Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill

– in the House of Commons am 4:23 pm ar 22 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Second Reading

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero 4:25, 22 Ionawr 2024

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Britain is the first major economy to halve its emissions. That is an incredible achievement. How have we done it? We have increased our renewable electricity capacity fivefold since 2010—nearly half our electricity comes from renewables now, up from 7% in 2010—and just two weeks ago, I set out the largest nuclear expansion for 70 years.

We continue to have some of the most ambitious climate change targets of any major world economy. Here in the UK, we are committed to reducing emissions by at least 68% by 2030 from 1990 levels. Where is everybody else? The EU is committed to 55%, having recently rejected a move to 57%, and the United States is at just 40%. It is clear that, when it comes to climate change, we can be proud of our record and the work that we will do.

We have managed to achieve that while acting to help families with their energy bills. We stepped in to help families struggling with energy prices after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and our total support for the cost of living stands at £104 billion—a package that is among the most generous in Europe. Last year, we passed the landmark Energy Act 2023, which lays the foundation for a cleaner and more secure energy system. Our changes to competition, to managing energy consumption and to incentivising investment in new technology will mean billions in savings for consumers as we work towards net zero. We have overseen a huge increase in the number of energy-efficient homes from 14% in 2010 to almost half today, and we are investing more over the next Parliament to continue that important work.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

The Secretary of State paints a very rosy picture, particularly on renewables, so why has her own energy tsar resigned in protest?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

We do not actually have an energy tsar, but we have an energy Secretary of State. I respect the former Member for Kingswood and wish him well in his next job, but if we care about reducing emissions, the question that everybody in this Chamber needs to answer is, “Why would you import fuel with higher emissions from abroad?”

We are investing in more renewable energy, we are starting a nuclear revival, and we will support new technologies, such as hydrogen, carbon capture and fusion. This is our plan to have a balanced energy policy. However, we need to ensure that the transition works for the British public and the British economy. Our plans cannot be based on ideology; they must be based on common sense.

Even the Climate Change Committee’s own data shows that when we reach net zero in 2050, we will still be using oil and gas for a significant portion of our energy. That is because it is not absolute zero; it is net zero. In other words, while our use of oil and gas will diminish rapidly, we will still need both for decades to come. Our Bill will improve our energy security and that of Europe. In the past two years, Europe has had to wean itself off Russian oil and gas. We have responded by tripling gas exports to the continent, and we were a net exporter of electricity to Europe in 2022 for the first time in more than a decade. We do not live in a world in which we can simply turn off oil and gas.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Llafur, Eltham

Is the right hon. Lady saying that the only licences the Government intend to issue are for gas and oil destined for the British market?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asks that question, because the Labour party has been spouting an awful lot of nonsense when it comes to this area. In the UK, we are blessed with the geological gift that is the North sea—it is an incredible national asset. Virtually all the gas produced there goes straight into the UK gas transmission network, and it is equivalent to about 50% of our overall gas needs. When it comes to oil, 90% of what is refined abroad is refined in Europe. We are a net importer overall.

The question that the hon. Gentleman should answer is this: if Europe did not get that oil from the UK, where would he like Europe to get it from—from Russia, or from further afield? That question is at the heart of the Bill. We know that we are going to need oil and gas—where do we want it to come from? Only an ideologue would argue that we are better off importing dirtier fuels from abroad than using what we can produce at home. However, it is not just energy security that dictates that we should use our own resources; the economic case also shows that introducing annual licensing is the right thing to do.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Does the right hon. Lady accept that, despite the way in which some Members of this House have tried to rubbish that idea and argue that having our own oil and gas does not mean any energy security for the UK, 88% of the gas that we extract at present stays in the UK? Would they prefer to import that?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that point. Not only is it better for energy security, but gas that we bring in from abroad in the form of liquefied natural gas has emissions four times higher, so if Members care about the environment, they should back this Bill.

Domestic oil and gas production adds about £16 billion to the UK economy annually and brings in tens of billions of pounds in tax revenue. To give an example of how that has helped support families with the cost of living, we raised £9 billion in tax revenue last year from the oil and gas sector. That is money that we can use to support families, as we did last winter, paying half the average family’s energy bill, which amounted to roughly £1,500 per household. If we had no oil and gas sector, £9 billion more would have fallen on taxpayers’ shoulders. Why should we concede that tax revenue to other countries? What possible benefit could the British public feel from billions of pounds in tax revenue that could be raised here being sent abroad, all to import fuel with higher emissions?

I now turn to perhaps the most important reason to back this Bill: the workers. There are 200,000 people supported by the sector, in communities such as those in Aberdeen, Grimsby and the north-east of England, and including 93,000 people in Scotland, over 10,000 people in Yorkshire and the Humber, and 14,000 people in the north-west.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

The right hon. Lady knows as well as I do that most of the gas we import comes from Norway, where gas production is half as polluting as it is in the UK, so let us not have all this nonsense about imports being so much higher in carbon intensity, because those from Norway certainly are not. Does she accept the fact that most of the emissions are produced when we consume the oil and gas, and therefore will she start looking at scope 3 emissions and not just the production emissions, which are not the greatest emissions in question?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I think it fundamentally misunderstands the energy market. When we cannot get Norwegian gas and when we have made the most of all of our gas, what is the marginal gas that we use? It is LNG, which produces emissions four times higher than the gas we can produce here. If we produce less UK gas, we will need more LNG.

Coming back to what is a really critical part of the Bill—the workers—a recent report from Robert Gordon University found that a faster decline in our oil and gas sector, which the Opposition are proposing, could halve the workforce by 2030, leading to a significant loss of skills for the future energy sector. Those are the workers whose skills we will need for our future energy production. The same report found that over 90% of the UK’s oil and gas workforce have skills that are transferable to the offshore renewables sector. However, if we do not manage that transition correctly—everybody in the Chamber today agrees that we need to transition—we will lose those very important workers and their skills. It is the same people who are working on oil and gas rigs today who we will need on the offshore wind farms of tomorrow: our subsea installation engineers who lay cables, our technicians who remotely operate subsea vehicles, our divers, our project managers, and our engineering specialists servicing our offshore rigs. Those are all essential oil and gas jobs that we know will be critical in the roll-out of our low-carbon technologies. If we do not protect our world-leading specialists, we will see communities decimated, and ultimately a skills exodus that would put at risk the very transition that we are working so hard to achieve.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Ceidwadwyr, Rother Valley

My right hon. Friend is making a very powerful point about both energy security and getting those jobs—those British jobs. Recently, I visited the Falkland Islands with a cross-party delegation, and when we met the Falkland Islands Government, they said that they are desperate to unlock the Sea Lion oilfield and to get British workers to operate that field—obviously, the Falkland Islands is a British overseas territory—yet they are being stymied by the UK Treasury, which will not underwrite it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the next thing we should do is back overseas territories by developing their oilfields, so that we can have good British overseas territories oil and gas in the UK and British jobs in the overseas territories, and support our one big happy Commonwealth and overseas territories family?

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and I would be very happy to meet him to discuss it further.

Let me turn to investment in the sector. I think we agree across all parties in the House that we want to be a world leader in clean energy technologies. Here in Britain, we have many competitive advantages, and we want to exploit all of them to have a brighter energy and economic future. Right now, the oil and gas sector is investing in hydrogen, carbon capture and offshore wind. A well-managed transition helps ensure that as we get more investment and grow these sectors people can transition alongside in an orderly and organic way. To shut down the oil and gas sector too soon would not only risk that investment, make it harder to do the transition and see those sectors grow more slowly, but risk people’s livelihoods.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will give the industry the certainty it needs to invest in this important sector. If we need oil and gas in the decades to come, it should come from Britain where it can. Using the resources on our doorstep to benefit Britain is simple common sense. This new legislation will require the North Sea Transition Authority to run an annual process for new exploration and production licences on the UK continental shelf, subject to key tests being met: first, that the UK is projected to remain a net importer of both oil and gas; and secondly, that carbon emissions associated with UK gas are lower than for imported liquefied natural gas. These tests are in place to provide assurance that proceeding with annual licensing remains the right thing to do.

This Bill will provide the industry with certainty on the future of licensing rounds, increasing investor and industry confidence. It will increase our energy security, protect 200,000 jobs, secure tens of billions in tax revenue and help us reach net zero. Members should not just take my word for it; voices across industry recognise the need for new licences for net zero and for our energy security. In fact, Stuart Payne, the chief executive of the North Sea Transition Authority, recently wrote that

“producing as much of the oil and gas we need as possible domestically is the right thing to do, for security and the economy.”

Offshore Energies UK has said:

The UK needs the churn of new licences to manage production decline”.

National Gas has said that by backing gas today

“we can create jobs, secure energy independence, deliver net zero, and keep costs down for households and businesses.”

The general secretary of the GMB has said that not proceeding with new licensing risks

“leaving the UK even more dependent on energy imports to heat homes and power industry in future. That’s bad for our national security and prosperity.”

I have no doubt that the Opposition will whip their MPs against the Bill. They want to shut down new oil and gas licences, and they have been very clear about that. I suspect there are many in the Labour party who understand what turning off the taps would mean for British workers, and they will vote against this Bill with a heavy heart. They know that Edward Miliband has got this wrong. Is it not just common sense that, if we need oil and gas, it should come from UK waters rather than from foreign and often unreliable regimes abroad? Is it not better to produce our own gas instead of shipping in liquefied natural gas that has four times the production emissions of our own? Is it not right that the billions of pounds in tax that we raise from this sector stays here rather than being sent abroad? Is it not the position of an ideologue to say, “We will not support 200,000 British workers, but we are happy for those jobs to go to Russia or further abroad”?

The position of the Labour party and the SNP is not right for the environment, not right for the economy and not right for the energy security of this country. As the head of the GMB warned this weekend, it would be “exporting jobs” for the sake of “importing virtue”. It would mean thousands of jobs lost, communities decimated, tax revenue forgone, and all so that the right hon. Gentleman can appease his friends in Just Stop Oil. They are putting the interests of extreme climate ideologues over those of ordinary workers.

What of Labour’s wider energy policy? The truth is that, when it comes to this critical policy area, its policies are as clear as mud. We know that it hinges on borrowing £28 billion, which would mean thousands of pounds in extra taxes for every family. While we are cutting taxes, the Opposition would see them soar, which is not what the people of this country need. The right hon. Gentleman should level with the British public: what taxes would he raise to pay for this extra £28 billion of borrowing? When he was shadow Business Secretary, he said that £28 billion is the “scale of investment required”. The Opposition have said that they need to spend £28 billion to meet their 2030 decarbonisation ambition. So why will the right hon. Gentleman not set out which taxes he would raise? How is he going to squeeze more money out of hard-working families to achieve his 2030 pipedream? If he really thinks £28 billion in extra spending is essential, he should have the courage to explain how much worse off taxpayers will be.

While the Labour party struggled to back its own plans, over the past few months we have secured £30 billion-worth of private investment in clean energy. That is the difference between them and us: we know private investment is key to transition, but they would rather taxpayers shoulder the costs alone through more borrowing and higher taxes.

That is the choice the House must make today: do we support the oil and gas sector and the private investment that comes with it or do we leave taxpayers to foot the bill? We cannot afford to lose the skills, the revenue or the investment the sector provides; to do so would put net zero in jeopardy. We must deliver this transition in a proportionate, pragmatic and realistic way, ensuring that we make the most of the energy we produce right here in the UK.

That is common sense, and that is what the legislation represents. With this Bill we will protect 200,000 jobs, strengthen our energy security, secure tens of billions of pounds in tax revenue, ease the transition to renewable energy, and supply ourselves with gas that has only a quarter of the production emissions of LNG imports. Or we could follow the approach of the Opposition and decimate communities that rely on the oil and gas sector, rack up borrowing by £28 billion a year, send taxes soaring to pay for it and send British jobs and tax revenue abroad, all to import fuel with higher emissions. The choice is very clear: we are on the side of common sense, not ideology, and I commend this Bill to the House.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero 4:41, 22 Ionawr 2024

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “That” to the end of the Question and add:

“this House, while affirming the need for urgent action to tackle the UK’s energy insecurity, the cost of living crisis, and the climate crisis, and for a managed, fair and prosperous transition for workers and communities, declines to give a Second Reading to the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill because mandating annual oil and gas licensing rounds will not reduce energy costs for households and businesses as the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has stated, will not enhance energy security, offers no plan for the future of the UK’s offshore energy communities, will ensure the UK remains at the mercy of petrostates and dictators who control fossil fuel markets, is entirely incompatible with the UK’s international climate change commitments and is a totally unnecessary piece of legislation which will do nothing to serve the UK’s national interest.”

I want first to express my deep condolences to the families of the two people killed by storm Isha and my sympathies to all those facing power cuts and disruption from the storm.

The proposed legislation we are considering today will not cut bills or give us energy security, drives a coach and horses through our climate commitments and learns nothing from the worst cost of living crisis in memory, which the British people are still going through—a cost of living crisis caused by our dependence on fossil fuels. Since the launch of the Bill two months ago, the case for it has disintegrated on contact with reality. Let me remind the House of the series of unfortunate events that has befallen the Bill since its publication. On day one—launch day—the Energy Secretary went on TV with the big reveal, telling the public the Bill would not cut bills. Next we discovered from confidential minutes of the North Sea Transition Authority that it thought the Bill was unnecessary and compromised its independence. [Interruption.] The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart says from a sedentary position that that is not the case. He is wrong and I will read him the minutes:

“the Board expressed a unanimous view that such a proposal was not necessary for the NSTA…The Board noted that the proposal would significantly challenge one of the tenets of independence for the NSTA”.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

As the right hon. Gentleman is enjoyably quoting the NSTA minutes not its on-the-record comments, will he also support its position that we should maximise all of the oil and gas production in the North sea?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

That is not the NSTA position, as I have discussed with it.

Next, Lord Browne, the former CEO of BP, attacked the Bill and said it was

“not going to not make any difference” to energy security. Then Britain’s most respected climate expert, Lord Stern, pilloried it as “a deeply damaging mistake”. Then on the eve of COP—the conference of the parties—the former Prime Minister Mrs May, who signed net zero into law, said she disagreed with the Bill; to my knowledge, she does not support Just Stop Oil.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

Of course I don’t.

Then the former COP president—[Interruption.] Let’s be serious. Then the former COP president Sir Alok Sharma, a man respected around the world who we were lucky to have playing that role at COP26, said the Bill was

“smoke and mirrors…not being serious…the opposite of what we agreed to do internationally”.

Finally, their own net zero tsar—the man they trusted to guide them on questions of energy—is so disgusted by the Bill that he is not in the Chamber today. In fact, he is so ashamed that he has fled to the Chiltern Hundreds. That is certainly getting a long way away from the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State and her policies. It shows how far people will go. It is not so much the oil and gas extraction Bill but the Conservative MP extraction Bill that she is putting forward today. The former net zero tsar said:

“I can no longer condone nor continue to support a government that is committed to a course of action that I know is wrong and will cause future harm.”

We should take all these voices—Lord Browne, the former Prime Minister, the former net zero tsar and the former COP President—[Interruption.] I will come to all the arguments that the Secretary of State made, if she will give me a minute, as I develop my argument. The bigger point is that we face massive challenges as a country, but it is not the scale of our problems that is so apparent today, but the smallness of the Government’s response. We have a risible two-clause Bill that she knows will not make any difference to our energy security, because everyone who knows anything about this subject says so.

As the Bill has fallen apart, the Government have thrashed around to try to find a rational justification, and they have made one futile argument after another. Let us take each in turn. The first argument was that the Bill will cut prices. In case the House is thinking, “Did they really make that claim?”, the claim was made by the Prime Minister in a tweet. At 9.57 am on launch day, he said that the Bill will

“help reduce energy bills as we’re less exposed”—

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

The Secretary of State nods, but I put on record my thanks to her, because she has been an internal one-woman rebuttal unit against the Prime Minister. She went on breakfast TV—before the tweet, so we might call it a prebuttal—and said that the Bill

“wouldn’t necessarily bring energy bills down, that’s not what we’re saying.”

She is right, because oil and gas is traded on international markets.

Photo of Claire Coutinho Claire Coutinho The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

If the right hon. Gentleman had read the full quote, I said that indirectly, through support to the renewables sector, the Bill brings down bills. The fact that we can raise tax to help people with the cost of living also brings down bills. If he would like to bring down bills for people in this country, he should back this Bill.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

That is great, because the Secretary of State anticipates my rebuttal of the second bad argument for this Bill, which is the argument she has just gone on to make. She said that the tax revenues we get from fossil fuels justify this policy, and we have heard it again today. If anything, that is an even more complete load of nonsense than the Prime Minister’s argument, because these are the facts: it is our reliance on fossil fuels that has caused rocketing energy bills. That meant that the Government were forced to step in to provide support for households and businesses [Interruption.] Ministers should just listen.

The cost to Government of the support with bills has far outweighed any tax revenues. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the windfall tax receipts from oil and gas companies raised £25 billion, and the cost of Government support is more than £70 billion or, the Government say, £104 billion. The idea that our dependence on fossil fuels can be justified by the tax revenues we get, when they have spent £100 billion trying to help people, is obviously nonsense.

There is a third bad argument, and again we heard it today, which is that somehow this Bill strengthens our energy security. Again, it is important to have a few facts in this debate. Here are the facts: the UK’s North sea gas production is set to fall with new licences by 95% by 2050, or without new licences by 97%. That is the equivalent of four days of our current gas demand. All this absolute codswallop about the Bill guaranteeing our energy security and somehow guaranteeing 200,000 jobs is risible nonsense.

Here is the thing. We have had a real revelation in this debate—the Government have admitted the truth—which is that the vast majority of oil is not used in this country; it is exported elsewhere, and 70% of our remaining reserves are oil, not gas. The idea that this makes any difference to our energy security is nonsense—these are private companies selling on the private market—and the Government have absolutely no response.

The fourth bad argument is that the Bill will somehow protect jobs. That is wrong. We owe it to oil and gas communities to protect them in the transition, but given the Conservatives’ record in constituencies such as mine, we will not take lectures from them on just transitions. We should admit a truth: the fossil fuel market is not just deeply unstable for consumers, as we have seen over the last two years, but deeply unstable for workers. It is a total illusion that new licences will somehow guarantee jobs for North sea workers. In the last 10 years, the number of people working in oil and gas has more than halved. The International Energy Agency predicts a peak in fossil fuel demand by 2030. That is why its head said:

“New large-scale fossil fuel projects not only carry major climate risks, but also business and financial risks for the companies and their investors.”

That applies to workers, too.

The right way to have a managed transition in the North sea is to carry on using existing fields—a Labour Government will do that—and to have a plan for North sea workers by driving forward with jobs in the industries of the future: offshore wind, carbon capture and hydrogen. But that is not what the Government have done. We had a graphic example of that last week. The world’s largest floating wind prototype sits off Peterhead—that is a good thing—but it needed maintenance, so where did the maintenance happen? Not in Scotland, and not anywhere in the UK; it has been towed back to Norway. That is the scale of their industrial policy failure; we know it very well.

The Government have not generated the jobs that British workers deserve, and their fossil fuel policy and net zero roll-back has sent a terrible message to investors around the world. This is what Amanda Blanc, the chief executive officer of Aviva and the head of its UK transition plan taskforce, says about oil and gas and the Government’s position:

“This puts at clear risk the jobs, growth and the additional investment the UK requires to become more climate-ready.”

It is Britain losing the global race in clean energy jobs that will destroy the future of oil and gas communities. The Government have no proper plan for those workers; Labour does have a proper plan.

Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Bill is an absolute disaster for climate diplomacy, turning diligent negotiators into hypocrites and trashing our international negotiations and international reputation? Is it not clear that without proper diplomacy, future generations will be left with a much more dangerous and less stable world?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. She takes me to the fifth and final bad argument that the Government are making for the Bill.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

Will the right hon. Member give way?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

In a moment.

The Government argue that the Bill can somehow be justified on climate grounds, which demands a level of absurdity that should make even them deeply embarrassed. Let us get this straight. We signed a global agreement at COP28 for a transition away from fossil fuels in line with the science. That science is unequivocal: we must leave the majority of fossil fuels in the ground. But at home, their domestic policy is what they call “maxing out” the North sea.

