All Baroness Blackstone debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Onshore Wind Bill [HL]

(2nd reading)
Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Friday 19th November 2021

(1 week, 2 days ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (CB)
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My Lords, I rise to speak in favour of this Bill, tabled by my colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman. I declare my interest as a co-chair of the Peers for the Planet group.

As has been eloquently expressed, onshore wind is our cheapest as well as a hugely trusted and now well-developed form of renewable electricity. It has been providing 10% of our electricity, or around that, from 2018. However, it has seen something of a huge decline in England and Wales, thanks to changes introduced in the 2015 Conservative Party manifesto. One of the two barriers, as has already been discussed, is around the fact that contracts were no longer being provided for support for these technologies. The Government deserve praise for addressing that, and we will soon see an auction for CfDs in which onshore wind can compete, which is a great step forward. However, in England and Wales specifically, we still see a very considerable barrier to development through planning guidance, which was also changed.

I do not need to repeat it, but I will stress that the two factors requiring that onshore wind must be featured in a local plan in an identified area, and the decision that it should receive the full backing of the local community, generate a huge amount of uncertainty for developers and create a distortion in planning, because normal planning would not require this for other forms of renewable energy. Could the Minister tell us how many local authorities have introduced local area plans where onshore wind is identified as being allowed? Could he also tell us how he defines the term “the full backing of the community”? It seems to leave a huge amount open to judgment for local planners, which is what is deterring developers—to such an extent that we saw a 96% drop in applications between 2016 and 2020. We absolutely need to see new planning guidance, with clarity that allows appropriate developments that achieve the right balance to come forward.

Times have changed since 2015. We have just seen the international climate talks conclude in Glasgow, where it became absolutely clear that we all need to do much more to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and that countries such as the UK, which is in a very fortunate position to be able to lead, should be leading, and considering what more we can do. Onshore wind has been a huge success, and it has been stalled; it is time to bring it back, so we can use it to meet our zero-carbon electricity target for 2035.

Meeting that target will be made much more difficult through the natural ageing of our existing onshore wind infrastructure. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, described the fact that we will start to see capacity fall off from our onshore wind industry, and by 2027 to 2030 we could lose 3.6 gigawatts, which could rise to 8 gigawatts by 2040. That is enough to power 5 million homes. How are we going to reach our zero-emissions target in 2035 if we are losing that scale of capacity from this trusted source of clean power?

The good news is that, if we do repower existing sites, we can expect to see more power out, for less footprint. A study from Renewables UK in 2019 said that 19 sites had been repowered to date and that that had increased capacity by 160%, with one-third fewer turbines. So this is absolutely a win-win for everybody, if we can allow the repowering of sites to come forward. The communities that have wind farms in their landscapes are already accustomed to them, and many people have found that the objections they feared before they were built have fallen away on them being actually brought into being, and that in fact they see many benefits.

I also reiterate the point about cost savings. This is the cheapest form of renewable electricity available to us; indeed, it is the cheapest form of electricity full stop. A Vivid Economics study in June 2019 estimated that, if we reached 35 gigawatts in 2035—that would be adding an extra 20-plus gigawatts to current levels—we would see a 7% reduction in our electricity bills compared with continuing to use gas. That report was written in 2019, and we all know that we have seen very high volatility in gas prices since then.

It is absolutely clear that we should not be dependent on imported gas for our energy security. It will not provide us with the reliable and cheap electricity that we need to reach our targets. Many noble Lords will hopefully instinctively understand this: when I was working in the power industry, we knew that gas demand spiked with wind; when there was a windy night in winter, we knew that gas demand would rise. So why not harness the wind in those periods, so that we can reduce our reliance on gas?

I conclude by saying—as has been said before—that this is not just an environmental question, it is one of development, jobs, investment in supply chains, winning exports and Britain leading in the world again. In 2015, times were very different. In the six years since then, climate change has risen up the agenda, the public are aware and people care—the youth of today are demanding more of us. I fully support the Bill and hope that the Minister will provide us with a positive response. This is something we can do today to unlock huge investment and get those millions, billions and trillions flowing into clean energy, which we need to see if we are to meet our Paris targets. So I hope that we will have a good debate and I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for introducing this important Bill. Countless reports have strongly recommended much greater investment in renewable energy. Without such investment, the UK is extremely unlikely to reach its net-zero carbon target by 2050. One such report, which UCL and Vivid Economics submitted to the Climate Change Committee, recommended:

“Significant new renewable generation capacity is needed to accommodate rapid uptake of electric vehicles and hybrid heat pumps”.

Without it, those changes will not really be able to take place. The report goes on to say:

“Over the period to 2035, up to 35 GW onshore wind … could be needed.”

Moreover, the Net Zero Strategy recognises the need for more onshore wind, stating that carbon budget 6

“also requires a sustained increase to the deployment of land-based renewables such as locally supported onshore wind and solar in the 2020s and beyond.”

The problem is that it fails to set out how this is to be achieved. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister could tell the House what assessment the Government have made of the recommendation of 35 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2035.

As has been said by both the previous speakers, one great advantage of onshore wind is that its cost is relatively low. Indeed, it is the lowest-cost form of new electricity generation, so much so that the cost of electricity from onshore wind projects is currently lower than the wholesale electricity price. Forecasts suggest that it will become even cheaper, providing considerable benefit to consumers—and we must think about the consumers in this area. It has been calculated that 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2030 would create approximately £16.3 billion of consumer payback, cutting energy bills by £25 per year.

