Debates between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown

There have been 10 exchanges between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown

1 Thu 19th November 2020 Fuel Poverty and Energy Price Caps
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
3 interactions (1,851 words)
2 Wed 18th November 2020 Exiting the European Union (Energy Conservation)
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
3 interactions (440 words)
3 Tue 29th September 2020 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
2 interactions (121 words)
4 Mon 15th June 2020 Electricity
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
10 interactions (1,487 words)
5 Wed 26th February 2020 Energy Efficiency Measures: Net Zero Buildings
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
7 interactions (1,166 words)
6 Tue 25th February 2020 UK Oil and Gas Industry
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
5 interactions (865 words)
7 Tue 22nd October 2019 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
3 interactions (151 words)
8 Mon 18th March 2019 Article 50 Extension Procedure
Department for Exiting the European Union
3 interactions (254 words)
9 Thu 6th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions
Department for Exiting the European Union
2 interactions (135 words)
10 Wed 18th April 2018 Industrial Strategy
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
3 interactions (408 words)

Fuel Poverty and Energy Price Caps

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Kwasi Kwarteng)
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19 Nov 2020, midnight

It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Ms Rees, in this excellent debate on a really important issue. I cannot think of a more important issue that the House could debate; very few are more important and more relevant to people’s lives than fuel poverty. I congratulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day) on securing this important debate.

The challenges of fuel poverty and the affordability of energy for households are a huge concern for everybody—not just for members of Opposition parties, but for the Government. I particularly share the concerns about fuel poverty relating to health issues, both physical and mental, and the difficulties people are experiencing now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Obviously, my view of what the Government have been doing and of the importance with which we regard these issues will be slightly different from that of Opposition Members, but I can assure the House that the Government take the issue of fuel poverty extremely seriously.

As the hon. Gentleman mentioned, fuel poverty is a devolved matter, with England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all having their own fuel poverty targets, their own policies and in many cases their own definitions. However, we all absolutely share the view that fuel poverty is a critical issue.

It is not a new issue. In 2015, we published a fuel poverty strategy for England, which set out the Government’s approach to tackling fuel poverty then. The hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that we should publish a new fuel poverty strategy. We had wanted to publish it at the end of this year, but we are very hopeful that we can get it out early next year, and it is absolutely critical that we do so.

We are also committed to ensuring that there is appropriate scrutiny, so I am very happy to spend some time dealing with some of the issues raised in the debate. Obviously, I cannot deal with every single issue that has been touched on. We have talked about power generation, fuel poverty and the nature of the devolved settlement—it has been a wide-ranging debate—and I will try to deal with some of the issues. It is vital that we work together to tackle this really important problem.

The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) was good enough to mention the warm home discount, which was not referred to in any of the speeches by SNP Members. Of course, the warm home discount that he was good enough to mention is a critical part of the Government’s fight against fuel poverty. It provides financial assistance to more than 3 million low-income and vulnerable households each winter, and each one of those households benefits to the tune of £140 a year roughly, which represents £3.5 billion of public money and is a significant contribution. It does not abolish the problem but it is a significant contribution, and I think that any fair-minded participant in this debate would have acknowledged that. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for doing so.

We have already consulted on extending the scheme until March 2022, recognising that it offers vital support to people in this country, and we are considering how a version of the scheme, or even the scheme itself, can perhaps be extended beyond 2022. These are matters of grave consideration.

Members mentioned the energy company obligation and that, too, is a scheme that has helped people in fuel poverty to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It is another great GB-wide scheme, which is worth £640 million a year, and it has made an impact in improving the energy efficiency of homes across the country. Since it began in 2013, under—dare I say it?—this Government, nearly 2.8 million energy efficiency measures have been installed in over 2.1 million homes. Again, that is making an impact. The ECO has always been focused on supporting low-income and vulnerable households, providing improvements to give a long-term benefit to those households. Again, we are planning to consult on proposed changes to the scheme in 2021; we want to see how any future scheme can contribute to meeting actual targets.

