House of Commons
Tuesday 28 October 2008
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Community Legal Advice Centre and Network
Lord Bach, the Minister with responsibility for legal aid, regularly meets the Legal Services Commission to discuss a range of issues relating to the legal aid reform programme, including the development of the community legal service.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will she ensure that those discussions take account of the need to ensure that the roll-out of the community legal service does not prejudice the funding and operations of Citizens Advice? I recently met the excellent manager of our citizens advice bureau in Bromley, Angela Bragg. It provides a first-rate service, but there is a real fear that unless the creation of the community legal service is properly handled, it could cream off much of the funding and make some CABs no longer viable. That would be a serious loss to the communities they serve.
I endorse what the hon. Gentleman says about the role of citizens advice bureaux, not only in Bromley but throughout the country. They do an excellent job, and it is important that they continue to do so. I can assure him that in the roll-out of community legal advice centres, which will offer integrated services on debt, housing, welfare and so on, the Legal Services Commission will invite tenders for its funds and citizens advice bureaux may well be part of that process. They have certainly been part of the process up to now, and I hope that they continue to be so.
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is still general concern that the Legal Services Commission does not understand the nature of the third sector and the added value that is provided by organisations such as citizens advice bureaux? They not only deal with the legal issues, but look more widely at the problems that led somebody to get into legal difficulties. They also address the need for counselling and financial advice. Frankly, the tendering of services within Government sometimes misses the point in relation to that added value.
I agree to some extent with my right hon. Friend in that those who seek legal advice often have multiple and related problems. Citizens advice bureaux and other not-for-profit organisations are often best placed to put all those together and give more rounded advice. When the legal advice centres are rolled out, the not-for-profit organisations will be part of the process, so that the recommendations about the shape of the future of the service will be in their hands. They will therefore be an integral part of the future of legal advice.
Further to the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), is the Minister aware that Leicester law centre has already closed and that one county council has stated that all its CABs are now under threat? Does she agree that the community legal advice centres and the community legal advice networks are untried and untested? What happened to the pilot scheme that was promised, and will she now consider urgently the harm that could be done to our vulnerable constituents if CABs have to close? Is not this yet another example of this Government trusting a bureaucratic, public sector solution, rather than a voluntary sector group such as the CABs?
The hon. Gentleman has missed the point. Law centres are funded not so much by the LSC, but by other sources of funding. Therefore, it is not within the LSC’s gift to decide whether they remain open. Of course it is unfortunate if a law centre makes the decision to close. However, the majority of providers are adapting well to the new system, including the not-for-profit sector. The LSC is not the only funder of advice agencies, and any withdrawal of an advice agency may be rooted elsewhere. Citizens Advice has worked closely with us throughout the legal aid reform programme, and I hope that it will continue to do so.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern felt by small voluntary organisations in south Wales, in particular about the community legal advice network that is proposed to cover the Cardiff, Vale and Bridgend areas? Many of the small providers fear that they will not be able to compete, and they provide services for extremely vulnerable clients.
I am not aware of the particular difficulties in south Wales that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will ensure that Lord Bach is made aware of them. If there are particular problems, he and the LSC will look at ensuring that the people of south Wales have access to proper advice agencies.
The Government and the National Offender Management Service are committed to increasing the amount and quality of purposeful activity in prisons including, for example, the expansion and further development of links with private sector employers to increase the range of constructive work and training available to prisoners; the delivery of a comprehensive range of interventions designed to address offending behaviour; and an improvement in the quality of prison education provision.
The Minister will agree that a custodial sentence provides the opportunity for training and education to prepare people to lead productive lives, but that what often happens in practice is that people are moved from prison to prison, meaning that they have different tutors and their courses are left unfinished. What will he do to remedy that? Will he have discussions with his colleagues in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and in the Department for Work and Pensions to see what additional work opportunities can be given to prisoners when they leave, so that they are motivated to learn while they are in prison?
The hon. Lady makes a valid point. It is important that we have employment opportunities and that we link them to what happens in the world outside for when prisoners leave. Last year alone, more than 40,000 prisoners went into training and employment at the end of their sentence. I take the point that occasionally movement between prisons can disrupt sentences. We have to focus on providing meaningful employment, raising skills and matching that with the business world outside. Indeed, later this year I shall host a further seminar with some key employers to try to make links with prisons in the community.
In June, the Government introduced the core day, which means that in 159 of our state prisons prisoners are locked in their cells for the whole of Friday, with the cancellation of classes and workshops. Does the Minister think that that will help in the fight against recidivism?
I know that the hon. Gentleman meant Friday afternoon, rather than the whole of Friday. Prisoners are not locked up for the whole of Friday. We are looking at a range of efficiency measures. The core day is at an early stage in its implementation. I need to look at that, and we have a group looking at the impact of the core day on a range of services. Overall, last year, some 25.3 hours per prisoner was, on average, spent on purposeful activity. I want to see that figure increase and, for the reasons I gave to the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), I am trying to ensure that that happens.
I am sure that we have some in-house entertainment that they can do. My hon. Friend makes a serious point. It is not for me to comment on the issues that were mentioned, but I feel that both Mr. Ross and Mr. Brand have to apologise for the broadcast. I do not think that it was appropriate or in keeping with broadcasting. I am not sure that it will result in prosecutions, but I feel that an apology is called for.
I am sure that the Minister will agree that given the reoffending rates among young offenders it is particularly important that they find purposeful activities during their periods inside. Is he aware of the scheme that has been operating between Ashfield young offenders institution and Avon fire and rescue, whereby the youngsters do the equivalent of a firefighter’s training course? Does he think that that model could be adapted elsewhere?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. I am aware of the scheme. It is important that we give people pride in themselves, as well as some recognition of their achievement, and that we let them learn new skills. The fire service scheme, linked with the young offenders institution in this case, offers all those activities. It is key to us that we raise the level of skills and of employability and that we give people some pride and self-worth, which, sadly, they often have not had outside the estate.
Given that the right hon. Gentleman is a notable progressive, and pursuant to the publication of the youth crime action plan, will he accept that it should be a priority to do something to help the 60 per cent.-plus of the 11,000 people in the young offenders estate who suffer from speech, language and communication problems on a scale and of a severity that prevents them from accessing conventional education and training courses?
Absolutely. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his recognition of my progressive nature, which I am sure the House will welcome. I recognise that he has done a considerable amount of work on the question of dyslexia and other learning disabilities. There is, sadly, a high correlation between the people who go into offending behaviour and their level of literacy and numeracy. We need to address the problem early. The youth crime action plan, with which I have been dealing along with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, is trying to look at early intervention and at how to make better use of people’s time in custody to deal with those very issues.
There is a rather Dickensian feel to the list of activities that prisoners undertake: scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets and stitching laundry are jobs that Magwitch would recognise, but does my right hon. Friend have great expectations that a wider variety of tasks will be available in the years ahead that will genuinely fit discharged prisoners better for the outside world that will receive them?
There is certainly some low-level employment in prisons, but I can give some different examples. I visited Wandsworth prison recently and saw the high investment that has been made in giving some prisoners computer skills so that they have the potential to work in the sector. Other prisons offer real and definite skills in housebuilding, decorating and painting, which require a high national vocational qualification. Indeed, funding for education in prisons has risen in the past six years alone from £57 million in 2001 to £170 million in 2008. That is real progress, and we are looking to match giving inmates skills for the outside world with what needs to be done in prison.
Absolutely. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary repeated what all Ministers have always made very clear—that the justice system is about punishment and reform. There has to be an element of punishment, as that is what the public and victims quite rightly demand, but equally we need to make sure that those who come into contact with our system do not return to us after the end of their sentence. The key to that is employability, as well as raised skill levels and the maintenance of family links. We must also build support for accommodation outside prison and try to deal with some of the real and meaningful problems to do with drugs, alcohol and mental health. Our pathways programme tries to do all that in a positive way.
The Minister said that the important thing about purposeful educational activity in prison is that it prepares people for the world outside, and I welcome that. For example, great progress has been made in helping prisoners to learn to read, but the problem of giving prisoners—those doing National Extension College courses, and others—access to the internet is a real barrier to preparing them for the world outside. Has there been any progress in making it easier for prisoners to use the internet safely?
First, may I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend did in this field when she held ministerial office? She rightly recognises that we need to raise prisoners’ internet and computing skills in preparation for the outside world, and we are looking at how we can make that practicable in a secure way. However, she will accept that that there are real difficulties with internet usage and contact between prisoners and the outside world, so security concerns remain paramount in our approach to the issue.
In July, the Government severely cut the amount of time that prisoners can spend working or learning to read and write, but even before that prisoners spent only three and a half hours a day, Monday to Friday, on purposeful activity. Does the Minister share my disappointment that, while the reoffending rate for ex-prisoners rockets and thus more victims of crime are created, the Secretary of State resorts to cheap soundbites about sentencing to disguise the Government’s incompetence in failing to provide real opportunities for offenders to turn away from crime through purposeful activity in prison?
First, let me tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that crime overall is down some 39 per cent. since 1997. Reoffending figures have also fallen over the past six years, as he will see if he looks at the announcement that I made to the House in September. He mentioned the figures on purposeful activity by prisoners, which I set out earlier to the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett). Currently, in 2007-08, each prisoner spends some 25.3 hours per week on purposeful activity. That is a steady figure, but I am working to increase it and I know that I will have his support in doing so—although unfortunately a future Conservative Government, if there were to be one, would be unlikely to provide the necessary resources.
The issue of fixed-term Parliaments has been debated in this House on a number of occasions. Most recently, the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) introduced a private Member’s Bill that would have provided for general elections every four years.
Many excellent arguments are commonly used in favour of fixed-term Parliaments, but does the Minister agree that another advantage of such a system is that it would make it much easier to regulate party political spending over the entire electoral cycle? Surely that is particularly desirable, as there is clearly a need for much tighter control of party funding and spending.
On the hon. Lady’s final point, she will be aware that we are bringing a Bill before the House that will address all those issues, and I look forward to her contribution to debates on it as we tackle what I agree is a very important issue. On the other issue that she raised, there are arguments on both sides. They have been exhaustively rehearsed, and no doubt we will continue debating them for the foreseeable future.
When I introduced a Bill on the subject many years ago, I was told that I had to get royal permission, which surely reminds us that, at some point, we need to get serious hold of prerogative powers. Does not the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) have a good essential point, which is that if we really want to control or get hold of the vexed issue of party funding, we have to get some more reliable control over the election spending period? Fixed-term Parliaments would enable us to do that.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his contribution. He will be aware, of course, that we are coming to terms with how we get a grip on the prerogative power; that is the basis of the “Governance of Britain” programme. We are introducing a Constitutional Renewal Bill, as he is well aware. We have built on the excellent work done by his Committee—the Public Administration Committee—to try to codify the royal prerogative. We will take that work further forward. Of course he is right that we have to get a grip on party spending at election time; that is precisely why we are introducing the Bill. Again, I look forward to his contribution to debate on the Bill. I point out to him, and to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), who first asked the question, that there are arguments against fixed-term Parliaments. As they will both be well aware, there is an element of inflexibility in such a system that sometimes would not serve this country well.
