All 10 Lord Whitty debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Energy Bill [HL]

Lord Whitty Excerpts
2nd reading
Tuesday 19th July 2022

(3 weeks, 6 days ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister for his cogent explanation of the Bill. I also very much appreciate following the very substantial intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Howell, where he really underlined the gravity of the short-term and long-term problems we face. The fact is that this is the first supposedly cross-sector Bill we have had for 10 years and it does not measure up. It follows detailed government statements on energy strategy, energy security and energy efficiency, on hydrogen, and also all the pronouncements on the path to carbon net zero, but the Bill, despite its size and its complexity, frankly, deals with only a small and limited part of those strategies.

It began life, of course, as an energy security Bill, but the “security” has been dropped and it now conveys, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Howell, was suggesting, very little sense of direction on energy security in either the national and global sense of energy self-sufficiency, nor in the domestic sense of affordability and reliability for the British economy, for households and for businesses here. I say to the Minister that, given the pressures on the legislative programme, it might have been better to have a more comprehensive Bill now; otherwise, we will be faced with further Bills in the next couple of years, dealing with the areas which this Bill, broadly speaking, omits. In default of a comprehensive Bill, perhaps he can give us an indication of what additional Bills, in both senses, we are expecting over the next couple of years. What is the programme of statutory instruments and policy statements that will be necessary to deliver the intentions of the Bill and the rest of the Government’s programme?

But let me give the Minister some comfort and say what I broadly approve of in the Bill first. I agree with the concept of a future systems operator and putting it on a new basis. We need some degree of operational controlling mind in the electricity and other markets, and I think this moves us in the right direction. We still need to see how this role is developed and precisely what its operation and structure will be. How will it relate to the existing National Grid functions and to the potentially extended role of Ofgem, which is implied by the Bill but not really spelled out in any great detail?

I also very much welcome the resurrection of a commitment to carbon capture and storage, and the provision for support for that sector. It has been a serious failure over the last 10 years: the failure to endorse the outcome of the first competition in this area and then to completely abandon the second competition in 2015. So, we have not been on the path we should have been. It is clear from what the Climate Change Committee says that we will need to have a very heavy contribution, particularly in the period up to 2035, of carbon capture and storage if we are to get anywhere near the path we have set ourselves in getting to net zero by 2050.

It is true that there has been little progress on carbon capture and storage in the rest of the world as well as here, but we need to make a new start, and the UK is probably one of the best places in the world, in that we are able to store carbon in abandoned oil and gas wells in the North Sea and the Irish Sea. Indeed, if we move away from the original idea of carbon capture and storage—that we would put it on the end of a large emitter or a power station—and look at it at the centre of or serving a hub of industries, then actually the economics work out and probably the complexity is much less. I think the commitment to carbon capture and storage is very important.

I also welcome, to some degree, the support for increased decentralisation through heat networks and district heating. In particular, I welcome the commitment to consumer protection regulations for users of district heating, because although I absolutely buy into the concept of district heating, and it will be part of any future energy system in this country, the fact is that consumers—the households that rely on district heating—are not able to switch or to change provider or in many cases to change the tariff and the way in which they are charged. We need some protection for those consumers built into any increase in district heating.

As to what is not in the Bill, we all know that energy efficiency needs to be in the Bill. I appreciate that the other day in the Moses Room, the Minister introduced some improvements in the ecosystem for delivery of that; they were very minimal, but I welcome them as far as they go. The commitment to energy efficiency needs to be much more structured and widespread, so that it is not all delivered through the ecosystem but is delivered by the kinds of schemes we used to have; the commitment from the Government and government-induced measures to improve energy efficiency has reduced by more than 80% over the last 10 years. That really needs a new approach. Some of the systems that are still in operation in Scotland and Wales would be helpful here.

Two other things need to happen, because we have had two disastrous attempts to introduce energy efficiency programmes for the able-to-pay sector, and we need to have one that actually works and ensures that the owner-occupiers, particularly those who can afford to do so, are attracted to increasing the energy efficiency of their own homes. That also requires an effective household advice scheme. The downgrading of the Energy Saving Trust over the past few years has been unreasonable and it needs to be revived in some sort of form, so that businesses, individual households and landlords can get the best advice on energy efficiency.

The long-term objective of energy policy must be pretty clear: to get away from fossil fuels. Here, I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, at least in the immediate term. The answer to the dependence on Russian oil and gas is not for Europe, Britain and the United States to switch to other gas and oil suppliers. Frankly, it is a bit sickening to see that the response of Johnson and Biden to get away from the dependency on Russian supplies because of its treatment of Ukraine is to go cap in hand to another dictator in Saudi Arabia, which has been bombing and committing war crimes against its own neighbour, Yemen, for several years.

Nor is the response of the climate sceptics—that we simply reopen North Sea oil and gas or start fracking here—right. The fact is that gas is a world market and the electricity market is still linked to that gas price. Hence, the huge hikes that we have seen in consumer prices here are caused by the world gas situation. We need to reduce global dependence on gas, not enhance it.

We need a system that will divert investment, and hence dependency, away from fossil fuels through lower carbon investment and fuel sources. Part of this legislation helps that, and part will help the transition. But I return to the carbon capture and storage provision because the large-scale carbon users, particularly those which supply the building industry with steel, glass, cement and so forth, are not going to get away from carbon use in production very easily or rapidly. We therefore need a proper system of carbon capture and storage, of the sort now being advocated.

That requires a change in approach, one which will encourage investment in that sector. The Government are now committed to it. One of the major propositions of this Bill is to support it, but the Minister will probably recognise that in order for that to happen and be delivered in practice, a support system is required similar to the one we gave to offshore wind after the last major energy Bill. We need a development programme, a clear timetable and a clear indication of the regulations and statutory instruments required to enforce the legislation which will be applied to carbon capture and storage.

