Horizon Europe: UK Participation

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Tuesday 31st January 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I think the Commission has been very clear in intimating that the issue is linked to the Northern Ireland protocol, but, as I have said, this is a separate issue. They are separate legal agreements, and we stand ready to continue the discussions about association, which is part of an agreement we already have with the EU.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I think we would all, on our side, feel more convinced if it was not always the case that the Government think it is someone else’s fault. Surely this is the time to engage in more meaningful negotiations with our former EU partners because the time by which a decision has to be made on this is fast approaching. As I understand it, we need to agree a guarantee scheme by the end of March. That being the case, can the Minister confirm whether that is the cut-off date, and that the Government will bring forward a plan B to ensure that we have the right levels of international co-operation in research that this country urgently needs so that our businesses thrive in the future?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I always stand ready to receive advice from the noble Lord about how we can meaningfully enter into negotiations with someone who does not want to meaningfully enter into negotiations with us. Obviously, the Labour Opposition know better than we do on this.

Manufacturing Post Brexit

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 26th January 2023

(1 year ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, quick questions and quick answers will mean that both noble Lords will be able to get in.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend. There is a great future ahead for small modular reactors. We want to support Rolls-Royce as much as we can in this area. We are rolling out support for Great British Nuclear and the SMR programme.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as director of Business in the Community, the UK’s biggest responsible business network. The fall in manufacturing in the UK since the 1970s has been quicker than almost any other developed country, despite jobs in the sector paying 12% more than equivalent sectors and being seen as key to growth and bringing pride back to Britain. As the noble Lord from the Lib Dem Benches pointed out, it is reported today that UK car production is at its lowest level since 1956. It seems to us that the Government have accepted the decline, so what plans do they have seriously to arrest it? We have not heard enough from the Minister today and we do not hear enough from the Government on this point. We want manufacturing to recover. “Made in Britain” should be a slogan we should all be proud of.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I certainly agree with the noble Lord’s last statement, if not many of his earlier ones. There is always more that we can do. We continue to support UK manufacturing, but the UK is one of the largest manufacturing nations in the world—it is the ninth globally by output. Manufacturing contributed £205 billion of gross value added to the UK economy and supports 2.5 million jobs, most of them outside London, which is a good thing. Of course we always need to look at new policies and regulations. I am sure the Opposition will support our new regulatory freedom to help make things easier for the manufacturing industry, but let us get behind British manufacturing and not be so gloomy.

Energy Bill Relief Scheme Pass-through Requirement (Heat Suppliers) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Tuesday 17th January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I do not have a great deal to add and obviously we do not oppose these regulations, but it seems that they have come forward urgently because the department appeared to forget, when making the original regulations, that—as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said—there is no complete register of heat suppliers in place that would enable the original legislation to be properly carried out. The original legislation went through without a word about why the department did not know who the energy suppliers were and how that made the legislation somewhat redundant and difficult to implement.

It seems that we have in front of us a rapid and somewhat scrambled fix to try to rectify that original problem. No doubt the Minister will tell me that I am wrong, but it seems to exist because the department forgot that a rather central part of the method of getting money to customers is through heat suppliers, which should be known to the department to make them pass the money through. Why is the scheme so last-minute and retrospective? Should it not have been up and running and operating earlier so that customers could benefit?

The Explanatory Memorandum for this SI says that this must happen in order to get money to customers over the winter period, so my question to the Minister is: how has this happened? Why have the regulations been introduced suddenly, and why now when this should have been done earlier? How much time has been lost in getting money to customers as a result of the scheme being incomplete when it was introduced? Finally, have customers lost out or been disadvantaged in any way? That is probably the key point, because people are getting much higher bills than they would have expected a year or 18 months ago. Judging from my experience, although I am not struggling to pay, people are being shocked and taken aback.