Let us get this clear: in the crucial coming two years, Ministers will travel around the world to try to turn that COP28 agreement into reality, but how will the conversation go? The UK Minister will say to other countries, “We want you to leave your fossil fuels in the ground, because that is the agreement from COP28.” The country we are trying to persuade will say to us, “Hang on a minute. You’re saying we should leave our fossil fuels in the ground, but you’re planning to extract all yours.” What will we say, other than, “Yes, the Government are practising total hypocrisy, but please do as we say, not as we do.” That is the truth. The science is unequivocal.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I was hoping to intervene when the right hon. Gentleman was talking about jobs and investment, because he quoted an awful lot of people. Why did he not quote Sir Ian Wood, who said that Labour’s plans for the North sea oil and gas industry would

“place in jeopardy tens of thousands of jobs”.

David Whitehouse, the chief executive of Offshore Energy UK, said that Labour’s plans would “create a cliff edge”, deterring investment and heightening our risk of energy shortages. Why did he not mention those people?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

I am very happy to talk about Ian Wood. We had a good roundtable with him in Aberdeen in November. I totally accept that it is for a Government of either party to show that there is a proper transition plan. I firmly believe that we can do it, but honestly, the hon. Gentleman knows that it is not the case that new licences will somehow guarantee a future for those North sea workers. How could he possibly say that four days’ worth of gas demand in 2050 will guarantee a future for those workers?

Photo of Greg Clark Greg Clark Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee, Chair, Science, Innovation and Technology Committee

The right hon. Gentleman will know that 10% of our current oil consumption is used in the manufacturing industry—not to be burned but for things such as lubricants, solvents and electronic components. That does not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Is it acceptable to extract it from UK waters?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

Eighty per cent. of what we get from UK waters is exported, not used here. We said clearly that we would continue with existing oil and gas fields. There must be a transition, and we cannot carry on regardless and max out the North sea. I know the right hon. Gentleman cares about the climate. It is important to listen to the respected authorities on climate. There must be a reason why the International Energy Agency, the Energy Transitions Commission, the Climate Change Committee, the former President of COP26 the right hon. Member for Reading West, and Lord Stern all say that the world is genuinely on a burning platform, and unless we address the issue of fossil fuels, we will head not to 1.5° but to 3° of warming.

That is the truth. It is incredibly hard, but the idea that we will say, “Look, there is a climate crisis; this will not make any difference to our energy security; the Energy Secretary says that it will not cut bills; it is not the answer for the jobs of the future; but we will carry on doing it anyway”, is climate vandalism. I genuinely say that to the right hon. Gentleman. He shadowed me 15 years ago, and I know that he cares about these issues, along with the right hon. Member for Reading West. People who really care about these issues have wrestled with this question. We have listened to the experts and we have thought to ourselves, “What does the science tell us on the one hand, and what difference will this make on the other?” Fair-minded people have reached the conclusion that I have reached, as has Lord Stern and all the other authorities.

Photo of Afzal Khan Afzal Khan Llafur, Manchester, Gorton

I previously raised the progress report from the Climate Change Committee, which said that the Government were off track. The Secretary of State then assured the House that the Government remain extremely ambitious about climate change. Does my right hon. Friend agree that she must have meant that she supports causing climate change, given she is pressing ahead with new oil and gas licences?

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

I do not believe that it fulfils the kind of climate leadership that we pride ourselves on in this country. Here is another interesting fact for the House. UK Export Finance, I think with the guidance of the right hon. Member for Reading West, decided at COP26 that we would not finance oil and gas projects abroad. Now, there must be a reason why UKEF decided that. Presumably, the reason is that we want to make the transition away from fossil fuels. At the same time as UKEF decided not to do that, we will look like hypocrites if we do this by saying, “We’re just going to carry on maxing out at home.”

I know there are a lot of other people who want to speak, Mr Deputy Speaker. We have a Bill—

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

Oh go on. That is very tempting, so I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Ceidwadwyr, South Dorset

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He has spoken for an awfully long time and I suspect he is coming to the end of his speech so that Back Benchers can participate. Not one idea has he put on the Floor of the House about what Labour would do were it to take over from us.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

I will tell the hon. Gentleman exactly what we would do. I am really grateful to him for intervening, but I am sorry he has lengthened my speech. We would establish a national wealth fund to invest in British jobs to give a future in steel and automotive, and to invest in our ports. We would set up GB Energy to generate wealth for our citizens. If it is good enough for countries abroad, why is it not good enough for us? We would insulate homes across the country. We would finally lift the disgraceful onshore wind ban that is adding £180 to every family’s bills. That is just the start. I do not want to detain the House for too long, but there is plenty more where that came from.

Photo of Ed Miliband Ed Miliband Shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero

I will not give way.

The truth is that there are two roads for Britain’s future: driving to clean energy by 2030 to cut bills and make us energy independent, and GB Energy to bring jobs in clean energy here at home and be a climate leader; or a Government who take the wrong path, cling to expensive and insecure fossil fuels, and make the British people pay the price, as they have for the past 14 years. The truth is that the Bill speaks volumes about a Government out of ideas and embarked on that second path. The Bill is one of the last desperate acts of a dying Government. I urge the House to support our reasoned amendment and vote against the Bill tonight.

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma Minister without Portfolio , COP26 President (Cabinet Office) 5:02, 22 Ionawr 2024

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I agree with the Secretary of State, who I hold in high regard, that the United Kingdom has been a leader in climate action internationally. We have cut our emissions in half over the past 30 years, faster than any other major economy in recent years. We have set ambitious domestic emission reduction targets, in particular ahead of COP26. Through our COP26 presidency, we managed to get over 90% of the global economy signed up to net zero. Just about every G20 nation signed up to a net zero commitment. We led on climate action domestically and we translated that into leading the world on climate action.

Just a few weeks ago at COP28, the UK, alongside other nations, signed up to transition away from fossil fuels. On his return from COP28, the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, my right hon. Friend Graham Stuart welcomed that global agreement from the Dispatch Box. He spoke about the importance of listening to the voices of the most climate-vulnerable island nations, who, as we know, wanted the world to agree to stronger language to phase out fossil fuels. Indeed, my right hon. Friend himself tweeted at COP28:

“There must be a phase-out of unabated fossil fuels to meet our climate goals.”

I commend the work that he and the whole UK team did in Dubai.

But today we have a Bill before the House, the sole purpose of which is to double-down on granting more oil and gas production licences. I do not believe, and it pains me to say this, that the Bill will advance that commitment to transition away from fossil fuels. I also do not believe that those climate-vulnerable nations my right hon. Friend referred to will think the Bill is consistent with the pledge that we, along with every other nation, made in Dubai.

As for the substance of the Bill, I think that, as currently drafted—and it pains me to say this—it is something of a distraction. I do not think it is necessary. The North Sea Transition Authority can already grant licences annually, or, indeed, when it considers it necessary. It has been doing that regularly for the past few years. The Department’s own explanatory notes make that clear by stating:

“ The NSTA will remain free to grant licences outside this new annual duty in the usual way, whether or not the new statutory tests are met.”

As for those two statutory tests, they seem to override the already non-binding climate compatibility checkpoint, and I have to say that I think they have been designed in such a way that the computer will always say yes to new oil and gas licences. Overall, the ability of the NSTA to grant new licences will not change materially as a result of the Bill.

Sadly, however—this is my opinion, and others will have theirs—what the Bill does do is reinforce the unfortunate perception of the UK’s rowing back from climate action, as indeed we saw last autumn with the chopping and changing of some policies, and that does make our international partners question the seriousness with which we take our international commitments. I said “it pains me to say this” because I know that the Government have been coming forward, under this Secretary of State, with commitments to try to tackle climate change and deliver on a clean energy transition.

We have heard that the Bill is about improving domestic energy security, but I think we all understand that the oil and gas extracted from the North sea is owned by private enterprises and the Government do not get to control to whom it is sold. Moreover, I think it is acknowledged that the Bill would not necessarily lower domestic energy bills in the UK, given that the price of oil and gas as a commodity is set internationally. I think that the best way to enhance our energy security, and ultimately bring down bills, is for the Government to continue to deliver on their ambitious plans for expanding home-grown clean energy, to which I know the Secretary of State and her Ministers are absolutely committed. That means more wind power, more solar and more nuclear as part of a diversified clean energy mix, and I back the Secretary of State in the work that she and her team are doing in delivering that clean energy mix.

We have heard that the Bill will secure 200,000 jobs. Of course people’s jobs and livelihoods matter, and we must ensure that we secure those jobs, but we must recognise that we are in the process of an energy transition. I support an orderly transition; for me, this is not about turning off the taps overnight on oil and gas. We must also acknowledge that more than 200,000 jobs, supported by the oil and gas industry, have been lost over the past decade, despite hundreds of new drilling licences being issued. We know that many of the skills used in the oil and gas sector are transferable to clean energy—to offshore wind and geothermal. If we want to truly turbocharge a clean energy transition, we need to help, support and retrain the workers who are making the transition, over time, from the fossil fuel sector into the many tens of thousands of jobs that are being created in clean energy as a result of the work that the Secretary of State and her team are doing.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

The right hon. Gentleman is making some powerful points, and I have huge respect for him when it comes to this topic. Does he agree that we are in real danger of turning off the interest and the investment appetite among many other nations, such as Korea and Japan, which see the UK as having vast expertise in offshore wind development sites, and that legislation of this kind will undermine that market?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma Minister without Portfolio , COP26 President (Cabinet Office)

There was some commentary expressing concern about investment appetite following some of the statements that were made in the autumn, but I think we must acknowledge that, over the last few months, the Government have managed to secure billions of pounds of extra investment committed within clean energy to the UK.

Turning to the carbon intensity test for granting new licences, I have to say again that I am not sure that the Government recognise the whole picture of where we get our imports from. The majority of the gas that the UK imports comes via a pipeline from Norway. It is not imported LNG. The carbon intensity of Norwegian gas production is around half that of UK domestic gas. If that is the test that the Government want to apply in deciding whether to issue new licences, I think they should take into account the average carbon intensity of all imported gas, not just LNG. Given that around 70% of remaining North sea reserves are oil, perhaps the tests should also include the carbon intensity of UK-produced oil, which is higher than the global average.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

I put that very point to the Secretary of State in our Select Committee, and her response was that because almost all our oil is exported out of the UK for processing, we do not know what its full carbon intensity is. Is that not a great example of why our oil is not used in Britain and why this will not help British people?

Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma Minister without Portfolio , COP26 President (Cabinet Office)

The Secretary of State has set out her position very clearly and eloquently. I am trying to set out my position on the Bill.

The Government said that the independent Climate Change Committee’s own data showed that we were going to need new oil and gas in the decade ahead, but I respectfully say that that is not the same as saying that new licences should be granted. The weekend before this Bill was originally due to have its Second Reading, the interim chair of the committee put out a tweet to reconfirm the CCC’s position. He wrote that

“@theCCCuk evidence is that continued expansion of new oil and gas reserves is inconsistent with our climate commitments, especially more so in light of the recent Global Stocktake COP agreement we just signed.”

For the reasons that I have outlined, I will not vote for this Bill today, but assuming that it proceeds beyond its Second Reading, I hope that it will be possible to work with like- minded colleagues—and indeed the Government, the Secretary of State and her Ministers—to amend and improve the tests that are required to be met before any new oil and gas production licences are granted in the future.

In conclusion, delivering on the UK’s clean energy transition matters on many levels: for jobs, for inward investment, for lower bills, for real energy security and of course for the environment. We see the impacts of the changing climate around us daily: 2023 was the hottest year on record globally, and in recent weeks many people have faced flooding again in our country, including in my own constituency. We really should not need any more wake-up calls to put aside the distractions and act with the urgency that the situation demands.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero) 5:12, 22 Ionawr 2024

The Scottish National party declines to give this Bill a Second Reading—[Interruption.] Would the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, Graham Stuart, like to intervene already? I would be happy to take it. This Bill is as unnecessary—much like the chuntering from a sedentary position—as it is unwelcome. The Prime Minister, no less, claimed that these measures would reduce energy bills, but of course that is untrue, and the Secretary of State was well advised to distance herself from that fantasy. It is claimed that the Bill will assist with the UK’s energy security, but of course it will do no such thing, given the combined effects of an international energy market and the vagaries of the UK’s refining capacity, which is increasingly and substantially incompatible with oil extracted from the North sea basin. The Government seek to gaslight us with claims that there are strict tests to be met in order to issue any new licences, when in fact these Potemkin tests will inevitably be met for each and every licence application in the future, should the Bill pass.

The Bill will not provide an evidence-based assessment of all licences on a case-by-case basis, and as a matter of actual fact, 27 new licences were granted in 2023 alone in the absence of any legislation of this nature and a licensing round has been held by the North Sea Transition Authority every year and a half since 2016. This proposed legislation will, in effect, undermine the NSTA by placing a statutory obligation on it to hold new licensing rounds every year, rather than as and when it deems them necessary in its professional capacity, as is currently the case. Moreover, the NSTA board unanimously agreed that the legislation requiring annual licensing rounds is unnecessary, but the Government are advancing it as a means to guarantee unfettered access to continued hydrocarbon extraction. That is not what we need.

The Bill’s proponents would have us believe that having more licences will deliver lower energy bills, but it will achieve no such thing. We all recognise that oil and gas will continue to be an essential part of our energy mix and, as Sir Alok Sharma said, we use oil and gas—certainly oil—for more than combustible uses, so we will need a measured and qualified licensing regime to accommodate an ongoing reliance on oil and gas as a source of energy and much else, but that is not what the Bill proposes.

The thing that is pushing up the price of household and commercial energy is not a lack of licensing but the price of gas on the international market that consumers are forced to pay not just for heating but for electricity, given the bizarre pricing structure and how the UK is set up to favour gas. That energy pricing disaster is compounded by this Government’s failure to invest properly in alternatives such as large-scale, long-duration storage solutions, which would dial a considerable amount of gas out of the system and dial down prices, too.

Fourteen years of Tory mismanagement of our energy security have seen barely sufficient investment going into renewable generation to meet the demands of the climate emergency, and practically no investment going into the network to transmit this new energy. That means consumers are denied access to large swathes of cheap, green, renewable energy because of a lack of grid capacity. Renewable energy, once switched off, to compensate for a 1960s network, is substituted by gas. I appreciate that the Government are improving and investing in capital infrastructure, but it is 14 years too late.

The Bill will not deliver energy security. Indeed, the former chief executive of BP, Lord Browne, said that the Government’s decision to expand North sea drilling is

“not going to make any difference” to Britain’s energy security, and the former head of the NSTA, Andy Samuel, said in 2022 that the introduction of new licences will make a difference only “around the edges”.

What we need from the Government is a bold plan to further accelerate the electrification from renewables of our domestic energy market. What we are presented with is a backward-looking cash grab for Scotland’s hydrocarbons, which comes at the cost of a just transition. Scotland will lose out by having our energy policy dictated by a remote, luddite Westminster Government who are relentlessly focused on the rear-view mirror, rather than on the future and job security.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown

The hon. Gentleman is talking about energy policy being directed by other people. Does he share my concern about our continued membership of the energy charter treaty, which means that any deals signed now will have to be fully remunerated on their potential hope value, not their actual value, even if they are phased out or cancelled by a sovereign Britain or by a sovereign Scotland? I am neutral on the latter issue. Does the hon. Gentleman not think that, like our European partners, we should withdraw from the energy charter treaty to allow ourselves true energy independence?

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman’s ambitions on the energy charter treaty. It is about time that the Government got off the fence on the issue and made a decision.

On job security, let us be clear that this Government care for oil and gas workers in Scotland every bit as much as they cared for the miners and the manufacturing workers in Scotland who were put to the sword in the 1980s, every bit as much as they care for our service personnel living in squalor, every bit as much as they care about the Post Office staff thrown into the privatisation mincer, and every bit as much as they care for junior doctors in England.

Photo of Alexander Stafford Alexander Stafford Ceidwadwyr, Rother Valley

On my previous intervention, I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests on my Falkland Islands trip paid for by the Falkland Islands Government.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the miners. In Rother Valley we were hit hard by the closure of the mines, which is why we need a transition. Keeping the new licences going will make the transition slightly longer and keep more people in work. Surely it is a good thing to diminish the negative impact that net zero will sometimes have on certain people.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

The premise of the hon. Gentleman’s intervention is that by delaying things, and maximising oil and gas production, we somehow maintain this link. We could just as easily deliver the same thing by accelerating the delivery of renewable energy and the infrastructure to transmit it to where it is needed. That would have the added benefit of introducing lower bills for consumers and industry, and making sure that we are not reliant on petrostates from far away with questionable regimes. I am looking through the right end of the telescope, whereas the hon. Gentleman and his Government are looking through the wrong end.

In short, the Tories could not give a flying fig for any worker on these islands—as long as their share price remains healthy, to hang with the rest of us. If the question is “How do we protect and transition oil and gas jobs into renewable energy production?”, the answer is definitely not to overstimulate unlimited offshore petroleum licensing. According to industry data, 441,000 jobs were supported by the oil and gas sector in 2013, but that number has already fallen to 215,000—so we are talking about 200,000 fewer jobs in 2022. The Government have issued approximately 400 new drilling licences, in five separate licensing rounds, in that period. The claim that there is a direct and proportionate relationship between the amount of licences issued and the amount of jobs sustained is entirely spurious.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

Can the hon. Gentleman explain to the House and, importantly, his constituents in Angus, many of whom are employed in the industry, what the Scottish National party’s current position is on the issuing of new oil and gas licences? At the moment, does it support them? Or is there is a presumption against them?

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

What is important is the understanding that we will be reliant on oil and gas. This Government are creating a false dichotomy between having unlimited new licences and having an oil and gas sector in Scottish waters and within the UK; the two things are not related in the fashion that they are setting out. The hon. Gentleman should be asking why the UK Government will not match the Scottish Government’s ambition for the just transition and our half a billion-pounds of investment, but I will get on to that in a second.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

Is the hon. Gentleman asking whether I am giving way?

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

No, I am not.

Where is the guaranteed ringfencing of revenues from North sea oil and gas production to develop more renewable energy and accelerate the just transition? Accelerating the just transition—not unduly sustaining legacy energy production—will make the difference and deliver real jobs with sustainability, in terms of both the carbon outputs and how those jobs will last into the future. Where is that support?

The Government have claimed that the circa £50 billion in tax revenue over the next five years “could” be used to support the shift to cleaner forms of energy—we are used to jam tomorrow from this Government—but any other form of fiscal revenue could be used to support the future development of renewables. The vacuous observation that the Government have made is so unconnected to reality, unconditioned and unqualified as to be meaningless.

It would have been an uncharacteristically elegant solution for this Government to have ringfenced future oil and gas revenue for the green transition, to marry the endowment of the legacy hydrocarbon industry to the priming of the pump of opportunities of the next renewable industry, but this Government are at least consistent in their ability to disappoint.

To the casualty of the climate from this Bill, which is an inevitable consequence of this course of action, we can add the pace of delivery for the new net zero economy opportunities in Scotland. When oil and gas opportunities go to a plateau of exhaustion in Scotland, as everyone knows they will, what will be left in the cupboard to support communities such as those in Banff and Buchan, Angus, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and elsewhere in the north-east of Scotland? Why are the revenues from the historical exploitation of oil and gas not going into accelerating renewable opportunities and making sure that we deliver jobs for the future?

As I said in response to the intervention by Douglas Ross, the Scottish Government have invested £500 million into the green transition for Scotland—[Interruption.] Well, unlike anything to do with this Bill, that funding is allocated and is there to be invested. I will tell you why, Mr Deputy Speaker, this Government are nervous of that figure: because if the UK were to match Scotland’s ambition in the just transition, it would be £5 billion across the UK, but we see no such commitment, vision or climate ambition. What we see is a Tory Prime Minister who cannot effectively lead his party, let alone the UK state or an energy transition, seeking to divide people on the climate, and rolling back on climate action commitments and signals given to industry on electric vehicles and boiler replacements, while over-exploiting Scotland’s legacy hydrocarbons and dragging his feet on carbon capture, usage and storage, especially Acorn.

The picture is revealed even for those with the largest blinkers. The hallmark of failure is stamped on this Tory Government, who will politicise anything, even the climate consensus, in a vain attempt to stem their electoral destruction. The Bill fails to outline a transition away from fossil fuels as per the agreed resolution at COP28, on which the ink is barely dry. The UK delegation signed up to that agreement in the full knowledge of this Bill’s impending passage. We all know that the UK has a questionable approach to its international obligations, but this is plain bad faith.