May I say to Ministers that the present system gives far too much influence and control to the Prime Minister of the day? Those of us who want much greater parliamentary democracy and curbs on the Executive would like fixed-term Parliaments.
I agree with part of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, and the Prime Minister has already said that he wants the dissolution of Parliament to be subject to a vote in this House for precisely the reasons that the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave. There is a misunderstanding that fixed-term Parliaments would somehow remove the Executive’s ability to hold an election at a time of their choosing. That is not necessarily the case. For example, the former West Germany had fixed-term Parliaments, but in 1972 and 1983 the Government of the day were able to engineer a general election by engineering a vote of no confidence in the Government, so what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is looking for would not necessarily transpire.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
Performance is monitored and managed on a monthly basis by my Department and by me. Assessment to date shows that the size of the CICA’s live case load has reduced and is the smallest that it has been in 20 years. Its unit cost per case has reduced, the time for registering an application has reduced, and the time that it takes to reach a first decision has reduced.
The CICA scheme and its predecessor were never meant to ape the civil courts in every respect. The scheme is meant to enable victims of crime who cannot use the civil court to get some consideration from society of the fact that they have been victimised. It is not meant to be a parallel scheme that pays out the same as a civil court would.
The CICA does a good, important job. Will the Minister look into a problem that delays cases, meaning that it is often years between an application being made and a decision being reached? It often results from poor or slow co-ordination between the authority, the police and other agencies. I can send her details of cases that have gone on years too long and have not been resolved.
Yes. I am happy to look at any cases that the hon. Gentleman wishes to send to me, which have come to his attention as a local Member of Parliament. Many Members will have come across such cases, and some of the issues that he identifies were raised by the National Audit Office in its report on the performance of the CICA. Its recommendations were accepted and we are implementing them to improve the aspects that the hon. Gentleman identified. Hon. Members will see that the performance of the CICA is improving as we go forward because we are focusing on those very issues. That said, there will be always be problems getting the right medical evidence and the right prognosis, and making sure that offers are properly made and accepted and that future loss of earnings is properly calculated. These things can never be done instantly, but I hope the hon. Gentleman and other Members will see the performance of the CICA steadily improve.
Does the Minister understand my concerns that the welcome increase in compensation for military injury in the battlefield has not been reflected in the civilian damages paid to people who are affected by terrorism? I have a constituent who was injured in the July 2005 bombings—she suffered more than 22 serious injuries. I do not accept that the tariff in the new scheme will properly reflect that, particularly when the assessment of that constituent was performed about three months after the injuries were incurred. The problems that she faces are increasing and will probably get worse during the years she lives. She is in her 20s.
Indeed, I accept the point that the hon. Gentleman makes—that a tariff-based scheme such as the CICA scheme will never be able to reflect as fully as a full civil litigation case could the true extent of injuries into the future. The CICA scheme is not intended to do that; it is meant to provide a measure of compensation for those who were the victims of, in this case, terrorism. The hon. Gentleman’s constituent will, I hope, have benefited from the ex gratia payments from the charitable arrangements that were made. I hope that those will help her. It is important to realise that a tariff-based scheme that is meant to provide a measure of compensation to the victims of crime can never be expected fully to compensate, in the way that civil litigation could, for the full injuries that some people unfortunately incur.
I recognised in the Minister’s opening response the word “reduced” on a number of occasions, but I did not hear any meaningful figures. Will she therefore update the House on the number of cases in the authority’s backlog? In recognition of the fact that in 2007-08 the proportion of cases decided was only 64 per cent., will she tell us whether she thinks that is good enough? Will she improve on that this year?
I could bore the House for some time with a list of figures. I will tell the hon. Gentleman, subject to your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, that the case load has reduced over the past year from 83,986 cases to 73,813 cases; that the time taken to reach a decision over that period has reduced from 14 months to 12 months, with a target of 10 months looming on the horizon; that the time to register cases has reduced from a baseline last year of 15 days to 8.3 days, with a target of three days; that the unit cost of each case has reduced from £400 last year to £359; that the target for resolving cases for next year—
Why did the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice) tell the “Today” programme on 13 August:
“A victim of rape should not have any compensation reduced because of their drinking”
alcohol, yet a month before, the Minister introduced in Parliament a new compensation scheme that becomes effective next week, which the CICA confirmed does not exempt drunk rape victims from having their awards reduced? When will Ministers realise that what drives victims nuts, to use the Justice Secretary’s phrase, is 11 years of posturing about victims of crime but not delivering real justice?
As I recall, when the slight changes to the scheme that come into force next week were debated in Committee, no party, including the hon. Gentleman’s, objected to them or voted against them. May I make it clear that what the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice) said in respect of that case is the current policy and always has been the policy. Those people who wrongly had their compensation reduced because they were supposed to have been drinking alcohol have had ex gratia payments, to the extent that we have discovered who they are, and any others who feel that they have had their compensation reduced on that basis will, if they come forward, get an ex gratia payment to make good that reduction.
Legal Services Act
I am pleased to say that implementation of the Legal Services Act 2007 is progressing according to the planned timetable. Implementation of alternative business structures will be possible after the Legal Services Board is fully operational, and that is expected in 2010. However, I intend to commence provisions that will enable legal disciplinary practices as soon as the regulators have made the necessary changes to their rules.
Does the Minister agree that the changes that we are making are as significant for the provision of legal services in the future as the deregulation of the City was in the 1980s for the provision of financial services today? Can she assure the House that, this time, the regulation of those who are let loose to deliver financial services will be effective and meaningful and that, if she devises the scheme, she will consult the House so that her provision for that regulation can be scrutinised?
I agree with my hon. Friend on all points. The 2007 Act is intended to put the consumer at the heart of the legal system. It will also encourage more effective competition, innovation and transparency and safeguard the independence of the legal profession. However, as he rightly says, the regulation must be proportionate and I assure him that the House will be party to ensuring that it is done properly.
Does the Minister agree that along with the undoubted advantages of alternative business structures comes the risk that the public will perceive that they are not receiving advice as independent as the advice that they previously received from a separate set of professionals? Will she make sure that when the structures are implemented, particular attention is paid to the independence of each of those professionals under one roof, to make sure that the public not only get independent advice, but perceive that they do?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that that will be the case. During debates on the Legal Services Bill in this House and the other place, we made it clear that the independence of legal advice was paramount. We have set up the structures so that the legal heads and financial heads are all independently agreed and there is no outside influence on the advice given to the consumer. For me, the most important part of the 2007 Act is that the consumer is, for the first time, to be put at the heart of the system.
Electoral Administration Act
As my hon. Friend will be aware, section 59 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 cannot be brought into force until the Electoral Commission informs my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice that it is satisfied that it will receive the information that it needs from the House authorities. Discussions between the House authorities and the Electoral Commission have been ongoing for some time and are continuing, although I expect them to conclude soon.
Is the Minister aware that a system of dual reporting to the Registrar of Members’ Interests and the Electoral Commission causes concern and confusion across the House? Is it not important to have a one-stop shop? If we do not implement section 59, the Political Parties and Elections Bill, currently before the House, provides other opportunities. Will the Minister take the opportunity and act?
I take this opportunity to thank my hon. Friend, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), who is in his seat, and all their colleagues on the Standards and Privileges Committee for all the hard work that they have done to bring this matter to a resolution. Of course we understand how important the issue is to all Members of the House. We are not far off resolving the issue, and I hope that the solution that emerges will meet the House’s approval.
As we all agree, the dual declaration is wrong. It causes confusion, and innocent mistakes are often unreasonably punished. Is it not about time that the Secretary of State pushed the Electoral Commission, which we know has been dragging its feet? This situation has gone on for months and is totally unacceptable. The Electoral Commission needs to move—and move fast.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The time has come to act. This has been going on for too long, and we are determined, as far as we can, to bring it to a conclusion. We think that we are very close to that, and we hope that the solution will emerge soon.
The Government’s review of voting systems was published in January this year. It considers the experience of the voting systems introduced in the United Kingdom since 1997, and much comparative data from around the world. The review forms an important part of the continuing debate on electoral reform—on which, of course, I have a very open mind.
I think that we all knew about that latter point. It is nice to hear that the Justice Secretary can get a word in edgeways, given the plethora of Ministers that he has assembled around him. He will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the great electoral reformers of recent years, with the number of systems that he has introduced at different levels in different places. When he published the Government’s review of electoral systems, to which he referred, he said that it was to “inform the current debate”. If so, why is there is no specific mention of electoral reform in the White Paper, in the Government’s draft constitutional reform Bill, or in the next steps of governance process? Is not that a bit of an oversight in terms of informing the debate? Why not extend the joyous Scottish experience of the single transferable vote for local government south of the border?
The right hon. Gentleman and I probably have slightly different views. [Interruption.] I may have an entirely open mind, but I have reached a settled conclusion on the system of electing coalitions of the kind that they have in Austria, which led to deadlock and a failure of the electors to express their opinions, in Israel, which leads to continual and repeated elections, in New Zealand, where the introduction of proportional representation led to a decline in turnout, and in Norway, where proportional representation is blamed for causing political disengagement by preventing voters from being able to turf out Governments. So far, therefore, I have not been convinced. As for Scotland, it is of course true that the party of which I am honoured to be a member has introduced in manifestos, and therefore in legislation, some forms of proportionality in elections—not to this place but to other assemblies. I note that one commentator, Mr. Simon Jenkins, pointed out in The Guardian last year:
“The Lib Dems are proving that they cannot work a system to which they have hitched their wagon for half a century.”
“It is surely time for the Lib Dems to fold their tent and go.”
Whatever the merits of proportional representation, will my right hon. Friend, in his review of electoral systems, take another look at the system that was employed in the European elections, and probably conclude that a closed list system is just about the worst of all possibilities?
My hon. Friend will remember that the closed list system was a manifesto commitment in 1997, and it was my duty, simply as a servant of the party, to put it before this House without expressing any personal opinion about its merits or otherwise. She may have noticed, however, that in the proposals in the very good all-party White Paper on the reform of the House of Lords—I have to say, for the avoidance of doubt, that this was not a proposal with which the Opposition were associated—we ruled out, whatever other system was proposed, a closed list system. My hon. Friend, and indeed the House, may wish to give a wider audience to that conclusion.
Does the Justice Secretary agree that any form of proportional representation will lead to no Government or to bad Government—and furthermore, that any list system will ensure that this place is stuffed full of supine party individuals, here only to do what their party tells them, that that will do this House no good, and that people will have less and less interest in politics and in how this House operates?
And neither is the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), and neither are most of my hon. Friends—[Laughter.] And just so that we are clear, some say that I am not, either.
I understand the sedulous attractions of proportional representation, although I profoundly disagree with them. The point that those who support PR have never been able to explain is that there can be no proportional transfer of votes into power. A criticism made of first past the post is that it often gives power to a minority, but it usually gives power to the largest minority, whereas the overwhelming difficulty with proportional representation is that it gives power to the smallest minority.
