6 Lord Harries of Pentregarth debates involving the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Thu 8th Oct 2020
Trade Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 15th Sep 2020

COP 27: Commitments

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Thursday 24th November 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Moved by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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That this House takes note of the commitments made at COP27.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I would like to begin by paying tribute to Peers for the Planet for all it has done over nearly three years to keep pressure on the issue of climate change, and for the regular briefings it has provided. These briefings recognise that facing the crisis involves every aspect of our public policy. I much look forward to hearing from your Lordships, who I know will raise questions across a range of areas.

António Guterres at the opening of COP 27 defined climate change as the defining issue of our time. Few will disagree with that. COP 27 was one of the defining moments in meeting that challenge. The first question is: how successful was it at really facing up to what is predicted will happen, and what were its successes and failures? The second question is: what are the implications of the agreements made for the policy of our own Government, in particular for our own nationally determined contribution—our NDC?

First, the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to put it into operation in the coming period is much welcomed. Whether or not this is viewed as a just restitution for the damage caused by the industrialised nations over the last 200 years in relation to less developed ones, the fact is that there is now—and will be so in the future—severe loss and damage and dire human need. We now have an agreement that there will be a fund to enable the world to respond to it. However, no agreement has been reached on who should pay the money, how or how much. Recommendations will be made on operationalising the new funding arrangements next year. The process of reaching agreement on payment will need to be kept under close scrutiny in the year ahead before COP 28 in December 2023.

The immediate question for our Government is this. Where is our contribution going to come from? It is not good enough to divert money from the foreign aid budget, which is already reduced to 0.5% from the pledged 0.7%. That would simply mean that other vulnerable people formerly helped by aid projects will suffer. I know that the Government have said that the reduction is temporary, and they intend to restore the 0.7%, but even if this happens, the loss and damage fund is meant to be an extra resource and not a diversion from other much-needed projects. I hope that the Minister will address this issue. Exactly the same point applies to the Adaptation Fund; it should not come from diverting money from other much-needed projects. This issue has been raised in your Lordships’ House on a number of occasions and the answer has never been very satisfactory.

The key issue is the need to reduce the rate at which the globe is warming. COP 27 reaffirmed the Paris Agreement temperature goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and agreed to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. This is very soft language. The reality, as a number of people have noted, is that the 1.5 degrees goal is either dead or on life support. It is not totally impossible to achieve the 1.5 degrees reduction, but to achieve it will require all nations to do much more than they are now. While COP 26 requested countries return to COP 27 with improved nationally determined contributions, only 34 countries did so, and some, including the UK’s, were largely unchanged.

As stated at COP 26, the world is heading for a 2.4 degrees rise in warming under the current 2030 target. The UN emissions gap report states that, under current global policies, there is only a 1% chance of limiting temperatures to 1.5 degrees and only an 8% chance of limiting temperatures to 2 degrees. Emissions, which have risen by 1.1% a year over the past decade, must fall by three times that amount each year just to limit temperature rises to 2 degrees. The challenge is absolutely enormous.

In his Statement in the other place on November 9, the Prime Minister said that

“we will fulfil our ambitious commitment to reduce emissions by at least 68% by the end of the decade”,—[Official Report, Commons, 9/11/22; col. 259.]

and to achieve this mentioned accelerating transition to renewables, investing in nuclear power stations and giving financial support to the green industrial revolution. One promising development, as mentioned the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Howell, is the new deal with Morocco on wind and solar power. It has the sun, and the trade winds there, unlike our own, are steady. This could supply 8% of the UK’s electricity demand by 2030. Perhaps the Minister will say more on this source and how it fits with our overall plan to reduce emissions faster.

It was recently announced that Sizewell C is going ahead. James Lovelock, the distinguished scientist and environmentalist, very early became concerned about the threat of global warming. In 2004, he broke with many fellow environmentalists by stating that only nuclear power could halt global warming. In his view, nuclear energy was the only realistic alternative to fossil fuels that has the capacity to both fulfil the large-scale energy needs of humankind while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

I understand that the aim is for 25% of the UK’s energy to be supplied by nuclear power. However, with five generators closed or being phased out, are the Government confident that we will have enough capacity to achieve that target? More than that, is the target high enough? France has 70% of its energy needs supplied by 56 reactors. China has only 4.9% of its energy supplied from its 53 nuclear reactors, but over the next 15 years it is planning to build 150 new reactors, which is more than the whole of the rest of the world has built in the last 35 years. Should we not be raising the amount of energy from nuclear generation from 25% to at least 50%?