Finally, the Bill does not acknowledge the climate emergency. In fact, with this Bill the Tory Government are thumbing their noses at the climate challenge that we all face together and should address together. In the Bill, the Government seek to over-capitalise on legacy energy production rather than invest in the renewable energy jobs of the future. Much of that employment and enterprise will be in demand mitigation, with thermal insulation, equipment upgrades and new technologies. As a result of the ambition that drives the Bill and the warped thinking behind it, jobs, the economy, bill payers and the climate will suffer, so I urge Members to decline to give it a Second Reading.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Ceidwadwyr, Waveney 5:26, 22 Ionawr 2024

Energy production, either offshore in the form of oil and gas production and offshore wind, or on the coast in the form of nuclear, is of specific interest to the Waveney constituency that I represent. The oil and gas industry has been a significant employer locally for nearly 60 years, one of the largest clusters of offshore windfarms in the world is located off the East Anglian coast, and Sizewell C will bring significant job-creation opportunities to the area.

To realise the full potential of the opportunities, both nationally and locally, we need the right policy, fiscal and regulatory frameworks that satisfy the three criteria of energy security, affordability and decarbonisation. It is also necessary to provide investors with the confidence and certainty to invest in the UK. It should be borne in mind that the market for energy capital is global, footloose and highly competitive.

It is against that backdrop that we should judge the Bill. There are reasons for supporting it, but we must not lose sight of the need for long-term stability and consistency in energy policy that is required to attract the enormous amount of private investment that we need to modernise and decarbonise our energy system and to make it more secure and resilient.

I chair the all-party parliamentary group for the British offshore oil and gas industry, and I highlight three factors that should be borne in mind in setting energy policy. First, we are moving away from businesses, wherever they are in the supply chain, that specialise in a particular sector, whether that is oil and gas, offshore wind, carbon capture or hydrogen. Such businesses are increasingly becoming all-energy companies that work in a range of different sectors.

Secondly, as I have mentioned, many such businesses are globally footloose and will operate anywhere in the world. If we have policy, regulatory and fiscal regimes that are continuously flip-flopping, they will go elsewhere.

Thirdly, it should be emphasised that the vast majority of these companies—I highlight those operating in East Anglia—are committed to net zero. They regard it as both a moral and a legal obligation from which we should not be distracted.

As I have mentioned, there are reasons to support the Bill and I shall briefly highlight them. First, our energy policy is determined by the trinity of energy security, affordability and decarbonisation. Recent geopolitical events, in particular the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the conflict in the middle east, have created major concerns with regard to security of supply and unpredictability of price. We have felt the backlash of the latter very harshly in the past two years and its impact has hit hardest the poorest and most vulnerable. It is against that backdrop that it is sensible for the UK to be more energy independent and to use our own energy supplies—whether that is offshore wind, nuclear or oil and gas.

Secondly, we need to reduce our reliance on oil and gas, and, indeed, we have made good progress in doing so, as the UK has decreased oil production by 66% since 2003. At the turn of the century, we were producing 4.5 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Today, that figure is below 1.5 million and still falling. However, we still rely on oil and gas for much of our energy needs and shall continue to do so, albeit on a significantly declining trajectory in the coming decades. It is in that context that it is logical to use our own oil and gas. It should be pointed out, as others have done, that the carbon footprint of domestic gas production is around a quarter of that associated with imported and energy-intensive liquefied natural gas.

Thirdly, at a time of global economic uncertainty as well as geopolitical instability, we need to have in mind the huge benefits that the oil and gas industry brings to our country. Domestic oil and gas production provides many jobs and adds approximately £16 billion to the UK economy each year, while tax receipts are significant—£33.7 billion since 2010 and an estimated £50 billion over the next five years.

Fourthly, as I have mentioned, today’s energy companies operate across a variety of sectors and there is a risk that, if we close down the North sea too quickly, we will imperil investment in new low-carbon sectors. Many companies investing in nascent opportunities require a cash flow from a stable and predictable oil and gas business. Moreover, freedom to explore can be a major driver for investment on the UK continental shelf not only in oilfields and gasfields, but in carbon capture and hydrogen production. Closing the door on exploration reduces the option value of the UK as a destination for overall investment.

Finally, it should be pointed out that most of the new licences that would be granted are near fields adjoining existing ones. That means that there would be a lower incremental emission intensity as production will take place using existing facilities.

It is important to emphasise that the Bill is not a panacea for the future of the North sea. There is other work that the Government must carry out alongside it. One of the most notable achievements of the Conservative Government in recent years was the creation in 2016 of the Oil and Gas Authority, which now operates as the North Sea Transition Authority. It is a regulatory authority that has achieved a great deal and that has also recognised the vital importance of net zero.

The NSTA’s great advantage over its predecessor, which was embedded in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, is its independence of Government. There is a worry that the Bill undermines that independence, and I hope that, in his summing up, my right hon. Friend the Minister will take on board and allay that concern. The Government should also consider providing the NSTA with an enhanced role. As the transition has become centre stage to the authority’s work, the authority has taken on additional regulatory responsibilities—for carbon capture, usage and storage and hydrogen. Consideration should be given to adding to that the oversight of the emerging geothermal sector, an increased focus on the offshore energy supply chain and maximising the future use by low-carbon technologies of the infrastructure that has been laid down in the North sea over the past 60 years.

We are at times in danger of talking glibly about a just transition and the creation of new jobs. We can help to achieve that in a meaningful way by focusing more strategically on skills and infrastructure. I am mindful that the regulatory space on the UK continental shelf is crowded. As well as the NSTA, other organisations, such as the Marine Management Organisation and the Crown Estate, are carrying out important work. We must ensure that all that work is properly co-ordinated, is effective in its precautionary objectives, and is not so overly bureaucratic as to deter investment.

I mentioned that the majority of businesses working in the North sea are committed to the transition. Yes, they want the Government to be realistic and pragmatic about the future of the domestic oil and gas industry, but they are also ambitious. They want to be part of an industry that is in the vanguard of the transition from fossil fuels to renewables—global leaders on the road to net zero. That should mean, for example, a more ambitious climate compatibility checkpoint, and bringing forward the ban on routine venting and flaring.

The Bill has merit, but it needs to be accompanied by other measures, some of which I have outlined, to maximise the enormous amount of private investment that is required to decarbonise. We also need to dispel any false notion among investors about the UK’s commitment to delivering on our net zero targets. As the Government have stated, there is a need for pragmatism, proportionality and realism, but that must be accompanied by ambition, consistency and clarity.

Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee 5:36, 22 Ionawr 2024

I am very concerned that the Bill will do much more harm than good. Members should not be fooled that it will help with energy prices or our commitment to net zero. The Energy Secretary is quoted as saying that new production of oil and gas

“wouldn’t necessarily bring energy bills down” but could do so “indirectly” if the money raised in taxes was then used for renewable energy projects. I do not understand the logic of that. Countless people, including many of my constituents, are in desperate need of lower energy bills, and are struggling to make ends meet because of the endless price hikes, which the Government have done little to abate. I do not believe that the Bill will have any impact on that.

If the Secretary of State knows that renewables are the answer, why is she not prioritising them rather than pushing forward with this illogical and damaging Bill? Worse than not prioritising them, she is making the situation worse. Ernst & Young has found that the UK has become a less attractive place to invest in renewables, partly due to a recent “diminishing of green policies”. Currently, three quarters of North sea oil and gas operators invest nothing in UK renewables. Although we will all end up dealing with the consequences of climate change, it is other nations’ homes and livelihoods that will be destroyed first. The International Development Committee, which I chair, conducted a report on debt relief that found that lower-income countries are more vulnerable to loss and damage from climate change than higher-income countries, even though they contribute the tiniest proportion of emissions.

In our current inquiry into small island developing states, we have heard that SIDS are particularly at risk from climate shock. In this century alone, two SIDS could disappear forever due to rising sea levels. Lower-income countries are being forced to pay for damage that they did not cause and have the least ability to cope with. Meanwhile, the Conservative Government want to hand out more licences in the North sea with no regard for how that could impact other countries, our own climate financing, or marine life. There is currently no provision in the Bill to exempt marine protected areas from oil and gas exploration. I find that an extraordinary omission. It is absolutely crucial that no MPAs are put at risk because of the Bill. By ignoring that, the Government are jeopardising their own Environment Act 2021 targets and their commitment to protect nature effectively in 30% of the sea by 2030 under the global biodiversity framework.

MPAs are designed to safeguard some of the most vulnerable marine habitats and species from irreversible damage. As it stands, only 8% of English MPAs offer effective protection for nature, and 56% of features within them have been assessed as already being in an unfavourable condition, and that is before the Bill goes forward. How will the Government enhance the existing MPAs when they cannot even guarantee that they will not be destroyed by this nonsensical Bill?

An effective MPA framework would ensure that UK seas perform their vital function in the fight against climate change and boost biodiversity, which is essential for a functioning and sustainable fishing industry. It would improve the resilience of marine species to changing conditions and would continue to support the economic and recreational activities that are essential to so many people in the UK. All those benefits would be jeopardised by allowing oil and gas drilling within MPAs.

The Bill must be amended to ensure that MPAs are completely off the table when oil-and-gas search and production blocks are considered. Whether it is oil spills, underwater noise pollution or the direct destruction of habitats, there is no doubt that there will be a severe risk of harm to individual creatures across populations of marine wildlife and, ultimately, of disrupting entire ecosystems. Yet it appears the Government are happy to do that if it means even more profit for private industry.

We are supposed to be a leader on the global stage. We signed up to the Paris agreement and agreed to loss and damage funds, but this Government are destroying our international reputation and any ability they may have had to encourage other countries to fulfil their climate obligations. It saddens me that it has come to this, and I urge the Government to think again, listen to their own MPs, especially the wise words of Sir Alok Sharma, and stop the Bill now.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray 5:41, 22 Ionawr 2024

It is an honour to speak in the debate about the oil and gas sector, the industry and the jobs that rely on it. Certainly, in my Moray constituency, many people are employed in the sector. They travel through to Aberdeen to go off shore, and it is a regular commute for many people. That is the case in towns and villages throughout Moray, such as Buckie.

Since I have been able to get Buckie into this debate on oil and gas, it hopefully allows me the opportunity to put on the record my appreciation to the club for an outstanding match against Glasgow Celtic yesterday at Parkhead in the Scottish cup. They sadly lost 5-0, but it was an outstanding game for the highland league team. Graeme Stewart and his players did not just do the club, the highland league community and Buckie proud, they came away with an absolute host of new fans, because of what they achieved over the weeks since that game first came into the public domain. It has been great to see cup fever in Buckie and to see stalwarts of the club, such as Annie Jappy and Sandra Paterson, recognised for everything they have done for the club over many years. I am sure the congratulations of everyone in the House go to Buckie Thistle on their achievements.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan

I of course join my hon. Friend in congratulating Buckie Thistle, but will he answer just one question: which side played in the home strip?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

Of course, they both play in green and white hoops. Celtic played in green and white, and Buckie were in yellow.

As I say, this is an important debate for many towns, villages and communities in Moray, because a large number of people living in that area are employed in the oil and gas sector. It is important for my constituents in Moray, and I have been clear that it is right that we continue to grant new oil and gas licences to continue the exploration in the North sea while there is still a demand that needs to be supplied, but people will be left wondering what is the current position of the SNP. That is why I put a very direct question to Dave Doogan. Normally at this point I would say that I will give way to any SNP Member willing to intervene if they are able to answer, but there is only one here. Would the hon. Gentleman like to intervene and say very simply, to the people of Angus and the people of Scotland, what his party’s position is and what his personal position is? Does the SNP support the granting of new oil and gas licences —yes or no?

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for this opportunity to reiterate what I said previously. There is a fundamental understanding of the ongoing role of oil and gas in meeting our energy needs. Whether that is dealt with and satisfied through existing licences or future licences is a moot point, and I will tell him why: I have already demonstrated, in as simple terms as I can, that the implication that there is a direct and proportional link between job security and licences issued is spurious. I am aware of the point he is trying to make, but he is not making it well. I have told him what the situation is, and he can either like it or lump it.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I would just like an answer. I have tried twice, and that was as clear as mud. I think people looking at that answer will actually be unable to tell what the hon. Gentleman’s personal position is and what the SNP’s position is. That is really important. Maybe it is telling that only one SNP MP has turned up to a debate about the oil and gas sector—

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I have seen the weather. I saw the weather when I left Inverness airport at 6.45 this morning. I know what the weather is like in Scotland, but it is important that when we are debating the oil and gas industry, which is crucial to Scotland and the United Kingdom, the SNP can find only one MP to turn up.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that for the 90,000 employees of the oil and gas industry in Scotland and the 200,000 across the United Kingdom, an answer that says it is a moot point is hardly the right one to give? It looks more like a mute position adopted by some of the opposition Members in this debate.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. People should watch closely what the hon. Member for Angus said on his own behalf and on behalf of the SNP—as I say, SNP MPs are speaking with their actions tonight by not even turning up to the debate.

Opponents of this Bill—the Labour party, the SNP and others—try to present our energy transition and support for oil and gas as a binary choice. They say that we cannot achieve our net zero goals while at the same time supporting new oil and gas licences and projects, but nothing could be further from the truth. The oil and gas sector in Scotland and across the UK is essential to delivering and achieving net zero.

The investment in green energy infrastructure that will allow us to build our renewables capacity is coming from the revenue from oil and gas extraction. The businesses that are looking to expand offshore wind and the windfarms for tomorrow are staying solvent today because of their revenues from North sea oil and gas. The people with the skills and expertise that we have heard about throughout this debate, which will be required to secure our offshore renewables going forward, work in our oil and gas sector today. That is why it is so important that I made the point to Edward Miliband that people such as Sir Ian Wood are saying that Labour’s plans and the cliff edge that Labour would impose on the sector would see job losses. That is why that position is frankly unacceptable and is not supported by many people, if any, in the north-east of Scotland.

The businesses, the investment and the jobs that make Scotland and the UK a world leader in oil and gas are the same skills, businesses and jobs that are going to drive forward the green agenda and our renewables future. We cannot have one without the other. We cannot tell investors, businesses and workers who pause their plans for the UK’s energy infrastructure due to an artificial ban on new fields to come back when the green technologies have become cheaper or more viable, because those investors, those businesses and those workers will go elsewhere. I say to the hon. Member for Angus that that is not a moot point. That is the reality if we do not continue with the exploration of oil and gas in the North sea and the granting of new licences.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan

I am sure that my hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the vast number of offshore wind projects being developed off the coasts of our respective constituencies—as well as that of Dave Doogan—and the operations and maintenance facilities in Buckie in his constituency and Fraserburgh in mine, which are entirely dependent on those offshore wind facilities. As much as people from the oil and gas industry are moving into them, there are just not enough of those jobs to make up for those that we would lose in oil and gas. Does he agree that a lot of the people who work in oil and gas would not go to renewables if there were no oil and gas jobs, but would just go where there is oil and gas overseas?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We have a base at Buckie harbour that is supporting a number of jobs and will continue to do so for decades to come—it is a small number of jobs at the moment, with opportunities to grow—but at the moment the vast majority of the workforce is employed in the oil and gas sector. I agree with him that they will go elsewhere, shifting their jobs and expertise to other countries, and another city will become Europe’s offshore energy capital. That would be devastating not just for our net zero ambitions and for Aberdeen, but for the economy of Scotland and the UK as a whole.

We have already heard in the debate that 90,000 Scottish workers are employed in North sea oil and gas. It has been for decades, and will continue to be for some time to come, one of the most important sectors in Scotland’s economy. Yet I believe that it is the position of the SNP—it would be if more SNP Members than just the hon. Member for Angus had turned up to state their case—to put those jobs on the scrapheap. The SNP wants to have a cliff edge in our oil and gas sector and exploration because it is in government with the Greens in the Scottish Parliament. It is supporting Green Ministers who want an immediate end to the extraction of fossil fuels from the north-east, and that is putting those 90,000 jobs, and the Scottish and UK economies, at risk. That is viewed extremely dimly in many parts of Scotland, particularly the north-east, which the hon. Member for Angus represents.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy Security and Net Zero)

It is a bit rich listening to a Scottish Tory MP talk about the bountiful experience of North sea oil and gas for Scotland. If we had been independent in the ’70s, we would be embarrassingly well off compared with our neighbours elsewhere in these islands. The hon. Member says that we want to throw workers in the oil and gas industry in Scotland under a bus, and that we want to see a “cliff edge” where those jobs disappear. What is his evidence for that? We are investing in a just transition. Whereas he is trying to pursue an endurance of legacy opportunities for employment, we want to turbocharge new opportunities for jobs over 150 to 200 years.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

My evidence is very clear; in fact, it is the hon. Gentleman’s own words. When he cannot even tell this House or his constituents about the SNP’s position on the presumption of new oil and gas licences, that is an answer in itself—not a moot point. The SNP clearly does not support it, and he cannot quite find the words to say it yet. That is the SNP position because it is in office with the Greens in Holyrood, and they are increasingly abandoning the north-east oil and gas sector and the jobs that rely on it. As I say, that is viewed extremely dimly not just in the north-east but right across Scotland.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

Nobody is talking about turning off oil and gas taps overnight—nobody; not even Just Stop Oil—so will the hon. Gentleman cut the amount of rubbish coming out of his mouth? He is criticising people who are not here in any numbers to be able to defend themselves. Why does he not focus on his own record rather than attacking others in such an erroneous way?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

It is not erroneous, because we know that the co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Patrick Harvie, has said that he would like to stop oil and gas exploration overnight. That is the Green position: they do not want oil and gas to come out of the North sea, and that will affect jobs there right now. That is the point that I, and indeed other hon. Members, have been making.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Ceidwadwyr, Moray

I have already given way to the hon. Lady, and I can see that she has copious notes in her hand, so she will be contributing to the debate. I have already taken some time, so I will continue my speech.

The SNP will put those jobs on the scrapheap and turn its back on the north-east of Scotland. Yet, at the same time, Humza Yousaf is telling the people of Scotland that oil and gas revenues will pay for an independent Scotland. The SNP does not want to take the oil and gas out, but it wants to get the benefits to pay for failing public services in Scotland, which it has let down during its 17 years in power. Of course, Labour and Scottish Labour are also opposed to the Bill. Frankly, it is quite derisory that MSPs and the Scottish Labour party will not stand up for the north-east of Scotland and will allow those jobs, skills and the expertise gained over decades to be lost. The stark reality is that the Opposition parties are putting tens of thousands of Scottish jobs at risk, and putting the UK’s energy security in jeopardy when we need it most.

When illiberal, violent regimes such as Putin’s Russia are using energy resources as a means of funding their destructive wars, we cannot close our eyes and ears and pretend it is not happening. The UK will still have a demand for oil and gas products—and not just in energy but, as we have heard, in plastics and medicines, to name just a few. That demand will not go away in an instant; many of the homes that rely on those products and heating will require them for many years to come. Why should we not try to deliver on as much of that demand as we can through domestic production? Importing our energy will only increase emissions further and help those intent on manipulating energy markets for malign purposes.

I urge Members to support the Bill. Let us secure the UK’s energy future and deal a blow to the regimes that are intent on using energy as a weapon. Let us protect our economy and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Scottish and British families across the country. Let us choose common sense—a practical transition to net zero—not naivety and wishful thinking. Let the Labour and SNP Members present explain in their speeches why they will join together to try to vote down the Bill and the opportunities that oil and gas will continue to bring Scotland and the UK for decades to come.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (International Trade), Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 5:56, 22 Ionawr 2024

I rise to oppose the Government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, for which there is absolutely no need. It will do nothing to bring down people’s energy bills, either domestic or business, and will severely damage the UK’s reputation in the world. Moreover, as I understand it, production from the new fields would be exported.

When Labour was in government, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn on the Climate Change Act 2008—a ground-breaking world first that led the way on tackling climate change. My right hon. Friend Edward Miliband became the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and he worked hard not only on renewables at home but on ensuring that the UK was taking the lead on the world stage in respect of climate change.

Now, just as there has been growing consensus around the globe on the urgent need to tackle climate change, it seems that we have a Government who no longer want to give that leadership. Even petroleum-producing countries such as Oman are now investing heavily in renewables, but we have a Prime Minister who was not even sure if he wanted to attend COP meetings, we have vacuous anti-green rhetoric, and now we have this Bill. It makes the UK look ridiculous on the world stage, not to say hypocritical, that with our proud history of urging other nations to do more to tackle climate change and reduce reliance on fossil fuels—and signing agreements to that effect, including recently at COP28—the UK is now prioritising a Bill to promote the exploration of more oilfields with production at who knows what future date.