I was bowing to age, there, Mr. Speaker. May I assure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice that many of us in our party in Scotland do not support STV? It is causing major problems with constituents. They do not know who their councillor is. Other constituents are playing councillors off against other councillors, and there is a detrimental effect on councillors’ health. Instead of going to one community council meeting, they have to go to three or four, multiplied over a month.
Does the Minister agree that the most popular Government in the UK at the moment are the Scottish Government? They happen to be a minority Government and they have the advantage that they cannot force through any measures on their own, but need other parties to join with them. That tends to give a majority view to issues that are carried forward—and STV at council level means that people have the choice to bypass sleepy traditional councillors.
I also note that the alleged attractions of the Scottish Executive are rather diminishing as reality presses in on them, and the claim that Scotland would form an arc of prosperity—along with those other paradigms of prosperity, Ireland and Iceland—now looks slightly tatty.
The performance of employment tribunals is discussed monthly by the tribunal service executive team and quarterly by a special steering board. Officials also regularly meet statisticians from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to produce robust forecasts, and to inform resource and sitting day requirements. The tribunals aim to bring 75 per cent. of individual claims to full hearing within 26 weeks of the claims being accepted, and to issue 85 per cent. of judgments within four weeks of the date that cases are concluded. In 2007-08 the former target was missed by 1 per cent. and the latter exceeded by 2 per cent.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the massive increase in the number of cases before tribunals concerning equal pay? Although they quite rightly need to be resolved, they take a long time because of the complexity, and the increase in numbers has been phenomenal. It is possible that half the cases before tribunals this year will involve equal pay. Can she assure the House that we will not get into a position whereby people whose cases do not involve equal pay will find themselves crowded out from the justice that they expect from the tribunal system?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. Equal pay claims have existed for more than four years, and so far we have been able to cope with the case load. Sometimes, however, they can be complicated and take quite a long time to settle. We are aware of the concerns that my hon. Friend raises about the growth in equal pay claims, and the impact that they can have on tribunals’ ability to manage their case loads and to hear other important and pressing cases. As a result, we have set up two specialist units, in Newcastle and Scotland, to deal with such claims. I assure my hon. Friend that I will monitor the situation closely to ensure that other cases that equally deserve a hearing will be heard.
End of Custody Licence Scheme
The end of custody licence scheme was necessary when it was introduced, but, as I made clear to the House, I intend to phase it out as soon as there is sufficient prison capacity to do so. So far this year, about 2,500 additional places have been provided ahead of target.
Since the scheme was introduced, some 34,000 prisoners have been released early: 6,500 were violent and 650 have reoffended. When does the Secretary of State believe that he can end the scheme? It will not even be reviewed until the end of next year, by which time it is estimated that some 70,000 prisoners—many of them violent—will have been released on to our streets.
It is important to recall that we are considering release in the last 18 days—two and a half weeks—of a sentence. It is important to put that in perspective. There are a great many exclusions from the scheme, including serious violent and sexual offenders. It is not the case that we will review the scheme only at the end of next year. I keep it constantly under review and I understand the House’s concern, which I share—18 days is still 18 days. I do not dispute the public concern about the scheme, which we keep constantly under review. As soon as I judge that there is sufficient capacity in the system, I will phase it out.
In a written answer published late last night, the Government reveal that three alleged murders were committed by prisoners while released early under the end of custody licence scheme. How can the Secretary of State have the front to talk about punishing offenders and being on the side of victims when his policy—under which more than 36,000 prisoners, including 7,000 violent criminals, have been released early—so clearly puts the public at risk?
Of course, I understand the concern. I gave the figures to the hon. Gentleman, and I was concerned to ensure that he got them and that they were comprehensive. There are three cases, out of the thousands of prisoners who have been released early, in which allegations of murder have been made. In one case the proceedings are continuing, and I cannot comment on it. In the second case, the alleged perpetrator subsequently killed himself. When the third case came before the court last December, Mrs. Justice Swift stated in her sentencing remarks:
“The fact that you were released early cannot, in my view, be said to have been causative of what happened thereafter”—
that is, the murder. She continued:
“It is highly likely that the events that took place would have occurred whenever you were released.”
I find that answer astonishingly complacent. It appears that three additional murders may have been committed by offenders who were released 18 days early. We already know that one prisoner who was released early was convicted of a murder when he should have been safely behind bars. Last night the Ministry of Justice claimed that the scheme was working well. What is working well about a scheme that releases early offenders who go on to commit such serious crimes? The Ministry said that it would scrap early release when it was safe to do so. Is it not obvious to everyone, except the Government, that the policy is unsafe now, and should be scrapped immediately?
I have given the answer about the three murder allegations. I simply repeat to the hon. Gentleman that the remarks about whether that particular terrible event would have taken place in any event were made not by me but by the honourable Mrs. Justice Swift, and she was very clear about it—sufficiently clear to put it on record in the sentencing remarks. In a circumstance in which I regret the scheme, I emphasise that the reoffending rate is 1 per cent., which is low, and that breaches are tackled quickly.
Since the hon. Gentleman takes the matter to a party political level, let me say that he got surprisingly little coverage for a speech that he made to the Prison Governors Association on 8 October. It requires a wider audience, because he claimed:
“we are the only major political party that is now talking about reducing the prison population”.
If that is the Opposition’s policy, they will have serious difficulties in cutting out end of custody licence release.
I would like to report to the House that we have made considerable progress in protecting the public by reducing reoffending in both adults and juveniles. The latest figures show that between 2000 and 2006 adult reoffending was down by 23 per cent., while juvenile reoffending was down by 19 per cent., although we of course accept that we have a great deal more work to do.
Members will remember that the introduction of a British day was a key recommendation of Lord Goldsmith’s much heralded citizenship review, principally in order to encourage members of the public to celebrate our national identity and to promote greater integration and tolerance. However, there seems to be some confusion, which I hope the Minister can clarify. Last week the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills) said in reply to a written question from the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell):
“there are no plans to introduce a national day”.—[Official Report, 21 October 2008; Vol. 481, c. 243W.]
Last night, according to the BBC—
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there is no confusion at all. We are considering all the Goldsmith review’s recommendations and will bring our conclusions to the House in due course.
I understand my hon. Friend’s deep concern for his constituents in need whose needs are not being met by the policies of the Scottish Executive. However, part of the settlement was for there to be a block grant, so that there is full accountability by those who are making the decisions on spending.
What I can say to the hon. Lady is this. The protocol will take effect from 19 November and will set out clear guidance from the judiciary on the steps that lenders are expected to take before bringing a claim in the courts, with a view to ensuring that repossession is a last resort. If a case reaches court, the lenders will be required to be able to tell the court precisely what they have done to comply with the protocol, which will apply to arrears on first and second-charge residential mortgages. The protocol does not alter the parties’ existing rights and obligations. The judiciary have brought the protocol forward and we welcome that move, so that we can safeguard those who are particularly vulnerable during this economic crisis.
My heart, and that of the whole House, goes out to the police officer who was injured, and to his family, colleagues and friends. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot possibly make comments on individual sentencing decisions; no one in my position can. However, I can say without contradiction that everyone knows that the prison population has risen by a third in recent years, and that the sentences typically handed down by the courts are longer, particularly for those convicted of offences of violence.
My hon. Friend makes an important point. There have been cases in which a tribunal has found in favour of a claimant, yet the employer has not been as willing as he or she ought to have been to pay them. Next year, under the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, we will ensure that cases can be registered in the county court, so claimants will be able to get a speedier resolution to the issue. This is something that we are concerned about. When a claim goes to an employment tribunal and the tribunal upholds the claimant’s position, it is quite unacceptable that the employer should then either delay or deny the claimant their rightful compensation.
This is an important issue. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are committed to ensuring that violence in prisons is not tolerated in any form. Since 2004, every public sector prison has had in place a local violence strategy, and we have just jointly committed, with the Prison Officers Association, to a policy of zero tolerance of assaults on staff. I have a number of statistics that I will happily give to the hon. Gentleman following this Question Time, which show that overall, although assaults are still present, they are on a trajectory that is falling compared with the prison population. This is an important issue, and we want to work with the prison officers on it.
In his speech at the RSA yesterday, the Lord Chancellor prefaced some rather sensible remarks—about reducing reoffending rates and crime by putting what works first—with some frankly weird remarks about punishment for the sake of punishment. It was that part of his speech that he pre-released to the media. Does he not see that when he chases the headlines in that way, he undermines the case for putting what works first? It is not the offenders who suffer as a consequence of that, but the victims of the crimes that would have been prevented if we had been in a position to do more of what works.
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his own view of my speech, but it is not the case that I was talking about punishment for the sake of punishment. I was drawing to the attention of my audience, and to that of those involved in criminal justice in the widest sense, that it is this Parliament, in one statute after another—not least in the principal sentencing statute, the Criminal Justice Act 2003—that sets out the punishment of the offender as the first principle of sentencing. We need to understand—perhaps the Liberal Democrats do not understand it—that that is what the public and the victims expect, although not in an unpleasant, nasty or inhumane way, as I made very clear. We need to ensure that the courts and everyone else associated with the criminal justice system use language that connects with where the public and the victims are. I went on to talk about the importance of reform alongside that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many trade unionists are demonstrating and lobbying here today on the issue of recognising pleural plaques as an industrial disease? When will he take the decision on this matter, and why is it taking such a while?
I am indeed aware of today’s lobby and demonstrations. I fully understand the concern of all who are here and the people they represent about the implications of the Law Lords’ decision last October. The consultation that I initiated earlier this year closed three weeks ago. We have received more than 300 responses to it and we are currently assessing them. I hope to announce our response next month.
I repeat what I said to the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues earlier. It is a temporary measure. The release is for two and a half weeks, not four months, in advance of when the sentence is due to end in any event. As for prison population projections, the hon. Gentleman will know that these are, and always have been, imprecise. There are high, medium and low trajectories. What I am trying to do, working hard with my colleagues in the Department and the Prison Service, is to ensure that we have sufficient headroom to be able to end the scheme. Unfortunately, I cannot say at the moment exactly when that will be—I wish I could—but as soon as I judge it safe to do so, the scheme will be ended.
What steps is the Secretary of State taking to discharge his duty to represent the Isle of Man Government in their dispute with the Icelandic Government over the failed Kaupthing bank? Will he initiate wider discussions on whether loan assistance to the Isle of Man Government would enable depositors in that bank, including UK depositors, to get some of their money?
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that no decision has yet been made on the site of a titan prison in the north-west? Will he take note that the Omega site in Warrington is one of regional economic significance and intended to create a business park, building up to 24,000 high-technology jobs, and is completely unsuitable to be a titan prison site?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. She will know—we met and discussed the matter last week—that as of now, no decision has been taken on any titan site, whether it be in the north-west or any other part of England and Wales. We are committed to look for a site in the north-west, together with one in the south-east and one in the west midlands, but we will take the decision only after consideration of the results of the consultation on the titan programme that I recently announced.
I say again that there is a whole series of exclusions from the end of custody licence scheme, and they include serious violent and sexual offenders. I wish that no alleged reoffending had occurred by anyone released under the scheme, but the fact that the number is so low—1 per cent. of the total—indicates that those who made the assessments and constructed the scheme did as well overall as it was possible to do in the circumstances in which it was necessary to introduce it.
