House of Lords
Friday, 14 July 2006.
The House met at eleven of the clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.
My Lords, before we begin, I should like to give the usual advice about times. For the three debates today we have more than 30 speakers; if the maximum time for Back-Bench contributions were limited to 10 minutes, then we should finish by well before five o’clock, which is a bit later than we would normally finish. That is the guidance for today—a maximum of 10 minutes for Back-Bench speakers.
Climate Change (EAC Report)
rose to move That this Housetakes note of the report of the Economic Affairs Committee on the Economics of Climate Change (2nd Report, HL Paper 12).
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am delighted to be able to introduce this debate. It is more than a year ago since our report was published, on the eve of the last G8 summit at Gleneagles. Since then we have had the opportunity in this House to discuss climate change in the debate on 10 November, which was initiated by the noble Lord, Lord May. But eight months later, the subject remains, of course, as topical as ever.
Like all economic affairs reports, this one is evidence-based and non-party political. And once again, the report has been agreed by all members of the committee. My first thanks are to my colleagues on the committee for collectively making it possible for us to deal in a dispassionate and, I hope, effective way with so sensitive and difficult an issue.
I also want to say a particular word of appreciation for the work of the late Professor David Pearce, our specialist adviser. David Pearce was one of the founding fathers of environmental economics in this country. His international reputation was reflected in the lifetime achievement award ofthe European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, which he received in June last year, only weeks before the publication of our report. He was a truly outstanding adviser to the committee, and our report would certainly not have been produced without him. So his sudden and early death, only a month after our report was published, is a terrible loss, not only to his family and friends but to the world of environmental economists.
I also wish to say how much we appreciated the work of our Clerk and his advisers on the team. They were a great help to us.
The report received considerable publicitywhen it was published. Some of this reflected the international political context at the time. Climate change was central to the G8 agenda at Gleneagles, and the report appeared just as the world leaders were gathering. But I believe its reception also owed much to the fact that it was addressing the economic aspects of the subject. Many distinguished economists were working on climate change, and we took evidence from a number of them, but it is usually their scientific colleagues who receive the lion’s share of media attention.
Perhaps as a result of the relatively fresh perspective that I believe we were able to bring to the subject, most of the publicity received by our report on publication was very positive. Of course, there were critics too, although it subsequently emerged that some of them had not actually read the report when first pronouncing on it. When some later got round to doing so, one or two even acknowledged that they might have misjudged it.
However, the Government’s response, when it eventually emerged, was very disappointing—grudging in tone and generally negative on substance. I wrote in February to the then Secretary of State, Margaret Beckett, and to other Ministers, including the Prime Minister, to express our disappointment at the Government’s response. I noted that the response negativity was all the more surprising when it appeared increasingly that in important aspects, the Government’s thinking is close to the views set out in the committee’s report.
I referred then to the Prime Minister’s comments at the Clinton summit in New York in September and on subsequent occasions, which indicated a rather radical change in direction for the Government. The Prime Minister noted that he was changing his thinking on climate change and that there was a need for “brutal honesty” about the politics of how we deal with it. On Kyoto, he noted that there,
“is a disagreement…It’s not going to be resolved”.
He also said:
“I don’t think people are going—at least in the short term—to start negotiating another…Kyoto”.
All this was entirely in line with the thinking of the committee.
The energy review published this week appears to be the work of Jekyll and Hyde. On the one hand, there is a recognition that nuclear power must play a part in Britain’s energy supply mix. This realism is welcome—indeed, long overdue—but I fear it will take a number of years before there is a significant increase in nuclear generation. On the other hand, the shortcomings of the 2003 review, including in particular what we felt was the utter lack of realism about the role of renewables, has unfortunately been carried over into the recent review. However, I am always optimistic, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, whom I have known and admired for more than 30 years, since we entered the House of Commons on the same day, will produce a more measured, realistic and positive response from the Government that is more consistent with the realism of the Prime Minister than with some of the fantasies of the old Defra.
On the central point of our report, the Government did immediately follow the advice of the committee. Given the importance and complexity of the issues involved, we were very clear that the Treasury needed to play a much more extensive role on climate change within government, so we were delighted that within days of publication of our report, the Chancellor announced the review of the economics of climate change to be led by Sir Nick Stern. That was the correct thing for the Government to do and we congratulate them on their action. The committee has been following Sir Nick Stern's review with interest and we very much look forward to his report.
I am hopeful that the Stern review will readily endorse many of the committee's conclusions and recommendations. For instance, there is a risk that international negotiations will not secure large-scale and effective action on mitigation. The Stern review might take a more sanguine view of the risk than we did. But there is clearly some risk. We therefore want to see a more balanced approach to the relative merits of adaptation and mitigation, with far more attention paid to adaptation measures.
Another key recommendation in our report, which I feel confident the Stern review will go along with, is the need for a far stronger focus on technology and research and development. That does not, in our view, mean a little more of what is being done now. It means a step change to a research and development effort into carbon-free and low carbon energy sources of an altogether different magnitude. In our report, we suggested that the US Apollo programme to put a man on the moon provided a precedent for the sort of extraordinary effort and priority that is needed. On that point, the recent energy review is disappointing. I see no evidence that the Government are committed to an effort on the scale of what is required on that front.
As I have already said, I hope that the Sternreview will follow the Prime Minister as well as the committee in taking a “brutally”—the Prime Minister’s word—realistic view of the prospects for effective emissions controls. But, in any case, the committee outlined concerns about the workingsof the relevant international body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There is perhaps room for debate about the significance and full implications of the shortcomings in the IPCC process. However, the IPCC has an exceptional, largely unquestioned, authority in this area—perhaps unparalleled in United Nations agencies working in other fields. In such a situation, what seems indisputable is the need for an organisation and a process whose procedures, objectivity and balance are not only beyond question, but are seen to be beyond question. For all the fine work done by the IPCC, to which I pay tribute, I fear that that is not the present position.
Finally, I refer the House to the concerns that the committee expressed that UK energy and climate policy appeared to be based on some very dubious assumptions about the roles of renewable energy and energy efficiency. We also pressed for a proper carbon tax to replace the present climate change levy, and we urged the maintenance of as wide an energy portfolio as possible, with the retention of nuclear power. On that last point, the energy review is, as I have said, encouraging.
Although it is right that renewable energy and energy efficiency are given priority, it is disappointing not to find in the review much more realism about what they can be expected to achieve. Also disappointing is the lack of commitment to the introduction of a carbon tax. Some very distinguished speakers are taking part in this debate, which I am delighted about. Iam very much looking forward to hearing all the contributions, including the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I beg to move.
Moved, That this House takes note of the report of the Economic Affairs Committee on the Economics of Climate Change (2nd Report, HL Paper 12).—(Lord Wakeham.)
My Lords, I first congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and his committee on their report, which bears evidence of a great deal of thought and work. At least, it is a bit different to see something from a gaggle of economists writing on environmental issues. It is said that one advantage of being an economist is that you get to write about money without ever having to make any. I am pleased to see that this report is eminently practical in its implications.
In our society today—indeed, throughout the world—we are having to deal with the ripple of two types of intersecting shock. One is certainly climate change shock. For a long while, climate change seemed to many people to be a kind of abstract thing for the future—a possibility that was continuously disputed within certain sectors of the scientific community. Although I gather that some sceptics will speak later, having looked at the literature extensively for the past four or five years, I do not see how it is possible to hold that position any longer. Climate change is in the here and now. When a city in the richest country in the world can be overwhelmed by flooding within 24 hours, it is an indication that something is different in the world. Of course, we do not know whether what happened in New Orleans was influenced by climate change. But most of the models of climate change centre on the Caribbean as a source of major perturbations in world weather patterns.
Energy price shock is just as important. It plainly intersects with climate change shock because some of the solutions to the two clearly overlap. One can see the difference today even from a year ago in the report, which is quite muted on the theme of energy, but most people now agree that energy pricing looks set to increase and that many of the risks that we face in the world, including the risk of terrorism, overlap with these other two types of shock. Most noble Lords will know that there was a terrorist attack on one of the major oil installations in the Middle East about a year ago. That attack failed, but it could have taken out about one-tenth of the world energy supply in one single attack, so we are dealing with an overlapping range of risks here.
I find a lot in the report that I agree with. It is right to say that economics should be brought into the centre of debates about climate change and that the Treasury should play an important role alongside those arms of government that specialise in dealing with the environment. I am pleased to see that at least some progress has been made in that direction. I believe that it is right to put stress on technology and research and development, and what the report calls a “Kyoto plus”. We all know that Kyoto is inadequate, partly because the Americans have not signed up to it and because it covers only part of the world and, as we all know, even if it were fully signed up to, it would get nowhere near to resolving the issues that we face with climate change.
It is also right to say that every nation must have diverse energy sources and that nuclear power must be part of that mix—although even the advocates of nuclear power recognise that there are major problems with it. It is a long-term solution, and some of the crises involved have become short-term crises, especially around energy supplies. Having looked at this issue in detail recently in relation to European legislation, with which I was involved, I believe there are major problems in setting up a scenario in which the private sector would be able to play the major role in financing new nuclear power stations. We should all watch closely the experiment in Finland, with that country’s new nuclear power station.
However, there are three critical comments that I should like to make about the report. First, I am a bit puzzled by the fact that it does not mention the theme of ecological modernisation. That is perhaps the dominant theme of the relationship between economics and the environment and has been prominent in the literature for at least the past 10 to 15 years. The idea is controversial, but it proposes that there are many circumstances in which environmentally friendly technologies are also more efficient than those which are not environmentally friendly or not environmentally neutral, and that environmentally sophisticated technologies might in principle have bigger markets than those which are less sophisticated or polluting. Of course, you can supplement those things with a range of energy taxes to make them more saleable and marketable in local and global markets.
Let us consider the example of the Toyota motor car company. Toyota has recently overtaken General Motors to be the largest car manufacturer in the world. There are many reasons for this: Toyotas do not break down very often, as anyone who has owned one knows. But most analysts agree that it is also because Toyota is by far the most advanced manufacturer of environmentally friendly cars, especially hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius. Toyota is also creating some very interesting innovations, well beyond the Prius. The next generation of Prius motor car, which is due out in a year and a half’s time, is reckoned to do more than 100 miles to the gallon and in other ways to be more environmentally friendly than most cars on the road.
In the report, the economics of the environment seem to be discussed almost wholly in terms of brute cost. It mentions the IEA estimate, which the noble Lord also mentioned; but one needs a much more sophisticated analysis than that of the net costs of the intersection between new technological innovation, global technological innovation and the costs of sustaining more environmentally friendly policies. That also has relevance for competitiveness because the Japanese are well ahead of the Europeans and Americans in some of these markets. If you go to California the Toyota hybrid cars are the most sought-after cars—there is a three-year waiting list for them there; so they are eminently marketable.
My second comment would be that we should put increasing emphasis on lifestyle change. The report says something to the effect that action to tackle climate change must be “potentially life-changing”; but there does not seem to be much development of that in the report. We cannot face up to the dual challenge of climate change shock and energy shock without lifestyle change. There are many areas here in which there is a win-win situation. We know, for example, that congestion charging has been successful in London. It certainly has an environmental impact and an impact on energy use. I fully support the Mayor’s intention to increase the congestion charge for the most environmentally unfriendly vehicles.
What we have to do is to rescue environmentalism from the hold of the Green movement, partly because the Green imagery is all wrong. You cannot go back to nature; there is no such thing as “nature”, in a sense, because technology is now so much involved with the natural world. Many things that we have to deal with are no longer directly natural. But also the Green movement tends to be hostile to science, and science and technology have to be at the front line in our attempts to cope with the influence of the dual agenda of shocks.
It is interesting to look at those countries thatare in the vanguard. In Sweden, for example, the Government have declared that there will be a fossil-free economy by 2020. That is not a long time ahead. One reason for that is that Sweden, unlike most other industrial countries, took action in the first oil crisis of the 1970s. So, too, did Japan, where consumption of oil has remained stable over the past 30 years even though the Japanese economy has grown by three times. If you look at the statistics, even the best performing European countries do not get close to that figure.
My third point is that not only economics are relevant to climate change and fuel change shock. The other social sciences are also relevant, such as sociology and psychology, because we are dealing with different risk situations from the past. We are dealing today with what I call new-style risks. Old-style risks are those that you can measure, as you do in an insurance company. Every time you step into a car, I can tell you what your chance is of being injured in an accident, but you cannot do that for new-style risks. Climate change is a manifestly obvious version of a new-style risk, but so are avian flu and the many things that now threaten us. In Britain we have been used to living on a fairly benign island, but catastrophic risk is something that every country has to face, and I am not sure that the UK is sufficiently mobilised to do that.
In conclusion, there is a range of studies, onwhich I am sure other noble Lords will speak, onthe intersection between competitiveness and environmental innovation. Among the best I know of are those by Michael Porter and his colleagues at Harvard, which show that the introduction of environmentally friendly technologies is at least neutral in respect of economic competitiveness in most situations.
My Lords, as a newcomer to the Select Committee on Economic Affairs at the time when it prepared its report, I approached the subject of climate change with some diffidence. That is not to say that I had no interest, either past or present. My present interest is as a member of the supervisory board of Siemens AG, a leading supplier of power generation plant and automotive equipment, among other things. My past interest was as a member of the board of the Mobil corporation, now part of ExxonMobil. Any lingering scepticism I may have had in that latter capacity about the gravity of the threat of climate change and the significance of greenhouse gas emissions has since gone. I believe that this is one of the greatest challenges to face us of all time, that the case for scientific action is made, and that the paramount issue now is what action to take.
It is here that my scepticism kicks back in. In choosing lines of action we must not miss the wood for the trees. We need to accept that the best that the UK can do of itself in controlling carbon emissions is to be exemplary—thoroughly desirable, but quite insufficient. Even if we cut the UK’s CO2 emissions to zero, there would be no measurable impact on global temperature in the foreseeable future. Only Europe as a whole can make a dent in the problem. The totality of those who ratified the Kyoto Protocol—the Kyoto club—could make only a rather bigger dent. What we have is a manifestly global problem and it can be tackled effectively only on a global scale. The bulk of greenhouse gas emissions—and a growing proportion—comes from the developing countries together with the United States. If they are not party to the solution, there will be no solution.
So, if we think we can lean heavily on the Kyoto club’s carbon emissions trading schemes to provide a global solution to the problem, we are mistaken. Even if the current defects in the architecture of such schemes can be remedied, we cannot bank on persuading the developing world and the US to subject themselves to that level of discipline, certainly not in time to be effective. That is not to say that I am advocating the abandonment of a European emissions trading scheme; I am simply pointing out that, were it entirely successful, it would still be inadequate, and that consequently it would not be sensible to push it to the point of impairing the competitiveness of European industry. We also have to accept that we are not going to suppress an ever-increasing global demand for energy. It is wishful thinking to suppose that any scheme, no matter how elegant, has the power to halt the economic growth of, say, China or India, let alone induce the necessary behavioural change across the globe in time.
Face up to those facts and the issue becomesquite stark. We have to find the means of meetinga growing demand for energy, and indeed transportation, without emitting vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere or creating other environmental disasters.
In short, the key issue is technological. Technology and industry got us into this fix and it is for technology and industry to get us out of it. If we can accelerate—and acceleration is the key point—the provision, at scale, of competitively priced, environmentally friendly alternatives to fossil fuels or effective carbon capture, the problem will fade away. Remove the externalities and the market can be left to take care of itself. There is every reason to believe that technology will be able to meet that challenge. We also have a wide range of potential options to pursue: carbon capture, of course, as well as photovoltaics, hydrogen cells—you name it. The problem is not one of technological options but one of time. We need to bring forward solutions at scale, but to do that we need a massive boost in our efforts to address the technological and cost issues. That in turn means finding and applying sufficient financial and other resources to do the job.
The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, mentioned the analogy of the moon shot as a means of marshalling the resources needed to speed up development of technologies. I think that a closer parallel would be that of an arms race. If we could provoke the equivalent of an arms race in the context of combating global warming, we would stand the very best chance of getting the right results in time. After all, if vast public resources can be found to accelerate technologies capable of destroying the world, surely it is not beyond the wit of man to devise the means of accelerating technologies capable of saving the world.
Where would the financial and technological resources come from? Here the members of the Kyoto club do have the resources to go it alone. They have the scientific base, the engineering capability and the economic strength not only to participate in such an environmental arms race but to get out in front. In our report, we urge the Government to take a leadin exploring alternative “architectures” for future protocols, based perhaps on agreements on technology and its diffusion. More experienced minds than mine will, I hope, take this forward, but perhaps I can make a few tentative suggestions.
First, reach agreement among the Kyoto club members to levy a straightforward carbon tax ineach of their countries. Secondly, agree to the hypothecation of the proceeds of that tax, in whole or in part, into a fund devoted to the accelerationof the development of competitively priced, environmentally friendly technologies for both power generation and transportation. The fund will be managed by representatives of the Kyoto club: Europe, Japan and so on. Incidentally, I believe that people would understand and accept such a tax. It would be levied not in an attempt to change our behaviour, which most of us tend to resent, or to offer us the moral comfort of donning an environmental hair-shirt, but simply to finance practical solutions to a problem that affects us all. Thirdly, do not specify the technologies to be used—governmental bodies nearly always get that wrong. Just set out the desired outputs, cost parameters and timescales and leave it to industry to take it from there.
Finally—and here is the sting in the tail—place the development contracts solely within the member countries of the Kyoto club. The resulting European-Japanese industrial axis would be sufficient to trigger our environmental arms race. The United States would have to follow suit; to do otherwise would be to risk being overtaken in the next generation of both power generation and transportation technologies. Neither is something that the Americans could really contemplate.
I appreciate that such an approach may seem too radical, too direct or just too simplistic, but I make no apologies for it. If ever there was an issue demanding radical and direct action, this is it. We must not let our understandable preoccupation with getting things right in the UK and the European Union lure us into thinking that that is all we must do. This is a global issue that demands global solutions. The Kyoto club has tried persuasion and leadership by example in emissions trading schemes, but it all has the makings of too little, too late. Now is the time for direct and focused intervention in the market and the application of financial and technological resources on a scale commensurate with the environmental threat. It is also an initiative where the UK Government might take the lead.
My Lords, I declare interests as a former chairman of Shell Transport and Trading and as a current adviser to Climate Change Capital and a variety of other bodies concerned with energy policy, climate change, investment and risk management. I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, for the opportunity to discuss the report of his committee. The report is very wide-ranging and I shall have time to touch on only a few aspects.
Modern civilisation has developed and prospered during a 5,000-year period of relatively stable and benign climate, and we have built a costly infrastructure of modern western society to fit those conditions. The rapid changes in climate that we are now experiencing will make many parts of that infrastructure inappropriate or insufficient and we shall have to do our best to adapt. That we do for ourselves. For our children and our grandchildren, we must at the same time tackle the causes of climate change and find energy sources—as I think all the previous speakers have said—that do not depend on fossil fuels. That is something that we shall have to do anyway within some decades as oil and gas become scarcer and more expensive.
It is therefore timely that we should consider the costs of these changes and what provision should be made for adapting to the new circumstances and for mitigating the causes of climate change. Both of those depend on the science, but the science of complex natural systems is particularly challenging. There is rarely, if ever, complete certainty and total understanding. I feel that the committee struggledin its efforts to come to terms with that. It ispretty meaningless to state, along with the US Administration, that the science is uncertain. Science is about uncertainty. It is not a matter of whether everything is known; it is a matter of whether enough is known to answer a particular question with a reasonable degree of confidence, and that may be a matter of experience and judgment. If that question is whether anthropogenic climate change is happening and is a threat to the planet, science gives an unequivocal affirmative. What is uncertain is how, when, where and how severely the consequences will be felt.
In the year since the report was written, the situation has become both clearer and more worrying. It looks as if 2005 was the hottest year since records have been kept, and that the two most recent decades have been the hottest certainly for 400 and possibly for 1,100 years. More worrying still is that, as is now recognised, the great masses of polar ice that help to keep the earth cool are being affected by rapid break-up processes that were not previously thought to be important. This is work in progress, but the implications are that both sea level and temperature rise may be faster than previously thought. Frankly, to assert, as some continue to do, that this is simply natural variation in the earth’s climate, when these changes are quantitatively and qualitatively predicted from our history of burning fossil fuels, seems to me perverse.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which comes in for some scathing criticism in the committee’s report, is a truly remarkable body. It is remarkable because it is unique in the history of science—more than 2,000 scientists from a wide range of disciplines and more than 100 countries collaborate in an attempt to analyse and understand the complexities of our climate. The process is not perfect, but the results are astonishing. The panel issues periodic progress reports. The one that the committee considered and criticised was published in 2001, reflecting work done largely in the 1990s. Some of the concerns that the committee lists in its conclusions had already been answered—for example, probability analyses of future temperatures, which had been available for some time. The committee quite rightly raises the question of political interference with the IPCC, but the report reads—perhaps this is not the intention—as if the fault rests solely with the IPCC. The greater responsibility is carried by Governments who fund the IPCC and without whose approval reports cannot be issued.
Indeed, in a different vein, in the course of a different inquiry, your Lordships’ Select Committee on Science and Technology received evidence that one of the largest corporations in the world had written to the White House urging that the appointment of a senior IPCC scientist of whom it did not approve should be blocked. When interviewed by our committee, the company did not deny this and was unable to give an explanation. I think everyone would agree that this is unacceptable.
The committee is right when it urges that more attention be given to adaptation to the likely effects of climate change. As more than one witness pointed out, both adaptation to climate change and mitigation of its causes become more affordable if we make the necessary changes as part of the regular cycle of infrastructure renewal. Things have to be renewed anyway and, if we do so with this in mind, it need not necessarily be more expensive. Much of our infrastructure is renewed every 30 to 40 years and potential costs could be avoided by acting now. The Association of British Insurers makes the same point in its paper Financial Risks of Climate Change. The vulnerability of flood defences, water resources and transport and energy infrastructure all have to be reconsidered.
Although our domestic agenda is important, the international agenda is more so. I am afraid that I totally reject the committee’s disparagement of the Kyoto agreement. Self-evidently, Kyoto will of itself do relatively little to achieve emissions reductions, as, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Vallance of Tummel, pointed out, but this is the first unique and essential step to what follows in 2012.
That said, success or otherwise in controlling greenhouse gas emissions will not be determined in the UK, or in Europe, or in North America, but, as has already been pointed out, in the developing countries, particularly India and China. China is commissioning a large coal-fired power station every five days; its priority is to meet its burgeoning industrial energy needs and to mitigate the energy poverty that pervades the western two-thirds of the country. Capturing and storing the CO2 from these power stations is essential but is currently seen as too expensive. It follows that success in controlling global emissions will depend on the extent to which the west is able to support the developing countries in achieving their industrial revolutions more cleanly than we did ours. Improved technology is part of the story, but it will also take money.
My Lords, I speak in this debate with some diffidence as my speech will be different from many of the others, not least because I am neither an economist nor a scientist. I feel as if I am entering an arena where angels, let alone bishops, should be fearful of treading.
I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and the committee on the report, but I think that I am not the only one who found some parts of it good and others disappointing. It is, if I may say so, a curate’s egg, and I know a bit about curates and their eggs.
In the very first sentence of the report’s introduction the words of the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser are repeated. He said that,
“climate change is the most severe problem that we are facing today”.
Then as I read it, the report seemed almost to play down the seriousness of the problem: it does so as much in its tone as in its content. The very first page of the report states:
“UK energy and climate policy appears to be based on dubious assumptions”.
The report continues:
we should note the word “if”—
“climate change is as serious as most scientists claim”.
But to be fair, at least the report goes on to say that the action required to tackle climate change will,
“have to be serious and potentially life-changing”.
It will certainly have to be serious. I believe that it will have to be not just potentially life-changing, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, has said, it will have to be for real. I find it surprising that we do not have more mention of the fact that reduction in emissions will have to play a key part in every aspect of our lives.
It is good that the report casts a critical eye over some of the more hyped-up claims about climate change, yet I wonder whether it has not given too much weight to a minority of scientific opinion, to such an extent that its perspectives have become a bit skewed. Why, for example, was so little evidence taken from the scientists on the IPCC? I wonder again whether too pessimistic a view has been taken—but I suppose that is what economists tend to do—about the will and capacity of human societies to do something about climate change. I wonder too whether the committee ignored what has come to be called the tipping effect—the time when growing human awareness and increased understanding of the impact of our behaviour leads to a tipping over into significant action.