I was at a very useful briefing the other day from the Carbon Capture and Storage Association. Its chair was there: my noble friend Lady Liddell. She would be here were it not for the heat of the day preventing safe transport from Scotland, and she would undoubtedly be participating in this debate. We are a point where we can turn around a failure to implement carbon capture and storage over the last 15 years. There is interest out there, nationally and internationally, and we need to ensure that we deliver that. That will require more than the bald provisions of the Bill and a follow-up from the Minister’s department to ensure it gets properly developed.

There are a few short paragraphs on hydrogen in the Bill. One of the difficulties with hydrogen is that it is touted as the solution to almost every sector’s problem —heavy transport, heavy industry, domestic heating—yet we do not yet have the ability to produce green hydrogen without serious problems. The Government have, of course, produced a hydrogen strategy but it gives rise to a number of questions that still have to be fully addressed.

I support many of the senses of direction of this Bill, but a lot more will be needed to deliver the outcomes the Government want. Here we are today on the hottest day of the year, with the temperature increase being the opposite of what we normally talk about, and which is required to transform the heating of homes in this country. We also need air cooling in our buildings and homes, and the technology exists to do that. To meet those kinds of challenges we need a very strong sense of direction from the Government. While the Bill goes some way in that direction, I fear that there will be many other Bills and we will require many other statutory instruments and policy statements from the Minister before the direction is properly set.

Electricity and Gas (Energy Company Obligation) Order 2022

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Tuesday 12th July 2022

(1 month ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing forward the order. I understand that there has been quite a delay, as the legislation was due to have legal effect on 1 April. I wonder why there was a delay, but I am delighted to see the order before us this afternoon. I remind the Committee of my interest as president of National Energy Action, which briefed me in advance.

First, I welcome the fact that the spending envelope is going to be much greater than previously. I understand that it has been increased from £660 million to £1 billion a year, which is quite a sizeable increase and makes the scheme much more ambitious. As my noble friend said, it is a fabric-first, multi-measure approach to upgrading homes. The scheme is better targeted and allows local authority suppliers and others to qualify households into it. I regret that, as I understand it, during the delay from 1 April until when this finally comes into effect—my noble friend can tell us when exactly—25,000 households could have benefited, so it is important that we get the statute adopted as soon as possible.

I would like to raise a couple of concerns. The practice of allowing households to make financial contributions towards the measures continues but, if a household is in extreme fuel poverty, how is it expected to find the resources to contribute, given that we are soon to be living in the worst fuel poverty that I can remember? I pay tribute to Martin Lewis, who I think has done consumers and households a great service generally in guiding people towards the schemes and explaining how all of us can save money as October approaches. Perhaps this is not the best day to be discussing this, given the temperatures today.

I would like to clarify why the scheme does not set an adequate minimum of solid wall properties to be treated. I wonder if there was a particular reason for this. The figures that I have are that over 90% homes with solid walls still need to be insulated to meet fuel poverty commitments, at the same time as delivering net zero. We are probably talking about a million fuel- poor households living in solid wall properties with no insulation—some of the worst-insulated houses not just in Britain but probably in the northern hemisphere.

There is a gap in the provision of energy advice that perhaps has not been met by the scheme. How does my noble friend expect to reach the fuel poverty targets at the same time as delivering net zero if we do not have a more comprehensive network of advice provision? While the proposed defined roles of retrofit adviser, retrofit assessor and retrofit co-ordinator will ensure that households are advised initially of the options, we need to ensure that homes are assessed properly and that there is a proper plan for improvement and evaluation. Is there a case that the advice should go further and include information on other available energy schemes and support?

At the moment, it is not entirely clear whether advice is accessible. I seek assurances from my noble friend that any information comes in multiple formats, because not everyone has access to the internet, not everyone has English as a first language, and there are obviously a variety of disabilities to deal with.

With those few concerns, which I hope my noble friend will address, I give a warm welcome to the instrument before us.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has anticipated me, which is completely understandable since I am a vice-president of the same organisation, but I would like to put this in a slightly broader context.

The other day, when we were having an exchange at Questions, the Minister admonished me for apparently disparaging the ECO scheme. My point is not that the scheme is not desirable. It is a means of delivery that has proved its worth in certain respects. Certainly, the energy companies have now developed systems that identify where they could intervene with their own customers. However, inevitably, by relying entirely on the ECO scheme to deliver energy efficiency provisions, people get missed out. I have always argued that putting the responsibility on the companies as the main means of delivery means that there will always be gaps, because the companies will prioritise in relation to their own consumers. What we really need, have needed for some time and, in the current circumstances, need even more is a scheme that helps absolutely everybody who is fuel poor or likely to be made fuel poor, of which there are now more because of the current energy crisis.

Energy efficiency measures meet a lot of the Government’s and the country’s objectives of saving energy, moving away from fossil fuels, working towards net-zero targets, and off-setting the energy dimension of the cost of living crisis. We therefore need to strengthen them. I assure the Minister that I approve of the direction in which these regulations move, because they broaden the way you can bring people in. They increase the schemes and the comprehensiveness by looking at multi-measures in a way that past interventions frequently have not. This means that schemes can be addressed that do not rely on mini-interventions but look at the total fabric of the house and the systems by which it is currently heated. The detailed measures on the upgrading of the ratings are also important, and the broadening of the people who can refer into the scheme, particularly via the health service dimension, is also much to be welcomed.

As the noble Baroness said, there are some gaps. The biggest, which is not a gap but an inadequacy, is the failure to set a really strong target for solid wall insulation. The danger is that we do not have the companies and contractors to do that, because the regulations do not imply sufficient jobs and there is not the training for installers that is needed to deliver the aspirations. In terms of where we are on home energy efficiency, that is probably the biggest single inadequacy of delivery so far and it needs to be addressed.

I echo the noble Baroness’s point about advice, because a lot of the fuel poor, or those who are increasingly in danger of becoming fuel poor, do not have adequate advice in this area. The kind of advice they need overlaps with the advice needed by people in the hitherto so-called “able to pay” category. The failure of the successive schemes to deliver effective support for the “able to pay” sector really underlines the need to upgrade the whole of the advice in this area. The information is still inadequate and difficult to access for both the fuel poor and those who perhaps can still make a contribution themselves, and in some cases pay for the whole lot themselves.