The fact that the Government have included onshore wind in the next auction round for contracts for difference is therefore very welcome. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, more clarity on this with respect to the longer term would lead to greater certainty for investors as well as cheaper electricity for consumers. At present, auctions are approximately every two years. Renewable UK recommends annual auctions. More frequent auctions would reduce the risk for investors by increasing the availability of finance and bringing down costs even further, allowing investment to happen at lower capital cost. So would the Government be prepared to commit to annual CfD auctions for onshore wind as part of a long-term plan? It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm this.

I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to updating the energy national policy statements so that there can be even greater clarity on the need and urgency for low-carbon infrastructure. Can the Minister tell the House what the progress of the review in respect of nationally significant infrastructure projects has been? Since 2008, onshore projects have not been included following changes to the Planning Act 2008; nor was this rectified in 2015, which was disappointing. Will they now be mentioned?

I end by supporting everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said about the planning process. I hope that the Minister accepts the polling evidence about public opinion on this issue, which is very positive, and that when he responds to the debate he will be able to give the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the answers she sought on planning, so that the bids for onshore projects may get consent in greater numbers in the future.

Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for introducing this Bill. It is absolutely crucial that we address the barriers that have led to onshore wind being neglected and planning applications for it plummeting since the ministerial Statement of 2015 changed the rules on planning guidance. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, and other speakers have said a great deal about the planning process and the barriers that face onshore wind, so I will not repeat much of what they have said.

What I really want to concentrate on is why I think it is so important that we use everything in our arsenal to tackle the climate emergency. It was in 1989 that I left the job I was doing then to go back to my scientific roots, to find out what it was that was causing concern about the climate—I was already concerned about the environment in any case. I left to start a master’s in environmental technology at Imperial College. The talk then among the students, and a lot of the lecturers, was about the amount of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere, and that it was beginning to rise. The Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii was monitoring it. There was some cause for concern and real agreement among everyone that we had to, at all costs, keep carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere to below 400 parts per million. In 2013, the Mauna Loa observatory recorded that 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had been breached. Today, the figure stands at 417 parts per million.

Ice cores from the British Antarctic Survey, among other sources, show us that over the last 800,000 years, since we started to collect records of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, we have never seen concentrations above 300 parts per million. So we are now in uncharted territory. We are seeing extreme weather events that mean we must act urgently. So to me it is a no-brainer that we must do everything we can to get proven, reliable sources of renewable energy that are scalable and cheap and that provide jobs—and we must do that as soon as possible.

Onshore wind is really cheap. There has been some concern about the figures coming out of BEIS. Could the Minister therefore confirm that these figures—I believe they are in its last costings on the levelised cost of electricity, which assess the cost from all sources on a level playing field—show that onshore wind was in fact the cheapest and considerably cheaper than gas? I would really appreciate that. If that is information he does not have at the moment, would he write to me with that? Just from scouring the internet, it is clear that onshore wind is very cheap. The evidence is corroborated by the BBC, the Guardian, Bloomberg and IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency. I want to make sure that this is also the case with BEIS.

Before I go on to some of the historic objections that have been raised, the other real advantage—I thank RenewableUK for this information—is the environmental co-benefits that wind farms can bring. I will cite the example that RenewableUK gave of Scottish Power Renewables’ Mark Hill Wind Farm in South Ayrshire, where a former forestry plantation is being restored to give 192 hectares of natural woodland and 800 hectares of peatland. Here we have seen the return of otters, hen harriers, et cetera, and many other environmental benefits to the area.

In the past, we have had historic objections and a lack of community consent. The Survation polls mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, show that those objections are just no longer there. Anecdotally, when I visited friends of mine in Derbyshire 10 years ago, they really objected to the wind turbine that was going to be put up on the hill behind them. This summer, when I visited again, they said they have no further objections and would very much welcome the continuation and expansion of wind power there. These feelings are corroborated by the survey.

Secondly, embedded carbon in the construction of wind turbines was also a concern. RenewableUK tells us that the carbon in the construction will be got back within six months, and the remaining 20 to 30-year lifetime will provide very green energy indeed.

Lastly, on the recyclability of concrete in wind turbines, for many years about 85% of the materials used were recyclable. Today, the new technology means that the resin used in blade construction can be totally recycled, and we are now looking at 100% recyclability.

I really hope the Government will see fit to back this Bill. In order to deal with the climate catastrophe facing us, we have to do everything we can as quickly as we can.

Net-zero Emissions Target: Fossil Fuel Extraction Projects

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(3 weeks, 4 days ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The problem with the noble Baroness’s argument is that we currently get three-quarters of our energy from oil and gas. It is a declining percentage as we decarbonise, but we currently get three-quarters of our energy in that way. Would the Liberal Democrats prefer that energy to come from Saudi Arabia or Russia, or from British workers paying British taxes in the UK, paying contributions to the UK Exchequer? That is the choice that faces us.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, we have pledged to reduce methane by 30% by 2030, along with 103 other countries. Have the Government carried out an assessment of whether that is possible while they simultaneously allow new fossil fuel extraction projects to go ahead, and, if they have not, will the Minister commit to doing that as a due diligence exercise?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we keep all these matters under review, and it is important that we meet our target. We are on a projection for net zero in 2050; we have a legal obligation to do that. Oil and gas projects will play a small and declining role as the years proceed, but in the short term we will need new projects.

