House of Lords
Tuesday, 11 December 2007.
The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury.
Water Supply: UN Convention
asked Her Majesty’s Government:
What progress they have made towards acceding to the United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses (UN watercourse convention), which seeks to alleviate tensions between nations with shared water resources.
My Lords, the Government have no immediate plans to accede to the 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses. Only 16 countries have ratified the convention. With 35 countries required, there is little prospect of the convention entering into force. Despite that, its principles are widely applied. DfID supports water-sharing processes in the Middle East and Africa, and does not consider accession necessary for those to be effective.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer, although it is disappointing. Given the warnings about the impact of climate change on fresh water resources, and given the millennium development goal that hopes to reduce by half the number of people without access to fresh water, will the United Kingdom ensure at the Bali conference that priority is given to the allocation of funding for the management of fresh water resources?
My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes an important point, and can be assured that in Bali we will draw the attention of all delegations to the risk that Africa and poor countries elsewhere are confronted with. Africa is the region that is most vulnerable to climate change. It is projected that by 2020 between 75 million and 250 million people will be exposed to an increase in water stress due to climate change, and that agricultural productivity will have been severely compromised by at least a 10 per cent decline in rainfall. Therefore we will make the point strongly at Bali, although it is not a pledging conference so we may have to find other forums to secure more resources to redress the matter.
My Lords, does my noble friend regret that although the Labour Government co-sponsored the convention 10 years ago we have not been able to accede to it? Can he tell us anything about further consultation on the desirability of accession by any other government department?
My Lords, my noble friend is right that the convention seemed extremely important at the time. The UK did not accede to it because of difficulties around the waters of Northern Ireland versus the Republic, which have subsequently been well resolved through EU arrangements. That means that we have no direct waterways of our own to be affected. However, that does not prevent us using the principles of the convention in parts of the world such as the Nile basin, where we are providing assistance to countries that share common water fronts.
My Lords, although it is good to know that we support practical approaches to transboundary co-operation on the equitable sharing of water resources in the Middle East and Africa, why do we adopt a different approach in Mesopotamia, where Ministers say that it is for Iraq, Turkey and Syria to reach agreement on the sharing of their water resources? Would it not be a good idea to adopt the same practical approaches, particularly bearing in mind that, since dams have been built on the Euphrates in Turkey, the quantity of water flowing into Iraq has decreased by 50 per cent?
My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. However, even in the case of the Nile basin, and other areas where we have successfully supported arrangements, such approaches are arrived at between the countries that share those common water tables. Again, we would be extremely open to supporting an agreement between those three countries. Given the state of political relations there, however, we will first need to see a change in bilateral relationships between the three countries. An outcome of that would be a chance to work on their common water problems.
My Lords, what is the status of agreement or disagreement about the waters of the River Jordan and such other waters as there may be nearby? It used to be a serious problem between Israel and the Palestinians. Is that still the case?
My Lords, it is still the case, and the noble Lord will not be surprised that it is a victim of the same kind of political difficulties referred to in the previous question. Water will become the most valuable resource in the shortest supply in this century, but it is hard to resolve these issues when countries are not living peacefully as good neighbours. Good neighbourliness is a precondition of settling disputed water.
My Lords, the latest prison population projections were published on 31 August 2007. They cover the period from June 2007 to June 2014 and present three possible future scenarios: low, medium and high. The projections for June 2010 range from 87,500 on the low scenario to 93,000 on the high scenario.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that depressing reply. He will surely be as sad as I am that, two weeks ago, a 15 year-old boy who had been sent to prison for one and a half months for breaking the terms of his supervision order hanged himself in his cell. How many people like that boy—mentally ill and vulnerable people and those with learning difficulties—will be among the 90,000 or so whom the noble Lord has told us he expects to be locking up in three years’ time? Why have the Government so far found it impossible to devise a policy to get people like that out of prison and into a place where they would get the help that they need with their problems?
My Lords, of course I cannot answer the precise question about projections, because nobody could. However, the recommendations of my noble friend Lord Carter will certainly be helpful in making a proper assessment in the future. Of course all deaths in custody are very much regretted and the specific case that the noble Baroness mentions will clearly have to be fully investigated. Alongside the announcement of the outcome of the Carter review, we announced that my noble friend Lord Bradley is to lead a short review looking specifically at prisoners with mental health issues. That is a joint review with the Department of Health, which I hope will offer a constructive way forward.
My Lords, the noble Lord uses rather pejorative terms for my noble friend’s proposals. It is worth making the point about the Titan prisons that, as my noble friend pointed out, the investment in new facilities will allow a much better foundation for the kind of rehabilitative programmes that the noble Lord and I wish to see. Of course, we will look at that carefully in taking forward these proposals.
My Lords, in comparison with other European countries that is certainly so, although there are other countries, including the US, where there is a higher prison population. The trends show that in many countries, whatever their baseline, there has been an increase in prison population. One reason why there is a higher prison population is that more offenders are being brought to justice. There is greater focus on the enforcement of sentences in this country and a greater emphasis on public protection. Crime is coming down. The Government have no need to apologise for that.