Another form of assistance and another scheme, which Members were good enough to refer to, is the green homes grant. It was launched only in September and is a £2 billion programme to improve the energy efficiency of homes in England. Other attendant fuel poverty schemes are available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I remind the House that the green homes grant offers low-income, vulnerable and fuel-poor households up to £10,000 for the installation of energy-efficient and low-carbon heating measures in their homes. There is also a local authority delivery element that considers households of all tenors and of all descriptions within a household income of under £30,000. Local authorities will shortly set out detailed eligibility criteria for that.

The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook) suggested that there would not be time to fully implement the green homes grant. We are looking at that, and there is some flexibility in the system. I look forward to making the case that we should perhaps extend it, and there may already have been an announcement in that respect.

[Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister will be aware some hon. Members have also raised concerns that people in many constituencies have been unable to get the free quotes required from approved suppliers to progress. Will the Government address that as well?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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19 Nov 2020, 1:34 p.m.

Absolutely. I suggested that there was flexibility in the scheme. One of the reasons that there would be flexibility is that we are trying to increase the number of installers who have the trust mark accreditation, so that they can do the work. It is a good scheme, and it goes some way towards meeting the manifesto commitment mentioned with respect to the £9.2 billion. There is clearly more work to be done and I fully accept that, but we have made a start. It would be irresponsible to say that the Government are “indifferent” to the problem, as was suggested by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee. We are not “indifferent” to this important issue, though there may be disagreements as to how best to tackle it. It would be wrong to suggest that we are “indifferent” to that critical and hugely important problem.

The energy price cap was mentioned, and that opens up a whole new avenue of debate. Clearly that has had a role in not only helping people in straitened circumstances, but in helping industry. It has meant that the industry can, overall, be more productive and efficient. That obviously has the effect of driving down costs and thereby driving down prices. We are committed to ensuring fair energy prices for consumers, and that is why we introduced the price cap on default energy tariffs in 2019. The hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich mentioned that it was part of the Labour manifesto many years ago before he even got into the House. I think it was in 2013—the election was in 2015. Clearly, however, there was an issue and the Government accepted that. We introduced the requisite legislation. It is extraordinary that we are being criticised for adopting the policy suggested by the Opposition with which we have, over time, agreed. That shows that the Government do listen to ideas, from whichever quarter those ideas may arise.

The default price cap today protects around 11 million consumers, and a further 4 million households are protected by the prepayment meter price cap from 2021 when that is introduced. It is a big intervention in the way the energy market works and shows that we have a non-ideological approach to the issue. It also shows the Government’s determination to support hard-pressed energy consumers.

In my concluding remarks, I will talk specifically about the covid-19 response. I and the Government are fully aware that the covid-19 pandemic poses unprecedented and unusual problems with respect to fuel poverty. I was struck by the suggestion from the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudon that fuel bills had risen by 37% or maybe it was his colleague the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk. I fully accept that it is a huge increase.

From the outset of the crisis the Government recognised that the covid-19 pandemic would have a huge impact on household incomes and would lead to more straitened circumstances. That is why the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy acted swiftly to secure an agreement with energy suppliers to support consumers impacted by coronavirus. In fact, one of the first calls that I made was to try to organise a response, and the suppliers understood the difficult circumstances that we were in. We managed to reach an agreement as early as March, which provided real support for those who needed help the most.

The energy companies have responded reasonably well. There is a broad understanding in the sector about the nature of the problems. We have done a huge amount. People talked about poverty in general, and the Government have spent unprecedented amounts to protect jobs and incomes. We have extended the coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of March, which has been welcomed across the country. We have also increased the third self-employed grant and provided an uplift to universal credit, which was mentioned. I am happy to say that we have responded to the concerns by providing an uplift to universal credit.