What the Government should be doing is prioritising the roll-out of renewables. So often during oral questions we hear the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero boasting about the roll-out of renewables, but he should reflect on how much more the UK could and should have done by now. First, there was the wind farm ban in England. Even now, when the Government talk as if they are planning to lift the ban, the situation is completely ambiguous, and they have not promoted wind power enthusiastically. Just think: if there had not been a ban in England, we would have had additional capacity on top of what Wales and Scotland provide, nearer to the big centres of population. We all know that the Government have not moved fast enough to strengthen the national grid to transport the electricity from the wind farms where it is produced to the centres of population.

Then, we have the fiasco of the last auction process —allocation round 5—where the Government did not receive a single bid for floating offshore wind because of their stubborn refusal to sit down with the industry and recognise the huge impact of inflation, and the need to alter the price structure accordingly. The Irish Government listened to the industry and conducted a successful auction. We also saw the complacency of the Minister, Graham Stuart, when he came to this House and said, “Oh, well, there’s another chance to bid for next year”, losing valuable time and sending worrying signals to the industry about the Government’s commitment to developing floating offshore wind. As we heard from my hon. Friend Sarah Champion, investors now lack confidence in investing in the UK because they simply do not know which direction this Government are going in.

I could go on. We could have seen a lot more progress on solar and marine technologies—those are some of the things the Government could be doing if they listened to the industry, instead of wasting time on this Bill. The UK Marine Energy Council has identified the barriers to the roll-out of tidal stream energy: a lack of clarity on future support, which is damaging investor confidence; a consenting process that is slow and onerous; a lack of innovation funding; the cost of setting up supply chains; and a lack of grid capacity. The same could be said about many other emerging renewable technologies, and that is where the Government’s energy should be concentrated, not on this ridiculous Bill.

On electrification of the railways, when Labour left government in 2010, there were plans to electrify the line from London to Swansea. We then had the ridiculous pantomime of the Tories cancelling Cardiff to Swansea, reinstating it, and cancelling it again. Simon Hart, who was then Secretary of State for Wales and is now the Chief Whip, said that electrification was pointless as the nature of the track meant that trains would not go any faster, but that completely misses the point. As anyone who has been in the square in front of the station in Cardiff knows, the pollution, the carbon emissions and the noise from the diesel engines tell us exactly why we should be pushing on with electrification: to reduce our emissions. Instead, we have this Bill to extract more oil and gas from the North sea, rather than moving away by producing renewables and ensuring that our industries and our transport can operate on clean energy. That is what the Government’s priorities should be.

As for jobs, the people working in the oil and gas industry have valuable skills, and we must make absolutely sure that they have the opportunity to move across to other, similar industries: renewables and infrastructure. For that, the Government need a clear industrial strategy and to provide proper retraining opportunities for those who need to do so. Of course, the way to improve job opportunities is to ramp up the speed and scale of renewables development.

There was a question earlier about Labour’s policy. I will not detain Members by reading all 22 pages of our plans to make the UK a renewable energy superpower, which can be found on our website, but to be brief, we are absolutely committed to slashing people’s energy bills by making the UK a renewable energy superpower, creating the new green jobs of the future and ensuring a just transition. If we win the next election, we will create Great British Energy to be a publicly owned champion of clean energy generation. We have plans for a national wealth fund that would invest alongside the private sector in the jobs of the future, such as in clean steel plants, and our plans are underpinned by a proper industrial strategy that will give investors confidence. On that note, I suggest that the Government drop this Bill, and turn their attentions and energies to developing our renewables sector and making sure we can proudly lead the world on a just transition to a fossil-free world.

Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Ceidwadwyr, Stoke-on-Trent Central 6:04, 22 Ionawr 2024

We all want a healthier planet and a sustainable future for the next generations, but no one wants the heating to go off, the lights to go out, or our energy security to be at the mercy of foreign players in an ever more unstable world. This Bill recognises that doing nothing and increasing our reliance on imported gas, including gas with four times the emissions, is not the solution. As such, I am glad that the Government acknowledge the need to move away from oil and gas production, and I welcome our long-term commitment to drive down the use of fossil fuels and the significant and growing investment in the renewables sector, which is the only way to guarantee our energy security for the future—but it is for the future. As a country, we are now home to five of the largest offshore wind farms in the world, diversifying our energy supply and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. Renewables gained enough power in 2022 to avoid the need for five times as much gas as the UK imported from Russia in 2021.

However, as we discuss the Bill, we should reflect on how we make that transition while preserving our reputation as a global leader in the fight against climate change. I am keen to see further efforts to reassure the international community, and our constituents who care about the environment, that we are not rowing back on our climate and environmental commitments. Our current requirements are lower than recommended pathways to reach net zero, so I suggest that we continue to strengthen the operational emission requirements for UK oil and gas producers. A recent report from Robert Gordon University found that 90% of the UK’s oil and gas workforce had skills that were transferable to the offshore renewables sector. A well-managed transition helps ensure that more investment, and more of those jobs, stay in the UK.

Opposition Members have no plan. Labour and the SNP are ignoring the country’s energy needs in their opposition to the Bill, which seeks to enable a transition pathway for an industry that, last year, produced an average of 42% of gas on an average day in Britain. Without new development, we will be more reliant on imports, which is unwise at best given the instability in the European market as a result of Putin’s war. Labour talks about expanding renewables and reducing usage through measures such as insulation. The Government share that ambition, but it is impossible to deliver at speed and in areas such as Stoke-on-Trent—[Interruption.] If Opposition Members will listen, I will give them the reason why. There are many terraced houses in those areas, where the cost of insulating a property to the highest energy performance certificate standard can be greater than the value of that property.

For that reason, there needs to be a broader discussion about housing—I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I recently visited Norway with the Conservative Environment Network to see how that country is using the skills and expertise of the oil and gas industry to develop a carbon capture and storage facility at the Northern Lights project. For the world to achieve the goals to which we have committed ourselves in the Paris agreement, we need large-scale carbon capture and storage. Not all emissions can be cut by applying renewable energy. Oil and gas will be needed for the foreseeable future; however, reducing fossil fuel demand is key to reaching net zero. In several industrial processes, such as the production of cement, carbon capture and storage is the only technology that can cut emissions, reduce the need for imported energy, and benefit households through less volatile—and, ultimately, lower—energy costs.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The hon. Lady talks about the enormous cost of insulation, but is she clear that carbon capture and storage is also enormously expensive?

Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Ceidwadwyr, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I am clear that lots of things have a cost, but we must also look at the cost of not doing them. We are not talking purely about financial cost.

To return to what I learned from my trip to Norway, about a fifth of emissions from North sea oil and gas production activity come from flaring. We could follow Norway’s ban on those activities—I am sure Wera Hobhouse would agree with that—using the Bill to bring forward our commitment to stop flaring.

Photo of Jo Gideon Jo Gideon Ceidwadwyr, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I would like to get on, if the hon. Lady does not mind. [Interruption.] She is chuntering from a sedentary position. Removing gas is necessary for safety; however, it can be captured rather than burned. That is my argument.

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the production, storage and supply of energy, and we are faced with a range of innovative options to decarbonise while maintaining an adequate energy supply and reducing usage. None of this will happen overnight, and while we welcome the possibilities of innovations such as less energy wastage through battery storage, alternative fuels such as hydrogen, future solutions such as the expansion of nuclear and alternatives such as tidal and geothermal energy, we do need this transition position. I will be supporting the Bill on Second Reading, but on Report I will look at possibilities for reconfirming our commitment to minimise environmental damage and continue focusing on the end game of cleaner solutions to our energy needs.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North 8:10, 22 Ionawr 2024

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you were not around at the time, but you will know that the stone age did not end because of a lack of stone, and the oil age will not end because of a lack of oil. It will end because decent people of all political persuasions, such as the former right hon. Member for Kingswood, are farsighted enough to recognise and brave enough to stand up against the vested interests that would consign our children and the natural world to a costly, disruptive and, frankly, terrifying future. He was right to say that history will judge harshly those who continue down the reckless fossil fuel path that this Bill represents.

This Bill is founded upon a lie—in fact, several lies. The Government say it will safeguard our domestic energy supplies and boost investment; it will not. They say it will enhance our energy security and reduce our dependence on imports from overseas; it will not. The truth is that it is a political distraction that will reduce investment in and delay our transition to the clean energy that is the only sustainable and secure future both for our country and for the global community. This Bill is not a credible plan to fix Britain’s broken energy system; it is a sad attempt to sew division and polarise our politics. It shows that the Government have given up governing and are out of step with the British people’s priorities. When 6 million people live in fuel poverty and when 4,700 people died last winter as a result of living in cold, damp homes, this Bill falls well below what our constituents deserve.

As the world’s hottest year on record was concluding, nearly 200 countries agreed at COP28 to transition away from fossil fuels. The contrast between the promise made in Dubai and what the Government seek to do today could not be more profound, nor more depressing. By inviting Parliament to enable annual licensing rounds for offshore oil and gas extraction, the Government are failing to understand that to transition away from fossil fuels, we have to stop producing them. The Government argue, “But it is still a declining field.” “This simply slows the rate of decline,” they say. The problem is that it also slows the rate of investment in a just transition that will unleash the power of wind, solar, tidal and energy efficiency.

The North sea is a declining basin. Its reserves are predominantly oil, not gas. Between now and 2050, new licences are expected to provide just 103 days of gas, which is four days of gas on average each year. The Government know that once oil and gas is licensed, it belongs to the companies that hold the licence. As the Government recently admitted to my hon. Friend Lloyd Russell-Moyle, 80% of UK oil reserves are sent abroad by these companies and sold on the international market to the highest bidder. No wonder the former executive director of BP said last year that the Government’s decision to expand North sea drilling is

“not going to make any difference” to Britain’s energy security.

If the Government’s ambition is to minimise gas imports, there is a very simple solution—insulate homes. The best way to cut imports is to reduce domestic fossil fuel consumption by building renewables and insulating homes. This would have the additional benefit of reducing people’s energy bills and tackling fuel poverty. By channelling investment into oil and gas, the Government are heading precisely in the wrong direction. I do not deny that there is a role for existing oil and gas, but it is in the journey to a clean energy economy. What there is not a role for is the production of new oil and gas. We already know that to stand a 50% chance of keeping below the 1.5° threshold, 90% of the world’s coal reserves and 60% of oil and gas reserves would have to stay in the ground.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan

Is the hon. Member aware of this? He mentioned the pathway to the 1.5° target, and the IEA’s description of what is required is a 3% to 4% reduction in oil and gas production year on year between now and 2050. Does he agree with the assessment of the NSTA itself, which expects that, even with the new oil and gas licences, North sea oil and gas is predicted to decline by 7%, or twice that amount?

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North

I am well aware of that—of course I am—but the hon. Member will have heard the discussion that took place earlier about global leadership. He will know that other countries around the world are not declining at the required rate, and leadership is about taking a lead.

The logic of drilling for more when the world has already more than it can safely burn is that of the myopic salesman, not the visionary politician, or to use the Prime Minister’s words, it is the logic of the zealot. The Government’s actions are already making the UK a less attractive place for green investment. Three quarters of all North sea oil and gas operators currently invest nothing at all in UK renewables. The largest operator, Harbour Energy, has ruled out such clean investment altogether, yet last year the five oil super-majors—BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies—rewarded their investors with record payouts of more than £79 billion, so we know the money is there to do it.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North

The Minister is asking whether I will give way. The right hon. Member has long confused the scoring of party political points with the ability to debate an issue to arrive at the truth and get decent policies out the other end. However, if he has changed the habit of a lifetime, I will happily give way to him.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

I thank the hon. Gentleman. He mentioned a specific company, Harbour Energy, and it is absolutely investing in the Viking carbon capture centre and playing a positive role. That is true of the whole oil and gas supply chain in this country, which the hon. Gentleman, if he went to visit them, would find are working right across the energy sector. Weakening one part, as he would with no new licences, would damage the new clean emerging sectors, too.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North

I recognise the work that Harbour Energy is doing and I also recognise the work that the Government have done in trying to attract more investment into green energy and renewables, and I welcome that work. I want us to have a cross-party consensus around getting to net zero. The trouble is that—and the Minister knows this to be true—he and many people on his side, including the Prime Minister, have tried to make this a wedge issue, a political issue to divide people. I think he really does need to step up to the plate. If he wants cross-party consensus, he has to try to build it, not score cheap political points.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The Liberal Democrats were actually introducing an amendment to stop flaring and venting of methane. Jo Gideon has just said it would be a very good thing to do yet the Government opposed it. That is an example of where we could have reached cross-party consensus.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Llafur, Brent North

The hon. Lady is absolutely correct, and I listened to her attempt to intervene on Jo Gideon. We need to build a cross-party consensus and this shows how it can be achieved: there are concerned Members on the Government Benches who want to do the right thing, and we all know that sometimes the Whips make sure that they do not, but if we really build this consensus, we can get to the right place.

Another lie at the heart of this Bill is to say it will protect British jobs. It will not. Over the years there have been hundreds of thousands of jobs in the oil and gas sector and its supply chain. They have kept our lights on and our industry moving for decades just as the coalminers did before them. But pretending that employment in oil and gas can last forever fails to properly prepare those workers and their families for the inevitable transition that the world is making.

Despite sustained support for the North sea basin over the past 14 years and despite 400 new drilling licences being issued across five separate licensing runs, the fact is that more than 200,000 jobs in the oil and gas industry and its wider supply network have been lost. Today 30,000 hard-working people are directly employed in the industry. Those workers and the local economies they uphold need a coherent plan to move past fossil fuel production towards clean energy. The trouble is the Government have not developed one.

A further 100,000 individuals are supported through the supply chain and are waiting for a signal from Government so that they can seize the opportunities of the clean energy revolution. This Bill offers them nothing. It seems to override the already weak non-binding climate compatibility checkpoint. The production emissions reduction target set out in the North sea transition deal is already weak, setting a cut of only 50% by 2030. This Bill seems to weaken it even further. It includes no reference to how annual licensing will be judged against the NSTD targets for production emissions let alone emissions from combustion.

Critically, the Bill ignores the wider environmental consequences of the development of new fields and puts marine habitats at risk. Over one third of the 900 locations in the latest licensing round overlapped with marine protected areas, yet this directly contradicts the commitment the UK made at the convention on biological diversity conference COP15 in Montreal where we promised to protect 30% of UK waters for nature by 2030.

The Rosebank field that was recently licensed sees a pipeline run through the Faroe-Shetland marine protected area, which threatens ocean life. If a major oil spill from Rosebank were to happen, 20 MPAs could be seriously impacted. This Bill is an attack on nature both by its indirect impact through increasing emissions and its direct impact on the marine environment. The Government appear to believe that they know better than the International Energy Agency, the United Nations Secretary-General, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, all of whom are clear that new oil and gas licences jeopardise further the goal of 1.5°C. This Parliament’s own independent adviser, the Climate Change Committee, confirmed to Parliament only last year that the expansion of fossil fuel production is not in line with net zero and that the oil and gas field that is required in the UK as we make that journey to net zero does not require the development of any new fields.

But what I find most depressing about this Bill is not its arrogance or its ignorance, it is the way it seeks to break with the cross-party consensus for the sake of creating a party political dividing line in advance of a general election. That dividing line pretends that the rational, informed scientific view is held only by what the Prime Minister calls climate zealots and it tries to establish the recalcitrant fossil fuel lobby that is endangering all we hold dear across the globe as the reasonable middle ground. It is not. As the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said:

“the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.”

The fossil fuel lobby is behaving like the tobacco lobby did when all of the medical evidence was against it. First, deny the science outright. When that is no longer credible, pretend that the concern is exaggerated. And when that is no longer credible, reframe the issue as one of personal choice.

Government is about establishing a framework of regulation for the public good; it is not about facilitating the freedom of those who would undermine the public good. That is why this Bill is bad for democracy. That is why this Bill is bad for our global standing as a country that has previously been regarded as a leader on this issue. That leadership is now passing to others who are responding positively to the pledge in Dubai to transition away from fossil fuels by joining the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance.

The floods that we are seeing devastate communities and lives around the country are but a foretaste of the terrifying impacts of climate change beyond 1.5°. This Bill does nothing to mitigate them. It does nothing to support the billions of people across the world who live on the frontlines of climate breakdown. It ignores the plight of millions of bill payers who find themselves priced out of our broken energy system. And it ignores the workers who power our country.

This Bill endangers our natural world and future generations. I cannot support it; I will consign it to the same vote of no-confidence that I predict awaits this Government later on this year.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan 6:27, 22 Ionawr 2024

I want to start by reminding the House, in the interests of transparency, that for 25 years prior to being an MP I worked in the energy sector, specifically the oil and gas sector—I have not made a secret of that in the past, by the way. Also in the interests of transparency, I note that I have a close family member who has a financial interest in that industry, although I feel keen to point out that that interest is below the threshold required for registering interests. I can also assure the House that that interest has never had any bearing, and will not have any bearing, on my contributions in this place.

We are not a nation that needs to be convinced of the need to transition away from oil and gas. The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, my right hon. Friend Graham Stuart, said on his return from COP28 that he

“was proud to represent a country that has cut greenhouse gas emissions more than any other major economy since 1990; that has boosted our share of renewable electricity from a rather dismal 7% in 2010 to almost half today”—

I think we have exceeded 50% since he said that—

“while almost entirely phasing out coal power;
that has led the world in mobilising green finance;
and that is now ensuring that we bring the British public with us on the transition to net zero”.—[Official Report, 14 December 2023;
Vol. 742, c. 1032.]

We have essentially transitioned away completely from coal and continue to reduce our demand for oil and gas, but not as fast as our own domestic supplies continue to decline, even with new production. One of the critical points that needs to be made when considering this proposed legislation is that new oil and gas does not mean more oil and gas.

It is important to state a few basic facts that will hopefully help people understand why this Bill, aimed at promoting and facilitating new oil and gas production in this country, is not in contradiction to delivering on our net zero targets and global agreements and commitments. We are today 75% dependent on oil and gas for our energy needs, not just for electricity generation but for heat and transportation as well. Of that 75%, about 50% is produced domestically with the rest needing to be imported, including from Norway, as has been said. Even by 2050 we will be at net zero and still up to 25% dependent on oil and gas. Even with new oil and gas exploration and production, coupled with that decline in demand, we are extremely unlikely to have a net surplus ever again. The UK has been a net importer of oil and gas since 2004, long after our own production profile peaked in the late 1990s.

There are currently 283 active oil and gas fields in the North sea, and the Offshore Energies UK trade body estimates that by 2030 around 180 of those—that is more than 60%—will have ceased production due to natural decline. If we do not replace those depleting oil and gas fields with new ones, production will decline much faster than we can build low-carbon sources to replace it.

It is worth remembering, as I pointed out earlier, that even with the new oil and gas fields and wells, we can reasonably predict that we are still looking at a 7% year-on-year reduction in UK production, according to the North Sea Transition Authority. That is twice as fast as the International Energy Agency recommends. It suggests that the global reduction of oil and gas production needs to be about half that, at 3% to 4% a year, to stay within our 1.5° target.

In line with the Climate Change Committee’s balanced pathway, the UK’s demand for oil and gas will reduce over time, and is forecast to be approximately 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent cumulatively over the period through to 2050. However, existing domestic fields are expected to deliver only between 4 billion and 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent, so we can see the gap. That is the import gap, which we need to fill through imports.

New field developments and licenses are required to reduce our reliance on overseas imports. Without new investment, it is predicted that reliance on overseas imports will increase from 50% today to closer to 80% by 2030. If demand for oil and gas is to continue—which it will, albeit it will be declining—in the coming decades, it makes sense to get it from as close to our own shores as possible.

Reducing demand for oil and gas is key, not reducing supply. I think we can all agree that we need to do that. Simply reducing or cutting off our domestic supply will not help net zero to happen any faster or any more successfully; it will only make us more dependent on foreign imports.

There are other factors to consider. We have all heard today about the 200,000 or so jobs dependent on the oil and gas industry. Those people are directly employed by the oil and gas industry, and protecting those jobs and livelihoods and understanding the impact that an industry has on communities and societies, as well as on our local and national economies, is extremely important.

My biggest worry goes beyond that. It is not necessarily that those people will become unemployed—some of them may find jobs in the burgeoning renewables sector, and as I discussed with my hon. Friend Douglas Ross, we are seeing that in our constituencies, although in the short to medium term there are not enough of those jobs to go around—but about the potential loss of precisely the skills, technologies and supply chains that will be crucial to the delivery of the energy transition. If we shut down this critical industry too soon, those skills and supply chains will merely go overseas and deliver someone else’s energy security and transition.

