have shares in oil companies. I also record my thanks to the Minister and his team for the briefing that they gave us prior to Committee and, indeed, for the follow-up work that I have received from them since. My amendment is a very simple probing amendment. The Minister in his letter stated that minimising public expenditure will be limited to that which arises from the relevant activities because this is the only area in which the OGA can have influence. He further stated that in due course a levy and fees will mean that the industry will pay the OGA’s full costs. Indeed, our discussions earlier were about costs.

However, my concern remains. I do not feel that either the wording of the Bill or the Minister’s interpretation mean that those working in and managing the OGA will have a duty to keep their costs as low as possible. As we said this afternoon, the amount of money coming into oil companies at the moment is so low that it is imperative that the OGA sets the standard of making sure that it does its work efficiently but keeps its cost as low as possible. I am concerned, for example, about the nature of office accommodation—it seems very simple—about location, travel, hotels, publicity and all the other parts that go into making the new OGA work properly.

I also share with colleagues that I have been assured that Treasury rules insist that fees should recover full costs and no more. That, however, does not explicitly cover a levy: nor does it limit spending levels. Therefore, in moving the amendment I still seek assurance that the OGA will have a duty to minimise expenditure on its internal operations. I beg to move.

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4.30 pm

Baroness Worthington: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing her amendment. I shall speak to amendments also in this group: Amendments 5, 6, 8, 20 and 21 in my name and Amendments 4, 10 and 11 in the names of my noble friends Lord Whitty and Lord Grantchester. This could be described as another pot pourri of amendments. I echo the noble Lords who mentioned that, had we had a bit more time and not been caught trying to table all our amendments in the last week of the Recess, we might have come forward with a slightly different grid with different groupings. However, we are where we are. What all these amendments have in common is that they relate to Clauses 4 and 9, which set out the core functions of the OGA and—Clause 9 in particular—the matters to which the OGA should have regard.

I do not intend to go over again the importance of CCS and the need to facilitate development of storage and transportation, as we have obviously rehearsed those arguments. However, if we do not change the primary objective, as set out in the Petroleum Act and amended by the Infrastructure Act, we will probably have to amend the Bill in numerous other places to ensure that CCS is properly taken into account. Clauses 4 and 9 are two places where we would expect something in the Bill to reassure us that this will be taken with due seriousness, and will have the right legal backing needed for the OGA to do its job properly.

Amendment 4, which is in my noble friend Lord Whitty’s name, refers to the need for decarbonisation strategies. Having spoken to him, I know that the purpose of probing on this is that it is absolutely clear that, as we face climate change and start to absorb the implications of what we need to do, there is a great need for a holistic view of our pursuit and extraction of hydrocarbons. We are either going to change drastically our demand for hydrocarbons by moving into other sources of energy, or we will be capturing and storing the waste gases and putting them somewhere where they are not released into the atmosphere. I think both have quite profound implications and it is right that the OGA must have regard to the meeting of climate change targets and carbon budgets, and to the need for decarbonisation of energy. This is meant to be a Bill for the 21st century, not for the last century. Therefore, if we are to list specific areas to which the OGA must have regard, it would seem odd if climate change mitigation and decarbonisation were not specifically mentioned.

Amendment 5, which is in my name, is, as I said, an alternate way of ensuring that geological carbon storage is included within the matters to which the OGA has regard. Amendment 6 is similar to Amendment 4 in that it asks for consideration of the Climate Change Act and the targets within it.

We then turn to Amendment 10, which is in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty and refers to energy efficiency. I think I am right to say that my noble friend would have preferred to write a wider amendment about energy efficiency in general, because that is a long-held area of great interest to him. There is certainly a need for any energy Bill to consider the role of demand reduction and energy efficiency but, as the scope of

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this Bill is relatively narrow as it stands, this amendment relates to increasing energy efficiency within the areas of extraction of oil and gas, as related to the OGA. Amendment 11 relates to carbon capture and storage policy again.

The last two amendments in this group, Amendments 20 and 21, relate to Clause 9. They seek to make sure that the interpretations in the Bill are sufficiently clear that when we talk about licensees and operators, and data sharing and meetings—all the various powers being given to the OGA—we know it is explicit that those powers include those activities that relate to CCS. As I say, this could be made a whole lot simpler if we were to change the primary objectives but it seems that there are many ways of skinning this particular cat, and many of them are presented here today. That is the purpose of tabling these amendments and I look forward to the Minister’s responses to these matters relating to Clauses 4 and 9.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, particularly regarding climate change, carbon-reduction targets and energy efficiency. I compliment the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, on trying to get energy efficiency into the Bill because it is something that he, I and others on all energy Bills have tried to make the Government look seriously at always including. If we are concerned about reducing demand, which is another area we had to pursue energetically in the previous Energy Bill, we need to look at this if we are to meet a lot of the targets we have signed up to, not only in Europe but internationally. I support the thrust behind this and I admire the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for getting energy efficiency into the Bill.

Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab): My Lords, I also support Amendments 4 and 6 in respect of the matters to which the OGA must have regard, particularly climate change. The Climate Change Act set a statutory target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. In the shorter term, the Committee on Climate Change, under the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has recommended that the UK should have a virtually carbon-free electricity sector by 2030. We are clear that many of these targets will not be met under current scenarios, and this is an area in which it will be pretty strenuous to try to achieve them. Every tool in the toolbox will need to be used.

However, we are at a point where the Government seem to be removing some of the tools from the toolbox. We see in the Bill proposed changes to planning for onshore wind, changes to planning for low-carbon homes, the feed-in tariff support and the renewables obligation, and changes to proposals on tax incentives for low-emission vehicles. There is a concern, certainly in my mind, that if we remove too many tools it will become an even more strenuous and difficult task. That is why management of the oil and gas industry in the future is absolutely vital. It is important that the matters to which the OGA must have regard take account of UK and international obligations for greenhouse gas reduction, decarbonisation of energy and the carbon budgets set by the noble Lord, Lord Deben.

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The Minister may say that the OGA already has a prime objective of maximising economic recovery, although I have not heard it put quite that way before. Indeed, one of the matters to which the OGA must have regard is minimising future public expenditure. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that that was a nod towards climate change. So, I ask the Minister to consider whether an explicit reference to having regard to climate change should be added to this list. If we do not make sure that all bodies involved in the energy business also have climate change at their heart, we will see huge effects on public expenditure from the impact of climate change in the future.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken on this group of amendments, which seek to amend Clause 4, in Part 1, and Clause 9, in Part 2, of this Bill. Those amendments are Amendments 3A to 11—excluding Amendments 7 and 9 which are grouped separately—and Amendments 20 and 21.

Amendment 3A, moved by my noble friend Lady Byford, seeks to insert provision into Clause 4 of the Bill which would require the Oil and Gas Authority to have regard to the need to minimise public expenditure relating to, or arising from, its existence. Clause 4 already places an obligation on the Oil and Gas Authority to have regard to,

“The need to minimise public expenditure relating to, or arising from, relevant activities”.

The concept of “relevant activity” is intended to capture activities such as petroleum extraction or gas or carbon dioxide storage in relation to which the Oil and Gas Authority has statutory functions and functions under licences. For example, when taking decisions under licences, it is intended that the Oil and Gas Authority should have to consider whether a licence holder will be able to meet liabilities under a licence if these are liabilities that might otherwise have to be met by the taxpayer.

The question of how the Oil and Gas Authority should spend its own resources is dealt with by other means. However, there are arrangements in place to ensure that the OGA’s spending is controlled. As accounting officer, the OGA’s chief executive is responsible and accountable to Parliament for the organisation of, and quality of management in, the authority, including its use of public money. The chief executive has responsibility for ensuring that the OGA operates in accordance with the guidance set out in the Cabinet Office’s Managing Public Money.

Furthermore, the Department of Energy and Climate Change is establishing a robust governance framework to oversee its relationship with the OGA. This will ensure that any issues which may have a financial impact on government are reported to the Secretary of State at the earliest opportunity. The framework requires the OGA to have the prior written consent of the Secretary of State before it takes any action which will, or is likely to, give rise to an additional funding requirement from the department or gives rise to obligations or liabilities which are not expected to be affordable in terms of expected levy income. The Secretary of State will be the sole shareholder of the OGA and her role in this regard includes assessing

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and approving the business plan developed by the authority, among other things, to ensure its long-term viability and sustainability and its ability to deliver value for money in light of the strategies of the department and wider government. I hope that this explanation is reassuring.

I turn now to Amendments 4 and 6, which each make reference to responsibilities under the Climate Change Act 2008. While the OGA will be bound by any environmental legislation that relates to the exercise of its functions, it is purposely not an environmental regulator. Perhaps I may refer noble Lords to Clause 4, which refers to those matters to which the OGA must have regard—

“include the following, so far as relevant”—

so, obviously, any pre-existing legislation would be binding in relation to the OGA, and that would include the Climate Change Act.