In general, I think this order is in the right direction for the delivery of the ECO scheme but needs to be put into a broader context. That broader context becomes more difficult, because in the next few years we are about to decide what the main form of home heating in this country will be. Individual householders and landlords have to face decisions on insultation, whatever the form of heating. It is not yet clear whether we will still have something approaching the gas network or whether gas will be replaced by a hydrogen blend or by hydrogen. The number of properties is not clear. Many properties do not qualify or are not appropriate for heat pumps in their present form. There will be some difficult decisions on how they address that. Most households would prefer to know what the totality of their movement is, whether they are fuel poor or in the “able to pay” sector. They would like to know that they can perhaps insulate up front and then change to a different form of heating, or at least that they will not have to change everything in their house twice and that, whether they go under the ECO or a scheme where they pay themselves, they will not then have to adapt all their appliances and network again in two, three, four or five years because we have changed the form of heating.

We need a more strategic approach to this, but I assure the Minister that, as far as it goes, I am in favour of what he is proposing to us today.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for introducing this order and for writing to draw my attention to it, especially to how it is lowering consumer bills. The ECO scheme has been among the favourites for Conservative Governments to target. It is certainly to be encouraged that they focus on energy efficiency measures to upgrade homes and on targeted support, thus reducing heating costs for low-income and vulnerable households and those at risk of fuel poverty across Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.

Although it is true that the number of homes with a band C EPC increased to 46% in 2021, it cannot be claimed that that was all due to the ECO scheme. Nevertheless, it is part of a flurry of measures, this one supporting 450,000 homes to be able to save on average £290 a year.

In his letter, the Minister wrote that savings in the least energy-efficient homes could average £600 this winter, which would be wonderful. Can he explain this figure? How many households would be in this number, and how many would reach that magical threshold of band C? Would this alarm many households, in that they might now become liable to higher bands of council tax?

One of the intricacies of ECO3 was that households switching from larger to smaller suppliers to save on their bills could take themselves to companies below the threshold and thus be outwith the obligation for improvement measures. Many of these customers have now found themselves with bankrupt companies. Under SoLR, on which I have questioned the Minister previously, they will have been redistributed to larger suppliers within the obligation. Can the Minister explain the effect of ECO4 on this? Will the threshold be a cliff edge or a reducing threshold while maintaining worthwhile energy efficiency measures?

One of the consequences of reducing thresholds was that energy companies found it cheaper to pay a resulting fine than to offer ECO schemes. Could any increased penalty be liable to push a vulnerable company into bankruptcy and all the consequences of SoLR? With the scheme continuing with household contributions, will energy companies target only those who can make a contribution and ignore those with the lowest incomes?

Winter Heating Initiatives

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I will certainly pass my noble friend’s thoughts on to whoever occupies those great offices in the Treasury in the next few weeks. Regarding his first point, we want to ensure that any reductions in international energy prices are passed on to consumers as quickly as possible.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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Does the Minister accept that fuel-poor households will seriously suffer not just during the coming winter but, given the way that the energy market is going, in subsequent winters? Do the Government accept that, in order to deal with the problem of fuel poverty, they need to knock the heads of the energy companies together and introduce proper, targeted social tariffs, and to reintroduce a comprehensive insulation programme that does not depend solely on the rather haphazard procedures under the ECO scheme? That needs to be done as a matter of urgency, in line with the rest of the energy strategy.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I am sorry that the noble Lord is so down on the ECO scheme. It is a good programme and, as he is probably aware, we are expanding it to £1 billion a year. It is not the only energy-efficiency scheme we have: there is the home upgrade grant, the local authority delivery scheme and the social housing decarbonisation fund, which is about to launch bids for another £800 million of grants to local authorities and housing associations.

Strikes: Cover by Agency Workers

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Tuesday 5th July 2022

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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If the view of the modern Labour Party is that capping prices is effective in a modern industrialised market economy then I truly despair.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, do the Government actually believe that there is a right to strike? In the railways dispute and in the potential disputes for airline staff, the votes were overwhelmingly in support of strike action and these strikes are absolutely legal, yet the Government seek to use secondary legislation to completely undermine the trade unions. Has Jacob Rees-Mogg convinced the Tory party that we should go back to the 18th century Combination Acts?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer to the noble Lord’s question is yes.

Fire and Rehire

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Wednesday 15th June 2022

(2 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, we always do the right thing. I realise that it is an easy soundbite for the noble Lord to say “ban fire and rehire”, but even he would accept that you cannot ban redundancies, for instance if a company is going bust. You would end up banning the rehiring part of the equation.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, legislation is useful, and I hope the Minister pursues that course, but in the meantime will the Government look very carefully at giving any new contracts to a firm which engages in such atrocious behaviour?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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We want to see all companies engaging in responsible employment practice. The UK has an employment record to be proud of. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the western world, one of our lowest post-war records—down again yesterday. If you contrast that to many countries in the EU or on the continent, with much less flexible labour markets, the best employment right of all is a job.

Subsidy Control Bill

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Moved by
3: Schedule 1, page 53, line 6, at end insert—
“(c) progress towards targets under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008 (UK net zeroe emissions target), and section 5 of the Environment Act 2021 (environmental targets).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires public authorities to consider whether proposed subsidies would have any negative effects on progress towards the UK’s legally binding net zero and environmental targets.
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I shall also say a few words about Amendments 51 and 61 in this group. I do so in lieu of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who, unfortunately, has to be at a funeral this afternoon. I declare my interests as set out in the register but in particular a very new one, which is that I have become a director of Peers for the Planet.

This amendment is pretty straightforward. It says that our climate change strategy, our net-zero strategy, about which the Government have been very clear, should be taken into account in their subsidy policy. It is odd that it is not in the Bill, either in Schedule 1, which we are discussing, or virtually anywhere. However, we are lucky tonight because the Minister is of course also Minister for many aspects of net zero. I therefore assume that my amendment will be received with acclaim by the Government Benches. They might think they have a better form of words that they want to bring forward later, but I think my form of words is fairly clear.