Emissions Trading Scheme: Transport

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Monday 11th October 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I recognise the points the noble Lord makes and he will be aware that, in the transport decarbonisation plan, there is a commitment to assess how economic instruments could be used to accelerate decarbonisation measures alongside all the other aspirations of the plan.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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How do the Government intend to respond to the report from the Climate Crisis Advisory Group on carbon pricing, which says that emissions reductions from the advanced economies fall far short of what has been promised? I quote:

“Much stronger policy action across all sectors is needed”.

In particular, can he indicate the Government’s intention on a carbon border adjustment mechanism, and whether such a mechanism could raise nearly €10 billion a year as the Financial Times has claimed?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course, these matters are never as simple as the noble Baroness makes out. Building on the previous Answer from my noble friend Lord Agnew, I say that it is important to recognise that the UK is proceeding faster than any other G7 country in our decarbonisation efforts. I am aware that the EU is looking at a carbon border adjustment mechanism—we will see if it happens or not—and of course we will look at the proposal.

Net-zero Carbon Emissions: Behaviour Change

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone
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That this House takes note of the role of behaviour change in helping the United Kingdom to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as set out in the report by the Climate Change Committee Reducing emissions: 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, published on 26 June; and of the case for a public engagement strategy to facilitate this.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I applaud the Government’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050 and appreciate that they are working to try to achieve a successful outcome to COP 26 in November. However, I am not confident that they have done enough yet to engage the public in order to facilitate the behaviour change necessary to reduce emissions. I want to set out the case for doing so, following the valuable report to Parliament of the Climate Change Committee at the end of June.

I begin by briefly summarising what the CCC said. It argued that 62% of measures needed to reach net zero required changes to public behaviour. However, there is currently no centrally led strategy. Although there is high public support for action on climate change, research suggests that there is a lack of understanding about the actions that need to be taken and the urgency required. I understand that the Government’s net-zero strategy is to be published imminently to precede COP 26. My first question to the Minister is whether it will definitely include a public engagement strategy, and, if so, whether it will be genuinely cross-departmental. People will need to change their lives in relation to transport, heating their homes, diet and more general problems of consumption.

There also needs to be a higher level of public understanding and involvement in shaping decision-making, without which success in reaching net zero is unlikely. There is, of course, a role for employers, and business in particular, as well as for local government, the print—and especially the broadcast—media, and the education system. However, the Government need to take the lead. They must also take on those who irresponsibly are purveying false information and scare stories about the negative impact of climate change measures on people’s lives.

It is often helpful to learn from what other countries are doing. For example, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government have assessed work on climate change assemblies undertaken in Scotland, as well as France and Denmark, which have involved their citizens in climate policy-making. What other international initiatives can he tell us about that we might draw on? Clearly the fight against global warming is international and no country is exempt from the challenges it poses.

Concern about climate change is higher in the UK than in many other countries, with 80% of the population recording such concern. However, at the same time, when asked about net zero in March this year in a BEIS survey, only 14% indicated that they knew a lot or a fair amount about it. It is worrying, too, that only 51% of the UK public think that climate change is either entirely or mainly caused by human activity. Moreover, they tend to pass the buck and seem to think that responsibility belongs to others rather than themselves.

Only 26% of those asked had made any change in their behaviour. Even when people want to act, there are worrying misconceptions about the most effective ways to do so. While around 50% of those surveyed were aware that saving on energy consumption at home was a step that they can take, far fewer were aware of the value of eating less meat and fewer dairy products—15% and 6%, respectively—nor of the size of the impact that this could have. Changing our diets is urgent in order to free up land to sequester carbon.

A recent report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change reinforced the importance of focusing on a relatively limited number of changes in behaviour that have the most impact. One of the three measures that it cited was eating less meat. The others were reducing our car travel and our flying. A common misunderstanding, not just in the UK but many other counties, is that recycling is very effective. Though there are of course good reasons why we should recycle, it comes some way down the list for reaching net zero.

If far too few of our citizens are well informed about the actions needed to counter climate change, what must the Government do? Above all, they must engage the population, including those who are hard to reach. They should find ways to bring people together to discuss the challenge that we face and how to address it. One small example, close to home, is the citizens’ assembly that was run last year by six House of Commons Select Committees. It showed that, when problems and solution are discussed with members of the public, for the most part they support making changes.

Starting with pupils at school, only this week research on young people’s attitudes showed how concerned they are about climate change and how anxious they are about the survival of the planet. Three-quarters said that they are frightened about their survival and their future. It is noteworthy that 80% of those participating in the parliamentary assembly that I just mentioned thought that climate should be a compulsory subject in all schools. Can the Minister tell us what the current position is on the national curriculum regarding coverage of climate?

We must build on the positive mindset of young people, giving them the tools to take the action needed to stop further rises in temperature. Little progress can be made unless teachers feel confident about their own competence and knowledge in this area. There is evidence that many of them want more training. In a survey this year of 7,500 teachers, 70% said that they had received none. Knowledge alone is not enough. They must learn about best practice in learning approaches and how to convey to young people a sense of their own potential to be part of the solutions, as well as how to be ambitious and resilient in responding to the challenges. What resources are being put into initial and in-service training to help teachers rise to this task?