Environmental regulation responsibilities under the Climate Change Act 2008 will continue to sit within the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which has expertise and experience in this field. There are synergies between the two forms of regulation, and the existing strong relationships between the OGA and DECC will continue. However, it is important that these regulatory functions remain separate, ensuring that the correct focus is placed on each by the different regulators. Noble Lords will also be aware that the amendments raise issues of compliance with the offshore safety directive, which requires a separation of oil and gas licensing and environmental functions, so I am not sure that it is legally possible either. I cannot agree that it would be appropriate to provide the OGA with additional environmental functions, and I hope that noble Lords will not press the amendments.

Amendment 5 includes reference to the development of carbon storage. I thank noble Lords for proposing these amendments because, as I have indicated, between now and Report I should like to look at the whole issue of carbon capture and storage to ensure that there is dovetailing between the existing regime for control of carbon capture and storage and the way that the Oil and Gas Authority will move forward on the matters in the Bill. Clause 4, as I have said, sets out a non-exhaustive list of matters to which the OGA must have regard when exercising its functions. The functions of the OGA include functions relating to carbon capture and storage. A number of the matters refer to “relevant activities”, which is defined as activities in relation to which the OGA has functions. As things stand, the relevant activities therefore include CCS. These matters include the need to collaborate with industry and foster innovation, which should help the CCS sector to achieve its aims. In addition, reference is made under the heading “System of regulation” to encourage “investment in relevant activities”, which once again should include CCS. No other sectors in relation to which the OGA has functions are explicitly referenced by this clause. Making the OGA’s mandate and associated powers on CCS explicit when other sectors are not mentioned could have the effect of prioritising CCS over other areas, which the Government would be against. An example would be maximising

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the delivery of economic recovery. I hope that on that basis, and with the assurance that we will look at the whole issue of CCS between now and Report, the noble Baroness will be content not to press the amendment.

4.45 pm

I thank the noble Baroness for proposing Amendment 8 on behalf of the noble Lord. This amendment makes similar provision to Amendment 5 and would require that the OGA has regard, when exercising its functions, to the need to encourage innovation and working practices,

“with particular emphasis on the development and promotion of carbon transport and storage”.

As I have said, the OGA has functions that relate to the CCS sector and is already required to have regard to the matters referred to in Clause 4 when exercising functions that relate to that sector, so far as relevant. This amendment, like Amendment 5, places too great an emphasis on carbon capture and storage and would have the effect of prioritising it over other areas. The Wood review specifically highlighted the potential of enhanced oil recovery—EOR—as something the Oil and Gas Authority would need to promote, as part of its remit to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas from the continental shelf. As carbon dioxide can be used for enhanced oil recovery, this would potentially make a substantial contribution to lowering the cost of CCS projects, as well as benefiting North Sea revenues and jobs.

Clause 4 sets out that the OGA must have regard to the need to “work collaboratively” with industry and government in carrying out all activities in relation to which it has functions and to encourage innovation in technology and working practices. These legal requirements underpin the way we expect the authority to work with the department and the carbon capture and storage industry. If needed, there are other powers that DECC may use to force the OGA to do this, for example through the Secretary of State’s power of direction. I hope that noble Lords have found these comments reassuring and will not press their amendment.

I thank noble Lords for proposing Amendments 10 and 11. The Oil and Gas Authority has been established to deal with the real and severe challenges facing the United Kingdom continental shelf and the United Kingdom’s important oil and gas industry. Its primary role relates to oil and gas. The Oil and Gas Authority will have some functions in relation to carbon dioxide storage sites and permits, and will therefore be required to take account of the needs of CCS as it carries out its role. We acknowledge the benefits that carbon capture and storage can offer the continental shelf. No barriers which might inhibit active consideration of CCS are being put in place in the Energy Bill, and making the OGA’s mandate and associated powers on CCS more explicit might compromise delivery of the goal of maximising economic recovery, if additional duties were overly onerous or distracting.

Further to what I have said, we do not propose to give the OGA a new objective relating to CCS through the Energy Bill. This is because there is uncertainty at the moment over the desired role on carbon capture and storage, which is also acknowledged by the Carbon Capture & Storage Association, which wants regulation

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to be proportionate to the emerging nascent state of the CCS industry. There is also a strong likelihood that further legislative opportunities could be forthcoming. I hope that noble Lords have found these explanations reassuring.

Turning to Amendments 20 and 21, I once again thank noble Lords for proposing the amendments. As has been the case elsewhere, these amendments seek to broaden the definition of “licensee” throughout Part 2 of the Bill to include carbon capture and storage licensees. Part 2 creates a raft of further regulatory functions for the Oil and Gas Authority relating to offshore petroleum. As I have said previously, the Wood review carried out a thorough assessment of the oil and gas industry in the North Sea and of what was needed to support this mature and well-established industry. The result was the recommendation for a raft of new and significant regulatory powers, part of which is seen in Part 2 of the Bill.