We are on Schedule 1 to the Bill, which is headed “The Subsidy Control Principles”. That a flagship policy of the Government which has been said by Ministers time and again should apply across all government policy is not included in that schedule is very odd indeed, and it must surely be an oversight. Even more surprising, it is not referred to in Schedule 2, which relates to energy and efficiency principles, because that is mainly about energy policy. There is a reference which could be said to be relevant, which is to subsidies directed towards the reduction of carbon use and to help decarbonisation, but those are specific subsidies. What my amendment is concerned about is that all subsidy schemes should take into account their implications for our target zero policy and climate change objectives.

I would find it difficult to think the Government could reject that. Ministers have said on many occasions that it is one of our most important policies and strategic commitments. The Public Accounts Committee has recently said that all government departments must take it into account, and that includes new legislation. This is substantial new legislation which may not obviously directly affect climate change, but everything indirectly affects it. Subsidies after all, whatever their form, are about interfering with the market to get a different outcome. It would be odd indeed if the Government did not accept that, if the market was moving in the direction which was more or less in line with our climate change agenda, we should not intervene with a subsidy which reversed it or at least offset it. We are not saying that every subsidy has to be directed at climate change, but the implications have to be taken into account when considering the validity of that subject.

I am expecting a positive response from the Government. I do not think it would cost them a lot in terms of the overall nature of the Bill, but it would give credibility to the overall policy that our net-zero targets should be followed through across the whole of government and all public authorities. If the Government reject it, I will find that very difficult to accept, and I think we would wish to test the opinion of the House. I hope that the Government will be reasonable and either come up with their own wording or just accept the wording which the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and I are proposing. I beg to move.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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My Lords, I rise with great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who has powerfully and clearly introduced this group of amendments. I will offer the Green group’s support for Amendments 3, 51 and 61. Were we not in a state of continual juggling of different Bills, I am sure that we would have attached one of our names to them.

Amendment 3, on which the noble Lord indicated he is likely to test the opinion of the House, is particularly important in considering the negative effects. I am influenced in that view by a visit I made yesterday to a village called North Ferriby and a site threatened with the development of an enormous Amazon warehouse, with significant environmental effects. From those environmental effects flow effects to people’s lives and well-being. It is the absolute reverse of levelling up in that it is making people’s lives much worse. It is clear that, when talking about economic development, there is inadequate consideration of local environmental effects and the broader effects on the state of our world.

However, I rise chiefly to speak to Amendment 5 in my name. Rather than trying to stop damage, this amendment is trying to lead the Government in a positive direction, which could help them deal with some of the issues facing them today and will be tackled by the Chancellor tomorrow.

Amendment 5 is all about helping small-scale community energy projects to make a big impact in the energy system. In Committee, the Minister suggested that community energy is not within the scope of the Bill, but I hope we might see a broader response today, and at least a positive response and acknowledgement from the Minister that this is a huge lacuna in government policy that desperately needs to be filled.

This amendment adds community energy to the list of circumstances that may be used to determine a subsidy, where the generator is a community energy project. What we see is that the rural community energy fund is soon winding down, despite its success. The Minister and I have, in another context, discussed the lack of any other community energy schemes, despite the Government’s promises to deliver them.

You might ask, “Why would subsidies be needed?” The fact is that community schemes often need early-stage seed funding to get them to the stage where they can seek investment. Without that, many communities, desperately keen to set up their own scheme, are never able to get one off the ground. What we are talking about is perhaps something like an electric car club, where a community can generate its own energy. I saw this in Stroud a few years ago: solar panels on the roof of a doctor’s surgery powered an electric car club car. This had all been supported by community investment and was run by the community, with the nature of the project being chosen by the community.

It is clear that this can unlock more than £64 million in private capital investment. It is an incredible opportunity for public money to kick-start a community-led green revolution. Importantly, thinking about the levelling-up agenda, this means that communities with money can put it into their local community and get the money circulating around that community. This is a cost-effective way of unleashing the possibility of many new green jobs.

I am not expecting the amendment to pass today, but there is a huge opportunity here. The crisis the Government are facing is clear: the cost of living crisis and concern, particularly in the context of the tragic situation in Ukraine, about energy self-sufficiency. But there is energy all around us: energy from the sun, the wind and people within communities desperate to help tackle the climate crisis and meet the needs of their own communities. Let us make sure that we have a subsidy scheme that can support all that physical and human energy and put it to good purposes to improve the lives of us all and our environment.

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I stress to noble Lords that the UK’s existing commitments and practices in relation to this critical priority are extensive and world leading, including, for instance, the various principles set out in the Environment Act which Ministers must give regard to when making policy. I believe, therefore, that we already have the right framework in place. For the reasons that I have set out, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn.
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I cannot really hide that I am deeply disappointed by the Minister’s response. One modicum of comfort, if that is the phrase, is that he did say that guidance to public authorities would include a reference to the climate change objectives. I therefore can see no possible reason for him rejecting Amendment 61 on that basis.

On the central issue, the Minister referred to all the existing mechanisms, and there are important existing mechanisms and commitments, but the Climate Change Committee has said to the Government time and again that every new policy ought to include a cross-reference to climate change targets. This is an enormous area of new policy that, rightly or wrongly, we have taken back from the European Union so that we control the levers of power for a new era. Yet the Government stumble at the first hurdle and do not put it in this very important legislation. I do not understand the logic.

To be fair to the Minister, he wants all these things delivered, as the Government appear to do. This is not to say that they override all other policies and objectives, but they should be part of the balance when these things are being considered. There is a danger, in rejecting such amendments to this important legislation, that the interpretation out there—which in a sense has been fed by the media over the last few days—will be of a backing off from commitments to climate change within government circles.