Will the Minister outline the Government’s plans to change the policy of overcharging prisoners for phone calls to their families? All the evidence shows that if the calls were charged at the same rate as normal telephone calls, reoffending would fall considerably as a result of greater contact with offenders’ families.
My hon. Friend is right: contact with families is crucial. We are currently engaged in consultations and discussions with providers about the cost of telephone calls. As my hon. Friend will know, contracts are already in place, but I am looking into what steps can be taken at their conclusion to reduce the cost of calls further.
All the guidelines are kept under review, but the House will understand that I cannot comment on that particular case in any detail, for two reasons: first, it would be inappropriate in any event, and secondly, all the information that I have is from the newspaper report, which, although it may be entirely accurate, is bound to be selective. What I have done, however—I invite the House to do the same—is examine both the lead decision by the Court of Appeal in McInerney and Keating and the guidelines. The guidelines clearly allow the existence of a vulnerable victim, along with other circumstances that appear to parallel those mentioned in the report, to constitute an aggravating factor, and allow the issuing of a custodial sentence in such circumstances.
It is important for everyone to understand that these are guidelines. Courts can and do depart from them. When they do, there may be an appeal, but it is then for the Court of Appeal to make its own judgments. Nothing whatever in the guidelines could force a sentencer to make a decision against his or her own will and judgment if, having taken account of all the circumstances, he or she believed that there should be a departure from the guidelines. If there is any argument about that, it can safely be left to later decisions by the Court of Appeal criminal division—and I repeat that the guidelines themselves provide for aggravating factors, and explicitly define the existence of a vulnerable victim as an aggravating factor.
I have a statement to make. I have looked into the matter that was raised by the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) on Thursday. The position is, as he said, that the licence for the use of loudhailers has run out, and I have caused that to be drawn to the attention of Westminster council.
As the hon. Gentleman also said, legislation governing this matter, and the powers needed by the police to ensure the proper functioning of Parliament, are still being considered. I would expect consultation by the Government with myself and with the House authorities. I hope that the concerns of Members, staff and others who come here—in terms of both access to the building and disturbance from noise—will have been duly taken into account when the legislative proposals are put before the House.
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the classification of gamma-butyrolactone as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; and for connected purposes.
I know from conversations with the Roofie Foundation, Europe’s only drug-assisted rape agency, that there are date rape victims in my constituency, and many other Members—indeed, far too many—will find that the same applies in their constituencies.
The Government have already taken firm action to tackle date rape. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 formally acknowledged it as a crime, and made it an offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison to administer any stupefying substance with the intent of overpowering the victim in order to engage him or her in sexual activity. Over the past few years, the Government have also outlawed the most commonly used date-rape drugs. I refer in particular to ketamine, Rohypnol and gamma-hydroxybutyric acid. I welcome that action, and urge the Government to continue in the same vein with gamma-butyrolactone, or GBL as it is more commonly known. GBL is an industrial solvent, and is a common component in cleaning products. Although it does have legitimate uses, it is increasingly being used to facilitate date rape, and as a recreational drug. In fact, as the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs points out, there is evidence that it is precisely because GHB was outlawed that we have seen an increase in the use of GBL, with users switching to an almost identical, but entirely legal, alternative. Indeed, as GHB has already been banned and GBL turns into GHB on ingestion, there is already an a priori case for extending that ban to GBL.
The precise effects of GBL will, of course, vary according to the user and the dose taken, but it is likely to leave the victim confused, dazed, drowsy, and even unconscious, thereby rendering them incapable of resisting sexual advances. These effects may occur within as little as 15 minutes, and can last for up to 8 hours. It is also a popular choice of drug because it is so difficult to spot. When dissolved in soft drinks, beers and spirits, it is colourless, odourless, invisible and indiscernible in taste. GBL is undetectable in blood and urine after 10 to 12 hours. Not only is it, therefore, difficult for the victim to spot, but it is difficult to trace once the attack has taken place.
It is precisely because it is so difficult to prosecute for date rape and secure convictions that the law needs to be used to prevent drugs such as GBL from being available. At present, the police have no power to confiscate GBL, and clubs cannot say to a customer, “We know that liquid is illegal and we are calling the police”. They can act only when an offence involving GBL has been committed, but, unfortunately, this is often too late—not only too late in terms of the chances of securing a conviction, but, more importantly, too late for the women themselves.
Although my remarks today will focus on the dangers of GBL when used in the commission of date rape, its use is by no means limited to that. It is also widely used as a recreational drug, particularly on the clubbing scene, where it is considered a kind of cheaper liquid ecstasy. Although it can induce feelings of euphoria and disinhibition, its effects are most certainly not benign, and it has been implicated in two deaths in the past month alone. Such loss of life is avoidable, and if the Government are serious about tackling date rape, as I believe they have shown themselves to be, it is essential that this loophole is closed as a matter of urgency.
In fact, the Government accept that case. In 2006, the Home Office asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs—the independent body whose role is to advise Government on drug control in the UK—to look into GBL, and its response was unambiguous: GBL should be brought under the control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and classified as a class C drug. Such a proposal, moreover, commands cross-party support; my Bill has sponsors from across the House. It also has the backing of the experts in this area; my Bill is supported by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the Roofie Foundation and nightclubs themselves. It also enjoys popular support, as evidenced by the number of people who have signed up to the petition launched by Cosmopolitan magazine. However, despite the recommendations of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, two years on GBL is still perfectly legal.
The question therefore is not why GBL should be prohibited, but why GBL has not already been outlawed. My fear is that GHB and GBL are not only chemically similar, but that they will follow a similarly protracted route to prohibition. It was in the early 1990s that people first became aware of GHB, and in particular of its use in cases of date rape, but it was not outlawed until 2003; in other words, that took a decade, and a plethora of reports and consultations, all of which confirmed that GHB should be a controlled substance.
Two years have already passed since the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs first recommended GBL’s prohibition, and it is still perfectly legal to supply GBL. It is quick and straightforward and frighteningly easy to buy GBL, particularly online. In addition, as the recent report in Cosmopolitan highlighted, there are no checks or controls on its purchase. At £25 for 250 ml, it is also extremely cheap, with an active dose costing somewhere in the region of 8p. Meanwhile, an untold number of women are put at risk.
As I understand it, the principal obstacle blocking the prohibition of GBL is its legitimate use, particularly in the manufacturing and chemical industries. I do not seek to deny that GBL has legitimate uses, and I accept that it is widely used as an industrial solvent. What I find difficult to believe, however, is that an industrial solvent being sold in bottles of 250 ml to private citizens in central London, with same-day delivery, is actually being used for legitimate industrial purposes.
What needs to happen, and what my Bill provides for, is an end to the open market for GBL. At the moment anyone can buy it for any purpose, without having to specify that purpose. My Bill would make GBL a controlled substance under the 1971 Act, but that would not mean that it could not be used for legitimate purposes. All that would be required of those who needed GBL for legitimate purposes would be to make an application to the relevant authorities. The provisions for that are contained in the 1971 Act itself. That is precisely how GBL is managed in the United States, which has classified it as a schedule 1 drug without precipitating the collapse of its chemical industry. That GBL has legitimate uses is no excuse for inaction.
Yesterday, I spoke to a young woman, 22 years of age and a victim of these substances. Her drink was spiked and she suffered a 25-minute seizure. It was only thanks to the skill of the doctors and nurses who treated her that she survived at all. Her health is poor and she now needs to use a wheelchair. The consequences for her will last a lifetime.
The case for the prohibition of GBL is clear. It would protect women without putting unnecessary burdens on its legitimate use. I only hope that we address this problem now, before any more victims without redress are created.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Joan Ryan, Bob Spink, Mr. Elfyn Llwyd, Mr. Lee Scott, David Cairns, Mr. John Leech, Mr. Mike Hancock, Siobhain McDonagh, Liz Blackman and Julie Morgan.
Joan Ryan accordingly presented a Bill to provide for the classification of gamma-butyrolactone as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 7 November, and to be printed [Bill 156].
Orders of the Day
Climate Change Bill [Lords]
As amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.
New Clause 15
Advice on emissions from international aviation and international shipping
‘(1) It is the duty of the Committee to advise the Secretary of State on the consequences of treating emissions of targeted greenhouse gases from—
(a) international aviation, and
(b) international shipping,
as emissions from sources in the United Kingdom for the purposes of Part 1.
(2) The duty applies if and to the extent that regulations under section 29 do not provide for such emissions to be so treated.
(3) Advice given by the Committee under this section must also contain the reasons for that advice.
(4) The Committee must give its advice under this section—
(a) when it gives its advice under section 33 for the budgetary period 2023-2027, and
(b) when it gives its advice under that section for each subsequent budgetary period.
(5) The Committee must, at the time it gives its advice under this section to the Secretary of State, send a copy to the other national authorities.
(6) As soon as is reasonably practicable after giving its advice to the Secretary of State, the Committee must publish that advice in such manner as it considers appropriate.’.—[Joan Ruddock.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 14—International aviation and shipping emissions
‘(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament a report including—
(a) a projection of the level of emissions he expects to arise from international aviation and shipping which are the result of UK economic activity,
(b) an explanation of the methodology used to make this emissions projection, and
(c) the way in which any carbon budgets have been adjusted to take account of such projections.
(2) When making the above projection, the Secretary of State shall have regard to international carbon reporting practice.
(3) The projection shall cover any year for which a carbon budget has been set, and may include any other years that the Secretary of State considers appropriate.’.
Amendment No. 68, in clause 10, page 6, line 26, at end insert—
‘(i) the emission of greenhouse gases from international aviation or international shipping that the Secretary of State expects to arise during the budget period, as reported pursuant to section 15(5A).’.
Amendment No. 72, page 6, line 26, at end insert—
‘(i) the emissions of greenhouse gases from international aviation or international shipping that the Secretary of State expects to arise during the budget period.’.
Amendment No. 69, in clause 27, page 15, line 24, at end insert—
‘(5A) If emissions of a greenhouse gas from international aviation or international shipping are not required to be included in the statement by virtue of subsection (2), it must state the level of such emissions that the Secretary of State expects he will have to report in accordance with international carbon reporting practice for each budget period for which a budget has been set.’.
Government amendment No. 36.
Amendment No. 3, in clause 29, page 16, line 9, leave out out from ‘Kingdom’ to end of line 13.
Government amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 50.
Before setting out my reasons for tabling the new clause, I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East and Saddleworth (Mr. Woolas), who led on all the earlier stages of the Bill, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who led the discussions in Cabinet.
International aviation and shipping have long been contentious issues in relation to climate change and the subject of much Back-Bench interest, as illustrated by the huge support for the early-day motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths). The Government agree that action to reduce emissions from international aviation and shipping will be vital to global efforts to tackle climate change, which is why we are taking forward a range of measures to reduce the impact of international aviation and shipping on the environment.
Discussions on including international aviation and shipping in a post-2012 regime under the Kyoto principle have begun, and the UK is actively lobbying for support within the international community. Following pressure from the UK, legislation to include aviation in the European Union’s emissions trading scheme has been signed off in Europe, and it is expected to save about 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020. We are also working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation on international aviation and climate change to try to reach agreement on targets that will drive increased action on emissions in the aviation sector. We continue to press for an international emissions trading scheme for the maritime sector under the International Maritime Organisation.