These amendments would considerably widen the scope of these new regulatory powers beyond the realms envisaged by the Wood review and would extend the powers of the Oil and Gas Authority significantly, without consultation or full consideration of the impacts. These amendments subject carbon capture and storage licensees to the whole raft of new obligations and requirements imposed by Part 2 of the Bill. This includes the obligations in relation to information and samples, and the requirements imposed by the access to meetings provisions. It would also bring carbon capture and storage licensees within the scope of the Oil and Gas Authority’s sanctions regime.

The Government recognise the role of the United Kingdom’s carbon capture and storage industry. However, I suggest that the full impact of the widening of the regulatory scope that these amendments would create has not been thoroughly considered. This is particularly in the context of whether the regulatory burdens that would be imposed on the nascent CCS industry are necessary or justifiable. We do not want to impose these new obligations.

That said, as I have indicated previously in relation to other amendments, we are happy to sit down and look at how the whole CCS issue dovetails with the Oil and Gas Authority, because we have a shared interest across the House in ensuring that we maximise the important role of the CCS industry in helping us to decarbonise and reach the targets that we need to reach. I respectfully ask my noble friend to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Worthington: Before the Minister sits down, although I thought that we had been making quite good progress in this debate in recognising the need to address the OGA’s powers in relation to CCS, I felt that the comments in response to this amendment seemed to be very narrow in their interpretation of what we are going to be considering before Report. I reiterate that our not moving the amendments in this group does not preclude the fact that we want a full and deep discussion about which of those OGA powers need to be amended to address CCS. As we will come on to discuss, that will involve access to meetings, information samples and a whole raft of things that will be needed to facilitate CCS. Although I will not be

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moving those amendments, I reiterate that we should not be sliding back and we should be looking at the whole issue holistically before Report.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth: I thank the noble Baroness for that intervention. I am happy to do that, as I have indicated, but I do not want to give the impression—I do not want to commit us to this—that we are undermining the focus of the Oil and Gas Authority, which is to maximise the economic return from the North Sea.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 3 withdrawn.

Amendments 4 to 11 not moved.

Clause 4 agreed.

House resumed.

Syria: Refugees and Counterterrorism


4.52 pm

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows.

“Mr Speaker, before making a Statement on counterterrorism, let me update the House about what we are doing to help address the migration crisis in Europe and, in particular, to help the thousands of refugees who are fleeing from Syria. This issue is clearly the biggest challenge facing countries across Europe today.

More than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year. These people came from different countries and different circumstances. Some are economic migrants in search of a better life in Europe; many are refugees fleeing conflict. It is vital to distinguish between the two.

In recent weeks we have seen a vast increase in the numbers arriving across the eastern Mediterranean from Turkey. More than 150,000 have attempted that route since January. The majority of these are Syrian refugees fleeing the terror of Assad and ISIL, which has seen more than 11 million people driven from their homes.

The whole country has been deeply moved by the heart-breaking images we have seen over the past few days. It is absolutely right that Britain should fulfil its moral responsibility to help those refugees, just as we have done proudly throughout our history. However, in doing so we must use our head and our heart by pursuing a comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences. That means helping to stabilise countries where the refugees are coming from, seeking a solution to the crisis in Syria, pushing for the formation of a new unity government in Libya, busting the criminal gangs that are profiting from this human tragedy and playing our part in saving lives in the Mediterranean, where our Royal Navy has now rescued over 6,700 people.

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Britain is doing, and will continue to do, all these things. We are using our aid budget to alleviate poverty and suffering in the countries where these people are coming from. We are the only major country in the world that has kept its promise to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid. We are already the second largest bilateral donor of aid to the Syrian conflict, including providing more than 18 million food rations, giving 1.6 million people access to clean water and providing education to a quarter of a million children. Last week we announced a further £100 million, taking our total contribution to more than £1 billion. That is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis. Some £60 million of this additional funding will go to help Syrians still in Syria. The rest will go to neighbouring countries—Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon—where Syrian refugees now account for one quarter of the population. More than half of this new funding will support children, with a particular priority given to those who have been orphaned or separated from their families.

No other European country has come close to this level of support. Without Britain’s aid to these camps, the numbers attempting the dangerous journey to Europe would be very much higher. As my right honourable friend the Chancellor said yesterday, we will now go much further in the spending review, significantly reshaping the way we use our aid budget to serve our national interest. We will invest even more in tackling the causes of the crisis in the Middle East and north Africa and we will hold much larger sums in reserve to respond to acute humanitarian crises as they happen.