The Government are missing the point and missing a trick here. If they want to reassert that they are still on schedule to deliver the government commitments and the net-zero strategy to which the Minister is committed, that should be in this important legislation. I hope I am wrong, but in order to ensure that this House at least has a chance to give its view on these matters, I am prepared to put this issue to the vote tonight. I beg to move.

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It is a little surprising to me that this amendment was not grouped with Amendment 2, in the name of my noble friend the Minister, which has been so warmly received on all sides. It is likely to achieve exactly what the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, would like to see, so I do not support this amendment.
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I will say a couple of words in support of the amendment and widen it slightly. In Committee, we argued that agriculture had to be dealt with somewhat differently. Clearly, the most acute issue is those on the uplands and other disadvantaged areas. It is right that this amendment addresses that and that the Government—at least in words, if not in the Bill—accept that this will have to be the case.

There is another aspect to it. If we drive those farmers out of business and there is no farming on the uplands and other disadvantaged areas, relatively well-heeled organisations will buy that land, claim they are reforesting it or engaging in some other form of environmentally desirable activity and receive a government grant for it—but in the meantime they will destroy the communities, the culture and the whole nature of our upland areas.

I add the proviso that, as the new schemes come in, the subsidy policy will have to be reconciled with other aspects of agricultural policy. It will not be a simple area. As the noble Duke just referred to, the SIs we have seen so far do not give us any clear indication of the way that policy will develop. This will be an ongoing issue between the subsidy regime and the agricultural support scheme.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for tabling Amendment 4 and wish her well in her recovery from Covid—it seems that working on BEIS Bills is a Covid-risky business for us all. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, for introducing the amendment.

On our Benches, we have been puzzled by the Government’s decision to include agriculture and fisheries in the new subsidy control framework. These are complicated sectors already governed by their respective post-Brexit Acts of Parliament. Given the complex nature of agriculture, I imagine it will be high up on the list of streamlined subsidy schemes created by the Secretary of State or by devolved authorities with approval.

There are genuine concerns around the Government’s approach to the withdrawal of CAP funding and the seven-year transition to environmental land management schemes, ELMS. We support ELMS and the UK Government and devolved Administrations having far greater flexibility than that afforded under the CAP. Nevertheless, as the NFU president Minette Batters has made clear in recent comments, these are challenging times for UK food producers. There has been a worrying long-term trend in the agricultural sector, as my noble friend Lord Whitty just stated, with smallholdings being snapped up by ever-growing larger conglomerates. We take no issue with the bigger producers being present in the UK, but we are concerned about the ever-increasing squeeze on family farms and hill farmers, who struggle to make a living without stable subsidy support.

I am sure the Minister will tell us that this amendment would raise all sorts of unintended consequences, not least that it would fundamentally undermine the ability of the Welsh Government to support their farming sector. However, due to Her Majesty’s Government’s treatment of subsidy control as an entirely reserved matter, there is not a common framework on this topic. This was already touched on in detail in Grand Committee. Specific nations and regions of the UK may have very different interests from those of their neighbours.

Public authorities will of course be able to do what they deem appropriate in the context of overarching subsidy control principles, but this is one area where we may end up seeing subsidy battles and/or legal appeals. Ultimately, this is an opportunity for us to say that, where agricultural subsidies are given, public authorities should have particular regard to issues around the hardship and profitability concerns of smaller producers. As with Amendment 3, we do not believe this text in Amendment 4 precludes any public authority from awarding any particular subsidy; it merely adds an additional consideration to the decision-making process.

Amendment 4 may not instantly solve the problems faced by Welsh farmers, for example, but let us remember that in terms of the Welsh sheep industry something like 90% of the breeding stock fall within upland areas and 70% are in what are known as severely disadvantaged areas. These farms are a crucial part of the British landscape and, while they may not be as profitable as others, there is a public interest in preserving them. We will listen very carefully to the noble Baroness’s arguments, but at this time we are minded to support Amendment 4.

Revised Energy National Policy Statements

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd February 2022

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister, particularly for explaining the relationship of these documents to planning decisions at both national and local level. Last night, I took home all the documents that are piled up over there, together with the energy policy White Paper and hydrogen White Paper, and tried to make sense of them. I failed utterly, although the Minister’s explanation has made it slightly clearer. Nevertheless, I shall bore the Committee with my reflections, looking at the totality of the papers before us.

I note in the present draft that the Government frequently use nuanced forms of modal verbs—namely, could or can rather than should or will. That is perhaps too loose a form of words for the immense task that we have before us in meeting our net-zero targets in particular. As the Minister said, those net-zero targets have a direct impact on not only what are traditionally regarded as nationally significant developments but the local effects that those developments will have on their areas and populations.

Therefore, the final version needs to be a little more definitive than the one before us. The key target here is clearly that for 2035. Decisions taken in planning now will not see fruition for at least three or four years and, in many cases, much longer. The 10-year run-up to 2035—meeting the 78% reduction, I think in emissions by that date— therefore depends on crucial decisions to be made in the next two or three years. That requires clearer guidance in the overriding policy statement, less freedom of manoeuvre and less nuance in the guidance given, otherwise we will have inconsistent decisions.

I take just four examples of where we need a clearer decision on the basis for any national or local decisions before they can be taken. The Minister will be familiar with the arguments in many areas—we debated nuclear yesterday and have debated other aspects—but I shall go through them quickly.

The first is obviously the replacement of natural gas heating for homes and buildings. On that, we need clear decisions on whether a hydrogen-based system can meet most of our gas needs, whether we will have enough hydrogen and how it will be produced—presumably, it will be green hydrogen. The hydrogen strategy itself, although very useful, leaves a lot of questions unanswered. We need to know whether there will be differential impacts in different parts of the country. If we are to have large-scale hydrogen for industrial and domestic purposes, heating may well extend only to the area within a few miles and everybody else will have to rely on transferring on to the national grid for direct electrification of their heating or, in the more rural and suburban areas, probably heat pumps. So there will be different impacts of that decision but if what is currently natural gas heating, which heats 80% of our homes and buildings, is to be replaced, we must be clear how it will be, and in what parts of the country it may be replaced by different forms of lower-carbon heating.