All around the world people have begun to realise the seriousness of the situation that we have made for ourselves. All around the world people have begun to recognise that we have to begin to live differently, that we have to make different decisions about how we are to live our lives, and so do our legislators.
I had hoped that the committee would have taken more account of the Royal Society’s work, and thatof all the science academies of the G8 countries, together with China, India and Brazil, which make it crystal clear that climate change is real, is caused by human activities and has the most serious consequences. So what should we be doing? There is, of course, no single answer to the magnitude of the problem, rather a wide range of activities needs to be undertaken.
First, we can adapt to some change—that is where the report is strong. Secondly, we can reduce inputs of carbon dioxide by reducing wasteful consumption. Thirdly, we can capture some of the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels; and fourthly, we need to move to the various forms of renewable energy that do not put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The committee makes a strong case for adaptation. Faced with the issues of climate change, it states that we need to give greater recognition to the need to adapt. That argument appeals to that in human nature which wants to invent new technologies, which wants to do everything it can to ensure that the lifestyle that we have come to enjoy is not threatened, and certainly is not changed. The trouble is that it is the strong and wealthy societies and the strong and wealthy within those societies who are those most capable of adapting. Once again, it will be the poor and the weak who will suffer the consequences.
We all know that climate change will affect the poorer nations the most and that climate change is likely to result in an even greater economic divide between the richer and the poorer nations. One of my fears is that adaptation alone will be less a solution and more a postponement of the problem. One thing that is urgently needed is an estimation of the cost of adaptation for any scenario worse than the minimum one. I am surprised that, as economists, the committee has not encouraged that to be done. Furthermore, unless I am very much mistaken, the report did not take any evidence from the world of insurance. The people in that industry are the ones who know about the costs of risks.
Adaptation alone will never be enough to tackle the impacts of climate change. Rather, we need to tackle the root cause of the problem, which is the behaviour of humankind. To continue to adapt in the face of rising emissions is largely futile. We cannot ignore the causes any longer and deal only with the effects. We are going to have to recognise that climate change is a limit to our present lifestyles and ultimately to our greed. It is not simply another challenge to our present patterns of consumption which we need to find ways to overcome.
As we all know, the consequences of global warming will not go away. Reduction of emissions must be part of our response, as has investment in renewables, which is crucial. I welcome, too, the committee’s suggestion that carbon tax should replace the climate change levy for the reasons given by the committee. And I say with some reluctance that I have come to agree with the committee that the nuclear option will have to be pursued. But I would make a plea that nuclear fusion, which offers one of the few options of large-scale emission-free production, needs actively to be pursued, researched and resourced—not least the present work being carried out at Culham.
The future of God’s Earth is at stake here. In a universe in which I believe every part is created, known and loved by God and which has been entrusted to us as a gift for our responsible care and stewardship, every part—not just our own little part—matters. The simple test, as has already been mentioned, is whether we can leave this Earth a better place for our children and our children’s children.
A little while back I paid a visit to Botswana, where we have a link with that diocese. I was taught a lot there, not least an African insight that suggests that we are not the masters of nature, but we are all part of it. To meet the challenges of climate change, whether they are economic, scientific, social, spiritual, national or international, will take courage, commitment and the ability not only to think about ourselves, but to think about others and to act for others, including generations yet to come. We can best do that by laying aside all private interests, prejudices and partial affections. That is what we pray daily for in this House. So, I pray that, both as individuals and as a nation, we have the resolve todo that.
My Lords, I declare an interest as an adviser to Macquarie Bank, which manages and invests in infrastructure and utilities, including renewable energy. As a member of your Lordships’ Select Committee on Economic Affairs,I pay tribute to the canny and economical chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, which certainly restricted our emission levels and brought us to a unanimous conclusion.
Our report, The Economics of Climate Change, was published almost exactly one year ago and since then the debate has moved on. Our report has contributed in part to the progress made since. While, last July, we welcomed the Government’s recognition of the central role of economics in considering climate change, we further argued that the Treasury should broaden the scope of its interests in aspects of climate change and that, in our view, it should look at those issues that demanded more attention. Our report asked that the public be told more clearly about the likely costs and benefits of climate change control and that there will undoubtedly be winners in some countries and losers in others. We also argued that if climate change is as serious as most scientists claim, that was all the more reason to be frank and realistic about the economic impact on individuals and countries.
Public attitudes may be more environmentally aware, but people should know the costs of controlling and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and of moving away from our carbon-based economy. Our committee felt that scientific research, political policy and public debate were still overly focused on mitigation of greenhouse gases to the detriment of efforts to understand the relative costs and benefits of adapting our societies to what might well be the inevitability of climate change that is already under way. Mitigation and adaptation are not mutually exclusive by any means, but both are costly. Surely, then, the rigorous analysis of their competing priorities across Government would best be conducted by the Chancellor and the Treasury.
Our report had, of course, many other conclusions and recommendations, most of which other noble Lords will touch upon. That may explain why it took the Government four months to produce their official response. That response—like others I confess to having had a hand in while in Government—hadall the traditional characteristics of departmental defensiveness. But it was ever thus; and, anyway, by the time the response appeared, the dogs had barked and the caravan was moving on. More important was the fact that our Select Committee report anticipated, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said, the Prime Minister’s statement last summer that the international community should move beyond the limitations of the Kyoto process and explore a wider, more radical range of options.
Again, last summer, following our call forTreasury leadership, within weeks, an inquiry into the economics of climate change was announced under the leadership of the head of the Government Economic Service, Sir Nicholas Stern, reporting to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister. The Stern review has been active for almost a year and is expected to report later this year. It has already published useful discussion papers asking what the economics of climate change are. Our report concluded that some issues were still clouded by scientific uncertainty, as has been mentioned. However, the Stern review’s interim conclusions are interesting. They are that climate change is a serious and urgent issue which has already had significant impact; that uncertainties may remain about the nature and scale of longer term impacts, but some risks are more serious than at first appeared; that the problem is global, as are its cause and consequences; that impacts will be uneven and that the poorest countries may suffer the most, as has been noted. The Stern report states also that the current pathway of emissions is unsustainable and that we must therefore go far beyond the actions currently agreed if we are to stabilise greenhouse gases.
In other concerns that perhaps echo more closely our Select Committee’s report, Sir Nicholas also underlined that the economic challenges are complex and that effective collaboration must be based on shared incentives and effective institutions. He said that effective action requires an understanding of how the mitigation of greenhouse gases may affect economic growth and that, importantly, and as our committee noted, an equitable international response must include action on both adaptation and mitigation. These are not choices. If climate change is inevitable over the next 30 years, some adaptation is essential. Naturally, Sir Nicholas also concluded that a combination of policies, institutions and regulations are required, along with clear, long-term incentives for the private sector and for developing countries. Obviously, there is much there on which we can agree with Sir Nicholas, who has stressed the,
“need to have a deep understanding of the economics of this complex problem”.
Meanwhile, I welcome the other government initiatives that also address some of the concerns expressed in our report. This week, we have had the energy review from the Department of Trade and Industry with far-reaching proposals to ensure energy security and to counter the threat of climate change. Our Select Committee report argued for the retention of nuclear power. The energy review confirms that nuclear, as a low-carbon energy source, has a vital role to play and promises that the market will be given a clear basis for the necessary private investment in new nuclear power stations.
The Economic Affairs Committee also saw as a positive result—I am sure that many noble Lords will be thankful for this—the fact that there is a balanced approach in the energy review. The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, expressed disappointment about the lack of realism surrounding the projections on renewable energy. That is certainly something to be argued about, but the review proposes increasing the output from renewable energy fivefold to 20 per cent, with new technologies also encouraged and new opportunities for smaller, decentralised energy sources. So we look forward to a more detailed explanation of how the difficulties in these areas will be overcome.
In addition, there will be a big push on energy efficiency. Inefficient electrical goods will be phased out, with potentially enormous gains. A remarkable7 per cent of household electricity can be consumed just by leaving products on standby. A further hope is that coal can be cleaned up and that carbon can be captured and stored safely in our old North Sea oilfields. We are promised that planning permissions will be accelerated, but we were promised that in the past and so we shall see. Let us hope that the inescapable consultations will also be accelerated.
We must now await the promised White Paper on energy at around the turn of the year, along with the Stern review on the economics of climate change. If both now come to their expected conclusions, I believe that this House, through its Questions, debates and committee reports, will have played a useful part in shaping both energy and climate change policies in more productive, parallel courses. As the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, and others have said, those original contributions continue. I trust that we have also played our part in getting Her Majesty's Treasury more fully engaged in co-ordinating and leading government policy on climate change.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, I was a member of the committee and I echo his tribute to the superb chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Wakeham. I also echo my noble friend's tribute to the late Professor Pearce, our special adviser, and to our admirable Clerk, to whom we continue to be greatly indebted. I sense that in this debate I shall, to some extent, be swimming against the tide. That is a slightly slower process, so I apologise in advance to noble Lords if I take a little longer.
I start with what is indisputable, or at least what is generally accepted as fact. During the 20th century as a whole, the atmospheric level of carbon dioxide increased by around 30 per cent. There are natural sources of carbon dioxide, but it is likely that the increase was due overwhelmingly to man—that is, it was anthropogenic. At the same time, there was a warming, but it is surprising how small the increase in temperature was. Over the 20th century as a whole, the average mean global temperature rose by two-thirds of a degree centigrade. If the temperature tomorrow is two-thirds of a degree centigrade different from the temperature today, I wonder how many noble Lords will notice it. I am talking about a difference from one day to the next as compared with a two-thirds of a degree increase in temperature over the century as a whole.
Unlike the emissions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, that increase has not been a steady process; it has come in fits and starts. I shall give the broad figures, which are generally accepted, so I do not need to take much time over them. Before 1915, there was no change at all; between 1915 and 1945, there was a considerable spurt; between 1945 and 1975, there was a slight cooling—indeed, at that time Professor Lovelock and others were saying that this was the precursor of a further ice age; and, from 1975 to 2000, there was another spurt of roughly the same magnitude as the first. We know that there is natural variation in the climate as well, so how much of that second spurt was due to natural variation in the climate and how much was due to carbon dioxide emissions and their anthropogenic greenhouse effect? Of course, no one knows. The Government's response to our report states that the Met Office considers that more than 50 per cent of warming in recent decades is attributable to anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases. Let us assume that the Met Office's best guess is right and that more than half the 0.4 per cent increase during those decades—in other words, about a quarter of a degree centigrade—was due to carbon dioxide. That is the 20th century.
I turn to the 21st century. I hate to differ fromsuch an eminent scientist as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, but the Hadley Centre chart shows that there has been no further increase in global temperatures since 2000. I make nothing of that because no one knows what will happen in the future, but the warmest year is still 1998. So global warming has not yet happened to any significant extent, and yet one hears all the time that any unusual or television-worthy event—from Katrina downwards—must be due to global warming. But, again, that is not the view of the experts. The experts on tropical storms set up an international panel, which included the tropical storm expert for the Met Office. The panel reported:
“The main conclusion we came to was that none of these high-impact tropical cyclones could be specifically attributed to global warming”.
That is not surprising, because there is hardly any global warming anyway.
Why has the 30 per cent rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide had so little greenhouse effect? I am not a scientist, but it is not so curious when one recalls that the greenhouse effect is overwhelmingly a product of water vapour, whether in the form of clouds or otherwise. Again, experts differ in their views, but that accounts for between 75 and 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect. It is perfectly true that carbon dioxide is the biggest single component of the other5 to 25 per cent. That puts the matter into perspective.
Going off at a slight tangent, I should add that it also puts into perspective the view that is constantly put outside this place that carbon dioxide is a form of pollution. We have not heard that said here and I would not expect noble Lords to use those words. Carbon dioxide is no more a form of pollution than are clouds of water vapour. Carbon dioxide is a life force; plants require it to flourish. Indeed, the more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, thebetter the development of plant life, which is notaltogether a bad thing. Incidentally, the process of photosynthesis is more efficient with a greater degree of carbon dioxide, so plants need to extract less water from the soil.
The past is clear and the argument turns to the future. As our report says, the IPCC, which is well known to this House, has a number of scenarios that suggest that over this century the temperature might rise between 1 per cent and 6 per cent. As we point out in our report, that is based partly on demographic and economic assumptions that are highly implausible and which are not in any way central. In other words, there is a considerable upward bias on the basis of those assumptions on the economic side. That is what generates the amount of carbon dioxide projected in the scenarios.
Then, of course, there are the computer models, which develop temperature increases based on a particular increase in the amount of carbon dioxide. As can be seen from reading the literature, that science is quite clearly not at all settled. In particular, the science of clouds is not settled and, as any climate scientist will tell you, that is the most difficult and intractable form of climate science to understand. What is the interaction between carbon dioxide and clouds of water vapour? That is extremely uncertain and critical. If what is put into the computer models is mistaken, the outcome in temperature projections will be mistaken.
Many scientists—I agree that they are a minority—differ from the scientists in the IPCC and the scientists at the Hadley Centre. For example, only last April, 60 or so scientists wrote a letter to the Canadian Prime Minister saying:
“Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future”.
Faced with this uncertainty, what should we do? Some people like to rely on the precautionary principle: because anything might happen, we must spend anything in order to prevent it. I have come to believe that, most importantly, the precautionary principle needs to be applied to the precautionary principle itself, otherwise we shall find ourselves doing very stupid things in its name.
Certainly Kyoto is not the answer. With the best will in the world, it is impossible to believe that it is. It is recognised on all sides that it is totally ineffectual in reducing carbon dioxide emissions or in reducing temperatures. However, those who support it claim that it is a first step to much more rigorous and tougher agreements of this kind. That is pie in the sky. It is pretty clear that even that step will not be met by 2012, so the idea that there is to be a tougher one is unrealistic to say the least.
More important, the United States refuses to be part of that process and the big developing countries—the big emitters—such as China, India and Brazil have no constraints under Kyoto and will not accept any constraint under a future Kyoto. The developing countries have a very good argument. They say, “You in the developed world became rich on the basis of cheap carbon-based energy and now it is our turn to do so. Why shouldn't we?”. They also say, “You have caused this 30 per cent increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, so it is your responsibility to mitigate it if that is what you wish to do”. The terms in which they put that argument at a United Nations climate change conference last May are interesting. Mr Prodipto Ghosh, the permanent secretary of the Indian environment ministry, said:
“Removal of poverty is the greater immediate imperative”,
than action against global warming. That is their choice. Far from global warming being a threat to the poor, it is the measures to mitigate it in those countries that are a threat to the alleviation of poverty. That is absolutely fundamental and everyone has to understand and recognise that. Those countries are going ahead as fast as they can.
The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, mentioned the massive Chinese coal-fired power station programme: one new power station every five days for seven years. As a result of that, in the next 20 years, China will have overtaken the United States as the biggest single emitter of carbon dioxide. China will not undertake the huge expense of retro-fitting carbon capture and storage to stop those emissions. What will happen? Western taxpayers certainly will not pay the Chinese—that is also pie in the sky—to undertake such a huge programme. Western countries are being timid enough in raising funds to meet their own Kyoto targets, which are much less. The costs involved are very substantial.
The Kyoto principle is to raise the price of carbon-based energy to the level where non-carbon-based energy becomes economic. But that means that, as this process takes place, energy-intensive industries and processes in Europe will increasingly migrate to China or India, as the textile industry has done, to take advantage of cheaper energy there. We will meet our targets all right, but nothing will happen about global emissions; they will just come from China and India rather than from Europe. No wonder the Economic and Social Committee of the European Union warned last April that Kyoto could seriously damage the European economy, and prohibitively so,
“without having any tangible effect on climate change”,
especially if big emitters such as America, China and India are not brought in.
This week’s government energy policy conclusions need to be seen in that context. The nuclear optionis presented in two terms: security of supply and helping in the battle against climate change. On security of supply, I shall quote the words of Adam Smith, which will be well known to your Lordships.
My Lords, advisory is advisory.
I leave the Government’s energy White Paper to say that, although the economics of nuclear are a bit doubtful, wind cannot be a serious option given that it is necessary to have full back-up conventional power for when the wind is not blowing. Electricity supply must be on tap all the time and electricity cannot be stored in large quantities except at prohibitive cost. That makes the cost completely prohibitive. Anybody favouring wind power as opposed to nuclear is wholly irrational.
In conclusion, the only way forward is what we have suggested in our report: adaptation. It is hubristic to imagine that we can change the climate. Adaptation is something we can and will do. It means that we meet the warming problem whether it is natural or the result of carbon dioxide emissions. It means that we can pocket the real benefits of climate change while mitigating the cost.
The more I see of this issue, the more it seems The Da Vinci Code of environmentalism. It is a great story and a phenomenal bestseller. There is a grain of truth, but a mountain of nonsense.
My Lords, some years ago I was a Member of the European Parliament, where great respect was paid to the work of this House and, in particular, its reports. It is a privilege for me now to speak to one of them as a Member of your Lordships’ House; indeed, a report considering one of the greatest challenges to us all.
One of the most important things the report does is to encapsulate and summarise some of the challenges and statistics we must confront. Every year, we are putting some 7 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. Over the last few hundred years, we have already increased carbon from 280 to 380 parts per million, with a target of 550 by the year 2100. That, even by those standards, will raise temperatures by 2.5 degrees centigrade by 2300. One of the key points of the report is the time lag; not the time lag of normal economic systems, but a stock of carbon that will last for 200 years. Our actions today affect not just our grandchildren, so often cited in environmental discourses, but future generations well beyond that.
I am aware that it is easy for there to be a doomsday scenario in environmental debates, which is perhaps exaggerated and might scare us away from any action. Indeed, there have been a number of successes in meeting UK carbon targets in the past, primarily due to gas-fired power stations. Germany also met its targets, partly through conversion of power stations, but also through the collapse of heavy industry in the former East Germany. Our track record is not good.
When I saw the title of this report, The Economics of Climate Change, I looked particularly at the bill. What was the cost to us, as a planet, of global warming? Indeed, the report quotes two figures: in net present values, one is $2 trillion, and the worst case scenario is $17 trillion—some 50 per cent of current global GDP. Those figures are themselves quite astonishing, yet the report manages to downgrade that risk to saying that, over a 50-year period, it might represent only 1.3 per cent of global GDP per annum. That almost leads us to the thought that this problem might therefore be quite manageable.
Those estimates are risky. I shall talk about where the report has highlighted important instances of danger, but not pursued them—specifically, the non-linear and irreversible effects of global warming. Most of them are listed in the report. Ocean circulation particularly affects the north Atlantic; there is little scientific evidence at the moment, but a case could be persuasive. Yet we know that if the Gulf Stream was not there, that would decrease temperatures not by the two-thirds of a degree we have had so far this century, but by some eight degrees centigrade. We would all feel that considerably. It is around the ice caps of Greenland and Antarctica, and the permafrost, particularly in the northern climes of Canada and the Russian Federation, where we would then have a methane loss which would have a double-whammy effect on global warming.
Not specifically listed as a non-linear, irreversible event, though mentioned in the report, is biodiversity. Biodiversity is literally a treasure house of our planet. There are clearly already signs that species are having to change range, with extinctions due to certain species being crowded out by others. Much of that is currently local, but it will become regional and global. We already have dying coral reefs, and a number of bird species have disappeared. I admit that predicting and taking strong action on these unpredictable events is difficult, but they are the largest impacts and something which we cannot ignore. Nor are they costed in this report.
I emphasise the fundamental argument of adaptation versus mitigation. The report says that there should clearly be more emphasis on adaptation. That is true; there must be adaptation activity, but it is a dangerous route to champion too strongly. It is tempting, because it seems a more manageable way forward and does not totally rely on global co-operation, so it is easier. However, the strategy clearly benefits rich countries and is unattainable to those of lower incomes.
I notice that the economic analysis of the report laid a lot of stress, as did the IPCC, on the convergence of developing and non-developed economies. While that might be true, there is going to be huge diversity within that convergence. That will clearly not be the case in Africa and much of south Asia, particularly countries such as Bangladesh. These areas will not be able to afford a strategy of adaptation well into the future. I question whether adaptation is an effective strategy for us as developed economies. Yes, we can build high walls that will keep out the sea, but I doubt that they will be high enough to keep out migrating destitute populations or migrating species posing a threat to our own ecosystems, let alone prevent our own species migrating elsewhere. Least of all will they be effective as walls against a crumbling economy in the developing world which, under our global trading systems, will inevitably affect us as well.
It is not just rich countries that will find that there is no dilemma. I come from the south-west. It is clear that, even in developing economies, we must make choices about where we adapt. If there is a choice between protecting London, the tube system and our financial centres, and keeping the waters out of the Isles of Scilly or the main railway line across the south Devon coast—even last year it cost £9 million to keep it in operation—it will be stark. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, rightly pointed out, in New Orleans we had an example of the richest, most successful economy in the world utterly failing to adapt sufficiently to a short-term measure. The cost to rebuild and protect New Orleans is estimated at£35 billion.
The report mentions a document with a seductive title about the social costs of carbon, which tries to add up the costs arising from damage by global warming. All sorts of figures can be arrived at, but they are not social costs—they are costs in human life and land, particularly in areas such as Bangladesh where a one-metre rise in sea level would put 17.5 per cent of the country under water and displace35 million people. The phrase “the social cost of carbon” is a euphemism equivalent to “friendly fire” and “ethnic cleansing”.
My Lords, it is my privilege to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, onhis maiden speech. He has performed great publicand private services to the south-west, especially Cornwall, which he served as an MEP. It is fitting that his maiden speech has been in today’s debate because he belongs to a party that has contributed so much constructive thought on environmental issues in general and whose crowded Benches today testify to its commitment to discussing this subject.
The report we are debating today is welcome for its focus on the economic challenge of coping with climate change. However, I share the view of earlier speakers that its tone disappointed many people, not just the Government. The report unduly disparaged the IPCC and downplayed current scientific understanding. By highlighting gaps in our knowledge and by contending that,
“the scientific context is one of uncertainty”,
the committee aligned itself uncomfortably closely with lobby groups that use such rhetoric to oppose efforts to tackle climate change.
Of course, there are uncertainties in the science but they should not obscure the compelling consensus that climate change is a serious issue. Rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are already warming our world and making our oceans more acidic. The cumulative evidence has been documented in scientific papers by many thousands—the overwhelming majority—of independent researchers.
Even within the past year, the evidence has hardened. A discrepancy between temperature measurements on the ground and in the atmosphere has been resolved, and the evidence that the world is now warmer than at any time in the past four centuries—the “hockey stick” graph—has been firmed up by a reanalysis by the National Academy of Sciences, which pointed out that it was just one of several lines of evidence.
But the most important datum is entirely unambiguous. There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than there has been for at least half a million years: the level has been rising at about0.5 per cent per year. Even if no more CO2 were emitted at all, there is so much inertia in the climate system that the warming could continue for decades.
Not all the impacts of climate change will be negative, though the benefits to crop yields due to rising CO2 have recently been questioned. But the higher the greenhouse gas level climbs, the bigger the adverse effect will become and, still more disquietingly, the greater will be the chance of something grave and irreversible: the melting of the Greenland icecap, the quenching of the Gulf Stream and so forth.
The IPCC explored a variety of demographicand technological projections, and we expect improvements in future reports. Despite all the uncertainties, warming looms as a serious global problem for a wide range of plausible scenarios. The impending warming is threateningly disruptive because it will happen much more rapidly than naturally occurring climate changes in the historical past and will be too fast for human populations and the natural environment to adjust to it. Indeed, some species are struggling to cope with the climate change that has already occurred. The CO2 concentration is now about 380 parts per million. If we go on as usual, it will rise to 550 parts per million—twice the pre-industrial level—within about 50 years. Whether that level is enough to trigger catastrophic changes, we just do not know.
The committee’s report noted that,
“many of the adverse effects of warming can be offset by adaptation”,
but, as the White Paper published this week by DfID cogently emphasises, the most vulnerable people are in Africa, Bangladesh and similar countries and they are the least able to adapt. If we continue business as usual, we will end up with vast areas of the world where no human populations could comfortably live, more extreme weather and sea levels that will eventually rise by tens of metres. The international response needs to be a combination of adaptation and mitigation with the economic burdens equitably shared.
