3 Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero

Electricity: Cost-competitiveness

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 16th May 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, shall we hear from the noble Lord, Lord Fox, and then the noble Baroness, Lady Fox?

Lord Fox Portrait Lord Fox (LD)
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My Lords, a battery plant is being built in Somerset and electric arc steel is being put into Wales. It would benefit the country if offshore wind were built on the west side of it as well as the east. So can the Government explain what is happening to encourage offshore wind in the Celtic Sea and its environs?

Climate Change Policies

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 20th September 2023

(9 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we will hear from the noble Green lady and then from my noble friend.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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But I asked a question; I did not make a speech before. The question is one that I want to emphasise now.

Time and time again, this House has had to address the ability of Parliament to amend statutory instruments. The explanation given by the noble and learned Lord, and by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane, makes it plain that on the question of amendments, we have to rely entirely on the good faith and discretion of the Minister. What in fact was being said by the noble Lord, Lord Lisvane—I am grateful to him—is that the House, by a Motion, can express a view but the ability to change the statutory instrument depends on—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I think my noble friend is actually making a statement.

Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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I am making a speech, not a statement. I do not think I know the difference between the two. I was making a contribution in the debate.

What the noble and learned Lord and the noble Lord have demonstrated is that the ability to amend statutory instruments is dependent upon the discretion of the Secretary of State. I have long taken the view, and I hope your Lordships would agree that, especially when you have so many statutory instruments, this House should be able to amend them—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend is making a statement. He is not asking a question, and we should let others get on with their one speech.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, these are rather strange goings-on.

From these Benches, we support all the amendments in this group and I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for introducing them. If he chooses to test the opinion of this House, we will support him on Amendment 15 and, later, on Amendment 76.

Rather like group 5, which we will come to later and is about the powers of courts, this group is about trying to introduce some legal stability and certainty into what has been a bumpy process for this Bill. One could say that the Bill is no way to run a whelk-stall. As my noble friend Lord Fox said, we did get some explanations for the measures to be revoked in the schedule, but it was only just before—or just after—we started to debate Clause 1, and we only got the amendments to the Bill four days ago. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, and any effort to introduce some certainty and predictability is to be welcomed.

I will speak exclusively to Amendment 15, which is very important. The Government may be retaining a lot more EU law, but they have insisted—indeed, the Minister keeps repeating that they are proud of this—on playing fast and loose with the way that retained EU law will be interpreted, such as ending the much misrepresented supremacy of EU law and the general principles which guide it, as well as EU rights, which this amendment is particularly about. It is quite a mystery as to how the retained law is to be interpreted.

No one, least of all the Government, knows what the impact of this abolition will have on legal certainty and continuity. Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg’s flippant response that “life is uncertain” was typically unhelpful. Can the Minister tell us what assessment the Government have made of the loss of any interpretive effects in the measures to be revoked? What effect will abolishing any interpretive effects in the revoked list have on laws which are retained and assimilated? Are the Government going to put interpretative effects back into SIs on amended, restated, retained and assimilated law, and how will that work? I hesitate to say that it could come back by the backdoor because, quite honestly, any retention could well be helpful to lawyers, the courts and so on. At the moment, we just do not know and are in considerable uncertainty about what the Government’s regulatory intentions are.

We know from Clause 16, which we will come to later, that the Government do not want to increase regulatory burdens. Some of us are a little wary of their definition of burden. According to the smarter regulation document of last week and the consultation on employment law, which I think came out on Friday, it includes the burden of recording working hours, which is odd, and calculating holiday pay. All of that could have a considerable impact on quite a lot of people.

The Government also want regulators to have a growth duty, to

“prioritise growth alongside … their core functions, such as protecting consumers or our natural environment”.

Indeed, they have cited Ofwat, Ofgem and Ofcom in this context. Some of us are a bit concerned that, particularly in the water industry, regulators have already given too much leeway to water companies’ growth, particularly in dividends and bosses’ pay—though perhaps not so much in sewage treatment capacity. There is quite a lot of concern about how all these regulatory intentions, which we are finding in statements and consultation documents, fit the professed commitment to maintain higher standards—I think the noble Lord, Lord Hendy, mentioned this earlier. But if higher standards are kept, particularly those which derive from EU law, how are they going to be interpreted? Some clarity from the Government would be very desirable this afternoon.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise for intervening again, but the rules found in the Companion are very clear about speaking once on Report.

Baroness Lawlor Portrait Baroness Lawlor (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 15 is modelled on the amendment proposed earlier to Clause 1. As noble Lords who have put the amendment have said, this is to enable Parliament, not the Executive, to have the final decision. It may seem strange that I oppose that, but I do oppose it, because it makes the assumption that, in general, EU rights, powers and liabilities should remain after our withdrawal, unless a specific decision is taken in each case to remove them. On the contrary, the decision at the referendum, confirmed in 2019, was to leave the EU and leave behind its rights, powers and liabilities. Moreover, the House of Commons has voted in favour of Clauses 4(1) and 4(2).

Rather than a defence of parliamentary power, about which noble Lords have spoken very eloquently, this will or may appear a rear-guard action to retain binding links with the EU system of law, despite the decision. To repeat again what I said on the amendment to Clause 1, a direct mandate was given to the Executive to end that legal system, and it is not for this House to obstruct that mandate any longer.