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Carbon Reporting

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

Yesterday, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary, Lord Henley, launched a public consultation seeking views on whether or not regulations should be introduced to make it mandatory for some companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions. I commend Christian Aid for raising awareness of this issue in Christian Aid week, and I hope that that will also serve to raise awareness of our consultation among members of the public and encourage them to engage in it.

I thank the Secretary of State for her answer. Just yesterday, Lord Henley stated:

“More consistent reporting of emissions should help investors make better use of such data”.

Does the Secretary of State therefore agree with me and the 60,000 people who have taken the time to join Christian Aid’s campaign that consistency can be achieved only if the scheme becomes mandatory?

We cannot pre-empt the outcome before the consultation, but institutional investors want this information in order to be able to make a more accurate assessment of companies. Most big companies already report their greenhouse gas emissions, but this is the perfect time for the hon. Lady and her colleagues to take part in the consultation, so that views may be ascertained.

Although we all want to encourage companies, particularly big companies, to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, does the Secretary of State agree that there is a risk of over-burdensome regulation, particularly on small and medium-sized enterprises, which will result in only a very small reduction in carbon emissions?

The coalition Government are committed to relieving the unnecessary burden of red tape on all of business, but we understand that pressures can be particularly burdensome on SMEs. If my hon. Friend looks at the proposals in the consultation, he will see that these concerns have been taken account of, and I am sure that if he participates in the consultation and further reinforces the views he has expressed in the Chamber, it will all add weight to the outcome of the consultation.

May I start by saying how unhappy the Opposition are, along with the National Farmers Union, that DEFRA questions have been castrated to a mere 45 minutes, although I understand the Government’s desire to give more time to their stellar parliamentary performer, the Deputy Prime Minister?

In opposition, the Conservative party promised to

“bring forward the date that the largest companies are required to report on carbon emissions”,

yet the consultation the Government published yesterday gives companies an option to do nothing. We heard earlier this week that the hawks in the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are holding up Cabinet agreement to the UK’s fourth carbon budget. Is there a Cabinet split on carbon reporting as well?

We must set the record straight, for the sake of all hon. Members. It was the official Opposition who asked for the Deputy Prime Minister to be given a 15-minute slot, which had to come from one of the longer sessions of oral questions. If one analyses the number of questions that Opposition Members have tabled, one will see that the answer lies in their own hands. A glance at the Order Paper will confirm that twice as many Members on the coalition Benches tabled questions to DEFRA.

Order. The Secretary of State has made her point, but she must quickly answer the question on the Order Paper, and then we will move on.

The question on the Order Paper concerns woodland cover and encouraging communities to plant more trees. I think I have made it clear how—[Interruption.] As for carbon reporting, the consultation contains four options for companies to engage in carbon reporting. The consultation was launched yesterday, and this is the time for people to express their views on the options in the paper.