My Lords, many of us believe that at present the biggest prisons cause the biggest problems. Do the Government really believe that the Titan prisons, which are now under discussion, are the solution? I dare to cast doubt on this course of action because on the Isle of Wight there are three prisons—Parkhurst, Albany and Camp Hill—that are adjacent to each other yet serve different and distinct categories of inmates and can do so more effectively because they are separate and not part of one big institution.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to respond to the right reverend Prelate. He almost makes the case for the Titan prisons. The noble Lord, Lord Carter, said that by going for these very large sites and new build there is every opportunity to ensure that conditions are as effective as possible and that good design can lead to good security and good rehabilitative procedures. Within such a site it would be possible, for instance, to have five separate units of 500 each, where one would have the advantage of managing smaller units. Obviously, we shall debate this in the months ahead, but I hope that noble Lords will not simply dismiss Titans without looking at what the noble Lord, Lord Carter, actually said.
My Lords, can the Minister give his projection of the number of children who will be in custody in the future along the lines that he gave before? Does he regret the fact that we in this country place in our secure estate so many more children than our neighbours do? Will he pay tribute to the social workers, the foster carers and the residential childcare workers who do so much to keep children who have been hurt in their previous experience from entering custody? Does he recognise that we very much need to raise their status if we are to prevent more children who have been harmed in the past from ending up in custody? That is not to abnegate the responsibility for other children, but we must admit that many of our children are not given the assistance that they need to stay out of custody.
My Lords, of course we must do everything to prevent children going into custody and, when they are in custody, to ensure that programmes are geared to make sure that they do not reoffend in the future. However, there will always be a need for some custodial settings. Of course I pay tribute to social workers and probation officers, but unlike many noble Lords I also pay tribute to the staff working in custodial settings, who have a very challenging job to do.
My Lords, let us hear from the Conservative Benches.
My Lords, I hesitate to trespass on this. Can the Minister confirm that it is now planned to start weekend working in prisons on a Friday afternoon, producing a four-and-a-half-day week? What will the effect be on time out of cell for prisoners over the week as a whole? What will that be when the numbers rise to the predicted figures that he has given us and what was it at the beginning of this century?
My Lords, that proposal was made as part of discussions in the Prison Service about the implications for the future spending round review. As I understand it, no decision has been made. The idea was to focus more activity around those four and a half days. On the issue of unlocking, my understanding is that the average number of hours is 10.1 compared with 9.6 in 2001-02.
My Lords, while I fully understand the concern over custodial sentences, can my noble friend answer these two points? First, if an alternative to custodial sentencing is implemented for these people, to what extent are the public protected? Secondly, if such an alternative method is implemented, to what greater extent will those people be rehabilitated?
Those are fair points, my Lords. We must of course have prison places for the most dangerous offenders, but the Government have also emphasised the importance of community sentences, which are not a soft option; they are very much a tough option. Overall, we have seen proven reoffending reduce by 5.8 per cent between 2000 and 2004. We have also seen a huge increase in the education and health programmes, which, again, I think noble Lords underestimate.
Yes, my Lords, Defra and organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust already run a range of information programmes designed to encourage energy saving, and to raise awareness of the actions that individuals can take to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. The carbon reduction commitment is a new, mandatory emissions-trading scheme for large, non-energy intensive businesses and public sector organisations. It is expected to begin in January 2010 and will deliver emissions savings of just over 1 million tonnes of carbon per year by 2020.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and note with interest what he said. However, does he not agree that there is much complexity about energy-saving measures, especially in the housing sector, which is among the most wasteful in energy usage? Would the impact not be greater if there was one over-riding and major fiscal incentive to reward greater energy savings in household usage, based on certified improvements by using the recently introduced energy performance certificates? Furthermore, should not much more emphasis be given to promoting microgeneration—including the setting of targets—in view of its much greater efficiency compared with central power generation? I declare an interest in microgeneration as patron of the Micropower Council.
My Lords, I agree that much more could be done. On the use of equipment in households, for example, only last week Defra launched a consultation on improving the energy efficiency of consumer electronics—such as refrigeration, televisions, set-top boxes and air conditioning units—to try and get voluntary approval from the industry on changes in practice, as we did with light bulbs.
People will change their behaviour. I understand that 98 per cent of people are aware of climate change and the need to save energy, but two-thirds of them think that they cannot do much about it. Therefore, the connection has to be made between individual performance and behaviour in households to show that that performance is for the greater good. Action is under way on this.
My Lords, would the Minister be prepared to consider an old initiative, which proved extremely effective in saving energy during World War II, by introducing the measures on daylight saving that have been proposed from time to time in your Lordships’ House?
My Lords, I do not know whether this is a free vote subject, but I tend to agree with the noble Viscount. I was pleased to discover, after answering a Question in a similar vein yesterday, that there will indeed be a debate on daylight saving during the proceedings of the Climate Change Bill. However, we do not have to go back and invent the wheel; we can do many things, such as switching things off, which save money and energy at the same time—those are common-sense actions.
My Lords, following the part of the Question of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, that the Minister did not answer, what estimate has been made of the savings that may be achieved by the wider introduction of microgeneration—for instance, along the lines recently proposed by my right honourable friend David Cameron?
My Lords, it is estimated that 7 million houses in the current housing stock have cavity walls without insulation. What are the Government going to do to solve that problem and ensure that the energy savings through that insulation are made on the current housing stock?
My Lords, we have just launched the Energy Saving Trust scheme announced by the Prime Minister, which is a £100 million exercise to get increased performance in households. That will cover advice, and cavity wall insulation is clearly part of that process. In a way, the housing stock is the biggest single problem. We can deal with new houses, because we build so few, but we have a 20 million-plus housing stock. We also have a lot of school stock, and later today in the Statement it will be announced that, from 2016, all new schools will be zero carbon.
