Debates between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie during the 2019 Parliament

Mon 11th Dec 2023
Tue 17th Oct 2023
Tue 12th Sep 2023
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments
Mon 11th Sep 2023
Thu 13th Jul 2023
Wed 17th May 2023
Mon 24th Apr 2023
Mon 17th Apr 2023
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 2
Tue 28th Mar 2023
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage: Part 1
Mon 16th Jan 2023
Mon 19th Dec 2022
Mon 12th Dec 2022
Tue 22nd Nov 2022
Tue 25th Oct 2022
Mon 24th Oct 2022
Wed 7th Sep 2022
Mon 5th Sep 2022
Energy Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage & Committee stage
Wed 15th Jun 2022
Mon 13th Jun 2022
Tue 23rd Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard) & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report stage
Tue 16th Jun 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (Pension Scheme Amendment) Regulations 2024

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 13th February 2024

(1 week, 2 days ago)

Grand Committee
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Earl Russell Portrait Earl Russell (LD)
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No? Okay, that is fine. Finally, how will the Minister monitor the implementation of the changes? Will that be reported anywhere?

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, this instrument enacts the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority pension scheme, based on the review of public sector pension schemes by my noble friend Lord Hutton in 2011. This resulted in the Public Sector Pensions Act, which enabled the majority of public sector pensions to move from final salary to career average revalued earnings schemes. About 8,000 workers are affected as a result of this instrument. We have nothing to complain about on the scheme, but the process has raised a few questions, as the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, have pointed out. I would like these to be addressed.

During the consultation, many respondents raised concerns that the proposed definitions and the application of the proposed powers were insufficiently clear or too broad. Many sought assurances that the powers would be restricted to implementing the reform agreed with their national trade unions. Furthermore, respondents requested either member or trade union and/or trustee engagement prior to the use of any of the powers. Could the Minister respond to those concerns?

The trustees of the CNPP and MEG-ESPS asked that they be given sufficient time to review the final rule amendments, indicating that about 12 months would have been appropriate. The response to the consultation says that, in the light of this specific request, as much notice as possible would be given to the trustees and members prior to implementation. We now know that the implementation date will be 1 April 2024. Can the Minister tell us when the Government notified the trustees of the changes? Did they deem this sufficient for their purposes of consultation and informing their members?

The noble Lord, Lord Young, raised a concern regarding the reform of the pensions for NDA employees who are covered by the Electricity (Protected Persons) (Scotland) Pension Regulations, which were not included in the public consultation. There are very few of them, as the noble Lord and the information provided say. How many are there? If a change is to be brought in for the persons in Scotland, presumably another full consultation will take place to precede any further regulations.

Finally, to repeat the question of the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, the decision to introduce the scheme was taken on 28 December. There has been plenty of parliamentary time for this half-hour debate to take place, so could we have the actual reason why it was delayed so long?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this debate.

I will start with the points made by my noble friend Lord Young and the noble Earl, Lord Russell. On the small numbers of people excluded, if an individual is entitled to pension protection under the Electricity (Protected Persons) (Scotland) Pension Regulations, they are not in scope for the changes in the NDA group. Whether an individual has this protection will depend on whom they were employed by and the pension scheme that they were eligible to be a member of in March 1990. The Government have reserved their position to keep this under review.

I think that every noble Lord rightly raised the delay in bringing forward these provisions. It was not that we could not find 20 minutes of parliamentary time over six years—if that were true, my noble friend would have a very valid point—but that we did not get the primary powers we required, as he will recall, until the Energy Bill was enacted late last year. It was entirely a result of needing the primary powers before we could make these changes, not a lack of parliamentary time. A great many other measures were held up due to lack of parliamentary time, but that was not the reason for the delay here. My honourable friend the Minister for Nuclear in the other place met the trade unions last year to discuss the NDA provisions in the then Energy Bill. They noted that they were also concerned about the length of time but, when the delay was explained, they were broadly understanding of the reasons.

On the £200 million of savings, despite the delay in the introduction of this legislation, we estimate that the level of savings remains broadly accurate. The exact level will depend on the change to pension arrangements and will vary depending on when members of staff retire, but we still believe that the savings will be significant, of the order of £200 million.

The number of staff affected—broadly 8,000—remains the same. Employees affected were aware of the changes due to be enacted as of April 2024, and there has been a great deal of communication during the last year, including a website set up for those affected. If changes are required to schemes not covered by these regulations, such as schemes in Scotland, that would require further consultation. The Government remain committed to ensuring that public sector pension reform proceeds in line with the 2011 review of the noble Lord, Lord Hutton. These regulations are essential to the success of the implementation of CARE-based pension reform in the NDA group in accordance with broader public sector pay policy.

Reflecting back, it is evident that the complexities of the NDA group’s pension schemes required tailored reforms. Engagement with the trade unions resulted in a bespoke career average revalued earnings scheme, aligning with the broader public sector framework and maintaining valuable benefits for its members. Furthermore, the reform preserves commitments to those excellent benefits, notably including provisions for members to retire at their current retirement age, as I said in opening, which for the majority will be 60. These measures will align NDA group final salary pensions with wider public sector standards, ensuring fairness and efficiency, yielding substantial financial savings and bolstering the NDA’s mission of responsibly decommissioning the UK’s nuclear legacy. I think I have answered all the points put to me—

Hydrogen Heating

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 11th December 2023

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes a very good point. We will of course fully consider those recommendations alongside the views on hydrogen heating.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, newspaper reports at the weekend suggested that the Government were looking for an entire town to use as a hydrogen heating pilot. Given the difficulties in Whitby and Redcar, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, which are not yet resolved but will be very soon, and recent scientific developments, which she also referred to, about indirect warming from hydrogen emissions being higher than previously thought, does the Minister think that now is the right time to be pushing ahead with this?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will find out whether now is the right time to be pushing ahead with it when we announce the decision. He should not necessarily believe everything that he reads in the newspapers.

Climate Change: Aims for COP 28

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 28th November 2023

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes an important point. As she mentioned, we are reviewing our membership. I do not know when a decision will be taken. I hesitate to use the word “imminently” after the last question, but I am sure that we will want to act as quickly as possible.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, staggeringly, we lose more than 15 million trees globally each year due to deforestation. The Center for Global Development predicts that we will lose at least 1 million square miles of forested land by 2050. Can the Government give an update on their pledge to the COP 26 to reverse deforestation by 2030? Can the Minister tell the House whether the Government will use COP 28 as an opportunity to reconsider this key commitment?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an important point. We helped to secure an agreement on the Kunming-Montreal global biodiversity framework to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and the agreement on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We were pleased to support that during our COP presidency and want to continue doing so.

Green Gas Support Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 20th November 2023

(3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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The noble Lord has high expectations. As with the scheme we just discussed, we were very supportive of this scheme when it came out and we still are. Supporting the injection of biomethane into the gas grid, replacing other gases, produces substantial carbon savings and is very welcome indeed. As such, I will not speak for long on this instrument, which simply makes changes to improve the administration of what is already a very positive scheme.

The extent of these changes is to improve the administration of the green gas levy, as the Minister said, to reduce the administrative burden for Ofgem and the gas suppliers that pay it, and to ensure a maintained link between the regulations and policy intent. We welcome the lower administrative burden for Ofgem. It is due, not least, to successful efforts during the passage of the Energy Bill, and it now has a specific mandate to support the Government to meet their net-zero obligation.

I have a few questions, which may help the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in his curiosity about this. Where the instrument changed the green gas levy formerly, it implied that gas suppliers were paying too much due to how interest on funds is allocated. Specifically, interest that had accrued in Ofgem’s account was added to the levy collection target rather than deducted from it, which makes little sense. How did that apparent mistake happen? While it feels peculiar arguing against more money for a scheme that we support—for once, I am not suggesting that gas suppliers’ profits should be better used—it is important that such a scheme is administered fairly. What happened to the previous levies that were collected at too high a rate?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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They were not taken.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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The instrument also allows the Secretary of State to review and update the maximum levy amount to ensure that the levy remains able to sufficiently finance the GGSS after 2008-09, as the Minister said. This of course makes sense, as it is a good scheme and should be financed, but I am cautious on both sides of the argument. If the Secretary of State is to have this new power, why was the scheme not initially created with it written in? Also, if the predicted funding requirement increase is in part predicated on a welcome increase in biomethane production, do the Government foresee a situation where the other reason for the increase—inflation, which I should note was previously caused by the Government—could make a decision to increase the MLA difficult? If so, what happens to the scheme and, if not, could the MLA not increase automatically?

I am curious about the de minimis payments the Minister mentioned. Is this expected to make a net loss or profit for the levy, and has any review been done of the administrative functions that make small payments disproportionately burdensome?

As the Minister said, the other changes are minor, so I will conclude, other than to restate that it is welcome that this positive scheme is being further improved.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his very brief contribution and his support. I will come on to the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, in a moment.

As I said, the green gas levy is charged to licensed gas suppliers in Great Britain to fund the green gas support scheme. These policies make an important contribution to achieving our emissions reduction target by incentivising the production of biomethane and its injection into the gas grid. This reduces the emissions intensity of the UK’s gas supply and ensures the capture and use of emissions from waste, which is used as feedstock for green gas production.

The SI will ensure that the green gas levy can run optimally and will reduce administrative burdens for Ofgem and gas suppliers, thus reducing costs. It will also ensure that the levy is set as intended by altering the collection formula and by adding flexibility to the setting of the maximum levy amount. Overall, this will help the delivery of a cost-effective levy, benefiting policy administration and gas suppliers and, therefore, bill payers.

I will pick up the first question from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie. As I said in my introduction, the interest is charged two years in arrears. There has therefore been no net effect from what was an administrative error when the regulations were tabled. We want this modification to the SI approved now so that, when those interest payments subsequently become due, they will be used to subtract and not add to the overall amount—as was originally stated in error.

The further changes will improve the administration of the levy by Ofgem and for all gas suppliers, and the instrument gives us the opportunity to make these changes. The levy was launched on 30 November 2021, and the intervening years to this point have given us the opportunity to identify one or two minor technical changes to the levy to help reduce the administrative burden. In answer to the noble Lord’s second question, again, we do not expect the de minimis level to make any difference to the overall rate—it is purely that for those very few gas suppliers that have a tiny number of meter points, the administration cost of the levy exceeds the sum raised, so actually it will probably save money in the longer term. However, of course it has no effect on all the big suppliers.

I have dealt with both questions from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and I commend this regulation to the House.

Climate Financing

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 17th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As far as I know, we are fully committed to meeting those targets. We are very proud of our record and all the progress that we have made, including at least £3 billion on mitigating, protecting and restoring nature. We are on track to meet all our commitments.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development, over $1 trillion of public money has been poured into fossil-fuel subsidies since COP 26, mainly in response to the war in Ukraine. This eclipses tenfold the climate finance initiatives made at COP 26. Do the Government accept that this lack of long-term thinking about energy efficiency, onshore wind and solar has left us vulnerable to these outside forces?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not agree with the noble Lord. We have an extremely good record on energy efficiency. To take one of his examples, we have improved the number of properties that are EPC band C or above from 14% when we came into office up to nearly 50% now. Obviously, we need to make a lot more progress. We are spending £6.5 billion in this Parliament on energy efficiency and have already committed another £6 billion from 2025. We are doing extremely well in this area.

Net Zero (Economic Affairs Committee Report)

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 16th October 2023

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, and, through her, the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and other members of the Economic Affairs Committee for producing this weighty report. July 2022 was also when the Government first announced their intention to legislate for the country’s future energy needs in the Energy Bill. The Energy Bill has now expanded to some 400-plus pages, has still not become an Act of Parliament and is due for further consideration by the other place later this week.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It would not if the Government acted as Parliament recommended.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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There is a process to go through. The amendments we made were to the benefit of the Bill rather than to take away from it.

There is some crossover between the Economic Affairs Committee report and the legislation but, sadly, nowhere near enough. The starting point of this report was back in February 2022, when the Economic Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into how the Government could support investment in UK energy to achieve greater security of supply, improve affordability and meet the UK’s net-zero targets.

The committee considered how the Government planned to achieve the following two separate but related objectives. First was the commitment in law to achieve net zero by 2050 alongside the target to decarbonise the system by 2035. The committee considered how this target might be achieved while ensuring the UK’s energy supply was “affordable and reliable”. It argued that encouraging private sector investment was the key to achieving net zero. However, the committee said there was

“a gap between the Government’s ambitions and the practical policy that is needed to provide confidence and clear market signals to investors”.

The second was the Government’s plans to mitigate the effect of rising energy prices exacerbated by Russia’s appalling invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The report produced by the committee recommended that the Government should take the following measures over the next three to five years—now two to four years. First, they should publish a net-zero delivery plan which would detail how the UK could achieve net zero in an orderly way. Secondly, they should publish an energy demand reduction strategy which would include measures to increase incentives for investment in energy efficiency measures for buildings and to support the development of resilient supply chains and workforce skills—as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, pointed out, this has not happened. Thirdly, they should increase the deployment of renewable energy sources to reduce the UK’s dependence on gas markets, including onshore wind, which it describes as

“one of the cheapest and fastest ways to increase renewable energy generation”,

despite the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Frost. Fourthly, they should maintain existing energy generation in the immediate future while extending the life of nuclear power stations over coal power stations, as this would result in lower carbon emissions. Finally, they should seek to reach agreement with other European countries to manage energy supply emergencies. Have any of these measures been taken on board?

The committee also recommended that the Government should take action to increase investor confidence to make more private capital available to support the transition to net zero, by setting out a cost analysis of their targets to achieve 24 gigawatts of nuclear capacity. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, pointed out, this figure is more than double the capacity assumed by the Climate Change Committee. Can the Minister explain the variance between the two? It also recommended they provide more detail on the capacity, timeframes and expected costs of increasing long-duration energy storage, outline the market structures and mechanisms that would be used to support increased hydrogen production and support carbon capture and storage by fulfilling their commitment to develop four low-carbon industrial clusters. They should also design “market models” to provide information to investors on the types of technology required, to give potential investors greater confidence in the long-term viability of carbon capture and storage. Is there any sign of this happening?

Since the report was published, a number of government changes have affected energy policy. The Energy Bill was introduced in 2022 under Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It included measures intended to leverage investment in clean technologies, protect customers and maintain the safety, security and resilience of the energy system. It reached Committee on 7 September 2022 and was thereafter paused by the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. Following Liz Truss’s resignation, in December 2022 Committee started again and, under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the House of Commons is now scheduled to consider Lords amendments on 18 October. In February 2023, BEIS was replaced, with responsibility for energy policy transferred to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Grant Shapps served as Secretary of State for Energy from February to 31 August; currently, the Secretary of State is Claire Coutinho, but for how long is anyone’s guess.

Chris Skidmore published his review Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net Zero on 13 January 2023. It concluded that the UK was not on track to meet all its targets towards achieving net zero and stated that the Government needed to do more to make the most of the economic opportunities arising from the transition to net zero. The Government have published a series of policy updates on their plans. In March 2023, Powering Up Britain was Secretary of State Grant Shapps’s launch of the new Government’s energy strategy. In the same month, Mobilising Green Investment: 2023 Green Finance Strategy updated the previous green strategy. In this, the Government committed to commissioning an

“industry-led … review into how the UK can enhance our position and become the best place in the world for raising transition capital”.

Has it happened?

On 20 September 2023, Rishi Sunak, still the PM, gave a speech in which he announced some changes to government policy on achieving net zero. While working towards meeting their overall 2050 net-zero target, he said that policies including the ending of the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans, plus the sale of new gas boilers, would be pushed back by five years to 2035. How does this help achieve net zero? Its effect has been to deter investment by undermining the commitment and consistency required by business, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, said.

This is the framework in which the Economic Affairs Committee report is being considered. Of its 38 recommendations, only a small handful have been taken forward. However, the Government’s initiatives to secure private capital by certainty and leadership are woefully inadequate. In the meantime, more changes have been confirmed. Alok Sharma, chair of COP 26, is standing down. Chris Skidmore is not going to contest his seat in the next general election. The offshore wind auction attracted no bids because the strike price was wrong.

Tony Blair once said:

“I’ve not got a reverse gear”.


It is a pity the same cannot be said of Rishi Sunak. The report rightly states that the Government cannot be expected to accurately predict what is going to happen in the future. Surely, though, we can expect more than what is currently on offer.

Labour would establish Great British Energy. It would invest in order that Britain can lead the world in carbon-free energy and technologies. Labour will ensure that we have the grid we need to rewire our country. Our public investment will stimulate private investment to bring prosperity to every part of Britain.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for securing this debate, as well as thanking noble Lords for their insightful contributions.

It was a bit rich for the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, to criticise us for not getting the Energy Bill on to the statute book. The reason we have not done that is because the Opposition—despite saying that they support it—have supported largely irrelevant and superfluous amendments to the Bill. If the noble Lord is so keen to get it on to the statute book, he has the opportunity to prove it next week when it will come back to this House. I hope the Opposition will agree with the passage of the Bill, rather than just saying that they support it. We will then be able to get it on to the statute book and proceed to the secondary legislation, which will result from the primary powers, on things such as hydrogen, CCUS, et cetera.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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I think it is a bit rich for the Minister to say that the Opposition parties are responsible for the delay to the Energy Bill. It was paused by the Government for three or four months, when they went absolutely silent. We were knocking on the door asking what was happening with the Energy Bill, but nothing was forthcoming.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I will make a few comments. First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and my noble friend Lady Blake for their amendments and will make our position on them clear. Secondly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Callanan, for the welcome changes that he made to the Bill in the other place on the housing levy and on renewable liquid fuels.

We generally welcome the passage of the Bill. It has been a long time in gestation—15 months or more—with hundreds of changes and more today. We welcome all those too, although they probably could have been made earlier.

I turn to the three amendments. First, on coal, the new new Labour Party is no longer in favour of coal. We absolutely support what the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said about the coal industry, and it is time to put this in legislation. It is not enough to say that we are no longer committed to coal; we need to legislate for it and so we will be supporting this amendment.

On my noble friend Lady Blake’s amendment on energy efficiency, I will restate the facts. First, the UK has the least energy-efficient homes in Europe. Domestic energy-efficiency measures have fallen 95% since 2012 and are 20 times lower than they were when Labour was last in power. The Resolution Foundation estimates that 9 million households are paying an extra £170 a year as a result of these failings.

The Minister said that the amendment is unnecessary, because it is partly in the net zero strategy and the Powering Up Britain publication, but this is legislation, and it should state what the Government propose to achieve and by what timescale. Therefore, we support the amendment.

On community energy, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, set out very clearly her proposal to commit the Government to finding out what the barriers inhibiting the development of community energy are, and to bring forward a plan to overcome them. That is a very modest amendment from where we were the last time around, and I can see no reason whatever for the Government not to support it. We will support those three amendments should the Members wish to test the opinion of the House.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I will start on the last issue raised by the noble Baronesses, Lady Boycott and Lady Meacher, and others: that of community energy.

The Government launched the £10 million fund this summer, and it is larger than its predecessors. From what I have seen so far, it has been welcomed across the community energy sector. It will fund projects such as Congleton Hydro, which received £73,500 in funding from the former rural community energy fund—this fund will do a similar job. Thanks to that funding, it is producing affordable, clean and secure electricity from a local weir, enough to power the equivalent of 60 homes. Not only is the project reducing emissions in the area but its success has led to the creation of an annual £5,000 fund for local community projects.

Amendments 274A and 274B aim to commit us to a consultation on the barriers preventing the development of community energy schemes. The amendments set out with whom we should consult, and commit government to bringing forward proposals to remove identified barriers to community energy. But as I referred to earlier, the Government have already committed to consult on the barriers that the sector faces when developing projects. As part of this process, we will of course involve the community energy sector in designing the consultation, through the Community Energy Contact Group. We continue to believe that it is more appropriate to allow the small-scale export market to develop with minimum intervention than to introduce a support scheme that specifies minimum prices or contract lengths for generators.

I know that the House is keen on supporting community energy, and we are the same, but it has to be done in a cost-effective manner, because the cost is borne by every other bill payer. It might be advantageous to certain islands or rural community villages, but if there is a cost in excess of the system, it is borne by every other bill payer in the country. The amendments would place an additional obligation on government to bring forward proposals to remove these barriers within a specified timeframe.