I looked at the Explanatory Memorandum and it seemed there were one or two errors. The instrument makes corrections to definitions of “end-user”, “intermediary” and “scheme benefit”. That seems glaring. The Explanatory Memorandum says that suppliers need

“more time to provide their customers with detailed calculations”.

I would have thought that that problem could have been anticipated and dealt with earlier. That is a concern. I also spotted, in the “policy background” section that

“The heat network sector is not currently comprehensively regulated and there exists no complete record of heat suppliers.”


This is quite revealing. I appreciate that the instrument attempts to address this, but it is something of a gap to have left in the first instance. Although I was sort of impressed by the consultation exercise, a workshop with 120 heat suppliers in October hardly seems a complete consultation to my way of thinking. In its section on impact, the Explanatory Memorandum also refers to “light-touch notification”, so that heat suppliers

“in effect are given an extension on the deadline for making the much more comprehensive notification under the”

billing regulations.

I may have misunderstood this, but I do not think I have. By my way of reading it, it is not an entirely happy story. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s explanation of why and how this came about.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank both noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this brief debate. The Government have put in place robust measures to support consumers in response to the energy crisis. For heat network consumers these measures include the EBRS—energy bill relief scheme—or alternative funding for those without a domestic electricity meter, and the energy price guarantee for electricity. These schemes are up and running, shielding heat network consumers and countless others from excessive energy bill increases this winter.

The measures in today’s SI continue this work by strengthening the legal framework for ensuring that cost reductions from the EBRS received by heat networks are passed on to heat network consumers, leading to immediate short-term benefits to consumers over this winter. This SI results from wide-ranging engagement with industry, including trade associations, heat suppliers and consumer groups in the sector, and ensures an approach which works for both consumers and businesses. The changes are based on practicalities, meaning consumers will be informed of key information without placing an undue burden on heat suppliers.

Turning to the specific points raised by the noble Lords, I start with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who asked the obvious question: great minds think alike, as it is the same one I asked when I was introduced to this statutory instrument. How do we know that we have received a good response, as the deadline has already passed, and that everyone has replied? The figures are that, as of last week, we have received notifications from over 2,800 heat suppliers. Previous data obtained from notifications collected under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations indicated that there were approximately 2,600 heat suppliers in 2018. We therefore judge that heat supplier engagement with the EBRS pass-through notification form has been good.

Of course there are some enormous heat networks, which everybody knows about, but also some quite small heat networks. Many developers just develop a block of flats, install a heat network and then subcontract out its management to a secondary company—some with great success and others with not such great success. Many people do not realise that they are on a heat network until they have already moved into the property, because it has elements of monopoly about it. If the noble Lord had been present in the debates on the Energy Bill, he could have discussed the fact that we are introducing powers to regulate heat networks, which will be given to Ofgem. We have been having debates separately with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and others on that but at the moment the sector is essentially unregulated, which has caused problems in some areas. There are some very bad examples of networks, which we will attempt to rectify.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also asked about the role of the OPSS in ensuring enforcement, which was similarly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. The OPSS already had a role to receive notifications from heat suppliers and is therefore a natural fit. Notifying is actually a simple process, which should take about five minutes to complete. We would press any heat network suppliers which have not already notified—from the figures, we think that the vast majority have—to do so as soon as possible to ensure the avoidance of enforcement action. Again, all the big ones were known anyway and have complied. It is possible that there might be an odd mansion block or small block of flats somewhere, or some remote properties, that have not yet notified but we think the vast majority have.

If the supplier has not submitted its notification by 6 January or within 30 days of beginning operations, or for any new heat suppliers that began operating after 7 December last year, the OPSS may issue a notice of intent which makes clear the required actions and gives the business the opportunity to become compliant with the regulations. Should the heat supplier then continue to fail to do so, the OPSS may issue a notice of compliance, which sets a final deadline for the supplier to submit its notification after which point, if it is still non-compliant, it may be issued with the penalty fines that I referred to earlier. If the heat supplier does not engage with the ombudsman, or the Consumer Council in Northern Ireland, customers can recover the benefit that they are owed as a civil debt.