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is an excellent opportunity to address behaviour change among college students. The same issues apply to them as to their parents, such as the forms of transport that they use in their daily travel, where there are choices available to them. In addition, there is a need for FE to provide courses that will create the skills needed in a green economy and to make their students aware of the job opportunities available to them if they acquire these skills. More attention must also be given to phasing out qualifications that make no contribution to the net- zero economy. Just as schoolteachers need improvements in their preparation for curriculum initiatives on climate issues, so too do college lecturers, especially in specific areas such as decarbonising heat in homes. Please can we have a skills strategy from the Government to power the transition to green technologies?

The work needed to put in place targeted public engagement costs money, especially to reach those groups who feel socially and economically excluded, who do not typically take part in discussions about public policy and indeed are rarely invited to do so. Back in June, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, asked the Minister about spending and when figures would be released. The reply was, “in due course”. Has due course been reached, and can the Minister tell the House what the budget is for public engagement? It is all very well accepting the Government’s words that

“Public engagement can help build awareness, acceptability, and uptake of sustainable technologies … over the long term and can also help improve the effectiveness of policies”,

but they must will the means to do this as well as aspiring to it. Would it be too much to ask the Government to create a national debate on the contribution that each and every one of us can make to countering climate change and reaching net zero? In every city, town and village, invitations might go out to join community discussions around a short paper setting out what the options are.

I hope that the Minister will respond positively and be willing to set in motion an approach of this kind, which might be announced at COP 26 in November. At the last global conference, the Paris Agreement stipulated that measures should be taken

“to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information”.

Having done far too little since then, we now have the opportunity to take the lead at COP and, in doing so, particular emphasis should be placed on public participation. This can be done in the context of the UN’s action for climate empowerment, which commits all nations to engaging their citizens on climate change. At present, Governments are not measured on their commitments and there is a lack of infrastructure and no monitoring or reporting process, according to the charity Climate Outreach. If the Government could take the lead by announcing a comprehensive and radical approach, and in doing so get public engagement with climate change much higher on the international agenda, that would be a triumph. Let us try to be a world leader in this area.

Within the UK, we must evaluate and monitor our progress in getting the public participation that the Climate Change Committee espouse. Can the Minister say what the Government propose to do in this respect? It is vital to understand the barriers that may emerge, to know what forms of communication work best, who the best people to promote public dialogue are and how to get people debating together about what they as individuals can do, avoiding the feeling that they are being talked at or just bombarded with information.

My last point is the value of trust. Increasingly, there is an absence of trust in Government and a denigration of politicians. There is a need to build trust in the messages that are sent. To do so, the messengers must be perceived to have integrity and must demonstrate that they themselves are committed to individual action on climate change. The upside of any debate on tackling climate change is that it is not largely about party politics. We can and should put political differences aside and unite to meet the expectations and hopes of young people, to save the planet and to engage the hearts and minds of our citizens in doing so. I beg to move.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Baroness for bringing this topic to the Chamber this afternoon and for her excellent speech.

Up to now, most of the adaptations and changes required to reduce carbon emissions have been done to us, or for us, by the Government or have been as a result of business decisions. For example, all the changes in the means of production for energy have been done for us. We have hardly been aware of those changes—unless, of course, like me, noble Lords have solar panels on their roof. Only now are we starting to get to the more difficult bits, such as starting to change how we heat our homes.

There are exceptions. For example, we have adapted to paying for plastic bags; as a result, we use far fewer of them. Most of us could talk at length about local recycling schemes, the differences between them and the benefits of some of them. However, the lessons of those two examples are that it takes a long time to bed in change in our behaviour. We face a climate emergency. The big question is: is 2050 early enough for net zero? There is real doubt about that. The answer? Probably not. The longer it takes to start, the more radical the changes must be.

In the time I have, I will concentrate on transport because it is the single biggest sector for CO2 emissions. It is also the only sector where, in recent decades, emissions have not fallen despite technological improvements. Earlier this summer, the Government produced a welcome transport decarbonisation plan. Unfortunately, it started with a complete fallacy. It said that we can carry on doing everything we currently do and that technology will make the changes we need to reach net zero. This argument was even applied to aviation.

The problem with transport is that we all want to travel more, not less. The pandemic has given us pause for thought and demonstrated that a lot of our travel can be avoided. During the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about finding new, healthy and environmentally friendly ways in which to live and work. Now that the Government think the pandemic is over, their rhetoric has immediately pressed us to get back to the office despite the fact that we have demonstrated that we can do a great deal of work without being in the office. Fortunately, many employers and employees are resisting this, but trains, the Tube and buses are crowded again and our roads are very congested, with traffic volumes up to and beyond pre-pandemic levels because people are now reluctant to use public transport. We were beginning to see the switch to public transport, but that has regressed.

There is a saying: “Never waste a crisis.” The danger is that the Government will waste this one by not seizing the moment and not capitalising on the pause that the pandemic created. There is every reason to review, for example, business travel because Zoom can do much of it without the same waste of time or CO2. There are major opportunities for change, but we are also at a dangerous point because we are no longer bound to the EU where the rules have set world standards for so long. We must not allow ourselves to slide back from that.