In Committee in the other place, Energy UK submitted evidence recognising the role of community energy but cautioning:

“The additional context of developing roles for future energy system operation, reform of competition in delivery of network infrastructure, and wider reforms of electricity markets including energy retail”


mean that the consideration of community energy needs to take into account this much wider context, rather than considering community energy “in isolation”, and that we need

“to give the Government, the regulator, and the industry time to fully consider”

all those issues. We must be careful not to disadvantage the majority of the population to benefit a very small minority.

We obviously cannot be sure what the consultation will conclude until we have carried it out, so in our view it is not appropriate to make a commitment to do something the outcome of which, and what barriers or proposals will come forward, we do not know at this stage. But I reassure the House that the Government will continue to work closely with the sector and the wider industry on the best way forward.

I now move on to the somewhat contentious issue of coal. Amendment 272A, on prohibiting coal extraction, was raised by a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Lennie, and of course the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I was particularly interested to hear the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, because of course we both come from the north-east of England, and there are still sitting Labour MPs in the north-east, whom the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, knows well, campaigning in favour of opening new coal mines. It is interesting that the Labour position seems to be developing from that.

A full prohibition on coal extraction is likely to prevent extensions in existing operational mining—even where that extension could enable site restoration or deliver public safety benefits. It would cut across heritage mining rights in, for instance, the Forest of Dean, which is important to its tourism offer, and perhaps also in Beamish, another area that we know well. Importantly, it would prevent domestic coal extraction projects from progressing that seek to supply industries that are still reliant on coal, such as steel manufacturing. Again, the Labour Party loses no opportunity to lecture us on the importance of the steel industry. That industry is going through a transformation, but many parts of it still require access to coal, so I hope the Labour Party has cleared its position with the steel unions, which I suspect would not support an amendment such as this—I will leave that little domestic argument to different Labour members.

The phasing out of future coal-powered generation, which we do agree with, is a more proportionate response to moving away from coal use than a complete prohibition on coal extraction. Such a ban would deny the prospect of access to domestic coal reserves for future generations, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the use it could be put to and regardless of the fact that it could perhaps play a role with CCUS in the future.

The Secretary of State for DLUHC’s decision on the mine followed a comprehensive planning inquiry that heard from over 40 different witnesses and considered matters including the demand for coking coal and its suitability. It went into all the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, recommended, the climate change impact and, crucially, the impact on that particular local economy. While the full reasons for the Secretary of State’s decision are set out in his published letter—which should perhaps be read in its entirety—he concluded that

“there is currently a UK and European market for the coal … it is highly likely that a global demand would remain”.

While coking coal may be required for steel production for quite some time—I assume the Labour Party is not proposing that we should close the steel industry down overnight; if so, that would be a fairly radical policy change from all that it has said before—to support the decarbonisation of that industry through its transition period, as well as other industries that still rely on coking coal, we have already put in place the £315 million industrial energy transformation fund. We think that is a better way to help industry move away from coal in the future, rather than just banning their fuel source, because you would be banning British coal—you would not be banning coal; you would just import those same supplies produced by miners in other parts of the world. This helps business, in our view, with their high energy use, to cut their energy bills and reduce their carbon emissions through investing in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies—that is a more constructive way to proceed.

On sustainable aviation fuel, again the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, got excited and condemned us for something that we are not doing. Sustainable aviation fuel is the most developed technology pathway for aviation decarbonisation and will play a key role along with the other technologies as outlined in the jet zero strategy. Many experts view sustainable aviation fuel as the only alternative to kerosene for long-haul flights up until 2050. If the noble Baroness does not want that, she should have the courage of her convictions and say to people that what the Greens really want to do is to ban flying completely, to prevent people going on business or on their holidays. If that is her agenda, she should say so, rather than try to put amendments forward to prevent us developing those sustainable fuels that we could use in the future to decarbonise the sector.

We recognise that there is uncertainty around feedstock availability and we will continue to work closely with colleagues across government to ensure that the most up-to-date evidence and modelling are reflected throughout the policy design of the SAF mandate and the revenue certainty mechanism. We have already confirmed that the sustainable aviation fuel mandate will not support crop-based biofuels and that SAF must meet strict sustainability criteria. These measures will prevent negative environmental consequences, such as the loss of biodiversity, deforestation and the clearance of land with high-carbon stock that could be associated with the cultivation of raw materials that may be used in certain SAF production.

On energy efficiency and energy statements, of course I understand noble Lords’ desire to go further. I am passionately committed to the cause of energy efficiency, but I do not recognise some of the characterisation put forward in this House. We are making good progress in this country. In 2010, some 14% of UK homes were at EPC band C or above. Now it almost 50%. We have a particularly difficult problem because we have the oldest housing stock in Europe, but we are making progress on this matter. We could go further and faster, and we are endeavouring to do so, but we do have a good record in this country. I want to put that on the record before I talk about the specific issues.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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All I would like to say is that, in response to the comments by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, we are interested in keeping the lights on and we are interested in nuclear being part of the mix of fuels that will keep the electricity going, particularly now that coal will no longer be part of the electricity production in this country.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I will first deal directly with the points by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. What should I say about this? He is, of course, prescient in his observations, but this has been a long-standing policy—effectively of the Treasury, which is unwilling to fund many of these policies from general taxation. Therefore, a lot of previous subsidies, such as the warm home discount, are levied on energy bills. That has been a long-standing policy through a number of Governments and different Treasuries. I wish the noble Lord luck in his campaign to change the mind of His Majesty’s Treasury on these matters.

Moving on to the other issues, let me deal first with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The problem for the Greens on this is that any sensible energy system in the UK—this is recognised also by the Opposition and we are grateful for their support—needs nuclear power, because it is a source of carbon-free electricity. Of course, many Greens, the more progressive Greens who have looked at our energy system properly, also support the use of nuclear power. I would point the noble Baroness to a very interesting website that I was looking at, called Greens for Nuclear Energy. This is a statement from a series of members of the Green Party who take a sensible and progressive view about this. Looking at the needs of the energy supply system and the need for decarbonisation, they have come to the same conclusion as many other sensible experts: that there is a need for nuclear power in this country.

The website says:

“Greens For Nuclear Energy seek to influence the Green movement’s key organisations and institutions”


in favour of nuclear energy because

“We need every available low carbon power source to combat catastrophic climate change”.


They therefore believe that

“the increasingly urgent need to deal decisively with our emerging climate crisis makes continued opposition to nuclear energy irrational for environmentalists and reduces our chances of averting a climate catastrophe.”

Perhaps the noble Baroness would want to go away and look at some of the more sensible members of her own party.

The invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent rise in global energy prices have demonstrated the paramount importance of accelerating our homegrown power and strengthening our national energy security. This is in addition to the significant contribution, as I have just said, that nuclear would make to achieving our net-zero objectives because it is very low carbon. Nuclear technology generates zero direct carbon or other greenhouse gas emissions and has one of the lowest life cycle emission rates among generating technologies. The Committee on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and the UN Economic Commission for Europe—alongside some sensible Green members—have all highlighted the role that new nuclear electricity generating capacity, in partnership with renewables, can play as part of our diverse energy mix while helping us to achieve net zero.

Great British Nuclear will de-risk new nuclear developments by, among other things, co-funding selected technologies through their development. This will provide greater certainty for investors to develop projects over the long term required to deliver new nuclear generation capacity on to the electricity grid. We intend to fund Great British Nuclear’s initial operating costs via grant in aid. It will be subject to standard NDPB reporting and accountability requirements, which will be set out in Great British Nuclear’s framework document.

The terms of investment in development projects will be bespoke and negotiated on an individual basis. The key goal will be to deliver on the Government’s commitment to increase nuclear energy capacity in Britain, while of course ensuring, as always, value for money for the taxpayer and the bill payer. We are legislating to ensure that Great British Nuclear has the long-term operational mandate needed to carry out the role that government intend for it. The amendments set out the framework within which Great British Nuclear shall operate in facilitating the deployment of nuclear reactors in Britain.

I spoke earlier about the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. The EII support levy, like the other measures in the British Industry Supercharger, would simply constitute a rebalancing of existing electricity costs away from EIIs and on to other energy users, who have traditionally received more protection from higher energy prices than some in industry.

At the end of these debates, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed. In particular, I thank my colleague in the other place, Andrew Bowie, for guiding the Bill through the House of Commons. I also thank the department’s Bill team and all the other policy and legal officials across various government departments who have been involved in this huge and landmark piece of legislation. They who have worked tirelessly to deliver it. I particularly thank the House authorities, parliamentary staff, clerks and doorkeepers, and all noble Lords who have contributed to the evolution of this landmark Bill.

Offshore Wind

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 11th September 2023

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness asks a very good question. Eleven tidal stream projects were consented in this allocation round, totalling about 41 megawatts. The price for that is currently higher but we need to develop this technology. I hope, as has been the case with offshore wind, that if we continue to let more CfDs the price will continue to come down over time. That was one area of the round that was successful.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, given the Government’s monumental failure—and they were warned about it, as has been said around this House—to attract any interest whatever from the energy sector in their recent CfD bidding process for offshore wind projects, can we assume there will not be any similar complacency when it comes to developing onshore wind projects, which, in light of the current failure, must now be the Government’s priority towards achieving net zero?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Again, there is no complacency. I understand that there are many projects wanting the go-ahead, but we must be careful in making sure that the consumer gets a fair deal. Lots were consented to last year; I am sure that lots will be consented to in the future. The noble Lord talks about onshore wind. I am pleased to tell him that 24 onshore wind projects were consented to and were successful in this round, totalling 888 megawatts.

Decarbonisation

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Thursday 13th July 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness is asking me to comment on tax policies and hypothecation of taxes, which are matters in the purview of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I shall make sure her views are communicated to him.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government’s IDDI consultation, which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, referred to, sets out four levels that are being considered. The Government make a firm statement about their policies achieving levels 1 and 2. With level 3, the Government say that they are minded to achieve it. As for level 4, which is about achieving the UK’s decarbonisation objectives, the Government say that they may commit to it. When can we expect decisive leadership so that we commit to achieving all four of these IDDI objectives?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I am slightly disappointed by the tone of the question. We are already showing decisive leadership: we are one of the only countries in the world to already have green procurement strategies for major public procurement. This is a complicated area, as has been illustrated by the questions from the noble Lord’s own Benches. We need to make sure that we get it right and do not disadvantage British industries or drive up the cost for consumers.

Cement Industry: Carbon Dioxide

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 12th July 2023

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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That is one of technologies we are looking at. We also gave £3.2 million to the Mineral Products Association to develop a low-carbon fuel mix for cement. It held a trial at Hanson’s Ribblesdale plant and Tarmac’s Tunstead plant using a mix of 100% net-zero fuels, including hydrogen.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I too agree with the Minister that the concrete industry accounts for approximately 1.5% of emissions in this country. Globally, the figure rises to 8%, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. Last year, a report from the Low Carbon Concrete Group suggested that the UK concrete industry could become a carbon sink by the 2040s. Welcome though this prediction is, we must recognise that this is a global problem. What steps are the Government taking to encourage other countries to set out and achieve similarly ambitious goals?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour agreeing with me is destroying my credibility on this side of the House. I agree with the noble Lord; we are seeking to work with other countries as well. One of the issues in the sector, as we look to reform the ETS, is carbon leakage. We must make sure we do all we can to avoid it.

Electricity Capacity (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 5th July 2023

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out the instrument and giving us advance warning that more is to come shortly. The capacity market is at the heart of maintaining a secure and reliable electricity system. It provides all forms of electricity capacity on a system during periods of electricity shortage and stress, such as when it is extremely cold or when the wind is low while demand is high. As the Minister said, the capacity market works by allowing eligible bidders to compete in T-1 or T-4 auctions on a one-year or four-year basis ahead of when they must deliver capacity. A successful bidder is awarded a capacity agreement which requires delivery during times of stress.

As the Minister said, this instrument makes changes to three areas of regulation. First, Regulation 10 of the 2014 regulations obliges the Secretary of State to set out whether capacity auctions are to be held. The change will require the Secretary of State to publish a decision only if the Government determine that an auction will not be held, helping to improve administrative efficiency. Does this effectively enrol a current capacity provider into the scheme automatically?

Secondly, Regulation 34 of the 2014 regulations allows capacity providers to seek termination of their capacity agreement with a view to becoming eligible to participate in the contracts for difference scheme. I think the Minister said that they are mutually exclusive as things stand. Currently, the LCCC, as the counterparty, has to give notice of such an intention. However, it cannot know in advance if the CMU will be successful in its bid for a contract for difference.

This instrument means that notice comes from a capacity provider seeking termination of their capacity agreement in order to become eligible to apply in a contract for difference allocation round. How many capacity providers have thus far been unable to use the process set out in Regulation 34? The Minister may say all of them, but how many would have wanted to use the termination process? Have the Government made any assessment of the impact of this, and will this change be kept under review?

Thirdly, I turn to Regulation 41 of the 2014 regulations. Capacity providers can be financially penalised, as the Minister said, if they fail to provide capacity in times of stress. Currently, the settlement body has 21 days to calculate the relevant penalty and to invoice capacity providers which must pay such penalties. This instrument increases the timeframe to 35 days. Does that mean that penalties that should have been paid were previously missed because they were not calculated in time? If so, could the Minister indicate the value of those? By contrast, is this change expected to increase the number and value of penalties that are enforced? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Naseby and Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for their valuable contributions on an important subject for the nation’s electricity supplies.

As I mentioned in my introduction, the capacity market is our main mechanism for ensuring the security of electricity supply. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, I say that it has already secured the majority of Great Britain’s capacity needs right out to 2026-27, because the Government take no chances with the security of supply. We continue to believe that the capacity market is an effective insurance mechanism, providing secure and affordable electricity that families and businesses can rely on.

The capacity market is, indeed, tried and tested. The fact that it has supported investment in just under 17.5 gigawatts of new-build, flexible capacity since its introduction demonstrates that it can bring forward the capacity needed to meet future peak demand and replace older capacity as it retires and as we transition to a net-zero economy.

Furthermore, we continue to take steps to ensure its ongoing, efficient and effective operation. The Government are committed to ensuring that the right policy tools are in place for delivering a secure and affordable electricity system as we transition to net zero. That includes regularly assessing the performance of the capacity market and, as we are debating today, exploring improvements to the scheme.

As we noted in our 2023 government response to the capacity market consultation, we have set out a two-phased approach for reforms in the capacity market. This instrument seeks to implement purely technical amendments under the first phase to improve the administrative arrangements. In the next phase of reforms to the capacity market, the Government intend to undertake further analysis and development on the remaining proposals prior to taking a final decision on implementation. This includes proposals to align the capacity market with net zero, such as reducing the emission intensity limits for new-build plants and enabling low-carbon capacity with low capital expenditure to access multi-year agreements.

We will also look ahead to the future as part of the review of electricity market arrangements programme. REMA is exploring options to create an electricity market design that will enable us to transition efficiently from fossil fuels to renewables and other forms of low-carbon generation, which I hope will make us more resilient to overseas energy shocks and ensure energy security.

COP 28

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 17th May 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes an important point, although it is slightly off the topic of the COP 28 agenda. We are incredibly proud of the massive contribution of £11.6 billion that this Government are making towards international climate finance, helping those very countries. The wider issue of debt relief is also important and will be taken forward by international development colleagues.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government have already set out some of their priorities for COP 28, one of which is to actively follow up on the phase-down of coal and the phase-out of all fossil fuels. The recent words of COP 28 president Sultan Al Jaber have been widely interpreted as meaning using carbon capture and storage to capture CO2 emissions and not completely phase out fossil fuels. What consideration have the Government given to these remarks and what steps have been taken to address them?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an important point, citing the chairman of COP. The reality is that there will still be a requirement for fossil fuels in the years to come. There will still be a requirement in the UK, which is why we have an ambitious programme —we are spending £20 billion on carbon capture usage and storage. That still enables emissions to take place but of course they will be captured and stored back underground.

Non-Domestic Alternative Fuel Payment Application Scheme Pass-through Requirement Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 16th May 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for their repeated comments from previous similar discussions.

This instrument provides for pass-through requirements on intermediaries in respect of non-domestic alternative fuel payments in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Energy Prices Act enables energy support schemes to help households and businesses with energy costs for winter 2022 and future periods. As we have heard, this scheme will provide a single £150 payment to non-domestic users of alternative fuels in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In Great Britain, payments are made to non-domestic premises in an off-grid postcode. In Northern Ireland, payments are enabled to on and off-grid postcodes.

Intermediaries are individuals in receipt of a scheme payment who, under these regulations, should pass on the payment in a “just and reasonable” way to end users. If this is less than the full amount, the intermediaries must justify the reduction to end users. This must be made in writing within 30 days of the scheme’s benefit being provided and payment made as soon as reasonably practicable. That is all well and good so far.

However, as we have asked of previous pass-through schemes, what is the remedy if this plan is not followed? How can an end user challenge the reduction in a payment or a delay in receiving either the full or reduced payment? There is no mechanism to enforce these regulations, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said. Of course, most intermediaries will comply with the requirements built into the scheme but that does not achieve the policy objective that requires all intermediaries to do so.

We do not oppose these regulations but they fall down because no one actually has to do anything about them to ensure full compliance. There is a theoretical remedy through the civil courts, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, but how does an end user who has not been notified that they are due a payment mount a claim for such a payment to be made? Just because the Government have made corresponding regulations for other comparable schemes does not justify doing so again here. Labour and other opposition parties have previously raised this concern about effective enforcement and the Government have batted it away—and no doubt will do so again here today. But a scheme that relies upon people acting in a just and reasonable way without the means to ensure that they will do so is not a foolproof scheme but a best-endeavours scheme. Its success cannot be measured by less than 100% effectiveness. What does the Minister say on that?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Lennie, for their comments.

This instrument is necessary to ensure the proper delivery of the non-domestic alternative fuel payment scheme by allowing support to reach those who need it. The scheme is already in place and delivering much-needed support to non-domestic consumers across the UK. The scheme supports a wide range of businesses and other non-domestic consumers that are not connected to the gas grid. As I said, it is delivering a payment of £150, thereby helping businesses and organisations that rely on alternative fuels to meet their eligible costs. Most eligible customers should have already received their £150 payment by the end of March as a credit from their electricity suppliers. Where these payments were received by an intermediary, the pass-through regulations that we previously made ensure that they passed it on to the end users in a just and reasonable way. Although a relatively small proportion of businesses and organisations are entitled to a top-up payment, these payments are also important in ensuring that those consumers are not left behind and receive support comparable to those received by consumers on the gas grid and who have benefited from other schemes.

We opened an application service for the top-up payment on 20 March, and we are processing payments as quickly as possible. In addition to the top-up payment, we provided a route for customers to apply for the basic £150 payment in the limited circumstances where it was not possible for them to receive it through an electricity supplier. These regulations ensure that in all these circumstances, where a payment is made following an application, end-users benefit from the requirement that intermediaries pass on that support in a just and reasonable way. It is a case of extending the safeguards already in place for the earlier part of the scheme to payments made following an application.

On the specific points made in the debate, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked about the duration of the support and the latest report from the JCSI. We are providing one-off payments to eligible businesses and organisations to ensure comparable support to that received by on-grid customers who have benefited from the energy bill relief scheme, and we are in the process of issuing payments to applicants. In response to the noble Baroness’s point about the JCSI’s comments on enforcement, also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, our view remains, as the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, correctly predicted, that there is little value in establishing a formal enforcement mechanism. However, we believe that it is important to include a provision on pass-through of information, as most intermediaries will comply with this.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked how successful the existing pass-through arrangements have been. We are not aware of any significant issues in the delivery of this scheme or the pass-through arrangements. Nevertheless, the scheme remains in progress, and we will continue to keep it under review and respond to any issues as they arise. As the scheme is still in progress, we are not yet in a position to say precisely how many businesses will benefit, but we believe that around 400,000 end-users will receive some level of payment under the scheme. That is a considerable amount of support.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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Is that the payment to intermediaries, who are expected to pass it on, or is it the payment received by end-users?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It would be the end-users, irrespective of whether they received it directly or via an intermediary.

As I said, we have published extensive guidance for both the intermediary and the end-user to ensure that they know their obligations and entitlements. Although we are mindful of the comments that we have received regarding these and previous pass-through regulations, in our view it is important that the non-domestic alternative fuel payment is delivered consistently as one coherent scheme. As these regulations cover only a small part of a much wider scheme that is already in place, it is right that we maintain essentially the same approach followed in the previous regulations for other parts of the scheme. Nevertheless, we will continue to update and publicise the guidance on GOV.UK to ensure that end-users and intermediaries understand their rights and obligations. I therefore commend these regulations to the Committee.