According to Sir Nicholas Stern, the intricate economics of climate change is a subject that needs,
“all the economics you ever learnt - and more”.
We eagerly await the report Sir Nicholas is currently preparing, which may well have a different slant from the report we are debating today. I hope, in particular, that the Stern review will consider the costs and benefits of seeking international agreement for a challenging but attainable CO2 ceiling, such as a limit of 550 parts per million.
As the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, reminded us, the UK directly contributes just 2 per cent of the world’s emissions. But the Prime Minister’s effective leadership at Gleneagles last year shows that we have some leverage over the G8, and the wealthy countries, themselves the greatest emitters, have the means and the obligation to take the lead. At St Petersburg this weekend, energy security will be high on the agenda.
As input to the St Petersburg meeting, the Royal Society has joined the science academies of the other G8 nations, plus those of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, to reiterate concerns about global warming and to urge two things: first, greater international efforts to promote, by appropriate policies and economic instruments, acceptably clean fossil fuel, nuclear and the near-market renewable technologies. Secondly, they urge investment in a wider range of exciting prospects that still seem futuristic. There is a substantial worldwide R&D programme into nuclear fusion, even though payback time may be 50 years ahead, but there are other equally challenging and exciting technologies, such as harnessing photosynthesis more efficiently, where the current worldwide R&D is disproportionately small.
Here, the UK can exert special leverage; indeed, we have a special opportunity because our nation punches well above its weight in climate research and in science and innovation generally. Recent government initiatives to promote public/private partnerships in energy research are welcome, as is Defra’s plan to establish an office of climate change.
But should we not we go further, and declare as a national priority the spearheading of the innovation and technology the world needs if the immense challenge of climate change is to be tackled? That will be a step change, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, described it. Doing that would have an important bonus: channelling the idealism and commitment of young people towards a high-profile scientific goal would itself be of great educational benefit to the nation.
Scientists who study the earth realise that our planet's history spans millions of centuries, but even in that perspective, there is something special—unique—about our century. It is the first in which one species—ours—can ravage the entire biosphere and jeopardise life’s long-term future. Most of us have more constricted time horizons than geologists, but all of us in this Chamber can surely think in centuries, not just years. We are mindful of our heritage and of the debt that we owe to centuries past. History will judge us harshly if, in our stewardship of the planet, we discount too heavily what might happen 50 or 100 years hence. That is why we need a more sophisticated focus on the economic challenge of climate change.
My Lords, I echo the complimentary comments of the noble Lord, Lord Rees, to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on his maiden speech. It was very good and thoughtful and I look forward to hearing more from him. I also welcome the report, issued by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, which is very constructive and thoughtful although, like one or two others, I think that the tone is not quite right. It does not get over the importance of the issue. I can see the effect that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, may have had on the Committee with his doubts about the importance and significance of climate change and whether it is really happening. Unlike him, I think that the precautionary principle is very important here.
I accept that the precautionary principle is a little like common sense. Common sense can turn out to be common nonsense. Plenty of people from the Middle Ages would now be shuffling their feet with embarrassment, having argued convincingly that the sun went round the earth because you can see it doing so. They would be embarrassed to discover that the reverse was true. In the same way, the precautionary principle can be overdone, but it is so important here because all the evidence suggests to me that climate change is happening and is driven, at least in large part, by human activity. We should therefore adopt the precautionary principle and try to address it. As several noble Lords have made clear, the big advantage of doing so is that, as the report says, if done well, it can be economically advantageous. That is an important point that we must all address.
Although I do not intend to speak primarily about aviation today, I will mention it, so I ought to declare an interest as campaign director of Future Heathrow. I want to focus on the growing public awareness of the issue of climate change—what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle called the tipping point of awareness. He is right. The public are increasingly willing to consider it as a serious problem. Like my noble friend Lord Giddens, I am somewhat critical of some of the green movement. I do not want to be too critical because, over the years, it has done a very good job, but I stopped supporting a couple of groups over the Brent Spar incident, when they resisted the sinking of the oil rig in the North Sea. They got the science wrong and, more importantly, as my noble friend said, seemed not to acknowledge that science and technology provide a large part of the answer to the problem.
The other reason that I am critical is that the green movement has a tendency to try to make people feel guilty about flying, driving or whatever. Guilt is a singularly bad way to try to change people's behaviour for a generalised problem of this type. It works with specific problems: “Don’t burgle someone's house or you will go to prison” is a perfectly good guilt complex to instil. But changing how people behave generally is much more difficult. What works is to make information about what we can do in all our walks of life much more readily available. In other words, this is not something just for Government, just for aviation, just for motor vehicles, or whatever; it is for all of us in all walks of life in everything that we do and say.
I want to spend a little time on that. My message would be the classic one of The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy: “Don’t panic”. If the evidence from science was so strong that global warming was accelerating to the point where it was irreversible and catastrophic for life on this planet, I have no doubt that we would have to take action so drastic as to change the nature of civilisation and life as we have known it for hundreds of years. We would then go back to a pre-industrial society and heaven knows what the world would look like. It is not sensible to do that or even to talk about doing that unless the evidence is so strong that we have only a very short time to react.
Evidence at the moment suggests that if we take the right action, we can deal with the problem. It involves a combination of science and technology together with changing people’s attitudes and behaviour. I shall give a few examples, because this is where I want more assistance, including from the green movement.
I remember being in the studio of a well known, well respected radio programme. I was not there to talk about climate change—I was dealing with other political matters which, from time to time, come to pass—but climate change was being discussed. There was a lot of emphasis on what the Government should do, what certain industries should do and so on. The discussion was taking place in an office at least one-third the size of a football field, brilliantly lit with good light from natural sources—the windows. There were about six people working there because it was about 7 am. Every light was on in that office, yet the discussion concerned climate change.
Lest noble Lords think that I am picking on one particular media programme—I am certainly not, because I have a lot of respect for that programme—I say that if we look around this House of Lords, we should say, “Hang on a minute, are we doing as much as we could?”. Noble Lords may have seen me late at night scrabbling around behind 19th-century oak panels looking for light switches precisely because I think that we need to do more.
One thing that is not well known—this is where the green movement can do more to inform people—is that you can buy your electricity from renewable sources from most of the big producers. Old buildings of this type are ideally placed to do just that. Modern buildings can be built to much higher standards, so energy use can be low. That cannot be done so easily in older buildings such as this, but their electricity can be bought from renewable sources. I do that in my home. It is more expensive, but it pushes up the investment in renewables. That is another area where I should have liked there to have been more in the report. I want more information to be made available about what people can do with microgeneration. That is another area that should be developed. Many houses, blocks of flats and other places in Britain could be supplied either by wind or solar power to a large part, and feed energy back into the grid. The way forward on that is for the Government to change planning regulations and encourage it through local authorities. There is a lot more that we can do.
What does not help—here I touch on aviation—is if people run around saying, “You must not fly; you are going to fry the planet”. In fact, the most modern aircraft are not dissimilar in their carbon footprint per passenger mile to a family car. We are not far from the point where we can say that it is more environmentally responsible to fly to a destination in Europe than to drive there. Here we get into the psychology. If the green movement argues that we must all stop flying, people will not respond. They may feel guilty, but they will still do it, just as they may feel guilty hopping into their car to drive the kids to school and worry about whether they are frying the planet. It will not actually change their behaviour. Behaviour change is what we want and there are many other ways of doing that.
Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Woodland Trust and others recently spent a large amount of money on adverts in national papers basically saying, “There are too many aeroplanes flying”. That is not a sensible response. It also has a dramatic effect: if you say, “We are going to bear down on some of the drivers of high technology and science”, you will produce the opposite effect of what you want, in terms of the changes we need in society. That, incidentally, is why I think those organisations are wrong on nuclear power. Although nuclear power is not what we would use in an ideal world, it is necessary for dealing with the serious situation we have.
My message on this issue is to all of us, myself and everyone else, not to individual industries. We should not pick on aviation, the car industry or the media. “Big Brother” probably produces more CO2 than many other programmes, and I could make a good case for saying it is not necessary, but if people want to watch it I do not want to stop them. I want to ensure we reduce the carbon imprint overall, and the way to do that is to recognise, whether in our personal lives, our workplaces—like your Lordships’ House—or in industry as a whole, that we can deal with this problem. However, we will not do so with a panicked reaction that tries to take us back to a pre-industrial phase. For a country such as Britain, which led the Industrial Revolution and the science-based revolution, it would be a terrible mistake.
My Lords, like other speakers I start by congratulating my noble friend Lord Wakeham on the report and on the manner in which he has introduced the debate today. My noble friend gave a helpful two-paragraph summary of the report in the House Magazine supplement on House of Lords Committees. He said that it raises serious concerns, and this is just one: the preoccupation in international negotiations with setting emission targets and the failure to give sufficient attention to alternative approaches. That brings us neatly to the key issue, which has already resonated around this debate: to what extent can we rely on adaptation, and to what extent are international negotiations about setting emissions likely to fail or be relevant?
The report calls for a balance. I think, particularly having heard the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, that that is clearly a case for more reliance on adaptation, and more reliance on adaptation than would be wise. Paragraph 2 of the report correctly warns us that the science of human-induced warming remains uncertain. That uncertainty dictates caution and taking out of insurance against the worst risks. I agree; this is all about risk assessment and what isthe necessary insurance. The United Kingdom Government, and other Governments, have a responsibility on behalf of present and future generations to determine what insurance is appropriate, and to take the best advice on what the worst risks might be and the order of probability. It should then be possible to determine what insurance is the most appropriate, and indeed what is most equitable, between generations, between developed and developing countries and between affluent communities and the impoverished.
There is impressive agreement on the scientific advice. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, acknowledged that it is a remarkable phenomenon to have this number of independent scientists working for the IPCC come up with the sort of results they have achieved. The report notes that majorities do not necessarily embody the truth, but that the major associations of scientists have adopted similar positions. It would be reasonable to expect that we treat with care and caution any recommendations coming out of the IPCC with clearer judgments on the probabilities of the projected temperature increases.
The report calls for the IPCC to pay more attention to those dissenting scientists who do not accept the scientific consensus, and claims there are weaknesses in the way the scientific community, and the IPCC in particular, treats the impact of climate change. It calls for a more balanced approach. Yet the committee states in paragraph 4 that it decided to restrict the scope of its investigation to certain aspects of the economics of climate change. I find that rather modest aspiration difficult to reconcile with the sweeping judgments on the IPCC, its scientific conclusions and its process of operation.
I will mention just one risk that is referred to several times in the report, and for which a judgment by international Governments has to be made on what insurance, if any, is appropriate. It was mentioned in the excellent maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and is referred to in paragraph 38 of the report under the heading “Large scale one-off changes”. The paragraph draws attention to the reversal or shutdown of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, known to us, somewhat inaccurately, as the Gulf Stream. The probability of a shutdown is not yet known, but the report acknowledges that it might happen after the next 100 years or so. The trigger could be the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which has been variously calculated as likely to happen when temperatures increase by at least two degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.
Since the report was published last year, Professor Bryden and his team at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton published in Nature, on21 December 2005, measurements of the strength of the meridional overturning circulation, which seems to have weakened by about 30 per cent in the past decade or so. Such a slowdown has been predictedby some climate models, and I believe these measurements are evidence that the models could be right. If circulation were switched off we would seea change in temperature in north-west Europe happening relatively quickly, and the consequences would be very far-reaching. More measurements will be needed over the next decade or more to say with greater certainty if changes observed from 1957 to 2004 represent actual long-term changes in the meridional overturning circulation.
In paragraph 40 the report acknowledges that these risks are being monitored, and says there is a balance to be struck. The report always comes back to this word “balance”, which I believe is code for saying “more reliance on adaptation”. I would say there is a decision to be made based on the scientific evidence which is consistent with these models. Do we continue to try and adapt, or do we mediate? How on earth do you adapt to turning off the Gulf Stream? That is not something for which there is any method of adaptation. We have to recognise that there is a risk of a major shift in our global climate through disrupting thermohaline circulation, or THC, as it is referred to in the report. It has happened before, possibly more than once since the last ice age, and at least one of the events was a direct result of the Earth becoming warmer.
The United Kingdom Government are right to be preoccupied with setting emission targets. The message from the debate today must be clear and unequivocal: we cannot rely solely on adaptation and alternative approaches as the main strategy for managing climate change. That is not a realistic option in the light of the scientific evidence available to us today. We must continue to try and set emission targets at the international level, recognising, for all the reasons set out in the debate today, how difficult that will be. The noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, reminded us that we need to recognise that the energy requirements of China and India will be the key to trying to achieve international emission targets, which are certainly a challenge.
My Lords, I too add my tribute to the maiden speech made by my noble friend Lord Teverson. I thought it was a major contribution to the discussion.
One or two speakers have suggested that, although they generally agree with the House of Lords report on the economic effects of climate change, it struck the wrong tone—the balance was not quite right. I take rather a different view, because discussions on environmental issues tend to suffer from hyperbole. I shall give an example: the question of nuclear power, which could play a major role in dealing with climate change. Greenpeace, which seems to regard the risk of radiation from nuclear power as a risk almost as great, or as great, as that from global warming, said recently that the outfall from Chernobyl would be more than 100,000 deaths. I have argued, in this House and in print, that the dangers of radiation are greatly exaggerated, that the linear no-threshold theory on which most of the prognostications were based is not supported by evidence, and that small doses of radiation seem to be helpful or beneficial.
I do not know how many noble Lords saw the “Horizon” programme last night, which was an unusually good television programme on science. It produced convincing evidence that the number of deaths to be expected as a result of Chernobyl— which has generally been around 4,000, not 100,000—was greatly overestimated. It showed that people living in areas of high natural radiation are less likely to suffer from cancer; that the linear no-threshold theory is mistaken and not supported by the evidence; and that evidence from animals examined in the Chernobyl area indicates that small doses of radiation can protect against the risk of cancer. I mention that because it shows that we must judge conventional wisdom, particularly alarmist prognostications, by evidence and not hype. To echo what the noble Lords, Lord Soley and Lord Giddens, said, scare stories spread by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth must be treated with great caution. Generally, they do more harm than good. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, the environmental movement should be rescued from some of the green activists.
That brings me to climate change. I was a sceptic about climate change because I remember the confident warnings when we were thought to be facing a new ice age. But I became convinced not only that global warming was happening, but also that there was a very significant anthropogenic element. I read through most of volume 1 of the report from the International Panel on Climate Change. Incidentally, it is a formidable volume which I have had out of the Library for more than one and a half years. Unlike most publications one borrows, there has been no request for its return; so, clearly, no one else has bothered to read it.
It convinced me because it was a very balanced report that does not deny uncertainties and some conflict in the evidence. Take, for example, the melting of the ice caps and the retreat of the glaciers. The rise in ocean levels is regarded as one of the most serious consequences of global warming. A great deal of panic is created because we are always shown the pictures of the ice caps by the West Antarctic Peninsula falling into the sea and the melting of the Greenland ice caps. The report points out that in the Antarctic continent the ice is thickening with a small decreasing effect on ocean levels.
Recently, I read in the report by Sir Nicholas Stern that we must take the collapse of Greenland ice seriously, which is caused because at the heart of Greenland the ice is thickening through precipitation and is pushing the fringes into the sea. At the present rate, he said, sea levels will rise by 0.05 millimetres per year, which is 0.5 centimetres in 100 years. The IPCC report estimates that the main effect will be from the warming of the oceans. Even then it estimates the actual sea rise levels as between 11 and 77 centimetres. That is serious because the rise will be very different in different parts of the world. It could be catastrophic for some people living in the delta areas of the world, but it is not necessarily catastrophic overall. We could, for example, provide aid to Bangladesh to enable it to take the kind of defensive measures which the Dutch have taken. Incidentally, its estimate of sea rise levels was somewhat less than that in the second assessment of the IPCC.
The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, mentioned the disturbing findings by Professor Bryden. But we also heard evidence, in the hearings in the committee on water management, from one of the experts of the Hadley Centre who said that it had not made the Hadley Centre change its basic estimate that there was a very small risk of something very serious happening. One cannot discount that risk, but there are many places where the Gulf Stream has to be measured. It is obviously disturbing that it has slowed down in one place, but in other places, it may have accelerated. The speed of the Gulf Stream changes.
Storms are most frequently mentioned. In its scientific report—there is a slightly different emphasis in the political report—the IPCC stated:
“Recent analyses of changes in severe local weather (e.g., tornadoes, thunderstorm days, and hail) in a few selected regions do not provide compelling evidence to suggest long-term changes”.
I mention that because the IPCC’s scientific section acknowledges these uncertainties, but it still comes to the firm conclusion that global warming is manmade, which is one of the reasons why I find the report convincing. Certainly, the evidence since that report was published suggests that the fourth assessment in 2007 will be more pessimistic than the third, because a number of recent developments suggest that the danger is greater and has strengthened the case that global warming is happening.
I thought that the House of Lords report was a breath of fresh air because it was much more balanced. It came to the conclusion that we cannot look towards Kyoto, which does not include the nations whose actions will be of vital importance. As the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, said, it concludes that in the end the answer must come from technology and creating the right framework for technological development. It will not necessarily come only from technology. Maybe a major part will be played by changes in lifestyle. I do not think that lifestyles will never change. We have changed attitudes towards drinking and driving and there are ways in which people change their attitudes. But I do not altogether place as much hope on this as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle because I do not see that the nations that will make the major contribution to global warming will change their lifestyles. India, China and the other developing nations will not renounce economic growth. To ask people to change their lifestyle fundamentally will not have the effect that we need.
We do not need imbalance in reporting, exaggeration which is not justified by the evidence and, above all, constant predictions of catastrophe. That approach will undermine the credibility of the threat. It will induce a mood of fatalism. If we are doomed anyway, the attitude is likely to be “Well, let’s make hay while the sun shines. Let’s enjoy life while we can”.
My Lords, I have of course read the report of the Lords committee and most of the evidence, and I am staggered by Members’ erudition, for which I express the usual gratitude. In my youth, I took a degree in agriculture, with agricultural economics as a special subject. It now dawns on me that it was the economics paper which ensured that I got only a fourth class degree, a phenomenon which some noble Lords may remember existed in those days. Although the subject of my speech falls fairly and squarely within the title of the report, I will concentrate on agriculture, which on the whole has been neglected in this debate.
The other day, some of your Lordships were present at the gathering which listened to Vice-President Al Gore’s speech. For many noble Lords, as for me, little that he said was new. However, there was one statement which was new to me, which sent me scurrying to your Lordships’ Library to ask our splendid research staff to find substantiation for it. At first, they could not, but eventually they got hold of a copy of the Vice-President’s book, An Inconvenient Truth, and found that the statement was fully substantiated in the text. On page 121, it states that in the United States and elsewhere soil moisture evaporation increases dramatically with higher temperatures and that unless we act dramatically to contain global warming pollution, one at least of the great bread baskets of the world will disappear within the next 10 years. That spells out catastrophe to us in these overcrowded islands, for which we as Parliament are responsible.
Since about 1951, economics—that dismal science—has told us that it was perfectly all right to rely on imports to feed our people and in the course of doing so to allow the small farming industry of this country to disappear and farms to get ever larger, following the rule that we achieved optimum outputs per pound invested in large units. We could forget about food security, that principle which kept us alive during the 1940s.
Today we have think about it again since imported food is going to become less available, and as it does so, a great deal more expensive. The economicsof global warming will dictate that we measure profitability not in terms of outputs of capital but in the total amount of food we can produce. We will find, as we have found before, that that comes from small units of production which have the added advantage of being good for biodiversity, about which we heard in a very good speech made a little earlier in the debate.
If our grandchildren are not going to starve—and if that sounds overly dramatic, let us remember how close we came to it in the early 1940s—we will have to look after our soil, our small farms and our skilled labour. Some noble Lords may have seen a fascinating series of programmes shown recently on TV about introducing black youths to farming in Devon. We are going to need all those who have a gift for farming, and it is not all that long since a great number of the population did have that gift. I remember when in the course of persuading the Church of England that I was a fit person to become a clergyman, I was involved with a troop of Boy Scouts in Hackney, many of whom were the sons of my mother’s Girl Guides from when she was Guide Commissioner for North London. I came across one boy who had a real gift for growing things and a deep feeling for nature, but I was able to do nothing to stop him going into a factory making lavatory-paper rolls.
We are going to have to use all our resources to feed ourselves, and incidentally it will mean saying goodbye to those rather good schemes, popularin your Lordships’ House and which I have enthusiastically supported over a period of time, for biofuels. When it comes to the crunch we will need all the fertile soil available for the growing of food. If I have to choose between consuming diesel and consuming potatoes, I will choose potatoes every time.
Much the most important function of government is to protect the population from harms, and by far the most fundamental of those harms is hunger. It is for that reason that I urge that this debate and others like it should bring about a complete revolution in our agricultural policy in this country.
My Lords, as a member of the committee and an economist, I begin by paying tribute to an outstanding economist and wonderful person, Professor David Pearce, our adviser throughout the inquiry—and one might almost say our tutor. His sudden death is a great loss to my profession.
The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, said in his conclusion that much of the concern about global warming was a “mountain of nonsense”, so I must begin with four remarks about the science of climate change before turning to the way forward. First, there is of course a scientific consensus today that manmade emissions are raising world temperature and will continue to do so at an alarming rate unless action is taken. The consensus includes all but a very few climatologists. However, what is much more significant for us is that it is supported by our own Royal Society and by the American Academy of Sciences. I do not really see how non-scientists can take a different view from those bodies unless we want to question their motivation. These bodies are not composed primarily of climatologists, who might want to exaggerate the importance of their subject, but of those best placed to appraise the work of climatologists—and of course they are bodies whose reputations are on the line if they give rise to alarms that prove false.
Secondly, the scientific evidence is not in the form sometimes suggested post hoc propter hoc. It begins with the basic science which shows that increased greenhouse gases would, other things being equal, increase temperature. Only then does it visit the historical record and explain the evolution of the earth’s temperature from the Ice Age to the present day using basic science to make the links.
Thirdly, a key feature of the science is the very long lags in the system, which help to explain some of the paradoxes referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. I do not know whether noble Lords realise it, but the greenhouse gases we are producing today will remain in the atmosphere for an average of almost 150 years—until 2150—and the effect on temperature will be still further delayed by roughly another 50 years after the build-up of greenhouse gases, so today we are contributing to the world’s temperature in 2200. Given that science, it is absurd to say that we should wait and see. The argument is untenable when the effects are so long delayed. It is interesting to note that, as the scientific evidence accumulates and the models become more firmly based and powerful in their explanation of all the different phenomena referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, some American economists who at one time advocated a “wait and see” approach are increasingly abandoning that position.
Finally, the science is in one sense uncertain, but in another it is certain—a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh. It is uncertain exactly by how much the temperature will rise but it is virtually certain that it will rise substantially. I should like to give noble Lords some figures because not everyone understands why it is almost certain that that will happen. If greenhouse gases stabilise at 550 parts per million, the temperature would eventually rise by between 2.5 and 5.3 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial level. Those are limits with a 90 per cent probability according to the forecasts of the Met Office’s world-famous Hadley Centre. To give an idea of the scale of the change, even the lower of those figures would have some devastating effects, which I shall come to, but the higher figure is as big as the difference between the temperature today and what it was in the Ice Age; it is not a tiny change as suggested earlier in the debate. Nor do these estimates allow for any of a number of major discontinuous risks, such as the melting of the Arctic permafrost, which would have an even more dramatic impact.
That is the scenario at 550 parts per million, but how likely is it that greenhouses gases will reach that figure? It is virtually certain unless we change course almost immediately. Again, I am going to bore noble Lords with some numbers because they are important and help to put these arguments out in the open. At present we have 425 parts per million. At the current rate of emissions, greenhouse gas concentrations are rising by two parts per million per year. We can all do the arithmetic to calculate how long it will take to get from 425 ppm to 550 ppm—we will get there well before the end of the century, and even then the concentrations would continue to rise. That is the scenario if emissions were to remain at their present rate—if China and India do not grow and if no one else increases emissions. Even with no increase in emissions, it is a horrifying prospect. But no one expects emissions to remain constant. A typical forecast suggests that they will grow by 2 per cent a year, and we know how that will accumulate.