In response to the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, about why we are having the debate only after the notification window has closed, these regulations came into effect the day after they were made, on 7 December. This debate has no real bearing on the notification window but is to give time for parliamentary scrutiny and to ensure that this affirmative SI, as it was, does not now fall. We thought the “made affirmative” procedure was appropriate, given the time-sensitive nature of this work. Customers need support as quickly as possible, so ensuring prompt EBRS pass-through is important to provide that support. That underlines the rationale of running the notification window from the earliest possible date after the regulations were made.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, also asked a very reasonable question about why we are amending relatively new SIs. The answer is that following the initial regulations, which were made very rapidly given the urgent nature of the problem, we have taken on board feedback from the sector to ensure that this final approach now works for both businesses and customers.

The noble Lord also asked why the definitions of intermediaries have been amended. The amendments distinguish obligations that do not apply to an intermediary who is also an end-user. That could be a landlord, for example. The requirement to join the redress scheme will not apply unless the intermediary is provided with a scheme benefit by way of a discount or reduction under the Energy Bill Relief Scheme Regulations, nor will it apply to a person who supplies heating to the final customer unless that person is provided with a scheme benefit by way of a pass-through under these regulations. A landlord provided with a pass-through amount under the pass-through regulations, which it in turn must pass on to its tenants, will not be required to join the redress scheme unless that landlord also supplies heating through a district or communal heat network. Similarly, an intermediary who is also an end- user will not be required to notify an authorised person of their name, business address and contact details.

The noble Lord also asked why heat network suppliers are being given an extension on the requirement to complete their heat network metering and billing notifications. The answer is that these regulations will introduce minimal costs on heat networks. The information required is information that heat suppliers will already have access to, and we are not requiring heat suppliers to provide information beyond that which they already provide to government under the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations. We consider that the benefit of heat network consumers receiving lower heat prices resulting from the EBRS pass-through will significantly outweigh these relatively minor administrative costs to heat suppliers. By completing the notification requirement under these regulations, a heat supplier gains an extension in complying with the Heat Network (Metering and Billing) Regulations until 31 March 2023, so this further reduces the burden on the business over what, I think we agree, will be a challenging winter period.

I hope I have successfully answered the questions from both noble Lords, and therefore I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Electricity: Decarbonisation

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Wednesday 21st December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, just to bring us back to the core issue, in its progress report in June the Climate Change Committee highlighted several risks that remain in meeting the emissions reductions required by 2035—particularly highlighting how supply-side focused the Government’s energy security strategy was. The Minister said earlier that plans would be brought forward in due course, but can he tell us when the Government will finally deliver the energy efficiency improvements necessary to reduce demand for fossil fuels to achieve net zero and to cut the energy bills that consumers are currently struggling with?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is right—energy efficiency is extremely important, which is why we are spending £6.6 billion this Parliament on various energy efficiency strategies. The Chancellor in his Budget announced another £6 billion from 2025 for energy efficiency projects. We have an ambitious target; a new task force is being set up to deliver a 15% reduction by 2030.

Protection for Whistleblowing Bill [HL]

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Friday 2nd December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, all speakers have congratulated the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on her persistence, and I join in that. This is her third time of asking, but she has pursued this case at other parliamentary moments as well, and we can all applaud it. I start from the premise that whistleblowers fulfil and perform an important public service. As we have heard in the debate thus far, barely a day goes by without there being news of a scandal that would never have come to light had it not been for the public service provided by a whistleblower.

As we have heard, the key purpose of the Bill is to increase the protections for whistleblowers in the UK. This follows concerns raised by parliamentarians and whistleblowing support organisations about the general effectiveness of the current Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 in providing adequate and comprehensive protection to whistleblowers and the public. The Bill would introduce several protections for whistleblowers, including the establishment of an independent office of the whistleblower. The Bill also creates offences relating to the treatment of whistleblowers and handling of whistleblowing cases. It would repeal the UK’s current whistleblowing legislation. The case for that has been made by a number of Peers during the debate. My noble friend Lord Browne of Ladyton said that the current framework does not work, and he is absolutely right.