My Lords, good housekeeping begins at home—and by that I mean Whitehall, as far as the Minister is concerned. What is the situation across Whitehall and does Defra have a strategy for energy saving within the department? If so, is the Minister prepared to put it in the public domain as an exemplar to others?
My Lords, I can only partly repeat what I said yesterday; I regret that in the mean time, I have not had a chance to get further information. Defra had the lowest energy performance consumption and CO2 emissions per square metre of surface area used by civil departments during 2005-06, other than the Forestry Commission. So our house is in order.
My Lords, will the Minister please look forward with regard to energy saving, not backwards to the rather stupid days of World War II, when an edict was issued by the Government that you should not have more than six inches of water in your bath? Where are we going?
My Lords, to how many employees in Defra does the low-energy performance apply?
Iran: Nuclear Programme
Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty’s Government:
Whether their assessment of recent developments in the Iranian nuclear programme is similar to that set out in the new United States National Intelligence Estimate.
My Lords, I am told that it is not the practice of this Government or previous Governments to comment on intelligence matters. However, nothing in the NIE changes the fundamental problem that we face, which is Iran’s pursuit of a uranium enrichment programme that has, so far as we can see, no civilian application. That is despite the unanimous demand from the UN Security Council and from the IAEA that it should stop doing so. Accordingly, we will continue to act in the UN, in the EU and bilaterally to persuade Iran to change its approach and comply with its international responsibilities.
My Lords, none of us underestimates the potential threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the National Intelligence Estimate seems to all of us to change the context in which we are negotiating with Iran, particularly since it confirms that in 2003 the then Iranian Government made a generous offer to negotiate directly with the United States, which the Bush Administration turned down. Should we not now be pursuing direct talks with the Iranians and pulling the Americans into those talks, which must include security guarantees and greater economic co-operation, particularly as we need Iranian co-operation in Afghanistan and Iraq?
My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that the NIE assessment has led to a lot of debate. I remind him that, for us, the two essential elements are that a programme of uranium enhancement continues, for which we can see no civilian purpose and that, secondly, this involves a Government who are rightly heavily distrusted by ourselves and others. Our position to the Iranians is clear: allow an arrangement that does not say, in the famous words of President Reagan, “Trust but verify”, but which says, “Verify so that we can trust”. If those conditions are met, negotiations on all outstanding matters involving Iran, with the United States among others, are very much on the cards.
My Lords, will the Minister consider the sharp differences between the 2003 and the 2007 National Intelligence Estimates of the United States’ intelligence agencies? There is a clear distinction between what in 2003 was thought to be the almost certain movement of Iran towards enrichment ending in a nuclear weapons programme, and the most recent estimate, which says with high confidence that, at least up until the publication of the estimate, there is no evidence of a weapons system being developed. Given that, will the Minister consider—because this is crucial to world peace—whether it might be appropriate for the Iranians to change to the agenda of the Baghdad talks, which he knows are going on and at which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that any issues that any member of those talks wishes to raise could be raised? Would it not therefore be wise to permit those talks to extend to regional security, which is at the heart of Iran’s profound concerns about the danger of being attacked?
My Lords, the noble Baroness is aware that the 2007 report concludes that there is a high likelihood that the programme has been suspended but not ended. An enrichment programme continues, so the ability of the Iranians to resume a weapons programme quickly remains a real risk. Secondly, and more generally on the Baghdad talks, the United States has said that the opportunities for Iraq and Iran to discuss their border and security issues, for the United States to participate through the Baghdad talks and for a broader regional set of actors to participate in different UN forums are all possibilities. I remind her that the United States has also been clear that general talks between the US and Iran on overall global issues between them must await a solution to this enrichment issue.
My Lords, how does the Minister square his statement that it is not the custom of this Government or previous Governments to comment on intelligence with the decision of the previous Government to publish a dossier of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq leading up to the war and the statement of the previous Prime Minister that he now wishes he had published the whole JIC assessment?
My Lords, this novice Minister was very much hoping that that particular noble Lord would not be in the House today. He will notice that I referred to the fact that I had been told that this was the practice. As someone who was out of the country at the time, I must say I scratch my head to reconcile this with the practice when the noble Lord was involved in these issues. I think that it is at least true to say that to comment on a close ally’s intelligence assessment publicly is probably not prudent.
My Lords, I think that we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell, for guiding us in this matter and for reminding us that these have been, with circumspection, matters for considerable and detailed public debate. The NIE assessment has been in every newspaper and has had a major influence on opinion here, in the rest of Europe and in Tehran. What, in the Minister’s evaluation, is the NIE report saying? What stopped in 2003? Was it weaponisation—the possibility of moving from enrichment, which continues, to weapons grade uranium and weapons manufacture? Were missiles stopped? Or should we regard this with the same value as we regard other intelligence reports that told us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
My Lords, we believe that the programme was suspended, not ended, and that, with enrichment continuing, the ability to resume a programme quickly remains open to the Iranians. On the value of the assessment, the noble Lord rightly points out that assessments change over time. I do not think that the authors of this assessment would consider it to be the last word on the subject.
My Lords, with permission, we will have a Statement repeated this afternoon at a convenient time after 3.30 pm, which almost certainly will be after the first group of amendments. It will be on the children’s plan and will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Adonis.