The Government recognise the need to give serious consideration to how emissions from international aviation and shipping are approached in the Climate Change Bill. That is why we agreed to the approach proposed by the other place: that either those emissions should be included in the Bill’s targets and budgets within five years of Royal Assent or an explanation should be laid before Parliament stating why that has not been done. I want to attach as much certainty and transparency as possible to this requirement, and amendment No. 36 would do exactly that. It would change the deadline for inclusion or explanation from within five years to 31 December 2012. That definite date is nearly a year sooner than what is currently provided for in the Bill. Furthermore, in response to the views of the shadow Committee on Climate Change, new clause 15 places a new duty on the committee to advise the Secretary of State on the consequences of including emissions from international aviation and emissions from international shipping in the targets and budgets. The committee would be required to provide that advice at the same time as it provides its advice on each carbon budget. That requirement would begin in 2011, when the committee advises on the level of the 2023 to 2027 budget, and would apply every time it advises on carbon budgets thereafter. The duty would remain in place to the extent that emissions from international aviation and shipping were not included within the Bill’s targets. If emissions from international aviation were included in the future, the committee would still be under a duty to provide advice on international shipping emissions, but if, at some point, all emissions were included, the advice duty would no longer apply.
Would the Minister care to comment on a problem that could easily arise if, on the one hand, the committee has a legal duty to give effect to the provisions that she has mentioned and, on the other, clause 6 gives the Secretary of State a power to amend in the light of European law? What would happen if European law said one thing and the committee, which had a duty to give advice to the Secretary of State, said another? Which would prevail?
Could the Minister help the House by telling us what the Government are doing to further these discussions, particularly in respect of shipping? Some indication has been given, particularly by the Danes, that we might not have been as advanced as some other countries in trying to find a suitable way to handle the difficult issue of shipping emissions. Can she assure the House that the Government will lead on this matter? The UK is historically a shipping country, so we would like to see that happen.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about how important it is for the UK to be in the lead. I do not know what the Danish opinion of us is, but there is competition between our countries at times, not least in respect of offshore wind. I understand that we have been very active in the International Maritime Organisation, that we have made proposals and that we have made funds available to assist in this process. We want to do our best, and I take the right hon. Gentleman’s comments seriously.
I was explaining how the duty would cease to exist if all the emissions were included in an international agreement. The shadow committee has been considering this question in some depth. Lord Turner’s recent letter to the Secretary of State gave his view that
“the scope of the Climate Change Bill should not be extended to include international aviation and shipping”.
His reason was that it was
“not clear how international shipping emissions could be sensibly included in UK budgets”.
He added that although
“there are methodologies that could sensibly allocate emissions to the UK level (e.g. bunker fuels), these differ from the methodology that has been proposed for entry of aviation into EU ETS. We do not believe that the EU ETS methodology is an appropriate basis for inclusion of international aviation in UK”.
Did not Lord Turner also say that aviation and shipping should be included in the 80 per cent. target? If they are not to be included in the budget, how will that be reflected in the 80 per cent. target, and what will be the impact of that?
The hon. Gentleman is correct in that Lord Turner made reference to the 80 per cent. target and to shipping and aviation emissions, but there has been considerable misunderstanding on this point. I will explain precisely what he has said and how we have responded positively to that.
I am slightly confused about this issue. Last Monday, the Prime Minister said that we needed a constantly rising supply of oil, notwithstanding the use of renewables. Does the Minister have any idea of whether our oil consumption is expected to fall over time—whether or not aviation and shipping are included—and in which year would we first see a fall?
I shall not speculate on the extraneous matters that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
The central point of what Lord Turner actually said was that policies are needed to constrain aviation and shipping emissions, but—despite these—it is unlikely that emissions in these sectors will be reduced by 80 per cent. in 2050. The consequence is that more effort is likely to be required from those sectors covered by the Bill. Government amendments Nos. 42, 43 and 50 are consequential to Government new clause 15, and ensure that appropriate references are made throughout the Bill to the proposed new clause.
Amendment No. 69 and new clause 14 would both require the Government to publish regular projections for emissions from international aviation and shipping. We already publish projections of future CO2 emissions for international flights from UK airports and intend to continue to do so. The last reports were published in 2003, 2004 and 2007. I am happy to commit the Government to publish at least one forecast of international aviation emissions for each budgetary period sufficient to inform decisions on setting carbon budgets. Publishing projections of aviation emissions any more frequently would not deliver any benefits, as the long term drivers of the forecasts do not change significantly on an annual basis.
There is a danger that we will get caught up in technical minutiae and lose sight of the big picture. The Minister has just said that it is unlikely that we will be able to reduce aviation emissions by 80 per cent. by 2050, so because we will not get tough on aviation, the rest of the economy will have to take the hit on carbon. Surely it is time that policies such as the expansion of Stansted and Heathrow came to the top of the Government’s agenda, as we might then stand a better chance.
The hon. Gentleman cannot accuse the Government of just ignoring the issue. As he must know, we have been very active within the EU in ensuring that those emissions become part of the European trading scheme. That is the way we will deal with those emissions in the first instance. We hope, in the long term, that we shall do so through some global agreement. As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, if within a trading agreement some sectors are allowed to grow and as a consequence some cannot grow so much, that is a principle of trading. The cap that is set, which repeatedly goes down, will ensure that overall emissions are reduced. We have to have that in sight; it is the long-term goal. The bigger picture is to get an 80 per cent. reduction by 2050.
Do we have to be so pessimistic about the contribution that aviation could make to the trading scheme? In the foreseeable future, other technologies may come along. For example, Loughborough university is looking at a variety of ways of replacing aviation fuels. Will the Minister try to ensure that there is some flexibility to allow those technologies to come forward to help to reduce the figure for aviation?
I was, of course, paraphrasing what Lord Turner had said. It was not my personal view that emissions from aviation might continue to grow and could not be reduced by 80 per cent. by 2050. We can be optimistic, can we not? My hon. Friend makes a good point—there is new technology and we are very supportive of that. We know that new aircraft are producing lower emissions than existing ones. Much can be done in that field, although I am sure that much more will eventually have to be done, too.
May I draw the Minister back to her remarks about the reporting on different sectors? She has mentioned the publication that the Government intend to produce on aviation emissions, but she has not so far said what publication will be produced on shipping emissions. Surely there is sometimes a danger that aviation is focused on as the real problem, when in fact emissions from shipping are considerable and are predicted to as much as treble by 2050 if left unchecked.
I understand the hon. Lady’s point, and I shall come on to that eventually. The reason why aviation gets so much attention is that most of us have direct experience of flying, while fewer of us have experience of shipping. I shall explain what we are doing about shipping, too.
The Climate Change Bill has been used as an example of British leadership in the field of climate change, and quite rightly so. Britain is a leading maritime nation, too. I believe that the shipping industry is also looking for a lead from the British Government, which at the moment it is not getting. Ships being ordered today have a 30-year life, so that takes us three quarters of the way to 2050. If there is no sign of urgency about the inclusion of maritime emissions in the British Government’s approach, that will be an unfortunate missed opportunity. The Chamber of Shipping gave evidence to the Select Committee on Environmental Audit this morning and made the point that its members are looking to the Government for some suggestions about how maritime emissions might be counted and included.
Obviously, the hon. Gentleman has an advantage over me in that he was present in his Committee meeting this morning and I was not. However, we will investigate all options for reducing emissions from international and domestic shipping. That includes considering improved technology and better operator practices, which, as I am sure he is aware, can make a considerable difference. We also support the development of a global emissions trading scheme through the International Maritime Organisation. We have said clearly that should progress within the IMO prove too slow, we will consider other options, including those proposed at an EU level, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships. That includes investigating the feasibility of including shipping emissions in the EU ETS. We are not at all inactive on those issues, but the fact is that they are extremely difficult to deal with.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman may know a little more about the technical minutiae of this matter than I do, but the Government are very conscious of the problem. We are always in discussions and seeking to improve the methodologies, but the fact that there is no agreed methodology at the moment means that we would face difficulties if we followed some of the amendments and simply included the present levels of emissions.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, and the whole House will welcome the direction in which the Government are moving on this matter. I was interested to hear her say that the reason for the much greater focus on aviation than on shipping was that we tend to fly. That may be true, but it had never occurred to me. Does she agree that we in this country are still making far too many short flights—for example, from Edinburgh to Manchester? Clearly, the way forward must be to put much more investment into the railway, and to ensure—not necessarily through taxation, but by some other means—that there are not so many flights over short distances within the UK.
I have, dare I say it, some sympathy with what my right hon. Friend says. The Department for Transport is developing a climate change strategy of its own and, as I said earlier, we are clear that a growth in emissions in one sector of the economy will eventually have to result in more emission reductions elsewhere. If we get to the point where all journeys are included, that mechanism will have an effect. Furthermore, all domestic flights are already included in our emissions calculations.
The Minister said that there was no agreed methodology, and that has been the argument all along, right back to the Joint Committee that considered the draft Bill. However, does she agree that any methodology that we adopt, even unilaterally, is sure to be closer to the end result than doing nothing would be? If we adopt a reasonable methodology now, we will have a smaller adjustment to make in the future.
If I were allowed to make some progress with my speech, I might be able to make the counter-argument. However, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s point because, although we could adopt a methodology now, it might have various undesirable effects, not least in the international negotiations.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way; she has been extremely generous. Will she share with the House what she expects the cumulative impact of aviation and shipping emissions to be between now and 2050, as currently measured by the Government? She will know that, in any long-term policy to reduce emissions, the important thing is the cumulative budget between now and then. What amounts are we talking about, and what share would they take of the overall budget allowed for the UK?
I think I would be very unwise to answer that question directly. I am sure I could find some projections, but the amounts involved are a long way ahead and will depend on global agreements, if we get them, and on emissions trading. We cannot honestly predict the extent to which aviation might or might not grow, as that will depend on the decisions that will be taken—here, in the whole of Europe and, I hope, globally. I might be able to produce a figure for the hon. Gentleman, but I am not sure that it would advance any of the arguments that are being made.
Of course, we are currently in some difficulties, but we have been able to grow our economy massively over the period to which the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) alludes. At the same time, we have reduced our emissions to such an extent that not only will we meet our Kyoto commitments but we will do so more than twice over. That shows that this Government have done rather well in this particular field.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Will she clarify how the Government will track emissions? As she knows, an important decision on Heathrow is coming up. According to the Government, the emissions associated with that policy will include emissions only from outgoing flights, not from incoming flights. Common sense should tell us that extra incoming flights would not be able to land if the airport were not expanded. Will she accept that what is important in Government policy is the decisionable part of emissions? How will she approach issues such as Heathrow? In such cases, if emissions are not calculated correctly, we will take the wrong decision.
As the hon. Lady will know, a decision has not yet been taken on Heathrow. When I continue with my speech, I will make it very clear how we are approaching the issue of emissions. I will also make it clear that if emissions are contained within the EU trading process, for example, the cap will determine what the emissions are and how the matter will be dealt with. If she will let me continue, our position will become much clearer.