For the past 50 years, the North sea offshore industry has been seen as a centre of excellence in the global oil and gas industry. Nowhere in the world is oil and gas produced more safely, efficiently, cleanly and environmentally responsibly. The former right hon. Member for Kingswood and my right hon. Friend Sir Alok Sharma have said that we are a clean energy superpower that has decarbonised faster than any other G20 nation. We have reduced our emissions by 50% at the same time as growing our economy 70% above 1990 levels. To quote the former right hon. Member for Kingswood:

“That is a paragon and a model that all other nations look to”.—[Official Report, 9 November 2023;
Vol. 740, c. 301.]

Where the former right hon. Member for Kingswood and I do not agree is that far from damaging that reputation we have built over decades, we have the opportunity to maintain and build on that perception as a centre for excellence for producing oil and gas better and more safely and cleanly than anyone else and for decarbonising faster than anyone else, rather than for virtue signalling better than anybody else, as the Opposition appear to be seeking to do.

I welcome the Bill and the increased certainty that it brings to the offshore energy industry, businesses and the people with the skills and talent who work in those companies. They will help to deliver not only our energy security for years to come but a successful energy transition to net zero. We can not just show the world that it can be done, but lead the world in showing how it can be done.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Alba, East Lothian 6:35, 22 Ionawr 2024

I agree with a lot of what David Duguid said, even though I disagree with the purpose of the Bill, which seems to me to be political grandstanding indicative only of it being an election year. It entirely fails to meet the significant needs of those who are currently struggling to heat their homes in Scotland, of the Scottish economy, which should be basking in all the glory and wealth that has been created through oil and gas, or of our wider planet.

We need to transition; that is self-evident. It is not simply about the global warming that Members have been talking about. Trains in my constituency were cancelled today and the A1 was closed because a lorry had overturned. It was a heavy goods vehicle, but not a high-sided one. The strength of the winds that battered the communities in my constituency and elsewhere did that. We have serious problems coming down the line, and we require to change, but it requires to be a just transition, at a pace that allows us to change, because we have to ensure that we keep the skills. We cannot do to those in the oil and gas sector what was done by Thatcher to the miners and simply close them down and throw them to the wolves.

We have to ensure that we transition to renewables, but oil and gas are required for us to make that journey. I can see it in the hills of the Lammermuirs, and I see it on a daily basis as increasing numbers of wind turbines go into the firth of Forth. At the end of the day, the ships putting in the columns for the turbines run on marine diesel. A lot of the turbines require plastics to be constructed, and we also need the vehicles simply to get them there.

We have to get to that renewable future. The tragedy in Scotland is that we are already there, as we produce almost as much energy as we require. Our people just do not get the benefit of it, because it is transmitted south and charged at an appalling rate when it should be almost free, given that people can see it from their homes, on their hills and off their shores. There has to be a change.

There is also a perversity. Although I agree with new licensing, Rosebank will be operated and owned by Equinor, the state energy company of Norway, so the profits will go to Oslo. Scotland and Norway discovered oil at the same time, because we share access to the North sea basin. Those in Norway have a standard of living and an economy that those in Scotland can only look at and weep with envy. They also have a futures fund, because they put the money away rather than allowing the super-rich to get even richer and invest in foreign bank accounts or highland estates. Norway has a futures fund and Scotland has precisely nothing.

We have to continue to build and to continue extracting oil and gas. That has to be at a significant pace for Scotland, while taking into account the need to meet the requirements of the planet. Two particular aspects are needed. First, as per the amendment in my name and that of my group leader, my hon. Friend Neale Hanvey, we must have a commitment to a net zero carbon footprint.

In particular, that means taking into account the needs of carbon capture. Scotland has had the bounty of North sea oil and we need to ensure we continue to get benefit from it. We have coming the bounty of renewables, and we see that with offshore wind, both floating and fixed, but we also have huge potential with carbon capture, because the geology of the North sea provides something like 30% of the opportunities in Europe. Yes, carbon capture is untested, but our society and our planet need it.

More importantly, we must have a commitment to retain a refinery at Grangemouth. It is absurd, as others have said today, that the oil from the North sea is shipped abroad in the main to be refined, and then we import from supertankers coming in. Those ships pass on the high seas, and that is simply absurd. As we have a worsening planet crisis, it is perverse. It is not good enough to say, “It’s the wrong type of oil,” just as we would not accept a rail operating company saying that it was the wrong type of leaves on the tracks.

Yes, our refineries are not at the capacity for the engineering or technical skills to refine it, but that should be done. The first place to do that is Grangemouth. Why? Because the Forties pipeline comes into Grangemouth. As the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan knows, it lands at Cruden bay in his constituency, but it is piped down to Grangemouth. It is absurd that Grangemouth should be closing when the oil—both past and present, and indeed future—is coming in from the North sea. So if there is to be the continued extraction of Scotland’s need, which we have not benefited from because we do not have the wealth or savings of Norway, we must at least ensure that we save Grangemouth.

I call on the UK Government first to ensure that they provide the funds for the hydrocracker that will increase the profitability of the existing site threefold. If that is done—that would cost a fraction of the billions the UK has got from North Sea oil over the years, and a fraction of what it will continue to take in petroleum revenue tax and other benefits in coming years—we must ensure that we get the profitability up. Then, in a couple of years, we must take the engineering, the skills and the technology so that the oil from the North sea can be refined in Grangemouth. It is absurd and perverse that that is not done.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

Does the hon. Member accept that one of the reasons why we have not had investment in the refining industry in the United Kingdom for decades is precisely because the net zero policies that are being followed, with the costs and charges for carbon, the emissions trading scheme and other carbon taxes, discourage any investment in the very production facilities we use to process the oil that we bring out?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Alba, East Lothian

I think there are a variety of factors, and I have no doubt that some of those factors are there. There has also been a failure to invest. Where the blame does not lie is with a workforce who are skilled and who presently have to work with a refinery that is past its sell by date and requires to be invested in. Even the union and the workforce recognise that investment is required to get the hydrocracker going and to get the technology to ensure that we refine the oil there. It is probably not the current owner Petroineos but previous owners who have taken the benefit for themselves and invested it in their shareholders rather than putting it back into either the workforce or, indeed, capacity at the refinery. Tragically, that happens across so much of UK industry, whether the shipyards, the steelworks or whatever else.

We see a Government who will benefit from North sea oil’s continued extraction, so the least that Scotland is entitled to expect is its refinery to be at the heart of that. Especially when the oil will flow down that golden thread in the Forties pipeline down to Grangemouth, we require to ensure that Grangemouth will refine it. Yes, that requires technical changes, and yes, that will come at a cost, but that is a small fraction of what the UK will take from the benefit of that North sea oil. That is why the Alba party’s support is conditional on carbon capture and the net zero footprint, and also conditional on Grangemouth being at its heart.

It is absurd that Scotland is not getting the wealth from the oil off its shores. It is absurd that while countries have seen their desert redeveloped and bloom because of the oil they have had, what we have seen with North sea oil is an industrial desert created. Having been brought up only 10 or 15 miles from Grangemouth, I know the devastation that will come to that community unless there are the changes required to ensure that Grangemouth does the refining for North sea oil. We cannot afford to have Grangemouth thrown to the wolves. As I said in last week’s debate, we cannot have “Grangemouth no more”; we require to ensure a refinery capacity.

It would be absurd for Scotland in the UK to have in Grangemouth no refinery capacity. Scotland would be ranked 21st in the nations that produce oil, and the only one in the top 25 without a refinery capacity. The only other countries that tend not to have refinery capacity are the likes of the Republic of Congo and Trinidad and Tobago. I wish those countries no ill—I am sure they are fine countries—but they do not produce the same level of oil, and they are not developed industrial economies. The fact of the matter is that Scotland should not be in that same position of being an oil-producing nation without a refinery capacity. On that basis, Grangemouth must be retained. I call on the Government to do that.

My only additional point is that the Scottish Government, too, require to step up to the plate. The fact that the business and economy Secretary in Scotland appears to be accepting the closure of Grangemouth as something that just will happen and is maybe a matter of regret is simply unacceptable. He may be in coalition with the Greens, but he cannot have them wagging the SNP dog. It is simply unacceptable that we see Grangemouth close without a fight. The Scottish Government should be leading the demands that the refinery is changed, that we do ensure the hydrocracker, that we do provide the changes to refine in Scotland, and that we do move towards biofuels. What they should not be doing is wringing their hands and selling out the Grangemouth workforce. We require a refinery capacity in Scotland. The UK Government have had the benefits of Scotland’s oil and should pay for it, and it is about time that the Scottish Government stood up for industrial Scotland and the workers who at one point put their trust and faith in them.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland 6:45, 22 Ionawr 2024

We are no strangers to hyperbole in this Chamber, but I think the exaggeration of the importance of this Bill in the debate has surprised even Government Members. To hear Opposition Members, we would think that the Government have made a bold announcement to reject their policies on climate change, to deny the science and to minimise the impact of climate change, and to say that we are no longer committed to decarbonising by 2050. None of that is even remotely true.

Nothing has changed in relation to the Government’s policy on climate change, and decarbonisation in particular. In fact, the Prime Minister recently reaffirmed that. The United Kingdom recently passed the substantial marker of being the first of any major economy to more than halve its emissions. That is a huge milestone, and that is the kind of climate leadership that is important; not making virtue-signalling announcements in this Chamber or elsewhere. Countries around the world look at us because of what we do, and we are decarbonising and leading by example.

I will take no lessons from the Labour party. I looked this up during the debate: in 2010, on Labour’s watch, the economy emitted 495.8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; now it is 320 million tonnes and declining. That is as a result of Conservative policies in action, where we accept the science on climate change but take positive actions on the really important thing: it is the amount of oil and carbon we use that is important, not where it comes from.

The Conservative record is incredibly strong, but we still recognise, as does the Climate Change Committee, that we need oil and gas as part of our long-term future. Currently, as my hon. Friend David Duguid pointed out, about 75% of our energy comes from hydrocarbons—oil and gas. That is reducing, but it is on a trajectory to get to about 25% even in 2050 and beyond.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

The hon. Member is taking the Climate Change Committee’s name in vain. It does not say that we need new oil and gas. It says categorically that new explorations of oil and gas are not compatible with our net zero obligations. I do not understand why he is claiming something that is different from what the committee says. He compared emissions under a Labour Government with those under a Tory Government. I am no apologist for the Labour Government, but I wonder whether he put consumption emissions into those calculations. Did he work out whether emissions have gone down in the UK because we have outsourced even more of our manufacturing to countries on the other side of the world?

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that intervention. The Climate Change Committee gives us the science, and the political decisions are taken in this House. We are not talking about an increase in exploration; we are talking about a managed reduction of 7% per annum.

Moving on, the question is not whether we have oil or gas, yes or no. We need oil and gas, certainly for the transition period between 2024 and 2050, and even beyond—according to the Climate Change Committee, around 25% of our energy will still come from oil and gas. The question is: where should that oil and gas come from? If we need to supply this economy with oil and gas, it is my belief that we should use UK oil and gas, and there are reasons for that. The first is that the industry employs 200,000 people. I would prefer that employment to remain in the UK economy, rather than export it to Russia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or other oil and gas producing countries. That is a reasonable position, given that our consumption is required for the future.

The second reason is geopolitical. We need an alternative to Russian gas, and not just in this country. I accept the point made earlier by Opposition Members: that oil and gas is a global market, and that 80% of North sea oil is exported to Europe. But emissions are global and so are the geopolitics. It is right, and in our strategic interest, that Europe should have a viable alternative to Russia for the supply of hydrocarbons. We have seen in the last two years the awful consequences of an overreliance on the Russian supply of hydrocarbons, and more so in Europe—Germany, in particular—than in the United Kingdom. We have become a net exporter of gas to mainland Europe—a little from the North sea, but a lot from Milford Haven. Qatari liquid natural gas is imported into our country and transported by the connectors to mainland Europe. The Europeans are sucking up very polluting liquid natural gas because they do not have a viable, cleaner alternative, which North sea gas would provide.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan

It has been pointed out to me that gas in Qatar is produced at a broadly equivalent carbon footprint to ours, but the compression into liquid, the transportation and the de-liquefaction when it gets into this country quadruple that carbon footprint.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland

My hon. Friend is right. Opposition Members have no answer to that. In Germany in particular, misguided green policies have led to the extraordinary decision to decommission the low-carbon nuclear industry and replace it with coal-fired power stations. I could hardly make it up. Germany is massively increasing its reliance on imported liquid natural gas, which is much more polluting than the cleaner, more local and geopolitically more stable alternative of North sea gas and oil.

The third reason why I would prefer that we used UK oil and gas is that it pays UK tax. I am not ashamed to say that I welcome that. If we are to extract hydrocarbons that will be taxed, I prefer for that tax to be paid in the United Kingdom, rather than in some other country. Just between 2023 and 2028 it is estimated that those tax receipts will amount to £30 billion. We know how much trouble Opposition Members have trying to explain where they will get their £28 billion of borrowing each year, and how that will raise interest rates, debt and inflation. That would be more than doubled if they got their way and their policies destroyed the North sea oil and gas sector.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

The hon. Gentleman mentions what the Government are spending, not spending and taxing, but could he mention how much they actually spend on subsidies for the oil and gas industry—just a number?

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland

A number was mentioned earlier in the debate, but I did not catch it. I am sure that the hon. Lady might have that number in mind. It is right that we support industries in this country, because they create employment, generate economic activity and, in turn, pay taxes. I am not ashamed of that, because it is a good thing.

The final reason why I want oil and gas extraction in this country, if we are to use it, is the balance of payments. That used to be a fashionable economic argument back in the day. When I was a teenager, we used to have announcements on the news about the balance of payments month by month. What has happened to that? The balance of payments is every bit as important economically today as it was back in the 1980s. We run a current account deficit in this country of about £150 billion. That is a huge number, and it will be exacerbated if we choose—and it would be a political choice—not to generate and export a product from this economy to a third economy, but instead choose to import one, exacerbating the balance of payments deficit twice over.

For those four reasons, I am wholly in favour of the ambitions behind this short Bill. Climate change will be solved by reducing demand for hydrocarbons, not by reducing supply. We will solve the demand problem by providing cheap alternatives, which the Government are doing. Members who have contributed were quite right to highlight that. We need renewables.

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education)

I agree with the hon. Member’s point about reducing demand. The great travesty is that we are still seeing houses built today—I am sure he does in his constituency—where the insulation is not at all deep. That is ridiculous, is it not?

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Ceidwadwyr, Broadland

I could not agree more. The future homes building regulations, which require a significantly decreased carbon footprint for modern buildings, come into force in 2025. It is deeply frustrating that they were not brought in earlier. The sooner they come in, the better. We also have the challenge of retrofitting insulation in the 28.5 million existing houses in Britain. Some good points have been made by Opposition Members about the need to improve retrofitting, and there is scope for the Government to incentivise further insulation of private houses, to go with the successful scheme in place already for public sector buildings and housing.

We must also increase our wind power. We have an extremely ambitious target of 50 GW by 2030. The current rate is about 17 GW of renewable wind power generation capacity. We must also increase solar and nuclear, including small modular reactors. We need better technology for carbon capture, usage and storage. We need to accelerate our use of electric or hydrogen vehicles—or, frankly, any other kind of technology that solves the problem—and we need to incentivise the market to step into that area.

We need to take a step back and look at buildings. It is about not just about the operating carbon costs of existing infrastructure, which we are focusing on in both commercial buildings and the residential sector; it is also about the embodied carbon in our construction processes, hence my private Member’s Bill on the measurement of embodied carbon in large buildings and developments. About 50% of the carbon associated with building is in its construction, not its operation.

There are areas where the Government are either ahead of the game or moving in the right direction. They have already been successful in reducing demand for hydrocarbons. I do not understand why Labour appears to put virtue signalling before the economic impact and 200,000 local jobs. I support this eminently sensible Bill.

Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Llafur, Coventry South 6:59, 22 Ionawr 2024

In my four years as a Member of Parliament, I keep coming back to this question: whose interests does this place serve? Do the laws we pass and the structures we maintain serve the interests of our constituents? Are they designed to enrich and empower them? Or do they deepen inequalities in wealth and power, serving the interests of the super-rich and the companies that dominate our economy? I say that because with this Bill, the question feels more relevant than ever.

The Bill, which scales-up fossil fuel extraction in the North sea just as we should be rapidly scaling it down, is obviously not about helping our constituents. It is not about bringing down energy bills—even the Secretary of State admitted that—and it is not about energy security. A former BP boss said that new North sea drilling is:

“not going to make any difference” to energy security. That is no surprise, since fossil fuel companies are given ownership of what they extract and then sell it on the world market. The Bill is the very opposite of tackling the climate crisis. That is a blatant truth recognised by the Government’s own Climate Change Committee, which said the Bill is not in line with net zero.

If the Bill is not about energy bills, energy security or tackling the climate crisis, what is it about? The answer is simple. It is about maximising profit for fossil fuel giants, guaranteeing that they can extract every last bit of oil and gas, no matter the consequence for people and planet. These companies are the last that need our support. As energy bills soared last year—our constituents know that reality far too well—BP’s global profits hit £23 billion. Shell reported its highest ever profits: a whopping £32 billion. This year, the world’s five biggest oil companies are expected to hand investors more than £80 billion. Record bills for my Coventry South constituents have meant record profits for fossil fuel giants.

Eye-watering North sea oil and gas profits are not an accident, but by design. They are aided and abetted by Government choices. The Government’s North sea tax and subsidy regime is so skewed in the interests of fossil fuel companies that for years Shell and BP got away with paying zero tax on North sea production. It is so rigged in these companies’ interests that the company developing the Rosebank oil field will get a £3 billion tax break to develop the site, meaning our constituents will pay 91% of the cost of developing it. The public pays the costs, the company creams off the profits and then we all face the consequence of its climate-wrecking activity. And there is no doubt about that, because the science is clear: developing new oil and gas fields is incompatible with our climate commitments.

More oil and gas extraction may be good for fossil fuel companies and their shareholders, but it spells disaster for the rest of us. If we continue to let the climate crisis deteriorate, we condemn our constituents to a world where extreme weather patterns become more common and more severe; where there are more Storm Henks and more Storm Ishas, and where their winds blow harder and their floods get deeper. We condemn young people across the country to a world where droughts destroy crops and food systems break down, where sea levels rise and millions are displaced.

That is the world that this climate-wrecking Bill is helping to create, but there is an alternative. It is called the green new deal. It is a programme of state-led investment in green industries, rapidly replacing fossil fuels with renewables, creating millions of good unionised green jobs, taxing the richest, and redistributing wealth and power in favour of ordinary people. Unlike the Bill, it is a plan that puts people and planet before profit. There is no time to waste. I urge colleagues to vote against this climate-wrecking Bill and build that brighter alternative.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Ceidwadwyr, Chelmsford 7:03, 22 Ionawr 2024

I suspect that for many Members, there are times when votes in this place can cause a sleepless night or two. For me, this vote has caused a number of sleepless nights. There is a dilemma: on the one hand, the responsibility to care for the lives and livelihoods of those people we represent today; and on the other, the responsibility to care for those who will come in the future and to leave the planet in a better place for generations in times ahead.

On the one hand, there is the risk to our energy security, a much greater risk than any of us would have predicted just a couple of years ago, due to the war in Ukraine, the situation in the middle east and in the Red sea, and who knows what next. The Government are right on energy security that we cannot move away from fossil fuels overnight. We need to prioritise energy security for as long as we need fossil fuels. Importing LNG involves much greater emissions than using gas extracted here. Relying on overseas energy means jobs overseas, not British jobs.

On the other hand, there is the risk of climate change. In my Essex constituency, the summer before last we saw at first-hand how real that risk is, with a really hot summer and raging fires. Recently, across the UK, so many people have witnessed awful floods. We know that the warmer the weather, the wetter it will be. A couple of years ago, I saw at first-hand the true devastation when I went to the eastern part of Ethiopia, a region that a few years ago was teeming with wildlife. They used to say you should never ask a herder how many animals he had, because you would never be able to stop counting. Right now, that land is totally devastated by consecutive years of drought. Millions of people will no longer be able to live in the lands where they have lived for generations. The impact of that climate change will mean more people will be forced to leave their countries. There will be more migration and that will impact us here at home.