Climate Change: Net Zero Strategy

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 3rd May 2023

(9 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes an important point. I know he has a lot of experience in this area and he is right to point out the scale of the task. It is an immense challenge to be done over many years; none of this happens overnight. Some of the wind farms that are coming on stream this year were planned a decade ago; it all takes time to do, but over the next 20 or 30 years we need to make progress towards those goals. They are legally binding, so we need to meet them and we are on track to do so.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, following the Minister’s answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, the Government are currently way off track to meet their sixth carbon budget for 2033 to 2037. This is a crucial period once the low-hanging fruit has all been picked. What additional measures are the Government considering to ensure that the harder to abate sectors deliver the necessary reductions in large-scale emissions in order to ensure we meet our net-zero targets?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The sixth carbon budget goes through to 2038. We have set out policies to meet— I think—about 97% of the targets under that and we have a number of other policies that are so far unquantified. In essence, the noble Lord is right, of course. As we make faster progress—and we are making very swift progress—the targets become more difficult to meet: but I am confident that we can do so.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, I will update the House on the legislative consent Motion process for the Energy Bill. The UK Government are seeking legislative consent Motions from the devolved legislatures for the Bill, in line with the Sewel convention. My officials are working with devolved government officials and will continue to do so throughout the Bill’s passage.

The Scottish Government have requested amendments to the Bill and are currently withholding support for legislative consent. We will of course continue to work with them regarding their concerns. The Welsh Government have not yet laid a legislative consent memorandum. It is not possible at present to obtain a legislative consent Motion from the Northern Ireland Assembly, but the UK Government are engaging with officials in the Northern Ireland Civil Service. The UK Government welcome the interest that the devolved Governments have shown in the Energy Bill and will continue to work closely with them on proposed changes in order to progress legislative consent Motions for the Bill.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, this huge Bill leaves the House in far better shape than when it arrived. A combination of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, other parties, individuals and, most importantly, Cross-Benchers have secured measures that should see ISOP’s independence assured, community energy export markets develop, warmer homes and an efficiency plan to achieve that, the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority strengthened, and the ceasing of any further coal mining in this country—thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. It is to be hoped that the Government will support these changes in the other place and will not bring this Bill back for ping-pong. The range of supporters across the House should be sufficient to convince the Minister to back the changes to the Bill made by this House.

In the meantime, my thanks go to the Minister—remarkably, he has stayed the course while his Government have changed leadership three times and his Secretary of State twice since we began in September 2022—and his advisers from BEIS, and subsequently DESNZ, who have continually briefed and been available to answer questions and clarify intentions as we wended our way through this tome of a Bill.

My appreciation goes to my noble friend Lady Blake for her continuing support and to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, with whom it has been a pleasure to work on the Bill. My thanks are also due to a number of Back-Benchers and Cross-Benchers, mainly drawn from the Peers for the Planet group, particularly including the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman, Lady Boycott, Lady Bennett and Lady Worthington—sadly temporarily departed from this House—and my noble friend Lord Whitty. Thanks also go to the House staff and the doorkeepers for arrangements during delays in advancement of the progress of the Bill, which were not of their making, and for keeping the quick-quick-slow dance rhythm to the Energy Bill.

My biggest thanks go to the remarkable Milton Brown in Labour’s legislative team of advisers for always being up to date with the progress of the Bill, for his liaison with the other place and for his political briefings and judgment, which allowed my noble friend Lady Blake and me to keep focused on this Bill over a long period. We wish it well on the next stage of its journey.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, my understanding is that the Minister will confirm the Government’s support for an independent ISOP, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and this being the case, we know no longer need to divide the House on our amendments. So, rather than listening to me putting forward the argument in favour of achieving this, I think we would be better served to listen to the Minister in his reasoning for an independent ISOP: I thank him for his time over the weekend, when we reached this position.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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Let me first thank all noble Lords for their amendments, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for the time he gave to discussing this matter. As always, there were valuable contributions from all parts of the House.

On the details of the amendments, Amendment 60, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, seeks to establish an industry-led advisory board for the ISOP. In the original consultation, the respondents strongly indicated that the body should be independent of energy sector interests, and I think that is a view shared by the Opposition. The Government therefore remain concerned that inserting in legislation a formal oversight role, as is being suggested, will place decision-making back in the hands of the energy sector and go against the reasons and mechanism for creating an independent ISOP in the first place. This could make the ISOP risk-averse or unwilling to take action that is potentially challenging to market participants but could be on the side of consumers, even if that action might be beneficial to the system itself.

We are therefore concerned that, rather than enhancing independence, members of such an advisory board would likely hold various energy sector conflicts. There are many ways this could crystallise, including resistance to systemic reform, more strident advice in favour of compensation for energy sector participants, or incumbent bias, for instance seeking to frustrate new market entrants which could stifle the innovation that I think everyone, in all parts of the House, is agreed that we need to reach net zero.

Establishing an industry-led advisory board for the ISOP would be similar to establishing one for, for instance, the Climate Change Committee—an organisation which, in our view, also needs to remain independent of industry interests. I hope noble Lords would agree that we need genuine, independent, expert thinking, rather than vested interests. Thankfully, this amendment is not required to ensure board independence; the Government intend to require that a number of sufficiently independent directors—or SIDs, to use the acronym—sit on the ISOP’s board. A SID is a board member who meets certain criteria to ensure that, as well as being skilled, knowledgeable and experienced, they are impartial, with restrictions including on certain shareholdings in the energy industry. Requirements in the ISOP’s licence will set a minimum number of SIDs to ensure that the ISOP’s board has strong representation from those outside the ISOP and is unconflicted by the interests of the energy industry.

To ensure effective scrutiny of the appointment of the ISOP’s chair, we are also asking the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments and the new departmental Select Committee, once established, to conduct pre-appointment scrutiny. Energy sector experts will have opportunities to input to the ISOP’s work, of course. For instance, the system operator’s business plan submissions, assessed by Ofgem, will continue to be open to consultation with market participants, including members of the specific industry forums mentioned in this amendment. Finally, through its price control process, Ofgem will ensure that the FSO is fully resourced to fulfil its objectives and obligations, including the funding of its statutory duties towards consumers, energy security and net zero.

Turning to Amendments 59 and 62, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, again we agree with the sentiment of the noble Lord’s amendments, and the Government remain resolute that the ISOP shall be an independent public body. We continue to act to make this so. However, it is critical that the ISOP remains a dynamic organisation capable of adapting and evolving to the future conditions of the energy sector. I therefore hope the noble Lord will agree with me that it is preferable not to constrain the ISOP pre-emptively in legislation at this fairly early stage but to maintain some flexibility. With the rapid deployment expected in the energy sector, reasonable circumstances may arise in which the ISOP is well placed to take on some future energy sector role or interest.

Regarding the specifics of Amendment 62, I believe there are already significant controls and limits upon the Secretary of State in acting as the sole shareholder. These will include limits in the framework agreement, which we will of course make public. These controls will ensure that the ISOP’s operational independence is protected.

Legislating for the ISOP to “be independent” does not, in my view, appear to offer a material benefit beyond the controls already established in Part 4 of the Bill and the framework documents, but it risks preventing the intended corporate composition of the ISOP, thereby undermining its effectiveness.

Finally, on Amendment 61, also tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, the Government agree that it will be important to ensure that the ISOP is fully resourced to fulfil the objectives and obligations set out in its licence. In our view, the most effective funding mechanism to achieve this and realise our vision for an independent ISOP is for it to be funded by consumers through price control arrangements, much like the current gas and electricity system operators are today.

Levies placed on licensed bodies can be expected to filter through to consumers. However, we are concerned that the requirement to establish an audit board risks duplication with the current well-understood and transparent regulatory model established under Ofgem. Without a price control process run by the regulator, there is also a risk of poor consumer value for money. As with other regulated bodies in this sector, the ISOP will have the operational freedom it needs to manage and organise itself to effectively deliver its roles and objectives. We also intend the ISOP to sit outside the regime of Cabinet Office controls on spending, which bodies funded by taxes and levies are required to operate under.

With the explanations and reassurances that I have been able to provide, I hope that noble Lords will agree not to press their amendments.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and all other noble Lords and Baronesses who have spoken. While I may agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that these trials are not a good thing, they are upon us and therefore we have to deal with what we face rather than what we might not have faced had we stopped the trials in the first place. I do not think the Government are about to abandon the plan, and therefore we have some concerns about the plan as it goes ahead.

Clause 111 makes certain modifications to the Gas Act 1986 so that the person running the trial has clear grounds to enter property. That causes me concern that they can carry out essential works and safety checks and disconnect gas supply. Can the Minister deal with some questions? He may not be able to deal with them tonight and may want to write to me later. When can property be entered? What safeguards will be in place? What burden of proof will be applied on entry? When can a property not be entered? Will future guidance be published and, if so, when can we expect it to be with us? The Labour amendment

“requires the Secretary of State to take a number of steps with regard to the areas and people affected by hydrogen grid conversion trials and to make arrangements for Ofgem to provide information, alternative heat sources and offer the right of opt out (which would disapply the right of gas transporters to enter premises to disconnect). It would also require the Environment Agency to monitor and report on hydrogen escape, and the Health and Safety Executive to monitor safety implications.”

Subsection (1) provides the Secretary of State with a power to make regulations by statutory instrument to require a person conducting the trial to follow specified steps to ensure consumers are appropriately informed about the trial and the need for them to be disconnected from their gas supply before it happens. This clause also provides the Secretary of State with a power to make regulations to introduce consumer protections for people who are, or are likely to be, affected by the trial, and a list of examples is provided.

Our amendment sets out a number of reasonable steps, ensures that people are not disadvantaged, whether they participate or take an alternative, and ensures an alternative is offered and they can opt out. The trials are much more popular in Redcar, I am led to believe, than they are in Whitby. An exchange of correspondence took place between Graham Stuart, the Minister at DESNZ, and Justin Madders MP and Louise Gittens, who is the leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council. To quote from the letter from Graham Stuart, he said:

“I fully agree that local support for the trial is essential … However, we will only go ahead with a trial in an area where there is strong local support … I do agree it is very important this context is set out clearly, particularly for the communities in the areas across the country served by the gas networks which the networks are assessing.”


If that is true, certainly in Whitby, I do not think a trial will proceed, but I may be wrong. I would welcome the Minister’s assessment of the correspondence and what he makes of it in relation to the trial. It is not so much about cost, although there is a cost, and it is not so much about safety, although there is a safety issue; it is about local democracy and whether they want the thing to go ahead in the first place.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed. I start by addressing the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie. This is a matter for which I have ministerial responsibility, so I am familiar with all the issues. I too am getting, not a massive stream of correspondence, but a lot of correspondence from the people in the two trial areas. I have met Justin Madders, the MP for the Whitby trial area, Ellesmere Port, and of course I know Jacob Young very well from Redcar. The point that Graham Stuart made in that letter is still absolutely valid. We are waiting for the submissions of the two rival networks, which we should receive later this month. A lot is happening this week; it is a busy week. One of the factors that we will carefully take into consideration is precisely the point that Graham Stuart set out in his letter: the degree to which there is local support. Clearly, one way to measure that is to talk to the local Members of Parliament and the local authorities; that will be critical in any decision-making.

Let me also address the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, on the costs of the trial. I cannot give the noble Baroness an overall cost yet because we have not received the final submissions from the networks, but I can say that consumers in the trial location will not be expected to pay more for their heating than they would have if they had remained on natural gas. They will also not be expected to pay for the installation and maintenance of either any hydrogen-capable appliances or any alternative heating option that they wish to go for.

Let me now address Amendments 53, 54 and 57, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. As noble Lords will know, decarbonising heat in buildings and industry is essential if we are to deliver net zero. One of the great things about this country, but also one of our problems, is the massive diversity and age of buildings in the UK, as a product mainly of the industrial revolution, and the diverse consumer needs. I think most reasonable people would accept that no single solution can provide the best option for everyone. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, that the majority of the solution will probably be electrification, but there will be some properties for which it is not suitable.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I know the noble Baroness has strong views on electrification but let me reassure her that this is precisely the purpose of the trial. We need to use an existing network to find out what happens to hydrogen in an existing network. Clearly, environmental monitoring and checking for leaks and so on is a crucial part of it. It is one of the reasons we need to do it on an existing network in an existing community, to find out what happens outside of theoretical lab experiments where it is very easy to set up a trial with new pipework, new valves and new equipment. I have visited hydrogen demonstration houses up in Gateshead, my home area. It works very well but these are brand new properties, constructed with hydrogen appliances and new pipework. That is not a very good trial as to how it would work in the real world in existing communities. That is why we need to do the trial. The things that the noble Baroness asked about are exactly what we need to be checking and monitoring to judge the effectiveness of any hydrogen experiments in the real world.

I turn to Amendment 56, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. This amendment covers several aspects which I fully agree are important for the safe and effective delivery of the village trial. However, I assure noble Lords that the evidence that this amendment seeks to gather through a statutory consultation is already being gathered and will be reviewed by the department as part of our assessment process, following the submission of final proposals at the end of this month. As I said, in May 2022, we sent a joint letter with Ofgem to the gas networks setting out an extensive list of requirements that proposals for the trial should meet. This included requirements mentioned in the amendment, such as local support, costs, environmental impact and consumer protections, as well as many other important areas.

After the gas networks submit their proposals for the trial—later this week, as I said—the department will undertake a thorough assessment against the full list of requirements set out in the letter. That process will involve expert input from the various statutory bodies involved, including the Health and Safety Executive and Ofgem. We will publish the result of that assessment later this year, including the relevant evidence to explain our decision, and that will be available to all noble Lords. I reassure the House that we fully understand the importance of conducting the trial properly.

I touched on this earlier but the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised the point about local support for the trial. I reiterate that we will go ahead with a trial only in an area where there is strong local support. The gas networks are working closely with local authorities, communities and Members of Parliament as they develop their trial proposals. My officials also meet regularly with the relevant local authorities. Final proposals for the trial will need to contain evidence of strong support from the local community, validated by an independent external source, such as a local council. Again, I am happy to meet the local Members of Parliament.

The networks are extensively consulting local residents to develop an attractive consumer offer tailored to the community. They have opened drop-in centres in both Whitby and Redcar where anyone can engage directly with them and ask questions about what the project means for them, and have held a number of public events.

Safety is of course fundamental, which is the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan. Before any community trial can go ahead, the Health and Safety Executive will need to be satisfied that the trial will be run safely. No trial will go ahead until all necessary safety assessments have been successfully carried out. I hope noble Lords will accept my reassurances on that.

If it goes ahead, the trial will start in 2025 and provide vital evidence that will be required to enable the Government to make decisions in 2026 on any potential future role for hydrogen in decarbonising heat. I hope noble Lords will accept that undertaking another formal consultation would duplicate the work that the department and the gas networks are already doing, and could delay important milestones for ultimately meeting net zero.

I agree that the trial must be conducted properly, and I have already spoken about the additional consumer protections that will be in place for the trial. Those protections, which must be met by the gas networks, also mean that the trial must be delivered with minimal disruption to consumers.

I hope I have been able to reassure noble Lords that the department will carefully consider all these factors in coming to a decision on the trial. Importantly, we will be closely examining the evidence and outcomes of the gas networks’ engagement with local authorities and consumers in the trial areas. I hope that, with the reassurances that I have been able to provide, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will consider withdrawing his amendment.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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Could the Minister please write to me about the questions I asked about entering properties and whether further guidance will be published and available?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As I said, the powers that we propose to provide are essentially similar to those that the networks already have on the basis of essential safety works. Still, I am happy to provide the noble Lord with further information and details.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, my thanks to noble Lords who have spoken in the debate: the noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale and Lord Teverson, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman, Lady Altmann and Lady Bennett. I will quickly review what I think they said and set out our amendment.

The noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, set out the principal purpose for the Bill. Split in four ways, it will: increase energy systems’

“resilience and reliability … support the delivery of the UK’s climate change commitments … reform the UK’s energy system while minimising costs to consumers and protecting them from unfair pricing”,

and improve the overall efficiency of the UK energy system and economy. It also requires an annual report to Parliament on the above. The first three of those points are lifted directly from the opening paragraph of the Explanatory Notes, while the fourth is also an objective of the ISOP simply made wider.

Labour tabled an amendment in Committee, and I will remind noble Lords of its contents. The context of that was, at that time, the cost of living crisis; the energy price cap was going up to £3,549 per year. National Energy Action predicted that the number of UK households in fuel poverty would rise to 8.9 million. Tory leadership candidates at that time were vying for leadership to be Prime Minister but were running away from the issue of net zero; the High Court found that the net-zero climate strategy was inadequate, and the Climate Change Committee found that credible plans existed for only 39% of emissions, citing “major policy failures” and “scant evidence of delivery”. As regards energy security at that time, gas prices were expected to surge to record highs the week after the Nord Stream 1 pipeline was shut down, and European prices had risen by nearly 400% over the past year. The UK relies on gas for about 40% of its power generation, and even more on the coldest days when demand is high and wind generation tends to be low. In 2017, a BEIS report included a scenario for a complete cut-off of Russian gas and found that the UK could see “significant unmet demand” if the cut was prolonged and continental European countries paid whatever was necessary.

However, the Bill is a hotchpotch of things thrown together, lacking an overarching theme to tackle these issues. Our amendments would have set out a purpose for the Act, increasing resilience and reliability; supporting the delivery of UK’s climate change commitments; reforming energy systems; binding the Secretary of State and public authorities to these purposes; requiring the Secretary of State to designate a statement as a strategy and policy statement with regard to the purpose of the Act; and requiring the Secretary of State to review the strategy and policy statement on a five-year basis. That would have forced successive Governments into long-term thinking about the specific purpose, not limiting the impact and ambition of the Bill to what has been tacked together, which simply does not go far enough or tackle the immediate problems.

The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, would place gas and electricity markets under a duty to assist in the delivery of net zero, and our amendment would require the Secretary of State to designate a statement giving GEMA a mandate for considering the role of energy in supporting government policy in achieving net zero. The amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, would include in Ofgem’s general duties a specific requirement to have regard to meeting the UK’s net-zero emissions.

Briefing from RenewableUK sets out the argument for Ofgem remit reform. It states:

“Ofgem’s remit has not changed since its establishment in 2000, and does not prioritise electricity decarbonisation”—


in line with recent government legislation or stated ambitions. It has only a consideration of greenhouse reduction. It continues:

“As a result, Ofgem has been unable to substantially reform its working practices and regulatory frameworks in response to the 2008 Climate Change Act and the UK’s subsequent net zero ambition, to detriment of renewable energy investment and decarbonisation pace.”


It goes on to say that the Government have an opportunity to reform Ofgem’s remit in the Bill we are addressing today.

There is some key evidence for that. Mike Thompson, the Climate Change Committee’s chief economist, noted the integration of energy with transport and heat, including the potential for

“cars sitting on driveways acting as batteries and putting electricity back into the grid”.

He argued that there is a

“need for real integration and a regulator that can think from a systems perspective”,

suggesting that hydrogen and heat networks should be within Ofgem’s remit.

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, said:

“Planning the system and setting how it evolves should not really be done by the regulator. The regulator’s job is to make sure that that is done efficiently and effectively by the companies concerned.”


We appreciate that argument.

A number of witnesses told the committee that the net-zero target should be included explicitly within Ofgem’s statutory duties. Dr Hardy said that he would

“put net zero up top”,

balancing out its other duties against the context of

“hitting that legislated carbon target”.

Professor Mitchell said that

“net zero has to be the raison d’être of Ofgem”

and argued that

“delivering on legally enshrined commitments to decarbonise”

should form part of Ofgem’s principal duty.

The committee concluded:

“To ensure that, on an enduring basis, the appropriate focus is given to net zero within its competing priorities, we recommend that Ofgem’s duties should be amended to include explicit reference to having due regard to the net zero target. While Ofgem maintains that net zero considerations already factor into its decision-making, adding net zero explicitly to its statutory duties will serve to make this clear.”


We feel that the UK needs not to be left behind but to show similar ambition in its plans for the future of the electricity industry, including Ofgem’s remit.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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First, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, for bringing forward Amendments 1 and 136 and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his contribution to the debate. As I set out in Committee, although the Government believe these amendments are well intentioned, ultimately, they are unnecessary. First, the Bill has a clear purpose, so I do not think any introductory clauses are necessary. Where appropriate, the Bill already sets out fairly clear objectives and general duties for the Secretary of State and other specified bodies in carrying out their functions under the relevant parts.