The committee had to consider many different controversies on the assumptions about economic growth that go into the forecast, and of course we need the best estimates for that. But noble Lords can see from the simple arithmetic with which I have bored them that it is not that important how fast economic growth in the future is; all it does is to slightly affect the date on which the awful thing arrives. It does not affect the fundamental structure of the problem in any way at all; it is a diversion.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to forecast the economic effects of any given temperature and our committee rightly stresses that much more work is needed on that. But all analyses agree that higher temperatures will cause more variable weather—more droughts, more floods and more hurricanes. It takes only a 10 per cent change in the Indian monsoon to cause a drought or a flood. As many people have said, the main groups affected by global warming will be the poorest people in Africa and Asia. The effects of the inevitable global warming are almost certain to cancel out any level of aid which is likely to come about, at least in terms of economic development; AIDS control is a different matter.
We should of course discuss the possibilities of adaptation. There will certainly have to be a great deal of adaptation in the coming years, given what is already inevitable. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, said—this is a very important point—the world’s temperature has been fairly stable for most of recorded history, and the whole pattern of human life and human settlement is adapted to that temperature. To adapt to a much higher temperature may well require the migration of billions of people, with all the political and social problems that we know migration involves. Migration is a central issue, in a sense, in the adaptation debate. It could make sense to accept that migration only if the cost of avoiding it were also very large—but I do not believe that it is.
That brings me, finally, to the way forward. I support very much the splendid speech of the noble Lord, Lord Vallance. The obvious solution is to meet our energy needs without the release of carbon. Very interesting evidence originated from the International Energy Agency on the cost of making photovoltaic energy, biomass and carbon sequestration competitive in price with gas and oil. The estimate was that to get these technologies to that point there would have to be a major effort of basic and applied research. This would not be undertaken by the private sector—certainly not the basic science because the results could not be captured by any one company—so there would have to be a charge on the public of the world. The scale would be 2 per cent of one year’s world GDP. This compares, for example, with the moon shot, which was 2.5 per cent of one year’s GDP in the United States at the time. If you take 2 per cent of one year’s GDP and spread it over 20 years, that is 0.1 per cent of world GDP, which is not a large amount to spend on saving the planet.
I support the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Vallance, recommended that should be organised. As has been said many times, the Treasury has taken up our recommendation. I think the Stern inquiry is going along the right lines. Radical proposals are needed because of what is happening at this moment and its long-term effects. In particular, it is time we had an international technology treaty aimed at stabilising, in the end, the world temperature at the one we have got used to, which means cutting carbon emissions by two-thirds.
My Lords, like many other speakers who have entered the debate, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and his erudite committee on the time they have spent and the work they have done. It is a little discourteous that that very important report remained so long gathering dust on a shelf. It is slightly out of date, which is its only weakness, and it is a great pity that it was not debated earlier.
I am not really qualified to take part in this debate. Like the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, I got a very poor degree—it was in medieval history rather than agriculture—when we were at Cambridge together. My only claim to fame, as I have said before, is that I was an early whistleblower on the greenhouse effect some 30 years ago. But I have had a Damascus road conversion in regard to climate change which is based on the report before us. Having read it, it appears to me that the climate does not change but it changes; it has changed and will no doubt change again in the future. Therefore I wonder whethera more accurate title for the report would not beThe Economics of Climate Changes rather than The Economics of Climate Change.
Ask any meteorologist and they will say that every day is meteorologically different. No one day is the same as the last; the wind, the clouds, the pressure and the temperature will always be slightly different. So it is with climate. It is well known that the Milankovitch cycles, the procession of equinoxes and the variations of the Earth’s tilt have been the main contributors to major climatic changes in the distant past. More recently, as shown in the hockey-stick graph before us, the climate has apparently been stable for the past 1,000 years and then changes with a sudden rise in temperature in the northern hemisphere. This upward turn has given the graph its title, because of its outline.
But the question I ask is: is it historically true? There may be a problem with this graph in that it seems to have become the sacred mandala of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is, in effect, the basis of all eco-fundamentalism. It has been strongly criticised by scientists who are outside the loop of the IPCC and who have given written or oral evidence in the report. These include Professor Ross McKitrick, at page 262, and Professor Richard Lindzen, at pages 45 and 49. Having read their evidence, I have a feeling that the hockey-stick graph could be fatally flawed but, like most members of the general public, I am not qualified to say so. If it is flawed, the whole question of the reports on the effects of global warming is put in some doubt.
I received a letter from my long-standing friend,Dr Michael Cole, a distinguished doctor of science from Cambridge, who has advised me as a non-scientist how one might approach this anomaly. I shall try to encapsulate his advice, which I consider to be quite fair and helpful to this controversial debate, which is far from one-sided. The critics of the global warming theory propounded by the IPCC are dismissed as a small number of people who do not know what they are talking about. Thousands of scientists connected with the IPCC are unanimous in perceiving the manmade disaster lying ahead, so it is very difficult—certainly as a non-scientist—to say anything against it. But this may not be the case at all because its critics include a large number of well respected scientists in major world-class institutions. The main thing that they have in common is that they are not funded by or connected with the IPCC.
In the report, the global warming protagonists make two important claims. The first is that the current increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide is causing the current climate to go through an unprecedented warm period, reaching the highest temperature for a millennium, and that this will inevitably lead to a serious catastrophe in global warming. This has been repeated time and again by other speakers. The second claim, based on computer models, is that dangerously high temperatures will lead to damaging weather conditions in a few decades ahead.
But a brief look at medieval history—I am trying to remember some of it—shows that between 900 and 1300 AD the climate was considerably warmer than at present. Why is it that the Viking farmers were able to farm part of Greenland, so named because it was, presumably, green? Why is it that the ocean east of Greenland towards Iceland was largely free of ice and routinely navigated, as was the ocean to the west of Greenland towards Baffin Island? Why is it that in England, successful vineyards were in production as far north as Northumberland? When I look out of the window of my house in Scotland, I see signs of cultivation on the northern face of hilltops which are 600 feet to 900 feet above sea level. Why is tree level in the Alps 200 metres above the current level?
This warm period was known as the medieval warm period. From the middle of the 14th century, the climate cooled abruptly, causing widespread crop failure in Europe and Greenland and the Greenland farms to be covered in permanent ice. The old sea passages to Iceland and Baffin Island became impassable because of the ice. The cool period, which lasted until the mid-19th century, has been known as the mini-Ice Age. We are now seeing a recovery from this period, according to the scientists I read, and may be heading towards temperatures which existed in the medieval optimum.
There is nothing new or startling about the current rise in temperature. The IPCC’s first report on global warming produced a graph of temperature versus time, clearly showing temperatures in the medieval warm period climbing to levels higher than those we are experiencing today. There was no hockey stick in that graph then. I speak as an ordinary member of the public trying to read the report; why did the IPCC’s third report produce a different graph of temperature versus time, showing a more or less flat temperature between 1000 BC and 1850 AD, followed by a steep rise thereafter, thus coming to be known as the hockey-stick graph? This graph has been strongly criticised by Professor Ross McKitrick, as I have already said. If the graph is wrong, so is everything else, and there may not be a crisis. I am sure there is a very simple answer to this question, and I would like to hear it.
There is another problem, which I hope the economists will not take amiss. The projections of carbon dioxide in global temperature are based on computer models. There is a difference between economists and stockbrokers. Economists deal with computer models and graphs, and look to the future; stockbrokers deal with the market forces of the day. Why are stockbrokers richer than economists? It is because they are working with the real facts of the reality of the day-to-day market, while economists use projections. Even the smallest variation in a projection that takes place in the years ahead completely unbalances it.
Who are the beneficiaries of the Kyoto mitigation policies? Nobody has said. The earth might be—although I am not so sure that it will be—but so are the ministries, bureaucracies, consultants and quangos. A number of speakers have said how many such policies have to be produced because people are so worried about what is happening. That is why I think that mitigation has a lot of self-interest; a lot of the areas involved are government-connected.
The noble Lord, Lord Soley, rightly referred to the guilt complex. The eco-mullahs will turn up in the form of Ministers, advising us that we should not go over 60 miles an hour on the motorway because we are adding to carbon emissions. I came here in a car which is powered by the equivalent of 500 horses—one would have done. I do not feel guilty about it, but it will not be long before I do. And I will certainly be taxed on it, if the Mayor of London has anything to do with it, because my car has a big engine. These are small things. Why should not people travel on economy jets to their destinations? Why should they be made to feel guilty? This is what will happen.
I will not be convinced about this until the hockey-stick graph has been explained to me. Are our temperatures higher or lower than those in the medieval warm period? If they are lower, let us, asthe noble Lord, Lord Taverne, implied, lie back and enjoy it.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, has chaired the Economic Affairs Committee over a fair period and we all appreciate the way in which he has, with little difficulty, obtained the necessary consensus. The noble Lord, Lord Lawson, began his speech by saying that he would be swimming against the tide; I will limit myself to paddling against it.
Looking into the future of climate change can obviously be very speculative, but I find the way in which some of the forecasts anticipate the situation 100 years from now almost absurd. In 1850, probably the most important concern involved the depletion of coal, on which industry and the world’s economic future depended. Much future assessment was based on the depletion of the most important energy that was available and practical. Disasters were widely predicted. No one could anticipate the various fuels that would subsequently become available—nuclear, gas and oil—and the situation today is similar.
We cannot make assumptions about energy availability and its use at the end of the century. There is so much unknown in the century ahead. To make suggestions about such a long-term future may be acceptable, but the dogmatism that has been poured into the argument is not. We can certainly look ahead to the next 30 years. That is a sensible time period, and the dependency on oil over that time is unquestionably a matter that we have to consider.
In his evidence to the committee, Professor Colin Robinson said, on page 2 of the report,
“past experience suggests that once a consensus emerges and passes into the conventional wisdom—as the climate change consensus has done—it is difficult to dislodge by the normal processes of scientific challenge”.
He goes on:
“The scientific establishment comes to depend on research grants which are most easily obtained if research projects appear to deal with accepted problems. Consultants gear their efforts to advise on these same issues. The media constantly run stories that appear to reinforce the consensus. For all these reasons, the consensus is highly resistant to change”.
That consensus needs examining. What concerns me are the measures that we are proposing to take to deal with the problem of the heating of our planet. In Britain, we are responsible for between 2 per cent and 3 per cent. China, India and the USA are the energy problem countries—China and India in particular will increasingly be responsible for global warming. Compared with these countries, our 2.7 per cent is an insignificant amount. While we must of course try to reduce it, other countries must face up to their responsibilities.
One aspect of global warming concerns the melting of the Antarctic ice cap. Sea levels are expected to rise and low-lying countries will be affected. That is undoubtedly a world problem, but it needs to be addressed substantially by the major polluting countries themselves. They have the problem at their doorstep. Meanwhile, I hope that the IPCC will deal with the questions that have been raised about the emissions scenario and will conduct the reappraisal that our report recommends. It has assumed 3 per cent as the annual rate of economic growth over the next 100 years and further assumed a convergence of the economies of all countries over that period. I find it quite ridiculous to make these assumptions over such a long period ahead. The IPCC needs to improve the way in which it makes future estimates and it should make its estimates over a more sensible time period. That is a weakness that we express in our report. Of course, it is right that we take an international view of these problems, but since we are much less affected by it, if at all, we should express our views and take the minor role in assisting in dealing with the situation.
One important matter raised in our report is whether the damage from climate change is likely to be more in the developing than in the developed countries. The Nordhaus estimate, which we mention in our report, is that for a 2.5 degree centigrade rise in world warming, world GNP could decline by 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent, but in Africa the figure could be4 per cent and in India 5 per cent. That shows that the damage is not evenly spread and that the developing countries generally tend to lose more than the developed countries. The question following from that is why we are at the forefront of pressing for action on climate change when the problem for Britain is so much less than it is for other countries. Obviously, we must play a part in helping to deal with world problems, but when so many in the countries most affected appear almost indifferent to the problems that will affect them most, our role should not be the dominant one.
The further question that we have to ask is whether the costs of warming control is in a number of cases greater than the benefits of dealing with the problem. One might look at this matter differently: it is not out of the question that we in Britain could actually benefit from global warming. One scenario might be that the north of England and Scotland acquire a climate similar to that of the south of England, with the south of England acquiring a Mediterranean climate. I personally am very happy with the climate that we now have, but possible changes could be perfectly acceptable and in the eyes of many could even be an advantage. What troubles me is that we who have less to lose than so many other countries should anticipate spending so much more than some of those countries that have far more to lose.
My Lords, I begin by declaring a personal interest, since I shall shortly become chairman of a company investing in low-carbon technologies. That reflects my belief that there are opportunities for business to create employment and profits from the technologies required for a low-carbon economy. I am also a director of Siemens UK, which has interests in renewable energy as well as in non-renewable energy. But it is on public policy that we focus today.
Last year’s report made a very important contribution to the debate about public policy. But there are dangers, as illustrated by some of the press reporting of the report, that the report’s important analysis of uncertainty and of some methodological issues can be misinterpreted as suggesting that the threat of climate change is less significant than commonly believed and that the need for early action is therefore less. That risk arises in respect of several elements of the report’s analysis but, as we are time-constrained today, I shall focus on only one area of analysis.
The report questions the robustness of the economic assumptions that underpin the IPCC’s emission scenarios. It makes two specific criticisms. First, it says that the IPCC was wrong to use market exchange rate measures of GDP growth rather than purchasing power parity measures. Secondly, it says that it was politically constrained from including scenarios in which the developing world or particular parts of it were unsuccessful in achieving convergence towards developed world living standards.
The first criticism is entirely justified. The market exchange rate approach is simply wrong and the PPP approach correct. The percentage of respected economists who say otherwise is as small as the percentage of respected scientists who deny that human-induced climate change is occurring. The second criticism is also valid. Almost no economist would assume a common rate of convergence across all developing economies. Many would suggest that the best current assumption is that some parts of the developing world—China and other Asian countries in particular—may be achieving historically rapid rates of growth and convergence, while others, including several African states, are sadly not yet on any clear convergence path at all. These are important methodological points and, although it does not follow that better methodology will necessarily produce materially lower estimates of economic growth, emissions or concentrations than those in the IPCC scenarios, there is a danger that the casual reader, or the reader searching for reasons to justify a policy of inaction, will slip to that conclusion.
The market exchange rate versus PPP distinction is important but, as the report itself makes clear in table 3, the impact on concentration levels likely to pertain in 2100 is fairly slight. The illustration given shows an adjustment in one predicted concentration level, on one scenario, from 731 parts per million to 678, which in terms of possible long-term climate effects is no more than a shift from the absolutely disastrous to the very slightly less disastrous. More important, it is not clear that slipping to more differentiated and realistic approaches to convergence and growth will produce lower growth rates, since if current growth assumptions look rather optimistic for Africa, they may well be too pessimistic for China, India and other Asian countries.
The IPCC scenarios assume that world GDP will grow somewhere between 2.2 per cent per annum and 3 per cent per annum in the 110 years between 1990 and 2100, but the IMF's latest world economic outlook database figures, which are correctly weighted on a PPP basis, show that global growth is now running at 4.9 per cent per annum. The combination of the past 15 years of historical experience, which are facts, and the IMF’s forecast for the next six years—and it is pretty good at medium-term forecasts, so the figures are fairly good—suggests that the average over the years 1990 to 2011 will be 3.9 per cent per annum. So for 21 years at least, almost one-fifth of the entire forecast period, we are likely to be running well above the upper end of the IPCC forecast range. While the report quotes a Treasury official as suggesting that sustaining a global growth rate of 3 per cent over a century is unprecedented, it somewhat oddly does that precisely two inches away from a table—table 1 on page 36, drawn from Professor Madison—that illustrates that the average global growth rate throughout the 20th century was, in fact, 3 per cent.
Future global growth forecasts are highly uncertain, but one of the central economic facts of the past 15 years is that the increased integration of the global economy—the great power of the global free-market system—is unleashing, at least for a time, a major acceleration of growth in developing Asian economies which account for more than 40 per cent of the world's population. Once we allow for that phenomenon—which was rather strangely unreferred to in a report to do with the economic input into climate change—it is quite possible that the more robust methodologies for which the report rightly argues will suggest estimates for 21st-century growth at least within the 2.2 per cent to 3 per cent range and possibly even above it.
So it is really not the case, as the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, suggested, that the global growth forecasts in the IPCC are clearly biased upwards. I find it difficult to understand how he can stress at one point in his speech the rapid pace at which China is growing and building coal power stations and the fact that it may rapidly become the world's biggest emitter, but then assert in the same speech that we know that the IPCC forecasts are biased upwards.
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene as the noble Lord has mentioned me by name, twice I think. What concerned me most was that, whereas the energy intensity of growth in the world in recent years has steadily diminished, the IPCC economic forecasts show that that will be reversed and that energy intensity will increase—according to those forecasts. That makes an enormous difference in carbon dioxide emissions.
My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble Lord that, in addition to growth rate, it is important to consider the issue of the carbon intensity of growth. However, he very deliberately drew attention to the fact that Chinese growth is being driven by coal power rather than gas power. One of the key drivers of the increasing carbon efficiency of growth—of falling carbon emissions relative to growth over the past 20 years in the developed world—has been the increasing use of gas. But if China is growing rapidly, and powering itself extensively through coal, we may well see a major growth spurt that is very carbon intensive. The noble Lord seemed to deploy a debating technique whereby, to argue that Kyoto is completely ineffective, he drew attention to China’s rapid growth, but then, to argue that the IPCC emission forecasts are too high, he simply ignored it.
As the noble Lords, Lord Oxburgh and Lord Rees of Ludlow, stressed, there are uncertainties in the details of climate change science, but extremely high probabilities, bordering on certainty, that the scale of global warming could be significant and harmful if concentration levels of greenhouse gases rise even to the IPCC’s middle scenarios, let alone to its high scenarios.
A similar situation applies to the economics. There are uncertainties and it is important continually to improve forecast methodologies and the clarity of communication. But if the global market economy is even reasonably successful in delivering widening prosperity across an increasing proportion of the developing world—an outcome that we should surely desire in human terms, and which at present, at least for some regions of the world, looks extremely likely—it is almost certain that, unless we take deliberate countervailing action, concentration levels of greenhouse gases will rise to at least pre-industrial levels, and to levels not seen for hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions, of years. It is vital that that near certainty remains clear to people even as we note important uncertainties in the detail.
My Lords, it is hard to think of a debate that it is more of a privilege to listen to. I warmly thank the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, for giving us the opportunity to debate this issue and to listen to such thought- provoking speeches.
I congratulate my noble friend Lord Teverson on his maiden speech. He is a tremendous addition to the Liberal Democrat Benches, with his experience in economics, politics and finance. As we have heard, he is a very passionate exponent of the issues that will face us in the future.
We all might have expected the G8 summit to put climate change at the top of its agenda, but yet again it has been overtaken by tragic events which it will no doubt have to spend much time debating instead. Although it may still touch on climate change, its fate is never to be the urgent issue of the day. Politicians will continue to struggle with that. That is why the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, was so important. Kyoto is not an end in itself, but it is a unique first essential step along the path of some international agreement on dealing with this threat. Of course, it is imperfect in its current form and I have no doubt that it will not be perfect in its post-2012 form, but it is very much a first step and a statement that the world wants to take action. That is why it is so important that the developing world states that it will join in that, and that it is concernedabout it.
Some interesting issues have been raised; for example, whether the green movement is hostile to science. That is like asking whether scientists are hostile to the environment. It is a non-question. I am sure that some green activists might be regarded as Luddites because of their life style changes, but many people in the green movement are busy developing cutting-edge technology, among them many eminent scientists, of whom it certainly could not be said that they were hostile to science. It is a very unfortunate path to pursue.
The committee’s evidence is excellent and makes interesting reading. As one would expect, it reveals varied opinions, and interesting, thought-provoking questions were asked. As I have said, the debate today has been excellent, but I join other speakers in expressing a certain disappointment about the report. Others have mentioned the tone of the report, but perhaps I could be slightly more forthright in saying that one of the weaknesses of the report is that it started out with an assumption which it then set out to prove.
Professor Colin Robinson was quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon. At the start of the evidence volume, Professor Robinson makes the point that economists are not qualified to comment in detail on the methods used by scientists to model climate change. But the tone of the report is set by his comment that those who call for substantial action are,
“alarmist observers, like doomsters of earlier times”.
That sets the tone for the report, which spends an undue amount of time questioning the intricacies of the modelling and the scenarios behind some of the predictions of the IPCC.
I could not better the analysis of the noble Lord, Lord Turner, and I certainly would not wish to try. I will read his speech in Hansard. He encapsulatedfar more eloquently than I would many of my reservations about the assumptions that had been made about the IPCC. Other noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow, said that the very questioning and wishing for certainty in scenarios that are of their very nature uncertain is unrealistic.
Those of us who opened the report with anticipation felt that because the committee was so over-determined to pursue that one issue at length—whether the IPCC was too politicised—it was to the loss of other issues that were not explored. Noble Lords have mentioned some of them. My noble friend Lord Vallance made a particularly powerful speech about the technologies and the potential behind them. I would have expected the committee to spend two or three chapters on the optimism reflected in his speech about those possibilities, rather than one chapter.
The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, mentioned lifestyle change, which was perhaps slightly outside the remit of the committee. Nevertheless, the willingness of people, given the potential, to change their lifestyle and to adapt is worth exploring. It is cynical to say that people want to carry on regardless. Many surveys have shown that when confronted with choices, one of the most important things to people is their children’s future. After all, that is what people are striving for, that is what people are educating their children for, and this is about the sort of inheritance that people want their children to have. When confronted with the scenario that warming may produce, people would be very willing to change their lifestyle. It is simply about having the tools to enable them to do so.
The committee had some strong evidence fromthe Royal Society, which outlined 12 misleading arguments that it refuted at length and in detail. Nevertheless, those misleading arguments have been advanced again today. The noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, mentioned a cosier, warmer climate; the very thing that the Royal Society refutes on page 302 of its evidence. Paragraphs 149 to 155 of the report seem to reproduce those misleading arguments. I wonder whether the committee had really taken to heart the evidence given by the Royal Society, which explained why those arguments were wrong.
However, I would not want to leave that point without saying that the report had some particular strengths. For example, paragraph 180 on adaptation becoming the norm of policy thinking was very important. Paragraph 181, which talked of a carbon tax replacing the climate change levy as the way forward, and paragraph 182, which again emphasised innovation regarding climate change, were also important.
Before this debate I asked myself whether at this point we would be able to ask if the committee had moved on in its thinking from last year. A number of speeches—those of the noble Lords, Lord Layard and Lord Vallance, in particular—indicated that times had changed and Members of the committee have said that a year has passed. We now have the Stern review which is able to build on the committee’s work. It was not clear whether the Stern review happened because of this report and whether the Treasury was pushed into such a review, but that is not important.
I hope that the Stern review will concentrate on the issue of mitigation or adaptation. Of course it is not a choice; it is a bit like asking, “Do we need food or sleep”? Clearly, we need global mitigation action. In our reaction, that of the developed world, we will not be the first countries to suffer catastrophic effects, but that does not mean that in the short term we should not worry about the catastrophic effects on others and, in the long term, the catastrophic effects on the developing world will mean catastrophic effects on us, as my noble friend Lord Teverson so dramatically described when he talked about migration.
Many noble Lords mentioned the predictions about warming as measured by the air. The noble Earl, Lord Selborne, mentioned the work of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The Plymouth Marine Laboratory has been carrying out some extremely interesting work regarding the deep oceans. Even if you argue this way or that about warming in the atmosphere, what is happening in the deep oceans should give us all great cause for concern, because it takes far more to warm a small amount in the deep ocean than it does in the atmosphere. The deep oceans are a real indicator of the extent of the problem, according to the information given to me by the laboratory.