Turning to the question of refugees, Britain already works with the UN to deliver resettlement programmes and we will accept thousands more under these existing schemes. We have already provided sanctuary to more than 5,000 Syrians in Britain and have introduced a specific resettlement scheme, alongside those we already have, to help those Syrian refugees particularly at risk. However, given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the Syrian people, it is right that we should do even more. So we are proposing that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament. In doing so, we will continue to show the world that this is a country of extraordinary compassion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need.

So, Britain will play its part alongside our other European partners. However, because we are not part of the EU’s borderless Schengen agreement or its relocation initiative, Britain is able to decide its own approach. So we will continue our approach of taking refugees from the camps and from elsewhere in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. This provides refugees with a more direct, safer route to the United Kingdom, rather than risking the hazardous journey to Europe which has, tragically, cost so many lives. We will continue to use the established UNHCR process for identifying and resettling refugees and when they arrive here we will grant them a five-year humanitarian protection visa. We will significantly expand the criteria we use for our existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation

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Scheme. As we do so, we will recognise that children have been particularly badly affected by the crisis in Syria.

In most cases the interests of children are best met in the region, where they can remain close to surviving family members. In cases where the advice of the UNHCR is that their needs should be met by resettlement in the UK, we will ensure that vulnerable children, including orphans, will be a priority. Over recent days we have seen councils and our devolved Administrations coming forward to express their willingness to do more to take Syrian refugees. This has reflected a wider generosity from families and communities across our country. I commend, in particular, the Archbishop of Canterbury for the offer made by the Church of England. My right honourable friends the Home Secretary and the Communities Secretary will now work intensively with local authorities and the devolved Administrations to put in place the necessary arrangements to house and support the refugees that we resettle. The Home Secretary will update the House on these plans next week.

Finally for this part of the Statement, in full accordance with internationally agreed rules we will also ensure that the full cost of supporting thousands of Syrian refugees in the UK will be met through our aid spending for the first year, easing the burden on local communities. This will be a truly national effort, and I know the whole House will come together in supporting these refugees in their hour of need.

Turning to our national security, I would like to update the House on action taken this summer to protect our country from a terrorist attack. With the rise of ISIL, we know that the terrorist threats to our country are growing. In 2014 there were 15 ISIL-related attacks around the world. This year there have already been 150 such attacks, including the appalling tragedies in Tunisia in which 31 Britons lost their lives. I can tell the House that our police and security services have stopped at least six different attempts to attack the UK in the last 12 months alone.

The threat picture facing Britain in terms of Islamist extremist violence is more acute today than ever before. In stepping up our response to meet this threat we have developed a comprehensive counterterrorism strategy that seeks to prevent and disrupt plots against this country at every stage. It includes new powers to stop suspects travelling and powers to enable our police and our security services to apply for stronger locational constraints on those in the UK who pose a risk. It addresses the root cause of the threat—the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism—by taking on all forms of extremism, not just violent extremism. We have pursued Islamist terrorists through the courts and criminal justice system. Since 2010, over 800 people have been arrested and over 140 successfully prosecuted. Our approach includes acting overseas to tackle the threat at source, with British aircraft delivering nearly 300 air strikes over Iraq, and our airborne intelligence and surveillance assets assisting our coalition partners with their operations over Syria.

As part of this counterterrorism strategy, as I have said before, if there is a direct threat to British people and we are able to stop it by taking immediate action,

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as Prime Minister I will always be prepared to take that action. That is the case whether that threat is emanating from Libya, Syria or anywhere else. In recent weeks it has been reported that two ISIL fighters of British nationality who had been plotting attacks against the UK and other countries have been killed in air strikes. Both Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting ISIL sympathisers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain, such as plots to attack high-profile public commemorations, including those taking place this summer. We should be under no illusion. Their intention was the murder of British citizens. So on this occasion we ourselves took action.

Today I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision strike carried out on 21 August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqa in Syria. In addition to Reyaad Khan, who was the target of the strike, two ISIL associates were also killed, one of whom, Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters, and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties.

We took this action because there was no alternative. In this area, there is no Government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots, and there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home. So we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action. The US Administration have also confirmed that Junaid Hussain was killed in an American air strike on 24 August in Raqqa. With these issues of national security and with current prosecutions ongoing, the House will appreciate that there are limits on the details I can provide. However, let me set out for the House the legal basis for the action we took, the processes we followed, and the implications of this action for our wider strategy in countering the threat of ISIL.