Secondly, in regard to an annual report, I assume noble Lords are aware that the Energy Act 2013 introduced the power for the designation of a strategy and policy statement that sets out the Government’s strategic priorities for energy policy, the roles and responsibilities of those implementing such policy, and the policy outcomes that we want to see achieved. We have committed to a second statutory consultation this spring. I therefore believe that an annual report to Parliament would cause unnecessary duplication of the existing strategy and policy statement.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, this amendment would allow two other low-carbon fuels to be supported under the existing and forthcoming renewable transport fuel schemes. As we have heard, these are recycled carbon fuels and nuclear-derived fuels. While the noble Lord has created a degree of happiness with the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, some unhappiness still exists around the Chamber. These fuels can provide similar carbon emissions savings to the renewable fuels already considered under these schemes. Furthermore, these fuels are crucial for the production of sustainable aviation fuel, which is imperative to achieving the jet zero strategy and fulfilling the forthcoming sustainable aviation fuel mandate.

I will not speak for long on this, because we want to move on, but this amendment would insert a new clause in Chapter 3 of Part 3 of the Bill, providing for recycled carbon fuel and fuel derived from nuclear energy to be treated as renewable transport fuel. Amendment 74, in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty, would make it clear that the regulator needs to ensure that consumers of heat networks have equivalent consumer protection to those of other suppliers. The Explanatory Notes say of Clause 166:

“This clause provides that GEMA will be the regulator for heat networks in England, Wales and Scotland. The Secretary of State may introduce regulations to appoint a different regulator by affirmative procedure. The regulator in Northern Ireland will be the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation (NIAUR) subject to a similar power to make changes by secondary legislation.”


I think that is something we can all agree with.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. Before I engage in the detail of the amendments, let me respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I am sure I have never said that we should not listen to scientists; of course we should, but we should accept that there are sometimes different scientific opinions. I notice that the noble Baroness is very keen to listen to scientists on some occasions, but the Greens are totally opposed to listening to the vast majority of scientists who say that nuclear should provide an essential way of decarbonising the country’s economy.

By way of example, perhaps she would like to look at the mess her Green friends have got themselves into in Germany by their irrational objections to nuclear policy: they have ended up, now that they are in government, supporting the eradication of villages to open more lignite mines, the dirtiest form of coal production, because they got rid of all their nuclear capacity. Obviously they could not have predicted the gas shortages that would come along, but this is the problem you get yourself into with idealistic policies without any practical effect in the real world. Thankfully, I do not think there is any chance of the noble Baroness or her party being in government in the UK to make similar errors and mistakes.

Electricity Supplier Obligations (Green Excluded Electricity) (Amendment) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 20th March 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his thorough explanation of the regulations and the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh and Lady Hamwee, for their contributions and questions, which the Minister will no doubt deal with when he comes back.

I will take the reverse order from the Minister: I will deal first with the green amendment and then with the energy intensive amendment. Contracts for difference are the main way in which the Government support low-carbon electricity generation projects. While we were in the EU, a supplier could seek a reduction in their liability proportion in the levy by offsetting low-carbon electricity generated in the EU area. The UK is no longer under an obligation to offset any low-carbon electricity generated in the EU area. Following industry consultation—I do not know how thorough it was, or how much there was—removing the green excluded electricity was determined to be the fairest way of proceeding following our exit from the EU. As I understand it, the supplier obligation applies to all licensed suppliers of electricity to pay for the contracts for difference.

The statutory instrument is relatively straightforward: it removes something that was implemented when contracts for difference first became the major instrument of the development of renewals in the UK. It looks to close a potential loophole in state aid regulations. Suppliers importing electricity from Europe should not have that supplier obligation applied to them and the electricity they are bringing in from European sources. As we no longer have responsibilities over state aid, it is no longer appropriate to continue with the arrangement that was dependent on the state aid loophole. In the past, suppliers had to provide proof of power coming in to claim that there was no money to pay, as it were, for that energy coming in. Now the opposite is the case: suppliers will have to provide evidence of what is coming in as a renewable source, via the interconnector, from Europe to ensure that they pay. Can the Minister say why any company would now produce evidence of green energy imports through the interconnector in order to pay? Nothing in the regulations requires that evidence is given so that payment is made, and there is nothing about enforcement action or penalties against bodies which do not provide information to enable future payments to be made.

Also, there is no inversion in place for the relationship between the strike price and the reference price. As I understand it, that means that, instead of normal procedure as far as the contracts for difference in this country are concerned, the supplier does not get a payment from the Government in respect of the strike price. As the reference price is currently above the strike price, the supplier has to pay back into the Low Carbon Contracts Company. The company then has a reasonable obligation to pay back that money to suppliers. So I ask the Minister: are companies now obligated under the SI to pay money into the LCCC for contracts for difference which were pre-exempted, and also to get money from the LCCC when the general strike price is inverted against the reference price?

The energy intensive industry exemption, as the Minister said, provides relief to around 320 electricity-intensive companies in the UK. It launched in 2017, and it needs to be reassessed this year under the scheme’s rules. Following consultation, the Government decided to implement two minor changes to the operation of the scheme. The amendments to the scheme are designed to improve accessibility to the EII scheme and to account for the Covid-19 pandemic period. First, it will allow companies applying under the exemption from the indirect costs of funding contracts for difference, the renewables obligation and the small-scale feed-in tariffs to be able to feed in three of the previous five years for assessment, as the Minister said, in order to account for possible lower trading and electricity usage during the 2020 and 2021 pandemic years. Secondly, it will allow new companies to apply with only one quarter of trading rather than two, as was the case previously.

Labour does not oppose those sensible changes which take account of what happened during the Covid period. Companies will be judged against their present performance rather than that of previous years. It is likely that companies previously exempted from the scheme can now be brought into it. Does the Minister agree with that? Could he comment on the observation made in the other place that the mining of hard coal is on the eligibility list? Given the environmental effects of that industry, it seems at least curious as to why it may be included under the EII scheme.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions to the debate. The electricity-intensive industries exemption provides relief for key foundation industries, including companies operating in the steel, paper, chemicals, cement and glass sectors. The scheme also supports emerging sectors ,such as battery manufacturers and companies making semiconductors. The companies this scheme supports are located all over the UK and provide high-paid, good-quality jobs both directly and in the supply chain.

These EII regulations are necessary to improve the operation of the current excluded electricity scheme. They will make it easier for start-ups and new businesses to apply. They will also allow businesses to account for the impact of Covid-19 when reapplying for relief. We will update and publish our guidance on the GOV.UK website to ensure that businesses are aware of these proposed changes, and proactively engage with stakeholders to ensure that they are too.

Following the consultation in spring 2023, we will come forward with our proposals on the recently announced British industry supercharger, which aims to roll out further support to important manufacturing businesses. This will be through exempting firms from certain costs arising from renewable energy obligations, as well as the GB capacity market costs, while also exploring reductions on network charges, which are the costs that industrial users pay for their supply of electricity.

The proposed removal of the green excluded electricity exemptions from the CfD scheme means that a supplier in Great Britain will pay a proportion of the contract for difference scheme cost that is closer to their market share. It will remove a condition placed on the British scheme by the European Commission and ensure that the supplier obligation is applied to GB suppliers in accordance with their market share.

We are proposing these legislative amendments following a public consultation. It generated 28 responses from a cross-section of the energy industry, representative bodies, brokers and other concerned parties, with the policy proposals receiving wide support.

I will move on to the specific questions raised. My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about redistribution costs, the impact of standing charges, impact assessment and the consultation period. I say to her that, for the EII exemption scheme, any increase in the bills of non-eligible consumers arising from these changes is likely to be extremely minimal. For this reason, it was felt that a new impact assessment was not required. The redistributed cost applies only to the policy cost element of an electricity bill and does not impact or increase the current standing charge.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, asked a number of questions about consultation responses, the number of consultees and the distribution of comment, and about the carbon border adjustment mechanism. The Government’s response to the consultation will be published shortly and it will set out further detail on the distribution of comments received. I can tell the noble Baroness that, in total, there were 64 responses to the EII exemption consultation, including from electricity suppliers, currently eligible businesses and other organisations.

Regarding the distribution of comments, there was significant support for the amendments proposed under this SI, as they improve access to the schemes and ensure that firms are not disadvantaged by the impact of the Covid pandemic. The scheme continues to have a robust process both for initial applications by EIIs and for the required reassessment that an EII needs to go through to continue to receive the exemption. This includes an assessment of the company’s accounts, its electricity bills and any other supporting evidence. As officials are in regular dialogue with firms in the energy-intensive sectors it was felt that, given the relatively minor and technical nature of the changes, five weeks represented a sufficient consultation period. As stated, we will publish our formal response shortly.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, also asked about a carbon border adjustment mechanism. I agree that this could represent an easier solution to the problem of carbon leakage, but I am sure she will accept that it is more of a long-term change. The EU is also looking at it on a longer timescale. We will shortly publish a consultation on a potential CBAM, but I am sure the noble Baroness will realise that there are lots of potential implications of such a mechanism.

Cleaner Energy Technologies

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 14th March 2023

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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No, I think the noble Lord is being too pessimistic, as he often is. We have ambitious projects supporting steel. The noble Lord is right that hydrogen is probably one of the technologies that will be required to decarbonise the steel industry and we are working closely with the industry on that.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, in 2021 the Government set out in guidance a revised approach to valuing greenhouse gas emissions due to the more ambitious goal in the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise and the UK’s legal requirement to achieve net zero by 2050. Can the Minister say what steps the Government have taken since this adjustment to ensure that the revised approach is meeting its intended goals?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We give a value to carbon and use that to inform our policies, not least through the ETS. We have supported a number of early-stage technologies. Offshore wind was extremely expensive when we first started supporting it; now it is very cost-competitive and we are confident that we will end up in the same position on hydrogen.

Domestic Heat Pumps: Budget Underspend

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 28th February 2023

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As the noble Baroness is aware, we have two potential trial villages at the moment. We will make a decision later this year on which one will be selected, assuming that we get the powers to do so in the Energy Bill. We are still looking very closely at the costs of the trial. They are still to be determined, so I cannot give her an answer yet. The two gas networks are looking at the costs as we speak.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, in addition to the underspend highlighted in the Question by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, about £2.1 billion remains unspent of the £6.6 billion promised in the Conservative manifesto to be used on energy efficiency and decarbonisation of heat. The think tank E3G puts this down to a lack of effective policies on domestic insulation and decarbonisation. Can the Minister say if and how the Government intend to deliver on that manifesto promise?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord will have to have a little patience and wait for the Chancellor’s spending announcement. As I have said before, there has been no lack of government commitment in this area: we are spending £6.6 billion over this Parliament, and we have already had another £6 billion committed by the Chancellor for energy-efficiency schemes from 2025. It is going well.

Heat and Buildings Strategy: Gas Boilers

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 28th February 2023

(11 months, 4 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am aware of the noble Baroness’s scepticism about hydrogen—we have discussed it a number of times. I agree with her about ground source heat pumps. There are some great, innovative UK companies developing them and we support them under the boiler upgrade scheme.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Committee stage of the Energy Bill started in September 2022, and we still have not reached Report. Is this delay down to the Government adopting the Labour Party’s suggestions in Committee, which would make targets of the future homes standard and ban the installation of gas boilers in new homes? I guess from the Minister’s response so far that this is not the case. Can he say what is causing the delay?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am sorry to tell the noble Lord that it is nothing to do with the Labour Party’s policies. My responsibilities do not extend to predicting the business of this House. I am sure that the Chief Whip has taken careful note of the noble Lord’s comments.

Energy Bill Relief Scheme (Non-Standard Cases) Regulations 2023

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 30th January 2023

(1 year ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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I agree; there is no penalty at all. They just have to pay back the money to the individual that they should have paid in the first place, plus a bit of additional assistance.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I again thank the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Lennie, for their contributions. As both noble Lords have said, the EBRS Great Britain and Northern Ireland regulations are already in force and delivering support to organisations across the United Kingdom. However, the Government have responded to the concerns of stakeholders to ensure that a further group of non-domestic energy consumers, including some critical to national infrastructure, can also receive support to avoid decreases in production or, even worse, the closure of some businesses. These regulations are essential secondary legislation which is needed to support the delivery and operation of the EBRS non-standard scheme.

The Government remain committed to taking decisive action during this energy crisis to assist the widest possible range of consumers. As well as providing immediate assistance, this relief will support economic growth and limit inflation caused by increasing energy bills and their knock-on impacts on prices, labour, goods and services. We are confident that providing relief via the non-standard cases scheme will help mitigate the risks of closures and redundancies among eligible businesses and ensure that they can continue to operate.

The scheme has been designed to operate robustly and guard against fraud, error and gaming. We will continue to monitor it to ensure that this support is provided to the businesses it is designed to help. The Government remain committed to ensuring that consumers receive help with the rising cost of energy. The regulations are vital in ensuring that support is delivered to those businesses.

I turn to the questions asked by both noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked whether the scheme will run for the same period as the standard EBRS. Yes, it runs from 1 October to 31 March. He also asked about passing information to the Secretary of State—whether the department has done this and how it found it. So far, we have found that energy suppliers are providing the information we require to support their claims in a timely manner, which ultimately supports their own customers and end-users.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, asked why it applies only until March 2023; that is, the same finishing date as the existing EBDS. Of course, there are substantial costs on the Exchequer. I am sure the Chancellor keeps all these things under review, but at the moment, the scheme ends at that point. The noble Lord also asked whether the EBDS will be fully effective after the EBRS is ended. I assure him that many civil servants in my department are working to ensure that that is exactly the case and that there is a smooth transition between the two schemes.

The noble Lord also asked whether a mistake has been rectified with EBRS. It was not a mistake. We identified that there was a group of businesses supplied with energy by unlicensed suppliers and we have set up this scheme to provide support for those businesses which did not benefit when others benefited because they receive their energy through licensed suppliers. We stood up the scheme as quickly as we possibly could, given all the demands that have been placed on the department from all the other schemes as well.

In response to the noble Lord’s questions about intermediaries, we believe that in those cases, energy providers are working closely with their end-customers to ensure that they are all offered support. Of course, in many cases, these are very big businesses, and we have direct communication with many of the end-customers. Normally, we do not have a problem making sure they realise their eligibility, but we are of course seeking to provide as much information as possible to ensure that they are aware of their rights—although, in those cases, I am sure they are well aware of them themselves.

I think I have dealt with the questions from both noble Lords, and I therefore commend the regulations to the Committee.

Electric Vehicle Battery Production

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 23rd January 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, 12 months ago, £100 million was made available by the Government to Britishvolt to help unlock the necessary private finance and the company’s future. Ministers were falling over themselves boasting about how they were supporting 3,000 highly skilled direct jobs and a further 5,000 jobs in the supply chain in the north-east of England. But the money never materialised, and we all now know the consequences. Does this signal the end of the Government’s green industrial revolution, at the expense of these jobs and the key role they would have played in the electric vehicle industry and the wider decarbonisation of the UK’s economy?

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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No, is the short answer to the noble Lord’s question. Of course, before we make any government money available, we do the appropriate due diligence. As a result of this work, the funding was designed so that agreed milestones had to be achieved for the company to draw down substantial amounts of taxpayers’ funds. In the event, it was not able to meet those milestones, so the money was not handed over. I am sure the Opposition would like us to be careful with public money. If the alternative had happened and we had handed over the funds and the company had still gone into administration, I am sure the noble Lord would have been on his feet demanding an inquiry into why we had been so careless with public funds.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I will also be brief. I do not want to provoke another debate—two hours on this would be unnecessary. We are all doing our bit by keeping this Room at low temperature in terms of this debate. I do not know whether they can turn the heat up a bit, as I think that would be helpful to all of us.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Bennett, are in charge of heating.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister and others who have spoken in this brief debate for bringing forward these amendments, as they represent necessary but foreseeable conditions for what is already a doorstep of a Bill. As the Minister said in his introductory statement, these amendments collectively show why and how heat networks and heat zones will be regulated and established.

In response to the noble Lord’s query, my understanding is that there are currently 14,000 heat networks, which represent 480,000 customers—about 2% of the total energy network. However, that percentage is predicted to rise to just under 20% by 2050. They will be a huge and significant part of the future energy market, and thus crucial in meeting net zero as they can unlock otherwise unobtainable and inaccessible large-scale renewable and recovered heat sources, such as waste heat. They are especially important for built-up areas, as they are the most effective way of accessing waste heat from industry and heat from rivers and mines.

There are currently no specific protections for customers of heat networks. A recent Competition and Markets Authority report said that while the majority of heat networks customers received a service comparable to that for other traditional customers, a significant minority did not. Higher prices and more frequent outages were just a couple of the highlighted issues. The CMA recommended regulating the sector, with Ofgem announced as the regulator and Citizens Advice and the energy ombudsman named as alternative dispute resolution bodies.

I have some questions for the Minister. First, on non-domestic customers, what steps do the Government envisage will be taken to draw the line between which of them will receive these protections and which will not? Secondly, while protecting these provisions, why have they come to us so late and to what extent were Scottish heat network customers not receiving equivalent protections under the initial drafting of the Bill? Finally, does this come into play only in a case where the powers in Clause 171 to designate GEMA as the licensing authority in Scotland are used?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this brief debate. I acknowledge the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson: it will be difficult for me to ask him in future to limit the number of Liberal Democrat amendments after tabling all these. I quite take his point there; all I will say is that I flagged up to noble Lords at Second Reading that these amendments would be coming forward. There will be more on other subjects, as I also flagged up at Second Reading, which are still being drafted and will be tabled as soon as possible.

I first remind noble Lords, in acknowledging the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas, that heat networks will play a crucial role in the UK reaching its net-zero targets, as they are one of the most cost-effective ways of decarbonising heating, particularly in built-up areas, where it would be more difficult to have individual property solutions. Noble Lords will probably be aware that the Climate Change Committee estimated that around 18% of UK heat will potentially come from heat networks by 2050—up from around 2% currently—to support the cost-effective delivery of our carbon targets. However, the sector is currently unregulated.

The Bill will provide regulation for that sector and give Ministers a power to introduce, among other things, consumer protection rules and carbon emission limits on heat networks. The majority of heat networks are performing perfectly well and often run by local authorities, housing associations and others, but one or two small, private networks are abusing their customers. Of course, once you are connected to it, that is effectively a monopoly. You have no choice but to take your business elsewhere, so regulation is required in the sector.

I will now talk to Amendment 162. The Bill already allows the Government to control heating sources by providing for authorisation conditions to contain emissions limits; this is contained in paragraph 14(3)(f) of Schedule 15. By gradually lowering emissions limits, authorisation conditions will drive changes in the types of fuels and technologies used to power various heat networks.

Using emission limits allows for dynamic, ongoing regulation. I submit that mandating specific heat sources is a more limited approach that risks the Government and this House picking winners. The exact approach for implementing emission limits will of course be subject to further consultation with industry and stakeholders. Settling on a pathway ahead of that consultation would, at this stage, be unwise.

Removing whole fuel types risks ignoring other factors that will come into play, such as technological improvements, system efficiencies, varying fuel costs, the replacement cycle of generation assets, and the need for flexibility in a system to provide separately for back-up or peak demand.

The Government are of course committed to net zero by 2050, and we see heat networks playing a vital role in this. The Government wish for the Bill and its secondary legislation to ensure that the heat network sector thrives and expands and is not held back in this goal. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will feel able not to press the amendment.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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They could be, but we do not want to designate a particular technology because it will vary from area to area and locality to locality. It is to be expected that heat pumps will play a part in heat network zoning. That would be the case but we do not want to be particularly specific.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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I thank the Minister and the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Ravensdale, for their contributions. I will assume that their questions have at least been addressed, if not fully answered. We might come back to them later; we shall see. On Amendment 162YYYZA, which would designate GEMA, the Minister said that there will be further consultation on who will ultimately become the designated body for network zones. Once that decision is made, will we hear about it? Will whoever has been designated that role be regulated or will it just be announced?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It will be set in the appropriate regulations. The bottom line is that we have not made a final decision at this stage.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate so far. We on the Labour Benches certainly welcome Amendment 192 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Sheehan and Lady Hayman, and others, which would create a requirement to publish a national energy demand reduction strategy. It seems an obvious point to make.

We received some information from Energy UK. It says that, although we cannot deal with the current crisis in this Bill, it can ensure that long-term strategies are put in place to tackle the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. This powerful point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Foster. If we do not have targets to measure it against, we cannot really manage it; we just have—I do not quite know what—a sort of wish list, I suppose. We support the targets suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Foster.