The purpose of this transition to nuclear power—and other measures, of course—is to stop having to use fossil fuels, but nothing was agreed at COP 27 about stopping their use. The final text did not advance on the previous policy of a phase-down of unabated coal power and a phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. We all recognise the current difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine and the consequent sanctions against Russia, but that war will have to come to an end sooner or later, and we already need to look beyond it to be rid of this key cause of global warming. Will the Government say something about their policy in relation to new oil drilling? Are they still committed to ending the use of coal power by October 2024?

Like many of your Lordships, I heard the speech of the President of the Maldives, which is low lying and under severe threat from rising sea levels, as well as the rising number of typhoons. Whole villages there are being relocated to higher ground. The President made the point that, in addition to spending 30% of its GDP on this kind of work, it is paying 24% to service its national debt. Like many of your Lordships, I was around in the last century, when many poorer countries were totally crippled by debt. But the pressure of the Drop the Debt campaign, initiated by churches and NGOs, eventually led to significant relief at the millennium. The President of the Maldives put forward the idea of a certain amount of debt relief—debt being cancelled—with the money being used to finance high-quality decarbonisation projects, or “debt-for-climate swaps”, as he termed this. This seems a helpful idea; have the Government given any thought to it yet?

In relation to our own country, the Committee on Climate Change’s progress report to Parliament found that the gap between future levels of risk and planned adaptation had widened in the last five years and that planning for a global warming level of 2 degrees was not happening. The CCC also found that many of the UK’s critical energy, water, digital and transport providers are struggling to take account of climate-related risks to connected infrastructure systems, which could lead to cascading failures. Can the Minister confirm when the Government intend to act on the priorities identified by the CCC, in particular by ensuring that adaptation plans incorporate proposals to accommodate temperature rises of up to 2 degrees? What progress have Government made in addressing risks to critical infrastructure?

Important progress was made on sustainable forest management and conservation, with the launch of the Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership—FCLP—which aims to unite action by Governments, businesses and community leaders. Some 27 countries, representing 60% of global GDP and 35% of the world’s forests, have already joined the new partnership and are committed to leading by example on one or more of the FCLP’s action areas. There is also the special partnership of Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo. To ensure accountability, the FCLP will publish an annual global progress report that will include independent assessments of global progress towards the 2030 goal. We look forward to receiving and discussing that report in due course.

In this connection, I note that there is new hope in the election of Lula da Silva and his pledge to reverse the policy of his predecessor and protect the Amazon forests from the terrible devastation that they have been experiencing. I very much hope that the Government will be able to offer significant moral and political support to him and his Government, for this matter concerns the whole globe. It should also concern the whole globe, but sadly does not at the moment, that West Papua, which has huge forests that are being devastated, is being immorally and brutally occupied by Indonesia. The Government in exile have promised that, when a proper referendum takes place and they are elected, they will turn West Papua into a green state.

It is clear that, whatever we do to reduce carbon emissions, our country and the whole globe will face increasingly turbulent weather conditions. As John Gray recently pointed out, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia could not move suddenly out of oil and gas without imploding and anarchy following. He also pointed out that the switch to renewables is not cost-free: there is both the political scramble for the rare metals needed—lithium, nickel and cobalt—and the environmental cost of mining them. So we have to be realistic and realise that the progress to net zero will be slow and fraught with political difficulties, and all the time we must face and prepare for the very severe turbulence that lies ahead and, not least, help the least developed countries both to do this and to repair and rebuild when they have suffered—hence the importance of the loss and damage fund, which we can indeed celebrate. I beg to move.

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, it remains only for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken. There have been a number of very interesting and important contributions; some of the suggestions may not always be heard in debates such as this. I thank the Minister for his thoughtful response and express the hope—if I may on behalf of us all—that some of these interesting, and not always usual, suggestions will be passed on to the appropriate departments.