The debate today has been extremely illuminating. The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, said that the report was evidence-based and not party-political. I would gently say to him that there is no excuse for the sort of party-political propaganda in the box on page 61, which claims that the 1992 targets were achieved largely by electricity privatisation introduced by the Conservative Government. It could equally be argued that the targets were achieved by the “dash for gas”, which depleted our gas stocks, so that we now rely increasingly on gas from abroad, and shut down the coal industry at a time when we should have been investing in the clean coal technologies that would be taking us forward now.
As my noble friend Lord Teverson said, the reports of your Lordships’ House are held in high regard. It would be unfortunate if they became party-political or anything less than evidence-based. This House has a reputation for an extremely high standard of report, which I for one would be anxious for it to maintain. We can be in absolutely no doubt about the quality of the debate today, and I very much look forward to reading it.
My Lords, I begin by expressing my thanks to the Economic Affairs Committee for its immense amount of hard work, under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Wakeham, in producing this report. I add my thanks to my noble friend for introducing it.
One of the great virtues of the committee reports of this House is that they are subsequently submitted quite literally to Peer review, which is very much what we are indulging ourselves in today. That is rather important. If I were to make a suggestion about the future treatment of this report, it would be that the Hansard record of this debate should be attached within the cover of its future editions. That would be immensely worth while.
It is now more than 12 months since the report was published and what a year it has been. We had a major energy crisis last winter; we have seen the price of a barrel of oil double on the world markets; and we have had commensurately large increases in all other energy prices. We have also seen the arrival of the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which was supposed to put a proper cost on carbon emissions. Its failure to do so does not reduce the significance of its arrival but it does mean that some fairly rapid revision work needs to be done to ensure that it becomes an effective mechanism. One effect of that failure has been that carbon certificates have been cheap and, because of that, in last winter’s electricity generation we used more coal than we were accustomed to do and yet again—surprise, surprise—our carbon dioxide emissions have risen.
We have another energy review, which, rightly, keeps open all the options for energy supply in the future. That is immensely welcome. I wish that I could feel a little more confident about detecting within that review the urgency for change which the situation now requires. There is talk of a White Paper in the autumn but there is no mention of legislation, and some of the proposals in it will be dealt with in the spending review of 2008. That is beginning to press out the decision-making mechanism.
In the mean time, energy security has becomea much higher-profile matter for all countries, particularly the United States. Beneficially, the relative cost of green energy is rapidly moving in a favourable direction so that, now, onshore wind is competitive, biofuels are likely to be competitive within less than a decade, and so on. Twelve months ago, who would have imagined such a script? I almost feel the ghost of Harold Macmillan standing behind me whispering over my shoulder, “Events, dear boy, events”.
The report deals with the relationship between two highly controversial matters. The first is global warming. One had only to listen to the “Today” programme on Thursday, 6 July, when Professor Lovelock was discussing the issue with some of his contemporaries, who equally believe in global warming, to realise that the subject, even for those who are totally convinced that warming is happening, is highly controversial. That is important.
The other part of the debate is the economic effect. The economy has been controversial throughout my whole public life, even when we did not have this problem. With such a recipe, and looking over a seriously long timescale such as the next century—or perhaps even longer, because the implications for mankind go further than that—it would be remarkable if strong views were not expressed and, indeed, if there were not a strong degree of dissension. To me, the remarkable thing is that the IPCC, which brings together so many scientists from so many different nations, has arrived at a consensus. But it has, and that gives particular integrity to its recommendations.
For me, the significance of the report is that it calls for more and better focused research both from the IPCC and on the economic front, particularly with the involvement of the Treasury. My noble friend Lord Wakeham mentioned that in his introduction and the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, noted that the Stern review is going on. That has to be welcomed.
We must also recognise that the pool of relevant knowledge continues to expand and to develop. I can give two examples. First, on 30 June this year an article appeared in the American magazine Science. It is surprising how much good and relevant research is done on the subject in the United States of America when, in international circles, it has such an impossibly bad reputation in this area. The article was entitled “Food for Thought: Lower-Than-Expected Crop Yield Stimulation with Rising CO2 Concentrations”. That reported on the difference between experiments that were done 10 or 15 years ago and more recent experiments which have been carried out with more appropriate technology. A significant aspect used to calculate food production capacity in future environmental concentrations of CO2 has been somewhat eroded. I put it no higher than that. I have remarked before in this House that, in any event, there is insufficient land to produce both food and energy for mankind.
The second aspect—I shall not go into any further detail—is the temperature hockey stick with which the noble Lord, Lord Rees of Ludlow, has dealt with greater expertise and knowledge than I possibly could. It is worth noting that the latest research report, undertaken on behalf of the United States Congress, interestingly enough, largely vindicates the researchers’ work—Professor Mann et al’s hockey stick graph, first published in 1998. It concludes:
“Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium”.
That needs to be stated. It is no criticism of the committee that it reported as it did, because that was the state of knowledge when the report was written. We all need to be aware that knowledge is developing constantly and that, from time to time, some research will prove to be uncomfortable to us all, whatever our views. That is the nature of the difficulty that we face.
We are not dealing with one or two hockey sticks—the one I have just mentioned and the hockey stick that deals with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—but four hockey sticks all pointing in the same direction. The other two hockey sticks are the rapid increase in the human population and the rapid increase in industrial and economic growth. When four hockey sticks are all going the same way, perhaps we need to take note.
We must take account of and somehow explain what is already happening around the world. Arctic temperatures are well up and Arctic ice, as has been said, is diminishing. The Greenland ice cap is retreating. I draw attention to a slightly different point in the Antarctic from the ice problem: in the western Antarctic a small increase in water temperature is putting at risk the future of krill, the basic food for so many species of fish in that part of the world that support a large industry.
Only last week, the Sunday Times reported that the Eiger glacier is now 140 feet lower at its top, below the north face of the Eiger, than it was a little over 100 years ago. That is a local matter. Kilimanjaro used to have a permanent snow cap but has now almost lost it. In my industry, the northern limits of crops such as maize, sunflower and soya creep inexorably to higher latitudes. This is an adaptation reality. Of course, mankind has the capacity to change what and where we cultivate. But that raises a slightly different question: whether the natural fauna and flora have the same flexibility. When migration routes for birds are set over millennia of experience, when they are dependent on particular foods being available in particular locations, they do not have the luxury that we do. I fear is that the extinction rate is likely to increase.
The Association of British Insurers, which really must do a good risk assessment, sent an interesting brief in which it projected what is likely to happen to its industry and the volume and costs of the economic impact of climate change. It makes the point that, if future levels of carbon dioxide are at the lower end of the projected range, the increase in damage might be reduced by up to 70 per cent. If ever there was an argument in favour of mitigation, that must be one. We cannot wait until the sea overtops the Thames Barrier before we take action to ensure that it cannot do so.
This is yet another report on global warming, an issue on which we have had some very interesting debates in this House over the last year. The report is another in what I expect to be a succession on the subject. I am grateful to all who have contributed to this debate and look forward to the Minister’s reply.
My Lords, we have had a fascinating debate, but, with my time limit, I am not going to be able to do justice to all 20 speeches. At the outset, however, I must congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on his maiden speech. He came to the House with a good track record, and he has certainly shown how seriously he takes this issue. As I was watching names being added to the list through the week, I thought that, with all the new Peers coming in, this would be an opportunity for lots of them to make their maiden speeches. I was surprised that we only got one, but the speech was incredibly valuable and I congratulate the noble Lord on it on behalf of the House.
Before I get into my set piece, I shall mention a couple of preliminary points so that I do not forget them. On Stern, which I will mention, we will have the report, and the Government will publish an energy White Paper following on from the energy review, by the end of the year. Remarks were also made, which I appreciate, about the setting up of the office of climate change, which we want to be a shared resource across the Government.
I shall not get involved in the arguments that have gone around the House regarding the green movement. The fact of the matter is that, when scientists are conducting experiments to discover possible changes in the environment, and when those studies are interfered with by those who do not want to know what the results are so that proper results cannot be obtained, that undermines everything else that the green movement says. If you want to use science to discover the effects, destroying the experiments is not a good idea.
I do not know the reasons for the delay in the debate on the report, but I understand that deeper waters—not a good phrase—have flowed on this. There have been important developments in our understanding of climate change in the 18 months since the Economic Affairs Committee began its inquiry into the economics of climate change. Significant progress has also been made in the national and international policy framework to address the climate change threat, and I will address some of those points.
The vast majority of scientific evidence continues to corroborate the scientific consensus that human activities currently represent the major influence on global climate change. Arguments disputing the science have been found to be indefensible in some ways and some apparent inconsistencies are still to be reconciled. In fact, the latest science suggests that the risks could be greater than we previously thought. For noble Lords who want to spend some more time on that, I assume that this book, Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, is in the Library. It containsthe papers of the Defra-sponsored international symposium on the stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations that took place at the Met Office in Exeter between 1 and 3 February 2005. It is published by Cambridge University Press and is a large and rather heavy volume. If it is not in the Library, I will make sure that a copy is placed there. The latest science suggests that the risks could be greater than we previously thought.
There were references to increases in temperature. Something is happening, and whatever one argues about 100 years or 30 years or whatever happened in other ages, it is a fact that, of the hottest 10 years ever recorded, nine occurred in the past 10 years.
There was considerable reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and, by and large, there was a good degree of support, as well as some criticism; it was also criticised in the committee’s report. The Government’s view is that the IPCC has performed and continues to perform its role in a balanced and objective manner. There is no comparable scientific assessment process in terms of scope, depth and international representation. The Government therefore fully support the work of the panel and are confident that the forthcoming fourth assessment report, which is due in 2007, will make yet another contribution to our understanding of climate change.
A number of speakers—I shall not mention names, as that would not be fair—queried the growth figures underpinning the IPCC’s emissions scenarios. This is a technical issue, but it is relevant to the debate. The IPCC will be assessing the academic literature on scenarios in its next assessment report, which is due out next year. It will be encouraging the scientific community to do more work on developing emissions scenarios. While the exact path of future emissions will depend on many factors, it is clear that, without concerted policy action, emissions will continue to rise in this century. At current rates of growth, we are likely to see by the middle of this century at least a doubling of concentrations relative to pre-industrial levels. That level of climate change would have wide-ranging impacts on societies and economies far beyond what has been discussed today.
On the other hand, the majority of the economic literature concludes that stabilising concentrations of greenhouse gases at safe levels would not involve unacceptable costs, provided that the right policies are in place, existing technologies are developed and deployed and sufficient time is allowed for the transition to a low-carbon economy.
Uncertainty is no excuse for inaction. The risks that we face and the balance of costs of action and inaction are not symmetrical. On the one side, we are faced with the risks of large, irreversible damage costs. On the other side is the demanding but achievable and, we believe, ultimately affordable challenge of reducing emissions while simultaneously adapting to unavoidable levels of climate change.
Just after the reshuffle, I visited a Defra laboratory—the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, which is based in Lowestoft, although most of its work is done around the world—to pick up on what the scientists had been doing to measure what has happened recently in the oceans. As good, communicative scientists, they are always trying to give examples that mean things to people, rather than just trotting out statistics. They pointed out to me that the data-run models over the past 30 years show that approximately 18,000 cubic kilometres of fresh water has been lost from the Arctic Ocean—that includes the whole area, not just the ice. They were considering how to explain that to people, because it is a huge concept. It is basicallythe equivalent of France covered in water by up to35 metres. They said that the scientists who had put that example together were clearly not wine fanatics but had done so to illustrate the amount of fresh water that has come into the oceans during the past 30 years. So movements are under way that we must take account of.
Society has not only a rationale but a duty to act to reduce emissions and to adapt to unavoidable levels of climate change. Several noble Lords mentioned adaptation versus mitigation. There is not time to go into great detail, but the answer to the question whether adaptation to unavoidable climate change should receive more attention as part of the policy response is yes. The Government recognise the importance of choosing the appropriate policy response to climate change, including the balance of mitigation to prevent the worst risks from climate change and adaptation to unavoidable climate change.
The UK is leading internationally in developing a coherent and robust adaptation framework, which we hope will set out a rational structure for the roles and activities of different organisations. Those range from central Government down to individual actors. It is about allowing people, as well as Governments, the facility to see how their individual actions can make a contribution. If the connection is not made, people will not change their activities. They must see a connection between their lifestyle changes and the greater good of everyone. There is no doubt that saving energy is a major contribution to reducing climate change and we must do more on that, as the energy review has made clear.
My background briefing notes do not make it clear whether the Stern review was set up as a result of the committee’s report. It came just afterwards. There has been criticism of the Treasury, which is an important engine of finance. It is crucial that we create new markets, new businesses and a new energy to effect change. The Government cannot impose that; we need the market mechanism to play a role. The Stern review was set up to give a deeper understanding of the economics of this complex issue.
We are confident that the review, which was launched in 2005, will provide a solid analysis of the challenges around climate change and a basis for good policy-making at national and international levels. The past 18 months have seen unparalleled international action and agreement on climate change and energy, especially during the UK presidencies of the European Union and the G8. We secured several important agreements: the need for urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the Gleneagles plan of action; and the strengthening of the Kyoto protocol in Montreal with the adoption of the Marrakech accords.
Notwithstanding the two issues that the noble Baroness raised, at the G8 summit this weekend the Prime Minister will continue to press for urgent action and movement on his two key priorities for climate change. They are, first, international agreement and consensus on a long-term stabilisation goal to limit emissions and ultimately further temperature rise and, secondly, to start seeking agreement on a post-2012 framework that the major players—the United States, China, India and the European Union—buy into and which is underpinned by the stabilisation goal. We are encouraging debate in various forums and forging partnerships with key countries such as India and China.
There have been several references to China and India, which will be the generators of a lot of emissions in years to come. Why should they pull back from economic change? Because of advances in technology, we have an opportunity to assist those nations to make their economic progress not as damaging as it would have been if we did not have those technologies. We have already launched an initiative to create and develop near-zero emissions from coal using carbon capture and storage technologies, which could be used in China. There could be a demonstration by 2020. Having more coal-fired power stations is not a disastrous scenario if we can use that technology, which we can develop based on our own experience.
Engaging the United States will continue to be essential. The US is actively seeking alternative multilateral approaches to move beyond the disagreements over the Kyoto Protocol. That is obvious and well known. The focus on research and development and technology alone, although essential, will not suffice; we think that it must be coupled with an attempt to resolve the externality of emissions that inhibit the innovation process. We therefore think that a carbon price is important. Prices will only be developed through scarcity, so targets have an important role to play in driving emission reductions. We think that that is essential to cost-effective solutions, such as the cap-and-trade system.
There have been some references to the EU emissions trading scheme, on whose progress after its first year we made a Statement just a few weeks ago. Europe is a key progressive force internationally, and the successful launch of the trading scheme has indeed helped to drive climate change up the agenda of business and the wider community by giving carbon emissions a commercial value. The results of the first year, published in May, show that the scheme has got off to a good start. The infrastructure is functioning well and forms a sound basis on which to build for the future. As I said, when we made our Statement, the scheme had only been going for a year. There is still tweaking and other work to do.
The United Kingdom announced at the end of June that we would build on phase 1 of the emissions trading scheme by setting an emissions cap for phase 2 of 238 million allowances, which represents a saving of 8 million tonnes of carbon each year. The United Kingdom is urging the Commission to improve the enforcement of tough caps and the priorities forthe review of the scheme post-phase 2, announced in the energy review earlier this week, show our clear commitment to making the scheme work.
On domestic action, it is pointed out, fairly, that we are responsible for only 2 per cent of the world’s emissions, but the fact is that we started the industrial revolution and perhaps in a way started pollution in this phase of the world’s history. However, that means that we have experience to work from. We have technology and wherewithal that we can use for the advantage of everyone else—and for our own economic advantage, if we are clever about it.
We have to do things internationally. Our credibility will rely on what we are doing on the home front. We have to lead in creating a low-carbon economy. If we can do that, we are more likely to be listened to on the international front. We do not think that this will be at the expense of our economic and social objectives. If the challenge of climate change is to be met, all parts of British society will have to play their part. If we get the message and see the role that we can play, the small changes in behaviour that we make as individuals—switching off electrical appliances rather than leaving them on standby, as was discussed earlier this week, or making the right choice of those appliances in the first place—can make a tremendous difference to energy use in this country. We have to set ambitious long-term goals, though, and the Government can therefore play a critical role in enabling a low-carbon economy.
The energy review that we published earlier this week contains ambitious proposals for getting us on course to achieving real progress in emission reductions by 2020 and remaining on the right path to achieving our domestic goal of a 60 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Overall, the package of measures in the energy review could deliver between 19 million and 25 million tonnes of carbon savings by 2020. These would be achieved through several levers, including new measures for the transport sector, which are long overdue; the removal of barriers to distributed generation and new nuclear; measures to support renewable electricity; and a big push on energy efficiency. All those have a roleto play.
I know that your Lordships’ House will come back to this issue and probably spend more time on it than the other place will. With the range of expertise in this House, this is an ideal place for a mature and considered debate on climate change. The next years will be crucial in defining the response of the economy and society to changes in climate in our country and the rest of the globe. The Government have already contributed to shaping the European and international agendas on climate change, including multilateral agreements, emissions trading and initiatives on energy efficiency. We must push on faster and further and it is essential that we continue this momentum to encourage global action on climate change. Without that, we are in real trouble.
I would not want to give a view that had not been expressed in your Lordships’ House, but two or three speeches seemed to suggest that we might have to give up the ghost and make hay while the sun shines. Well, we want the sun to carry on shining; we want to carry on making hay; and we want to have progress. But that will mean concerted action and going with the science, taking some bold decisions on changes in society and our economy—there is no question about that—and not believing that the Government can do it all. It is Parliament’s job to get the message across to individuals and businesses on how they can play their role. If individuals can see how playing a role is important, they will do it and will end up doing the job for us all, because we are all in this together.
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, ended on a cheerful note and has not let me down when I say how much I have admired him over the years. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this extremely good debate. In a way, these occasions show the House of Lords at its best. There has been a whole range of views—not all the same by any manner of means—nearly all put overwhelmingly clearly and concisely. I am very grateful for that.
The more perceptive of noble Lords might even have noticed that in the committee that I chaired there was perhaps a slight difference of emphasis on some of the points that we discussed. All I need to do at this stage is repeat that the report was unanimous. Everyone agreed with what was in it. There was no sign of any partisan or party interest at all. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that even the bit about electricity privatisation was agreed by the Liberal Democrat members of the committee, who, incidentally, played a very full and effective part, for which I am very grateful.
We have had a good debate and I am most grateful to everyone. All that remains for me to do is to say that I commend the report.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Disabled Persons (Independent Living)Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Its purpose is literally to transform the lives of Britain’s 11 million disabled people from lives of frustration to lives of fulfilment. Providing a legislative framework for rights to independent living, it is both an idealistic and a practical proposition. I have worked closely with the Disability Rights Commission, which is splendidly led by Bert Massie, and with Caroline Ellis and her colleagues. They have worked extraordinarily hard to make the Bill a success. I warmly appreciate their wise counsel and assistance. I am also delighted with the excellent report from the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, and its support for independent living. This gives the Government a fine opportunity to implement many of its recommendations, strongly commended by the Prime Minister.
Disabled people historically have been regarded as second-class or even third-class citizens. As the Prime Minister has said, one in five British adults is disabled and they can find themselves cut off from the opportunities others enjoy. Disabled people are more likely to live in poverty, to have fewer educational opportunities and to experience prejudice and abuse. Most have low expectations. Only 50 per cent of disabled people of working age are in employment compared with 80 per cent of the non-disabled. That one-fifth of our population is, incredibly, an underclass. We need to elevate our objective from providing subsistence to comprehensive rights of equality and independence.
Support for disabled people is fragmented, resulting in confusion and stress. Deserving people are being denied proper support. In fact, 70 per cent of our councils now offer services only to people whose needs are judged substantial or critical, so that the social security net is full of holes and those who should be included are inevitably excluded. The rights they have are strictly limited. Rights to services mainly mean help with being washed and fed rather than comprehensive rights which enable independence. For example, there are no positive rights in existing legislation to enable disabled people to choose where they live and no legal protection against them being forced to live in institutional care against their wishes, which is scandalous. There is no legal entitlement to advocacy except in limited circumstances, nor to communication support, both of which are crucial. There are no rights of support to cover a disabled person who moves to a different part of the country. They have to start all over again and negotiate a new care package from scratch. Think of all the stress and frustration involved. People with mental health problems have no right to assessment or support for their mental health needs. The notorious postcode lottery blights provision of services all over the country. It is luck rather than judgment as to who actually gets what. Fancy that, in the year 2006. It is a question of pure luck.
Advances made over the past few years with legislation have been helpful, but limited and piecemeal. It is now time to dispense with this ad hoc approach and adopt a master plan which guarantees—yes, guarantees—genuine independent living for disabled people, and we should underpin civil rights with entitlements to practical support. Disabled people have as strong a claim to a normal life as anyone else, and this Bill seeks to provide basic rights which have long eluded them. It seeks a change in attitude, in culture, in practice and in the law. The key objective is that disabled people of all ages should have the same freedoms, choice, dignity and control as all other citizens at home, at work and in the community. This means that they must be provided with practical assistance and support to participate in society and to live an ordinary life. That is not a lot to ask, but it is absolutely crucial.
The basic premise for action, confirmed by members of the independent living movement, is that disabled people need two vital things: personal assistance and accessibility. The stark alternatives are to be a burden on their families or live in an institution. If we are serious about enabling independent living, we simply have to provide those vital necessities. Under the Bill the Secretary of State will be required to draw up a strategic plan for independent living, and to promote and pursue it. Each local authority and National Health Service body will have to do likewise. The local authority will be required to compile a record of all disabled people in its area so that we know exactly who is disabled, what their disabilities are and where they live.
The Bill will place a duty on local authorities and National Health Service bodies to co-operate between themselves and key partners to provide the means of independent living. It will require them to pool funds wherever necessary to deliver the duties in the Bill. This will avoid the multiple assessments, delays and fragmentation that occur at present. There are significant economic benefits to be gained from this.
The Bill provides a clear right to a comprehensive assessment of disabled people’s requirements for assistance and support. This right to a self-assessment of their requirements is an absolutely crucial part of the Bill and will ensure that any support given to disabled people is what they want, rather than their having to wait for the local authority to give them what it thinks they ought to have. So far, disabled people have been expected to fit into services, but the Bill provides that services should be personalised after assessment and therefore suit the person. It also provides that disabled people should be empowered to determine where they live and who they live with—another crucial point. This ensures that no one can be obliged to live in an institution against their will. If and when the Bill becomes an Act, it will be unlawful to force anyone into an institution against their will.
The authorities will have to identify all the disabled people in their area and maintain a register. They will have to provide a wide range of assistance, such as communication aids and other forms of helpful equipment and technology, independent advocacy and practical assistance in the home and elsewhere.
There will be a new system of individualised budgets. The present range of different funding streams to help with personal care, support, equipment and adaptations will be brought together. Disabled people will be able to use their individual budgets, in the form of cash or services or a mixture of both, to spend as they wish on housing, equipment, personal assistance, transport or whatever they desire.
A crucial part of the Bill is that regulations will be made specifying minimum outcomes. This is designed to prevent any authority wriggling out of its responsibilities. The minimum outcome is a crucial part of the Bill and regulations will be made so that there is no doubt where the responsibility lies.
Of course, these changes will have to be paid for. On the other hand, we should not lose sight of the very important economic benefits of investing in independent living. As people become independent and return to work, they will be earning from employment and, as they pay taxes, there will be savings on the social security budget. There will also be a reduction in the demand for health and social services as people become active and get back to work, so there will be a transformation in people’s attitudes towards the costs.
The Bill creates a disability housing service. Each local authority will have to compile a list of accessible properties and a record of disabled people requiring such properties, and then provide a matching service. The terrible shortfall of accessible housing will no longer be a bugbear because people will be able to be fitted to properties through this matching service. All new dwellings of whatever type will have to meet minimum standards of access. This will result in a huge saving for local authorities by avoiding the heavy costs of later adaptations.
Together, these reforms will dramatically enhance the life chances of disabled people and their families and reduce waste and inefficiency. The Bill will also promote opportunities for carers to create a truly sustainable approach to independent living.
