Lord Grantchester (Lab)
I thank the Minister for her introduction of the statutory instrument before the Committee today. As she said, this relates to risk-preparedness in relation to electricity failure now that the UK has left the EU, whether a deal on the future relationship with the EU is reached or not. The instrument transfers into UK law Regulation (EU) 2019/941. I will approve it, as it does not differ materially from the case that held previously, when the UK was a member state.
Great Britain will produce its own risk management plan. However, I have a few questions to ask the Minister. I have just made reference to Great Britain rather than the United Kingdom. I understand that, with the Executive now up and running again in Northern Ireland, Ministers there will be making the decisions. However, could the Minister go further and make any comments around the implications for the situation across the island of Ireland? The regulations could well be different from those in the rest of the UK for these reasons in themselves.
Risk management is a function that has to be recognised, with assessments and procedures reflected at all levels of organisational management. Can the Minister confirm that this will continue to be the situation throughout Great Britain, as before?
The EU directive included a provision that the UK’s plans were published and circulated with neighbouring countries, with the EU as a whole and with the EU co-ordination body ENTSO-E. Can the Minister inform the Committee whether Great Britain will publish and share its plans in the future? Will that be partially answered by whether a deal is struck with the EU before 31 December 2020 or not?
There are interconnectors for grid access to the continent that I am sure will continue, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for identifying the importance of interconnectors and their future development, especially to Ireland, and how they could reshape the UK energy market. Will Great Britain publish the risk management plans and share them within the UK, including Parliament and the devolved Administrations, or would that make the plans vulnerable to terrorist attack in some way different from the way plans were published prior to circulation under the EU? Will plans be published merely to necessary electricity authorities? Who might those authorities be in the new Great Britain context? Ultimately, is it the responsibility of the Secretary of State? I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for his questioning of future intentions to share plans with members of the EU, and on what basis.
I have some more questions. The Explanatory Memorandum makes reference to the Downstream Gas & Electricity Resilience and Energy Resilience and Emergency Response units at the department. Can the Minister confirm any different role in risk management terms of these units and how they co-ordinate effectively in the risk management plans? It was a little difficult to hear her introduction with the noise interference of the Division bell, and I apologise.
Finally, can the Minister say who is responsible for auditing these plans now that the UK has left the EU? There must be some transparency in regard to the risk preparedness of Great Britain in the event of failure in the electricity system. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, that future resilience in terms of climate change and renewables needs to be recognised. These risks are more likely to be identified and challenged with management at the audit stage. Any further clarity that the Minister may be able to provide would be most helpful.