In 1987, I was part of an Anglican Peace and Justice Network meeting, in which the agenda was dominated by the question of third world debt. At the end of the meeting, those of us from the developed world who had far too many meetings looked languidly at our diaries and thought about a meeting perhaps three or four years ahead. At that point, a good friend of mind, a bishop from a country where something like 80% of the country’s income was being used to service debts run up by corruption, exploded with anger. This, for him, was literally a matter of life and death. Ever since then, his sense of righteous anger has echoed in my mind on a number of issues. Clearly, this issue will continue to come before the House, as it ought to. I believe it needs something of the urgency that my friend felt, with something of that righteous anger also echoing around. I commend the Motion to the House.

Motion agreed.

UK Property Ownership: Overseas Jurisdictions

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Wednesday 13th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It is absolutely not an intention to kick it into the long grass: it remains a priority, which is why we published the draft Bill, why we invited pre-parliamentary scrutiny and why we have acted on many of the recommendations that were issued during that time, but there remains a lot of pressure on the parliamentary timetable and we will legislate when time allows.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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One hundred and thirty countries have now signed up for a global tax arrangement with a minimum tax threshold of 15%. What will Her Majesty’s Government’s attitude be towards tax havens where the tax is very much lower than that and which fail to sign up to this regime? In particular, what will their attitude be to UK property owners who register their property with companies in such tax havens?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Chancellor continues to work with other jurisdictions to expose many of these havens and to increase the tax take. Only recently, the G7 Finance Ministers agreed a minimum corporation tax that has been implemented in many countries across the world. So, the Chancellor and HMRC need no lessons to try to increase the tax take.

Net-zero Carbon Emissions: Behaviour Change

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, I am very happy and glad to support this Motion, and I am equally glad to have listened to and learned from other noble Lords’ speeches on this crucial issue.

There is general agreement that a serious public engagement programme is necessary—every serious institution is urging this—for one simple reason: 62% of remaining emissions reductions will rely, to some extent, on individual choices and behaviour. The key issues of how we travel, what we eat and what we buy are made by not just institutions but individual people in and for their personal lives. They will need to be persuaded of this, brought to see that they have a personal responsibility to respond to it and motivated to do something about it.

So, first of all, people will need to be given accurate information about the challenge and clear guidance about what they, as an individual, might be able to do in response. The background picture that we have at the moment is highly unsatisfactory, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, brought out. People are generally aware about the impact of climate change but misinformed about the main causes of it, hazy about what should be done and confused about how to go about it. Concern about climate change is high: some 80% say that they are concerned and 63% think that changes affecting the UK will continue to do so. However, only 14% indicated that they knew a lot or a fair amount, and overall awareness has decreased, amazingly, over the last year. Only 26% of people asked had made any change in their own behaviour. Particularly concerning is the fact that, while young people are the age group most likely to be concerned about climate change, they are also the age group that is least likely to act upon it. So there is a huge gap between a general awareness of this issue and any kind of meaningful engagement with it by the majority of the population.

For people to be so engaged, the first requirement is clear and accurate information. Leaving aside the deliberate misinformation that is around, there are some basic misconceptions: as we know, many people think that recycling will be a key player in reductions, but, while it is vital for a whole range of reasons, it only accounts for 0.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. Some 50% of people think that using less energy at home is crucial. This is important, but it is actually less significant than reducing the amount of meat eaten. Only 15% think that avoiding meat is a major factor, and only 6% think that eating fewer dairy products is—but the CCC had recommended a 35% reduction in meat and dairy by 2050 if the net-zero target is to be achieved. Few responding to the survey realised that the most important thing that they could do would actually be to have one fewer child, accounting for 58.6 tonnes a year, not own a car, accounting for 2.4 tonnes a year, and avoid one long-distance flight, accounting for 1.6 tonnes a year.

So the first essential thing is accurate information, clearly set out; then, we want people to respond. However, if someone actually wants to do something about it, confusion can quickly set in. For example, try looking up installing solar panels, or switching from a gas boiler to one that emits less carbon dioxide, on the internet, and it is very difficult to disentangle what help the Government might be offering and what a range of commercial organisations are trying to sell you. For a start, I would like to see a short pamphlet sent to every household in the UK with some basic agreed facts about the challenge of climate change, what an individual might do in response and what help the Government might give to help them to respond.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, rightly reminded us of the very serious problem of emissions in the Asian countries, but surely the two approaches—doing what we can in our own sphere and encouraging those Asian countries to move into carbon capture and storage or to alternative forms—are not mutually exclusive. Surely we have a responsibility to do what we can in our own immediate sphere of influence.