Specifically, there is the problem of time lag. Vehicles manufactured today will still be on our roads in 20 years’ time. The time lag is even greater for buses, planes and ships. The Government need to influence what we buy and use now. We are buying enormous modern SUVs. The Government also need to influence how we drive them. We need information so that we understand all the implications of our behaviour. All social revolution needs this; it needed it for drink-driving, seatbelt-wearing and smoking. We must have government information backed up with regulations to give us a nudge. We need taxation to encourage us not to buy SUVs, to ensure that aviation tax is reformed and to discourage frequent flyers. We need regulation change; for example, to encourage us to drive more slowly.

We face an emergency, and emergencies require urgency. The rain is falling on the ice caps now. Belgium as well as Bangladesh face people dying in flash floods. It is not enough to plan for tomorrow. The Government need to plan for today, utilise the expertise of our universities, our scientists and throughout the Civil Service, and ensure that we have an effective public debate.

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Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I want first to express my appreciation to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for her excellent contribution and for securing this debate on this extremely important subject. There were some splendid contributions from all sides of the House, and I hope to address as many of the points raised as possible.

There is no doubt that achieving our net-zero target will be a shared endeavour, requiring action from everyone in society—from people, businesses and government. This Government absolutely accept this and are determined for the UK to play its part in upholding the Paris Agreement and our net-zero commitment, particularly in the run-up to COP 26. The Government agree with the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that net zero can be achieved only through engagement with the public and changing behaviours. As he observed, we are also publishing other world-leading strategies, such as the hydrogen strategy and the transport decarbonisation plan. I reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that the Government share her concern about the urgency of tackling climate change. I particularly liked her quote that there is no silver bullet and only silver buckshot—I know that she will be opposed to shooting, but I liked the analogy anyway.

In June 2021, the UK Government set the sixth carbon budget at 965 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent, which is a world-leading target which will see a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035 compared to those in 1990. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, pointed out, this is how the Government intend to lead by example on climate change. This target is in line with the latest science, as the level recommended by our expert advisers at the Climate Change Committee, and consistent with the Paris Agreement goal to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees centigrade and pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees centigrade. The target would achieve well over half of the required emissions reductions from now to 2050 in the next 15 years.

This is a huge commitment which the Government are working flat out to achieve. Already our emissions are down by almost 44% across the last 30 years, and our economy has grown by 78% in that same period. If the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, does not like the economic growth, perhaps she will like the emissions reductions we have managed to achieve at the same time. The net-zero strategy, which we will publish ahead of COP 26—a number of noble Lords asked me about that—will set out our vision for transitioning to a net-zero economy. This strategy will build on ambitious plans already published in the past 12 months across key sectors of the economy, including the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan, which mobilises £12 billion of government investment, the energy White Paper, the transport decarbonisation plan, the industrial decarbonisation strategy and the hydrogen strategy.

These strategies deliver on many of the recommendations made by Climate Assembly UK, which a number of noble Lords referred to. The assembly called for a green recovery; the 10-point plan is the Government’s plan for a green recovery, delivering high-skilled green jobs. The assembly called for more wind and solar power; we will quadruple the capacity of offshore wind to 40 gigawatts by 2030. The assembly called for a faster transition to net-zero emissions vehicles; we will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. The assembly called for the Government to invest in low-carbon buses and trains; this plan commits to a £4.2 billion investment in city public transport and £5 billion on buses, cycling and walking. The assembly called for the Government to speed up progress on low-carbon aviation—I know this is of particular interest to my noble friend Lord Kirkhope; this plan commits to research projects for zero-emissions planes and sustainable aviation fuels. The assembly recommended maintaining and restoring our natural environment; our plan committed to £40 million for a second round of the green recovery challenge fund.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn referred to the importance of enabling everyone in society to contribute to achieving the net-zero target. I agree with him. We want to make it easier and more affordable for people to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle while at the same time maintaining freedom of choice and fairness. These are two of the key principles also recommended by Climate Assembly UK. The Government are already taking steps to do exactly this.

For example, we are continuing to engage with key cycling and walking organisations to develop a behavioural change campaign aligned with our cycling and walking investment strategy action plan. We have funded digital tools that can support people in reducing their carbon footprint, including the Simple Energy Advice service, which can help people reduce energy use in their home, and the “Go Ultra Low” website, which provides information and advice on electric vehicles. We are supporting motorists buying electric vehicles through the plug-in car grant, which provides up to £2,500 for those making the switch to electric cars—I hope my noble friend Lord Kirkhope was able to take advantage of this Government’s generosity for his new purchase. As well as this, in partnership with industry we have supported the installation of nearly 25,000 publicly available charging devices in what is now one of the largest networks in Europe.

The forthcoming food strategy White Paper will build on existing work across government and identify new opportunities to make the food system healthier, more sustainable, more resilient and more accessible for those across the United Kingdom. Defra has also committed to a substantial update of the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services, which provide a framework of mandatory and best practice standards for public sector procurers. This update will look to strengthen the emphasis on local procurement, SMEs, high procurement standards and sustainable, healthy produce.

Reaching net zero will require not only changes to our energy systems and substantial new low-carbon infrastructure but shifts, as individuals, in how we travel, what we buy and how we use energy in our homes. Given this, we will need to engage with the public on the changes required to deliver this ambition and listen very closely to their feedback. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked whether we could create a national debate on how everyone can contribute to the country achieving net zero, and the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, stressed the importance of informing people about it. To respond to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, in the net-zero strategy, which will be published ahead of COP 26, we will communicate our approach to public engagement and supporting the public to make green choices.