The Bill has more to it than its predecessor. In particular, it focuses on creating a criminal offence of subjecting a whistleblower to detriment, and it brings forward civil penalties that could be imposed on a person for failing to comply with obligations placed on them by the office of the whistleblower. Those measures reflect the concern at the treatment of whistleblowers.

Several whistleblower-support organisations have welcomed the Bill, particularly the creation of the office of the whistleblower. Not all have agreed that the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 should be repealed, and some have argued that the legislation should be reformed instead. That is a genuine and real debate. The Government have in the past committed to undertake a review of the UK’s whistleblowing legislation, and in October said that the scope and timing of the review would be set out in due course. My question to the Minister is: when will that be?

The establishment of the independent office of the whistleblower was first raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, in 2017 in Committee on the then Criminal Finances Bill. At that time, she introduced an amendment that aimed to protect and provide compensation for whistleblowers. She said that establishing an office would help to enshrine the importance of whistleblowing in the public domain. I think that we are all agreed that whistleblowers need more protection, but we are not necessarily all agreed about the form that it should take.

In April 2021, the Government said that they remained committed to reviewing whistleblowing legislation and that the review would be carried out

“once sufficient time had passed for there to be the necessary evidence available to assess the impact of the most recent reforms”.

We have had plenty of time to consider these things—why have the Government not brought anything forward between April 2021 and now? The case for a review is long overdue, and I hope that we will hear from the Minister this afternoon exactly where they are at. In July, the Government said that the scope and timing of the review would be confirmed in due course. Several months have gone past since that observation was made. Most recently, on 26 October, in their response to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee’s report on illicit finance and the war in Ukraine, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to reviewing the whistleblowing framework. They said that the scope and timing of this review were still under consideration. Why so many promises and so little action?

When people come forward, they do not do so for money or fame; it is often in spite of the impact on their career or family. They do so because, as other noble Lords have said, they believe that they are doing the right thing and that the public have a right to know. There are many examples where whistleblowing could have made a real difference and saved lives: Grenfell, Carillion and Boeing 737 MAX, just to name a few. This afternoon, we have been reminded of some of the terrible cases involving NHS trusts and charities. Yesterday we had a debate in your Lordships’ House, in which my noble friend Lord Browne and I took part, focusing on the Metropolitan Police. If ever there was an institution in which protecting whistleblowers was important, that would be one very high up on our list.

We know that the current legislation is not adequate or fit for purpose. It is over 20 years old. While it was workable at the time, it does not ensure that whistleblowers now get the protection and support that they need. Its use essentially comes down to employment tribunals, where individuals must face their employer, with relevant individuals such as trustees, trainees and volunteers being excluded from the law and regulators being unaccountable for the way that they treat whistleblowers, who do not even get legal aid and must personally pay their legal fees. Ultimately there are no official standards for whistleblowing, and employers must meet all recognised procedures for them to follow. That can have a serious impact on how quickly whistleblower reports are accessed.

Sadly, it seems to me and, I think, to others in this debate, that the Government do not take this as a priority. As many others have said, the most recently introduced change was back in 2017: a new legislative requirement for most prescribed persons to produce an annual report on whistleblowing disclosures made to them by workers and employees—a useful move but perhaps only a small one that has really not taken us much further forward.

In terms of the Bill, the idea of an office of the whistleblower is certainly one that we value, and we on the Labour Benches would welcome the opportunity to have further debates on that issue. It would be helpful to hear the following from the Minister: what concerns does he have about a dedicated office that have prevented the Government from bringing it forward? How can the protection and support that such an office might offer be effective without the creation of something like an office of the whistleblower? If the Minister’s and the Government’s concerns are financial, what estimate do they make of the cost that is so much of a barrier?