Questions to do with diet, use of energy at home, how we travel and what we consume affect us all. Every day, we make decisions in relation to them that will affect the kind of world that our grandchildren and their children will grow up in.

But there is also another area that is surprisingly absent from some of the briefing material that we have been receiving: the use of our savings, if we are lucky enough to have them. How we invest our money is of crucial significance, and I am glad to say that the Church of England actively engages in companies that it invests in, with a policy of disinvesting if certain rates of emissions reductions are not reached by certain dates.

What the Government should do is essential, but this by itself is not enough. As we know, the Government are much less trusted than a whole range of other organisations and people, and they must mobilise that whole range of other organisations and people. A good example of this was the recent joint statement by the Ecumenical Patriarch, the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, with its theme, “Choose life”. This is a crucial issue and I very much look forward to the Government’s response.

National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021

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Monday 1st March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his statement and I welcome the rise of the national living wage from £8.72 to £8.91 an hour, a rise of 2.2%, with commensurate rises for those aged under 22 and apprentices. The rise of 3.6% for apprentices is particularly welcome, taking their pay to £4.30 an hour.

This is little enough but 139 companies were fined last year for failing to pay even this minimum, amounting to £6.7 million in withheld payments. If the Minister is in a position to do so, perhaps he will say something about the steps the Government are taking this year to ensure that the minimum wage is paid by all companies. I particularly look forward to the Minister’s answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw.

I do not know about other noble Lords but speaking for myself I find it very difficult to see how anyone can possibly live on that sum. Even an eight-hour day brings in scarcely £70. I know we have to realistic and that there is a limit to what so many employers are able to pay if they are going to remain solvent, especially in these difficult times; however, wherever possible, we should set our sights higher.

In that connection I commend the work of the Living Wage Foundation in trying to raise the level to a sum that does at least make it a little easier for people to actually live on. It was exactly 20 years ago when London Citizens, a community-based organisation in London, started a campaign for a real living wage. Two priests—one Anglican and one Roman Catholic—were the seminal figures behind this. London Citizens quickly became Citizens UK, a national organisation campaigning for companies and public authorities to voluntarily commit themselves to paying a real living wage. This campaign established the Living Wage Foundation, founded 10 years ago in 2011, which now spearheads the campaign.

In the 20 years since London Citizens started a campaign, and the 10 years since it established the Living Wage Foundation, there have been real successes. Among the companies that have signed up to it are IKEA, Aviva, Nationwide and Everton Football Club. In all, something like 7,000 employers have committed to paying a real living wage, including two-thirds of those companies listed in the FTSE 100 index. The 2021 living wage has not yet been announced but in 2020 it was £9.50 an hour and, in London, £10.75 an hour.

In 2014, a commission chaired by Dr John Sentamu, soon to be the noble and right reverend Lord, recommended that the Government should pay their own employees the living wage, though it should still be voluntary for private companies. I would be very grateful to know the Minister’s response to this recommendation that all public authorities should pay not just the state-based national or living wage but the real living wage as calculated by the Living Wage Foundation.

Even the living wage is little enough, but those in a position to pay it should do so, and statutory bodies in particular should make it a firm policy, not just an aspiration. We should encourage businesses, wherever possible, to sign up for it.

Trade Bill

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Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 8th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Trade Bill 2019-21 View all Trade Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 128-V Fifth marshalled list for Grand Committee - (8 Oct 2020)
Finally, these amendments recognise that all UN member states have committed to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. It follows that all trade agreements entered into should recognise that commitment and demonstrably keep to it. The implementation of these agreements should be conditional on that fact.
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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My Lords, first, I apologise as for various reasons this is the first time I have been able to speak on the Bill or this series of amendments. I speak now strongly to support the two amendments before us. I am grateful for all the powerful reasons that have been put forward beforehand, particularly by the proposer, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis.