Many people from all over the UK are already doing their bit on climate change. With the Together for Our Planet campaign we aim to celebrate this and inspire more people to join them. The campaign is building momentum in the lead-up to COP 26 by showcasing how people across the United Kingdom are going one step greener to tackle climate change. We are working across government and with numerous commercial partners. Our 26 “One Step Greener” champions and campaign will show how taking one step can have a positive impact on the environment, encouraging the general public also to do their bit, however large or small. We are also working with small businesses across the UK to support their journey towards becoming greener and more sustainable. This aims to create a mass movement of small green steps across the country in the lead-up to COP 26 to raise awareness of climate issues and launch a powerful legacy campaign to drive long-term behavioural change.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, stressed the importance of empowering citizens to hold the Government to account and share their views. We have already increased our engagement with the public on policies for net zero. Since 2019, we have run deliberative dialogues on a range of net-zero topics, including net-zero societal change, homes and heating, hydrogen and the transport decarbonisation plan. I can reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that we will continue to monitor and evaluate public engagement to ensure effectiveness. We already track public views on climate change on a regular basis, for example through the BEIS Public Attitudes Tracker, which is published every quarter.

The noble Baroness also asked how we can engage with hard-to-reach citizens. BEIS has commissioned research from the Carbon Trust, with leading academics, which is exploring how the UK can reach net zero in a fair, socially inclusive way. I know this will also be of interest to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. A key part of this will be advice and recommendations on how we best ensure that vulnerable and underrepresented groups can have their voices heard. Furthermore, findings from Climate Assembly UK have formed a valuable addition to the Government’s evidence base on assessing the UK public’s understanding, attitudes and perceptions around net zero.

The noble Baroness also asked whether the Government have assessed work on climate change assemblies undertaken in countries such as Scotland and France. I can confirm that we have been closely monitoring national and local citizens’ assemblies and officials have met the organisers and facilitators of these initiatives. In September 2020, we invited the Climate Assembly UK expert leads to present the assembly’s findings to officials. Over 400 officials attended these briefings.

In the lead-up to COP 26, as I have said, we will publish a comprehensive net-zero strategy which sets out the Government’s vision for transitioning to a net-zero economy, making the most of the new growth and employment opportunities across the UK. My noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked whether the net-zero strategy will include a public engagement strategy. This also addresses the points of the noble Lord, Lord Oates. I confirm again that, through this strategy, we will communicate our approach on public engagement, supporting the public to make green choices. The strategy will mark an important moment, where our priority shifts towards setting out a clear plan for delivery, which will allow us to look beyond COP, outlining a sustained effort to tackle climate change in the longer term.

To address the points raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Bull, the national curriculum provides the knowledge that pupils need to help address climate change in the future, while schools have the autonomy to go into as much depth on these subjects as they see fit. In citizenship, pupils are taught about the wider world and the interdependence of communities within it. At primary school, pupils are taught about what improves and harms their local, natural and built environments. More detailed content on climate change is included in geography and science. Certainly I have been receiving in my postbag an increasing number of letters that children have written in their classrooms. DfE has established a Sustainability and Climate Change Unit, which is preparing a change strategy. This will likely look at topics such as education and skills for a changing world, taking into account net zero, resilience to climate change and how to create a better environment for future generations.

In addition, we established a Green Jobs Taskforce, working with industry, unions and skills providers to advise on how we can develop plans for new, long-term, good-quality green jobs, and support workers to transition from high-carbon sectors. Its independent report, published in July, will feed into and inform our net-zero strategy.

The Government are committed to publishing a heat and building strategy later this year; I think it was my noble friend Lord Kirkhope who asked me about that. The strategy will set a comprehensive set of actions that will set the way for net zero in heat and buildings by 2050, with a real focus on the action needed in this decade to reach our interim targets.

Moving on to transport—a topic raised particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and others—we published the first plan in the world to set transport on a path to net zero by 2050: the transport decarbonisation plan. Enabling people to use public transport, to walk or to cycle is one of the plan’s six strategic priorities. Backed by a £2 billion package of investment, we are committed to establishing a world-class cycling and walking network in England by 2040, delivering on the Prime Minister’s bold vision that he announced last summer. This plan also commits that we will deliver a net-zero rail network by 2050, with sustained carbon reductions in rail along the way, by supporting new technologies such as hydrogen or battery trains and removing diesel-only trains. We also want to get more people on to trains, and we are building extra capacity on the network and working with industry to modernise fares, ticketing and retail to encourage a shift to rail.

To address the points raised by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford on international leadership, in addition to the action we are taking at home, we remain committed to demonstrating global leadership in tackling climate change. It is a global challenge and, of course, no country can tackle it alone. There is a clear need for countries across the world to do more. We have strong relationships with key emitters—including India and China—on climate, and we work closely with their Governments on a range of mutually beneficial programmes, with the aim of reducing emissions while also improving their resilience to climate change. Of course, we will continue to push for more ambition globally as the host of COP 26.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, for his views on the quality of life and how net zero will be beneficial for all. He referred to the importance of enabling youth to drive climate action, and I agree: it will be key to listen to their concerns. Therefore, we have a dedicated youth engagement team which is co-ordinating the UK Government’s strategy to ensure that youth voices are heard at COP 26 and in its legacy.