The Bill outlines its intention to create powers to remove the European energy performance of buildings directive, or EPBD, requirements in the UK. Those requirements are not perfect, but they have been in place in the supply chain, effectively delivering energy efficiency measures and low-carbon technologies. How will the Government safeguard against the potential for the UK to roll back on energy performance of buildings regulations when we remove the European energy performance of buildings regulations? We risk falling behind the rest of Europe, if we have not done so already, in this space.

We also need to see the detail regarding how the Government will safeguard against the potential for the UK to fall behind the rest of Europe. We need clarification on what measures the Government will take to ensure that all buildings are fit for the future, given the lack of measures in the Bill to reform planning and building regulations. The latter requirement could also be backed by the introduction of a net-zero test, as previously set out, but what measures will the Government take to ensure that all buildings are fit for the future, given the lack of measures in the Bill to reform planning and building regulations or set specific targets for delivery?

Finally, in relation to what the noble Lord, Lord Foster, said about the 19 million homes requiring energy efficiency measures to be put in place pretty quickly, I recommend to the Government Labour’s warm homes plan, which will deliver fully costed upgrades to 19 million homes, cutting bills and creating thousands of good jobs for the future.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank everyone who has contributed to this debate on energy efficiency, which is very much a matter dear to my heart. Noble Lords may have noticed that I was delighted to launch the Government’s £18 million “It all adds up” energy saving campaign on Saturday—it is almost as if it was designed especially for this debate—with advice that could help UK households cut hundreds of pounds off their bills. The campaign features tips on simple, low or no-cost actions that households can take to immediately cut energy use and save money while ensuring that people are able to stay safe and warm this winter.

We know that warmer homes and buildings are key to reducing bills and will create jobs along the way. That is why the Government are committed to driving improvements in energy efficiency, with a new ambition to reduce the UK’s final energy consumption from buildings and industry by 15% by 2030. Existing plans that we already have in place are expected to deliver around half of this new ambition. To go further, we will need to work together as a country to reduce waste and improve the way we use energy. As has been referenced in this debate, a new energy efficiency task force is being established to lead this national effort.

First, Amendment 192, in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hayman and Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, requires the Secretary of State to publish a national energy demand reduction strategy to provide for the delivery of low-carbon heat and energy efficiency targets for all UK homes and buildings. Again, while I understand the reasoning behind this amendment, we do not consider it necessary to ensure that our commitments to improve the energy performance of buildings and our net-zero targets are met.

We already have a heat and buildings strategy which sets out the actions the Government need to take to increase the energy efficiency of buildings in the near term and provides a clear long-term framework to enable industry to invest and deliver the transition to low-carbon heating. Just having another strategy document does not make the policy decisions that are required any less difficult. As I have already mentioned, the Government are launching the energy efficiency task force with the key objectives of developing a long-term strategy to drive improvements in energy efficiency and reduce national energy demand.

As I have repeated many times in the House, we are investing £6.6 billion over this Parliament on clean heat and improving energy efficiency in buildings, reducing our reliance on fossil fuel heating. As I think the noble Lord, Lord Ravensdale, referenced, the Autumn Statement also recently announced a further £6 billion of funding to become available from 2025. In the context of spending reductions and a difficult economic environment, I was delighted to see that announcement from the Chancellor. The Government also recently announced—and we are now consulting on—a further energy efficiency support scheme through ECO+. The scheme will be worth about £1 billion and shall deliver an average household saving of around £310 per year through a broad mix of affordable insulation measures, including loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, draught-proofing and heating controls.

Amendment 197, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Foster, requires the Secretary of State to set an average energy performance certificate target for mortgage lenders of EPC C by the end of 2030. It also gives the Government the power to make regulations that relate to the disclosure of energy performance information on properties in their portfolio. I have met with many of the lenders, and I agree that they have an important role to play in improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s housing stock. However, as we highlighted in our consultation on improving home energy performance through lenders, the Government are concerned that the amendment may have unintended consequences for the mortgage and housing market. I am sure that this is not the noble Lord’s intention, but there is a danger of disincentivising mortgage lenders from lending to energy-inefficient properties. We would then end up with a load of unmortgageable homes in the UK, which I do not think anybody wants to see.

It is imperative that mortgage lenders are not disincentivised from lending to any particular group while home owners are under unprecedented financial pressure. The Government are using the feedback from the consultation to refine the policy and will publish a response once the policy matters have been resolved.

The noble Lords, Lord Ravensdale and Lord Foster, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young, all mentioned the importance of skills. If anything, that is key to this area, probably even more so than the availability of funding. We understand that scale-up requires consistent long-term deployment streams via government funding and regulation, which is what we are attempting to do, so that companies working in these markets can make the investments needed and individuals can choose to upskill.

To grow the installer supply chain, we are investing in skills and training. In 2021, the Government invested £6 million in the BEIS skills training competition, resulting in almost 7,000 training opportunities being provided across heat pump installation and wider retrofit skills. In fact, we have another training competition out for bids at the moment.

Amendment 212 in this group from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would require the Secretary of State to collect and publish a list of those public buildings that hold display energy certificates, commonly referred to as DECs, and those that do not. I really do not believe that it would be cost effective for the Government to identify and inspect all public buildings that require a DEC, nor to record this information. The energy performance of buildings report published in 2020 cited an estimated DEC compliance of about 83%. We currently publish DEC data as part of our register. I hope noble Lords agree that this demonstrates that the existing system, which we intend to continue and keep under review, is working well in respect of DEC compliance.

Finally, Amendments 198A and 198B from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would require the Secretary of State to ensure that all households achieve an energy performance certificate band C by 2035, with specified exemptions, and require regulations relating to energy performance in existing premises. The Government remain committed to our aspiration of improving as many homes as possible to reach EPC band C by 2035 where practical, cost effective and affordable. That is why, as I mentioned, we are investing £12 billion during this Parliament into the various Help to Heat schemes, some of which the noble Lord referenced, to make sure that homes are warmer and cheaper to heat, including £1.5 billion to upgrade around 130,000 social housing and low-income properties in England. However, we need to retain flexibility to choose the best approach, rather than being restricted to the regulatory requirement.

Regarding existing premises, the Government have consulted on raising the minimum energy-efficiency standards for the domestic and non-domestic private rented sectors. We are in the process of considering our responses to both consultations. However, it is important to stress that improving existing buildings is a complicated issue and requires striking a balance between improving standards and minimising impacts on the housing market, and, for the private rented sector specifically, ensuring that the final policy is fair to both landlords and tenants. That is a particular dilemma that we face with the PRS regulations.

Similarly, regarding the social rented sector, the Government have committed to consult within six months of the Social Housing (Regulation) Bill receiving Royal Assent. By prescribing specific targets without any opportunity for landlords to offer views, the proposed amendment would be at odds with this commitment.

I thank all noble Lords who contributed during this debate, but given what I have set out and the Government’s long-term commitment to drive improvements in energy efficiency, I hope that they will not press their amendments.

Prime Minister: Trade Unions

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 19th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My noble friend makes an important point. It is almost as if the rail unions, in particular, are seeking to punish the public at this difficult time and exploit the monopoly position that they have to make life as difficult as possible for people wanting to join their friends and family for Christmas. It is appalling behaviour.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, on Tuesday the UK quarter 3 growth figures will be published. They are expected to show that the economy has contracted by 0.2%, as well as real falls in household disposable income as wage increases fail to match inflation. These pressures on working people will have a severe impact, with families already cutting back on food and heat. What discussions have the Government had with the trade unions on policy options which will give families the support they will need to get through the crisis in the winter months?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We have given extensive levels of support. We are spending tens of billions of pounds on direct support to households over the winter on energy bills, cost of living payments, et cetera. This Government have an excellent record of standing by people, both in the pandemic and since then. We all know it is a difficult time; public expenditure is tight and, if what the noble Lord says is true and the economy has contracted, then there is even less money to go around because tax receipts will collapse as well. We have to keep all of these matters under consideration. We will stand by families as much as we can, and I think our record proves that.

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I welcome the Bill’s return to Committee; I am very pleased that that is the case. I have no comments to make on the amendments, but I note that during that interregnum, as the Minister described it, the Government gave planning permission for a coal mine. Although we are not going to debate it here today, that is a hugely retrograde decision which flies in the face of the Bill and the general way in which it looks forward. However, I have no comments on the amendments that the Minister has tabled.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I am also delighted to be debating the Energy Bill again. I am delighted that the noble Lord is still the Minister so that we at least have continuity on the Bill; it remains much the same as it was before we left it some three months ago.

As the Minister said, the amendments refer to Clauses 84 and 85 of Chapter 2 of Part 2 on “Decommissioning of carbon storage installations”. This gives the Secretary of State a power to make regulations regarding the financing and provision of security for decommissioning and legacy costs associated with carbon capture utilisation and storage. The decommissioning of offshore installations and pipelines used for carbon dioxide storage purposes is modified by Section 30 of the Energy Act 2008, which modified Part 4 of the Petroleum Act. Clause 84 enables further modifications to the modified Part 4 in relation to the definition of carbon storage installation, and the establishment of decommissioning funds and legacy costs as set out in Clause 82, “Financing of costs of decommissioning etc”.

Clause 85 relates to Sections 30A and 30B of the Energy Act 2008, which make provision for a person to qualify for change of use relief on installations and submarine pipelines converted for CCS demonstration projects—as defined by Energy Act 2010. This relief removes the ability for the Secretary of State, in some circumstances, to take steps under the modified Part 4. This clause makes amendments to Section 30A of the Energy Act 2008 by broadening the scope of change of use relief so that it applies to eligible carbon storage installations more generally, amending the trigger point to qualify for such relief.

Amendments 99 and 100, which the Minister referred to, were tabled by my noble friend Lady Liddell, who unfortunately cannot be here and therefore will not be able to move them. They reflect value-for-money considerations in the decision-making process, meaning that the Secretary of State could accept provision of security in respect of amounts to be contributed on account of decommissioning costs—costs likely to be incurred, as the Minister said, many years after the establishment of the fund—rather than requiring such amounts to be paid simply in cash.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, for their comments, but I do not think there were any points for me to address, so I will leave it there.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not think that is the case. As a Minister, I have issued many consultations. In my experience there is never a problem with anybody contributing who wishes to, even if they are not statutorily listed in the legislation. They are normally public consultations in any case, with a large number of stakeholders. The advice from officials and others is always to extend the scope of consultation to be as wide as possible because you then minimise any potential legal challenges as a result. I understand the noble Lord’s concern but I do not think it is warranted on this issue.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendment that seeks to include the Opposition as part of the formal consultation would avoid what we get in Parliament, which is the “ayes and noes” and the “take it or leave it” approaches to policy development. This is an area where we have pretty much a common interest. It seems a sensible approach to throw open the consultation at least to the Opposition—who knows, maybe even to the fourth party—but to make it as wide as possible to avoid that prospect of Parliament rejecting or accepting in total whatever is put before it. It is about buy-in. As the Minister said, there are plenty of examples where buy-in has been part of the Government’s approach to consultation. It seems strange that this is not one of them. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Let me finish, then the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will be able to come back.

I will start with Amendments 125 and 126. With Amendment 125, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, calls for an adequate level of information to be provided to consumers in the trial area concerning safety, long-run bill impacts and opting out of the trial. I agree that these are important issues. Support from local people will be crucial to the success of the trial, and gas transporters are already working closely with communities in the potential trial locations. In fact, the relevant Members of Parliament have already been in touch with me, and I already have meetings in my diary to talk with them and residents from the local areas about this.

Steps have already been taken to ensure that people have all the information required to make an informed choice about whether they wish to participate. Both gas transporters have opened demonstration centres in the two shortlisted local communities to raise awareness of what the trial would involve.

Clause 109 provides the Secretary of State with the power to require the gas transporter running the trial to take specific steps to make sure that consumers are properly informed about the trial. In meeting their responsibilities to inform consumers, we fully expect gas transporters to provide clear information about each of the important topics listed in the noble Lord’s amendment.

I turn to Amendment 126. The Government have been very clear that no consumer in the trial location should be financially disadvantaged due to taking part in the trial. Last year, the Government published a framework of consumer protections that will underpin the trial. Consumers in the trial location will not be expected to pay more for their heating than they would if they had remained on natural gas or to pay for the installation and maintenance of hydrogen-capable appliances.

The village trial will be paid for through a combination of government and Ofgem funding and contributions from the private sector. All gas consumers pay a very small amount towards Ofgem’s net-zero funding for network companies, which supports projects to decarbonise the energy sector; that includes this trial. All gas consumers will benefit from well-informed strategic decisions on how to decarbonise the way we heat our homes.

I hope that I have been able to reassure the noble Lord that the important issues he has raised, about which I agree with him, are already effectively addressed by the Bill, and therefore that he feels able not to press his amendments.

I move on to Amendment 127 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. As I have said, local support will be crucial to the success of the trial. Gas transporters are already working closely with communities in the potential trial locations to develop an attractive offer for people who want to convert to hydrogen. However, we understand that not everyone will want or be able to connect to hydrogen, and the Government are clear that nobody will be forced to do so. The gas transporter running the trial will have to provide alternative heating solutions and appliances for people who do not take part in the trial. In May 2022, this requirement was clearly set out in a joint letter from BEIS and Ofgem to the gas transporters, alongside the other requirements that must be met before any funding is provided for the next stages of the trial. The gas transporters will need to demonstrate that they have a viable plan for providing alternatives to hydrogen. There is already an effective way to ensure that they provide alternatives to hydrogen, through the Government’s funding requirements.

We therefore do not believe that this amendment is necessary. I fully appreciate the noble Lord’s intention—which I share—to ensure that the trial is conducted properly, with alternative heating systems offered to people who do not take part. With that information, I hope he feels reassured that there are already steps in place to ensure this and will therefore feel able not to move the amendment.

I will say a few words about the stand part notices on Clauses 108 and 109. I know that the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Worthington, and my noble friend Lord Moylan, who is not here now, have registered their intention to vote against these clauses. I have already established that the overall intent of these clauses is to support a safe and effective trial for hydrogen heating.

Clause 108 allows the Secretary of State to designate a hydrogen grid conversion trial, ensuring that both this clause and Clause 109 are narrow in scope and would apply only for the purposes of such a trial. Importantly, the clause expands the duty to participants of the gas transporter running the trial to undertake the required work without charge. It also makes certain modifications to the Gas Act 1986 to build on existing provisions concerning powers of entry. This will ensure that the gas transporter running the trial has clear grounds to enter private properties to: carry out any essential works, including replacing appliances and installing and testing safety valves; undertake inspections and tests for the trial, such as safety checks; and safely disconnect the gas supply in a property.

It is important to emphasise that gas transporters already have powers of entry into properties through the Gas Act. We are merely extending these powers in a very limited way to conduct the necessary work to set up and deliver the trial. Gas transporters will only ever use these extended powers as a very last resort once all other attempts to contact property owners and reach an agreement are exhausted. The existing rules on powers of entry requiring a gas transporter to obtain a warrant from a magistrates’ court will continue to apply, of course. I reiterate once again that nobody will be forced to use hydrogen. I have already covered the plans for alternative arrangements in my comments on the amendment earlier.

Finally, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the fact that the majority of responses to the public consultation the department ran last year on facilitating a hydrogen village trial were broadly supportive of our proposals to change legislation in this way. I therefore urge that Clause 108 stands part of the Bill.

Clause 109 provides the Government with the powers to establish consumer protections for people taking part in this world-leading hydrogen village trial. It will do this by giving the Secretary of State two delegated powers to make regulations which require the gas transporter running the trial to follow specific processes to engage and inform consumers about the trial, and ensure that consumers are protected before, during and after the trial.

The department is of course working closely with the gas transporters as they develop their plans for consumer engagement and protection. It is worth saying that there is quite a bit of support in these communities for the trial. The council leaders in the areas concerned have expressed their support and one MP in particular is actively campaigning for their area to take part in the trial. Opinion is obviously mixed in both communities, but we want to make sure that it has the maximum level of support required. I have already highlighted the importance of consumer engagement and support in my earlier comments. Regulations made under this clause will ensure that people will have all the information required to make an informed choice about whether they wish to participate.

The second power in this clause, to introduce regulations for consumer protections, will work alongside existing protections such as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Gas (Standards of Performance) Regulations 2005. This recognises that it is a first-of-its-kind trial and will allow the Government to introduce additional protections for consumers in the trial area. These might include regulations to ensure that consumers are not financially disadvantaged by taking part in the trial.

I am sure that all noble Lords will agree that these provisions, which—as I said, again—were well received by stakeholders when we consulted on them last year, are crucial to ensure the fair treatment and protection of people in the selected trial area.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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The Minister said that no one would be forced to take part in the trial. I appreciate that but, first, it seems like the place for that statement to be made is within the Energy Bill. Secondly, will they be given an alternative low-carbon solution?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer to both of those questions is yes. No one will be forced to take part in the trial. If they do not take part in the trial, they will of course be given an alternative low-carbon solution.

Employment Policies

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 6th December 2022

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The ingenuity of my noble friend in seeking to ask his questions knows no bounds. As far as I am aware, Ministers do not have employment contracts. We serve at the behest of the Prime Minister and sovereign, and I am sure that most Ministers are happy to continue doing so.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, in September, the TUC reported the UK Government to the ILO, saying that they had taken steps to infringe the right to strike. As the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, said, that was done, first, by passing a law to use agency workers to break legitimate strike action and, secondly, by proposing a minimum service level of transport. What consideration have the Government given to the substance of this complaint in how they progress the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Forgive me for taking everything that the TUC says with a little pinch of salt but, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, we are very confident that all our measures do not infringe the right to strike. They seek to provide a balance between, on the one hand, allowing trade unions to take legitimate strike action but, on the other hand, trying to ensure some level of minimum service for the public. I hope that the Labour Party will take the opportunity to condemn the disgraceful tactics of the RMT recently in seeking to deny people their essential travel at Christmas.

Energy Bills Support Scheme and Energy Price Guarantee Pass-through Requirement (England and Wales and Scotland) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 22nd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I apologise for being slightly late in attending. I hope you will allow me to make the comments that I want to, in following up those from the noble Lords, Lord Hodgson and Lord Teverson.

I thank the Minister for his introduction to the SIs. They are regulations that seek to put right a substantial loophole in the arrangements set out under the energy price assistance scheme. As we have heard, this concerns customers who do not pay their energy directly but where, for instance, it is paid by an intermediary. These categories of consumer are at risk of not receiving the relief that should be guaranteed under the energy price support or for businesses under energy relief schemes. It is right that we should correct this, and quickly, so our support for these instruments is not in doubt.

The design of the SI to deal with all the problems is, however, somewhat at risk. Generally, the SIs require the intermediary to provide a fair and reasonable pass-through of what has been received for bills in the first instance—not necessarily the full amount but a fair and reasonable amount. This has the potential to give rise to complications. What is a fair and reasonable difference between what an intermediary receives and what it passes through? Perhaps the Minister, in his response, could explain what can be taken into account in establishing what is seen to be a fair and reasonable payment.

I understand that there is no sanction on any intermediary if it fails to pass on what it is supposed to pass on. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, a customer’s redress is through the civil courts, and some draft letters have been provided for that to happen. But in the light of the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, about the inequality of arms and so on, does the Minister believe there is any likelihood of a customer taking a landlord to court over a failure to pass through part or all of the payments they should have received? The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee talks about the “inequality of arms”, and there is a massive gap in power between landlords and vulnerable tenants.

In the limited cases of district heating schemes, as we have heard, if the pass-through is not sufficient there is a recourse to the Energy Ombudsman, but this is not available in the majority of cases. Why is the ombudsman not available to all customers who do not receive the pass-through from their landlords?

Finally, given that these SIs seem unlikely to resolve all pass-through problems, will the Government commit to monitoring this and establishing exactly what the facts are on the ground—as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, we are not entirely sure how many people will be in this situation? Will they, if necessary, review these SIs quickly thereafter to make them fit for all circumstances and pass-through payments?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all three noble Lords who have contributed to the debate for their questions. These regulations are essential to the successful implementation of all the energy support schemes. They will help to ensure that the support reaches the intended beneficiaries. We are all agreed on that.

To continue to empower all energy consumers, we have provided more information via our online guidance, especially to some of the most vulnerable energy end-users, such as older people and those with disabilities. The Government will continue to engage with all relevant stakeholders in this sector, including the energy regulators, energy companies and civil society, on the delivery of the schemes—for example, SSE, Electric Ireland, Ofgem, the Utility Regulator of Northern Ireland, MoneySavingExpert and the Consumer Council. We will also continue to monitor the schemes to ensure that this support is provided to the people and businesses it is designed to help.