The Labour Party has suggested giving protected status to whistleblowers and imposing a statutory duty on employers to prevent victimisation, something that many noble Lords in this debate have made reference to. Does the Minister support such proposals so that we can prevent discrimination against victims?

Whistleblowers play an important role in protecting the public and consumers. They save lives, money and reputations, and they could do much more with protection. They could ensure that businesses and services operated more effectively and improve efficiency, as well as preventing serious incidents and accidents from occurring. We need to ensure that they receive the right and proper support. To do that, we believe that action is needed. I look forward to hearing what the Minister proposes by way of his response. The Bill goes a long way in the right direction. It is worthy of further consideration and of your Lordships’ support.

COP 27: Commitments

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, before I embark on my comments, I echo the thanks given by all Members of the House today to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, for introducing this debate, with his prescient and occasionally optimistic summary of the outcome of COP 27.

I also join all those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Leong on his maiden speech today. As he reminded us, he is Labour’s first Peer of east Asian origin; we hope to have many more. I have known my noble friend for some years, and his warmth and generosity of spirit are very welcome in your Lordships’ House. I loved his comment about seeking, by joining us, to offset his mother’s carbon footprint, and the fact that he balanced that with his enthusiasm for inspiring a new generation of young people concerned about the future of our planet. Worthy words indeed.

Before moving on, I very much welcome my noble friend Lord Prescott to the Chamber today. He played a major part in ensuring that the British Government addressed at the Kyoto conference the impact of adverse environmental activity across the world. As one of our first major leaders and spokespeople on the environment, he played a key part in ensuring that we kept to the task in tackling major environmental issues.

Because the Prime Minister raised it in his Statement following COP 27, I want to raise again the case of Alaa Abd el-Fattah, which the Prime Minister also raised when he was in Sharm el-Sheikh. Amnesty International reported yesterday that after ending a seven-month hunger strike, Alaa is in critical condition. It is vital that he be released as soon as possible and gets the urgent medical care he needs. In view of the Prime Minister’s comments, I wonder whether the Minister can update us on what further steps the Government are taking to end his suffering.

The implementation plan agreed at COP 27 and its breakthrough agreement to create a fund providing loss and damage funding to vulnerable countries that have been victims of climate disasters is very welcome. This ends almost 30 years of waiting for the nations facing the devastating impacts of climate change. Sadly, there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s Statement on loss and damage. Other noble Lords have said that we need more detail on our funding commitment. I look forward to the Minister picking up that point.

There were other welcome developments, as noble Lords have said, such as pledges on adaptations—that is, adjustments in ecological, social or economic systems in response to climatic changes—totalling more than $230 million. The SCF will report on doubling finance in this area at next year’s COP in Dubai. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, raised the importance and value of looking at both adaptations and mitigation.

The implementation plan also set out the cost of moving to a low-carbon economy. This is a small but important step towards it, priced at around $4 trillion to $6 trillion per year in investment. There were other, vital continued deliberations on the $100 billion pledge, climate finance and global stocktake, which will hopefully continue to lead to further progress in these areas.

Outside the implementation plan, the new annual high-level ministerial round table was a welcome development in symbolic terms; in future, it could be a productive tool in raising global ambition. Less welcome was that most Ministers in attendance said that limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees—which we will all be talking about and which I will say more about—was a red line.

A joint work programme was launched in respect of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will surely play a key role in accelerating the development of technologies that do not yet exist, but which we will be unable to reach net zero without, and to which noble Lords have referred. We also saw the launch of the Forests & Climate Leaders’ Partnership—a too-often forgotten aspect of the climate fight—following last year’s declaration. Forest loss and land degradation simply must be stopped. Using the $12 billion committed at last year’s COP and the further $4.5 billion since in an effective joined-up way must be a priority. Here in the UK, we are beginning a much-needed debate on our own lost rainforests and their recovery.