Business of the House: Standing Order 47
My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, that Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to allow the Consolidated Fund Bill to be taken through all its remaining stages on Wednesday 12 December.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Climate Change Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
“Objective of the Act
It is the objective of this Act that the United Kingdom play a fair and equitable part in the international effort to limit global average temperature rise to not more than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
The noble Lord said: The Climate Change Bill is the most important Bill in this Session of Parliament. It raises large issues on carbon reductions well into this century and a number of global issues, all of which have been subject to a great deal of discussion and debate, not just in the United Kingdom and Europe, but in the global community. However, a key area not covered by the Bill is why it exists and why we should have the various targets, measures and frameworks that it will bring into action.
We all know that there is a consensus among the international community, climate change scientists and the political community that there is a considerable need to keep the temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to 2 degrees centigrade. If we do not have that in the Bill, I do not understand how the other major figures and items that we will come on to debate in Committee make sense. We from these Benches feel that it is very important that at the beginning of this Bill we have the objective that global warming should not be more than 2 degrees centigrade and that the United Kingdom should play its fair and equitable part in making sure that that objective is reached.
I remind the Committee that the Defra statement of 19 November on the post-2012 framework for tackling climate change said:
“To avoid the dangerous impacts of global warming, global temperatures must rise no more than 2 degrees above those of pre-industrial times”.
If that is not authoritative enough, the Prime Minister said on the same day in what was seen as a keynote speech on the Government’s climate change policy:
“But our mission is in truth historic and it is world changing—to build over the next 50 years and beyond a global low carbon economy … Our vision has one overriding claim: holding the rise in global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees centigrade”.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that if that objective is not achieved, among very many other consequences there is a risk of some 30 to 40 per cent of species becoming extinct—a risk, not a certainty, as in many of these areas of climate science.
For those reasons we believe that the Bill should do exactly what the Government say it should do; it should lay out without doubt the context in which the Government and this nation will pursue the problem of climate change. This target should actually be in—
I will respond to that by saying that the Government are claiming that this Bill is unique, that this type of legislation has never been brought forward anywhere else in the world and that therefore it is of a different nature from much of the legislation that we have seen in other countries or indeed in this country. I think that it is entirely valid to have the proper objective as stated by the Government included at the beginning of the Bill. I beg to move.
Amendment No. 2 is the only amendment in this group with which we are directly associated, but we agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that it is a good idea to set out at the beginning of this Bill a statement on the objective of the Bill—not just the means but the long-term objective.
The amendment aims simply to ensure that the Bill has a proper aim. The logic behind it is straightforward: if the Bill seeks to solve the problem of climate change, that should be on the face of the Bill. As it stands, the Bill’s only real objective is to reduce the amount of UK emissions by an arbitrary figure, which even the Government now seem to recognise might not necessarily be the right one. Why is the Bill’s true purpose not reflected in the legislation?
We take our cue in mentioning the 2-degree increase in temperature from what seems to be the general consensus in the scientific community. That is what we seek to address. Indeed, the text of the amendment is based on a European Council document, cited by WWF. If the Bill is to have the scope that the Government seem to hope for it—that it is to be a serious assault on the problems associated with the rise in the earth’s temperature—we see no reason why this should not be reflected in legislation. We hope that the Minister will agree. If this is the scientifically identified problem, we should not shy away from naming it.
The amendment would also create a general duty, which we believe would focus the Bill. It is necessary to ensure that the committee sets a new, higher target for 2050, and to provide a framework or focal point for the other matters on which the committee will be working. This general duty means that our amendment goes further than the Liberal Democrat amendment, although it goes very much in a similar direction.
The Second Reading debate indicated that there will be much discussion in Committee about the precise percentage of reductions in carbon emissions. The Bill’s professed goal is being disputed. As all your Lordships agree that the genuine overall aim is to stop global warming, will the Minister consider reflecting this consensus in the legislation in the beginning? Any debate on the objectives of the Bill should be tethered to the scientific reality of the more general purpose of this legislation. In essence, we want to ensure that our objectives are clear. Although the magnitude of this problem is daunting, that should not keep it from being stated in the Bill.
I am content that the noble Lords who have spoken have put into the public domain the main concerns that I suspect we all share. It is important that your Lordships recognise that we, too, on these Benches recognise that this is probably one of the most important issues ever to come before your Lordships’ House. That is why there is yet another amendment to an opening title in my name.
Climate change has in the past been seen as an issue concerned solely with the environment, but I shall take a few moments to explain why it is so much more important and wide ranging. That is why my amendment includes a subsection to require the Prime Minister and other Secretaries of State to take personal responsibility for this and not to leave it simply in one area.
First, climate change is an economic issue. Sir Nicholas Stern’s report for Her Majesty’s Treasury illustrated this strongly, setting out clearly and powerfully the costs of dealing with climate change now and the vastly greater costs that will inevitably fall on us if we do very little at this stage.
Secondly, climate change is a key development issue. Recent Christian Aid research from Bolivia found that communities have noticed detailed and profound changes in the local weather and in plant and animal life. This is having an effect on their local food supply, the clothes that they wear, their sources of income and how they live.