We have also increased the upfront guarantee of funding for the devolved Administrations from £14 billion to £16 billion on top of the spring Budget 2020 funding. Despite all of the support and the unprecedented level of intervention, it is a sad fact that many households will struggle with their energy bills this winter. We are absolutely focused on that and I speak to energy suppliers all the time about how best we can meet the challenges. From 15 December this year, new rules will require energy companies to identify self-disconnecting prepayment meter customers, people who are confronted often with the very harsh dilemma that was pointed out and choose to take themselves out of the prepayment meter scheme. We require energy companies to offer them support to stay on supply and to offer emergency and family-friendly hours and credit to all prepayment meter customers. That is a world where we are driving change to meet the very problem that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk so ably identified.

In the spirit of cross-party co-operation, I hope I have always extended a warm hand to Members to discuss the issues. We have had an excellent debate. Like the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, I regret the fact that more right hon. and hon. Members could not participate today, but I am sure the question will be revisited soon. I will be very happy to attend a further debate if that is what Members want and also to meet individual Members on a face-to-face basis to discuss these really important issues.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered fuel poverty and energy price caps.

Exiting the European Union (Energy Conservation)

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I think there are two different issues. Clearly, there are labelling issues, but the question that the hon. Gentleman is asking relates to market access. There is no reason, once the SI is on the statute book, that there should be any impediment to trade.

Amendments to retain EU ecodesign and energy-labelling legislation are required to ensure that that legislation can continue to operate legally within the UK from 1 January 2021. Amendments are also made to our 2019 EU exit SI to ensure that that continues to function as intended. New energy-labelling regulations for some products have come into force in the EU, and they require that suppliers of the relevant goods provide rescaled energy labels with their products from 1 November 2020. Retailers, however—this should be stressed—do not need to display those labels until 1 March next year. This SI ensures that the March 2021 requirements that would otherwise not become retained EU law still come into force in March, as intended.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Nov 2020, 2:54 p.m.

On retailers needing to display the new labels, does the retailer just swap one label for another, or is there some other process they need to go through come March?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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18 Nov 2020, 2:55 p.m.

There will be a requirement from March 2021 for retailers to display the requisite labels, but we do not envisage this as being a particularly difficult transition.

To ensure legislative implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol—this relates to what the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said—the statutory instrument amends our 2019 EU exit SI, and underlying legislation, so that certain UK-wide provisions are limited to Great Britain only. This will ensure that EU requirements continue to apply in Northern Ireland after the transition period, as per the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol. The instrument also allows relevant qualifying Northern Ireland goods that comply with EU ecodesign and energy labelling regulations to be placed on the GB market without—this relates directly to his point—undergoing additional checks. Qualifying Northern Ireland goods are defined in another instrument laid before Parliament by the Department.

Finally, the SI implements a decision to replace the EU flag on energy labels with the UK flag. Alongside this, we have removed EU language text from energy labels, and UK energy labels have been made available to businesses—free of charge, I would like to add—through an online service that supports compliance with this amendment.

These regulations are necessary to ensure the continued functioning of ecodesign and energy-labelling policy in the UK, while upholding our commitments under the Northern Ireland protocol, with the result that the UK, its consumers and our businesses can continue to realise the benefits of this policy. I commend the regulations to the House.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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Of the Government’s planned six nuclear sites, so far we have the most expensive plan in the world at Hinkley, Toshiba has walked away from Moorside, and now Hitachi is giving up on Wylfa and Oldbury. Instead of relying on a Chinese state company to deliver the remining two nuclear sites, is it time for the Government to follow the private sector and ditch that outdated technology? [906832]

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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The hon. Gentleman and I have different views on that issue. It stands to reason that as we go towards net zero, we will need dispatchable power and a source of firm power. Most of the analysis we have seen suggests that nuclear has a part to play in that net-zero future.