Despite all this welcome progress, the fact is that on the most crucial issue of 1.5 degrees, the summit in Sharm el-Sheikh cannot be seen as anything but a failure. The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has warned of what we face. He said, quite simply, that

“at the present level, we will be doomed”.

He is not wrong.

What are the Government going to do in the next year to change direction? A number of noble Lords, such as the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Hayman, raised the issue of leadership. We have had lots of Secretaries of State for the Environment, but an absence of leadership. This is long overdue; we need clarity of direction.

We are currently at 1 degree of warming compared to pre-industrial levels—the hottest the world has been for over 100,000 years—and we are already witnessing the disastrous effects. According to the UN, instead of another 0.5 degrees, the limit we need to halt at, we are currently on track for another 1.8 degrees. Unless something changes, and changes now, our generation will leave behind a shameful legacy.

We should be leading on the climate. It is our responsibility, but also an opportunity to set the pace and transform the UK for the future. This does not just mean turning up at COP once a year. How will the Government show leadership every day? That is what is needed. Will they commit, as the Opposition have, to a 2030 zero-carbon power system—the new gold standard of international leadership? Will they end the damaging ban on onshore wind and the blocking of solar, which are the cheapest and cleanest forms of power available to us? Will they acknowledge the continuing damage of fossil fuels?

It was of course welcome that the outgoing COP 26 president, sadly sidelined by the Government, argued that the conclusions of COP 27 should include their phasing out—but these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. COP 27 did not conclude with a timetable or even reassurance that polluting fuels would be phased down by all countries. India’s proposal foundered after opposition from oil-producing and gas-producing nations. The extraction of the reserves that remain would lead to warming far beyond 1.5 degrees, yet that is the path that the Government are set on. Dashing for new fossil fuel licences—a number of noble Lords referred to these—which will have minimal, if any, impact on the bills that the country is currently struggling with, and refusing to rule out a new coal mine in Cumbria, speak loudly of the Government’s commitments in the wrong direction. So why are they continuing along this path, while arguing that the rest of the world should stop?

This is a form of international hypocrisy. Leadership on the climate also means meeting targets, not just setting them. Will the Government finally get on track with the targets that we have set and fix the net-zero strategy, which was found to be unlawful? Indeed, at Copenhagen in 2009, wealthier nations committed to mobilising $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. Despite the worsening climate crisis, and following COP 26, this target has still not been reached. How will the Government ensure that the target is not only met but exceeded during the five-year period to 2025 and beyond? In the Minister’s discussions with other countries, has the Government’s decision to cut our overseas aid budget been helpful in achieving that end?

Next year, leading up to the 2023 global stocktake, is the last real chance to save the target of 1.5 degrees. In years to come, every Government and politician will be judged on how they responded at this moment of jeopardy for the world. I hope—the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, spoke passionately of hope today—that the Government might begin to give the House some clues about how they aim to rise generally to the challenge of that jeopardy.

Battery Strategy (Science and Technology Committee Report)

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Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, this has been an absolutely fascinating debate, I must confess. I have enjoyed listening to it. It has been fizzing with ideas and important points, and coming away from it I feel I have learned something. I do not think I have ever participated before in a deliberation on a Science and Technology Committee report, but clearly, I should do so more often.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Patel, on his brilliance in steering the committee in the way he did, ensuring that the report was as thorough and insightful as it was. As other noble Lords pointed out, the only shame is that the report has taken so long to come before us for debate this afternoon. As somebody pointed out, COP 26 and COP 27 have been and gone, and that time has passed and been lost.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, the opening lines of the summary perfectly pinpoint the problem: if we do not alter the current course of UK manufacture to support the car industry’s transition to electric vehicles, we will not hit our net-zero targets. That is a pretty stark observation. As the report says:

“Despite recent announcements … the pace and scale of building these facilities will not meet demand”,


and, as a number of noble Lords explained, industry will simply uproot itself and move overseas.