Thirdly, climate change is a security issue. My noble friends will know of my interest in the Sudan, with which the diocese of Salisbury has had links for some 35 years. The conflict in Darfur has been described as the first climate change war. It is obvious, but still important to say, that the causes of any war are complex and manifold and that the conflict and consequent destabilisation in Darfur have a multitude of causes. However, greater pressure on scarce land and water resources has clearly contributed enormously, just as it has in relation to the use of the waters in the Upper Nile area. As in so many areas, climate change does not create the problem, but it does hugely worsen it. Sudan is the country with the dubious distinction of having the highest number of internally displaced persons—more than 5 million. One feature of a world in which the climate is allowed permanently and catastrophically to change would be massive increases in such displacement and in the overall levels of migration.
Fourthly, climate change is an issue of justice. The poorest countries which are feeling the very worst impact of the problems that I described are the ones that have contributed and largely still contribute the least to the problem. We must act on that.
I am concerned that the targets in the Bill are not strong enough. They were drawn up seven years ago and they are out of date. It is right for the Government to say that they will be put before the committee established by the Bill, but it is bad practice for us to pass a Bill that is already out of date when we start considering it. That is why it is important that we commit the leaders of our country—the Prime Minister and the heads of all the departments—to act together in this matter. It is not a matter just for the department dealing with environmental issues.
The Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester has said that if every country adopted Bills that only included equivalent levels of emission, global temperatures would rise by 4 to 5 degrees centigrade. Someone should take responsibility for this in the world and offer leadership. If we go on telling other people what to do about things but do not do anything ourselves, we will be in a weak position to take any leadership on this matter in the world. It will not do to stand by waiting for somebody else to take responsibility. That is why we need this Bill. Of course it can legislate only for what we do in this country, but it must include the whole range of the issues that I outlined. That is why my amendment uses rather stronger terms than those used by my noble colleagues.
My noble friend has spoken about Amendment No. 1. I want to speak to Amendments Nos. 142 and 157, which are in my name. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor: we support his amendment as he supports ours. There is not a great deal of political debate among the parties—even within the Government’s party—about what we are trying to achieve in this Bill. However, how we actually achieve that objective will suffer from some variance. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, asked whether there was a precedent for this type of legislation. Of course there is: Kyoto is a classic example of something that we and a vast number of other countries signed up to. This is actually ratifying how we deal with the amount of emissions.
Amendment No. 142 deals with the aims of the committee. One of the problems that we have is with the committee itself, which has not yet come into existence—I do not believe that the members of the committee have been interviewed yet and they will have no power until the legislation comes into force. The committee will deal with science that is continually developing. The right reverend Prelate described how science is becoming old and how targets are being revised even as we speak. However, the 2 degrees Celsius target is most important because it is the one that most scientists agree will cause catastrophic change: it is the tipping point. Amendment No. 142 would ensure that the committee had an overarching aim to remind the Government that that was the target that we must meet.
Of course, if it was only up to the British Government to meet this target, the situation would be a great deal simpler. We have only a small influence on the total amount of gases emitted. However, if reports in the papers are to be believed, the amount of carbon dioxide that we are emitting has exceeded the levels that we thought had been reached, because of the carbon that we export to other producing countries. Amendment No. 157 would make it clear to the committee that that should be one of its objectives, along with making sure that recommendations of further cuts dealt with the rise of 2 degrees Celsius. That would be a clear aim of the committee’s recommendations.
Having been mentioned by the noble Lord in his contribution, I would like to answer the points that he raised. The Bill and the amendments that have been tabled should have a clear objective, but that is a matter for speeches rather than for definition in the Bill. It is important to recognise whether the Bill is justiciable. No amendments can address that point. As I say, the objectives must be defined by the Minister in his speech in support of the Bill. It is an appropriate matter to raise at Second Reading, but it is not appropriate for inclusion in the Bill. It is wholly inappropriate to try to illustrate the purposes of the Bill in a clause. If we applied domestic legislation as a precedent, the noble Lord could not point to a situation where that had been done. Of course, it has been argued that we are faced with a new situation, which we are. That does not mean that we have to devote ourselves to an irrelevant consideration as far as the Bill is concerned. I think that it is an irrelevant consideration—important to raise at Second Reading, but not, as a matter of course, in the Bill itself.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has tabled a very interesting amendment. He made the point that Secretaries of State should be made directly responsible for the actions required. Did he really mean to refer to what the Bill calls the “national authorities”, meaning Ministers in the devolved Assemblies as well? I realise that he speaks from the Benches of the Church of England, but I do not think that the intention of his amendment will be met unless the devolved Assemblies are also given responsibility.
I have a question for both opposition Front Benches. If this objective is to be put in the Bill, plainly it must be capable of being decided in court whether that objective has been fulfilled. What is the pre-industrial level? How does one know what the pre-industrial level was? Even more fantastically, what are the “pre-industrial levels”—in the plural—as appear in both proposed new clauses? How on earth can an average temperature increase be of more than 2 degrees above various pre-industrial levels? The temperature can only possibly have risen above a specific pre-industrial level that is capable of absolute ascertainment.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, raised a point that also concerns me. The difficulty with temperatures is that they are very imprecise. The historical record clearly indicates that there have been considerable fluctuations in temperature over time. The record can be traced much further back than the pre-industrial level if one looks at the archaeological record. A more positive measure of what is going on in the atmosphere has always been, and still is, the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide. We can take that record back for a million years through the use of air bubbles in ice cores, which also contain carbon dioxide. That has been done. For roughly a million years, until somewhere in the 19th century, that level fluctuated around 270 parts per million, give or take about 10 or 15 parts. That record is consistent. So that is the first problem I have with this.