Electricity

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Monday 15th June 2020

(5 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I think it is achievable, but what the hon. Gentleman is talking about is way outside the scope of this statutory instrument. As I have said, we are talking about flexible pricing; we are talking about the growth of renewables. This Government have committed to 40 GW of offshore wind power by 2030, which is a marked increase on the 30 GW ambition that we had. We are talking about nuclear as well—we have Hinkley Point. There are all sorts of generating power on the system. As I have said, we have a White Paper coming up, which talks about all these issues. Once again, with respect, I have to say that this is a very specific SI regarding the operation of the capacity market. The House will have plenty of time to debate other forms of electricity and power generation in the weeks ahead.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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Is it still not the point, as the Minister has said, that there needs to be greater flexibility, that the market needs to evolve and that he could therefore still be more ambitious with these regulations? If he is tying changes to state aid in the regulations to effectively temporary measures regarding coronavirus, it is quite clear that that is about flexibility and how he could approach that. Could he not have been a bit more ambitious with what is in these regulations?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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All I can do is repeat the answer that I have given. These regulations reflect our past discussions about the operation of the capacity market. He and I and others in this Chamber will have plenty of time to debate a new system. I ask the hon. Gentleman to have a little patience. We have a White Paper coming up and it would be precipitous to have an extensive debate about these issues in legislation ahead of the publication of the White Paper. He has asked many questions about that, and I advise him to wait for the debate on the White Paper.

Break in Debate

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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15 Jun 2020, 12:02 a.m.

I think we are in agreement across the Chamber for once. Obviously the pumped aspect can use electricity when there is low demand, so electricity can be taken at a cheaper price and used to pump water up to fill the hydro, and then the hydro can be used when there is peak demand, so it works both sides of the equation.

Paragraph 8.1 of the explanatory memorandum references the European Union, but then is silent on the issue of leaving the EU, because it states:

“This instrument does not relate to withdrawal from the European Union”.

However, I would suggest that the operation of the capacity market does relate to withdrawal from Europe. Paragraph 7.1 confirms that capacity is also provided by “interconnection with other countries.” The right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) has given his view on that interconnection. The regulations do still relate to leaving the EU. Will the Minister tell us what the current position is? Once again, it looks as though there will be a possible no-deal crash-out on 31 December. How will the UK participate in the single energy market?

Today, I checked the UK Government guidance on trade and energy from 1 January 2021 onwards. It was last updated on 6 November 2019, but basically it puts all the onus on the energy operators. The Government advise:

“Although it is a matter for individual businesses to work out what steps they need to take, the government anticipates these may include…interconnector owners/operators will need to continue to work with their stakeholders and regulators to prepare alternative trading arrangements and updated rules…interconnector owners/operators will need to continue to engage with the relevant EU national regulators to understand their processes for the potential reassessment of their Transmission System Operator certifications.”

Given how important energy is for us and that interconnectors are an agreed integral part of the capacity market, why is the latest UK Government guidance still effectively saying that traders are left to their own devices looking ahead to this critical deadline of 31 December 31/1 January? What discussions has the Minister had with energy suppliers? Where are we on a free trade agreement for energy, looking forward?

It seems to me that the regulations are yet again part of a drip-feed approach to energy policy. This has been touched on by the shadow Minister, and the Minister alluded to the White Paper coming forward, but we need definitive timescales for when we are going to see the White Paper. It would be good to get a better feel for what the White Paper is going to be. Given that year delay, it would be nice to at least have a forewarning or an understanding of what is going to be in it.

We know that the economy has taken a massive hit because of coronavirus. Despite the title of the regulations, they only skim the effects of coronavirus. It has been rumoured that the White Paper will cover that, so it would be good if the Minister could say, “The White Paper will cover the effects of coronavirus and how we are going to re-stimulate the economy.” Hopefully, that will be with a green industrial revolution. I suggest that will need to include more onshore wind, more offshore wind and greater support for floating offshore. I have mentioned pumped hydro storage, hydrogen production and carbon capture, which are all vital strategies that we need the Government to get on with. I hope that we hear a bit about that and that the Minister can answer some of the questions I have raised. There is effectively nothing wrong with what has been brought forward, but it is just not enough; we want to see more.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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We have had a very wide-ranging debate—far more wide-ranging than any I can remember on secondary legislation. I suggest that many of these subjects would be better discussed in a fuller debate, of which we will have many ahead of legislation in the autumn. The White Paper I hope will come soon. I had not realised it was the first birthday of its putative publication, but I am sure that it will come soon, and we will witness many debates about energy policy.