In addition—this responds to some of the questions raised—we are committed to reviewing the energy price guarantee and energy bill relief schemes by the end of the year, and of course we will work with stakeholders to ensure that their feedback is taken into account. We will use these reviews to consider how best to offer further support to the customers most at risk from energy price increases beyond April 2023. Looking ahead, the Government are working to deliver the energy bills support scheme alternative fund payments and the increased alternative fuel payment of £200.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson asked a question relating to the so-called inequality of arms—I completely understand the point he is making—and in particular the support for vulnerable people. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked a related question on ensuring that end-users are aware of what they are entitled to. The regulations take this scenario into account. Where an intermediary receives energy support but has multiple end-users, the regulations say that it should determine a just and proportional method of dividing the benefit among those end-users, and clearly communicate how it has arrived at the amount allocated to the end-users.

Of course, we are keen to ensure that all end-users, including those who are vulnerable, receive the benefits of the schemes to which they are entitled. As such, we have been delivering and building a communications campaign. In addition, we have of course engaged with landlords, housing associations and charities that protect those who are most vulnerable.

For example, in developing the energy bills support scheme, we regularly engage with consumer groups and charities precisely to ensure that the scheme reaches the groups most in need and that we reach vulnerable consumers across the UK via a broad suite of communication channels. As well as working with charity and consumer groups, we work with stakeholders including local authorities, faith groups, the rural network and food banks to help disseminate information about the scheme and how it works.

We also recognise that many vulnerable consumers are on traditional prepayment meters. We have a communications campaign outlining the actions that these people need to take to receive their discount. For example, we have made details available via social media posts, radio broadcasts and posters translated into several languages.

In response to the question from my noble friend Lord Hodgson about compliance, the EBSS has a robust compliance and monitoring framework. Data has now been published showing that, in the first month, 97% of payments were successfully delivered to eligible households in England, Scotland and Wales. Where a supplier appears to be falling behind expectations, we will engage directly with them and ensure compliance. We will publish monthly updates until the end of this scheme. The EPG and the EBRS also have robust monitoring and evaluation in place to ensure that the schemes are operating effectively. As I said, they will be subject to review by the end of the year.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked about how we divide the scheme benefit between end-users. For the EBRS, the obligation is on the intermediary to pass on the benefits of the scheme, not the energy retailers themselves. The noble Lord will recall that the EBRS is a discount that is applied to the unit price of gas and electricity; it is not a direct payment to the suppliers. The energy suppliers will provide the appropriate EBRS price reduction to their customers, some of whom will be intermediaries, based on their contract type. Intermediaries will then be expected to pass on to their end-users a just and reasonable amount. That would be the case in the majority of park homes, where the site owner is on a commercial tariff.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also asked me how park home residents will receive the payment. As I said, the majority of those households receive their energy bill support scheme payment automatically via their domestic energy supply contract. However, a small number of households do not have a domestic energy supply contract and, as such, will receive the £400 in funding through alternative funding mechanisms; it will not be delivered through electricity suppliers. We are currently working with delivery partners to make sure that the £400 support is provided to households at their primary residence. This includes those who do not have their own direct domestic electricity meter or a direct relationship with an energy supplier, including park home residents.

In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, who asked what a “just and reasonable” amount might be, the regulations go further than simply setting out the just and reasonable test: they have been drafted to give examples of what is just and reasonable. Intermediaries are obliged to provide details to end-users setting out why they consider what they have done to be just and reasonable. The guidance published alongside the regulations gives further colour to the concept.

Intermediaries must pass on the discount irrespective of how the end-user pays for their energy use. They can adjust the amount that they pass on based on their charges to end-users; crucially, they have to demonstrate to end-users that this amount is just and reasonable. Intermediaries can take into account the extent to which they have increased their charges to end-users as a result of the energy crisis. For example, if the intermediary has shielded their end-users from the impact of increased energy prices, in those circumstances, it may be just and reasonable for them to retain some or all of the scheme benefit. The circumstances will be very individual.

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer to my noble friend’s question is that there is already a regulator in place for heat networks, so it is appropriate to use the regulator. Unfortunately, for most of the other circumstances there is no regulator in place, which is why we have had to default to the court process. I totally accept his point about the inequality of arms. I am not unrealistic about the difficulties that many tenants and others will face in trying to enforce their rights under this, but all we can do is put the regulations in place, publicise them and make sure that people know their rights. We will keep the scheme under constant review. We will ensure that the payments are passed through and that people receive the benefit to which they are entitled. We will not hesitate to act further if there is widescale avoidance of this responsibility.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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Following up the point from the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, is there then a possibility in the review that an ombudsman for the energy sector —not Ofgem—could be established or that the heat regulator could cover energy? I am not saying that that is going to happen, but it is a possibility. Secondly, the Minister kept saying that landlords “must pass on”, but if they fail to do so there is no sanction in the legislation; they just do not pass it on and they get away with it. Should there not be some sort of sanction for landlords if they fail to pass on just and reasonable costs to consumers?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The sanction is that the person who does not receive the benefit can take the matter to court. That is the point I am making. I am not pretending that this situation is ideal, but many landlords, charities and others involved in the sector are, by their very nature, not subject to energy regulators. Of course, if they are energy supply companies, such as heat networks, they are regulated by Ofgem, which is the energy regulator. All these intermediaries encompass a range of operators, from park home operators to landlords of houses in multiple occupation. It is difficult to see how we could establish an overall regulator for all these different circumstances, particularly as the whole thing is only temporary, for as long as the support scheme lasts.

We have attempted to address the situation as well as we can, by providing the appropriate guidance and by making sure people have access to enforcing their rights. I do not pretend to disagree with noble Lords that the situation is not ideal, but we have addressed it as best we can. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Newport Wafer Fab

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 22nd November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee found no evidence to suggest that a review into the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab had taken place, yet Politico reports that the Government’s National Security Adviser concluded that there were not enough security concerns to block it. Will the Government confirm on the record whether the review that was promised by the then Prime Minister Johnson took place or not? The same Foreign Affairs Committee warned that the sale of Newport Wafer Fab potentially compromises national security and is the loss of a prized asset to a competitor amid a global shortage of semiconductors. Given the sale has not been blocked, what steps are the Government taking to mitigate these risks?

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, obviously, there is a limit to what I can say about this, but I will endeavour to be as helpful to the House as possible. I certainly can confirm to the noble Lord that the review did take place and was one of the factors that the Secretary of State took into consideration when he made his decision. It was made in a quasi-judicial manner and the Secretary of State considered that a risk to national security had arisen from the trigger event, which is why he made the order that he has.

Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland: Energy Supply Shortfalls

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 21st November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Rough facility is working again, which was a commercial decision taken by the operators. The noble Lord is right about the overall quantity of supply but, of course, the countries he mentioned have no indigenous supplies of their own. We are very fortunate that some 40% of our supplies come from the North Sea.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, with the uncertainties that exist around gas supply and demand this winter and, given that 84% of supply to Northern Ireland comes through the Moffat pipeline from Scotland, can the Minister assure the House that sufficient contingencies are in place between the UK and Irish Governments to meet any significant variations in demand or supply?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I refer the noble Lord back to the Answer that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie. We are of course extremely concerned about the upcoming winter. Many emergency drills have been held and we are in close contact with operators both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. I am pleased to say that co-operation is very good.

Energy Prices (Domestic Supply) (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 16th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing the regulations before us and the noble Lords, Lord Browne, Lord McCrea and Lord Teverson, for their comments and questions. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne, in particular for clarifying the depth and strength of the market in Northern Ireland. I was going to say that the regulations were not contentious, but there is a bit of contention and, no doubt, the Minister will deal with that.

The instrument defines the terms “NI domestic electricity supply” and “NI domestic gas supply” to scope the extent of premises that will be eligible. Specifically, this is to include some non-domestic premises which due to their similar metering and tariff arrangements would receive EPG support. Given there is no way for energy suppliers to disaggregate, it is difficult to disagree with this. I would be keen to hear from the Minister the scope of this impact, both in terms of the number of non-domestic premises and any additional costs incurred.

The Explanatory Notes use places of worship as an example, as did the Minister, but what other types of non-domestic premises are included? Perhaps we could turn to the experts from Northern Ireland to help us with this.

I would like to raise an issue that was brought up in the other place during the debate on this instrument on Monday. There is a scheme document linked to this instrument, headed “Establishment of domestic electricity price reduction scheme for Northern Ireland”, which in Schedule 5 states that the Government will require suppliers of electricity to hand all meter data to the Government for the purposes of regulating and discussing the domestic supply scheme.

This data will encompass many things; it will be held by the Government for 10 years and can be shared with other departments, law enforcement agencies, regulatory bodies and others. While it is not pertinent to today’s instrument, this is the same for rest of the United Kingdom in the respective document. This appears to be a breach of the data access and privacy framework which was produced when smart meters were first rolled out. It states that smart meter data is the property of the customer and can be disclosed to third parties, including the Government, only with their consent. I understand the Minister in the other place committed to write to Dr Alan Whitehead MP on this issue and I would appreciate it if the Minister could ensure that I receive the same response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to the debate. The Government have implemented the EPG Northern Ireland scheme to ensure that consumers are protected from excessively high energy bills over the winter period, and I am sure that is something the Committee supports. The Committee will be reassured to know the scheme is already in force and delivering support to households across Northern Ireland. I hope this will also go some way to assuring the public that the Government are committed to taking decisive action to deal with the energy crisis.

As well as providing immediate relief, this scheme, alongside the EBRS, will support economic growth and limit inflation caused by increasing energy bills and their knock-on impact on prices, labour, goods and services. The scheme has been designed to operate robustly and guard against fraud and gaming, and we will continue to monitor the schemes to ensure that support is provided and limited to those people and businesses who it is designed to help. We are committed to reviewing the schemes and we will consider how best to offer further support to the customers who are most at risk to energy price increases beyond April 2023.

In response to the questions raised, I will concentrate first on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne, about heating oil. The noble Lord will be aware—and this was raised also by the noble Lord, Lord McCrea—that the alternative fuel payment will provide £100 to support households who do not use mains gas for heating. This alternative fuel payment is in addition to the £400 that households will receive through the energy bills support scheme. This applies in Northern Ireland and is designed to compensate for the rise in the price of heating oil from October 2022 in a way that is equivalent to the support received by people who heat their homes using mains gas and receive their support via the energy price guarantee. As the £100 alternative fuel payment is designed by reference to the increases in the price of heating oil and other alternative fuels that happened from September 2021 to September 2022, the Government are committed to continuing to monitor the prices over the coming months and we will consider further intervention if it is required to protect UK householders from extraordinary fuel prices.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne, further asked about unregulated electricity providers in Northern Ireland. Of course, the regulation of prices is a matter for UR, the regulator in Northern Ireland. The noble Lord is right that some electricity suppliers in Northern Ireland are not price regulated. It is a competitive market, but the EPG applies to all suppliers equally—the same discount applies to all.

The noble Lord, Lord McCrea, asked for clarification on backdated payments. The £400 EBSS will not be backdated, as it is paid as a flat sum. The EPG is, of course, backdated via an additional pence-per-kilowatt payment on top of the base EPG rate from November to March.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also raised a point about the particular predominance of the oil provision in Northern Ireland; I think that I answered that in response to the noble Lord, Lord Browne. On the point regarding the single electricity market in Northern Ireland, there is no problem here. The measures that we are implementing are designed to support domestic consumers in Northern Ireland at the supply level as they relate to the retail market and do not impact on the underlying wholesale market. Therefore, they have no effect on the workings of the single electricity market.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, raised a point about metering and tariff arrangements and the scope of the impact on the number of non-domestic premises that have been brought into the EPG. In addition to places of worship, he questioned what other premises are included. I can confirm to him that some farms and small businesses are included. In respect of small businesses, it is those that are operating from former dwelling-houses. In reality, very few premises are affected—possibly fewer than 100 non-domestic premises are in scope—and the EPG and the EBRS of course provide equivalent support.

The noble Lord went on to ask about meter data. We are continuing to plan for and assess the use of personal data provided under the scheme documents in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Obviously, as part of this work we will ensure that we comply with any relevant legal duties under the smart meters Data Access and Privacy Framework, so the data will be used only when necessary to calculate support payments and, of course, to ensure the good use of public money, which I am sure the noble Lord will support.

With that, I think I have answered all the relevant questions—

Climate Change (Targeted Greenhouse Gases) Order 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson (LD)
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My Lords, I have to admit that I never came across nitrogen trifluoride in my chemistry lessons, or at all before I read this SI. Although I very much accept the Minister saying that we have very small emissions in this area, as he says, it is some 17,000 times more potent than CO2. It also lasts in the atmosphere for something like 500 years.

What I do not understand is how we measure these emissions. They are used in LCD screens. Although we do not manufacture many of those in this country, can the Minister explain whether this gas escapes in disposal of those electronic items, and whether we then measure that? Our consumption of those products is much greater than our production, so I would be interested to understand how that works and whether we have a bigger problem than he stated. I am not saying that this is the case but am trying to understand. If it is the case, do the Government have any means to manage this? Also, the SI mentions pensions. The Minister did not mention anything about this. Why are the regulations on those coming along later, as I understand it from the Explanatory Memorandum, rather than now?

The major thing that I want to understand, which the Minister mentioned, is the contradiction in the context given in the Explanatory Memorandum, paragraph 6.4 of which says:

“As of 2021, all international reporting practice has been to include NF3 as a targeted greenhouse gas.”


However, paragraph 7.2 says:

“In 2013, the UNFCCC mandated the inclusion of NF3 in all national greenhouse gas inventories”.


Therefore, I am rather confused as to whether this all happened in 2021 and will be reported in 2023 or whether we have done all this since 2013. It would be useful to understand that.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument, and send apologies from my noble friend Lady Blake, who was due to be here but is currently supervising the birth of her latest grandchild—good luck with that.

The instrument extends the scope of emissions captured and reported under the Climate Change Act 2008 by including nitrogen trifluoride—I had not heard of it either, until yesterday when preparing for this—as a targeted greenhouse gas. Following on from the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I point out that this means that NF3 emissions will be included within the scope of emissions for the annual statement of emissions for 2021, to be published by 31 March 2023, the full accounting period for the UK’s third carbon budget—CB3—and for subsequent carbon budgets. I am not sure whether that is the answer, but that is my understanding of what we are dealing with.

We on this side of the House have no objections to this instrument, but we have some questions. The Climate Change Act requires the Secretary of State to reduce the amount of net UK carbon emissions to at least 100% below the 1990 level, and to set a carbon budget for each five-year period, to report each year in line with international reporting practices. As we have heard, NF3 has a global warming potential that is 17,000 times or thereabouts greater than carbon dioxide, although I am not sure that you can smell it, taste it or see it. Therefore, it is right to include it in the annual emissions reporting.

The Climate Change Committee highlighted that the volume of current NF3 emissions is so low that it is not likely to impact on achieving the 2050 target, as the Minister said in his introduction. However, I am interested in whether the Government have made any assessment of the likelihood of this changing and whether there should be any increase in NF3 emissions. Also, what is likely to affect the increase in NF3 emissions into the atmosphere?

As we are coming to the end of the third carbon budget period, I would appreciate it if the Minister could update the House on the current expectation going into the fourth period next year. Given that these budgets were set long in advance—the third in 2008 and the fourth in 2011—they require long-term policy planning, and while the Climate Change Committee in June this year stated that the prospects for meeting the fourth are better than for meeting the fifth and sixth, it has also highlighted the dependence on short-term macroeconomic trends and the extent to which emissions rebounded following the pandemic.

On a wider note, the Climate Change Committee’s report in June emphasised that delivery is undermining the Government’s policy ambition. What steps are the Government taking to address this and to ensure that the positive words are met with the required delivery actions? The report also emphasised that action to address the rising cost of living should be aligned to net zero, yet we have seen the Government favouring non-renewables, with their loopholes to the oil and gas levy, while continuing their apparent ban on onshore wind.

We have asked for this to be considered many times, but I would be interested to hear the Government’s assessment of the impact that these decisions will have on their ability to hit forthcoming carbon budgets.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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First, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. The points raised demonstrate the need for the Government to continue to press ahead with our world-leading climate goals.

The Climate Change Act was indeed a landmark piece of legislation globally, placing the UK at the forefront of climate change action. The Act requires the Government to ensure that our emissions reporting meets standards set internationally. I am proud that this Government are doing exactly that in bringing forward this legislation, and that was recognised by both speakers.

It is worth restating my thanks to the Committee on Climate Change for its support, advising on this legislation and its compatibility with those carbon budgets already set. I further thank our devolved Administrations for their responses to the consultation on this order and, as I said, to the Welsh Minister for Climate Change for her support in bringing forward the statutory instrument consent memorandum in the Senedd.

The Government are intent on delivering a UK economy that is greener, more sustainable and more resilient. Having handed over the presidency of COP 26, we will work with this year’s presidency, Egypt, to make sure that international commitments secured at COP 26 under the Glasgow climate pact are honoured.

The pact remains the blueprint for accelerating climate action in this critical decade to keep 1.5 degrees centigrade in reach. This is a pivotal moment to redouble our efforts, resist backsliding and ultimately go further and faster using the Glasgow and Paris commitments as the baseline of our ambition. Domestically, we will continue to keep abreast of developments and make improvements where needed to ensure that the Climate Change Act 2008 continues to provide the basis for our world-leading, legally binding emission-reduction targets.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, asked a very reasonable question: why are we only now reporting on NF3 from 2020-21, when we have previously included it from 2013 in the Explanatory Memorandum? The Government have been reporting NF3 emissions in their official statistics and as part of our international reporting obligations since 2015—with a two-year lag—when nitrogen trifluoride was included under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change guidelines. This legislation extends that reporting to statutory reporting requirements to ensure that NF3 emissions can be captured by our domestic as well as international reporting. Given the high potency of NF3, we must recognise the importance of ensuring that we reduce its impact through its inclusion in our climate targets.

The noble Lord, Lord Lennie, posed a number of other questions. If the noble Lord will forgive me, I will come back to him on those in writing. I commend this order to the House.

Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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, these regulations were laid before the House on 17 October 2022. The changes made by the statutory instrument before the House today are necessary as a result of changes made through another SI, also laid on 17 October: the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2022. Among other changes, that order made Members of the Scottish Parliament prescribed persons and removed the European Securities and Markets Authority as a prescribed person for whistleblowing.

The regulations before the House today make two subsequent changes. First, they exempt Members of the Scottish Parliament from the duty that most prescribed persons are under to report annually on the whistleblowing disclosures that they have received. Secondly, as it will no longer be a prescribed person, the regulations remove the European Securities and Markets Authority as a body exempt from the reporting requirements.

The Employment Rights Act 1996, as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, enables workers in all sectors to seek redress if they are dismissed or suffer detriment at the hands of the employer because they have blown the whistle. Workers who believe that they have been dismissed or otherwise detrimentally treated for making a protected disclosure can complain to an employment tribunal.

As I set out earlier, the changes in the regulations before the House today are necessary as a result of changes made in the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2022. I am pleased to say that the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2022 makes a number of significant additions to the list of prescribed persons. It adds the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the Office for Environmental Protection, Environmental Standards Scotland, Social Work England, all 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and the natural resources body for Wales.

The SI also removes the European Securities and Markets Authority as a prescribed person. This reflects the fact that, since EU exit, the relevant regulatory responsibilities have been assigned to the Financial Conduct Authority. Consequently, disclosures that could previously be made to the European Securities and Markets Authority will now be made to the FCA.

The overall effect of the statutory instrument is that more workers will be able to blow the whistle to a relevant prescribed person. This not only ensures that the worker making the disclosure is more likely to qualify for employment protection but means that those regulators and public bodies will benefit from receiving valuable intelligence.

The SI before the House today concerns the annual reporting requirement that most prescribed persons are under. It was introduced in 2017 and requires most prescribed persons to publish an annual report on whistleblowing disclosures made to them by workers. The requirement introduces greater transparency around the work of prescribed persons to increase confidence among whistleblowers that their disclosures are taken seriously and action is taken where appropriate.

The requirement also supports greater consistency across different bodies in the way they respond to disclosures. A small set of prescribed persons is exempt from the reporting requirement, such as Members of the House of Commons and Welsh and Scottish Ministers. These prescribed persons are exempt as, obviously, they do not have a regulatory function. Instead, they are prescribed due to their distinctive and key role in aiding constituents on whistleblowing matters and supporting them to make a disclosure to a regulatory body, as relevant.