Secondly, 2 degrees centigrade where? Are we talking about 2 degrees centigrade here, 2 degrees centigrade in central Africa or 2 degrees centigrade in other places? If my reading is correct, some fairly recent research has shown that the temperature in this country has risen in the past decade by nearly 1 degree centigrade on average. If we were to keep up that rate—and that is where we are today—we would be way over 2 degrees centigrade. That indicates that we are perhaps already past the tipping point.
The third point about the 2 degrees centigrade is that it is severely open to question whether we might not already have gone past the point which will take our temperatures up to that level and beyond it, in which case we have something of a problem. So although I agree with absolutely everything that has been said, I find myself in considerable difficulty over including these amendments in the Bill.
Finally, I was absolutely delighted to hear what the right reverend Prelate had to say about our aspirations for leadership in this matter. He neatly trumped what I was going to say later. I may bore the Committee by repeating those remarks but at least he has the assurance that I will try to abbreviate them.
I support the amendment tabled by my noble friends. It is not as though they plucked the 2 degrees out of the air. The Joint Committee received an immense amount of evidence from very eminent scientists about what the Bill should aim to do. I believe that their amendment results from that. It is not something that they have thought up for themselves.
The part of the amendment that I particularly support concerns the fair and equitable concept. Although I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, says about leadership—the Government said a lot about the leadership role that the Bill plays—the Bill should, for the reasons laid out by the right reverend Prelate, be as much about cleaning up our own act and setting our own house in order as telling the rest of the world what to do. The amendment is particularly important because it would set the tone for the rest of the Bill. As we debate the level at which international credits should be set and what role the EU Emissions Trading Scheme should play we should keep very much in mind that individuals in this nation consume three, four or even six times as much as people not even in the poorest developing countries of the world but those on a middle income. We are really very greedy. We should make sure that we start to play a fair and equitable role and do not rely on some of the mechanisms that we could rely on, which would do very little. The amendment would establish a powerful context for that.
I see the logic of including an objective in the Bill. The arguments put forward by the proposers of all three amendments seem to me strong and convincing. This is an exceptional Bill, as the Government have said many times. Therefore, it is reasonable that it should have some exceptional features. Therefore, if it does, it is also reasonable to depart from precedent to this extent. I see the logic of the points made by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. However, on the question of justiciability, this seems an issue which arises in relation to other targets in the Bill and not just the 2 degrees centigrade. I am not certain that this is relevant to these clauses. As far as the figures are concerned, the science has evolved. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, was saying, we had much evidence put to us on the Joint Committee.
The science has evolved enough for specific figures to be feasible, testable and satisfactory and to be included in this Bill. Therefore, I support the direction of Amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 3. However, I believe that the clearer, shorter and simpler this Bill’s objective is, the better—in particular, with regard to clarity of the 2 degrees centigrade figure. As between the three, I would prefer the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson.
I support my noble friend’s amendment. When we debated this Bill at Second Reading, many of us were concerned that it is a skeleton Bill: that it leaves a lot of powers out—that there was not enough within it. We will discuss that in detail later.
Although one could say that the amendments may not be appropriate at the Bill’s final stage, they raise an important issue, upon which the right reverend Prelate has touched. It is clear that we are leading the world with this Bill. I do not agree with the comment that because it is a different Bill—because it has not happened before—we cannot take a stance on it at this stage. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis.
It is important that we have a slightly greater steer at the beginning of this Bill. If the Minister is unable to accept these amendments—I suspect that he will not be able to—the Government might consider strengthening what we have before us, because it is not strong enough. I would be concerned if I were in one of the foreign countries that will be most affected by it but which have very little control over what effect carbon emissions are having there.
I said at Second Reading that it is a moral issue. It is not just about what we do in this country, although that is enormously important to our people; it is much more important in relation to our responsibilities worldwide. I hope that the Minister will not just say that the Government cannot accept the amendments but that they will give serious thought to strengthening and improving the direction—the message—set out at the start of the Bill. I support my noble friend’s amendment.
Having read the amendment and listened to the debate, I am not convinced this amendment is necessary as a preamble to the Bill. The Government obviously take climate change very seriously. That is why they have produced the Bill, which is detailed and deals perfectly adequately with every matter raised during the debate so far. Additional verbiage in a Bill of this sort will not help the objectives, which some have doubts about. Statements have been made during this debate which one must query. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, described this climate change as being unique. It is by no means unique. As everyone knows, climate change has been happening over a long period of time.
When I made the statement, I was referring to something that was said by the Opposition; it does not necessarily accord with my own views. I do not think that I would depart in any way from what I said. The job of the Bill is to enact exactly what we want and it should be justiciable, and in no way can this be.
I am interested in what the noble Lord has just said. I support the point that he made, but I am dealing with a statement that he made during his speech and that others have made before him. If the House of Lords had been around 12,000 years ago, we would not be debating a 2 per cent increase in temperatures; we would probably have been debating a 10 per cent decrease in temperatures. The situation now is by no means unique—
I did not want to go into that, but I will now go into the nature of it. Man has been doing all sorts of things over a very long period of time. Nature is actually very clever, because in many instances, it manages to undo the damage that has been done by man. But on that point alone it is being claimed that global warming is due to man-made activity. I do not necessarily dispute that, but the approach that this House and others are taking to rectifying that position is, if I might say so, quite absurd. They are blaming man for increases in temperature, yet they are quite happy to see the world’s population rise from 6 billion at present to 9 billion in 2050, so that the contribution of man could increase by 50 per cent. That is not being taken seriously.