Let me touch on a few things that hon. Members raised. I do not share the fear expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) about interconnectors. Going from 4% interconnector capacity to 9% is not indicative of an encroaching EU superstate or anything of that nature. Any Energy Minister who wanted to hit those net zero targets would be looking at interconnector infrastructure. He will know, as will my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), that Germany does have a problem with coal, but the majority of our interconnector capacity comes from France, Ireland and Norway, which are actually doing very well in terms of clean power generation.

With respect to the remarks by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) about T-1 and suspension, it will not be 12 months de rigueur; it will be up to 12 months. Each and every exemption will be looked at on a singular, case-by-case basis. It is not true that year-long extensions will be given without regard to the circumstances. On emissions, I think we are going to have separate legislation—potentially secondary legislation—regulating or capping emissions, so again, I ask him to be forbearing and patient in respect to legislation regarding emissions.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) talked about the demerits of nuclear, about hydropower storage and about floating offshore wind, all of which are fascinating subjects but I am afraid are outside the limited scope of this statutory instrument on the capacity market. However, I would be very happy to engage him in debate about many of those fascinating and interesting opportunities and innovations in the energy sector.

The Government continue to believe that the capacity market is the right mechanism for delivering security of supply at the lowest—

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I happily give way.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One point I raised that was specific to the regulations was about ensuring that we do not get more diesel generators bidding into the capacity market. I mentioned the reduction in the minimum threshold from 2 MW to 1 MW. Will the Minister address that point?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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Forgive me; the hon. Gentleman has raised some very specific points about our future energy policy, and I wish and hope that we can have a wider discussion on those specific points.

If I may reach a conclusion, these regulations are absolutely necessary to ensure the continued security of electricity supply. All our stakeholders in the market—the generators—say they want some security. The suspension of the market as a result of the judicial decision last year was very damaging and created a great deal of uncertainty. The SI deals with a lot of that uncertainty and is welcomed not only, I understand, by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test but across the sector.

Energy Efficiency Measures: Net Zero Buildings

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Wednesday 26th February 2020

(9 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Kwasi Kwarteng)
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26 Feb 2020, 3:47 p.m.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) for bringing forward this important and timely debate, and congratulate him on his election as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee. My first outing in this role was in front of his Committee—under a different Chair, who sadly was not re-elected. However, I am pleased to see that my right hon. Friend has taken her place.

I have taken part in a number of debates about these issues. This one covered many policy areas, including power generation, which is not really what the debate is about, but I will start with my right hon. Friend’s specific points about heat and the energy efficiency of homes. He presented five challenges, and I will address each individually.

First, my right hon. Friend mentioned zero-carbon heating beyond the RHI. We are absolutely committed to seeing how we can support the renewable heat incentive beyond the date on which it expires. He also mentioned the future homes standard. My hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) raised the fact that the zero-carbon homes target was scrapped. The Government feel that the future homes initiative is much more realistic and better in terms of reducing carbon emissions in houses than the initial zero-carbon scheme. That scheme allowed for offsetting, whereas the future homes standard will concentrate on lowering absolutely levels of emissions. I think that is a much better way of approaching the problem, but I am happy to discuss that with him later.