The SI amends the list of prescribed persons exempt from the reporting duty in two ways. First, it adds Members of the Scottish Parliament to the list of prescribed persons exempt from the reporting requirement. This will ensure that MSPs will be able to fulfil their new role in a proportionate manner and means that they will be prescribed on the same terms as Members of the House of Commons. Secondly, as I said, the SI removes the European Securities and Markets Authority as a prescribed person exempt from the reporting requirement. This is necessary because, as I explained, the ESMA is being removed as prescribed person.

To conclude, the Government value the role of whistleblowers in bringing wrongdoing to light. The effect of the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2022 and the Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 will be to bring the list of prescribed persons up to date and ensure its effective operation. This will mean that whistleblowers across Great Britain have a greater opportunity to report on wrongdoing that they witness at work while qualifying for employment protection.

It is of course important that this list operates in a manner that is proportionate and effective. In particular, it is right that Members of the Scottish Parliament are exempt from the reporting duty that prescribed persons are under. I therefore commend this regulation to the House.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing the regulations to the House, and I will also be brief in my remarks on this entirely sensible instrument. As we have heard, it amends the Prescribed Persons (Reports on Disclosures of Information) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 to exempt Members of the Scottish Parliament, who are being added as prescribed persons to the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) (Amendment) Order 2022, from the requirement to report annually about the public interest disclosures that they receive from workers. It also makes a further amendment to the 2017 regulations to reflect the fact that the European Securities and Markets Authority is being removed as a prescribed person.

The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 prescribed persons to be recipients of whistleblowing disclosures for the purpose of Part 4 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The 2017 regulations created an obligation on prescribed persons to report annually about what public interest disclosures they receive from workers. They also exempted prescribed persons from the obligation by excluding them from the definition of “relevant prescribed person” in Regulation 2. The 2022 order is amending the 2014 order to add Members of the Scottish Parliament as prescribed exempted persons and to remove the European Securities and Markets Authority.

This follows on a call for evidence in 2013 by the then Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about introducing an obligation on most prescribed persons to report annually on the whistleblowing disclosures they received. The intention was to increase confidence that whistleblowing disclosures were and are looked into and to drive up transparency across how prescribed persons are handled.

The MSPs are not the regulators of a sector or specific type of wrongdoing, and there is an interest in ensuring that they are not burdened with the administrative requirement to produce annual reports, as is the case with MPs. As such, they have been added to the list of those exempted from producing these reports. The European Securities and Markets Authority is being removed as a prescribed person from the 2022 order to reflect the fact that, since EU exit, the relevant regulatory responsibilities have been assigned to the Financial Conduct Authority. Consequently, it should be removed from the list of prescribed persons exempt from the reporting duty.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his support. This is entirely uncontroversial and there are no questions, so I commend the regulations to the House.

Government Departments: Communication with Industry and Commerce

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 14th November 2022

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we need action. I agree with the noble Lord on that, and we will hear the Chancellor’s latest proposals on Thursday. It is a difficult issue that needs resolving, but one of the consequences of our record low levels of unemployment is skills shortages. However, we have a skills plan to invest across the whole range of the economy to make sure that we have the skills we need.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the Financial Services and Markets Bill received significant submissions of written evidence from business, industry and commerce, including many from the City who welcome the Bill but call for a number of commitments on the transition from EU to UK regulation. Recent government actions have undermined faith in the City, at a time when we need to listen closely to our world-class financial and professional services. What assessment have the Government made of submissions to the Bill and what further steps will they take to engage productively as it continues its passage through both Houses?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord on the importance of our world-class business and professional services in the City of London. Perhaps he can have a word with his noble friend about the importance of these industries to the country. Of course, we will continue to liaise with all City firms; we will not always agree on everything, because appropriate regulation is important, but we will continue to liaise with them.

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, it is my great pleasure to thank all those who have supported the progress of the Bill so far. Let me first thank the Opposition—the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord McNicol, and all their colleagues—for their co-operation in progressing this expedited Bill. I am extremely conscious of the fact—and the House should be aware—that we could not be doing this legislation as fast as we are without the consent of opposition parties. I am grateful to them for that. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his invaluable work and contributions, and thank all other Members who contributed to our debates, helping ensure that the Bill is of most benefit to our nation.

I thank the Welsh and Scottish Governments for their support for the Bill. I very much welcome the Senedd’s and Scottish Parliament’s decision to provide legislative consent for the elements of the Bill that impact on devolved competence. We got very late notice of the Scottish Parliament granting it, so I am grateful for that.

I thank the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department for the Economy and Department of Finance for their constructive engagement during the drafting of the Bill. In the absence of an Executive, a legislative consent Motion cannot be secured from the Northern Ireland Assembly. Given the urgent need for this Bill to give financial support to the people and businesses of Northern Ireland, the UK Government are legislating on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Ministers in Northern Ireland have been made aware of this, and my department will continue to engage with the Northern Ireland Executive on devolved matters as the Bill is implemented.

Let me also thank the House of Lords Public Bill Office, the House clerks, and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for their extremely hard work in drafting the Bill at pace and ensuring that it could be expedited through this House. As always, Ayeesha Bhutta, the principal private secretary to the Leader and Chief Whip, has been a total star in keeping us all right on the procedure of the Bill.

My thanks go to all the policy, analytical and legal officials in BEIS for their expert advice, resilience and, above all, sheer hard work. Many of them worked round the clock and at weekends to deliver this package of support for our nation. They are a credit to the Civil Service, and I thank them for their work.

I would like to thank my private secretary, Matthew Sachak, and the senior responsible officer for the Bill, Jeremy Allen. I must also thank the Bill team: Jessica Lee, Safia Miyanji, Kirsten Horton, Nicholas Vail, Salisa Kaur, Abi Gambel, Luke Rawcliffe, James Banfield, Matthew Pugh, Laura Jackson, Phaedra Hartley and Nicholas Benjamin. I cannot forget the BEIS lawyers, who do their level best to keep me apprised of legal matters —and sometimes even succeed: Wei Lynn, Alex Bentley, Charles Grant, Stephanie Bisset, Matthew Orme, Genna King, Alex Ivett, Susie Squire, Giovanna Amodeo and Sylvia Campigotto.

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has affected families and businesses up and down this country. This is the moment to be bold. The Government have acted immediately and dealt with the crisis hands on, ensuring people can keep their homes warm and businesses are kept open during the winter months.

The Bill includes powers to stop volatile and high gas prices dictating the cost of electricity produced by much cheaper renewables, which will be to the benefit of bill payers. The Bill puts energy bills support for people, businesses, charities and the public sector across the nation on a secure legislative footing. It is a vital step in delivering an unprecedented package of assistance for the whole of the UK. I thank noble Lords for their patience and commend this Bill to the House.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, briefly, I thank the Minister and his Whip, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for their co-operation and hard work during the speedy passage of the Bill. I also thank both the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on the Liberal Democrat Benches for his knowledge of these matters, and especially my noble friend Lord McNicol, who, while not in his place today, came in at the last minute to support me in the absence of my noble friend Lady Blake. Finally, I thank Milton Brown from the legislative team in the Labour office for keeping us up to date and on message throughout the process. The Bill will now be referred to the other place, and we wish it well in its speedy implementation.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the whole question of the energy market is complicated and beset by a series of legislative procedures which can cause confusion. That said, the new clause proposed by Amendment 14 would simply require the Secretary of State to produce a report assessing the impact of removing the investment allowance from oil and gas companies, as set out in the Energy (Oil and Gas) Profits Levy Act, and, in particular, to assess the impact on domestic and non-domestic users. Currently, oil and gas companies receive an 80% rebate on every pound invested but that is not available to renewables or other zero-carbon technology. This appears to tilt the market away from investments in cheaper domestic clean power sources towards oil, gas and fracking.

The proposed new clause would require the Government to assess the revenue and profits of electricity generators and oil and gas producers every six months, to see what the effects would be. Amendment 20 would require the Secretary of State to disaggregate the cost of production of natural gas from the cost of production of other energy sources to reduce the cost of electricity to domestic and commercial consumers. This dates back to when gas was the only game in town for energy companies; now, renewables account for 43% of the generation mix.

Gas prices have increased fourfold since the beginning of 2011, which means that consumers are paying much more for electricity than the average cost of generation across the market. Splitting the market is a likely consequence, by creating a separate pool for cheaper, intermittent, renewable generation and a second for traditional fossil fuel, which in turn could lead to consumers determining when to use cheaper electricity for things such as car charging by timing their usage accordingly. Electricity prices would be determined competitively by companies considering their own boundaries rather than working through gas. I give notice of our attention to move Amendment 14 to a vote.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have tabled amendments in this area, on the energy profits levy, including an amendment that seeks to reduce the costs of electricity to consumers.

I start with Amendment 13, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which would require the Secretary of State to publish a report on the additional revenue that could be raised from expanding the energy profits levy. I shall say something very similar to what I said to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, that all taxes are kept under review, and any changes in tax policy should be considered and announced by the Chancellor, in line with the usual Budget processes. The Treasury view, therefore, is that this amendment is not appropriate for this Bill.

The energy profits levy has been designed with a bespoke tax base, appropriate to respond to the extraordinary global context of high oil and gas prices. The levy is expected to raise substantial revenue while providing companies with a new incentive for investment. It is right that we continue to encourage investment in North Sea oil and gas to strengthen the UK’s vital offshore oil and gas sector and bolster our future energy security. The amendment would also require the Government to produce an estimate of upstream profits expected in the next two years. Such estimates will be highly sensitive to commodity price fluctuations. Given the volatility in prices since last year and that most companies’ out-turn profits are publicly available, it is not clear that producing such an estimate would be a beneficial use of public resources.

I turn to Amendment 14, tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord McNicol. This amendment requires the Secretary of State to publish a report on the impact of removing the investment allowance in the energy profits levy. The Treasury has made clear its view that it is not for this House to discuss the matters raised by this amendment in relation to this Bill, on the basis that fiscal issues are a matter for the House of Commons. Tax policy changes are an area for the Treasury, which believes that the Chancellor should consider and announce any changes in line with the usual Budget process. Taxation on the profits of oil and gas producers is not in scope of this Bill. The energy profits levy, introduced under the Energy (Oil and Gas) Profits Levy Act 2022, has been in place since May. It is not standard for the Government to publish assessments of the economic impacts of measures that they are not introducing. The Government already monitor the UK oil and gas sector; data on upstream production is published regularly on GOV.UK. It is not clear how a report on the impact of a hypothetical change would be a beneficial use of public resources.

I turn to Amendment 15, also tabled by the noble Lords, Lord Lennie and Lord McNicol, which would require the Secretary of State to publish an assessment of the revenue and profits of electricity generators and oil and gas producers every six months. The profits of oil and gas producers are not in scope of these measures but are subject to the energy profits levy, which has been in place since May. The out-turn revenue and profits of most electricity generators are already in the public domain, so I do not believe this amendment is necessary. The objective of the Energy Prices Bill is to protect consumers from very high energy prices. We recognise that we must strike a balance that is fair to generators, achieves value for money for consumers and maintains investor confidence. That is why it is appropriate that the House gets the chance to debate fully the first set of regulations made under the temporary cost-plus revenue limit.

Prepayment Meters: Pricing

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 11th October 2022

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We are helping those struggling to pay bills; I refer the noble Lord to the massive programme of support that we have put in place. These charges are set by Ofgem. I am aware that the standing charge is a controversial subject, but that reflects the network costs and other costs that every customer has to bear in addition to the unit costs of gas and electricity.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, there are 4 million prepayment energy customers in this country whose bills are not smoothed out over the year, unlike those who pay by direct debit. Ofgem figures show that prepayment customers are likely to pay two-thirds of their annual energy costs during the winter. What immediate measures will the Government take to help relieve pressures on these hard-pressed energy customers?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer to the noble Lord’s question is the massive programme of support we have put in place, which amounts to about £60 billion of direct payment support. Had we not put these measures in place, the average unit cost would have been about £6,000 per year; now it is down to an average of £2,500 per year. I emphasise that that is not a maximum but an average of the unit costs of energy that are capped under the price guarantee.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will speak to government Amendments 41 and 63 standing in my name. Amendment 63 will enable the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority and the Northern Ireland Authority for Utility Regulation to enforce hydrogen levy requirements imposed on relevant Great Britain and Northern Ireland market participants respectively.

The existing enforcement provisions in the Bill enable regulations to make provision for the levy administrator to, for example, issue notices and charge interest on late payments in respect of market participants who default on levy payments. Amendment 63 complements the existing enforcement provisions. Crucially, it ensures that regulations can make provisions for more robust forms of enforcement and enables enforcement under the terms of the licences held by market participants obliged to pay the levy, such as the possibility of licence revocation. It is critical that the levy is supported by a suite of enforcement measures. This will help reduce the risk of defaults on levy payments and help ensure that the levy administrator can collect the money required to fund the hydrogen business model and cover related costs.

Amendment 41 ensures that regulations made under this new clause will be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, to ensure sufficient parliamentary scrutiny of these more robust enforcement arrangements. Therefore, I hope they will be acceptable to the House. I beg to move.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, these government amendments are evidence of the rather chaotic state of the Bill as it has come to us. It is long—300-plus pages, 13 parts, et cetera—and missing this from the original drafting is an oversight by the Government that needs some explanation. Having said that, the amendments allow for an enforcement provision under the new regulations and for these to be subject to the affirmative procedure. We welcome that scrutiny and the ability to enforce regulations that are made. These amendments will also allow revenue support regulators to make provision for the relevant requirements found in the pre-existing enforcement regimes win the Gas Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989, as well as, as the Minister said, regulations regarding Northern Ireland. I would be interested to know when the existence of these pre-existing requirements was discovered. I look forward to his response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Lord is correct that a lot of drafting work went in. There is always limited OPC drafting time in government. It is regrettable that these clauses have had to be added, but I hope that I have provided sufficient explanation for them. The detailed levy design is pending, of course, but they include the enforcement arrangements for the levy. It is crucial that we allow for regulations to make provision for a range of enforcement measures. This provision simply allows regulations to enable the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority and the utility regulator to use their existing enforcement powers to ensure that relevant market participants comply with the obligation to pay the levy. Participants in the energy market are already very familiar with these arrangements.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, are very welcome and they plug a gap in the Energy Bill. Amendment 50 facilitates the changes proposed by allowing the Secretary of State to

“designate the person to be a counterparty for long duration energy storage revenue support contracts.”

Amendment 51 introduces a new clause which allows the Secretary of State to

“direct a long duration energy storage counterparty to offer to contract with an eligible person”.

Clauses 59, 61 and 63 already allow designation of counterparties for transport and storage, hydrogen production and carbon capture revenue support contracts, and Amendment 50 simply replicates this for long duration energy storage. Similarly, Clauses 60, 62 and 64 already allow the Secretary of State to direct counterparties to offer to contract, and Amendment 51 replicates this for long duration energy storage.

The amendments define long-duration energy storage revenue support contracts as being

“between a long duration energy storage counterparty and the holder of a licence under section 7”

and, as ones

“entered into by a long duration energy storage counterparty in pursuance of a direction given to it under section 60(1).”

This fills a big gap for long-duration energy storage. According to the Government, longer-duration storage—access across days, weeks and months—could help to reduce the cost of meeting net zero by storing excess low-carbon generation for longer periods of time, thereby helping to manage variation in generation, such as extended periods of low wind. This in turn could reduce the amount of fossil-fuel and low-carbon generation that would otherwise be needed to optimise the energy output from renewables.

Long-duration energy storage includes pumped storage as well as a range of innovative new technologies that can store electricity for four hours to supply firm, flexible and fast energy that is valuable for managing high-renewables systems. Introducing long-duration energy storage in large quantities in Britain by 2035 can reduce carbon emissions by 10 megatonnes of CO2 per annum, reduce systems costs by £1.13 billion per annum and reduce reliance on gas by 50 TWh per annum. That seems to me worth consideration in this Bill.

Amendment 225 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, which has general support around the House, requires the Government to produce a strategy for the storage of gas for domestic consumption. This would see the construction and operation of gas storage facilities capable of holding 25%, although it could be more—it could be 100%—of forecast domestic consumption each year beyond 2025. While agreeing that UK gas storage is currently small, which may have left us exposed to higher prices and shortages thus far, is it the solution to the long-term energy supply problems that we may face? It may well be that we need an immediate expansion of gas, but whether it is the long-term solution to our energy supply is open to some question. The UK currently stores enough gas to meet demand over four or five winter days, which is clearly not enough. But the new Chancellor said, when he was the Business Secretary, that the answer to mitigating a quadrupling of the gas price in four months was to get more diverse sources of supply, and more diverse sources of electricity, through non-carbon sources. So there is some doubt about the long-term viability of increasing gas storage.

Amendment 240 from the noble Lord, Lord Foster, would establish a new clause to store energy generated by solar panels in the list of energy-saving materials that are subject to zero-rate VAT. He had the example of his friend in the south-west. Modelling from Cornwall Insight’s view of the GB power market out to 2030 has shown that between 2025 and 2030 the Government must spend almost one-fifth of their total energy technologies investment, which includes solar, wind, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, on energy storage batteries, if we are to meet renewable targets and stabilise the energy market. Latest data estimates that almost 10% of grid capacity will be provided by battery storage by 2030, at an estimated cost of £20 billion. So, considering both the need and the cost of this, the amendment seems a sensible proposal to encourage the market to take up some of the burden.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for participating in what has been a fascinating debate on an important subject, very much building on the discussion that we had earlier this afternoon. I shall come on to the issue of gas storage—a popular topic of the day—a bit later.

I start with Amendments 50 and 51, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Oates. Long-duration energy storage covers a wide range of technologies, and the Government are looking at the need for revenue support for these separately, as they all face different challenges and solve different problems. While I commend the noble Lord’s intentions, I put it to him that these amendments are premature at this stage.

In the case of electricity storage, I reassure the noble Lord that we are committed to developing policy enabling investment for large-scale, long-duration electricity storage by 2024, as we have set out in our response to the call for evidence. As noted by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, we recognise that these technologies face significant barriers to deployment under the current market framework, due to their long build times, the high upfront costs, and the lack of forecastable revenue streams. Similarly, in the case of hydrogen storage, the 2021 UK hydrogen strategy set out our ambitions in this area.

More recently, and in recognition of the important role that hydrogen storage is expected to play in the hydrogen economy, we committed in the 2022 British energy security strategy to design hydrogen transport and storage business models by 2025. Indeed, we published a consultation on these matters in August. It is my contention that adding these clauses to the Bill now would prejudge the outcomes of the policy development which, as I hope noble Lords recognise, is already well under way.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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Okay, do not reappoint him. What can I say? I was going to set out a hypothetical situation about an oil and gas plant that had been decommissioned, but not fully, and was to be recommissioned and transferred to CCUS usage. I do not know whether that will never be possible, but who knows? It is a complicated situation and I wanted to know where the Minister thought responsibility would lie. However, I am pleased to say that he has pointed us towards the 1998 Act, the 2008 Act and some other Acts, so somewhere in there lies an answer. It would seem sensible to draw together whatever is the answer to the question and put it in the Bill, to update it. The Minister can come back on that and to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about whether that will ever be the situation.

As for the other government amendments to the Bill, I have again to make the point that this Bill of 350-plus pages, three parts and however many clauses is surely sufficient to cover the energy circumstance. As I said in my introduction yesterday, the Bill is a mix of all sorts of things without a coherent theme. If it had a coherent theme, it might well have covered these matters in the first place, but that is really for then, not for now.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank noble Lords, and let me apologise to the Committee for the number of government amendments. They are quite technical, and the Bill is obviously very large. It was drafted at pace, and it was not possible with the resource we had available to get all the details finalised, which is why there are a number of technical amendments.

The answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, which is a very good one at first sight, is that, of course, when the storage facilities are full, the storage facilities themselves are not decommissioned. They are used, but all the storage infrastructure—pipework and all the associated engineering, platforms, injection facilities, et cetera—will need to be decommissioned. I am sure the Liberal Democrats fully support the “polluter pays” principle, whereby someone who has benefited from a facility should be made to bear the costs of decommissioning it, which is why we are setting up a fund to do that. I reassure him that we do not decommission the actual sites—as he said, it would be quite difficult to extract the carbon dioxide from them to put it somewhere else—but they require monitoring, and the associated infrastructure will need to be decommissioned, which is why the fund is being established.