To answer an earlier question, there are currently no UK Government forecasts of emissions from UK international shipping. The nature of the shipping industry makes recording shipping emissions particularly difficult, and there are a number of data constraints. The Government continue to seek improvements to the evidence base on international shipping emissions, principally through our role at the IMO. I therefore cannot accept amendment No. 69 or new clause 14, but I hope that the House will accept my firm commitment that we will continue to publish our projections on aviation emissions regularly.
Amendments Nos. 68 and 72 would require the Government and the Committee on Climate Change to take into account projected greenhouse gas emissions from international aviation and shipping when making any decisions relating to carbon budgets; that answers an earlier question. Amendment No. 68 makes specific reference to the projections that would be required by amendment No. 69. As I have explained, we do not agree that it is right to legislate for the publication of those projections.
However, I am pleased to say that we can accept amendment No. 72 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). The Government believe that when setting or advising on budgets, due regard should be given to emissions from international aviation and shipping; my right hon. Friend and the shadow Committee on Climate Change have made that clear. We are saying that we will have due regard to emissions from aviation and shipping, as the Committee recommended, but we cannot account for them domestically at present. There are a few technical problems with amendment No. 72; for example, it refers to “budget” rather than budgetary periods, and refers not to the Committee on Climate Change, but only to the Secretary of State. It does not refer to “targeted” greenhouse gases, which is how such gases are defined in the Bill. The Government will therefore return, before final consideration in the Lords, with a version of the amendment that has benefited from parliamentary counsel’s redrafting; I hope that all parties can agree to that.
Amendment No. 3 would simply require emissions from international aviation and shipping to be included in the Bill’s targets and budgets within five years of Royal Assent. That would have to be done, and nothing else could be done. We all agree that we are talking about global issues, and that a global solution would be the best way forward; I hope that I have made that clear. Such a solution would be much more difficult if we had a domestic deadline for deciding what the UK’s fair share was. It is possible for us to reach international agreement, through the United Nations framework convention on climate change, the IMO or the International Civil Aviation Organisation, that the best way to deal with international aviation or shipping emissions is through a sectoral approach, rather than through allocating such emissions to individual countries. In fact, that is one of the approaches already under discussion. The point is about methodologies. We could end up with a completely different proposal, so it would not be appropriate for us to make a unilateral decision. Indeed, we are already starting to see such an approach at EU level, where it is likely that under the EU emissions trading scheme, aviation emissions will be allocated to airlines rather than to individual member states.
I thank the Minister for giving way, perhaps at the right part of her speech now. If we in the UK take the lead, will we not shape the international debate and push the final solution of the problem to a position closer to what is in our interests, rather than in other countries’ interests, whereas if we leave the negotiations to others we will not do that?
I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of our leaving the negotiations to others. We are right there in the forefront of the negotiations. It is the UK Government who pushed for the inclusion of international aviation and shipping emissions in the EU trading scheme. We succeeded in persuading other member states that that should be done, and it will be done. Adopting a measure in the Bill that could be completely out of line, as the amendments suggest, with what we are negotiating in Europe is obviously the wrong thing to do.
The questions concerning shipping emissions are even more complex. If we were to include shipping emissions in any of the existing agreements or future agreements such as global agreements, we would have even more problems than we clearly have with airlines. I have outlined how we might deal with aviation through the European trading scheme, but the difficulty with ships is that they can go for many weeks without refuelling, and can take on fuel from tankers in international waters. If we based our calculations only on fuel that has been sold in the UK, it would appear that shipping emissions declined over the past 10 years and then began to rise again. However, we know that that is not the case. We know that shipping has continued to increase, so we must assume that emissions have increased as well. Clearly, relying on bunker fuels is not the answer.
I am sympathetic to the concept that the Minister advances: that her hands should not be tied by writing into the Bill of answers that may well be the opposite of what will be in our interests or in the interests of reducing emissions. Does she agree, however, that the concomitant is that the Government must be extremely loud about the negotiations, making sure that people realise that we are taking the lead and that there is no excuse for delay on this front? Shipping is hugely important to the United Kingdom and hugely important if we are to do something about emissions.
The right hon. Gentleman is correct. We want to remain in the forefront and I am sure he will keep us up to the mark.
Finally, and especially if we are acting alone, there is the risk of perverse impacts, such as planes and ships filling up elsewhere and coming to the UK with a heavier fuel load, of air traffic simply diverting from Heathrow to Amsterdam or Paris, or of some ships with UK-bound cargo diverting to a continental port from where the cargo is delivered to the UK by another ship or another mode of transport. All those scenarios could increase emissions, rather than reduce them.
Can the hon. Lady assure us that despite her distinguished lifetime career advocating unilateralism, nothing in the measure will unilaterally hamstring our aviation or maritime industries if other countries do not follow suit?
I have just explained the complexity of including shipping emissions, whether unilaterally or within the EU emissions trading scheme. There are real difficulties. I gave the example of the calculations based on bunker fuels purchased in the UK and the fact that they gave a totally incorrect reading of what has been happening to UK shipping. The right hon. Gentleman should understand the complexity of the matter. It has to be sorted out and we have to find a way forward. That means that it is not sensible to adopt a measure today on our own behalf.
As I have said, we need a flexible approach to the evolving international context. I hope people understand that we are anxious to make progress on international aviation and shipping emissions, but we need to do that first in a European context and then in the global context. We will do what we can to take account of the necessary factors. I hope that amendment No. 3 will not be pressed to a Division.
We warmly welcome the Government’s change of heart and measured response in including emissions from international aviation and shipping in the Bill. We support new clause 15 and its accompanying amendments Nos. 36, 42, 43 and 50, which I understand are important tidying measures. Although we also recognise the real and practical difficulties, which the Minister has explained, of including aviation and shipping and although we acknowledge the danger of perverse incentives if we get the issue wrong, we think it right that aviation and shipping are included.
Conservative Front Benchers have consistently argued that aviation and shipping should not be exempt from accounting for the pollution for which their sectors are responsible. Furthermore, as the Minister said, not including aviation in the Bill would have perverse incentives. For example, it would incentivise an individual passenger, from a carbon point of view, to take a short-haul flight to Paris rather than the Eurostar. That cannot be right.
We should also be mindful of the positive way in which the shipping sector and certain responsible airlines have contributed to the debate: they have made important and constructive suggestions on the way forward. We must not forget that shipping is among the most carbon-efficient forms of heavy transport. Sea freight emits between 30 g and 90 g of CO2 per tonne of freight per kilometre, whereas the equivalent figure for road freight is between 130g and 190g, and that for aviation is obviously much, much more.
We must therefore be cautious about always twinning aviation and shipping in this debate, as their carbon efficiency profiles contrast and they face different challenges specific to their sectors. We all acknowledge that there are difficulties with the measurement and apportionment of these emissions. However, it is important that we do not allow such issues of methodology, complex as they are, to let us lose sight of the principal aim of the Bill: to achieve a net reduction in emissions across the whole UK economy in sufficient proportion for us to play our fair part in keeping man-made global warming below the dangerous 2° level.
The necessity of eventually including all sectors of our economy in that task was reconfirmed to us earlier this month by the advice of Lord Adair Turner’s Committee on Climate Change. Mindful of that advice, we are sympathetic to amendments Nos. 68 and 69, tabled by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths). We are also sympathetic to amendment No. 3 and new clause 14, tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb).
Methodology is crucial, so the Government need to publish their methodology for making their aviation and shipping emission projections, as would be required by new clause 14. That is particularly important to us. We welcome the announcement just now that the Government have taken on board the intent embodied in amendment No. 72. The right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has done a great deal of work: he has campaigned outside the House and brought together a large consensus on the measure. We welcome the fact that the Government are prepared to take the issue on board and, having redrafted it with the help of parliamentary counsel, bring it back to the House of Lords. That is typical of the spirit in which the Bill has gone through the House.
Having made our support for this proposal clear, I should like to sound a note of caution regarding the definition of aviation and shipping that the Government have chosen. Although we welcome the fact that they intend to include emissions from aviation and shipping, the measurement of emissions from the movement of goods and passengers should account for all stages of the journey rather than merely singling out the carbon footprint of flights and sea journeys to and from the United Kingdom. In that way, we could avoid unintended consequences such as encouraging more polluting methods of travel outside the UK. My party is committed to working with the Government in their efforts to secure the all-important international agreements on aviation and shipping emissions that are crucial if we are to crack this problem.
The Bill has come a long way since it was first introduced in another place last year. Now, on Report, one of the last outstanding totemic issues is finally being dealt with. If we can come to an agreement on this, it will turn the Bill from good legislation into world-class legislation. However, the caveats on definitions that Conservative Members spoke about at length in Committee and in the other place still remain. Although we are concerned about the definition of aviation and shipping, rather than our chosen definition of international trade and transport, we are not opposed to including aviation and shipping in the carbon budgets from the outset. Our concern is rooted in our wish to ensure that we do not, through well-meaning but poorly designed legislation, offer a perverse incentive to use more carbon-intensive modes of transport, such as road freight, over the more efficient moving of goods by sea. For example, if shipping becomes heavily regulated, particularly unilaterally, there might be an incentive for ships to dock at Rotterdam—or worse still, Istanbul—and then drive across the continent to enter this country via the channel tunnel. That is why we argued in Committee for aviation and shipping to be described as international trade and transport. We wish to prevent any system of measurement from being skewed in favour of more carbon-intensive methods of transport, which could happen if shipping and aviation are included without reference to other modes of transportation.
Let me give some practical examples. If one were importing oranges from Spain into the UK and sent them over on lorries, only the short leg of the journey, by ferry, would be included in the UK’s carbon allowance. If one sent them by sea, the whole journey would be counted, making transporting oranges from Spain by sea far more carbon-expensive. That would create a significant incentive for the use of road freight over sea freight, despite its being many times more carbon-intensive. If national-level emissions trading schemes were in existence through the transit states, the disincentive to use road freight would be strong enough to deter that, but if we introduced our system before some or all of our neighbouring European transit states, Britain would perversely incentivise the movement of goods away from direct shipping and towards the more polluting form of road transport. Similarly, when importing goods from China, the best way in terms of cost and the environment is for the container to be shipped directly to the UK. If we define only aviation and shipping without reference to other means of importing goods, that could mean it would make economic sense to ship goods only as far as Rotterdam and then move them by lorry into the UK in order to minimise the amount of carbon officially being counted.
I hope I have made the point sufficiently clear without sounding as though we are opposed to the inclusion of aviation and shipping, as per the amendment, but it is very important. We are in favour of these measures, and we have always argued that there should be no sectoral exemptions for aviation and shipping, but the definition of the process can still be improved. We would be keen to work closely with the Government on establishing a means of description that is more effective and would secure the international agreements on aviation and shipping that are vital if we are to find a truly holistic solution to this very important international problem.
Is my hon. Friend saying he is worried that the Government have not done enough work on possible dispersion of industry and activity out of the UK and into other centres? That would seem to be an own goal of the worst kind because it would not reduce carbon output, but it would reduce the number of jobs.