The third item mentioned by my right hon. Friend is really key to the debate: incentives for householders to contribute in some way to upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes. When we look at the totality of buildings in the UK in terms of their carbon emissions, the vast majority—about two thirds—are owner-occupied homes: those inhabited by people who have either paid off a mortgage or currently have one. It is a big challenge to raise the energy efficiency of those homes. Drawing on his professional background, he spoke about the ability to have consumer finance and incentivise people to make such large investments. On that note, the Government have already started: we have a £5 million green finance initiative, working with banks to provide finance for precisely the reasons he mentioned.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

26 Feb 2020, 3:51 p.m.

Surely the £5 billion of green finance is a bigger package that will not be going to individual householders. If it was, it would be like the green deal scheme, which the Government had to terminate because it was not working right.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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26 Feb 2020, 3:51 p.m.

It is an initial step. In Germany, KfW has a consumer finance piece that gives small loans for green initiatives. We had a green deal; my personal view and, I think, the Government view is that it did not work principally because the interest rate was too high. However, that does not discredit such initiatives.

I was struck that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) mentioned the Labour party manifesto and its commitments on houses. It was extraordinary but unsurprising that although she mentioned all the jobs that would be produced and carbon emissions, she did not say how much the policy would cost. That is a critical part of the debate. As my right hon. Friend suggested, a huge amount—in the order of £65 billion—needs to be invested in the next 10 years. That will not all come from the Government; some will come from consumers, who will rightly invest in making their homes more secure. Investments in those houses are not lost money; they will enhance property values, so they make commercial sense in many ways.

[Mr Virendra Sharma in the Chair]

The fifth specific point mentioned by my right hon. Friend was the EPC scheme. It is not a perfect measure, but it does capture something about what we are trying to do. It has an indicative value in forcing up the standards we expect not only of the Government but of private sector landlords, as was mentioned in the debate. In that space, I can announce that we are already consulting on tightening standards in the private rental sector. We aspire for private landlords not to get properties to EPC band E but to make investments to improve their properties to band B or C by 2030. That is a significant improvement and a step in the right direction.

The debate has shown that we still have a big task. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) highlighted the achievements of the Scottish Government, but he will appreciate that of the 27 million homes in the UK, 24.2 million are outside Scotland, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. While I appreciate the successes of the Scottish Government, we cannot see it simply as a competition. In fact, colleagues of his in the devolved Administration are always telling me, “We have got to work together and co-operate.” They want negotiations, discussions and policy evolution in partnership with the Government in Westminster. That is a welcome development. I have meetings and calls with Ministers in the devolved Administrations and I have just spoken on calls to Diane Dodds and Edwin Poots, the newly appointed Ministers in Northern Ireland. This cross-UK approach is the best method.

There are so many other issues we could talk about. We clearly need joined-up policy in this area. We cannot improve the energy performance of our buildings without engaging with our friends at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. I was struck that that Department, which has responsibility for the performance of local authorities, was barely mentioned, which led me to believe that BEIS has the sole answers to all these questions. I wish that were true, but we do have to participate and engage with colleagues across Government in Treasury and MHCLG.

Break in Debate

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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26 Feb 2020, 3:57 p.m.

If she will not barrack me, I can say that we do have policies addressing fuel poverty. We have the energy company obligation, which we are completely committed to, and we committed billions of pounds in our manifesto to address fuel poverty specifically.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

26 Feb 2020, 3:57 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I have two minutes in which to wrap up and allow my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow time to conclude the debate, so, with due courtesy and respect, please allow me to finish my remarks.

I am pleased that we had the debate and I am sure we will have more of them. This will probably make too much work for me and my officials, but I suggest we could debate specific issues raised this afternoon such as EPC standards, widening consumer finance and publicly owned building strategy—there are so many issues. Salix, the finance company focused on providing funding to upgrade public buildings, was not mentioned in the debate. There are many different avenues and I am sure that hon. Members in the Chamber will come to subsequent debates to discuss them more fully.

UK Oil and Gas Industry

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Kwasi Kwarteng)
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25 Feb 2020, 10:43 a.m.