The report was clear that the Government needed to establish a strategy for transport, hydrogen and wider decarbonisation. The committee argued that the Government should produce their promised hydrogen strategy as soon as possible. In fairness, they have now done that, but does it match the risks that the committee identified? I do not think so. It is the “stark disconnect” that my noble friend Lord Liddle drew attention to.

The committee also argued that the Government should support the development of UK battery industry supply chains and establish a strategy for securing access to the raw materials needed to make the batteries. The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, pointed very carefully and clearly to some of the problems we are encountering in the critical minerals strategy, which is another warning to the Government.

The committee also recommended that the Government should ensure that the automotive industry has access to a sufficiently skilled workforce to support the transition from mechanical to electrical technology. A number of Peers drew attention to that, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Naseby. The problem here is that we are already far behind our European rivals. As has been said, we have one gigafactory in operation while Germany has five and a further four in construction. France and Italy are set to have twice the number of jobs in battery manufacturing that we are set to have. This simply is not good enough, and it means that our car industry will rapidly become unsustainable.

The committee recommended new research and innovation institutions for fuel cells. It described fuel cells as the Cinderella of UK energy policy, receiving less attention than they deserve, and surely that is right. In response, the Government mentioned the launch of the hydrogen for transport programme to support the development of fuel cell technology and said that they were providing backing through the fuel cell electric fleet scheme. However, these initiatives date back to 2017 and 2016 respectively, so will the Minister say what real progress has been made since?

The committee also called for work with Ofgem to ensure appropriate regulation and incentives are in place to facilitate the expansion of the electricity network. Specifically, the argument was made for the importance of developing smart systems for managing supply and demand. It also said that the Government and Ofgem need to supply the expansion of other more sophisticated services, such as smart tariffs and battery storage. Most importantly, the committee called for the expansion of the public charging network. The fact is that the vast majority of charging points are still located in London and the south-east. The committee wisely argued for the commitment to delivering 325,000 charge points by 2032, as recommended by the Government’s own independent advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change. In response, the Government said that they would deliver £1.3 billion in funding to support the rollout of charge points for homes and businesses and on-street charge points. In March 2022, Taking Charge, the policy document produced by the Government, stated that we would have 300,000 charge points by 2030, but that was rapidly undermined when in June this year the Government ended the support scheme then in place for supporting the electric vehicle grant that focused on charging. Surely this should be the moment where the Government are pulling out all the stops to transition to electric vehicles to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This is a short-sighted decision that will simply put electric cars out of reach for many. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten us today about the number of charging points now in place and what sort of plan there is for each year to hit the latest target.

I compare this with the attitude of places such as Norway, where I went on holiday this summer. I hired an electric car and experienced no problems with recharge facilities. I was actually stuck for choice when recharging. That was on the Lofoten Islands, their equivalent of the Outer Hebrides. We need the Government to embrace the means and the technology.

The committee also urged the Government to decide whether to phase out the sale of new diesel heavy goods vehicles and recommended that the infrastructure is put in place to support this objective. In a far-sighted proposal, it said that the Government should

“provide a clear timeline for research and development of technologies”

necessary to support this transition, including batteries and fuel cells. Thus far, it seems that the Government have got no further than analysing the responses to their 2020 consultation on banning new petrol, diesel and hybrid HGVs. The sector needs clarity, so when will the Government’s response be published? Will the Government also be spelling out the technologies required to ensure this transition is possible? I know the Government confirmed that they are committed to phasing out the sale of non-zero-emission HGVs by 2024, a welcome move, but surely the announcement in May this year of just £200 million to support this transition is barely adequate as a demonstrator programme.

Finally, the report calls for the acceleration of the rail electrification programme to accelerate the transition away from diesel trains. Will the Minister explain where we have got to on this issue? The Government did not respond to that point when replying to the report. Perhaps they can this afternoon.