I hope that today I have planted a seed in Parliament that will be transformed into a mighty piece of legislation, giving to Britain’s disabled people the freedom and independence they cherish and which they have been denied for too long. The Bill is a blueprint for the future, but the time to embrace it is now. In the long, slow march of disabled people to freedom and independence, they have made limited progress. They desperately need a drastic change in tempo if they are to approach their ultimate objective. This Bill is the key that opens the way for them to equality, independence, freedom and dignity. It is a great vision. Let us make it a reality.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Ashley of Stoke.)
My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, in speaking on the Bill. I preface my remarks by saying what a visionary and important Bill it is. As in previous years, he is leading where others, and I hope the Government, will surely follow. I want to explain briefly why I believe that this is such an important Bill.
First, I declare an interest. I am the chairman of trustees of an education charity for profoundly autistic children which runs a school in Haringey. That will form the core of my remarks today. I am also the vice-chairman of the All-Party Group on Autism, which the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, addressed on Wednesday. I did not realise at the time that he was putting forward his Bill today, but I was so impressed by what he had to say, as was the audience, that I felt compelled to come along to express my support for it.
The Bill is so important for our children at the school because currently we have about 40 children in its primary-school element; gradually, however, we are filling up a secondary school, which will be equivalent in number. We have 10 secondary schoolchildren; over time, as we build new facilities with the help of Futurebuilders and many major donors, which we hope will be completed in 2008, we will have a school of 80 profoundly autistic children—40 in the secondary school and 40 in the primary school.
One of the big challenges for us as those children enter the secondary school is the curriculum. What are we teaching them? Essentially, in the years as they move towards adulthood, we will be teaching them life skills—the skills which will enable them to live independently, as far as possible, in the community. We are developing a curriculum suitable for their needs, but life skills and independent living are crucial. That is our challenge and it is faced by huge and growing numbers of children across the country.
In her study, reported in the Lancet, Professor Gillian Baird of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust confirmed what we have long suspected. The incidence of children with conditions on the autistic spectrum is very high—one in 100. That means that in the future we will be facing large numbers of adults who are on that spectrum. Diagnosis is better and I suspect that there are also environmental reasons but at the moment, large numbers of adults are hidden. They are not being diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders, but that will not be the case in the future. We must make sure that those children are able to make the transition from childhood to adulthood and that they are properly assessed so that they can live, as far as possible, independently in the community. That is where the Bill is so important. That is the essence of my strong support for the Bill.
Currently, under legislation, there is a real concern for children. It is likened by some voluntary organisations in the sector to falling off a cliff—when children start reaching adulthood, their supportive or structured school environment is followed by a complete absence of services and support. That is deeply worrying for many of these children, who rely on routine in such an important fashion. Under current education legislation—the Education Act 1996, as amended by the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001—LEAs already have a statutory duty to make and implement a transition plan from the age of 14 for disabled young people. As a result, several agencies should be involved in a young person’s transition to adult services, but too often the parent must act as the central point of contact between the LEA, the primary care trusts, social services and Connexions. The recent make school make sense report by the NAS reveals rather shockingly that adult social services are involved in transition planning in only 17 per cent of cases.That points up the inadequacy of the current arrangements.
The oldest children at TreeHouse will shortly need transition planning to begin, so that concentrates our minds in a major way. We must ensure that every LEA is committed to effective planning and that all the other agencies get involved early, so that adult services that meet each young person’s needs can be arranged. That is why the clause on co-operation between local authorities and NHS bodies is so absolutely crucial. The Bill takes the whole of that process a stage further and would have a major effect on planning for that transition.
Generally, I am wholly supportive of the Bill. I have only one concern, about individual budgets. I hope that these proposals are taken forward giving the option of individual budgets. In many ways, in many areas, that would be welcomed by disabled adults but there are parents who will be concerned if they have to manage individual children’s budgets; that is one option given in the Bill. I am sure that the noble Lord would accept that some parents would prefer the agencies to manage those budgets for themselves. It is important, too, that individual budgets do not replace direct service provision by public agencies. Of course, that will continue. Not all parents will want to manage the budget for their child’s services, and support services need to be in place to ensure that it is not only those parents with high levels of financial skill and expertise who can benefit from individual budgets. However, that is a very small point that I am sure the noble Lord is aware of, and I strongly and warmly commend and support the Bill.
My Lords, I take this opportunity to thank your Lordships' House for the very warm welcome that I have received and noble Lords for their kind words of wisdom and advice since my introduction. I also thank all the staff of the House for their kindness in helping me move around the House. I have no sense of direction and I often think that a satellite system would be most useful.
I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Janner of Braunstone, who was Member of Parliament for the constituency of Leicester West, when I was growing up. It is from him and his dedication to his constituents that as a child I was inspired to understand the real value of freedom, democracy, pride in one’s country and social justice. It is a great privilege to have this peerage bestowed on me and to seek to contribute to the proceedings of your Lordships’ House alongside the vast experience and knowledge of other noble Lords. I pray that, with your Lordships' support and guidance, I can play a small part.
The Bill raises some very important points and I welcome the opportunity for debate that it allows. Before continuing, however, I declare an interest as an independent sector provider of care to help support independent living.
Care provision for those experiencing disability at birth or from illness or age-related processes, regardless of whether the disability is physical, mental or emotional, deserves much greater support and investment. I am very pleased to see that my party leader, David Cameron, has placed great emphasis on looking at issues of care provision. Provision is currently fragmented: care levels can vary between different authorities, the systems are often very complicated and bureaucratic, and duplication in some services can lead to great confusion about who is in charge of specific services. The sector is very much the poor relative of the health service and responsibilities are often divided among many partners—the health service, social services and the independent providers, all of whom have budgets which leave them strapped for resources and who most likely cannot provide the care and support that many of us who are able-bodied so readily enjoy.
The Bill raises a debate on life choices and opportunities, about access to services that enable people to live as independent and full a life as possible. However, I believe that the debate should also include the contribution made by non-paid and paid carers who are often the most important factor in the service package provided to support independent living.
Life expectancy has greatly increased because of medical achievements. As it continues to increase, ever greater numbers of people will suffer age-related disability. I do not think that the resulting strains on services have been factored into the forecasts for care level requirements. Huge shortages of professionals already exist, including occupational therapists, district nurses, properly trained social services staff and carers. With the additional factor of people’s desire to remain independent but with support in their homes, it is easy to see how many will find themselves failing to access services that should allow such arrangements to be a right and not just an aspiration.
I return to the role of carers, both paid and non-paid. Carers save the state huge sums by providing the support and the care that big institutions often cannot provide. Yet, time and again, people are failed by the systems under which they live. Respite care is often a lifeline for these families but is so difficult to access. It is valiant of political thinkers to try to evaluate the value of care support, but such evaluations are valueless if they do not include the offset in real value that carers bring by supporting disabled people’s desire for independent living.
I could offer noble Lords several examples from the care that I provide but I shall provide only two. The first concerns a rather tall lady with a wheelchair that is totally and utterly unsuitable for her body length. Her feet drag if the wheelchair is pushed. She is therefore confined to her house and completely limited regarding activity outside it. She has been waiting months for someone to come and assess her for a new wheelchair. The saddest part is that her situation was poorly assessed initially; she certainly has not grown several inches in height during or after assessment. So, her only contact with the outside world consists of my two carers who attend her basic needs three times a day. There are many such tales. Our discussion on the Bill will highlight the failings that we need to address before we can find new and better solutions to support people with independent living.
In conclusion, I thank noble Lords for giving me the opportunity to speak in this debate. Many of the issues will be debated further and I should like to contribute to that debate. This area of concern is very close to my heart. Day in day out I try to enable people to lead as independent a life as possible and I know the difficulties that they and their families face trying to access the means to help them to do so.
My Lords, it is a pleasure and an honour for me to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, on her moving maiden speech. The noble Baroness is a campaigner for the rights of disabled and vulnerable people and on women’s matters. She is an important addition to your Lordships’ House. She comes from Leicester. I am sure that as a Member of your Lordships’ House, and with her campaigning spirit, she will help to solve many problems.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, for initiating the Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill in your Lordships’ House. I have the greatest admiration for the noble Lord, who with the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has campaigned for years in both Houses of Parliament on behalf of disabled people. Other long-term supporters are also speaking in the debate. It is so good that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, will reply to the debate as she also understands the problems of disability.
I declare an interest as president and founder of the Spinal Injuries Association and as a paraplegic. As with all voluntary self-help organisations, we devote a great deal of energy to raising funds to survive. We have some wonderful supporters. Our aim is to help support our members who are paralysed through spinal injury from the neck or back down. We are a support organisation for members, their families and friends. We encourage people to pick up their lives after devastation. Our first publication was a book entitled, So you are paralysed, which sought to encourage independent living and to show that even though you are paralysed, life goes on, and with adaptations it is a new beginning.
I founded the SIA because when I left hospital in 1959 after breaking my back I found no support group for people severely disabled through spinal injury who have the special problems of the three Bs: bowels, bladders and bed sores. There was little information on daily living needs such as design of suitable housing, lightweight wheelchairs, suitable clothing, access to buildings, recreation facilities, travel and so on. With legislation over the years we have progressed a long way, but not far enough. That is why this Bill is necessary.
Severe disability covers a multitude of varied and complex conditions, both physical and mental. This Bill sets goals to be aimed at, but I can see that there are many mountains to climb. Severely disabled people cannot climb, so they have to have help from society to enable them to reach their potential in daily living.
Many organisations for disabled people, special groups representing serious illness such as cancer, spinal injury and motor neurone disease, and hundreds of organisations support this Bill. Only this week, I heard of two societies that I had not heard of before. One is the Scleroderma Society. It is for a condition where the skin goes like leather and the immune system packs up. It is very dangerous if it attacks the internal organs, and the cause is unknown. The other is the society for Epidermolysis Bullosa, which is a rare genetic condition. Those orphan conditions need support, help and research.
There is concern that dermatology wards have closed and the number of beds has been reduced. All specialised conditions, and there are many of them, need specialised medical and nursing support, without which independent living cannot proceed and prosper. Independent living means ensuring that disabled people of all ages have the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens, at home, at work, and in the community. It does not mean living by yourself or fending for yourself. It means having rights to practical assistance and the support to participate in society and live an ordinary life.
The existing statutory rights and entitlements in relation to social services are not delivering the means for independent living. In some cases, they act in complete contradiction and are subject to financial restrictions and draconian means-testing. The assumptions that underpin their design anddelivery focus on managing vulnerability, risk and dependency, rather than supporting choice, control and participation.
On Clause 3, which contains the definition of independent living, the Guide Dogs for theBlind Association believes that the definition of “independent living” could be strengthened by a reference to “independent functioning” as a desirable outcome for disabled people. It would welcome the inclusion of a specific reference to rehabilitation in the Bill. It could provide a definition that puts the restoration of independent functioning at the heart of the service. Does the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, agree?
Macmillan Cancer Support welcomes the Bill’s commitment to effective, supportive palliative care. One of the main complaints of cancer patients is that they feel abandoned by the system on leaving hospital. The Bill would ensure that National Health Service bodies and local authorities worked in a joined-up way to provide a holistic approach to supporting cancer patients throughout their cancer journey.
The Bill would give an explicit right to all disabled people to decide where they live and die; one has to say “when possible”, as sometimes circumstances beyond the control of carers do not allow that to happen.
The Spinal Injuries Association welcomes the idea of pooled funding. Disabled people are often caught between two agencies that both say that it is the responsibility of the other agency to fund the service that is being asked for. SIA often finds that many people have a problem when it comes to being discharged from hospital. A newly injured person can need a great deal of support when leaving hospital, and the assessment process is tackled in the Bill. Get the assessment right and the person can get on with his or her life; get it wrong and it can be miserable for that person.
One of the biggest problems that causes bed blocking in spinal cord injury centres is a lack of appropriate housing. There should be adequate housing so that when someone becomes disabled they are not forced to stay in hospital or forced into a residential care home until a house becomes vacant. There should be more suitable housing across the country.
The Bill would also bring about an end to the unfair postcode lottery that exists around the country regarding the Wheelchair Service. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, knows only too well that this is happening—and that was explained so well by our maiden speaker. The Wheelchair Service for severely disabled people is vital for their daily living. This is so important that it cannot wait for this Bill to become law. An overhaul should take place now so that those people who have to stay in bed can get a suitable chair and move about their house and get into the community.
A devastating disorder is motor neurone disease, MND. It progressively attacks the body, removing the ability to walk, talk or feed oneself but the intellect and senses usually remain unaffected. Respiratory, muscular weakness attacks most people with MND as their disease progresses. Non-invasive ventilation can give support. It is provided through specialist respiratory centres. The Motor Neurone Disease Association believes that more people with MND must have access to home ventilatory support services that adequately support their needs. This will enable people with MND to live in their own homes longer with a greater degree of independence and a higher quality of life. We are far behind Japan with this key service.
The Bill includes people with a mentalhealth problem. As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prison Health, I cannot end without saying that, despite all the health problems in prisons, such as drug abuse, hepatitis C, HIV and alcohol disease, mental illness is of the greatest concern. Links between prison mental health services and those outside must undergo rapid and radical improvement. If not, there will be more disasters and we have had enough.
This Bill poses a huge challenge. I hope that this country will rally and give disabled people a chance to succeed in independent living. I have given only a few examples of the needs of some disabilities. There are thousands more. I wish the Bill well.
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, on his vision and tenacity in introducing this Bill, which I greatly welcome. The Disability Rights Commission is particularly to be congratulated on all its work in the preparation of the Bill, and when—not if—it is enacted, it will be one of the finest achievements of both the noble Lord and the DRC. I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, on her interesting maiden speech.
The hopes of all disabled people, especially those involved in the independent living movement rest on this Bill and they give it their strongest support. They do so because it is they—disabled people with high support needs—who know only too starkly, day by day, the yawning gap that lies between the current rhetoric of the policy on independent living and the daily reality of their lives. As the DRC points out, far from being given dignity, choice and control over their lives, the current entitlement of severely disabled people to social care amounts to little more than being washed and fed.
When I first became disabled in the mid-1960s, the only prospects for people who needed help with their personal care were to be looked after by their families, to marry their nurse, or to end up in residential care. Happily, since that time, the Independent Living Movement has been developing and growing in influence. Its driving force is severely disabled people’s desire to have choice and control over their lives so that they can live the lives that they want.
Throughout the years, various individuals and groups have used their ingenuity to find solutions so that they can live ordinary lives in the community. I refer to pioneers such as Ken and Maggie Davies, both tetraplegic, who developed the Grove Road Housing Scheme, whereby non-disabled tenants were given housing in return for providing personal care. Ken and Maggie then went on to establish Derbyshire's Centre for Independent Living. John Evans, Philip Scott and the late Liz Briggs managed to persuade Le Court Cheshire Home to let them use the funding for their residential care to hire their own personal care assistants so that they could move out of care and into their own homes. That group started the Hampshire Centre for Independent Living. From those early beginnings in the 1970s, today's direct payments scheme was born.
Over the years, Governments have recognisedthe glaring good sense and justice of what the independent living movement was calling for and have adopted much of its rhetoric of choiceand control. But the legislation lags far behind, and today's social care structures lamentably fail to provide the necessary framework for independent living. In fact, as the DRC points out, the existing statutory rights and entitlements in relation to social care often act in complete contradiction to delivering the means to independent living.
That is why the Bill is so crucial. It will amend current community care legislation so that it can begin to meet the demands of government policy on independent living, user choice and of people taking control of their own health and well-being. I am sorry for the cliché but it will make it fit for purpose, which is far from the case now.
As a briefing from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association points out, 70 per cent of councils now offer services only to people whose needs are judged as critical or substantial, using the criteria set out in Fair Access to Care Services. Most visually impaired people are not judged to have this level of need, so are left in circumstances which diminish their dignity and quality of life. What is more, it is estimated that in the coming year eight out of 10 councils will tighten their eligibility criteria further, meaning cuts to support services for many blind and partially sighted people.
The Bill is wide-ranging and I particularly welcome Clause 3, which reforms the definition of disabled people, as was recommended in the Prime Minster's Strategy Unit report, Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People. The current definition used for community care legislation is still based on the outdated terminology of the National Assistance Act 1948, which excludes many older people and people who need support because they are ill.
I also welcome the emphasis in Part 2 on the duty of local authorities and NHS bodies to co-operateto promote independent living, especially the requirement that they pool funds wherever necessary to deliver the duties in the Bill. Particularly welcome is the requirement for local authorities and NHS bodies to build capacity and support the long-term sustainability of user-led organisations at grass-roots level, including centres for independent living. I declare an interest as co-vice chair of HAFAD,my local disabled people's organisation. These organisations provide not only essential services, such as personal assistance advice and support and benefits advice and advocacy, but a place where disabled people can test out their ability to return to the employment market. Most importantly, they provide peer encouragement, confidence and support.
One of the most important elements of the Billis the provision of one single, self-directed and comprehensive assessment of an individual's needs for practical assistance and support. This will end the bureaucratic nightmare of multiple assessments which many disabled people have to endure, and which are not only stressful but an appalling waste of resources. As the DRC points out:
“To get support, whether in education or to improve their homes, disabled people face more bureaucracy than an average small business”.
Two more provisions that I would highlight are the right to advocacy and the right to portable support, so that disabled people are not trapped in one locality because of the impossibility of transferring their care package.
However, I want to concentrate on the housing provisions in the Bill. It is essential that the Government are persuaded that they must act to address the housing crisis for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. Unless they do so, all the other attempts to ensure that disabled people become equal citizens by 2025 will be in vain. With an ageing population the situation can only get worse.
There is a housing crisis and one to which we have become shamefully inured. Approximately half of all disabled children live in unsuitable housing and 70 per cent of families with a disabled child say that their houses are unsatisfactory. According to the 2003-04 survey of English housing, there are 329,000 people with a medical condition or disability living in housing that is unsuitable for their needs. That does not mean some slight inconvenience. It means that someone has to be carried up and down stairs each time they need to use the bathroom or that they have had to take over the family sitting room for a bedroom, with all the indignity of constantly having to ask for the commode to be emptied. It means elderly people never moving from their four walls for months on end because there is a flight of stairs outside the front door. It can also mean disabled people living in such a restricted space that their personal assistant has to share the bedroom with them. In my own borough one lady’s PA had to sleep on the living-room floor, which is hardly conducive to a satisfactory caring relationship.
To my mind, the provision of accessible housing is the most essential building block in the framework of independent living and in giving people choice and control over their lives. Yet the Government continue to allow the building industry to regard it as a voluntary matter. We will be stuck with the inadequacies of the current housing stock for decades to come, so if we are to have any hope of alleviating the housing crisis for disabled people, the Government have to take firm action. The London Plan puts a demand on developers and builders that all new housing, of whatever tenure, be built to lifetime home standards and that 10 per cent be built to the higher wheelchair standard. Builders and developers do not like it, but it is fair and they are all in the same boat. They know that that is the price of doing business in London. As far as I can see, it does not seem to have deterred them.
However, in a Written Answer to me on 21 June this year, the Department for Communities and Local Government stated that it had no plans to adopt a similar clear lead for the building industry nationally. Instead the Government are relying on the voluntary provision in the new code for sustainable housing to persuade the private sector, which accounts for 90 per cent of all new housing each year, to build new houses to lifetime home standards. What is more, while they may pride themselves on having incorporated lifetime home standards into Part M of the building regulations, the standard is a non-mandatory part of the new code for sustainable housing, so it may not even be applied within publicly funded housing. To date, the housing market has lamentably failed to provide for our long-term needs as frail human beings. What hope is there that it might have the inclination to do so now?
For those reasons I wholeheartedly support Part 4. Clause 31 would require all local authorities to operate a disability housing service so that our scarce current resource of accessible and adaptable housing was used to its best advantage. That would help to ensure that local authorities match the needs of disabled people to the housing stock that might meet those needs and end the current waste. At the moment, many adapted properties are let to non-disabled people, as housing departments strive to meet the targets for void turnaround times. An analysis of lettings in the social housing sector over the past five years by CORE—that is a system developed by the Housing Corporation and the National Housing Federation—found that on average only one in six wheelchair-standard dwellings were let to a household containing a wheelchair user, despite the overwhelming demand.
Clause 32 would require local authorities to have regard to the housing needs of disabled people when conducting their housing strategies. Together with Clause 31, this will build a more accurate picture of the extent of disabled people’s housing need. Clause 33 would require the Government to ensure that building regulations, which govern the design of all new housing, produced housing easily adaptable to the widest range of people, so that it meets both their current and any future needs.
The lifetime home standard is our current blueprint for this. Its mandatory enforcement is essential to begin to meet so many of the Government’s policies. Not only would it save money on disabled grant facilities expenditure, it would reduce avoidable admissions to health or social care and radically reduce delayed discharges. Research from Northern Ireland, where the lifetime homes standard is mandatory for all publicly funded housing, has found that adopting the standard has significantly reduced the incidence of falls in the home, which currently costs the nation £130 million a year. Clause 34 would help ensure that the building regulations were effectively enforced, and academic research has found that Part M—the access requirements building regulations—is regarded as half-hearted and poorly interpreted by builders.
Finally, Clause 35 would ensure that accessible housing was incorporated at the planning stage, and further developed at the later building control stage, of all new housing developments. Taken together, these measures to improve access to housing for disabled people will not only begin to address the Government’s political rhetoric, which stresses the importance of developing an inclusive society, but help to meet the Government’s wider policy objectives of better health and employment opportunities, reduced admission to health and social care settings, and the promotion of independence.
I sincerely hope that the Government will give the provisions of the Bill their fullest support. Indeed, I fail to see how the Government hope to fulfil their policies of social justice, and their vision of disabled people living as equal citizens by 2025, without it.
My Lords, I give my warm support for this hugely welcome and much-needed Bill, so clearly and comprehensively described by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, and so cogently argued for by other noble Lords, from different sides, with a wealth of experience. This is not a very wheelchair-friendly microphone; the other one used to be more moveable.
I must declare a close interest, in that I have for the past four years needed increasing amounts of help with personal care: washing, dressing and getting out of, and now getting into, bed. I am in receipt of a higher rate of disability allowance, which in no way covers all the costs. I do not qualify for any further financial help. I add this only to make it clear that this is not a personal moan, but one on behalf of all those who cannot manage and are not in control of their lives. I hope my remarks will dovetail with, rather than repeat, those of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, who speaks from a wealth of experience in independent living.
The people using social care services now feel that those services are often inadequate, inflexible and focus on what Peter Beresford, of the service user network Shaping Our Lives, describes as,
“providing bodily maintenance at best, keeping people within their own four walls rather than offering them social support to enable them to be part of the wider world”.
Hence there is so much wasted potential and so many examples of extensive equality gaps between disabled and non-disabled people. Many people and families, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, receive no support at all from the state until they reach crisis point. This year, many disabled people will find services withdrawn as councils struggle to balance the books. The system is in crisis and it can only get worse as our population ages. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned the many informal carers in her thoughtful and experience-based maiden speech, I shall mention the young carers—12 year-old schoolchildren, some with learning disabilities—that councils rely on. I hope that an amendment to the Education and Inspections Bill will help schoolsto support these children. It is, however, totally inappropriate that they should be relied on at all.
Rationing services is justified on the grounds of scarce resources, but huge resources are wasted on what Bert Massie, the chair of the DRC, has called,
“a cat’s cradle of costly red tape”,
and are tied up in block contracts and costly residential provision. We could support more people to achieve truly independent living by redirecting those resources into the system proposed by the Bill, as other noble Lords have mentioned. There ishuge support for the Bill from individuals and organisations across the board because it is rooted in people’s experiences and delivers the new approach they want. Disabled people must have control over how, when and by whom their personal assistance is provided. Inflexible support makes it difficult, if not impossible, to work and participate in public and community life.
I hope the Minister will give the matter of earned income some thought and reply on it. At present, earned income is disregarded for home care charging and independent living fund payments—my noble friend Lady Wilkins successfully campaigned for that—but not for other forms of support. The report Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People highlighted the continuing barriers to work thrown up by the current system. A disabled person living in residential care faces significant financial disincentives to seeking paid employment, as he would be able to keep only £20 a week of his earned income before it has to be used to pay the residential home fee. In a footnote, the report stated:
“While the numbers of disabled people living in residential homes who would be able to work are small, the Strategy Unit did receive evidence that there are some in this situation”.