It is a real pleasure to take part in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) for securing it. I was surprised to hear that we had not debated these issues since April 2018.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

25 Feb 2020, 10:44 a.m.

Far be it from me to try to correct the record again, but there was a debate in this Chamber in October 2018, which was secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally). I spoke in that debate as well.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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I am glad to hear we have debated these issues more recently. Certainly in my recollection, we have discussed this issue many times in this forum and in the main Chamber. The sector is vitally important. It has been for many decades now, and the Government take it extremely seriously.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine used a phrase that struck me: “quick-changing expectations”. That is clearly what has happened. Where we are today is very different from where we were when we had the debate in April 2018 and where we were even last year. Some people have kindly observed that we have a new Government. We had a general election at the end of 2019, and we now have a new Government with a new mandate who are very much concerned with this issue.

Oil and gas is an important sector not only for energy security but, crucially, for the economy and jobs. It has contributed something like £340 billion in production taxes over the past six decades, and it has added £570 billion of gross value added to the economy since 1990. Many speakers in the debate observed that in excess of 250,000 jobs across the UK are dependent on the sector, so there is no question but that the oil and gas sector is vital.

However, we have to deal with the conditions that we find ourselves in. As the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) pointed out, the UK continental shelf is now a highly mature basin. We are looking to reduce our fossil fuel use, which is inevitable, given that in June 2019 we made the very significant commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050. It is important to stress that, as of today, we are the only nation in the world—certainly among the advanced economies—that has enshrined that aspiration in law, meaning that it is no longer an aspiration but the law of the land to reach that target by 2050.

One very useful phrase that came out of the debate and that we need to think about was from my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), who suggested that the oil and gas industry could act as “a bridge” to a low-carbon future. That is exactly the right sentiment and expresses succinctly how the Government think about the sector and our future as a low-carbon economy.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
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25 Feb 2020, 10:48 a.m.

One of the key themes in the Just Transition Commission and the moves towards net zero has been carbon capture development. There have been requests that the Government support far more than one cluster. The suggestion from the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) was for five clusters. Can the Minister outline where the Government are going on that issue?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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25 Feb 2020, 10:50 a.m.

With permission, Mr Robertson, I will address carbon capture later in my speech. There is plenty of food for thought and actual policy that I would like to address, but I want to talk about the transition. It is important, as the hon. Member for Southampton Test suggested, that we get the message out that we do not see the end of the oil and gas industry in this energy transition. Oil and gas has a crucial part to play in that transition, not least because of some of the carbon capture issues I want to address later.

Let us be clear where we are today. Currently, 70% of primary energy demand in the UK is met by oil or gas. Some 85% of houses—I suspect this includes the houses, apartments and dwellings of most people in this room—rely on gas central heating. The Committee on Climate Change has said that there will be a continued need for oil and gas as we make our transition to net zero emissions. That is extremely important, and on that basis I would like to talk about some of the announcements we have made, particularly in regard to carbon capture, usage and storage.

We made a public commitment in the Conservative manifesto to invest £800 million in carbon capture, usage and storage. It could not be clearer than that. I am very hopeful that we will be able to make a significant announcement along those lines in the Budget, to honour our manifesto commitment. It is important for my Department. However, Members will appreciate that I am not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that the Budget is a matter for him and the Treasury. In a former capacity, I served as the parliamentary private secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for 18 months, which in the context of the political climate was a very long time.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Tuesday 22nd October 2019

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

22 Oct 2019, 11:51 a.m.

My hon. Friend is right: this is one of the top issues that come across my desk. I feel the local concern about it, and we will take that into consideration when we reach a final decision.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Oct 2019, 11:51 a.m.

The National Audit Office report confirms that the UK Government have not analysed the costs and benefits of fracking and do not know how much money they have actually spent supporting fracking. Governance and regulation risks remain, as well as decommissioning liabilities that need to be resolved. Is it not time that the UK Government followed the lead of the Scottish Government and decided not to support the development of unconventional oil and gas?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

22 Oct 2019, 11:51 a.m.

As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), we will consider the Oil and Gas Authority’s report and we will look at the evidence before we reach a final decision on the issue.