My second example is related, because one of the replacements for our gas grid proposed for our domestic heating has been district heating—effectively, local networks. If we are to have local networks on a major scale, we cannot rely on a planning process which takes propositions for development, retrofitting or individual buildings on a one-by-one basis. You have to designate substantial domestic or industrial building areas to be obliged to take the form of district heating that is given planning permission on the grounds that it is nationally significant. If we are to see district heating—I am in principle in favour of it, as long as its consumers are protected, because clearly there is no competition in those circumstances—we need to ensure that we have powers to designate the whole area, otherwise, by and large, it will not work. That includes not only new developments but the retrofitting of existing buildings and factories.

Thirdly, there is the issue of offshore wind. It has been a huge success and, in the period between now and 2035, will continue to be one of the major contributors to reducing our total carbon emissions. However, the development of offshore wind has been somewhat haphazard. By and large, a single array has a single landing point onshore and each is owned by different companies or consortia. There are planning considerations, usually addressed locally to start with, of how you bring offshore wind onshore and what the connections look like, because they will also be mostly in areas of natural beauty or other rural areas which do not like the disturbance. If every array has an individual landing point, that is a huge number of planning decisions if we are to meet the objectives in the energy White Paper.

If, however, there were to be an offshore network so that several arrays could be connected, some engineers argue that we could reduce the number of landing points by something above two-thirds. That requires a government intervention to ensure that we have an onshore and offshore network that limits the number of onshore connection points. That is a key strategic decision and, if decisions on new or enhanced offshore arrays are taken on a one-off basis, we will never reach the decision to amalgamate them into an offshore grid.

My second-to-last point relates to nuclear, which we discussed at some length yesterday. It is also important that we have early government decisions on a number of nuclear aspects, particularly the designation of nuclear reactor sites—a project that successive Governments have utterly failed at over the past 20 or 30 years. Any sizeable nuclear reactor will create significant planning effects on the surrounding area and there will be strong political pressures as well. That means that, if we are to go for a new generation of nuclear power—by and large, I am in favour of that, whether on the size of Sizewell or on a smaller size facilitated by the Rolls-Royce developments on small modular reactors, et cetera—we need to know where it will go and all the planning hurdles have to be overcome. That will again require a much clearer government decision on where those sites will be.

Of course, the most acute and difficult decision for the Government, and for all of us, is the issue of the storage of waste and waste disposal. We already have a historic legacy of waste from now-closed reactor. If we are to have a new generation of nuclear, while it will be much more efficient, there will be high-radioactivity waste to be disposed of. We need a decision on that urgently.

I hope that the final version of the statement indicates that there are key decisions that the Government have already taken, or are about to take, which will define the parameters of any subsequent decisions, even on relatively large-scale projects. I hope that those will be addressed.

My final point is that as far as I could see, certainly in the overriding document, there is a major omission on carbon reduction. As I understood it, the National Infrastructure Commission indicated that the energy efficiency project, to insulate and otherwise improve the energy efficiency of our homes, should be regarded as a nationally significant project. That is operated street by street, at best, but it is still in totality a major contribution towards meeting our net-zero targets. It should really be dealt with in the same way as these other single-site projects. I hope that the Minister, and the final version, will take that into account and that it will be somewhat shorter and more to the point than the present document, so that all protagonists can understand where we stand on that and where their own projects stand.

Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I broadly support the principle of this Bill and the mechanism proposed, but with some reservations and with the need to put this decision and decisions on nuclear policy in general in a wider context. I have long been a supporter of nuclear power, ever since, as a very young man, I worked at Harwell and was infected by the evangelical commitment of scientists to that alternative energy source. I did not entirely buy it, even then. I never really thought we were going to get completely free electricity; nor did I believe our colleagues down the road at Culham that fusion technology was only five years around the corner. Nevertheless, I think—much more so now than all that time ago, because we now need rapidly to move to a carbon-free energy system—that we do need nuclear power.

The problem has been that despite the investment in research and in earlier generations of nuclear power, for 30 years successive Governments have shied away from key decisions. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned examples during his time. There was a piece of evidence produced for us in a briefing for this debate that rather chilled me because it said the best time for nuclear investment is 20 years ago. That shook me, because 20 years ago, the Labour Government decided not to proceed with a new nuclear plant, just as their predecessors had. I was a junior Minister at Defra at the time and was party to that decision. It was taken largely because of the cost, which was then envisaged as being entirely on the taxpayer—whereas this puts the cost on the consumer and on business—but also because the enormous success of North Sea gas meant that we were going to have relatively cheap power for a long time and we did not need to take a decision at that time. The position of that Government was that we did not absolutely oppose nuclear power and that there would be new stations. We did not completely adopt the more extreme green agenda, although we did take it into account. We left it on the table, as it were.

We also made a number of provisos. I remember saying in the course of making that decision that while we may have not needed nuclear power at that time, we might eventually, and that even if the UK did not need nuclear power, the world would. So, we had to ensure that we retained the UK’s capability in industry and research, which was at that point—to use a phrase that is current now—still world leading. It had already been run down fairly substantially but we had a strong nuclear capability. The other provisos were that we needed to continue to identify potential nuclear sites, which we have started to do, continue to find options for dealing with nuclear waste, which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson referred to, and reduce the eventual cost of decommissioning, which has distorted our energy cost programme and the Government’s contribution to it over the last few years. These were important caveats but regrettably successive Governments ignored those caveats.

The research and operational expertise have been run down and dispersed, and we are almost entirely dependent on overseas technology, whether it is French, Japanese, Korean or, indeed, Chinese. Not enough new sites have been identified, and the public in those areas have not been fully consulted. Decommissioning costs of the AGRs, and now the Magnox, have soared, and we are still not clear on waste disposal. Instead of cost considerations reducing the upfront cost of nuclear projects, which is now met entirely by private capital, those costs have continued to escalate with the delays in the various schemes here and elsewhere in the world. Some of this is a worldwide issue, and some of it reflects non-decisions by previous Governments, as I say. But whatever form of finance that we adopt now has to be accompanied by addressing those other dimensions.