First, I am clear that the action we took was entirely lawful. The Attorney-General was consulted and was clear that there would be a clear, legal basis for action in international law. We were exercising the UK’s inherent right to self-defence. There was clear evidence of the individual in question planning and directing armed attacks against the UK. These were part of a series of actual and foiled attempts to attack the UK and our allies. In the prevailing circumstances in Syria, this air strike was the only feasible means of effectively disrupting the attacks planned and directed by this individual. It was necessary and proportionate for the individual self-defence of the UK. The United Nations Charter requires members to inform the president of the Security Council of activity conducted in self-defence. Today the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations will write to the president of the Security Council reporting this specific military activity in Syria and explaining that this action was taken in the individual self-defence of the United Kingdom.

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Turning to the process, as I said to the House in September last year,

“it is important to reserve the right that if there were a critical British national interest at stake or there were the need to act to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, you could act immediately and explain to the House of Commons afterwards”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 26/9/14; col. 1265.]

Our intelligence agencies identified the direct threat to the UK from this individual. They informed me and other senior Ministers of this threat. At a meeting of the most senior members of the National Security Council, we agreed that, should the right opportunity arise, the military should take action. The Attorney-General attended the meeting and confirmed that there was a legal basis for action. On that basis, the Defence Secretary authorised the operation. The strike complied with international law and was conducted according to specific military rules of engagement, which always comply with international law and the principles of proportionality and military necessity. The military assessed the target location and chose the optimum time to minimise the risk of civilian casualties. This was a sensitive operation to prevent a very real threat to our country.

I have come to the House today to explain in detail what has happened and to answer questions about it. I want to be clear that this strike was not part of coalition military action against ISIL in Syria. It was a targeted strike to deal with a clear, credible and specific terrorist threat to our country at home. The position with regard to the wider conflict with ISIL in Syria has not changed. As the House knows, I believe that there is a strong case for the UK taking part in air strikes as part of the international coalition to target ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq. I believe that case only grows stronger with the growing number of terrorist plots being directed or inspired by ISIL’s core leadership in in Raqqa, but I have been absolutely clear that the Government will return to this House for a separate vote if we propose to join coalition strikes in Syria.

My first duty as Prime Minister is to keep the British people safe. That is what I will always do. There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him. The Government do not for one moment take these decisions lightly but I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and have to explain to the House why I did not take the chance to prevent it, when I could have done. That is why I believe our approach is right. I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.08 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lady for repeating the Prime Minister’s statement, which raises the most serious issues of humanity, moral obligations and national security. I would first like to ask about the refugee crisis. I think it fair to say that, until recently, many people were not even aware of the scale of the terror, the crisis and fear facing millions who have been forced to flee Syria. They are not people who want to leave their homes or their country. They are people from all walks of life, forced out in fear of their lives and those of their families. This is a defining moment for our country and for the Government.

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The body of a child washed up on a beach has shocked, upset and horrified everyone, but such deaths of those abused by traffickers in seeking sanctuary is not new and has been debated in your Lordships’ House on a number of occasions. We must be strong, confident and proud in reaching out to those seeking refuge on our shores.

Among the Syrian children whom we will now take in will be the future hospital consultants at our bedsides, the entrepreneurs who will build our economy and the professors in our universities. They will also be among the strongest upholders of British values, because that has always been the story of refugees to this country, whether it was the Jewish children of the Kinder transport, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, or the Asian families whom I knew when I was younger, driven out of east Africa more than 20 years ago, or Sierra Leoneans fleeing a brutal civil war. The Prime Minister said last week that it would not help to take more refugees because it would not solve the problems in Syria, but that is a false choice. Helping those Jewish children was not part of our efforts to end the Second World War; helping east Asian families did not bring down the brutal dictatorships; but it was the right thing to do. It was a natural, human response.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that our country will provide sanctuary to 20,000 refugees. I appreciate that it will be over this Parliament, but can the noble Baroness reassure me on the need for urgency, because people are losing their lives today? Can I suggest that it would be helpful now to convene local authority leaders from all over the country to discuss what they are prepared for, what they are able to do to settle those refugees into their areas, and the regional and local distribution to ensure that all areas can play their part—rural as well as urban, towns as well as cities? Many local authorities have already indicated that they are keen to step forward and play their part, which is greatly to their credit. They will need reassurances on additional resources, given the level of cuts they have already faced.

