Environment Bill Debate- Heritage Fuels Amendment


On Monday 5th July 2021, the House of Lords discussed amendment 279 to ‘plea for an exception to clause 73’. The Hansard report details this here.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester stated:

“My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 279, which is grouped with the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. I tabled it with noble Lords from across the Chamber, the noble Lords, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean and Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, because we believe that the members of the heritage steam alliance—heritage railways, steam boats and ships, steam road vehicles, engineering museums and historic houses—are entitled to have confirmed the guarantee given by the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, in a private meeting on 25 May and repeated by him at Second Reading on 7 June, that they will be permitted to continue to burn coal. That guarantee should be placed in the Bill and enshrined in the Act when it finally passes.

At Second Reading, the noble Lord said:

‘The Government are very confident, as am I, that heritage railways will continue to operate, because although our electricity systems will no longer rely on coal, it can still be used by a range of industries that need it’.—[Official Report, 7/6/21; col. 1306.]

In our meeting a fortnight earlier, he said that banning heritage coal use would be a disproportionate response to the clean air and climate change agendas and would damage the great cultural and economic value of the steam sector to our tourism economy. There is no need for me make again my Second Reading speech about the value of the heritage rail sector and other aspects of the heritage steam alliance to tourism and the regional economy in particular. I simply make the point that all Amendment 279 does is to put it beyond any doubt that the assurances Ministers have repeatedly given us that the heritage steam sector will remain in being have the force of law and cannot be reversed without fresh primary legislation.”

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist stated:

“I turn to Amendment 279 from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. The Government understand the important contribution that the heritage sector makes to our national culture, and I appreciate the concerns raised by the noble Lord and others who have participated in this debate. I can confirm for noble Lords that heritage vehicles are not within the scope of the legislation, and that includes trains and boats. As for historic buildings, I confirm that local authorities, when declaring a smoke control area under Section 18 of the Clean Air Act 1993, have the power to exempt specific buildings or classes of buildings under Section 18(2)(c) of that Act. They could exempt specific historic houses or historic houses in general from the requirements applying to the smoke control area. The Bill will not impinge on that ability. We listened to the concerns raised by the heritage bodies during consultation on the measures, as well as engaging with the inquiries of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heritage Rail. I can confirm that there will be no direct impact on the heritage steam sector as a result of this Bill. The Government do not intend to bring forward policy that would have a direct impact on it.

I reiterate that I understand the concerns raised by the noble Lord. I thank him for the recent discussion that he and others, including my noble friend Lord Forsyth, had with my noble friend the Minister on this issue. The Minister and his officials are happy to continue to engage with him as guidance is developed. I hope that the assurances that I have set out at the Dispatch Box are persuasive and that I am able to reassure noble Lords about the Government’s view about the importance of the heritage sector and that nothing in this Bill will impact on it. I hope that the noble Lord withdraws his amendment.”

Supportive speeches on Amendment 279 were also made by Lord Bradshaw (Lib Dem),  Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con), Baroness Randerson (Lib Dem), Lord Khan of Burnley (Lab).

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