Unless there is action to tackle emissions and climate change, we will see those impacts accelerating and worsening. We also know that actions to tackle climate change need to be global. The Government are right that the UK has done more than any other G7 nation to reduce emissions. They are right that other countries also need to play their part. Incidentally, I get really cross when people say to me, “Countries like China and India are doing nothing.” Actually, China is now investing in more renewables than any other country, and more than the US and Europe put together. India is on track to deliver 500 GW of renewables by 2030, which is absolutely massive. Countries are moving. At COP28 just last month, which I attended, countries all over the world signed up to the pledge to transition away from fossil fuels. We signed that pledge, too.

The Government will rightly point out that even with these new oil and gas licences, the North sea will continue to be a declining basin and that we are transitioning away from fossil fuels, but the perception internationally is that by granting these licences the UK may be walking away from our promises on climate change. When encouraging other countries to do the right thing, leadership matters and the UK has a key role to play. We hosted the world in Glasgow at COP26. If we, the UK, are seen or perceived to be walking away from the promises we made to the world, then other countries might walk away from their promises, too. That is why it is vital that we are seen to be keeping the promises we make.

We must continue to cut energy waste and reduce our emissions. I am very proud to be a member of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee. As one of only two members of the Committee contributing to the debate, I will talk about some of the things that have been done and that we must do more of.

Millions of homes have become more energy efficient. We should continue to do more, especially in owner-occupied homes. The priority has been social rented homes, which has been very successful, but we must to do more to help owner-occupied homes. We have unlocked massive amounts of renewable energy, but we can unlock more. It is really important that we get it connected to the grid more quickly—the Government are working on that. I would also like to see more local energy networks, so we can have local energy production nearer to where we have high energy risks and then we would not need quite so much extra grid transmission.

We need to accelerate new nuclear. There have been some good announcements about that this month, but, especially in respect of the small modular reactors, can we go faster? We need to remove barriers to more innovations such as hydrogen, especially for heat, and we need to support the transition to more zero emission vehicles, especially for those in terraced houses. I say to the Minister that we need to get rid of the “pavement tax” so that charging is affordable for all. On all those matters the Government have made great progress, but we need to do more. Incidentally, I will take no lessons from Labour Members on this, because in their 13 years of power they did so little to cut emissions.

The Government are right to say that the transition to net zero needs to be affordable, practical and pragmatic, but it should also involve being honest with people. It is estimated that even the new gas licences will provide only 103 days’ worth of gas—1% of today’s demand—between now and 2050, so let us have an honest discussion about the fact that this Bill will not do everything. However, it is important for energy security that we continue to look at how we can best meet our local energy needs. On offshore oil and gas, I have first-hand experience of how important being a respected world leader on environment issues can be in persuading other countries to change their behaviour.

Members will recall that 10 years ago the world watched in horror when the Deepwater Horizon explosion caused an environmental catastrophe in the gulf of Mexico. At the time the European Union had a knee-jerk reaction, and produced draft legislation that would have banned all deep-water drilling. As a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy at the time, I was appointed by MEPs to lead the work of the European Parliament in scrutinising that directive. I met offshore safety experts, environmentalists, geologists and regulators, and it became clear to me that the European Commission’s proposals were not the right way forward. Time and again I was told that not all deep-water drilling was dangerous and not all shallow-water drilling was safe. I remember tabling more than 300 amendments to the European Commission’s text, changing it paragraph by paragraph so that instead of banning all deep-water drilling the Commission would take a site-specific approach, looking at the risks of every single proposal.

I persuaded the British Labour Members of the European Parliament that that was the right thing to do, and I persuaded the British Liberal Democrat MEPs that it was the right thing to do. I persuaded parliamentarians from 27 countries that it was the right thing to do. They agreed because they knew that the UK was the world leader when it came to the environmental and safety standards of the offshore oil and gas industry.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Ceidwadwyr, Chelmsford

I am going to carry on.

My point is that maintaining our leadership in environmental standards in the North sea is key to persuading other countries to think about their energy in the future. The Government say that they want this country to continue to be a world leader, but at this point we have lost a bit of leadership to Norway, where gas is produced in a way that is 50% less carbon-intensive than the way in which gas is produced in our North sea. Measures such as banning flaring, electrifying the production process with the use of floating wind and working with neighbouring countries to see how our carbon capture capacity can be used to decarbonise the refining processes could make a huge difference to the carbon emissions that are caused and used when we are producing oil and gas in our North sea. As we make the transition away from fossil fuels, I should like to see the world move towards considering how we can make that industry as low-carbon as possible.

Some of my colleagues have talked about amendments relating to some of these issues, and I hope the Minister and the Government will be open to any such amendments. I think that, as currently worded, the Bill does not really let the Government do anything that they cannot do already—they can already grant these licences—but it does give us an opportunity to show that this country has the ambition to ensure that any carbon emissions that come from fossil fuels during this transition are as low as possible, and that our industry is as clean as possible. That would help the UK to maintain its world-leading voice in environmental negotiations and encourage other countries to clean up and decarbonise their production, thus helping to ensure that the global transition away from fossil fuels takes place in as clean a way as possible. I believe that we should be able to do all that while also addressing those other priorities such as delivering and improving our energy security, and delivering and improving job security here at home.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 7:15, 22 Ionawr 2024

The proposed legislation before us is an outrage, and I am pleased that we have had the opportunity today to discuss in detail what it means. It has been a relatively good-natured debate, but it has shown very clearly where the political choices are, and I find the political choices of the Conservatives unacceptable.

New licences for new oil and gas fields in the North sea are in direct conflict with our national and international net zero commitments. We must get away from our dependence on fossil fuels, not extend it. At COP28 the Government signed an international agreement to phase out fossil fuels, but we are doing the opposite in this country. It is just not acceptable for us to do one thing abroad and another at home. As has already been said so many times this afternoon, this is losing us our reputation for good leadership, and losing any credibility that the Government could have at home or abroad.

The Government’s claim that the Bill ensures our energy security is complete fiction. Recent analysis from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit found that oil from new licences sent to UK refineries would account for less than 1% of fuels used in the UK in 2030. The Bill would make little or no difference to UK energy security, and the Secretary of State herself admits that it would do little to cut bills. Furthermore, on the basis of past records, new licences issued since 2010 have produced only 16 days of extra gas supplies. Between now and 2050, new licences are expected to provide an average of only four days of gas per annum. Is it really worth it to lose our reputation, our commitments and our path to net zero for that? The vast majority of this new oil and gas production would not stay in the UK; it would be sold on global markets for consumption abroad. No government should want a repeat of the energy crisis of last year, which was brought on by the crisis in global fossil fuel supplies and soaring prices on the global oil and gas market. Only by moving away from fossil fuels can it be guaranteed that such a crisis will not be repeated.

However, this legislation is not just stupid and unnecessary, but dangerous. It breaks down a decade-long cross-party consensus that every Government must be seriously committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and must provide strong, unflinching leadership to help people, organisations and businesses along the road to a successful energy transition. As we have heard today, there is a fair amount of consensus, so why should it be broken? That is really not understandable. Undermining this consensus is hugely irresponsible and sends entirely the wrong signals to the international community. The latest COP28 negotiations have shown how rocky the path to net zero is and how important the leadership of the developed nations remains. I was at COP28, and it is really sad to see how that leadership has been lost and how many nations look at us and shake their heads. They cannot understand what has happened to the UK in the last year or two.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Labour/Co-operative, Leeds North West

It is not just at COP28, the climate COP, that there is an issue. I was at Montreal at the nature COP, and we were in the vanguard of agreeing that 30% of waters should be protected for nature. These additional drilling rigs cause havoc in our inland waters, but 15 % of new licences were declared in marine protected areas, so we are seeing a nature crisis being caused by this as well as a climate crisis.

Photo of Wera Hobhouse Wera Hobhouse Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

Yes, indeed. Many organisations that campaign to protect nature and the oceans have written to me—and probably to many other Members of Parliament—about how extremely dangerous and damaging this is to marine wildlife.

The UK is in a strong position geographically to cover its future energy needs from renewables and from cutting energy consumption. The Minister well knows my position on this: diverse, home-grown renewable energy and a significant home insulation programme are key to the solution. The energy efficiency of our homes is among the worst in Europe, and yes, if we are talking about jobs, we are lacking so many of the jobs that we need in the retrofitting and upgrading sector. We need a new workforce in the new technology for the net zero future of our UK economy. That is not looking back at past fuels. They have powered the world, yes, but we need to transition and we cannot keep on with business as usual. That is the problem and the opportunity. It is deplorable that the Government have finished embracing this new future and broken the consensus that we had across the House.

Where is the legislation to address all that? Failed project after failed project alongside acute underfunding means that people continue to live in cold homes with sky-high energy bills, so where is the legislation to revolutionise our home retrofitting agenda? The problem needs long-term policy and funding commitments rather than the stop and start of this Government. While offshore wind is no doubt a success story, we must move faster. Onshore wind development has been slow, and solar has been particularly off-track. In fact, we are going backwards. The proportion of renewable projects that are being delayed is on the rise.

Last year the Government’s predictable failure to contract new offshore wind lost 5 GW of renewable energy and the opportunity to save consumers £2 billion a year. Renewables developers still face a planning system that is stacked against onshore wind, and community energy providers still face enormous start-up costs. Rather than a petroleum Bill, why are we not debating a marine energy Bill today to incentivise investment in the various new technologies in marine energy and facilitate the fast roll-out of installations? The Government are wasting time and money on the fuels of the past. Instead, they should champion UK technology and innovation.

So, why this Bill? My suspicion is that it is an election year Bill to drive division and fuel the culture wars. For too long, working people have been made to worry that the green energy transition is a punishment for them and that it will cost them prosperity, livelihoods and the way of life that they are used to. But there are countries who have successfully turned the negative narrative into a prospect of hope and major opportunities. The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s green industrial plan will together see over $600 billion of green investment creating new and exciting jobs and careers. Even Canada, an economy smaller than ours, has announced a package that offers nearly £50 billion-worth of tax credits for green technologies. Green investment will be worth a potential £1 trillion by 2030. Uncertainty over this Government’s commitment to reach net zero means that investors are looking the other way.

Oil and gas are energy sources of the past. Putting our political future towards them only amplifies how seriously out of touch and out of ideas this current Government are. The Bill is misleading and counterproductive. It flies in the face of our net zero commitments and will do nothing to ensure our energy security. Indeed, it will do the opposite. We Liberal Democrats will support the Labour reasoned amendment and oppose this Government Bill, and I call on all colleagues across the House with an ounce of honesty and integrity to do the same.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Ceidwadwyr, South Dorset 7:24, 22 Ionawr 2024

The irony is not lost on me in this debate that every single one of us in this place wants the same thing. Normally when the whole House agrees on something, I think that something is wrong, but in this case I have no doubt that the whole House is right: we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. What we are debating today and arguing about in this place is how we can get there in the most pragmatic way. This Bill is another example of the Government trying their best to do what is right at this moment in time, but I fear that the punitive taxes—I will ask the Minister more about those in a minute—will not help the investment that the Government say is so needed.

To rely more on our own gas and oil from the North sea is a necessity and full of common sense. It is a fact that we will be relying on fossil fuels for decades to come—a point that no one in this place denies. The UK has made some impressive advances in wind and solar, and a new generation of nuclear is on its way, although I have to say that we and the Opposition have been talking about nuclear investment for years, yet so little has been done. Wind and solar are excellent ways of generating power. I have not yet heard anyone here today say that when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine—[Interruption.] I will come to tidal in a minute, if I may. Caroline Lucas has just joined the debate, I think, but I will answer her point; Portland in my constituency has a huge tidal race. But it is a fact that when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow, we do not get the energy we need. Also, as we have heard many times, we have cut our emissions by half; we are a world leader and have a record to be very proud of. Just touching on what the hon. Lady said about tidal, yes of course we have huge tidal races in this country, including in Scotland and in Portland off the coast of South Dorset in my constituency. If we can explore this and harness it to make it work—there are major technical issues, not least with sand and with salt water, which is very destructive—then she is absolutely right, it is a way of generating energy that I am sure everyone would support.

I have heard from several speakers today about the instability of the world we live in. That is very true and I do not have to rehearse why I feel that in my lifetime we are facing the most dangerous times on our planet. If we do not have the power to drive our economy and our homes, it would be strategically—quite apart from anything else—insane. We are an island nation, and I do not have to remind anyone in this House how significant energy independence is going to be in the event of a catastrophe. Here we have a Bill that will allow companies to apply for licences to safeguard domestic energy supplies. The Bill says that this will safeguard more than 200,000 jobs, enhance our security, reduce dependence on higher-emission imports from overseas and significantly prevent families and businesses from being unduly burdened, which to a certain degree they already are through the green taxes that everyone faces. So what’s not to like, you may ask—

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Ceidwadwyr, Wyre Forest

I am very convinced by the arguments that my hon. Friend is putting forward, but he has missed one useful point. Does he not agree that the generation of oil and gas in the North sea will generate tax receipts that can then be used to subsidise green energy production in other parts of the British economy?

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Ceidwadwyr, South Dorset

That point has been raised several times, and I totally agree that the tax receipts from investment in oil and gas play a huge part in our economy.

I might have this wrong, but as I understand it these companies will face 50% corporation tax and a 35% windfall levy. I would be grateful if, in his summing up, the Minister could say whether that is true. I am not an expert in the industry, but I think that chief executives, board members and shareholders would wince if, having been told that they have to do all this, they have to pay all that punitive taxation. They might say, “Why on earth should we do this in the first place?”

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Ceidwadwyr, Banff and Buchan

Not to step on the Minister’s toes, but my understanding is that even before the 35% energy profits levy, the oil and gas sector was, at 40%, already the most taxed sector in the country—40% plus 35% is 75%. I stand to be corrected by the Minister if I am wrong.

Photo of Richard Drax Richard Drax Ceidwadwyr, South Dorset

I hope my hon. Friend and I can be corrected by the Minister because, as the House has just heard, the tax rates are punitive. If we are going to do this for all the common-sense reasons that the Minister and the Government say we should, why on earth are we raising taxes to such a point that it discourages and disincentivises all those who need to spend hundreds of millions of pounds, or more, to get the oil and gas out of the ground?

The powerful Climate Change Committee, which operates outside this place, is mentioned occasionally but, frankly, it is pretty unaccountable. It is very influential, and it has now set our fourth carbon budget, which can be legally challenged once it is in place. I wonder whether the Government fear that they could find themselves in the courts as they rightfully plough on with this Bill, to which many people object.

It shocks me to the core that it has taken a war in Europe for the west to prioritise both energy and food security. For how many decades have we been talking about nuclear power, and what has happened? Very little. Nuclear will be a vital component of keeping the lights on and keeping this country safe. Globalisation has softened our resolve to stand alone, if need be, when hard times hit, in whatever shape they come. The Bill has a lot going for it, not least a most welcome return to our old and absent friend: common sense.

I urge the Government to find pragmatic solutions to the transition to net zero and allow the private sector to do what it does best, which is provide jobs and prosperity, not least in Scotland. The search for alternatives to fossil fuels will continue and, as we have heard, the tax receipts will be used to invest in green energy. I have no doubt at all that an affordable, reliable and plentiful solution will be found—the human race has a remarkable ability to survive—but, in the meantime, will the Government continue to work in the real world to keep the lights on, the economy running and the country strategically safe?

Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Shadow Minister (Education) 7:33, 22 Ionawr 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Richard Drax.

The irony will not be lost on you of all people, Mr Deputy Speaker, that we are reduced in number in Parliament today by the impact of Storm Isha, the origins of which lie in climate change, yet we are debating the Government’s desire to increase the global supply of oil and gas. It is also damning that the Government’s net zero tsar, Chris Skidmore, felt compelled to resign, having spent three months researching his report and travelling the length and breadth of these isles. He said that he could

“no longer condone nor continue to support a government that is committed to a course of action that I know…will cause future harm.”

To pick up the point made by the hon. Member for South Dorset, 10 years ago, when I was a councillor, I was talking about how we needed to create energy resilience in Warwickshire, how we needed to consider the future needs of our communities and how we could best use our pension funds to help to drive that agenda.

The Government claim that the Bill will not add undue burdens on households. “Undue burdens” is a pretty strange phrase. The Secretary of State has also admitted that new licences will not necessarily bring down energy bills. Let me put that into context. This is the same Conservative Government who ripped up the zero carbon homes policy announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2006 and produced by my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn and my hon. Friend Dame Nia Griffith.

That legislation would have meant that all new homes built from 2016 onwards were zero carbon. Just imagine: we would have built 1.2 million zero-carbon homes by now. There would be thousands of new zero-carbon homes in my Warwick and Leamington constituency on the Mallory Grange, Priors, Montague Point, Myton Gardens, Chesterton Gardens and Victoria Point estates, and many others. My constituents would be benefiting from next to no energy bills, and they would be doing the right thing, but they were denied that choice by the Conservative Government who ripped up that legislation.

The next generation will not thank this Government for what they have done. They will not be thankful for one of the highest levels of debt we have ever seen, the greatest tax burden since the war, the stagnant economy and, I dare say, the moral bankruptcy of this Government.

We have had nine named storms so far this year, with the 10th coming down the track. We had just 11 named storms in 2015-16. The flooding is reaching into all corners of the United Kingdom, creating economic damage, damage to people’s homes and businesses, and distress to all. There has been damage to infrastructure, crops and food production. Waterlogged soil means that seeds and crops cannot be harvested.

A report from Ernst & Young says that last year was the worst year for insurance underwriting in decades, pushing up premiums by at least one third in the next two years—an expected increase of 36%. Amanda Blanc, the chief executive of Aviva, has said that new oil and gas drilling

“puts at clear risk the jobs, growth and the additional investment the UK requires to become more climate ready.”

Today, the country is plunging further into chaos and economic damage. Our transport is disrupted and our businesses are impacted. Colleagues have been unable to get to London to attend Parliament. Two weeks ago I requested a debate on floods and flooding and, on my journey home, my train was delayed by a landslip caused by climate change—yet more irony. We need a wider debate on the impacts of climate change, which is causing not just floods but tidal surges and strong winds.

The Prime Minister speaks of climate “zealots”. Well, the public, and young people especially, must be climate zealots because, I am afraid, they are deeply concerned. They are not zealots. They are realists about the future we face. On my recent visits, nearly every primary school—St Margaret’s, All Saints, St Paul’s, Heathcote, Woodloes, St Peter’s, Coten End and Bishop’s Tachbrook; I could name them all—has raised the critical importance of climate change and how they want us in this place to bring about immediate action.

The young people studying in our colleges understand the future. They can see what is happening, and they have said to me, “The future is electric. That’s why we are training for these skills.” They get it; they can see the future.

We know that 2023 was the world’s hottest on record. Last year was about 1.48°C warmer than the long-term average before humans started burning large amounts of fossil fuels. The eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2014. The global average sea level has risen by 8 to 9 inches. Flooding across the UK, including in my constituency, has damaged 2,000 properties across the country, and 5.7 million properties were at risk of flooding in England in 2022-23. Those facts underline just how irresponsible this Bill is.

We are 18 years on from the Stern report and “An Inconvenient Truth”, which was told like never before by Vice-President Al Gore. Two years ago, the report by the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee said that the best way to ease consumers’ pain from high energy prices was to stop using fossil fuels, rather than drill for more of them. That is part of the great deception that is this legislation: the best way to bring down prices is to reduce demand and the Government are doing next to nothing on that. We also need to bring in cheaper energy sources and to reduce demand by insulating homes. We can put in energy insulation panels that are really not very thick.

The approach being taken in this legislation is a crime and an obscenity, and it is happening because the Government tore up the legislation of the last Labour Government. We need to bring in cheaper energy sources by allowing onshore wind, which is currently the cheapest form of electricity generation. In the 12 months to the end of September 2023, total consumer expenditure on electricity, gas and other fuels used in the home was £62 billion, a figure almost double that of two years before. As my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband said,

“it is precisely our dependence on fossil fuels that has led to the worst cost of living crisis in generations.”

It was clear from the King’s Speech that this Bill will not take even a penny off energy bills. Lord Browne, of all people, the former chief executive of BP—he is also a highly regarded individual across the industry and in the other place, where he is a Cross-Bench peer—said that the proposals are

“not going to make any difference” to the UK’s energy security. That point was echoed by the former Prime Minister, Mrs May.