The Government have said that they plan to use the international aid budget for this purpose. Why did they not just use the reserves? Ensuring that refugees can be welcomed, supported and integrated is an issue not just for local government or the Home Office but for transport, education, health, business, tourism and, as we have heard, the devolved authorities. It is an issue also for churches, community groups and so many individuals who have cried out for action from the Government. Beyond what the Prime Minister has told the other place, can the noble Baroness tell us what discussions are planned to guarantee a nationwide, cross-government strategy that will co-ordinate the efforts of those who want to help and have asked the Government to help?

We support aid to existing refugee camps. Does the noble Baroness accept that desperate conditions in those camps have contributed to far too many people risking their lives trying to bring their families to Europe, and that this reinforces the need for greater co-operation across the EU and with the United Nations?

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I turn counterterrorism, because the scale of the threat posed by ISIL is clear. We have witnessed its brutal torture and murder of British citizens abroad and the sickening attacks that it has inspired and sought to organise here at home. The security services, the Armed Forces and our police do immensely important work to try to keep us safe. It is a difficult and dangerous task, and we are grateful to them for their efforts. This is the first time that Parliament has heard of the specific operation on 21 August, when the Government authorised the targeting and killing of a British citizen in Syria, a country where our use of military force is not authorised. We understand that a meeting of senior members of the National Security Council agreed that, should the right opportunity arise, the military should take action, as the noble Baroness said in the Statement. The Prime Minister said that the action was legally justifiable under the doctrine of national self-defence because, first, the man was planning and directing armed attacks in the UK; secondly, there was no other way of stopping him; and, thirdly, the action was necessary and proportionate. The evidence on each of these points is crucial to the justification for the action. Is it significant that the Attorney-General did not authorise this specific action but confirmed that,

“there was a legal basis”,

for it? Was the Attorney-General’s advice given or confirmed in writing, and will it be published? The Statement informs us that the Defence Secretary “authorised the operation”. Why was it not the Prime Minister himself who gave the authorisation?

I want to ask the noble Baroness about the specific target of this attack, although I understand that there may be things she cannot disclose to the House. In as much as she can, can she say what it was about this individual and his action that singled him out, given some of the other reports we have had? Did he represent an ongoing threat, or was the threat based on a specific act that he was plotting? Does she accept that there is a need for independent scrutiny of government action, perhaps by the CT reviewer and the Intelligence and Security Committee? Can she tell me whether they have been asked to look at this?

We are already engaged in the use of force against ISIL in Iraq. However, it is vital that the UK continue to play its part in international efforts to combat ISIL across the region. What is clear from the Statement is that, if the Prime Minister is to propose to join coalition strikes in Syria, he will return to the House of Commons for a vote on authorisation. Although your Lordships’ House will not have a vote, it may be helpful to reiterate the position as set out by the acting Labour Party leader and shadow Secretary of State for Defence on 2 July. She made it clear when she said that ISIL,

“brutalise people, they murder people, and they are horrifically oppressive”.

We will carefully consider any proposals in relation to military action in Syria that the Government bring forward, but we all need to be clear about what difference any action would make to our objective of defeating ISIL, the nature of any action and its objectives, and the legal basis. Potential action must command the support of other nations in the region, including Iraq and the coalition already taking action in Syria.

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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement and thank her for ensuring that there is additional time for questions from Back-Benchers today, given the level of interest in this issue. We look forward to her response.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement on these very profound and serious issues. I also endorse what the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition said—we appreciate the fact that there will be an extended period for Back-Bench questions.

Probably nothing is more important than the Government’s primary responsibility of security of the realm and its citizens. The Prime Minister acknowledges that in his Statement. Clearly, we do not have the evidence, nor would it be appropriate to share that evidence publicly, and therefore we must accept the judgment of the Prime Minster in responding to perhaps one of the most serious calls that has been made on him. However, it would be interesting to know whether this is a matter that the Intelligence and Security Committee will be able to look at.

There is also reference in the Statement to the legal basis. Having worked closely as a law officer with the present Attorney-General, I know that his judgment would be made with considerable rigorous legal diligence and bringing to bear his considerable personal and professional integrity. I do not call for the publication of law officers’ advice; that is not something that, as a former officer, I would readily do. However, the noble Baroness will remember that before the House debated chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime and a possible UK government response, and before we debated last year the position on military action in Iraq against ISIL, the Government published on each occasion a statement setting out the Government’s legal position. If it is felt possible to elaborate on what was said in the Statement by a similar note, I think that we would find that very helpful.

The images of migration that we have seen on our screens and in our newspapers over recent days have certainly touched our common humanity. There has been an outpouring of the view that we must welcome refugees, and that is one that we certainly endorse. The Statement says that,

“the whole country has been deeply moved by the heart-breaking images we have seen over the past few days”.