Low-Income Families: Energy Cost Support

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Tuesday 6th September 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate is not correct about that. It depends on which energy companies he is talking about: many of the energy suppliers have gone bankrupt over the last year or are making very marginal profits. Some producers, often in other parts of the world, are making very large profits. There are issues to do with some of the early renewable power obligation companies, which are also doing well. Under the latest contracts for difference schemes, that money is being recouped from the taxpayer. In all of these things, it is easy to make these observations but of course, it is an overly complicated situation.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, following on from the right reverend Prelate’s question, figures from the University of York suggest that four in five households will face fuel poverty by January and millions of people are struggling to make ends meet. The i newspaper reported yesterday that the new PM is following the pattern of the former PM and doing a screeching U-turn, now saying that direct intervention in the fuel crisis is necessary and following Labour’s proposal to freeze energy bills. Can the Minister tell us if and when we can expect this to be delivered?

Energy Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I do not think it is important to do that at this stage; we have published the consultation, we are closely analysing responses, as the noble Baroness will understand. It is a difficult area, it is a complicated area, there are a number of potential ramifications, and we think it is worthy of consideration. If we took a power now, that might have a very destabilising effect on the market and on the amount of investment that is flowing into many of the sectors, so the Government’s position at the moment is that we do not think that is necessary or desirable.

I reassure noble Lords that the addition of electrification to the Energy Bill is also unnecessary. The net-zero strategy sets out the Government’s view on how electrification can enable cost-effective decarbonisation in transport, in heating and in industry—to that extent, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and the points that she made—along with our approach to deliver reliable, affordable and low-carbon power. The energy security strategy accelerated, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware, our ambitions for the deployment of renewables for nuclear and for hydrogen. I can assure noble Lords that the Government will never compromise our security of supply: that remains our primary consideration. But our understanding of what the future energy system will look like and the level of the demand that we will need to meet through electrification will essentially and inevitably evolve over time. So, we are not targeting a particular solution, but we rely on competition to spur investment in the different technologies and new ways of working, and new technologies such as more efficient batteries et cetera are coming onstream every day. We will closely take all these matters under consideration. We take the view that the Government’s role is to ensure the market framework is there and that encourages effective competition and, at the same time, delivers a secure and reliable system.

Finally, let me thank the noble Lords, Lord Howell and Lord Teverson, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady Hayman, for their valuable contributions to the debate. I assure my noble friend Lord Howell that we are working internationally with the US, with the EU and with our other partners to produce a secure and reliable energy system together. In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, I am sure he will be pleased to hear that through the £385 million advanced nuclear funds, we are providing funding to support research and development for precisely the small modular reactor designs that the noble Viscount wishes to see, and we are progressing plans to build an advanced modular reactor demonstration by the early 2030s at the latest. Therefore, with the reassurances that I have been able to provide, I hope that noble Lords will not press their amendments.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, first, I apologise for not thanking the Minister for meeting us earlier today; that was helpful. To answer one or two points, the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, asked about what Boris Johnson said when he was Prime Minister—up to yesterday, or today. He raised questions about power stations being built and the figure of one a year for however many years necessary, and not being sure what power stations there were. The PM was never really good on detail and I think this proves that point. That does require some clarification.

The bigger point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the Minister was in relation to the preambles. They asked: why these preambles? They are a combination, if you like, of the preambles to the climate change and sustainability Act and the Energy Act 2013, as the Minister pointed out. They seek to give some definition, some guidance, to what the Bill is intended to achieve, as opposed to its rather rambling, ongoing, imprecise nature. It is not so much that the Bill is objectionable; it is just not adequate to achieve what it intends.

We will look at this before Report. With those few comments, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, Amendments 11,12 and 13 in my name would all strengthen the relationship between Ministers and the economic regulator by insisting that the Secretary of State and the economic regulator are bound by the listed regulatory principles and the need to contribute to achieving sustainable development rather than just having regard to them. Further, they would oblige a Minister to be bound by their duties as a Minister, as opposed to just having regard for them. They would also require the economic regulator to be bound by the need to assist the Secretary of State, compliant with its duties and targets. It is not sufficient to have regard to these matters; it is important to be bound by them. Can the Minister say what “have regard to” means if not to be bound by them?

Amendments 15 and 16 espouse that the Bill does not specifically include carbon capture usage. To add to the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, in January 2021, the major US oil company Chevron announced that it had made investments in the San Jose-based corporation Blue Planet Systems—then a start-up—which manufactures and develops carbon aggregates and carbon capture technology intended to reduce the carbon intensity of industrial operations. Blue Planet Systems manufactures carbon-based building aggregate from flue-gas-captured CO2. These amendments aim to encourage the use of captured carbon as opposed to its storage.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has contributed to this short debate. Addressing the amendments in turn, I will start with Amendment 8, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and my old friend the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, who is very conciliatory today—I am suspicious; something has happened to him over the summer, but I am sure that we will get the old noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, back before we get much further into the debate.

This amendment seeks to amend the principal objective applying to the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority in respect of consumer protections. Under the current drafting of this principal objective, it is for the Secretary of State or the economic regulator to protect the interests of consumers who they consider may be affected by regulatory decisions. This drafting is intended to ensure that the economic regulator and Secretary of State have discretion as to the consumer impacts that are taken into account. While the noble Lord’s and the noble Baroness’s amendment is intended to ensure that only actual or likely impacts are taken into account, we consider that the existing drafting already provides for this. Therefore, I submit that the amendment is unnecessary.

I turn next to Amendment 9, which is also in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, joined on this occasion by the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The amendment as drafted would place an additional principal objective on the Secretary of State and the economic regulator to assist in the delivery of the net-zero objective. I know that we have had this discussion on a number of Bills, but I will reiterate that, under the Climate Change Act 2008, the Secretary of State is already bound by law to ensure that the targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are met.

Under Clause 1(6), the economic regulator is required to have regard to the need to assist the Secretary of State in complying with his duties to achieve carbon emissions reduction targets and to have regard to these targets in each of the devolved Administrations. I therefore submit that the economic regulator is already required to take these net-zero targets into account in its regulatory determinations.

Next, I turn to Amendment 10, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. This amendment seeks to ensure that cross-subsidy of carbon dioxide transport and storage activities, from users of other networks, is avoided. Clause 1 of the Bill establishes the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority as the economic regulator of carbon dioxide transport and storage. It also establishes the principal objectives and general duties for the Secretary of State and the economic regulator in the exercise of their respective functions in relation to the economic regulation of carbon dioxide transport and storage.

The principal objectives in Clause 1 include protecting the interests of current and future users of the network and those of consumers. In relation to the regulation of gas and electricity, the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority remain bound by the principal objectives to, respectively, protect the interests of current and future consumers in relation to gas conveyed through pipes, and in relation to electricity conveyed by distribution systems. Different principal objectives are appropriate to reflect that the objectives for carbon dioxide transport and storage networks are different from those of the gas and electricity networks.

Under the provisions in the Bill, the economic regulator should be able to take into account, in its decision-making in relation to CO2 transport and storage activities, any impacts on users of gas and electricity networks that may arise from those decisions. I hope that the noble Lord is sufficiently reassured on this point.

I move on to Amendment 11, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake. This seeks to ensure that the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority are bound by the principles of regulatory best practice and the need to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. Clause 1 sets out the principal objectives and general duties of the Secretary of State and the economic regulator. The principal objectives are complemented by statutory duties on the Secretary of State and the economic regulator to have regard to certain matters. This includes having regard to principles of regulatory best practice and the need to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development. To have regard to these matters means that the Secretary of State or the economic regulator, as the case may be, must give genuine attention and thought to these matters.

In a complex sector with varying objectives that can sometimes conflict, it is important that the regulator’s duties strike the right balance between setting out all relevant issues and considerations, while giving some necessary discretion to the regulator to balance those considerations in its decision-making process and to have sufficient authority and independence in that decision-making. I hope that explains the point for the benefit of the noble Lord, Lord Lennie.

The formulation of the statutory duty as proposed by the noble Lord and the noble Baroness in our view risks compromising what is quite a delicate balance. The greater the number of statutory duties, and the more binding their nature, the more difficult the act of balancing the different, possibly conflicting, duties becomes. I hope that provides sufficient reassurance.

Amendments 12 and 13, again from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, also seek to amend the statutory duties applying to the Secretary of State and the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority to ensure that the greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets under the Climate Change Act 2008 are a binding consideration in regulatory determinations. In relation to Amendment 12, as I have already set out, under the Climate Change Act the Secretary of State is already bound by law to ensure that the targets to reduce emissions are met. We therefore do not consider that this amendment is necessary.

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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the government amendments appear to correct an oversight in the Bill. If noble Lords are confused then so am I. I am not entirely sure what the Minister was saying, but it appears to me that there was a stage missing in the original drafting of this Bill and the attempt now is to put in that stage—which is, in effect, a final warning to licence holders to act in specific ways in order to become compliant. If that is right, then I understand it and I do not oppose it, but I want to make sure that I understand correctly what the Government are trying to do. If I am right then, other than to point out the original omission, we do not oppose these measures; we just want clarification of what is being put into the Bill.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am happy to provide the reassurance that the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, asks for. It was simply a matter where, originally, we intended to take a power to do this through secondary legislation but, as we got to a later stage of drafting on the Bill, we thought that it would be more appropriate to put it in primary legislation. That is normally something that the House asks us to do. We were, on this occasion, trying to pre-empt some of the points that may be made by Peers to say that we should not do so much under powers and secondary legislation and should put it in the Bill—that is in fact what we are doing.

With regard to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on resourcing, it is very early days—we have not even set up the regulator yet—so I cannot give him any specific figures on what resourcing the regulator will have. The Treasury will no doubt want to have considerable input into this, but we will want to make sure that it is appropriately resourced and that we have the appropriate technical abilities, technical inspectors and so on to make sure that this activity is appropriately licensed and enforced and, of course, is safe for operators, personnel and the public.

Trades Union Congress: Levelling Up

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 29th June 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Believe it or not, the pay levels in Sainsbury’s are nothing to do with the Government—it is a private sector company. If people like the service provided by Sainsbury’s, they will go to that supermarket; if they do not, they will go to others.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, in 2019, across the UK as a whole, one in five jobs were paid less than the real living wage. This figure excludes the self-employed, half of whom earn significantly less than the living wage. For levelling up to have meaning, the TUC has set out recommendations in a report snappily called Levelling Up at Work. Does the Minister agree that it is time that the Government stop fighting the trade unions and work with them to secure jobs across the UK, have decent pay levels and help families overcome the cost of living crisis in this fifth-largest economy in the world?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we want to work with all employee representatives who are prepared to be constructive and who want to see a positive way forward for the country that does not hold the travelling public to ransom. No doubt the noble Lord will also be delighted to know that we raised the minimum wage again in April and put another £1,000 in the pocket of the lowest-paid workers.

Warm Home Discount (England and Wales) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 20th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing these proposals, which are an improvement on the previous scheme. I also thank noble Lords for their contributions, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, who represented the NEA’s concerns about the core group 2 and how some of them will miss out, on the way that the scheme is set up, on the funding sufficiency—or insufficiency—and on the prepayment customer concerns, which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, also raised. The noble Lord, Lord Best, is an expert on the private rented sector. We share his concerns about that; I will come on to that in what I have to say. The overall theme of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is that it represents a failure in public policy that we have to have this scheme in any place, but here we are: we have to have it and this is, as I have said, an improvement.

The Government have said that they intend to bring forward a new set of reconciliation regulations “later this year”, which is better than “when Parliament has time” or “in due course”, but can the Minister be a little more precise about when “later this year” means?

On the criteria and the algorithm used to estimate energy costs, how satisfied is the Minister that the algorithms used will not lead to an education-type embarrassment for the Government and, therefore, a failure in terms of there being lots of customers who potentially would benefit from this scheme but may then miss out? Have the Government included all eligible households, including persons with a disability, in their revised six criteria for the new scheme?

The scheme has an impact on energy suppliers, the authority and the Government. The energy suppliers are likely to recover their costs from their customers, which is estimated to be £19—a £5 increase on the former scheme. The authority and the Government are likely to incur costs of approximately £22 million for their work in issuing notices and identifying customers eligible for core group rebates. The Secretary of State will conduct a review or partial review of the scheme, and the authority will review participation of suppliers in the scheme and publish an annual report. This is welcome.

However, Labour would introduce legislation to uplift the warm home discount for 9 million working families and pensioners during the present inflationary crisis. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, pointed out, this is an extraordinary time for energy costs. I am not saying that it could have been predicted but Ukraine is upon us and, therefore, more may well need to be done in the lifecycle of this scheme.

Core group 2, which has replaced the broader group, will not now have to apply for inclusion in the scheme, which is welcome. However, there will be households beyond that group who remain in fuel poverty, such as those in rented accommodation. They may be on low incomes and with disputed levels of energy use, particularly when they have no access to what proportion of the payment they make to their landlords is for energy supply. They may not be receiving benefits, which would usually give them automatic inclusion. It may be impossible for them to contest their exclusion. The Minister’s observations on this would be very welcome.

If an energy company goes into administration or disappears entirely, will the supplier of last resort take on the full obligation of the failed supplier or are there now no small-enough energy suppliers left—that is, those with 50,000 customers—that can go bust? Have they all gone bust already? The recovery of the scheme from customers will mean that, in some cases, energy companies will be recovering money from those who have received the warm home discount, thus giving with the one hand and taking away with the other. Would Minister like to comment on that?

The overall scheme is likely to add to the rise in the socialisation of the expenses of suppliers of last resort, resulting in a probable £100 contribution to the increased price cap. Have the Government considered whether the scheme should be covered by Exchequer funding or by a wider group of people contributing, not just individual customer payers?

In welcoming the progress the Government have made with these changes to the scheme, there are a number of observations on which I would welcome the Minister’s response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. The context is that, this year, as we all know, we have witnessed an extraordinary increase in the cost of energy. The Government recognise that millions of households across the UK may need further support with the cost of living, in particular energy bills. That is why the Government have so far announced additional support this year worth more than £37 billion, including targeted support for many of those in the groupings we are talking about today—those on the lowest incomes.

All domestic electricity customers in Great Britain will receive £400 off their bills from October through the energy bills support scheme. Meanwhile, more than 8 million households across the UK in receipt of means-tested benefits will also receive £650 as a cost of living payment. Further payments will be made to pensioners and disabled people. The Government remain committed to helping low-income and vulnerable households heat their homes over the coming winter. Although energy efficiency measures provide long-term assistance in reducing energy bills, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, reminded us, there is a clear need for direct financial support now. In this context, the warm home discount remains a key part of our overall approach to tackling fuel poverty.

This is the largest expansion of the scheme since it began. In 2021-22, the energy envelope was worth £354 million across Great Britain; in 2022-23, it is rising to £523 million. This scheme will ensure that 2.8 million households in England and Wales receive a rebate off their energy bills each winter right through to 2026. That means that around a third more households than previously will receive a rebate each year. In addition, most will receive their rebates automatically. This means that households will have much more certainty about receiving the payments when they need them most. A large part of my postbag has been people writing to their MPs and then on to me if they have not been selected as part of the core group 2 element; people do not understand how the scheme works.

The Government have recognised the need for certainty about the support to households in Scotland. We recently consulted on an extension and expansion of a separate warm home discount scheme in Scotland. That was as a result of the Scottish Government not being able to make their minds up about whether they wanted to be part of this scheme, not because of any delays on our part. The Government will publish the response shortly and lay the regulations for the scheme in Scotland as soon as possible.

Fire and Rehire

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The difference is very clear. What P&O did is potentially illegal. Investigations into both criminal and civil wrongdoings are ongoing, so I cannot comment on those particular investigations, but if trade unions are considering holding the travelling public to ransom, as many of them are, then it is right that we should look at all available options, and we will do so.

Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, British Airways, Accenture, and the DP World-owned P&O Ferries—significant players in the UK economy—have all used fire and rehire to replace their workforce. They have faced down government criticism and the public’s disdain. For this to change, legislation is required to outlaw this practice. Will the Government take a lead by bringing forward a definitive code of practice that bans fire and rehire? Further, will the Government commit now to ensuring that companies found to have been using fire and rehire will neither be awarded contracts for any public body nor be allowed to take over provision of public services?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I said that we are committed to bringing forward a code and we will consult on it shortly, but as I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Woodley, it is a complicated area of industrial relations and employment law. I assume that even the Labour Party would accept that we cannot ban redundancy if a company is going bankrupt. Therefore, by banning fire and rehire we would end up banning the rehiring part of it, which I am sure nobody wants to see.

Fuel Poverty

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 13th June 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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My Lords, the government figures are out of date. The chairman of NEA is right: 6.2 million households is nearer the figure than the 3.2 million that the Minister referred to. The pressures of doubling fuel prices on top of this trend will continue to worry householders across the country. In 2015, the Government estimated it would take until 2030—another eight years from now—to end fuel poverty, but on current figures it will take more than 60 years. What new measures are the Government proposing to ensure they get back on track to meet their original deadline of zero fuel poverty by 2030?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The figures that the noble Lord quotes are, of course, using different metrics. There is a big debate about which is the appropriate metric to use, but we can all accept, whatever metric we use, that this a very difficult time and people are suffering. The best route to end fuel poverty is through energy-efficiency measures, and that is why we are spending £6.6 billion this year in precisely targeting energy-efficiency measures—home improvements, retrofits—towards those in society on the lowest incomes, but of course we will need to do more.

Pollution Prevention and Control (Fees) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2022

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Monday 23rd May 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Lennie Portrait Lord Lennie (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for putting forward these proposals, which are, as we have heard, rather inconsequential and unremarkable. There is nothing I want to add by way of commentary, but I have a few questions.

First, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, asked, can the Minister explain why the fee for specialists has risen at the same time as the fee for non-specialists has fallen? If it is to do with numbers, can he explain the reason for this change in the balance between specialists and non-specialists?

Secondly, the fees received have remained the same as the previous average, £6.2 million. In the Government’s assessment, is this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future, bearing in mind what the noble Lord has said?

Thirdly, while I understand that no formal representations were made by the industry regarding OPRED’s plans, can the Minister say whether any informal opinions were given and whether the industry as a whole is satisfied by the proposals? I look forward to his response.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank noble Lords for their brief contributions to this debate, which reflect the relatively uncontroversial nature of the regulations. As I said in my introduction, the regulations will enable OPRED to recover its costs for the provision of regulatory services under the offshore oil and gas environmental legislative regime, as opposed to the alternative—those costs being borne by the taxpayer.

The annual fees income is, on average, £6.2 million, which represents around 65% of the cost of running OPRED’s environmental operations unit. The total running cost of around £10 million per year includes the cost of the office in Aberdeen and corporate support provided from London.

In terms of chargeable activities, OPRED considers the environmental implications of all offshore oil and gas operations before issuing permits and consents covering areas as diverse as seismic surveys, marine licences, oil pollution emergency plans, chemical permits, oil discharge permits and consents to locate permissions for offshore installations. OPRED reviews around 3,000 applications for permits and consents annually. In addition, there is a regular programme of monitoring and inspections to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

As I said in my introduction, in line with the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance, OPRED does not charge for policy work—for example, the enacting of new or revisions to existing offshore environmental legislation—and nor is OPRED able to charge for enforcement activity, such as prosecutions. OPRED is proposing the fees regulations pursuant to a power that requires an affirmative procedure. This is because the changes allowing OPRED to recoup the costs for the provision of regulatory services are not alterations to reflect changes in the value of money.

Questions were asked by both my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, about what proportion of the workforce are specialists, compared with non-specialists. Both also asked for an explanation of the fee rise for specialists and the reasons for the change. The revisions to the hourly rates reflect changes to OPRED’s staffing levels and associated costs, plus corporate costs such as IT, accommodation, human resources and finance, which are allocated on a per-head basis. There are 53 staff who work in the offshore environmental unit, of whom 40 are environmental specialists and 13 are non-specialists. The reduction for non-specialists is largely due to a reduction in London corporate costs; the increase for specialists relates to an increase in the cost for advice from statutory nature conservation bodies.

The question from the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, was nothing to do with these regulations, but I am happy to take it back to the department and send the noble Lord a reply in writing. As I said in my introduction, about 45% of the cost of running OPRED is currently recovered from the offshore hydrocarbons sector through these fees.

With the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, to whom I will write, I hope I have answered the questions raised by noble Lords—the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. Therefore, I commend the draft fees regulations to the Committee.

European Research Council

Debate between Lord Callanan and Lord Lennie
Wednesday 27th April 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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