Briefly, there are three reasons why I support both these amendments. The first is that, in policy matters, it is always important to think holistically, and the Bill gives us an opportunity to do so on one of the most crucial areas of human endeavour, which is trading. The danger of not thinking holistically is that one aspect of policy may be prioritised above all others, causing an imbalance and consequent diminution of other worthwhile goals. To maximise trade deals with other countries, at all costs, would seriously harm other goods that we greatly cherish. The Bill therefore has many amendments to ensure, quite rightly, that issues of the environment, human rights, labour relations and so on are properly protected and safeguarded.

Secondly, as part of our holistic thinking, it is right to consider the effect of trade deals on the UN sustainable development goals, to which, as we know, the UK is committed and to which we are fully committed as a member of the European Union. We have promised that. As other noble Lords have reminded us, there will be continuity with those commitments. We hardly need reminding that the need is still desperate. While good progress has been made on some goals, for example on primary education, others, such as reduction of extreme poverty, will go in the other direction by 2030 unless present policies change. One in 10 of the world’s population still lives on less than $1.25 a day. Malnourishment, leading to millions of deaths, especially among children, is stark: 3.1 million children a year still die of malnutrition.

Thirdly, despite recent reactions against globalisation, it is simply a fact of life. We are bound up with one another, economically and socially. Trade deals in one area can have effects worldwide, so we have to watch that the desperate search for trade deals, now that we have left the EU, does not damage the developing world, especially the poorest countries. We need safeguards in law to ensure this. As the apostle of the free market famously proffered:

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”


These amendments give Parliament a watching brief that the new trade deals do not result, however inadvertently, in a conspiracy against the most vulnerable people on earth.

Baroness Northover Portrait Baroness Northover (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I am pleased to speak in support of Amendments 39 and 97 in the names of my noble friend Lord Purvis of Tweed and others. Clearly, any trade deals that we agree must be in keeping with our international commitment to the sustainable development goals. We keep our agreements, do we not?

The MDGs agreed in 2000 pledged to halve extreme poverty by 2015. We know that economic development and trade played a major part in that being achieved. The SDGs were put in place in 2015, building on the previous period, and pledged to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030, at the same time leaving no one behind—so you were not dealing with averages. As my noble friend Lord Chidgey has just pointed out, the SDGs recognise that ending poverty must go along with human development through improving health and education, reducing inequality and increasing economic participation, while tackling climate change.

My noble friend Lady Sheehan pointed out that we in the UK led on this. Indeed, Andrew Mitchell, as Secretary of State, worked very hard to ensure that Prime Minister David Cameron led on this internationally. Much of the framing of the SDGs was carried out by DfID, in particular by one of its directors. I had the privilege to be a DfID Minister in the coalition during this period, and was the Minister in the Lords when my noble friend Lord Purvis took through the 0.7% Bill as the last piece of legislation by the coalition.

There have been long years of engagement by the EU on trade agreements with developing countries. There was an important shift in the realisation of how the EU, as a major economic power and the biggest aid giver in the world, could either damage the poorest around the world or assist them. Major engagement now goes into seeking to benefit developing countries and if we are to have continuity, we have to have continuity here too.

As we seek to agree trade deals with such countries, the UK must address the SDGs too. They apply in the United Kingdom, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, has pointed out, as well as internationally. We know that this is right, and that it is in our interests. Can the Minister say, for example, which African countries have yet to agree rollover arrangements and what the sticking points are? What happens if these are not agreed by the end of this year? Will the Government guarantee existing market access for developing countries and undertake thorough and timely assessments of the impact of any changes, looking at this through a development lens?

The Government have said that any trade deals with developing countries will be in keeping with our commitments to the SDGs. I expect the Minister to reiterate this. The safest and easiest thing to do would therefore be to put this commitment in the Bill. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says.

Renewable Energy

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Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As the noble Lord correctly said, a number of very successful interconnector projects already exist and will exist in the future. We think they will make a valuable contribution to our energy mix and to providing security of supply.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB) [V]
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At the moment, solar power provides only 2.2% of our energy needs. What are the Government doing to increase this percentage? In particular, why are they not doing more to encourage householders to install solar panels on their roofs?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble and right reverend Lord is right that solar will play a critical role in the mix. A number of projects have already been approved and are ongoing. I am sure we will receive further bids for solar power projects in the contracts for difference auction next year.