Secondly, if man is going to make a real contribution not only to climate change but to other environmental aspects, people have to learn to live within the means of the planet. They are not doing that, and that is not what they are expected to do. In fact, every country in the world desperately wants to increase production year by year. That really is quite ridiculous and it cannot happen. If you believe that man’s activity will cause this huge climate change, you have to do something realistic about it and not just play with the problem; that is what we are doing in this Bill. I have to say that. After all, we make a contribution of only 2 per cent to CO2 emissions, so what we can do, except give a lead, is very limited. If the country and the world want to deal with the problem realistically, they have to make some very difficult and very serious decisions.
I would like to respond from our point of view. There has been criticism of the amendments. Those of us who want the Bill to be sound and thorough are grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Clinton-Davis and Lord Stoddart of Swindon, the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, and my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith for criticising, to some degree, the way we have presented an amendment that is more concerned with aims in the abstract than mechanics in the detail. That may be a challenge to good law—I do not know. However, when people look at the legislation 43 years from now, all the speeches that we are making will be totally forgotten. They will want to know what we were seeking to deal with when we set out. That has been made clear; all the evidence that we have received has shown that carbon emissions are leading to global warming, and that is what we are seeking to address. It is proper that we set out in the Bill what we are seeking to address by the mechanical means that we are giving the Committee on Climate Change, future Secretaries of State, Prime Ministers and Governments dealing the problem—those who will determine action for many years to come. That is why I believe we are right to debate these proposals at the beginning of the Bill.
We have got off to a good start. It would have been even better if I could have announced at the outset that the Government would be accepting the amendments. I am not able to do that today, for reasons that I will explain.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis about purposes and objectives. No one has mentioned the central duty of the Bill, which is clearly set out in Clause 1—to reduce the UK’s net carbon account by a certain figure by a certain date. It is clear, unambiguous, and one cannot avoid understanding the meaning. The UK remains committed to the European Union’s 2 degree target, but there is no simple relationship between that target and the UK’s 2050 target, which is why we oppose the amendments.
The increase in global average temperatures will be determined by atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is significant uncertainty in the relationship, which is why bodies such as the IPCC use a range of probability to reflect the current level of scientific understanding. It is not clear how the amendments address that uncertainty. In addition, the science is clear that the UK cannot operate alone. We are responsible for only 2 per cent of emissions. People will argue that as it is only 2 per cent why are we bothering? The point is that we want to give a lead. We cannot achieve the 2 degree target on our own. That is clearly impossible.
At the moment, reaching the 2 degree target referred to by several noble Lords depends on atmospheric concentrations, and there is a degree of uncertainty. For instance, if atmospheric concentrations of the gases reach around 450 parts per million, it is estimated that there will be around a 50 per cent chance of exceeding the 2 degree temperature increase. It is likely that we will need global emissions to peak in the next 10 to 15 years and for global greenhouse gas emissions to reduce by at least 50 per cent by 2050 on 1990 levels. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are already at 430 parts per million in a CO2 equivalent, and rising at more than 2 parts per million per year. Even if global emissions stopped today, there is around a 30 to 40 per cent chance of exceeding that 2 degree target.
Not accepting the new clause is not to shirk our responsibilities. We recognise that developed countries such as the UK must take a lead in reducing emissions. That was the agreed principle of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is why we have set ambitious targets through the Bill, and why we will be asking the independent Committee on Climate Change to review whether the targets should be tightened further. It is clear that the world will tackle climate change only if we take urgent and ambitious action together. That is why we are introducing the Bill in the first place; we need not apologise for that. To people living in other countries that will probably be damaged far more than the UK, we can proudly say what we are doing through the Bill; it is clear in the Long Title and Clause 1. It is also why we are working hard at international negotiations, including currently at Bali, where the Secretary of State and the team are to launch the negotiations for the post-2012 framework.
The amendments do not capture that important element of the UK’s efforts to tackle global climate change. In addition, significant uncertainties arise from the amendments—I am not nit-picking, but they seek to change primary legislation although I realise that they are in some ways probing—around, for instance, the concept of the UK’s fair share or how we will assess the UK emissions necessary to contribute to a particular level of global temperature. We think it better that there is a clear objective such as the 2050 target—a short number of words set out in the first part of the Bill.
I sympathise with the right reverend Prelate’s efforts to tease out the uncertainties in the relationship, but I am afraid that we cannot accept Amendments Nos. 3, 11A and 14 at this point. The proposals risk cutting across the review of the 2050 target which the Committee on Climate Change will carry out. The review will consider the scientific developments since the royal commission’s report in 2000; I fully accept that it was a long time ago and that things have changed, but that is what we are putting the Committee on Climate Change together for. The committee also has to take account of the wider international context. Amendment No. 3 also risks cutting across the UK’s efforts to secure international consensus. It would determine the UK’s “fair share” of global emissions to 2050 on the basis of the approach known as contraction and convergence, in the absence of international agreement on a different way of allocating the emissions between countries. As your Lordships will be aware, the long-term goal of guiding global action on climate change and how it should be allocated between countries is the subject of complex and delicate international negotiations. It is not a simple question; I am not saying that in a pejorative sense.