The Bill does not sufficiently protect consumers or small businesses. Interestingly, the impact assessment says that there will be no cost to small business. That is not true; there will be costs, and, particularly in the current climate, we will have to explain the fact that we are asking consumers and businesses to meet costs the benefits of which they will not see for many years.

So I am in favour of the Bill, but it needs to be extended and the Government need to surround it with some broader commitments. For example, if we are to have big nuclear sites such as Sizewell, we ought to require them to meet other objectives, such as attaching to such sites major provision for the production of hydrogen. There are other possibilities: CCS and storage. Some equivalent of Section 106, as was, needs to be applied to any nuclear projects, because other aspects of energy provision need to be addressed as we approve the provisions within the Bill.

Subsidy Control Bill

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Sheehan Portrait Baroness Sheehan (LD)
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My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 63 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, to which I and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, have added our names.

Before doing so, I want quickly to speak about Amendment 62, which I support. I recognise the less than complete nature of the assessment it advocates, namely the

“assessment by the CMA, on the basis of the reports it has prepared”.

However, those reports are limited to the voluntary or mandatory referrals referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c). I also have some reservations about the reference to the legislation meeting its stated objectives; that is living in hope that a stated objective might actually appear in the Bill at some point.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for her comprehensive introduction to Amendment 63; it leaves me with little to say. These subsidies will be used by hundreds of public authorities. According to figures I have seen, some 550 public authorities will be able to give out subsidies under this regime. Can the Minister confirm that figure? It is important that many of them fully grasp the importance of their decisions. The Government have said that meeting the net-zero target and levelling up will be policy objectives, but words are not enough. We need to be able to demonstrate that that is the case. This amendment would ensure that it is the case with respect to the net-zero target and other environmental targets. The amendment will be especially necessary if the Government resist that tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, which would include a new principle to consider net-zero goals.

Clear and detailed monitoring and reporting of climate change risks and opportunities has been successfully implemented in other parts of our economic system—for example, by the FCA and the PRA through amendments to last year’s Financial Services Act, and by the Pensions Regulator through the pensions Act, also of last year. For the first time, the Pensions Regulator has published guidance on governance and the reporting of climate-related risks and opportunities. Such inclusions in those Acts really help to drive climate alignment across these sectors.

This Bill is an opportunity to do the same in relation to our subsidy control regime. Amendment 63 would allow the Government to continue to claim that they are a global leader on climate change.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 63 but I want to say a couple of things about Amendment 62 because, as we proceed through this Committee, it is clear that there is a bit of fuzziness about what exactly the role of the CMA is. Historically, the CMA and its predecessors have reported effectively on the nature of competition across the British economy but, of course, the issue of state intervention has been left to the European level. Some of us were slightly concerned that the CMA would take over that function after Brexit; in the end, I was sort of convinced that it should, rather than creating a whole new body, but it has to do a number of different things. It has to look after our trade obligations not only to the EU but in all the other trade agreements we have reached, in which we agreed that we will not unreasonably subsidise goods that are traded so as to undercut our trading partners. So, we have a big international obligation—one that can lead to retaliation and all sorts of problems arising with the WTO and other international bodies.

We have all that, but we also have the area of subsidies in the UK. This includes the delicate relationship between the UK Government and the Secretary of State acting for England, the devolved authorities and local authorities. It is a very complex area, and all this is to be landed on a new body within the CMA: the SAU. It is not yet clear whether it will have the resources, expertise and personnel to do that. We have gone along with this, but we need to be clearer on, for example, whether it is a regulator or an overseer and reporter on the activities of the public authorities that are giving subsidies and quasi-subsidies. As we debated earlier in the Bill, this involves a range of things—for example, preferential procurement. At the end of my contribution at Second Reading, I asked the Minister whether my county would be able to give preferential treatment to a local firm because it provided local employment, or whether it had to make sure that the neighbouring county of Wiltshire was not thereby being undercut.

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Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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Could my noble colleague clarify his thinking with regard to subsidies to the steel industry? Clearly, such subsidies could have far-reaching effects on the environment. To make a judgment on that would require people with an intricate knowledge of the steel industry and the background and significance of subsidies in that sector. At what level should that decision be taken?

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, that is probably a question for the Minister rather than for me, but, clearly, the decision on, for example, the Cumbrian coal mine, which is to feed into the steel industry, is an incredibly complex issue which will not be resolved by the narrow criteria of whether it enhances or undermines competition. The noble Lord is correct in that respect, because it would also have a considerable effect on carbon emissions.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 62 and 63. Amendment 62 seems pretty basic post-legislative scrutiny, so I am not quite sure why it is not in the Bill already. The Government are bringing in this legislation and it makes sense for the Competition and Markets Authority to report on whether the legislation works in practice. That is fairly fundamental, is it not? If it does not, then, obviously, we can improve the legislation; if it does, then the Government can pat themselves on the back. The amendment should have been in the Bill. I am expecting the Minister to say, “Yes, of course, we’ll write it in now.”

On Amendment 63—I wish I had added my name to it; I agree with everything that we have heard so far from noble Lords—I have said before that we should have a provision such as this in every single piece of legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, just said, it is basic to what the Government claim to care about. The principle should underpin everything that they do. We know that the scale and size of the net-zero problem is huge, and the Government will need a lot of help. They will need a lot of private and public investment, and it will involve a lot of changes to government taxation and spending.

Any aspect of government that thinks that the climate emergency is not part of its remit is not thinking hard enough about it. We need both the whole of government and the whole of society to address the work on the climate and ecological emergencies. Every Bill that comes through here, every tax levied and every pound of government spending should move us towards net zero. There is an environmental saying: doing nothing risks everything. The Minister will say that the Government are doing a lot. I would argue that they are doing bits and pieces, so the saying could be: doing bits and pieces risks everything as well. We need a coherent approach.