That is a far more concise way of putting the rather laboured argument that I was trying to make from the Dispatch Box.
This is a complex area. It is not beyond our ken to crack it, and some very sensible points have been made from colleagues on the Opposition Benches about the unintended consequences of including aviation and shipping. We do not want to lose sight of the principal aim of including those sectors in a way that makes them responsible for their own carbon pollution, but my right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and with his experience as a former Secretary of State and from his considerable business career he is well placed to understand the complexities and dangers that could be posed to our competitive position. That should not, however, prevent us from offering to work constructively with the Government on the matter; if they unable to do it, an incoming Conservative Government would certainly want to work closely with the aviation and shipping industry to ensure that a satisfactory answer was reached in order to allow carbon measurements to be made, but in a way that did not harm unduly our international competitive position.
I do not think there is going to be an immediate reduction in the amount of crude oil used as a result of this Bill, because the Bill is simply a framework. It is a form of regulating and auditing our emissions; it sets targets. What we need to follow the Bill is a really ambitious transformational set of policies, which will allow an incoming Conservative Government to effect the sort of dynamic changes that have been so absent during the past 10 years, but without harming our international competitive position. The big danger of the Bill is that people place too much emphasis on the targets and auditing mechanisms contained in it, which are then mistaken for policies that will deliver the transformation to a low-carbon economy that is imperative. We will not find them in the Energy Bill. A whole range of policies are sadly lacking from this Government, but would not be lacking from an incoming Conservative Administration.
I warmly welcome the contribution to the debate made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, particularly her acceptance of amendment No. 72, which stands in my name. I would like to emphasise that it is in my name only because it was tabled very late, and I want to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), who has been very active in this matter. I am pleased to support the amendments that stand in his name and those of many hon. Friends, many of whom are present.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary knows that the issue we are discussing is of key interest to many members of the public and non-governmental organisations, and I agree with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) that the improvements to the Bill and the scrutiny as it has gone through the parliamentary process have turned it into a piece of world-class legislation that gives a strong international lead. By accepting the amendment to take aviation and shipping into account, the Bill will send a clear signal internationally that including such emissions is the way that we have to go.
I accept that there has also to be international agreement on the matter. It was a great failing of the original Kyoto protocol that the bunker fuel agreement was not included. We all know the reasons for that—it was not possible to get international agreement, particularly given the resistance from the United States and others. We all know that whatever the outcome of the forthcoming elections in the US there will be a change of position, and I hope that that transfers to including aviation and shipping in the post-Kyoto 2012 framework, as we must. The European Union emissions trading scheme helps in that respect, and it may drive that change.
I would confirm what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said: the agreement on including aviation was reached under the UK presidency of the EU. It was a British initiative and a British priority. The UK presidency managed to get that agreement, which I believe to be so important. I also understand the point that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle made about perverse incentives, although the logic of that is to include all sectors of the economy—at some point, surface transport must be included in the EU ETS—but those are matters for future negotiation.
I reinforce the point that many groups are pleased about this. I acknowledge the contribution of the Friends of the Earth Big Ask campaign, which included the two key elements: the 80 per cent. target, which has been conceded, and the inclusion of aviation and shipping, which is being conceded tonight. That will strengthen the Bill; the two issues are vital.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his amendment, which I support in principle. I note that the Government are minded to accept it, so I press him to define a little more tightly or expand a little on what he understands by “taken into account”?
There must be provision and planning, as there are for the 2012 time limit, to ensure that aviation and shipping are taken into account and included in carbon budgets. Lord Turner’s committee acknowledged that, although he recognised the current difficulties with agreeing international methodology and getting international agreements. It is imperative to achieve those and I hope that that will happen by 2009, when the all-important forum of the United Nations climate change convention at Copenhagen takes place. To fail to secure international agreement would be a global disaster. However, including such elements in the Bill demonstrates that the Government are serious about the matter. They are giving a clear lead to the rest of the world that those elements must be included if we are to move to a low-carbon future.
Although we welcome the new clause and the Government’s acceptance of the spirit of amendment No. 72, which the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) tabled, we remain concerned that the guarantees that the nation—and, indeed, the planet—seeks from the British Government about aviation and shipping are not firm enough. Although we may have confidence in the Under-Secretary and the new Secretary of State—any Secretary of State whose first act is to add his name to a Liberal Democrat amendment cannot be all bad—what about their heirs and successors? Can we be confident that future Secretaries of State, who are perhaps not so committed, will be bound by the amendments? We contend that they will not and that, in addition to the new clause, we need new clause 14. We welcome the supportive comments of the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) about new clause 14, on which I suspect we will test the opinion of the House later.
We are concerned about new clause 15 because of its advisory nature. “Advise” or “advice” appear nine times in it—it is an entirely advisory clause. That would be fine if the Government were bound by the advice but, by definition, one is not bound by advice. Amendment No. 3 would remove the opt-out. The Government have the option after five years of saying, “This is all terribly difficult—we’re not going to do it.” Our worry is that aviation and shipping are so important that, if five years of the best brains around the globe getting together cannot crack the problem, we are genuinely in trouble. We do not want to give the Government the option after five years of slipping out a written statement on the last day of a parliamentary Session to claim that they had tried hard but could not include aviation and shipping because it was too difficult. There is not enough of a guarantee that those matters will be taken into account.
Although I am beginning to understand the theology of such issues, I cannot understand why the new clause and amendment No. 72, as redrafted, guarantee anything. They are a nudge and a wink and a hint from a well-disposed Secretary of State and Under-Secretary, but they guarantee nothing, especially when Ministers change and others may not be so committed. We therefore need to beef up those amendments.
New clause 14 states that the Government need to provide projections on aviation and shipping. We welcome the Minister’s assurance that the projections on aviation will be forthcoming and updated, but simply saying that shipping is too difficult, which is essentially the position, is inadequate. We need to resolve those difficulties. We need an approximation to the best guess, and doing that is not a science; it is an art. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) said, doing nothing is likely to be an awful lot further away from the optimal solution than having an approximation, an imputation or an assumption.
Our second concern is about the role of national leadership. I fully accept that in time everything will need to be done multilaterally, but we are not playing a game in which we cannot make a move until everybody else has moved. We are talking about a vital issue on which we need to lead by example and bring others with us. If we say, “We’re not going to include these things until everybody else does or until we’ve decided altogether how to do it”, the clock will be ticking in the meantime. That is our profound concern.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way to my standard question about oil. Last week the Prime Minister said that we needed an ever-increasing supply of oil, which confused me in the light of our objective of having a low-carbon economy, because burning oil creates carbon dioxide and water primarily. Will my hon. Friend share his views on whether we can satisfy the objectives of the Bill, with or without the inclusion of aviation and shipping, while having an ever-increasing supply of oil?
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. From our perspective we need to get on with decarbonising the economy. The goal of an ever-increasing supply of oil is literally nonsense and should certainly not be an aim of Government policy.
The point that I made in an intervention on the Minister is that it might be great that the Department of Energy and Climate Change sets such bold targets, but as long as the Department for Transport, for example, continues to act as if it were a wholly owned subsidiary of BAA, we will not achieve what we need to. It is vital to bring aviation and shipping within the scope of the Bill, so that the other bits of Government, which are perhaps not quite as well disposed towards tackling climate change as the Department of Energy and Climate Change is, are brought into line. The sooner we do that, the smaller the chance that irreversible decisions will be taken on airport expansion—decisions that would undermine the goal that we all share of tackling climate change effectively.
We welcome new clause 15 and the advice that will be forthcoming, but we simply do not believe that it goes far enough. In addition, we need the projections provided for in our new clause 14 and a calculation of what that means for non-aviation and shipping carbon emissions. The Minister’s view seems to be that the rest of the economy can just take the hit, because as long as the grand total is okay, we are all happy. However, the rest of the economy might have a view on taking more of a hit than aviation and shipping simply because aviation and shipping were not included in the budgets.
There is an equity issue, too. We might have a view, for example, on how fair it is to expect manufacturing to take the entire hit because aviation and shipping have been allowed to run away with their emissions. There is an equity issue to do with the balance of reducing emissions, not only at household level but between different sectors of the economy. Favourable treatment towards one sector, which would be likely if we did not bring it within the Bill, is undesirable for us all.
The hon. Gentleman started his speech with the premise that the Bill places no absolute requirement on the Government to include aviation and shipping in the budgets or the targets. That is correct, but I have struggled to follow how his new clause 14 would change that. I can see that it might improve the transparency of some of the information going into the mix, but it does not change the basic premise of his argument, does it?
As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, our new clause 14 would require projections on aviation and shipping that would otherwise not be made, which would deliver an impact assessment on the rest of the economy. As he knows, our concern is about the actions of future Governments. The consequence of our proposal would be for other sectors of the economy to exert more pressure to include aviation and shipping, because it would be much more transparent that they would take the hit. That would be an indirect way of bringing pressure on future Governments not to neglect the other sectors of the economy.
Does the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact of aviation and shipping not show the absurdity at the heart of the Bill? Independent studies show that a 75 per cent. increase in emissions from shipping is expected in the next 15 to 20 years and that emissions from shipping already constitute more than double those from aviation globally. The fact that we are introducing an 80 per cent. reduction today while critical elements of delivering it are not within the power of the Secretary of State shows that we are posturing and not really putting down legally enforceable limits on emissions. In the meantime, we are failing to take the practical actions that could be taken to deliver emissions changes today.
I partly agree with the hon. Gentleman, in the sense that we certainly need a legal framework and practical, urgent action now. His point highlights the fact that the Government’s approach to aviation and shipping is almost one of “predict and provide”. They are almost saying, “We will let that rip, and then we will pick up the pieces in the rest of the economy.” That is why we cannot go on risking excluding those elements.
We are sure that the Government’s intentions are good, but we do not believe that even this Government—and certainly not future Governments—will be bound by what is in new clause 15 or amendment No. 72. We are therefore seeking to add new clause 14 to the Bill.
I think that the whole House welcomes the movement by the Government in this area. I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), and I particularly welcome the fact that the Government are accepting the amendment tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley).
My hon. Friend the Minister rightly referred to the important interim advice from the Committee on Climate Change in the letter earlier this month to the Secretary of State of the new Department from the Committee’s chairman, Lord Adair Turner. I want to highlight two or three important sentences in the letter. The advice provides the basis for the Government’s movement, but it should also send an important message to Parliament and the Government about the decisive action that we need to take on this issue in the coming years. As we all know, the important recommendations were that the target for the reduction in emissions covered by the Bill—between 1990 and 2050, which is quite a long way ahead—should be 80 per cent., and that the target should include international aviation and shipping.
In an important point in the letter, Lord Turner explains the reasons for the change. He sets out what has changed since the report from the historic royal commission on environmental pollution in 2000, which is where the original 60 per cent. target came from. He lists six things that have changed, but I shall not refer to all of them today. However, I want to quote one of them. By way of an introduction to that, I want to point out that he suggests that
“the dangers of significant climate change are greater than previously assessed which argues for larger global, and thus UK, reductions.”