Article 50 Extension Procedure

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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18 Mar 2019, 6:56 p.m.

My understanding was that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’s commitment related to the period after we had decided to extend the article 50 period—that was when potential votes of the nature the hon. Gentleman describes would take place. I cannot stress more passionately to him that I still believe there is a binary choice: we still have the prospect of a deal or not. I still believe that that is an option. He has ruled it out, as have many others, but I still believe there is an option—[Interruption.] The Speaker did not rule it out.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Mar 2019, 6:56 p.m.

The Minister keeps saying he is an optimist, but it seems to me, from the answers he is giving us, that he is living in a parallel universe when it comes to timescales and managing this process. Let us try again. He says that, if the withdrawal agreement does not go through this week, the Prime Minister will ask for an extension on Thursday. What we have been trying to tell him is that debating the SI next week is after Thursday and therefore pointless. So what reasons will the Prime Minister give for a long extension on Thursday?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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18 Mar 2019, 6:57 p.m.

The SI is not pointless at all because, as a matter of law, in the withdrawal Act, the exit day is 29 March. The hon. Gentleman will understand that, if we are going to extend the article 50 period, we have to amend the exit day as described in that Act, so the SI is absolutely necessary.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Thursday 6th December 2018

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Exiting the European Union
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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6 Dec 2018, 9:57 a.m.

The hon. Lady makes a fair point, but she will also appreciate that the deal under consideration is supported by businesses for that very reason. It can secure ongoing relationships with the certainty that we need. The problem with the Labour proposal of permanent membership of the customs union is that it completely destroys any idea that we can have an independent trade policy, which is set out on the first page of the political declaration. The Labour proposal is unambitious and completely constrains our ability to do the independent trade deals that will drive our economy in the future.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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6. If he will make an assessment of the potential merits of the recommendations contained in the Scottish Government document, Scotland’s place in Europe: assessment of UK Government’s proposed future relationship with the EU. [908041]

Industrial Strategy

Debate between Kwasi Kwarteng and Alan Brown
Wednesday 18th April 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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18 Apr 2018, 4:43 p.m.

Forgive me. I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman has picked me up on that.

It is right that we look at these measures in the round. Reductions in corporation tax from 28% towards 18% have been of huge benefit in trying to create a culture of entrepreneurship and in trying to create growth.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Apr 2018, 4:44 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government’s Red Book at the 2017 spring Budget predicted that cuts to corporation tax would cost the UK Treasury £24 billion. How does that equate to growth?

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
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18 Apr 2018, 4:46 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman talks about predictions, but let us look at the past. We have cut corporation tax in every single year since 2010, but revenues from that tax have gone up. That shows exactly that the Government’s strategy is right.

Let us consider ideas about investment in our people and their education. When I go around schools in my constituency, I am struck by the fact that everyone is talking about STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering and maths. These subjects are being fostered and encouraged by the Government. The message is very much going out, right through the educational establishment and across schools, and it is very encouraging that that is happening. In my constituency, a number of schools are looking in particular to increase STEM participation among female students, which is very exciting. All these things are part of an industrial strategy. All these things will make the country more prosperous and more productive—they will drive future productivity growth. The Government are to be commended for taking an unusually medium to long-term view of the UK economy. Far too often in this House, we sling insults, with lots of abuse and all that, and we are very focused on the short term. It is exciting that in this industrial strategy we can think in terms of the medium and longer term.

On that note, infrastructure spending is very dear to my heart, as the Member for Spelthorne. Heathrow—the “H” word—is something that this Parliament will have to decide on, hopefully in the next few months, but certainly in the next couple of years. I have always been clear about my support for the third runway—or rather, I should say, the expansion of Heathrow. That is vital to drive forward the economy, productivity growth and prosperity, so we will have to tackle that.

On the broad range of infrastructure issues, investment in human capital with regard to STEM subjects, and research and development—