Inclusive public engagement that gives representation to different groups’ diverse needs and interests, as well as their meaningful participation in decision-making, is vital to inform the design and implementation of successful net-zero policies. Public engagement can help build awareness, acceptability and uptake of sustainable behaviours over the longer term. Therefore, we are increasing our work on public engagement on net zero, both in communicating the challenge and giving people a say in shaping our future policies.

I hope I have been able to provide at least some reassurance to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister very much for his reply to this debate. He has indeed answered many of the questions put to him. He did not answer one question—of course, there are always some you do not have the time or the information for. I would be grateful if he could write to me and to others who have participated in this debate on what the budget for public engagement in order to change behaviour is—and, if there is not one, when there will be. I asked about this some months ago and was told that in due course we would be given the figures, but we have not been. I would be really grateful for that.

Secondly, I thank everybody who has participated in this debate. I am very grateful to all the speakers, many of whom made excellent contributions to what I think we have agreed is an important subject. There has been consensus around the House for much more effort to be put into changing public behaviour through genuine public engagement. A number of important points were made about the importance of the UK leading the way, which the Minister said we will do. It has also been quite correctly stated by several speakers that time is not on our side and that there is a danger of promising a lot and then delivering too little.

I was particularly glad to hear the Minister state quite categorically that we will monitor and evaluate the contribution the Government are making to developing public engagement and changing public behaviour. I have no doubt that we will want to come back to what the results of such monitoring and evaluation are and will return to this important subject in the coming months.

Climate Change Committee: Carbon Budget Report

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Tuesday 16th March 2021

(8 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the report by the Climate Change Committee Sixth Carbon Budget report, published on 9 December 2020, what plans they have (1) to engage the public on, and (2) to ensure the behaviour changes included in, the recommendations of that report.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, we are engaging the public on the challenge of net zero through regular dialogues, consultations and online advice services. In 2020, we launched the brand Together for Our Planet, with a dedicated website, stakeholder engagement and a push across government digital channels. We are also developing policies to support people to make greener lifestyle choices, such as buying an electric vehicle or insulating their home, which will form part of the upcoming sectoral decarbonisation plans.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, but I am sure he will agree that we need more than a website. Four months ago, the Minister assured the House that a dedicated engagement team was up and running and working on how COP 26 could be utilised to best affect behaviour change. So far, the only civic society engagement is an art competition for under-16s and a hashtag. Assuming that that is not the extent of the campaign, can the Minister say when the behaviour change part will be launched, what areas it will cover and who is leading on it? Speed is of the essence.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Throughout 2020, we held deliberative dialogues with the public on transport and heat decarbonisation, the environment, the future of food, carbon capture, usage and storage, and our transition to net zero. I can assure the noble Baroness that, in the run-up to COP 26, we will be working closely with businesses, civil society groups, schools and others.

Carbon-neutral Homes

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 10th December 2020

(11 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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we are making considerable progress towards the target, but we recognise the role that energy efficiency will play in the decarbonisation of buildings. We remain committed to meeting our legally binding carbon budgets and will set out further action in the forthcoming heat and buildings strategy.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register. The Scottish Government have published proposals for point-of-sale standards to require all owner-occupied homes to meet a rating of EPC band C from 2024. Do the Government plan to implement the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation that all homes—not just owner-occupied ones—are at least at band C by 2028?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are constantly improving the number of homes: 34% of homes are now above EPC band C, which is up from 9% in 2009. Our various funding schemes. such as the ECO scheme and the green homes grant scheme, will all contribute towards raising those numbers.

COP 26

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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There is a huge diplomatic effort ongoing with all parts of the world to try to ensure the maximum success of those talks. I am sure that we will be very keen to involve faith communities and others in the run-up to the summit.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, Article 12 of the Paris Agreement says that signatories must

“co-operate in taking measures … to enhance climate change education … public awareness … participation and … access to information”.

What action have the Government taken, in particular with the Department for Education, to fulfil this, and to ensure that all signatories will have acted on it before COP 26 in Glasgow later next year?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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That is the purpose of the campaign that we discussed earlier, and the Department for Education is fully on board with all of these campaigns.

World Energy Outlook 2020

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord. I cannot give him a specific answer to that, but we expect the White Paper to come shortly.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, do the Government accept that, while they must lead, changes in everyone’s behaviour will be needed? So how do they plan to engage with citizens on what net zero looks like, and the changes in behaviour that will be needed to get there?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes a very good point. It is important that everybody’s behaviour is changed. There will be a number of campaigns, both by government and by various NGOs and interested parties in the run-up to COP 26, which we see as a major global lever that we can use to change fundamental behaviours.

COP 26: Sponsors

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Tuesday 6th October 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We will be working most closely with organisations that are committed to taking real, positive action and have strong climate credentials; for example, companies which have committed to achieving net zero and have published a credible plan of action on how they will achieve this.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, what exactly will sponsors receive, apart from exhibiting space, in return for their money? Will the Minister confirm that no sponsor will be allowed to sit in on any part of the negotiations?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are looking for both monetary and value-in-kind sponsorship. Value in kind refers to goods and services that are acquired, or highly desirable, in exchange for branding, etcetera. There is of course no question of companies taking part in negotiations.