However, will the noble Baroness the Leader of the House tell us whether any of those travelling across Europe at the moment will be accommodated in any way by what was set out in the Statement? We have heard of 20,000 refugees—said very loudly; “over five years” is probably said more sotto voce—but these are people in camps in countries bordering Syria. That is not to dismiss what is being done in that regard, and it is welcome in as far as it goes. However, what the people in this country have been crying out about are the scenes on our television screens of people walking across Europe, fleeing terror and destitution. Yet can the Minister point to one sentence in this Statement that indicates that for those people there is some glimmer of hope that the United Kingdom will be a welcome haven?

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We have a common problem and it requires a common response. There are problems in the Mediterranean, on Europe’s borders and in coming across Europe and we should be promoting a common European response. The European Union system has its failings. The Dublin system is not by any stretch of the imagination perfect, but by our stand-offish stance we seem to have forfeited any real or moral authority in being able to give the lead in trying to improve or work out a more coherent European approach to this. Will the Government commit themselves to taking a more active role in co-operating with our European partners, as well as in participating in European Union efforts on relocation?

With regard to those who are coming, we welcome the steps have been taken. Many local authorities have indicated a willingness to take refugees. The Leader of the Opposition asked what would be done to bring these local authorities together, and it would be useful to know what consultations had already taken place. What consideration has been given as to whether there should be a dispersal programme or whether it is better to keep communities together for mutual support? I do not pretend that I have the answer to that, but real issues are involved. What has been done to ensure that there are interpretation services, counselling and support services for English as a second language?

We have heard about the international aid budget being used for the first year to support local authorities, but surely in a situation such as this there is something in reserve that we could use. The Statement itself refers to holding “larger sums in reserve”. Has this been taken from the overseas aid budget for future years or has a separate reserve been taken up?

The Statement says that,

“we will ensure that vulnerable children, including orphans, will be a priority”.

Just before we went into recess, there was a report about 600 young Afghans who had arrived in the United Kingdom as unaccompanied children who were deported after their 18th birthdays because their temporary leave to remain had expired. Many had already established strong roots in the communities where they were living. When we hear about the fact that we will give priority to vulnerable children including orphans, can we have some reassurance from the Government that they will not be summarily sent back after their 18th birthdays?

We will not resolve the Syrian refugee crisis unless there is a wider resolution to the Syrian problem. What steps have the Government taken to try to promote broader engagement with countries that might not at first instance appear likely to help, such as Russia and Iran, whose engagement will be necessary if we are to get a long-term lasting diplomatic settlement and tackle some of the root causes?

There is an immediate crisis on our doorstep. There are 2 million refugees in Turkey, 1.4 million in Jordan, and over 1 million in Lebanon. According to the UNHCR, there are 60 million displaced people worldwide, 46 million of whom are assisted and protected by the UNHCR. Developing countries host 86% of the world’s refugees. While we have an immediate problem, there is a much wider global problem. We have to play our part in the funding that we have given to the UNHCR but we should be trying our best to engage more

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countries, such as the Gulf states and the United States of America. Are we in a position to give some leadership to look to the future and tackle the global problems that will exist? We will return time and again to this issue, I suspect, because of its global nature.

The Prime Minister said earlier this week that Britain is a moral country. I believe that. I believe from what we have seen from communities and people across the country that we are a moral country, but I rather fear that this Statement falls short of a moral response.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble and learned Lord for their responses to the Statement. I will start by responding to comments that were made about the refugee situation. I certainly agree with the noble Baroness about the contribution that refugees have made to this country over decades. I share her assessment of the positive aspects that we have gained as a country because of our approach to accepting refugees historically.

The noble Baroness asked me quite a few questions about this situation, including whether we would be starting off the new, expanded approach, which the Prime Minister announced today, by treating the matter as urgent. I can confirm that this is indeed urgent. The Prime Minister is right to say that accepting a specific number of refugees will not solve this crisis. We must make a contribution to assisting the people who have been affected so devastatingly in Syria. The country can be proud of what we have done over the last few years in assisting refugees who have been displaced there. Our approach to the numbers who arrive here will be very much informed by the UNHCR process. We will work very closely with them, as they are the experts in this area who will be able to advise on the people we should be accommodating. We will clearly be co-operating with local authorities and we have been in contact with the Local Government Association today. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, the Home Secretary and Communities Secretary will be leading a new Cabinet committee to make sure that we are co-ordinated, across government, in our proper response and in the way we support the refugees as they arrive.