So we are talking about only a very small number of people. The report also stated that,
“there should be a national charging policy which so far as possible minimises financial disincentives to seek paid employment”.
Thus the policy on disregarding earned income for community care charging,
“will need to be extended to the means test for … residential care”.
Will the Government act on this as a matter of urgency? It would not cost very much, but would make a massive difference to the people concerned. I hope when the Minister answers she may be able to respond on this or will indicate that she will look into it. I think it could probably be done without the Bill. I do not know whether primary legislation would be needed to change this. I would be interested to know whether we have to wait for the Bill, because this would concern only a small number of people. To give an example, a man of 28 who has lived in residential care for the past five years—although he was told that it was only a temporary measure—is a first-class honours graduate in geophysics from the Open University. He has recently been headhunted for two jobs designing websites accessible for disabled people. He has had to refuse and is doing voluntary work designing websites and teaching IT in a school once a week.
If individual budgets and self-directed support are to work effectively, we need a solid infrastructure of information, advice, advocacy, expertise and support. For that reason, the life chances strategy pledged an independent living centre for disabled people in every locality by 2010 to help make that a reality. However, at the moment, centres are closing because of lack of core funding and inequalities in the contracting process, and there is no plan to secure this key recommendation. The Bill requires local authorities and NHS bodies to develop, support and sustain local user-led organisations, including centres for independent living, and to foster partnerships between them.
I passionately hope that the Government will support the Bill. It does everything that they say they want to happen, and more. Disabled people welcomed the commitments to independent living in the White Paper on life chances, but there is a danger of those commitments coming to be viewed as nice rhetoric with no prospect of being turned into reality. The concepts of choice, freedom and independent living litter many a government policy document, but there is no reference to them in community care law. If we want to make independent living real, we need a new law that reorients our whole social care system towards independent living. That is precisely what the Bill would achieve, so I hope that it has a speedy journey into law.
My Lords, much well respected research—for example, that headed by Professor Sir Michael Marmot at University College London—has clearly demonstrated that lack of autonomy in decision-making, lack of control over one’s life and lack of feelings of self-respect and status can shorten one’s life by several years. We know that disabled people tend to live shorter lives than able-bodied people. How iniquitous it is, therefore, to rob people of the autonomy that we all ought to take for granted, sometimes thereby robbing them of a crucial aspect of quality of life and, sometimes, of years of life itself. That is one reason why I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, on his Bill, which is of the utmost importance and relevance to disabled people of all ages, as well as to us all. His vision and leadership in this field and the work of the Disability Rights Commission in preparing the Bill are to be admired.
I declare an interest as patron of New Beginnings, an alliance of organisations from all sectors that encourages people into work and, once in work, to have a career and develop it. I am also a patron of SHARE, a London initiative providing vocational and skills training for people of all ages with physical and mental disabilities—sometimes very severe ones—and chief executive of a think tank. I am vice-president of Age Concern, where we continually consider the impact of the ageing of society on people of all ages and on society as a whole.
Independent living is a policy priority. We know that existing demands on carers, usually family members, will increase and that the increasing care needs of an ageing population will mount up if we do not do something to get our priorities right. Evidence consistently shows that people want to remain independent as long as they possibly can.
The Bill is welcome because it recognises the right of disabled people to the same control, freedoms and opportunities to make choices as the rest of the community has. It gives people the right to choose to have direct payments and thus determine how their services are delivered. It is inclusive; it demands inclusivity. It covers people of all ages, thus removing some of the iniquitous distinctions in support for people aged 65 and over. It is now well known that, if you acquire a disability, you had better do so before you are 64, otherwise you will be deprived of many of the benefits that other people can take for granted. It recognises that discrimination is the single biggest factor impacting on the mental health and well-being of older people in this country.
The Bill gives disabled people a single assessment of their needs. At the moment, we know that the silos in departments and among authorities responsible for providing services prevent many people from getting the services that they need—certainly in the way that they would like. It gives people some choice as to how services are delivered, which gives them autonomy and a sense of control that they have never really experienced before. At last, it places a duty on statutory authorities to co-operate, to pool resources and to promote independent living.
The Bill would remove the scandalous current situation whereby private and voluntary sector homes do not come under the definition of a public authority with regard to the Human Rights Act. We know that there are cases under review at the moment in which people have been treated appallingly because of that awful loophole in the law, which I know the Government want to do something about—I hope that the Minister will be able to assure me that the Bill would get rid of it.
The Bill will also allow for review of care for those people who are in institutions against their will. That is an abuse of the right to autonomy, which is what we are talking about, but it is also an appalling situation when people who would like, and need, to be in some form of institutional care, because they cannot manage in their own home, cannot always get access to that care because of a shortage of places. The Bill would remove a lot of unfairness in that respect.
The Bill makes the case for a proper debate on the very important issue of how care is funded now and, more important, how it will be funded in the future. But this is not just a Bill that will increase the cost to the nation; it will relieve a lot of pressure on carers—60 per cent of informal carers are women still—and as a spin-off it will give them a chance to participate more in the workforce. It will therefore promote gender equality and better family life. We know the difficulties that many carers experience in trying to fulfil multiple roles in difficult situations. The Bill will also bring social and economic benefits in later life to many people who at the moment are excluded from many such benefits.
I wish the Bill a successful passage through this House and another place. It will help to ensure a better quality of life for people in our society who deserve no less if we are to be called civilised.
My Lords, the noble Lord,Lord Ashley, has displayed once again his key parliamentary quality: persistence. He has not let the issue of disabilities rest. He has been battling away for considerably longer than I have. At times, I think, “Haven’t we done enough? Haven’t we pushed the Government far enough?” But the noble Lord comes back again and again. I congratulate him and those who have worked with him on the Bill.
When going through the Bill, you discover that there is nothing new there. Every aspiration has been accepted by all Governments that I have seen while in this House and by all parties at various times. The problem—and this is a problem of government, not of a particular party—is that the issue is “difficult”, or does not “fit in”.
I went through the clauses, deciding which was my favourite. It is Clause 5, the smallest one:
“General duty of local authorities and NHS bodies”.
Making bits of government work together to achieve common objectives is probably one of the great targets that Parliament should aim for. The Chinese walls of Whitehall and other parts of the government system are sometimes so dense that nothing happens between them. Ministers have a great responsibility for bridging those walls, or punching holes through them—whatever is required to get there. When an Act takes on that responsibility, it will have to tackle probably the major cause of inactivity among government departments, where the aspiration is there, and make the departments talk to one another. They might then realise that, once they get out of the “my little budget” zone—and it is usually no more than that—they still have a responsibility to continue, not just if they are pushed by a persistent Minister.
Having got that little rant out of the way, I shall consider the rest of the Bill. It is valuable, because it addresses the tendency of us all to be slightly protectively condescending to someone whom we do not quite understand—the “Does he take sugar?” attitude that is there in all of us, in a way. We must fight against that. Those whom we do not understand we are slightly frightened of—slightly wary—and we think, “Maybe this is safe for you. Maybe you’ll be worried out there”. As my noble friend said, the problem is when parents get frightened. Parents are usually the initial carers of most of these groups. Most of the bodies that look after and support people with disabilities usually start with parents as the formation base.
We have to remember that people are individuals first and foremost. I hope that this Bill will be a step forward for disabled people by allowing them to organise their lives and occasionally get it wrong or make mistakes—or get something of which we do not approve, which will be more normally the case. The emphasis on advocacy, support and information that runs through the Bill is its underlying strength. The Government must find out who needs help. These things will draw everything together to ensure that, if we co-ordinate help, it will go to the right people.
The current service of help and support is effectively a mirror or reverse image of battlefield medicine, where those who are least badly damaged are patched up first in order to get them out again. We wait until something is critical and broken down before doing anything. In particular, the health service finds itself a catch-all for everything that has gone wrong. We incur costs at the extreme end because we do not intervene earlier. The Government should give advice and support to enable people who can work to do so. If that is not possible, people should at least be able to organise their lives so that they are fulfilled and do not have unnecessary problems associated with mental illness. People want to interact positively with the rest of society. If that is done, many costs will be avoided. There could be, for example, acute support service costs if intervention is incorrect.
If the Government can assure us that some of this will be taken on board—in the Bill, co-ordination and advocacy immediately grab me—there will be no need for the noble Lord’s Bill. However, I suspect that the noble Lord will need to carry on battering and using his persistence, and that we will need to go through Committee stage in order to at least drag out a clearer idea of the Government’s thinking on how these needs will be met.
The noble Lord is continuing in the rich vein of form that he has had since I came to this House. He makes sure that the Government are kept up to the mark and that those of us who have less natural persistence and a less keenly felt sense of purpose carry on. This Government can safely say, “We have done more than any other Government”. That is true, but previous Governments could have said that, too. We could do this almost Parliament by Parliament, as we build on law that has been passed by previous Governments. We have to make sure that we continue to apply this. There are no new ideas, although these are well put together in one new form. I hope that the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, will give an assurance that we will have further discussion on the Bill and that the Government will tell us exactly where they think they have got in their independent programmes for meeting the ends that are brought into focus by this Bill.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, for introducing this subject today. He would be quite in order to be extremely gratified by the many speeches that he has heard in praise of it. The Second Reading of his Bill has also persuaded my noble friend Lady Verma to speak to us for the first time, drawing on her particular—I am tempted to use the word “peculiar” in its 18th-century sense—knowledge of caring, carers and the establishments in which they operate. I hope that we will continue to have her advice when these subjects come up, which she will find they do quite regularly in your Lordships’ House.
Your Lordships will have heard my starting point in discussions about disability many times, but it does no harm to restate it. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, almost did so. My fundamental belief is that disabled people are people first and disabled second. From that, it follows that any rights that able-bodied people have are automatically transferred to disabled people. Therefore I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, that it is important that disabled people should be empowered to have access to those rights—in my view, this is really an access Bill as opposed to a rights Bill. The obvious example is access to transport, with which we dealt at length in the Disability Discrimination Bill over the winter of 2004-05. Being able to get about is quite clearly part of independent living. The Royal National Institute for the Blind has made the point forcefully by stating that people are frequently made housebound by their blindness.
That brings me specifically to this Bill. I am glad that in its briefing on the Bill, the Disability Rights Commission stated:
“Independent living means ensuring that disabled people of all ages have the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as other citizens at home, at work and in the community. It does not mean living by yourself or fending for yourself. It means rights to practical assistance and support to participate in society and live an ordinary life”.
The DRC goes on to say that social services arenot delivering the means for independent living. I certainly agree with that. However, I am not convinced that a change in the law is necessary. When the DRC goes on to talk about means testing, I am in some difficulty for two reasons: first, because all our citizens are means tested before they get access to a whole range of social security benefits, and secondly, because of the inevitable expense that would arise.
The Government are rightly proud of the extra moneys they have given to the NHS over the past few years. The problem, as we have all recognised today, is that not enough is being used for the purposes we are currently espousing. It is deflected into other parts of the health service. The Bill and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, propose a joint fund, locally created between the NHS and social services which would be drawn upon to make the lives of disabled people easier. That also suggests that rather than statutory services, individuals should get a grant to be applied outside the state sector for the services they need. While I accept that the two items, indeed the whole Bill, are, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, almost put it, a counsel of perfection for disabled people, how practical would these two ideas actually be? How can we be sure that the personal fund would be spent on the things that particular disabled people are assessed as needing? On an NHS/social services fund, I can certainly see the logic in it. However, has the noble Lord thought this through? What percentage would the NHS or the local social services department contribute?
Many years ago, as the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, will no doubt remember, I returned from Northern Ireland singing the praises of the four area health boards, which of course combine health and social services in a single entity. Almost total condemnation was visited upon me for suggesting that they should be joined into one statutory service here. I have not reneged on that position. I still believe, although it is not the position of my party, that that is the answer to joint funding, not that proposed in the Bill. I trust that I can now persuade the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, and other noble Lords to join my crusade—which, incidentally, is now supported by the former director of social services in my home county of Somerset.
The Bill also covers employment, and I welcome the Government’s belated decision under the Welfare Reform Bill to seek to ensure that weight is given to what people can do rather than what they cannot. No doubt we will be debating this in the months to come and it is hardly appropriate to go into the detail now. Suffice it to say I believe there are people currently receiving incapacity benefit who are perfectly able to undertake at least some paid or voluntary work. In this connection, I note Rethink’s complaintsabout telephone claiming, which it believes may discriminate against some people with mental illness. However, I hope that the Minister will tell us about other methods of claiming. Would the Benefits Agency accept an advocate, especially in a personal interview? The Mental Health Alliance makes this point and I can see no reason why not, nor why a change in the law should be necessary to achieve it.
I should emphasise here that as disabled people are a part of our wider society, so any policy that evolves should include them as part and parcel of that policy, not an embarrassing add-on. Disability is not a separate and distinct issue; it should be integral to government thinking. It certainly is as my party develops its policies. People with disabilities have much to contribute to society—as, indeed, we all do—and should be valued for that reason.
I know that there are other themes in the Bill that I have not covered—the right to choose where to live, for example—but time marches on.
The Bill contains lessons for us all. Some are achievable by administrative means if the will is there. It is the job of parliamentarians, Government, Opposition and Back-Benchers to keep plugging away to see that it does. Others do indeed need the law to be strengthened. I am afraid that this Bill contains both and I await with eagerness the Minister’s identification of which is which.
My Lords, I warmly welcome the opportunity that the Bill provides for a debate on disabled people and independent living. I pay tribute to my tenacious noble friend Lord Ashley for bringing the Bill before your Lordships today. His efforts over the years to further the interests of disabled people have, as many noble Lords have said, been absolutely tireless. He has been, and continues to be, a real catalyst for change. I also pay tribute tothe Disability Rights Commission, an excellent organisation, which I know has provided considerable support in the drafting of the Bill.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, on her excellent maiden speech and I am delighted that she chose to intervene in this debate. Her commitment to social justice is clear and we all look forward to her future contributions.
I must also mention that my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester, who has such a fine record on this issue, very much wanted to participate in the debate but could not be in his place today.
I am glad to be able to say that the Government are fully supportive of the principles underpinningthe Bill, which are entirely consistent with the Government’s position and what we wish to achieve in the future to improve the lives of disabled people. But it would be wrong to forget what has already been achieved. I believe that our performance in extending rights and opportunities for disabled people and ensuring that they are able to live more independent lives is unparalleled. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, is absolutely right, of course, when she says that we are only part way along the journey. Huge changes still need to be made to transform the lives of disabled people and the demographic challenges mentioned by many noble Lords are enormous.
The debate has highlighted many practical problems—for example, in relation to wheelchairs—issues which have to be addressed as a matter of urgency. I am glad to say that on 22 June the Prime Minister announced that the Department of Health will undertake a radical review of community equipment and wheelchair services—the transforming community equipment services project which will help to make independence a reality. The aim of the project will be to achieve a streamlined, more responsive and realistic assessment of individual needs across health and social care and explore how to harness the capabilities of both the third and private sectors across the end-to-end delivery of these services. The Government aim to have developed a new model for the provision of community equipment and wheelchair services across England which will be capable of being implemented by autumn 2007.
Today’s debate is particularly timely as it coincides with the publication yesterday of the inaugural annual progress report to the Prime Minister from the Office for Disability Issues. As many of your Lordships have mentioned, in 2004 the Prime Minister asked his strategy unit to look at what more could be done to help bring about equality for disabled people. In January 2005 the unit published its report Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People. The report sets out a clear vision for Government that by 2005 disabled people should have the same opportunities and the same choices as everyone else. It contains 60 recommendations dealing with issues from the early years, the transition to adulthood, employment and, of course, independent living to help realise that vision.
The overall strategy is being driven by the new Office for Disability Issues, or ODI, which was established in December 2005. We are now just over 18 months into a 20-year strategy which provides the kind of joined-up coherent approach that has been rightly demanded today. The progress report published yesterday by the ODI provides an honest assessment of the situation and enables everyone to judge whether we are achieving our aims. The report makes specific reference to transition, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. It refers to the responsibility of directors of adult social services for managing the transition process and ensuring that there is a clear line of accountability for improving outcomes and monitoring the quality of the transition.
While the Government have overseen the largest extension of disability rights in history, they are rightly committed to delivering greater change to enable disabled people to make real choices. For example, the ODI is bringing the voices of disabled people into the heart of government. This very week, we announced that we would be establishing Equality 2025, the UK Advisory Network on Disability Equality. It will work with Ministers and departments to ensure that disabled people’s perspectives are built into policy-making from the start. The ODI is also successfully bringing departments together to improve services for disabled people. I understand the frustration rightly expressed about the lack of co-operation on the ground between local authorities, NHS bodies and key partners, but co-operation between departments is a step forward and it is already bearing fruit. We are starting to break down the Chinese walls referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. Indeed, the report looks at that very issue.
A further reason why the Bill is well timed is that I am able to announce today that we have set up a cross-government independent living review to drive forward this complex agenda. It will be led by Jenny Morris, an independent living expert, working with a team in the Office for Disability Issues, steered and shaped by an independent living expert panel, chaired by Dame Jane Campbell, whose record in this area is well known. I am enormously pleased that these two eminent experts have agreed to work closely with the Government on this project.
We see the review as a strengthening of our commitment to disabled people—bringing into the heart of the ODI the views, thinking and experience of independent living experts, while building on the mechanisms that the office already has in place to carry forward the detailed work between and within government departments. This will, I hope, help to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality mentioned by my noble friend Lady Wilkins. It will also enable people better to battle against bureaucracy.
Many other initiatives introduced by the Government have had and will have a hugely positive effect on the ability of disabled people to live independent lives—for example, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. The Government believe that a comprehensive framework of civil rights is a necessary foundation for achieving equality for disabled people. Following the Government’s action, the framework is finally in place. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 followed the landmark extension of the DDA from 1 October the previous year. The changes we introduced from that date extended the employment provisions of the DDA to more than 1 million additional small businesses and a further 7 million jobs, and brought the final access duties into force.
So now, at last, the DDA is driving the cultural change in society that we all want. Access ramps, communication aids and toilets for disabled people are at last becoming the norm, not the exception—well, I hope they are. We do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that remains in embedding these duties, particularly for small businesses which sometimes assume that improving access means a complete refit of their premises.
As your Lordships will know, the new Act extended protection from last December to a further 250,000 people, by covering people with HIV, multiple sclerosis and cancer from the point of diagnosis. People with mental health conditions will find it easier to use the protection of the DDA. Disabled people will progressively have new rights when, for example, sitting exams, using transport services, renting property and joining or using private members’ clubs.
The new Act also introduced a disability equality duty, which will come into force from this December. From that date, it will no longer be lawful for public bodies to design services or carry out functions without first considering how disabled people are affected.
It is also appropriate to touch on our proposals for welfare reform. I am grateful for the support expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale. There has been much speculation and, at times, misinformation in the media about our intentions, but I hope we have been absolutely clear that, far from seeking to get tough with people on incapacity benefits, our starting point is that disabled people want to have the right to work, and would do so if the right opportunities and support were in place. Employment brings dignity and opportunity to end isolation, as well as wages. We estimate that around 90 per cent of the 2.7 million people claiming an incapacity benefit would meet the core definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act. These figures perhaps help to demonstrate why the employment rate of this group is less than 50 per cent at a time when we are seeing record numbers of people in work.
I note the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, about earned income disregard for independent living. It is rathera detailed issue to consider in a short debate, so I undertake to write to the noble Baroness and I shall place a copy of the letter in the Library.
On adult social care and the progress that we have made in developing the concept of individual budgets, the Government are currently undertaking a number of pilot projects on providing individual budgets for older and disabled people. I therefore welcome my noble friend’s focus on individual budgets as a key element in delivering improved choice and control for disabled people. However, it is important to remember that individual budgets are still being piloted at this stage. We have commissioned a comprehensive evaluation of the pilots. This will identify whether they can be delivered within our existing resources and whether they are delivering benefits to the people who use them. The evaluation will also look at whether there is a particular model or models of individual budgets that work best for people with different needs. We are not expecting to have final evidence from the pilots until spring 2008. We do not believe therefore that it would be sensible to introduce a statutory requirement for the introduction of the individual budgets approach until we have seen the results coming from the pilot projects, and have had time to consider all the evidence.
I am told that I said earlier that the strategy unit’s report set out a clear vision for government to be achieved by 2005; clearly I meant 2025. Forgive me—I, too, want to push forward with the progress.
The noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, rightly emphasised the crucial role of carers, including very young carers, the pressures that they are under and society’s dependence on them. Over the past nine years we have consistently sought to improve carers’ lives and well-being, but I understand that the burdens are still enormous. We supported legislation giving carers the right to a holistic carer's assessment, including the carer’s wishes with regard to paid work, education and leisure activities. We introduced the carers grant to help councils support carers with respite breaks and other services—though possibly not enough. By 2008, we will have invested more than £1 billion in support for carers. But we want to do more, or course. In the White Paper, Our health, our care, our say, we proposed a new deal for carers to improve support for them through a range of measures, including the establishment of a helpline to offer advice; the provision of short-term, home-based respite support for carers in crisis or emergency situations; and the creation of an expert carers programme to provide training for the skills carers need to control their own health and the health of those in their care.
Many noble Lords referred to the Bill’s proposals relating to housing and accommodation for disabled people. The Government fully recognise that it is extremely important that disabled people who have access needs are housed appropriately and that they have the right level of priority for housing. That is precisely why we have amended the legislation governing the way in which housing authorities allocate social housing. This now makes clear that in giving “reasonable preference” for an allocation to people who have medical and welfare grounds for moving house, authorities must include people who need to move on grounds relating to a disability.
The changes we introduced in the Housing Act 2004 were intended to meet the sort of concerns the noble Lord’s Bill has identified. The term “medical grounds” was being interpreted too narrowly by some local authorities, and disabled people were being disadvantaged as a result. The Government also want to see social landlords make the best use of housing stock, including accommodation which is accessible or has been adapted for use by disabled people. We recognise that accessible housing registers can be useful and the current statutory guidance to local authorities on the allocation of accommodation encourages their use. However, we do not believe that forcing authorities to compile registers is the right way forward. We believe that it would be burdensome and could be counter-productive. Rather, we believe that it should be for local authorities to decide whether a register would meet their local needs and, if so, to set it up in a way which best suits those needs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, referred to decisions by the courts that have limited the scope of the Human Rights Act over residential care. The Government are disappointed that the narrow interpretation taken by the Court of Appeal of the meaning of “public authority” is limiting the protection that we intended to put in place withthe Human Rights Act. Following the JCHR's recommendations in 2004, we have already taken effective measures to mitigate the problem by issuing guidance to local authorities on contracting for services and by setting up a system to identify a suitable case in which the Government can intervene to argue for a wider interpretation of public authority.
Perhaps I may now move briefly to what the Government are doing to assist independent living for people with learning disabilities. In March 2001, the Government set out their plan for improving the lives of people with learning disabilities, their families and carers in the White Paper Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability for the 21st Century. This, the first White Paper on learning disability for 30 years, was based on the principles of rights, inclusion, choice and independence. It was written in consultation with people with learning disabilities, their families, carers, and the organisations that represent them. It set out a cross-government approach to addressing the lifelong needs of people with learning disabilities across health, housing, education, employment, social services, transport and leisure.
To drive delivery of the White Paper, we created the role of national director of learning disabilities, and in May 2006 we took a step further and appointed a co-national director with a learning disability to work alongside the existing director. The appointment of a learning disabled person to this senior post will play a significant role in leading this cross-government agenda, and it demonstrates our commitment to inclusion, choice and control for people with learning disabilities.
Our policy is to promote inclusion and participation in community life for people with learning disabilities. They should be able to participate in the activities other people take for granted such as getting a job, travelling, raising a family or going out with friends. The national director’s 2005 progress report, “The Story So Far”, showed that change is happening—people arebeing listened to more and supported to live independently—but not enough.
As I am sure noble Lords will agree, user-led organisations play a vital role in supporting disabled people. A strong support network is essential, and that is often best provided by bodies which are led by the very people they wish to support. As the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, remindedus, the Government have already accepted the recommendations, in “Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People”, that by 2010 each local authority should have a user-led organisation modelled on existing centres for independent living. To this end we have established a project as part of the independent living review to identify what needs to be done to make a reality of the recommendation. We are of course aware of the difficulties with funding and local procurement processes and we must find a way through.