Industrial Strategy

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Lord Henley Portrait Lord Henley
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I thank the noble Lords, Lord Fox and Lord Mendelsohn, for what I take to be their general welcome of the industrial strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Fox, claimed that parts of it were in response to comments from the Liberal Democrats in their response to the Green Paper. He claimed that there was a lack of urgency, but when one publishes a Green Paper in January, as we did, to produce a response of this kind by December is doing pretty well. If we had produced it any faster, the noble Lord would accuse the Government of hurrying their response. He cannot have it both ways and my right honourable friend has got it just right. I am grateful that I joined the department only four weeks ago, so came in at the tail end of the development of this response, but I can assure the noble Lord that we have been busy these last four weeks going through draft after draft of the White Paper to produce this document, which went to the printers only last night.

The noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, worried what the size of the document compared to the Green Paper indicated about productivity gains. He noted that it was so many pages longer than the original Green Paper but then said that the font was larger, although he did not point out that the pages were smaller. I will have to take advice on whether there are more words in this document, when the pictures are taken out, than there were in the Green Paper. All I can say to both noble Lords is that it has been a very considered process with, as I say, some 2,000 responses that had to be carefully considered. We had to talk to many people and develop our policies, as well as take it the whole way around the Government.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Fox, for emphasising the role of the Prime Minister. It is important to make it clear that the Prime Minister is fully committed to the strategy, as are all members of the Government. If this was a Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy document coming merely from the department, it would be nothing. The fact is that it reaches out to all other departments, which have all played their part and helped to produce it. As we implement the ideas behind it, other departments will contribute, be they the Department of Health, as mentioned by the noble Lord, or education and so on. The point is to get beyond the siloisation that we have seen on many occasions in different Governments of all persuasions; we want to bring a truly cross-government feel to this.

Both noble Lords asked a number of questions, which I will try to address. I hope I can provide responses that will satisfy them, but if not, I will be more than happy to write in due course. The first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, was that he felt that the White Paper does not deal with regional imbalances. I assure him that this matter is of great concern to me more than most. He will know how activity can vary a great deal across the regions. If he looks at the north and the Midlands, he will find that productivity can be 9% to 14% below the United Kingdom average. We had quite a few speakers from Wales earlier today; productivity in Wales can be around 19% lower than the United Kingdom average. We want to reach out to the regions, to Wales and to Scotland, to ensure that we bring them up to higher levels of productivity. If we fail in that, we will have failed in all other ways.

Both noble Lords also asked about the industrial strategy council and wanted assurances that it would be independent. I can give that assurance and that it will include business leaders and experts. We will be able to give further details about the council in the coming months.

I was asked about British Business Bank investments. I can give an assurance that £2.5 billion of new funding is on offer and that further announcements will be made in due course. I was also asked about what further investment was required and how much new money there is. I have given the figures for what we are seeking to do on research and development so that we get that up to at least the OECD average by 2027. Importantly, that is just the initial target; we would like to get it up to 3% in the longer term. Going back to the question about infrastructure as a whole, we are looking at £31 billion in the pipeline for the future.

The noble Lord, Lord Mendelsohn, asked about measuring our goals and how we will seek to assess the success of the industrial strategy in due course. At the highest level we have a set of goals relating to productivity. We believe that it will be for the industrial strategy council to assess progress on those goals and the others outlined in the strategy.

I am beginning to feel that I am using up time that I should not, but perhaps I may turn to one or two of the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Fox, particularly on NHS funding. I refer him to what the Chancellor announced in the Budget when he referred to new funds. The noble Lord also asked about clean growth and whether the Government are cutting funding for renewables. I assure him that we have particularly fast growth in renewables and that we are still committed to a further £557 million for new contracts for different renewables such as offshore wind. We are seeing growth in that area.

As my right honourable friend said in another place, in the Statement and in response to questions, the industrial strategy sets out the long-term strategy that we hope to see. We hope to see developments continue in the manner made clear by my right honourable friend. I thank the noble Lords, Lord Mendelsohn and Lord Fox, for what I think was their cautious welcome. I hope that, as the strategy develops and we continue to bring it forward, that welcome will also continue.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Lab)
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My Lords, can the Minister address the question of skills? There is very little in the Statement about the urgent need for more skills training. I am sure he will agree that we will not achieve greater productivity, or be able to implement this industrial strategy, unless we can greatly improve the level of skills among the workforce. That is particularly the case in construction, where Brexit will certainly be damaging. We will have fewer European workers able to operate in this field in the UK, or indeed be likely to be willing to do so. We need some realisable targets, to use the expression of my noble friend Lord Mendelsohn, for skills. We also need a timetable, and some urgency should be attached to this. Unless that happens, all the Minister’s brave words about the desirability of an industrial strategy in the areas he has identified are unlikely to be implemented; nor will we address the housing crisis or achieve the investment in infrastructure that he has just referred to.

Lord Henley Portrait Lord Henley
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The noble Baroness is quite right to address skills. I think she was my successor in the Department of Education many years ago, back in 1997. I refer her to the chapter on people, which starts on page 92. There she can see all we have to say about looking for further apprenticeship starts by 2020, along with the improvements we want to see to A-levels and the improvements we have been seeing. She will also see what we have to say about our approach to that. She will note the information about the new T-levels that are being introduced. We want to see a further 50% of our 16 to 19 year-olds increasing their training. There have been increases in the study of maths, again referred to by the Chancellor in the Budget. I could go on, but I refer her to the White Paper and the ideas behind it. The White Paper can be divided into five simple parts: ideas, people, infrastructure, the business environment and places. The part on people relates to skills. I think she will find it very good reading indeed.