In conclusion, energy security has to start at home, but not the home of the international oil and gas majors and their market preferences, and instead the homes of the British people—homes that are better insulated and that can generate and store their own electricity and power. The only thing holding back the British people is this Government, who are weak and capable only of short-term decisions. That is why the country needs Labour’s clean power mission: to make the UK a clean energy superpower.

We have a plan to make energy cheap and secure so that the British public never again face spiralling bills. It is a plan to boost jobs and investment in every region and nation of the country. It is a plan to cut energy bills for good, taking up to £1,400 off annual household bills; to create good jobs by rebuilding the strength of our industrial heartlands and coastal communities, creating more than 1 million jobs in 10 years; and to deliver energy security by using our abundant natural resources for our own citizens. We will do that by establishing “GB Energy”, a new home-grown publicly owned champion in clean energy generation to build jobs and supply chains here at home.

We will also set up the national wealth fund, which will create good, well-paying jobs by investing, alongside the private sector, in gigafactories, clean steel plants, renewable-ready ports, green hydrogen and energy storage. We will also do this through a warm homes plan. The Bill is yet another reason why this country is desperate for a general election and I will be voting against it.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit) 7:43, 22 Ionawr 2024

I welcome the fact that the Government have introduced this Bill, even though it may well be a belated acceptance that some policies they had been following in pursuit of net zero had to be revised. We know that because of the energy security issues and the dramatic rise in the cost of energy in response to the fall in supply resulting from the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed in Russia, as well as the impact on the supply chain after covid, the supply of energy, especially oil and gas, to an economy that still depends heavily on those kinds of sources is very important. Let us not pretend that we are on the verge of not having to use oil and gas any longer, because 75% of our energy comes from oil and gas, and 5% comes from renewables. Even those who want us to rush headlong towards net zero, such as those in the Climate Change Committee, accept that we are still going to have to use fossil fuels well into the next decade and for decades after. Therefore, it is important that we examine how we generate those resources.

The Bill is also an acceptance by the Government—or there should now be an acceptance—that as we have pursued the net zero agenda we have been putting people’s jobs at risk. We have seen that just in the past week, with 3,000 jobs going in south Wales. Most of the energy-intensive industries in this country have been decimated. We proudly beat our chests and say, “We have reduced our carbon emissions,” but if we are honest with ourselves, we will see that all we have done is steal jobs from this country and move production for vital materials overseas, to a place where environmental and work standards, and standards on pollution, are far lower than ours in this country. So I welcome the fact that the Government are belatedly looking again at some of the policies they were pursuing.

I do not know whether the Bill will increase the number of licence applications that are made. It may well be that since the processes are already there, it will be as easy as it has been in the past for companies to make an application, but at least this signals to companies that have reduced their investment in these vital industries that they can, at least with this policy, have some more confidence when they make investment decisions. However, I doubt very much, given the Labour party’s attitude and the fact that we are in a general election year, that that confidence will be engendered as much as the Government hope it will be.

I do not want to go through all of the arguments that have been made, including on the balance of payments. As a result of the natural decline in the North sea and the fact that we have also discouraged investment, between 2019 and 2023 we have doubled the value of energy imports per household into the UK, from £2,100 per household in 2019 to £4,200 per household in 2023. We cannot ignore the impact that that has on the balance of payments or security of supply, because those imports are coming from countries that are sometimes less stable than we need them to be for energy, which is such a vital resource. The Labour amendment states that this policy

“will ensure the UK remains at the mercy of petrostates and dictators who control fossil fuel markets”.

Where is the logic in that?

For example, if we do not get it from the North sea, we will get it from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and many other countries that use oil as a political weapon, and that are not always well disposed towards us. By diminishing our dependence on the oil and gas we can extract from our own territory, we put ourselves at the mercy of those who politicise one of our energy resources. We have to be cognisant of that.

The second reason is that we have 200,000 jobs in the sector across the United Kingdom, including, strangely enough, 90,000 jobs in Scotland, which the SNP appears to be quite happy to sacrifice. We have sacrificed jobs in many energy-intensive industries already. Are we now going to sacrifice these often well-paid jobs and say that there will be a just transition? Many times in this House I have heard the argument that, “Oh, all these people who are employed in the oil and gas industry will go into renewables.” Well, let us look that.

The Government tell us that we have had a huge increase in renewable production. Has it resulted in jobs for workers in the United Kingdom? [Hon. Members: “Yes!”] No, of course it has not. Where are the windmills made? Where is the steel for the windmills made? Not in Port Talbot, and the steel that is still made there will not be made there for very much longer. Boats bring it half way around the world from countries that make it cheaply, because they use the cheapest form of energy.

The idea that we would suddenly have all these people employed in the manufacture, installation and maintenance of solar panels and windmills, EV battery factories all over the place, and graduates employed in finance and everything else for the offshore industry has not happened. The just transition is not going to occur. Why would we transition when there is still a resource to be exploited by the people who have the skills to do that, and for the benefit of the country?

The third argument I wish to make in favour of the Bill is its necessity. Some 84% of our domestic heating is currently provided by gas, with 5% from oil; some 97% of our travel is driven by fossil fuels; and some 40% of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels. That will continue into the future. Quite frankly, I doubt whether the arguments we have heard about us having to be a global leader in getting to net zero ring true with ordinary people who want to heat their houses efficiently, cheaply and securely; drive their cars; get on buses, trains and aeroplanes, or however they decide to travel; or ensure that electricity can be supplied.

We might fool ourselves that we are global leaders, but the truth is that we produce 1% of global emissions. Other countries that, quite rightly, want to industrialise do not heed us. They are going for the cheapest form of energy available to them. In some countries in Africa, for example, 85% of people are not even connected to an electricity grid and they do not have the benefits we have, such as turning on a light at night or having a fridge to keep their food fresh and stop it from deteriorating in the heat. It is a bit arrogant of people in the House to say, “And by the way, you might have plenty of coal and oil, but we don’t want you to use it. We don’t want you to have the benefit of the cheap energy that gave us our prosperity.”

Cheap energy is the grounds of economic growth. I can understand why people do not follow our lead and do their own thing. The idea that because we pass the Bill the whole world will say, “Oh, this is terrible. Britain is no longer committed to net zero and we are now going to do our own thing.” They are doing their own thing anyway. The question many people in the United Kingdom have is what their Government are doing to maintain their standard of living—the idea of global leadership is not at the forefront of their thinking.

I have some reservations about the Bill. The first, as Richard Drax said, is the question of whether the Bill is designed to engender confidence. Many companies looking at whether they should put money into applying for licenses and exploring for oil will wonder whether they will find their way blocked, even with the legislation. They will be asking themselves whether their economic opportunities will be blocked by judicial review, and by people who simply say, “The UK’s target for global emissions was going to be met, in part, by reducing oil production in our own country, and as a result of the Bill and granting licenses, the targets will be missed and we will judicially review it.” I doubt very much that the Bill will engender the confidence the Minister is hoping it will if there is likely to be a judicial review, or if there is a path open and the basis upon which to make a judicial review.

Secondly, as hon. Members have argued, if we are going to exploit the oil we have and benefit from it, then it is better to keep it in our own country and ensure that it is used in our own country. Some 88% of the gas we extract is used in the UK because we have the network for it to feed into, so it can be used and sold in the UK. Kenny MacAskill raised the issue of Grangemouth, which is not the only example of the fact that we do not invest in facilities for refining oil in the United Kingdom. Why not? Because oil refining is an oil-intensive industry, so given all the carbon taxes and the barriers put in the way of carbon-intensive industries, no investment is taking place, or has taken place for decades. So what do we do? We extract it and send it elsewhere. We bring it back, most often, but would it not be of benefit to ensure that it stays in the United Kingdom because we have the facilities for processing it here?

My final reservation is that when those who might form the next Government of the United Kingdom are determined to undo all this legislation, how will that engender confidence? I know that I am probably in a minority when it comes to the debate, but there is a debate to be had with the ideologues who are driving a policy that most people in this House can well afford. People may say that the cost of energy will not go up as a result of renewables, but just this week the chief executive of Siemens, the biggest producer of electricity from wind in the United Kingdom, said that higher bills are inevitable as we grapple with the huge costs of generating wind power because of inflation and the cost of maintenance, faults and breakdowns. He said:

“Every transformation comes at a cost and every transformation is painful. And that’s something which the energy industry and the public sector—governments—don’t really want to hear.”

Unfortunately, that is the battle that we face. There are those in this House who are wedded to an ideology and will drive it through regardless of the impact that it has on our constituents. How many crocodile tears have been cried by Members in this House when they see people lose their jobs in energy-intensive industries and then, in the next breath, say that the Government are not going hard enough to reach net zero? There is a divide between those who are driven by this ideology and the ordinary people in the country who live with the consequences of it. If this Bill is at least a start in trying to redress that imbalance then I welcome it.

Photo of Nadia Whittome Nadia Whittome Llafur, Nottingham East 8:00, 22 Ionawr 2024

Just last month, COP28 made history by acknowledging for the first time the need to transition away from fossil fuels. It should not have taken 28 COPs to accept what scientists have known for decades. Despite all the vested interests at play, the efforts of hundreds of lobbyists, and the huge sums poured into preventing climate action, the truth became impossible to ignore. The effects of climate chaos are now in plain sight: 10 of the hottest years on record, as mentioned previously in this debate, all happened in the past decade, and the speed of change is only increasing. To avert catastrophe, we must work now towards a fossil-free future.

Why do our Government insist on keeping us in the past and trying to build our recovery on a resource that the world has formally committed to moving away from? The Government claim that it is about lowering household bills, but even the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero has admitted that it will not do that. The energy generated from new oil and gas would not belong to the British people, powering our homes for cheap, it would be in the hands of private companies and sold on the global market for internationally set prices. It would be owned by those same energy companies that have already made record-breaking profits in the cost of living crisis, while 13 million households sat in the cold last winter, too scared to turn on the heating.

Madam Deputy Speaker, those corporations do not need any more state handouts. If the Government really cared about energy bills, they would be funding a mass programme of insulating homes, which the Tories slashed support for in 2013. If they cared about securing our future, they would be focusing on investing in publicly owned home-grown renewables, which have never been cheaper. They would be delivering a green new deal to protect our living standards and our planet for decades to come. Therefore, if not to lower our bills now, to ensure energy security in the future, and to enable a green transition, why are the Government pushing through this dangerous and unpopular Bill? Is it just to annoy environmentalists and turn climate policies into a wedge issue? Or could it have anything to do with the fact that the Conservatives have taken £3.5 million in a year from big polluters, climate deniers and fossil fuel interests?

Madam Deputy Speaker, when justifying this act of climate vandalism, the Government like to reference the Climate Change Committee. Unfortunately, though, they have misrepresented the advice of that Committee to the point that its chair, Piers Forster, has been forced to speak out. In response to the Government’s false claims, he said:

“UK oil and gas consumption needs to fall by over 80% to meet UK targets. This and the COP… decision…makes further licensing inconsistent with climate goals.”

It is not only embarrassing, but deeply concerning that, on an issue as important as the future of our planet, the Government are either unable or unwilling to understand expert advice. It is not just the Climate Change Committee that has warned against new fossil fuels, so, too, has the UN Secretary-General. [Interruption.] Conservative Members would do well to listen to this. He called on all nations to

“cease all licensing or funding of new oil and gas.”

In addition, the International Institute for Sustainable Development has said that “no new oil and gas development is possible if the world is to stay within the Paris agreement temperature limit.”

The director of the International Energy Agency said:

“If Governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investment in oil, gas and coal”.

Moreover, more than 700 scientists wrote to the Prime Minister last year, asking him to halt the licensing.

Should we be taking advice from hundreds of leading climate experts or from lobbyists for fossil fuel industries? The Bill in front of us will not solve any of our problems. It will just contribute to wrecking the planet and undermine our climate creditability on the international stage. For the sake of our futures and our planet, I urge the House to vote down this dangerous Bill.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 8:05, 22 Ionawr 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Nadia Whittome. It was slightly less of a pleasure to listen to Sammy Wilson; I want to say a few words about the case that he made. It reaches new depths to suggest that the poorest people in the country will somehow be better off if we continue exploiting more oil and gas when clearly new and existing oil and gas are so expensive. He cited a comment by Siemens about the expensiveness of renewables, but that is precisely because they are linked to the price of gas. That is why we need to reform the totally out of date electricity and gas system that we have in this country.

It tells us all we need to know about this cynical and failing Government that the legislation they chose to debate first in 2024 was a Bill to mandate the annual licensing of oil and gas products in the North sea; not legislation that rises to the immediate challenges that we face as a society—from the cost of living scandal, which sees families unable to meet their basic needs, to the planetary emergency rapidly unfolding before our eyes—but instead a Bill that is frankly no more than a political stunt at home, yet at the same time a very dangerous signal to other countries abroad of a UK doubling down on the fossil fuel economy.

The reality, as many have said, is that the Bill is entirely redundant, with even the North Sea Transition Authority expressing its “unanimous” view that it is not needed. As the Minister knows perfectly well, there have been annual licensing rounds for most of the past decade, driven by the frankly obscene duty to maximise the economic recovery of UK petroleum. Despite the hundreds of licences that have been issued in that time, a paltry 16 days’ worth of gas has been produced. As others have said, it has been estimated that, between now and 2050, new licences would provide the equivalent of just four days’ worth of gas each year, so it is hardly the energy security that we have been promised and that we have heard so much about from the Conservative Benches over the past three or four hours. Of course, any oil and gas, which is extracted, will be owned by companies and sold on the international market to the highest bidder—unless the Government, unbeknown to us, have in mind the renationalisation of energy, which would be a very interesting conversation to have, but when I last checked, that was not their policy.

This oil and gas in the North sea does not belong to the Government and it will not bring down bills. Let us not forget either that 80% of UK oil is currently exported, as was the equivalent of more than 60% of gross gas production last year.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. One such example is Gazprom International UK, which continued to produce gas from the North sea last year. This subsidiary company paid a €1.7 million dividend in June 2023. Does she not think it hypocritical of this Conservative Government to talk about this Bill in terms of national security, while, simultaneously, allowing a Russian energy giant to extract gas from the North sea and pay taxes in Moscow?

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

I thank the hon. Member for his point and it is incredibly well made. I shall say a little more on that subject very shortly.

Essentially, this Bill is nothing more than reckless political theatre. It is nothing more than a cynical attempt to stoke yet more division and weaponise much-needed climate action in some misguided sense that, somehow, this will save the Prime Minister’s skin.

While the Bill serves at home to highlight the impotence of the Government, sadly its international impact is far-reaching. Despite the Prime Minister’s fairly evidence-free claim at COP28 that the UK is leading by example, the reality is that creating a climate culture war, scrapping vital policies and issuing new fossil fuel licences is the very opposite of climate leadership. The Bill sends a dangerous signal and undermines global efforts to address the climate emergency by hampering diplomacy and legitimising extraction in other countries. As Lord Deben, former chair of the Climate Change Committee, said:

“How can we ask other nations not to expand the fossil fuel production if we start doing it ourselves?”

It is frankly a scandal that the UK is among just five countries in the global north that are responsible for more than half the planned expansion of new oil and gas fields up to 2050.

While Ministers like to claim that, even with continued licensing, production from the UK continental shelf is projected to decline at 7% annually, what matters is not whether we are producing less relative to some previous time but whether the oil and gas that we are producing now is compatible with our climate goals. Clearly it is not, with the UN production gap report warning that Governments already plan to produce far more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with limiting heating to 1.5°. The Government’s defence of the Bill, and of the continued licensing of more oil and gas in the North sea as a whole, implies that somehow the UK operates in a vacuum, and domestic decisions have no bearing on our ability to meet our international climate targets. That clearly is not the case. It is no surprise, then, that Professor Piers Forster, the interim chair of the Climate Change Committee, has said:

“UK oil and gas consumption needs to fall by over 80% to meet UK targets. This and Cop decision makes further licensing inconsistent with climate goals.”

When talking about inconsistency with our climate goals, we could also talk about hypocrisy. Since a climate emergency was declared in this very Chamber in 2019, no fewer than 17 new fields have been approved: Laverda, Barnacle, Cadet, Sillimanite, Blythe, Elgood, Southwark, Evelyn, Abigail, Jackdaw, Tommeliten, Talbot, Teal West, Murlach, Alwyn East, Rosebank, and most recently Victory. Mentioning Rosebank gives me an opportunity to come back to an issue that has been touched on a few times tonight: the scale of fossil fuel subsidies. We have heard a load of guff from Conservative Members about the importance of tax revenues from oil and gas, yet look at the amount of money we are giving to the oil and gas industry. Richard Foord spoke about tax revenues going to Russia. We could also point out that the UK taxpayer will hand over no less than the equivalent of £3.75 billion to Equinor to develop the Rosebank site, because of the massive loophole in the windfall tax that means that for every £100 invested, £91.40 can be claimed back. A bit of clarity on these issues would help.

Section 20 of the Environment Act 2021 requires that a statement be made on the front of the Bill saying whether it is in line with other environmental laws. The Secretary of State claims in her statement that

“the Bill will not have the effect of reducing the level of environmental protection provided for by any existing environmental law.”

To me, that seems extraordinary because, even if one believed that the carbon intensity test would make a difference, the annual licensing rounds under the Bill could easily cancel out any predicted carbon savings and lead to an overall increase in emissions. I hope that she will tell us what modelling was undertaken to inform her section 20 statement.

Looking at its content more closely, the Bill proposes two so-called tests, which are set so ludicrously low they are impossible to fail. The first is the carbon intensity test, which is met if the carbon intensity of domestically produced gas is lower than that of imported liquefied natural gas. That test not only ignores the fact that more than half our gas imports come from Norway—via a pipeline, as we have established—where gas production is half as polluting as in the UK, but in only considering gas, it fails to take account of the fact that 70% of remaining North sea oil reserves are oil. In any case, comparing the carbon intensity at the point of production rather than combustion exaggerates the difference between different sources, given that the vast majority of emissions are produced when any oil or gas is burned. In other words, they are scope 3 emissions, which remain unaccounted for. The second test is the net importer test, which will be met if the amount of oil and gas produced in the UK is less than the UK’s demand for oil and gas. Surely that question would be much better addressed by reducing demand rather than producing more planet-heating oil and gas, yet the Government seem incapable of pursuing demand reduction in any meaningful way.

What should the Government do instead? If they were actually interested in cutting household bills and delivering energy security, they would be working to get us off expensive gas for good, rather than continuing to tether us to volatile international markets. The National Infrastructure Commission has been really clear:

“Reliance on fossil fuels means exposure to geopolitical shocks that impact the price of these internationally traded commodities.”

In its 2022 energy outlook report, the IEA reported that a higher share of renewables correlated with lower electricity prices in response to the energy crisis, with energy efficiency and heat electrification providing an important buffer for households. At a time when, as we have heard, 6 million families in the UK are living in fuel poverty this winter, we have to ask why the Government are doubling down on the very thing at the heart of the crisis.

The Government should instead be delivering a meaningful just transition that genuinely meets the needs of workers and communities, rather than temporarily propping up insecure jobs that we know will not exist in years to come. We have heard the rhetoric from Conservative Members pretending that those of us who want to accelerate a transition to a greener economy do not have people’s jobs in mind. That is totally untrue; it is precisely because we care about people’s jobs that we want them to have sustainable jobs into the future—good-quality, decent jobs—and are not pretending that draining resources in the North sea will somehow provide a sustainable livelihood in years to come.

There should be a massive scaling-up of renewables, and we should back cheap and abundant energy sources such as onshore wind, for which a grand total of zero applications have been submitted since planning rules were changed in September. There should be a nationwide, street-by-street energy efficiency programme to ensure that families have warm homes for the long term, rather than scrapping the upgrade in standards of private rented homes, which according to the Climate Change Committee could have saved tenants £250 a year, even at so-called normal prices let alone at a time when prices are spiralling. Again, what an indictment of the Government. Remember the green deal back in 2012? The Government set the interest rate so ridiculously high, as we all said at the time, that unsurprisingly the whole plan collapsed. Those homes were not insulated and plenty of energy companies, including in my constituency, went bust as a result. The Government are incompetent as well as totally ideologically driven.