I was asked whether I would still like a meeting with the Minister. Yes, I would, and I would like to throw down a little challenge. If the Minister or his team can come up with any issue that is not relevant to our climate emergency, I will be happy to argue how it is relevant. I look forward to that meeting, and I might bring some heavyweights with me.

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Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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It is the Government’s position that five-yearly reports are sufficiently frequent to take a view of how successful this is. They are the appropriate tool to conduct a review of the environment and energy principles. Clause 65 provides an achievable timescale for delivering complex and substantive analysis of this sort. To ask that we prepare something every year would be an unnecessary burden on the whole subsidy control regime and the structures we have put in place to support this.

The CMA will have the ability to gather all the information needed to conduct such an analysis for these five-yearly reports, through Clause 67. These are powers that the CMA will not have in relation to its annual reports. I therefore humbly request that the noble Baroness withdraw the amendment.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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The other day, we discussed the inclusion of agriculture in the Bill, but the Government have made it clear that, basically, the future of all agriculture subsidy will be environmental objectives. The Minister’s reply to my noble friend’s amendment suggests that she agrees that agriculture should not really be covered by this approach, or that it should at least be treated substantially differently. What she has said, effectively, is that we cannot judge the environmental side; we have to approach it in the same way as every other sector.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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On the specific point about agriculture, I do not know whether the letter addressing those points has been issued yet. I can say that 99.5% of subsidies given to the agriculture industry in the UK would not fall within the remit of the subsidy; they are lower. We do not have the data for Scotland or Wales, but it captures only the very largest subsidy given to the very largest farms. That may include some in Scotland with that sort of acreage—

Subsidy Control Bill

Lord Whitty Excerpts
Monday 7th February 2022

(6 months, 1 week ago)

Grand Committee
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It is for that reason that I am delighted to support these amendments and I hope that we will have a substantive answer from the noble Baroness the Minister, who knows the circumstances in Wales well. I hope that she will concede that there are issues here that need to be addressed in the context of Wales or Scotland or other parts of the United Kingdom and that, if this question cannot be resolved at this point, it is certainly one to which we should return in a substantive manner on Report.
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab)
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My Lords, I add my voice to the concern about how agriculture is being treated under this Bill. Of course, under the old European system, agriculture was excluded because all agriculture subsidy had to be consistent with the common agricultural policy. We are now moving into a situation where all four nations of the United Kingdom are considering how to change their agricultural policy from one being primarily to produce food on a competitive and effective basis to one that, while food production will still be important, also makes its contribution to the environmental demands, in particular in carbon reduction and management of water and soil.

That is very different from many of the other industries that will operate under this regime. We have a multiple problem here with agriculture. We have no previous history of consistency—well, the consistency was at the European level—and all other aspects were always devolved. We are going to have four different approaches to the new era in agriculture and all of them in their different ways will have a very heavy environmental dimension, so that the way in which the land is managed provides nature-based solutions to reducing carbon and to producing a food balance within the population that is more conducive to reducing carbon and for water and soil management.

Agriculture’s total exclusion from the regime—as this amendment appears to suggest—may not be necessary, but special treatment will be necessary. Before this Bill passes this House, I hope that the Government will respond by indicating that there will be different treatment for agriculture and respect for the four different nations and their different approaches.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Whitty. I agree with all his comments. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for tabling this amendment to enable further and deeper discussion on another of the many concerns that were raised by colleagues across the House at Second Reading.

As we have already debated, although relatively briefly, the new subsidy regime will operate alongside certain legacy schemes, including, but not limited to, basic payments given under the EU’s common agricultural policy. As we have heard, the Government’s decision to include agriculture and fisheries in the scope of the new subsidy regime is an interesting one. BEIS asserts that there is logic in applying the same rules across the board. While that might make sense in some areas, doing so raises other significant issues. As we have heard from my noble friend Lord Whitty, agriculture is fundamentally different and therefore so are the issues relating to the subsidies and the subsidy control systems. That is before we even touch on the issue of devolved responsibilities.

As we know from many hours following debates on the Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Bills, these are areas of devolved competence. Some of those matters have been addressed in discussions on the UK-wide common framework arising from the Brexit process. However, due to Her Majesty’s Government’s treatment of subsidy control as an entirely reserved matter, there is no common framework on this topic, something that we have already touched on in Grand Committee and will be returning to in later groups.

Specific nations and regions of the UK have very different interests from those of their neighbours. Public authorities will of course be able to do what they deem appropriate in the context of overarching subsidy control principles, but this is one of the areas where we may end up seeing subsidy battles and/or legal appeals. If we can reach agreement in your Lordships’ House, then we may be able to reduce the chances of some of that happening. One potential solution to some of these issues may be for the Secretary of State to establish one or more streamlined subsidy schemes covering agriculture. I ask the Minister: is that one of the department’s intentions?

I want to ask a couple of practical questions that have been subject to initial exchanges between my advisers and the Minister’s office. I thank her office for that information, but it raises some questions. Is it the case that schemes already made under the Agriculture Act, for example, will be treated as legacy schemes for the purposes of this legislation? If the environmental land management scheme, which has already been rolled out, is treated as a legacy scheme but the Defra Secretary of State later introduces a separate agricultural scheme using powers under either Act, will that new scheme be subject to the subsidy controls? If the answer is yes, will that not make it harder for everyone involved to keep track of which requirements apply and when? If so, how exactly does the decision to include agriculture in the new subsidy control regime meet the target of making the new process more straightforward and less burdensome?

A number of other issues arise around devolved authorities, many of which have been touched on. We will come on to them when we look at the CMA but, if we do not make changes to the Bill as it is currently written, we could end up with a situation in which the devolved authorities have responsibility for these delegated areas but no oversight in the Bill—no engagement with the CMA or the subsidy advice unit—and will not be at the heart of the decision-making. I look forward to the Minister’s response.