HC Deb 04 July 2003 vol 408 cc714-6

"Before the end of 2003 the Secretary of State must make a statement specifying those measures that he intends to take to move towards the achievement of the generation of 10 per cent. of electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010.".—[Mr. Chope.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

2.7 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)

With this we may discuss the following:

New clause 2—CHP targets(1) Before the end of 2003 the Secretary of State must make a statement specifying those measures that he intends to take to move towards the achievement of the generation of 10 GW of electricity by CHP by the end of 2010. (2) At any time after making the statement mentioned in subsection (1) the Secretary of State may make a further statement specifying those measures he intends to take to increase the generation of electricity by combined heat and power for the period beyond 2010.".

Amendment No. 8, in clause 1, page 1, line 2, after "2004" insert "and ending in 2015".—

Amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 5, leave out paragraph (a) and insert— () Achieving a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide by 20 per cent. by 2010 based on 1990 levels".—

Amendment No. 6, in page 5, line 4, leave out Clause 5.

Mr. Chope

My remarks will be brief because I am as keen as anybody to see the Bill on the statute book. I am as disappointed as the promoter, the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White), and most Members at the attitude of the Government, which has resulted in the Bill we supported on Second Reading being filleted of all its important targets in the Standing Committee.

New clause 1 is fundamental. Without it, the measure will not exert on the Government the necessary pressure for renewables. It requires that before the end of 2003 the Secretary of State should make a statement specifying the measures he intends to take to move towards the achievement of the generation of 10 per cent. of electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2010.

If that sounds a familiar target, that is because it is—it was included in the Labour party manifesto and in the Government"s White Paper. Successive Ministers have given a commitment to it. In the Standing Committee, the former Minister for Energy and Construction, the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), said: I am happy to restate the renewables target, which is that 10 per cent. of our electricity should come from renewable sources of energy by 2010.—[Official Report, Standing Committee C,11 June 2003; c. 5.] Later, he described the target as "extremely challenging".

Perhaps it was because the target was too challenging that the Government decided to remove references to targets from the Bill. However, I think that such references need to be put back, because since Second Reading we have received the great insights of the Select Committee on Science and Technology. Paragraph 214 of the Committee"s fourth and very thorough report concludes: There is no prospect of achieving the target of 10 per cent. renewable generation by 2010 or the aspiration of 20 per cent. by 2020. There is no chance of meeting the Government"s targets for CO2 reductions if current policies and market conditions remain in place.

The most important part of that is the Select Committee's finding, it having taken a wealth of evidence, that there is no prospect of achieving the 10 per cent. renewables target by 2010, despite that being at the core of the Government"s energy policy.

Is it surprising that everyone regards the Government"s energy policy as being in chaos, and the way in which the Bill has been conducted as a tussle between Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Trade and Industry? The Bill would be immeasurably better if the new clause were included, and I hope that the promoter will accept it.

Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

I am already in trouble for spending my wedding anniversary here rather than at home, but I will perhaps get into more trouble by sympathising with the speech made by the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope). Although stringent targets were originally included in the Bill, they were changed in Committee because of a long series of negotiations, so I sympathise with the points that he makes. However, it took a long time to try to get to a position where the Government, the interest groups and others, as well as the Opposition spokespersons, could accept the Bill. I say spokespersons because the hon. Member for Tewkesbury (Mr. Robertson) is the third official Opposition spokesman on energy with whom I have had to deal in relation to the Bill, and I welcome him to his new post.

No one is entirely happy with the Bill, but everyone can live with it at the moment. Even though I am sorely tempted by the proposal made by the hon. Member for Christchurch, I shall resist it because it would upset the balance. To be fair to the Government, they are taking action on the renewables obligation. They have exempted renewables from the climate change levy. They are putting £350 million into capital grants and research and development. They have changed the planning guidance on renewable energy, and they have set out a strategic framework for offshore wind generation and a programme under the Renewables UK unit.

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury)

The hon. Gentleman mentions a missed anniversary: I recommend lnterflora—it works wonders.

The hon. Gentleman lists a catalogue of very positive things, but does he agree that the introduction of the very reasonable target in new clause 1 would only add to the achievements and ambitions that he has outlined?

Brian White

When I originally proposed what was clause 1, there was a whole series of targets, not just one, such as those in the White Paper. There was a long discussion between the different interest groups and the Government about whether a generalised proposal would achieve those targets. The Government gave certain commitments in Committee that, within that generalised duty, they would report on the specific items in the White Paper. I accepted that commitment from the Minister, and I hope that he will reiterate it now and say that the generalised reporting duty will ensure that those targets are addressed.

Mr. Chope

Rather than take up valuable time with the Minister reiterating what the hon. Gentleman says he has already said, may I tell the hon. Gentleman that, if he sits down and no one else stands up, it is my intention to withdraw the motion, so that we can move on?

Brian White

On that basis, I shall sit down.

The Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services (Mr. Stephen Timms)

The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) has made a very helpful offer to the House. Of course, I would have opposed his proposal and taken a little time to explain why he was mistaken in some of the points he made about the Government"s approach to such matters. He has made a generous offer, which the House will appreciate. In the light of that good will, I will not put to the House the points that I would have otherwise made.

Mr. Chope

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

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