HL Deb 18 January 2005 vol 668 cc647-9

3.1 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

asked Her Majesty's Government: When they will submit a printed copy of their response to the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology on Renewable Energy: Practicalities (4th Report of Session 2003-04) and what steps they will take to draw the response to the attention of Members of the House.

Lord Triesman

My Lords, the Minister for Energy sent the response to the chairman of the committee on 17 December. Unfortunately, it was not e-mailed to the Clerk at the same time, and for this I apologise straightforwardly. I draw the attention of Members of the House to the fact that copies were placed in the Libraries on 14 January.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I am sure the whole House will accept, as I certainly do, without reservation, the Minister's apology. Is it not in fact of some comfort to realise that this was not conspiracy but cock-up?

Can the Minister now say what is being done to draw the attention of the media and especially the specialist press to the points made in the response to what was an extremely important Select Committee report about renewable energy?

Lord Triesman

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for the way in which he has responded to my first Answer. He drew my attention to the fact that the document was in the Library of the House, which gave me my opportunity to see and read it. I thank him for that.

This is an important document, which is a reply to an important document. I give the straightforward undertaking that I will ensure that there is proper discussion regarding how to make sure that it is widely available and discussed in the media.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, would the noble Lord care to comment on paragraph 1.17 of the report? I am sure he will be able to do so. In it, the committee states: We could not avoid the conclusion that the Government are not taking energy problems, sufficiently seriously … most important of all we could find no one at the executive level whose responsibility it was to ensure continuity of supply". I am sure the noble Lord will be able to give us an adequate answer to those strictures.

Lord Triesman

My Lords, I committed paragraph 1.17 to memory only this morning. During the course of a major debate tomorrow to be introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, we will have a very good opportunity to explore this in detail.

In their response, the Government have said that, through the co-ordination system among all those departments with a legitimate and proper interest in energy, they believe that there is the co-ordination which the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, has frequently impressed on the House is needed. As we have said in many responses to energy Questions, the overall diversity of sources of energy is vital, not just for security of supply but for the environment and many other matters. It is taken very seriously.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, will the Minister, having admitted that a mistake was made with regard to the report, confirm or deny reports stating that internal documents reveal that the Government have tried to have their commitments to lower the targets set for carbon emissions deleted from the European text at meetings in September and December?

Lord Triesman

My Lords, I am aware of absolutely no change in government policy in the targets on emissions. When speaking in a debate on renewable energy last Friday, I restated all those targets as essential milestones.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, will the noble Lord consult with his colleagues at Defra about progress on combined heat and power stations fuelled by wood and timber waste? In asking that question, I declare my interest as a woodland owner.

Lord Triesman

My Lords, that is one of the strands of the renewables policy. In a debate on Friday in your Lordships' House, we went through some of the advantages of doing precisely what the noble Lord has just suggested. Without trying to avoid answering the question, there is likely to be an extremely detailed discussion tomorrow on all these matters relating to the supply of electricity, and I hope that I can deal with it more appropriately then.

Baroness Miller of Hendon

My Lords, could the noble Lord say whether it could just be that the Government's response was not sent to the press or to the specialist press—leaving aside the question of whether it was cock-up or conspiracy, and I accept what my noble friend has already accepted—because the report was so damning on their energy policy? I shall not quote numbers, but one section says that with the exception of the Government, hardly anyone thinks that their energy targets, set out in the White Paper, will ever be reached.

Lord Triesman

My Lords, just as in this House there have been candid disagreements about the likely success of renewable sources of energy, there have also been candid disagreements about whether we should embark on a new-build policy in relation to nuclear power immediately. Such candid disagreements are reflected in the exchange between the committee and the Government.