This wide range of initiatives demonstrates the Government’s real commitment to improving the ability of disabled people to live as independently as possible. But have we done enough? No, of course not. Barriers and poverty of aspiration are a reality for far too many disabled people. There is still too much to do, but inevitably it will take time.
This morning I was reminded that cultural change is a lengthy process when, with colleagues, I laid flowers at the memorial to Emmeline Pankhurst, who was born 148 years ago on 14 July. It is precisely because we want to ensure further progress for disabled people that we have set out a 20-year strategy. But I believe that the Government can be proud of what has been achieved to date. In many ways my noble friend’s Bill demonstrates just how far we have come in our thinking on making provision for disabled people and in changing the culture and attitudes of society. I am glad to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, that this is no longer a party issue; there is cross-party agreement.
I have to say that there are aspects of the Bill with which we might disagree, or which we believe are already achieved or can be achieved through existing provisions.
In addition, there would, as my noble friend acknowledged, be cost implications in implementing all that is proposed, especially at the pace implied in the Bill. However, I recognise that some of those would be offset by cost savings.
But debate on the detailed clauses of the Bill is for a later stage. At this point I am very happy to welcome the principles underpinning the Bill, and again to warmly congratulate my noble friend on bringing it forward and enabling us to debate this important issue. It has allowed us to identify and discuss some of the main challenges that we must meet in the coming years if disabled people are to become equal partners in our society, as they must, with the same opportunities and choices as everyone else, participating as equals in every aspect of family and community life.
This issue is close to the Government’s heart, and we have made real achievements. However, we are only part way through the journey and today’s debate provides us with a further impetus for progress so that all members of our society are, to quote R H Tawney, enabled to make the most of such powers as they possess.
My Lords, I wish to respond briefly to the debate. As so many issues were raised in such detail it is impossible to reply to them all.
I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, on her maiden speech, which we were all delighted to hear, and welcome her general support for the Bill. I assure her that the Bill makes provision for carers. Perhaps we can discuss that at a later stage.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, mentioned individual budgets, which are an option in the Bill. There is no compulsion in that regard. However, I hope that people will want them and that there will be a big demand for them. They comprise an important part of the Bill, but, as I say, there is no compulsion whatever on anyone to have one.
The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, referred to a different definition in the Bill. We have discussed that at length but perhaps we can discuss it further as the Bill progresses. I cannot respond to that point now.
The noble Lord, Lord Addington, is right to say that disability is now a non-party issue. It used to be years ago, but, happily, as the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, indicated, there is now general amity on the principles. There may be some differences, but I see no mountain of opposition to the Bill. Rather, I see a warm welcome for it and I am sure that the Government have taken note of that. Like the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, I believe that we have made great progress and that there are no substantive differences between us. The same goes for the Liberal Democrats.
The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was extremely positive and welcoming, which I appreciate very much indeed. Speaking for the Government, she outlined all that has been done in recent years. As someone who has played a small role in those developments, I can say that we warmly appreciate what the Government have done. On the other hand, we would like, and keep pressing for, a specific assurance that the Government support the Bill. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall, could not give that assurance this afternoon, but it is something for us to aim at. We want the Government to say, “Yes, we endorse the Bill”. The announcement by the noble Baroness of a general review of independent living is a major step forward. The two people whom she mentioned in that regard, Jenny Morris and Jane Campbell, are marvellous. Two better people could not have been chosen to do that job. So, it will be a genuine review, for which I thank the Government.
My noble friend the Minister was right to delineate all these developments, and they are considerable. This Bill has been called the holy grail of disability, which is a very demanding title. Some of the elements in the Bill may be burdensome, as my noble friend said. That is the objective—for it to be burdensome, if necessary, to help disabled people. We accept that it will be burdensome. It is up to local authorities and National Health Service bodies to adapt to the Bill as best they can.
I thank everyone who has spoken for their brilliant and rewarding speeches. I believe that we are on our way.
On Question, Bill read a second time.
Scotland (Petitions for a Referendum on Independence) Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Before I go any further, there are some headline points to make about this short Bill. First, there must be a democratic path to political independence available at all times. Secondly, the withdrawal from the United Kingdom would only be political; an end to the parliamentary union of 1707. Thirdly, the Bill specifically retains the Union of the Crowns in 1603, which is itself the symbol of the inevitable, at least in my mind, British social union. Fourthly, this Bill is both liberal and democratic, but it is not Liberal Democrat policy; at least not yet.
Nothing that I intend to say will compromise my Oath of Allegiance to Queen Elizabeth. I am only too aware of the Act of Attainder passed by this Parliament on the Earl of Mar in 1716. Ever keen to rehabilitate that most significant Scotsman, I remind the House that in the pre-democracy days the only way to change His Majesty’s Government was to change His Majesty.
The background to the Bill must be presented in summary form, for I am anxious not to take up too much time. I suspect that this will be welcome, as I have 11 points to make in this section. First, in international terms, Scotland languishes as a semi-autonomous British region with a sub-national Parliament. Secondly, Scotland, with 5 million people, is submerged as one-twelfth of a medium-sized superpower and is inevitably dominated by England with 50 million people. England is supposed to be a superpower. Thirdly, pollsters report that twice as many people living in Scotland would vote for political independence as would vote for the SNP. Fourthly, the delayed rise of the English question is now upon us in its various forms: English votes for English laws; no Scottish MP to be Prime Minister; and no Scottish MPs to be Ministers for English departments. Clearly, that is not part of this Bill, but some constitutional change needs to occur.
Fifthly, I gave up the struggle against a politically independent Scotland in the spring of 2004, with the advent of EU enlargement and so many countries poorer and smaller than Scotland becoming full members of the European Union. Sixthly, a quick look around the north Atlantic shows prosperous states, mostly smaller than Scotland, all of which have departed from union states. There were Sweden and Denmark in 1812; Norway in 1905; Finland in 1920; Ireland in 1922; Iceland in 1944; and the Faroe Islands, which have had home rule, the equivalent of Scotland, since 1948.
Seventhly, the National Covenant of 1947 to 1950 was signed by 2 million people and ignored. Noble Lords should bear in mind that the same people elected a Scottish Conservative majority in 1955. Eighthly, there are the Scottish feelings of impotence in world affairs and British foreign policy as only8 per cent of the United Kingdom population. Ninthly, there is the Norwegian model, departing from the Kalmar Union in 1812 and from the United Kingdom of Sweden and Norway in 1905, with a very satisfactory vote of 360,000 in favour and 179 or so against. Norway also shares similar oil and gas resources to Scotland. Tenthly, I have been a member of the Independence Convention since last year. Eleventhly, I very recently became a member of the constitutional commission that is being set up.
The Bill is also a memorial to the Scottish union negotiators, Robert Burns’s “parcel o’ rogues”, who were in London from April to July 1706 and whose treaty was presented to Queen Anne on 22 July 1706. The Earl of Mar was a Secretary of State and principal negotiator. Although the Scots sought an end to war, a guarantee of peace and free trade with England and its colonies, there was no way that the Earl of Godolphin was going to allow the Scots to avoid a parliamentary union. They read the runes correctly and have been castigated ever since.
That Earl of Mar would have been all too aware that a predecessor Earl of Mar had come to London in 1601 to negotiate the Union of the Crowns for his childhood friend, King James VI. Both Earls of Mar would have been aware that the first Erskine Earl of Mar, Sir Robert Erskine, had come to London in 1421 as an ambassador to seek the release of King James I, whose childhood was spent being held captive in London, following his hijacking by English pirates while making his way to the Continent for education.
Finishing off this memorial section, perhaps I may set down, first, the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, an appeal to the Pope for help, only six years after the stunning but only tactical victory at Bannockburn; secondly, the wisdom of King James IV in seeking to marry Princess Margaret Tudor in 1503, thereby setting up the dynastic union; and finally, the almost united kingdom of Norway and Scotland of 1287, which was foiled by the death of the Maid of Norway in Kirkwall while on her way to take up the Scottish throne.
Noble Lords will be pleased to know that I will move closer to the Bill. Attitudes towards Scotland’s future can be divided into “instinctive” and “functional”. An instinctive thought goes like this: “Scotland should resume full autonomy”, which is my belief, or “Scotland should remain submerged within the United Kingdom”. Of course, a functional attitude would be, “I want the parliamentary union to continue because”, or, “I want the repatriation of all parliamentary powers because”. Reasons can be wide-ranging and may include, “I want Scotland to re-find its place in the international community”, “I want to win a United Kingdom general election”, or perhaps, “I am frightened of Scottish democracy”. Enough of that.
I wish to move on to the subject of referendum acquisition. There are two routes. Alex Salmond MP hopes that the Scottish Executive will hold a referendum about transfer of sovereignty and then open negotiations with the United Kingdom Government. That is enshrined in the draft Referendum (Scottish Sovereignty) Bill 2007. Alternatively, this Bill enables people who live in Scotland to petition the House of Commons directly for a referendum, laying down that if half a million do so in one year, the Secretary of State must introduce a referendum Bill.
My approach respects the sovereignty ofthe people—the successor to the community of the realm—and respects Westminster’s concept of the supremacy of Parliament. My approach is workable at any time, rather than the SNP’s position that requires the SNP to form part of the Scottish Executive. Scottish sovereignty is a matter reserved to Westminster.
What is the purpose of political independence under the British Crown? My vision is this: three sovereign states in the British Isles with a resulting increase in international influence for the English-speaking people of the north-west European archipelago—a politically neutral description. Scotland should become a pro-British state without controversy at the border, provided that the Schengen agreement is agreed to, and be in the EU, NATO and the United Nations.
There would be no need to haul down the Union flag, for this predates the parliamentary union of 1707, but I would prefer that the version with the Saltire superimposing be used. Already, Queen Elizabeth flies a Scottish version of the royal standard when in Scotland. This retention of the union of the crowns would give confidence to the 400,000 English who live in Scotland, not to mention the 700,000 Scots who live in England. It would be not a velvet divorce but a growing up of the British family—a fraternal development no longer needing the corralling of Queen Anne's reign in the face of the French.
Lastly, I shall describe the Bill. The Long Title is misleading. The withdrawal is from the United Kingdom's Parliament, but that is a point for constitutional anoraks. Clause 1 is the substantive clause. Subsection (1) identifies petitioners as being those on the local government electoral register—that is, residents of Scotland. Subsection (2) says that a sample petition is contained in the Schedule to the Bill, and the wording of this has been acquired from the House of Commons. Subsection (3) requires the petition to be gathered in one calendar year. Subsection (4) requires the Secretary of State to prepare and give out petition forms on request.
Subsection (5) is the most significant. It says that if 500,000 people—that is, one-eighth of the adult population of Scotland—petition the House of Commons in one calendar year, the Secretary of State must introduce a referendum Bill. Presumably, the question would be either, “I agree that all parliamentary power should be returned to the Parliament of Scotland”, or, “I agree that the devolution settlement of 1998 should continue”.
Subsection (6) defines the calendar year as being 1 February to 31 March to conform with the electoral registration process. Subsection (7) requires the referendum to take place within eight months of the subsequent referendum Bill being enacted. Subsection (8) contains a safeguard for stability in the event of a referendum result rejecting Scottish political independence, in which case there may not be another one for at least 10 years.
The second clause is the Short Title with a commencement date of 1 February 2007. The Schedule contains a sample petition approved by the House of Commons. It is a matter of record thatthe House of Commons is actively considering the improvement of its public petition process. Indeed, Members of that House have visited the Scottish Parliament to examine its worthy Public Petitions Committee procedures.
The Bill’s only real innovation is to require action by the Secretary of State. Petitions can already be delivered to the House of Commons at any time. The principle at stake is that the national community of Scotland must have the right and means to control its sovereignty and to do so as a single issue, rather than have it bundled in general election manifestos. The selection of representatives to a devolved Parliament, or even a multinational Parliament such as Westminster, is wholly different from a transfer of sovereignty.
The effect of the Bill would be galvanising. First, a national debate would ensue, separate from a general election, in the run-up to the referendum. Secondly, an agreed blueprint for a sovereign state—perhaps from the new constitutional commission—would need to have evolved to be put before the people. Thirdly, the disaggregation process would have to be agreed for human resources, material and Scottish MPs and Peers. The fourth item would be settling the combined issue of the Scottish share of the national debt set against the past oil revenues already collected. I have in mind the Norwegian concept of an endowment, known until recently as the petroleum fund. There was no Scottish national debt in 1707 but I would accept that part of the United Kingdom national debt which is owed to Scottish savers. Fifthly, as regards settling the Faslane and Coulport submarine base issue, I would suggest a treaty port agreement for, say, 20 years to enable the Royal Navy to build a new base in England. Alternatively, it could be leased for a longer period.
In conclusion, a petition is possible at any time, even without the Bill being enacted. Of course, there would be no requirement for action by the Secretary of State. The Bill respects the sovereignty of the people and the supremacy of Parliament. Parliament would have to agree to pass the referendum Bill or take the consequences. It must we recalled that that supremacy is over the Crown and the Government but not, I hope, over the people. The parliamentary union has not been bad for Scotland but the corralling of the British family of nations in 1707 and in 1801 is no longer necessary. In any case, part of Ireland departed in 1922.
Scotland and its people are, however, stifled internationally and economically by lacking the economic levers to alter business taxation, among other things. The Celtic fringe inclusion project is over. England should be the unfettered superpower that it is meant to be. Finally, there is a delicious irony in the possibility of negotiating Scottish political independence with a Scottish Prime Minister. I commend the Bill to the House.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Earl of Mar and Kellie.)
My Lords, having heard the very interesting speech of my noble friend, I now welcome the opportunity for this brief debate. It is appropriate that the hereditary keeper of Stirling Castle should be the one to move such Bill. Having two small grandchildren, who are both at school in Edinburgh, I always welcome his speeches, as I am able to go back with all sorts of historical titbits to show that I am not quite as dim as they think I am.
I do not want to delay the proceedings on this Bill too long, but I was interested by one thing that my noble friend said which I had not heard him say before. He referred to Scottish MPs and Peers. Perhaps he can tell the House whether he envisages the new Scottish Parliament being bicameral, as distinct from the present one.
My noble friend has, of course, a long-standing commitment to this cause, which is respected, if not shared, by his colleagues on these Benches. My first point is my personal point of view. Although I believe that there are occasions for referendums, I do not favour their proliferation. I am not in favour of the kind of procedures that exist, for example, in Switzerland or in California, where it is possible for the population to call for a referendum on a subject. I believe that that is not in keeping with our concept of a parliamentary democracy. I have some disagreement with the concept of a mechanism whereby the electorate, or a portion of them—I believe one-eighth of the electorate—could call for a referendum on a specific matter if a similar Bill were subsequently introduced.
Turning to the provisions concerning the end of the 1707 union of the Parliaments, I want to make it clear that the Bill goes in a direction different from that of the Liberal Democrats, as my noble friend has said. We are a unionist party and a federalist party. While we have campaigned, and continue to do so, for devolution to the regions of England—we are disappointed that not more progress has been made on that—we would not wish to see a break-up of the United Kingdom as suggested in the Bill.
In recent years, the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, under the leadership of my noble friend Lord Steel, have participated in the Steel commission, which has looked at ways of strengthening the Scottish Parliament and developing the Scottish Executive into a Scottish Government. The Steel commission proposals will be considered by our Scottish party later this year. I believe that, thereafter, they will want to set up a Scottish convention that could see ways of strengthening the Scottish Parliament within the present framework. I believe that that is the right course to take and more satisfactory than the one proposed in the Bill.
My Lords, I understand exactly why the noble Earl chose to petition the Chief Whip to debate the Second Reading of his Bill today. I am sorry that it falls to me to respond on behalf of my party, rather than my noble friend the Duke of Montrose who has to be elsewhere this evening. He particularly regrets that, because this is the 300th anniversary of the period of negotiation for the Act of Union. Seven generations ago, my noble friend’s ancestor was the High Admiral and president of the council that empowered those negotiations.
The Bill provides a mechanism to start the dismemberment of that Act. Not only that, but it does so in a most peculiar way, proposing to wreck the constitutional settlement between Scotland and England. I accept, of course, that the ScotlandAct 1998 is a variant of that old settlement bygiving devolution—but, importantly, not self-government—to the people of Scotland.
I am surprised that a member of the Liberal Democrat Party is proposing this Bill at all, and am glad to hear from both the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Roper, that it is not the policy of their party. In my more cynical moments, I would suppose that if it were, the Liberal Democrats must be seeking electoral advantage in Scotland by teaming up with the only party there that seeks full independence: the Scottish National Party. If there really was a call for independence, that party would be doing much better in the polls than it currently is, irrespective of what the noble Earl said a few minutes ago. The Scottish people always have the option of electing those who hold the same views they do at a general election—as we do in this country—and more frequently than every 10 years, as is envisaged in the Bill.
The Bill envisages that a mere 14 per cent of the local government electorate, who of course include people who would not be eligible to vote in a general election, could trigger the request for a referendum Bill. The Bill’s 500,000 is indeed a low figure to start the ball rolling to petition another place to introduce such a referendum Bill. If the subsequent referendum is successful—if the petitioners get their will—presumably the noble Earl wants the Westminster Parliament to act on the results of that referendum. I wonder why the Bill does not say so, because it seems such an obvious thing for the noble Earl to want.
I could nitpick about the various details of this Bill, but time is short. Suffice to say that I expect such a deluge of cold water from the Minister that this debate will, I hope, be the end of the matter.
My Lords, here comes the cold water.
This has been a short debate on an important subject. I point out to the noble Earl that the research for this speech was carried out in Dover House beneath a portrait of John Erskine, the sixth Earl of Mar, whose history included service on both sides of the argument. The portrait may have to look for a new home if the Bill were to progress.
In accordance with the conventions of the House, the Government will not seek to block the Bill being given a Second Reading should the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, wish it to have one. However, it will not surprise the noble Earl, or any other Member of this House, that the Government do not favour the Bill and would have no intention of bringing forward such a measure. Scotland’s position as an integral part of the United Kingdom, with its own Parliament for devolved matters, remains the settled will of the people of Scotland.
The noble Earl has been in correspondencewith the Lord Chancellor on the sovereignty of the Scottish Parliament. He is quite right to point out that the union of the kingdoms and Parliaments of Scotland and England would be for Westminster. However, the Government believe that Scotland’s position within the United Kingdom, with its own Parliament for devolved matters should, as I have said, remain the settled will of the people of Scotland.
Today’s union may be a different union to that of 1707, but is made up of partner nations with a common history, common language and common cultures, which finds strength not only in these similarities but also in its diversity. It is a union that means together we punch well above our weight on the world stage, and with far greater effect than if we broke up the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom Parliament is an institution that is self-governing and self-reforming. This Government are proud of their record of reforming our political institutions so that they are better able to do their jobs. We are proud that, since devolution, our institutions are more closely aligned with the people they serve and represent. These institutions reflect the wishes of the people of those countries to have a greater say and greater accountability for many of the issues that directly affect their day-to-day lives.
Devolution in Scotland and Wales is the integral part of this package. It was supported in a general election where the party proposing devolution won a convincing victory over those who supported independence and those who saw no need for change. Referendums, based on manifesto commitments, reinforced the idea that Scotland, in particular, saw the need for a devolved Parliament responsible for a wide range of domestic matters, but Scotland’s people also recognise the benefits of remaining part of the United Kingdom—economic stability, more people in employment and a focus on public service delivery; they also recognise the sense in doing certain things—foreign affairs, trade and industry, social security, employment and the constitution itself—at a UK level. Devolution is built on the retention of a United Kingdom Parliament where Scotland continues to play its part and this structure delivers the right balance between responsibility, accountability and representation.
But devolution has a wider purpose, which is to preserve the union so that the partner nations feel that they can give effect to their wishes and aspirations within the union. How could the union survive if its democratic institutions did not chime with its people? There have been four opportunities since 1997 for the people of Scotland to indicate that they are not happy with our existing forms of governance and they have resoundingly not done so in elections to Westminster or to the Scottish Parliament. The votes of the nationalist parties have remained in the minority, and the different settlements represent the different ways in which the people of Scotland and Wales want to articulate their relationship with the United Kingdom as a whole and with each of the partner nations.
The noble Lord suggests that a 500,000 signatory petition should be the method by which a referendum is triggered that unpicks this relationship, but the history of petitions shows us that they are perhaps not the most reliable of constitutional tools. I am sure noble Lords are aware that the signatures of Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington appeared on the Chartists’ final petition. I do not for one moment suggest the noble Earl is advocating fraud such as that, but the method is fraught with difficulty and open to abuse and challenge. How could we possibly justify the use of such a procedure to trigger a process that would have untold costs, monetary and otherwise?
I reaffirm the Government’s intention, in accordance with convention, to not seek to block the Bill. However, I very much hope that the noble Earl will not push it to a Second Reading, and force a change in the portraits at Dover House. He may wish to remember Thomas Carlyle’s warning:
“Painful for a person is rebellious independence, only in loving companionship with his associates does a person feel safe”.
The noble Earl’s Bill would be the first step towards the break up of a union in which this Government and, I believe, Parliament and the nation, have absolute faith. Throwing in the towel on a renewed partnership of Parliaments and peoples that has so much to offer is not a road to take.
My Lords, first, I thank the Public Bill Office and, in particular,Mr Nick Besly, for helping me to turn my ideas into something that could be presented to Parliament. I also thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.
A recent poll by YouGov identified that 49 per cent of those who answered the poll in Scotland were in favour of political independence, whereas 41 per cent were against, leaving 8 per cent who did not know. Much more significantly, 80 per cent of the same sample believed that sovereignty should be decided as a single issue, not to be bundled into a general election; 12 per cent were against and 8 per cent did not know.
I am also aware that the maverick—I am sure that he will not mind being called that—ex-Conservative MSP Brian Monteith is currently proposing a referendum on the parliamentary union, believing that disarray among the independence movement would lead to the parliamentary union being retained for a generation. That is a wake-up call to the independence movement. My noble friend wondered about a bicameral parliament of Scotland. I very much doubt that that will happen. Personally, I want to adopt something akin to the Norwegian model, whereby the Storting divides itself into two Houses, the Lagting and the Odelsting, on occasion.
The Minister reminded me about the portrait that my great-grandfather gifted to the then Scottish Office in the 1920s. It is rather fine. However, I have six others—the man was clearly vain as well as many other things—and I can think of one more in Geneva. I would be very happy if that one was to remain in Dover House. There is something special about the idea that someone whom this Parliament arraigned for high treason should be—or his portrait should be—hanging in the office of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
I had hoped that we would have a littlediscussion about whether 500,000, or one-eighth of the population, was sufficient to trigger a referendum of this magnitude. I think that opinion is that it would need to be a slightly larger number. I was asked why I did not press forward to connect the Bill directly to a referendum. The answer is that I am trying to respect Westminster's concept of the supremacy of Parliament. This Parliament would have to decide to do it. This Parliament does not take orders from anyone—although on this issue, I might agree that it should.
As for fraud, in my initial drafts, I included in the provision for the petition that people had to submit not only their name and address—which is, apparently, all that the House of Commons requires for a petition—but their number on the electoral roll. That would be quite a test and would show how serious they were. You could not fob someone off on the doorstep by signing it to get rid of them, because you would need your electoral roll number. However, that is not part of the House of Commons procedure.
Obliquely, the issue of economics arose. One would not approach sovereignty based on an economic case. After all, we made a complete nonsense of joining the euro on that basis. People must want to do it or not. Looking around the North Atlantic, I can see only states that have broken away from unions and have prospered. So I conclude: is there a democratic pathway to political independence under the Crown? I do not think that we yet have one. I regard myself as a unionist—a person in favour of the Union of the Crowns—seeking a better settlement allowing Scotland a foreign policy.
To the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, I must say that there are three parties in Scotland actively seeking independence: the SNP, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Greens. Finally, I hope the House will give the Bill a Second Reading, bearing in mind that there is no Motion from me for an Order of Commitment.
On Question, Bill read a second time.
NHS Redress Bill [HL]
The Bill was returned from the Commons with amendments and with a privilege amendment; it was ordered that the Commons amendments be printed.
House adjourned at five o’clock.