He makes six points, and in point No. 5, he states that
“there is now a greater understanding of the range of potential climate change impacts, their regional variation and the possibility of abrupt or irreversible changes. These analyses also suggest greater damages once temperature increases become significant.”
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I must remind him that this group of amendments is to do with shipping and aviation. An opportunity for more general comments about the targets for the reduction of emissions will crop up at a later point on the Order Paper.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you assure us that we will have an opportunity to debate the Third Reading of the Bill, and to raise the more general points that the right hon. Gentleman has tried to raise, and which many of us would like to discuss, in the course of assessing some of the new clauses, particularly in relation to their cost effectiveness?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot give any such assurance. The progress that is made on dealing with the amendments that have been selected by Mr. Speaker depends entirely on the House, so I am afraid that I cannot give any such assurance. However, I have to rule on the relevance of any remarks made to the particular group of amendments under discussion.
I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
The crucial issue is the global temperature rise that the world has to avoid. There, of course, international aviation and shipping are highly important. Significant observations have been made to the effect that it is not easy to deal with these issues. I was a Cabinet Minister in the Transport Department when we were elected in 1997. The big thing that I grasped very quickly was that aviation was international. It was international organisations such as IATA—the International Air Transport Association—that had to be dealt with. International shipping is, of course, also important.
It seems to me that the Government should be congratulated on proposing these new clauses. We Opposition Members are very pleased to support them. It also seems to me that the Government are in a difficult position. On the one hand, they cannot build into the Bill a unilateral system that might be wholly different from what emerges from negotiation. That is a perfectly reasonable Government position, but if it is to be tenable, the Government must give the House—not just now, but throughout the coming months and years—a real understanding of their commitment to doing the things that will make a reality of these new clauses.
I think I will leave the issue of oil alone, as it has been somewhat widely discussed but is not entirely germane, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the issues that concern us at this moment.
The Government need to give us the confidence to support them by being much tougher about what they intend to do in practical terms about these issues. First, it is obviously true that we need an internationally agreed system of measurement. In that, the Government need to be particularly attentive, so that we can all make a proper assessment of how successful we, along with other nations, are in reducing emissions.
Secondly, it is terribly important to recognise that we cannot do these things except in common with our neighbours. I thought that the intervention on the subject of European law by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who is no longer in his place, was outside the issue. If we do not do this on a European basis, there is simply no chance of doing it effectively at all. We need to recognise that the environment is not something that can be nationalised—it seems about the only thing that is not being nationalised at the moment, but it cannot be: we must do this on a European basis. It is an obvious fact of life.
Thirdly, if we are to proceed on a wider basis, I want to underline the points raised earlier about the danger of making things worse by accident. We know of many issues at the moment—the much-vaunted efforts for biofuels in the United States, for example—that have distorted the international situation very severely indeed. We have to be very careful that we do not do the same. The problem is that, in being careful, we must not put ourselves into a position of excusing not doing anything by saying how difficult it is to do. That is the issue that I want to press on the Minister.
If the Minister had come before the House to announce that there would be no third runway at Heathrow and that the ridiculous proposal to expand Stansted would not, in fact, go ahead, the House would have seen that the Government were doing all that they could do in advance of achieving the necessary international arrangements.
Does the right hon. Gentleman also oppose the expansion of our ports and docks? I do not know whether Felixstowe has any plans to expand, but should that expansion also be stopped? We are choosing just one target, aviation, which is fair enough, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should extend his argument to those other areas as well.
I wish that the hon. Gentleman, with whom I often agree, had listened more carefully to my argument. I gave a series of examples to which the Opposition were committed. It was therefore not unreasonable for me to suggest that if the Government wished to gain the universal support that I believe will be necessary if the Bill is be effective, it would be helpful if they clarified their approach to some of the key matters that are before us. The expansion of Felixstowe, which I declare as an interest in my constituency, is not a matter before us; the matter before us is the Government’s decision on Stansted, and their decision on Heathrow.
I know very well that the Minister is not the person making the decision in this instance, and also that, if she were, she would make that decision in a way of which I would greatly approve. However, I do not consider it unreasonable for me to say to her that it is imperative that the Government take seriously some of the decisions which we understand—notwithstanding the essentially light touch of the new clause—will be translated into action.
I want to say a little about unilateralism as it applies to aviation and shipping. It may be suggested that Britain should do nothing that might put her in a less powerful competitive position, and in general I think that that is true, but I hope the Minister will not be put off doing anything on that basis, or we shall find ourselves unable to take the lead that we have taken. The Climate Change Bill is unilateral in a very real sense, and so it should be.
Although I cannot be accused by anyone of being unilateralist in the sense that the Minister was but—I believe—is not now, I can at least say that unilateralism, in the sense of being a step ahead of others and helping them to make their decisions, is often necessary. T.S. Eliot once said “Being a step ahead of the rest is something that deserves congratulation and you are a hero; two steps ahead, and watch out for the men in white coats.” There is some truth in that. I do not want us to get into a position in which we have so damaged our international ability to trade and compete that we suffer unilaterally, but we do need to ensure that we are taking a step ahead of the rest.
Do I understand from my right hon. Friend’s logic that, while there is a case for being ahead, if others do not follow us we should cease to give leadership, and that therefore a Bill that binds us unilaterally, by law, to targets 42 years ahead goes too far?
No, I do not agree with that. If I may say so, I think that my right hon. Friend is entirely wrong. The world is faced with the biggest threat that we have ever known about in advance, and for us not to take these measures would constitute a deep dereliction of our duty to this generation, the next generation and the generation after that.
I must tell my right hon. Friend that I deeply disagree with the approach that if no one else helps as we go over the precipice, we had better run with them. That is a totally unacceptable position. We must stand up. That is why the Bill is so important, why the Conservative party supported it from the beginning, why it is a triumph of cross-party agreement that we have secured it, and why it is so important to tighten it up in the areas that it does not currently cover. But to do that—
With accustomed care, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you enabled me to get off my chest what I needed to, but did not allow me to proceed too far down that avenue, and I shall not do so.
Let me return to the difference between shipping and aviation. I ask the Minister to concentrate on shipping. Shipping can provide the most carbon-efficient mechanism for transporting goods, and we therefore must take care in how we deal with it. However, it is not like aviation in a number of other ways. First, the EU trading scheme does not easily apply to shipping; it is difficult to see how we can use that as a mechanism in the same way as we can with aviation. Secondly, a great deal can be achieved in the shipping industry through taking steps that are not open to the aviation industry. For example, if it were demanded that over a short period ships increasingly used a higher quality of fuel, that could rapidly reduce the carbon impact, but that step is not open to aviation in the same way or over the same time scale.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I have been listening to his comments with great care, and I agree with much of what he has said. With regard to the point he has just made, does he agree that it is important for the Government to be in deep dialogue with the International Maritime Organisation about addressing such matters? It would be helpful if the Minister were to describe the sort of discussions that she has had with the IMO.
The hon. Gentleman is right, and I pressed the Minister earlier about this issue, because there is a feeling abroad that we have not been sufficiently hard-working in this area and that we have failed to produce as much pressure as we should. It is thought that perhaps we should ginger up our role in international shipping, because we do not want the EU to set proper standards for the kind of fuel that is provided for, and used by, ships docking at its ports, including Felixstowe in my constituency, only to find that they therefore unload outside the EU, such as in Morocco or Turkey. We need to find ways of achieving the ends we want without producing untoward results, but that does not excuse us from being seen to be an effective pressure on the international shipping community, which in many respects wishes to be pressed and wants to move. The Government must show that they are doing that.
My last point on this issue refers to a question raised by the hon. Member for Northavon (Steve Webb). He talked about the need to include shipping and aviation as a matter of equity. That may be the case, but I think there is a more important reason: if we do not have a system that covers the whole of commercial and industrial life, we will automatically create damaging kinds of discrimination and diversion. There is a commercial reason for doing this, and we ought to be citing it; otherwise, there will be untoward consequences. If we leave out shipping and aviation, not only will other areas be disproportionately affected, but if the carbon costs of imports are not included businesses that rely on imports will be able to compete disproportionately with businesses that manufacture at home.
I do not want to be protectionist, but I do want to have equality in this commercial context, so that we ensure that the home-produced product—whether it be food, an area in which I am particularly interested, or manufactured goods—is not disproportionately affected because those businesses are paying the cost of the carbon that they use, whereas other businesses are not paying the cost of the carbon that is used when their product is flown or shipped in from a far-away country. I therefore beg the Minister to take seriously the point that this is not only a matter of theoretical equality, much as I believe in that as an issue. It is a matter of commercial justice and a crucial one for an island that has lost much of its manufacturing ability and ought to gain much back.
My right hon. Friend has just put forward a very good case against unilateralism in shipping and aviation, as those industries would be adversely affected by it. I cannot understand why he feels that those industries should be protected from unilateralism but other parts of industry should not be protected from it elsewhere in the Bill.
I have obviously not made myself very clear to my hon. Friend. I was making the point that if we do not include those two industries in the Bill there will be untoward results because they are excluded. In fact, I was making the opposite argument.
My hon. Friend is a doubter about whether we should be doing all this at all, and the reason for his doubt is that he has not committed himself to the scientific view of the damage that climate change is likely to bring and the fact that human beings are causing it. I understand that someone who takes that view can argue that we really ought to sit back and wait for someone else to do something, because it does not matter anyway. In my view, which is based on the scientific advice, it matters desperately and may matter much more than we think.
We therefore have to act rapidly and achieve a delicate and difficult balance by acting sufficiently unilaterally to lead but not going so far as to make it difficult for others to follow by giving them an advantage that they do not want to give up. It is quite a delicate step, and the Government are trying to do that. We as an Opposition have a duty to support them in so far as they are, and they ought to give us a bit more help in supporting them by making clear what they are doing practically to make the amendments a reality.
I welcome new clause 15 and pay tribute to the work of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East and Saddleworth (Mr. Woolas) not only on the Bill but on raising the issue of aviation and shipping on the international stage. We all know that that is where it has to be raised.
We recognise the need to count in the emissions from aviation and shipping, but we all accept that calculating how to apportion them to individual countries is fraught with difficulty. As our Climate Change Bill is often referred to as a world first, it is crucial that we include aviation and shipping. We do not want to give other people the idea that those matters can be left out of legislation. They should be included because we need to raise consciousness among many other nations that may follow suit by producing similar legislation. However, we realise that there is still an enormous amount of work to be done to reach an international agreement about how any mechanism might work, and we still need to work hard on the international stage in many other spheres. We all recognise that what we do here can be worth while only if it is mirrored elsewhere in the world.
We certainly might be able to use a system involving sectoral emissions, but we must remember that one problem with the EU emissions trading system is that we sometimes lose manufacturing industry from this country because it relocates to a country where the emissions trading scheme does not require it to meet our standards. We may find that, in the aviation and shipping industries, transport routes and refuelling stops become much more about avoiding the emissions being counted than about producing the lowest possible emissions.
Our Bill is also important because we do not see it merely as a legal sanction. Once we have exceeded targets, it is too late—those emissions are out there and causing damage. We should see the Bill as an important monitoring tool and as a process rather than as an end in itself.