The Government should be properly taxing the filthy profits of oil and gas companies rather than foisting the cost of new developments on to the taxpayer, and they should urgently withdraw from the dangerous energy charter treaty, which—it beggars belief—allows us to be sued by fossil fuel companies. A fairer and greener energy system is entirely possible, but it requires both imagination and investment—two qualities that I do not associate with the Government. The legislation makes it painfully clear that the Government are wilfully ignoring the lessons of both the climate and the energy crises, and are once again privileging their own interests above the wellbeing of people and planet. The Bill sends exactly the wrong signal at the wrong time, and actively undermines global efforts to address the climate emergency by hampering diplomacy and giving the green light to further extraction right around the world. It is not what leadership looks like, it is not what this moment demands, and all our constituents deserve better.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 8:18, 22 Ionawr 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Caroline Lucas. While we do not always agree on everything, there are many things that we do agree on. I, too, would like to see the mass scale-up of renewables, but I also want to be pragmatic about where we are, some of things that we need to do, and what the Bill does.

The issue of energy is one that impacts every person in the UK, from the one-bed flat owner to the 200-bed hotel owner. The ability to secure safe and reliable energy is essential, and spiralling costs are having an effect on the day-to-day lives of people throughout the UK.

I think it is important that I make this point and perhaps explain where I am personally on the matter. I grew up, and others in the House are probably the same, in an age of throwing another jumper on. My children used to laugh at the stories I told them of how cold it had to be before the heating was turned on. For us today, it is no longer a laughing matter for many people. My researcher, who owns a modest home, had to put more than £250 of gas into her home in December. She was at home during term-time with the children. She tells me that the gas was not even running constantly; it was turned off whenever she went to visit her parents or her husband’s parents or went out. I thought of how much more a wee—I use that word often in the House as a descriptor—widowed pensioner would be paying in their home when they are there almost all day, every day. That figure is not one that their pension and a single winter fuel payment could cover. There are only so many jumpers that someone can put on, and a jumper does not help with a damp wall.

It is clear that the cost of energy dictates what steps we take to secure the current energy supply, while also striding for new alternative renewable energy sources. As many in this place will have heard me say on numerous occasions, tidal energy in Strangford lough and other such areas needs a great deal of funding. The pilot scheme worked, but it was at the wrong time because the cost of the energy that it produced was not financially feasible, but it would be now. If we can harness that power, which is as reliable as the sun rising in the morning, we are on to a winner. However, I understand that that is not the point of today’s debate and will leave it at that.

The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero is in her place, and I know the Government have taken giant steps to meet the net zero targets and have committed themselves to green energy. I wish to put on the record that I am committed to the same targets as well, but we need to strike a balance. The balance that I put forward to the House—and I wish to make a declaration—is from my point of view as a farmer. We own land. My neighbours are all dairy men or farmers of beef, cattle and sheep. They are willing to commit themselves to the net zero targets because they see that net zero is something that must be done. As part of that target, they must reduce the number of their animals. That is not possible to do while continuing to have a feasible and financially viable farm. There are other things that the farmers wish to do.

In the countryside where I live there are not enough electric vehicle points, so people do not buy an electric or hybrid car, probably because all the EV points are up in Newtownards. I drive a diesel vehicle—have done all my days and, if I am spared, will probably continue to do so because I believe that it is a choice. It is a choice we may not wish to make every time, but is one that we have to make because electric cars are just not feasible because the EV points are just not there.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the National Farmers Union has been positive on many of these issues? Does he agree with what it says about hydrogen being a source of sustainable power in the future, and that it is coming soon?

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

I thank my hon. Friend—I call him that because I have great respect for him—and agree wholeheartedly with what he has just said. The farming community, the NFU and the Ulster Farmers’ Union are clearly committed to the targets. They are committed to looking at the alternatives, but the alternatives have to be practical. The point I am trying to make is that it is about where things are practical.

There is no doubt that to meet not just our net zero target but, more importantly, our environmental obligations, we need to do a better job of accessing and using renewable energy fuels. However, the fact is we will simply not be there any time soon and, in the meantime, it is vital that we secure safety and security for our constituents. I support the aims of the Bill, which would enhance the procedures currently in place, and note that no financial hardship should be passed on through the Bill. That is vital as I know that households are struggling with the current pressures. No longer is it a matter simply for households in poverty, working families with decent wages are being affected.

It is a transition. It is about meeting our net zero targets and increasing green energy and renewables, which my hon. Friend Caroline Lucas referred to. At the same time, the Bill gives us the opportunity to progress those renewables in a way that is positive in the short term.

The Library briefing makes it clear that licensing rounds are run when the NSTA decides they are necessary. However, it should be highlighted that they have been held broadly on an annual basis up to the 32nd licensing round, which opened in 2019. The latest—33rd—licensing round was launched in October 2022, following the introduction of a climate compatibility checkpoint in September 2022. In October 2023, 27 new licences were awarded as part of that licensing round. That is not onerous, but it is necessary not just to safeguard our industry by enhancing investor and industry confidence, as the Government have highlighted, but to ensure that we do not see families scraping pennies together to afford heat.

My contribution to the debate is clearly for those who are in energy difficulties. Today, the papers referred to food bank referrals being up some 30%. The food bank in my constituency of Strangford in my major town of Newtownards saw a 30% increase in referrals over December and early January from people who are middle class who are finding it difficult to deal with energy prices.

I know of several young families who usually enjoy a few days away when the kids are off at Christmas, and they told me that they were just not able to do it this year. People may say, “For goodness sake, they can’t go on holiday…” I am not saying that because it is their right to have that break, but I am highlighting the knock-on effect for families of increased prices is that they cannot afford to sow into the local economy in the way they used to. That means the little 20-bed hotel they usually visit does not get their business. The knock-on effect is that they do not hire the cleaner for as many hours. Her income drops, and she cannot spend the way she usually does, so the knock-on effects continue.

We need the people who spend locally to do so, and for them to do that, energy bills need to be manageable. We are failing when it comes to energy provision. If the Bill helps safeguard our provision as we continue to find better ways to source reliable renewable energy, I support that. When the Minister or Secretary of State sums up, if they could give us that reassurance, I would be a whole lot happier about this debate. Of course, we need to explore tidal energy, but safeguarding domestic production can go hand in hand with that. Indeed, it must do so. I am committed to renewables, green energy possibilities and net zero targets because the farming community that I live in want to commit themselves to that as well.

I support our families, our vulnerable, ill and elderly, and those living in cold, damp homes because they cannot afford to do otherwise. Therefore, at this stage, I support the Bill on behalf of all those struggling to heat their homes and keep their families warm. We must commit ourselves to more renewables and ensure that the renewables percentage rises. If it rises, we can reduce gas and petroleum usage. By doing so, we can balance the process. That is what I am hoping for from the Minister’s reply; I hope we can deliver that.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Before I call the shadow Minister, I want to emphasise again, and I will do so when he has finished, how important it is for those who have contributed to the debate to be here for the wind-ups. I call the shadow Minister.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero) 8:28, 22 Ionawr 2024

We have had an excellent and pointed debate this evening. Certainly, Opposition Members have together pointed out the deficiencies in the Bill, pointed out what a specious and potentially damaging Bill it is and, indeed, questioned why the Bill was brought to the House in the first place. All that is what I very much want to do.

My hon. Friend Sarah Champion called this Bill “illogical and damaging” and pointed out that it could put marine protected areas at risk. My hon. Friend Dame Nia Griffith pointed out that it makes us look ridiculous on the world stage. My hon. Friend Barry Gardiner pointed out that the Bill itself was based on a series of lies and, indeed, quoted the UN Secretary-General stating that “the truly dangerous radicals” are the countries that are increasing their oil and gas output.

My hon. Friend Zarah Sultana pointed out strongly that this Bill, contrary to its claims, is not about energy security. My hon. Friend Matt Western, who reminded us of the real effects of climate change right now, pointed out that the future is largely electric and this Bill is a “great deception”. Wera Hobhouse called it stupid, unnecessary and dangerous—she did not mince her words very much. My hon. Friend Nadia Whittome laid many of the myths of the Bill to rest and questioned why the Government are pushing it in the first place. Caroline Lucas pointed out the “political theatre” behind the Bill and why it is completely incompatible with our climate change commitments.

This really is a reprehensible Bill. It is a Bill based on a number of myths and, frankly, lies, which require people to believe that there are people around really saying that oil and gas is going to be stopped immediately and will not continue to play a substantial role, as it will in the energy economy up to 2050. No one is saying that oil and gas will not continue up to a period of time and no one is saying that the existing fields in the UK will not continue to produce and contribute their products in the future. There will be jobs in that continuing North sea oil operation.

However, this is a one-clause Bill with effectively two sections in it. The first section ostentatiously requires the Oil and Gas Authority to do what it is already doing; indeed, both Dave Doogan and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion reminded us that the Oil and Gas Authority has been carrying out regular licensing rounds every 18 months since 2016. It is required to do so because it is bound by the maximum economic extraction requirement. All that is already in legislation and the Oil and Gas Authority is already doing it.

The second section sets out an entirely bogus climate test, which by definition cannot be failed. That is achieved by skewing the test conditions to test UK gas production emissions only against aggregate liquefied natural gas imports, which are overall likely to be dirtier in production than UK gas, and not against pipeline-delivered gas that, in the case of our main importer Norway, is half as dirty in production as gas in the UK.

There is no emissions test for oil, despite its constituting 70% of North sea fossil reserves—80% of which, as we have heard, is shipped and refined overseas. For oil there is a “net importer” test, which requires the OGA to issue licences if the demand for oil and gas products in the UK is greater than the production—when that has been the case in the North sea for 20 years, with no prospect of reversal. It is a Bill built on completely bogus premises.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The hon. Gentleman is talking about bogus premises, but he just suggested that we could get more pipeline gas from Norway. Does he not recognise that if we do not produce as much gas here, it will not be gas from Norway that we can access but will inevitably be LNG with higher emissions? Will he please, for the benefit of the House, step up and be honest? We do not have the option to get massively more gas from Norway—if we did, we would have done it already.

Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Climate Change and Net Zero)

I think I am going to get injury time for that intervention. If the Minister had been listening to what I was saying, he would know that I was stating that the Bill, in a very bogus way, has deliberately sidestepped the fact that there is gas available for import that is much cleaner than ours in its production. We should use that as a test, but the only test carried out was on LNG which, conveniently, is a little bit dirtier than the gas we produce in this country.

The Bill is about not what it says as much as what it does. As the former Energy Minister and author of the Government net zero report, the former right hon. Member for Kingswood, said recently, the Bill goes against everything the UK is saying internationally about moving away from oil and gas, and it has already damaged our international stance by appearing to double down on precisely the thing to which we are saying the opposite on the world stage. Sir Alok Sharma, the former president of Glasgow COP, said in a courageous and precise speech this evening that the Bill puts into legislation something that already happens under the agency of the OGA. He also stated that its sole purpose is to double down on more oil and that nations around the world will not take that very kindly as far as our commitments are concerned.

The OGA itself emphasised that the Bill was “not necessary”, but

“would significantly challenge one of the tenets of independence for the NSTA, to decide when to run a licensing round.”

Whatever the position in the North sea objectively, the OGA would be forced to scrape up at least a licence a year forever. We know the claim that that would somehow do something for energy security is also bogus. Mrs May recently said that

“new oil and gas licences only provide for energy security if all that energy is sold into the UK and, actually, it will be sold on the world market”— a point that a number of Members have made this afternoon.

The whole Bill appears to have come about as a result of a wheeze, cooked up by a couple of strategy advisers over a heavy lunch, to put the Opposition on the wrong foot—or, to put it another way, on the right side of history. Quite honestly, that wheeze should have been put down as soon as the effects of the heavy lunch wore off, but instead it has persisted through the corridors of power and has finally made it to the Floor of the House in the shape of this risible Bill, the contents of which evaporate on the first examination by anybody of its serious purpose.

That says rather more about the state of the Government than anything else. Where were the quality controls on policy making? How did something so evidently content-free and fact-averse as this piece of legislation ever make it so far? How did the present departmental Government Ministers, for whom I have a great deal of respect, allow it to happen on their watch, when they must know it is a load of hokum with no policy merit at all? Now they are forced to go out and try to justify it to the House. It is a very sad reflection of what a tiny, bitter and sad space the Government have retreated into, where serious policy development in the energy sphere—God knows we have enough of that to be working on—is replaced by such ill-advised emptiness. That is what this Bill is, in the end: just empty. If passed, it will linger on the statute book for a short period, make no difference to anything in the meantime and be rapidly overtaken by the reality of the forward march to decarbonisation in energy.

However, the Bill will have one lasting effect, as I have mentioned, because it signals strongly and, I am afraid, potentially lastingly that the UK is not serious about its climate and net zero ambitions and is prepared to say duplicitous things on both an international and a national stage. That is bad news for all the genuine work that has so far been done by the UK on net zero climate leadership. This Bill will not stick, but that charge might. For that reason, if for no other of the many reasons that have been put forward in this debate, it is best that we take this Bill no further than Second Reading and refuse as a House to let it pass to further stages.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero) 8:38, 22 Ionawr 2024

I thank my right hon. Friends the Members for Reading West (Sir Alok Sharma) and for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), and my hon. Friends the Members for Waveney (Peter Aldous), for Moray (Douglas Ross), for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew) and for South Dorset (Richard Drax) for their contributions to this interesting debate.

The UK is the global climate leader. It is under this Government that that position has been secured. How is it to be measured? Do we have objective measures? Of course we have. The central challenge is to reduce emissions, and under the Conservatives this country has reduced emissions by more than any major economy on earth. How have we done that? Has it been an accident? No, it has not.

We inherited an absolutely awful situation. We heard from Dame Nia Griffith about her time in government, and she talked strongly about the work that Labour did on renewables. Well, it did not add up to much under her and Edward Miliband. Renewables were less than 7% of our electricity in 2010. Now, that has been transformed. Coal—the dirtiest of fossil fuels—is a further ghastly legacy of the Labour party. We hear so much piety from Labour Members, but what was their performance in government? I will tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker: it was failure. Nearly 40% of our electricity came from coal as recently as 2012. By October this year, it will be zero.

It is the Conservative Government who have stayed laser-focused on delivering climate leadership, and it is in that light that this legislation comes before the House. The shadow Minister, Dr Whitehead, asked why we have introduced the Bill. The Labour party, the Scottish National party and, of course, the Liberal Democrats say that we must have no new licensing in the North sea, even as our production is expected to halve over the next decade, and despite the fact that if we fulfil our world-leading ambitions for 2030 and 2035, which we will, production of oil and gas in the North sea will fall even faster in the country that is decarbonising more than any other major economy on earth. That is the reality; that is the context for the Bill, which brings in annual licensing.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The Labour party will support oil and gas jobs—just not in this country. Not having new licences here will make no difference whatsoever to our consumption, but it will make a difference to how much we have to import, and our import dependency will go up. Worse than that for those of us who care about the environment, and to put in their place the pieties that we heard from Opposition parties, it will actually lead to imports with higher emissions than production here, as the right hon. Member for Doncaster North and other Labour Members know, and will worsen our ability to move to net zero in the short term. That is not to mention the 200,000 jobs supported throughout the country, 90,000-plus of which are in the north-east of Scotland and being abandoned by the Scottish National party.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The measures will make no difference to our consumption and no difference to world consumption because we are net importers. We are not spilling our product on to global markets. Our oil, for instance, which Caroline Lucas often mentions, is refined at European refineries. It is then turned into product that we can use here. It contributes directly to European and UK energy security.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

If Members oppose the Bill and allow no new licensing, the impact will be higher emissions, and they will not see the investment that we are seeing in new projects such as Rosebank. What is the carbon footprint of the product from Rosebank? It is expected to be much lower than the average across the North sea and what is expected globally. So, again, not only does closing off licensing mean that we will import more, but it will get in the way of investment into and transformation of our base.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Ceidwadwyr, Wokingham

I want to see far less imported LNG. Can the Minister give us some good news on what we might be able to achieve in getting more gas out, and will he ensure that many blocks—not just one—are put up for a licence round to get rid of that LNG?

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

The estimate from the North Sea Transition Authority is that a billion of barrels of oil equivalent, including gas, would be lost if we did not have new licences. That is lost tax revenue for this country, on top of the 200,000 jobs and lower emissions—[Interruption.] So far, I have not mentioned the tens of billions of pounds of tax. [Interruption.] It is not surprising, given how comprehensively easy it is to destroy the Labour party’s arguments, that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North keeps up his constant chuntering. He cannot win the argument while he is on his feet, so he sits there and tries interrupting those who can. If we do not have new licensing, which is Labour’s policy, we will see emissions go up in the short term; 200,000 jobs undermined; tens of billions in tax not brought into the public Exchequer; and—for those who care about dealing with the climate emergency—we will lose the very engineering skills and talent that we need to retain in this country in order to make the transition.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

In the time I have, I will try to respond to a few of the points that have been made by colleagues.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney highlighted the commitment of oil and gas companies to net zero. Oil and gas businesses are funding clean energy work. Barry Gardiner picked on one such business, and it turned out that it was investing heavily in our clean energy transition. My hon. Friend the Member for Moray talked about fighting for those 90,000 Scottish workers. I have already mentioned the hon. Member for Llanelli and her rather risible attempt to suggest that Labour had any sort of record on renewables. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central emphasised the importance of oil and gas workers to CCUS, which is absolutely essential.

My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan said that we are reducing production at twice the rate required internationally. That is true, and it is why new licensing in the North sea is fully aligned with net zero; those emissions are part of that. Kenny MacAskill talked about oil and gas being essential to deliver renewables, and supported new licensing. I thank him for that. My hon. Friend the Member for Broadland said that what we use is what counts—that is so true. The most important thing is to look at demand: removing and changing vehicles, factories and homes so that they no longer use oil and gas is absolutely central.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford rightly said how important it was that we present this policy correctly. Of course, if only the Labour party was playing a proper and honest part in that, we would be able to champion the tremendous performance of this country in tackling climate change. I really do appreciate the speech that my right hon. Friend made.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

Matt Western talked about the zero-carbon homes standard, and the importance of improving the insulation and energy efficiency of homes. He is quite right; that is why this Government have gone from the terrible position of just 14% of homes having decent insulation—EPC rating C or above—when we came to power, to above 50% today.

I fundamentally disagree with Sammy Wilson about net zero, but he correctly highlighted that we would just be sacrificing well-paid jobs without making any difference to our emissions, apart from putting them up.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have been in this House longer than most people, and it is a courtesy to the House in a winding-up speech to give way in an even-handed way. This Minister has given way to a Conservative Member, but he refuses to take any interventions from the Opposition.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. It is up to the Minister to decide to whom he gives way. It would be slightly more usual for him to give way to Members who had been in the Chamber throughout the debate. However, it is up to him to decide. And I really do not like points of order in the middle of winding-up speeches.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

You have given your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, which is to give way to those who have been in the Chamber for the debate, not to Johnny-come-latelies who come in and want to usurp them.

The right hon. Member for East Antrim also highlighted an excellent point about the hypocrisy and humbug that is absolutely central to Labour’s response to this Bill.

Photo of Graham Stuart Graham Stuart Minister of State (Department for Energy Security and Net Zero)

If the hon. Gentleman, who has hardly been here, would sit down, I will fortunately be able to come to a close.

The amendment put forward by His Majesty’s Opposition suggests that maximising the falling production from the North sea will put us at the greater mercy of petrostates. That is so obviously untrue that I hope they would hold their heads in shame about it. That has been at the heart of the Opposition’s approach to this Bill.

The Bill is designed to send a signal to the industry that we have its back. It is all about ensuring that we get to net zero in the most efficient and effective manner possible, and it will underpin this Government’s continued leadership on climate now and for many years to come. I urge the House to support the Bill.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Well, that was lively. [Laughter.] Now that I have Members’ attention, I want to emphasise how important it is for those who have participated in debates to get back in good time for the winding-ups speeches. When the wind-ups come up early, please just keep an eye out for them and make sure to come back, because people who have participated will be mentioned in the wind-ups and it is courteous to be here to hear them.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Could I just make it clear to the House that I was not here for the main debate, but came in for the wind-ups, because I was chairing a committee looking at the future of hydrogen? I apologise to the House that I was delayed. Thank you.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. Nevertheless, it is true that it is up to the Minister to decide to whom he wants to give way.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 61 Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill: Reasoned Amendment to Second Reading

Ie: 207 MPs

Na: 293 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Rhifwyr

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Rhifwyr

The House divided: Ayes 209, Noes 292.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 62(2)), That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Rhif adran 62 Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill: Second Reading

Ie: 294 MPs

Na: 209 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Rhifwyr

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Rhifwyr

The House divided: Ayes 293, Noes 211.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.