Thus far the Government’s response to the report has fallen short of where it needs to be. We need the Government to be speedier in their response to the issues the report raises. We also need them to work in partnership with business better to understand the business perspective in tackling the challenges that getting to net zero imply.

It was drawn to our attention earlier in the debate that we have had a change in leadership, with five Secretaries of State in four years, so we have had plenty of leaders, but not much leadership. Surely, there is a big opportunity for the UK in meeting the challenges. By expanding the manufacturing capacity of battery production nationally we create new jobs and opportunities wherever—the West Midlands, the north-east, the north-west and the south-west. We need an industrial strategy that delivers that promise and opportunity as we move to a greener economy.

For our part on the Labour Benches, we think that the Government lack ambition. It is not just Labour that thinks that—senior industrial leaders do too. In the meantime, this report helps to provide the UK with a useful steer in the right direction and should act as a wake-up call to government. For that, we should all be very grateful to the committee and its members for their wisdom and foresight.

Four-Day Working Week

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very good observation. Of course, there have been a number of bank holidays recently and we keep these things under review. I do not think there are any immediate plans to introduce any additional ones, but I am sure it is something that the new PM will want to look at.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Lord of course will be aware that many four-day week working pilots are going on across the world, including one involving 3,500 workers here. The pandemic has proved, I think, that flexible working works and is an effective way of ensuring that we maintain levels of productivity, so will the Government commit not just to carrying out a review of the pilot but, when that pilot is complete, to publishing their own findings and then reviewing their policy? This is a very important policy direction for this country and it could unlock greater levels of productivity, which we are much in need of the moment.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we will take any lessons that are learned through the different pilot studies that are taking place. I think I disagree with the noble Lord that the pandemic proved that flexible working is the norm: it worked in some areas and some industries, but of course the Government did pay huge numbers of people to stay at home during the furlough scheme, which is not something we could ever carry on doing. Of course, it can work in some industries: a number of private sector companies have adopted it and, great, if it works for their particular circumstances and their particular employees, good for them—but it does not work for every industry.

Exports: Support for Businesses

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Thursday 31st March 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are continuing to provide service to a range of businesses, including small businesses, with the export support service. I outlined in the Answer to the noble Baroness the general satisfaction level of businesses with those services.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, as ever the Minister tries to paint a rosy picture of how our exports are going but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, said, UK exports are underperforming against the rest of the world. Exports across the world have bounced back strongly coming out of the pandemic, yet the UK is the only country tracked by the CPB where goods exports remain below the 2010 average. As a result, the UK has become a less trade-intensive economy. Those are the facts. With no evident plan—the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday rather suggested complacency—can the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking urgently to address this and other export-related issues?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We can trade statistics and I can give the noble Lord alternative statistics, but we are optimistic for our export service. We are providing good support to businesses. Businesses across the UK are continuing to export to EU member states and to non-EU member states. We continue to be optimistic for the service. We will provide support to businesses and I am confident that British business will bounce back.

Russian Oil and Gas Imports

Lord Bassam of Brighton Excerpts
Monday 7th March 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Indeed. I agree very much with my noble friend, who makes some extremely good points. We need to bear in mind that a relatively small percentage of our supply is from Russia, of both oil and gas; it makes up less than 4%. I totally agree with him regarding nuclear. Indeed, for those noble Lords who are interested, the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill is in Grand Committee tomorrow.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I have heard the Minister’s response, taking on board in part the point from the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, and recognise that we live in uncertain times. For clarity, can the Minister reconfirm the Government’s commitment to prioritising the development of renewables and that Ministers are looking to speed this programme up, and further commit to ensuring that the Government will renew measures to protect the poorest in our communities from the worsening impacts of rising energy prices?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I agree in large part with what the noble Lord said. Of course we need to expand our renewable capacity as quickly as possible. We already have record amounts and we need to pursue that. We are introducing contracts for difference rounds every year to maintain the ongoing flow of supply. As the noble Lord is aware, we introduced a £9.1 billion package of support for the poorest households.