The contraction and convergence approach has some attractions, in that it identifies a fixed level of stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations, and that it is based on the idea of comprehensive global participation. However, one key element of any future regime has to be its workability. One concern with contraction and convergence is how globally acceptable, and in consequence how workable, it will prove. A number of other approaches to determine a fair and equitable share are being discussed at international level. Given that there is some way to go in building the consensus within the international community that would be required to agree on a framework for a way forward, it would be premature for the UK Government to commit themselves in law to any framework at this stage. By nailing our colours so firmly to the mast in favour of one approach, we risk undermining our ability to persuade international partners to sign up to any workable approach commensurate with the scale of the challenge.
Amendments Nos. 49 and 142 relate to carbon budgets. Clause 8, which we shall obviously come to in due course, already requires carbon budgets to be set with a view to meeting the 2050 target. That will ensure that, in the committee’s advice on carbon budgets and the Government’s decisions, budgets are set to put the UK on the right trajectory to meet the 2050 target. It is not clear how the amendments will add value to the Bill. The 2050 target provides a clear and defined goal, and the carbon budgets set under the Bill will take us there.
I shall turn briefly to Amendment No. 157—
I will come back to that. I have not said anything that contradicts it; the basis is exactly the same as when it started. As I said, these targets were set some time ago. One of the reasons that the Committee on Climate Change is being put together to review this is to bring the up-to-date science forward so that the Government can make the decisions, with the approval of both Houses. In other words, it is not fixed; otherwise we would not need the Committee on Climate Change. We would be relying on the science of some years ago and targets set more than seven years ago. We are accepting that the science has moved. That is implied, if I have not spelt it out sufficiently—the Government do not seek to gainsay it at all. It is just that the process we have arrived at, in bringing a plan to Parliament, gives us the flexibility—which we will discuss in later clauses—to make the adjustments necessary to take account of the science. I suspect that the science will move in coming years also.
As I have said, we have already announced that we will ask the committee to review the 2050 target and report on whether it should be tightened up to 80 per cent. In this review, the committee will need to look at all the evidence and provide its advice on the appropriate level of the target. It will, of course, include all the scientific developments, nationally and internationally, since the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report in June 2000. The committee’s review of that 2050 target is the appropriate place to look at this kind of question.
I freely admit, as I have said to noble Lords privately and on Second Reading, that in the absence of having the final framework of how the Committee on Climate Change will work and its powers and functions—which will be debated in both Houses—and without knowing the names, stature, background and independence of the individuals, which we are not currently able to say as they have not been interviewed prior to appointment, the House is being asked to agree the basic framework on the basis that we get the rest right. We will know about the functions and powers of the committee if they change as they go through Parliament. By the time we get to Report and Third Reading we will have an idea of the membership, background and calibre of the committee, so that the House can be assured—or otherwise, as the case may be—of what it wants to do about reinforcing the Bill. I am not asking the House to take this on a blind promise. That information will be known at the relevant time.
I am sorry to intervene, and am sympathetic to the complexity of what the Minister has to manage. But it is precisely because the framework is not sufficiently clear that this matter is not just for the Committee on Climate Change. It involves all the other things that I put into the amendment in my name. Can the Minister give me an assurance that the major framework in which we are trying to debate these things will be reflected at the outset of the Bill as it is finally brought to us? That would give many of us in your Lordships’ House confidence that these issues were not just seen as isolated environmental issues but had to do with finance, defence, globalisation and the security and peace of the world as well. That is the reassurance I would seek from the Minister if I were not to press my amendment.
The right reverend Prelate has no need to apologise. Save for one other Bill that I helped to steer through this House just after I became a Member—after the 9/11 catastrophe in the United States—this is the only Bill to touch every department of government. I can assure the right reverend Prelate that while Defra is in the lead—some department has to manage it—the whole of Whitehall is engaged in the Bill. Whitehall is more engaged than it would have been if the Bill had started in the other place because it has received the distilled results and consequences of the Second Reading in your Lordships' House; and the message has gone around that in the Lords this will not wash as it is now. Therefore, some aspects put forward by Members of the Committee will require more flexibility. All the departments mentioned by the right reverend Prelate and others are actively engaged with the Bill team, which is Whitehall-wide, on what we need to do to secure a Bill with which we can all be satisfied. The Committee stage notwithstanding, early in the new year, at Report stage, there will be opportunities to look at what we do with the Bill, including the structure of the Committee on Climate Change, to see whether the House thinks that the Government have got this right.
The Whitehall departments are still engaged with the devolved assemblies. We still have a Scotland Office, a Wales Office and a Northern Ireland Office. These are UK targets and the devolved Administrations are committed to following them. They may have to legislate for this in their own way and that which is reserved to Westminster will be covered in this Bill. We are not legislating for England only; this is the UK's contribution; but the devolved Administrations are fully on board and are actively participating in the discussions on the Bill.
My noble friend referred to the fact that the Committee on Climate Change would consider all the international evidence on the difference between 60 per cent and 80 per cent. Paragraph 45 of the report of the Joint Committee states:
“Bearing in mind however the weight of scientific evidence before the Committee that a target of more than 60% is likely to be necessary”.
To what extent was evidence before the Joint Committee which suggests that the 80 per cent target might be necessary? Has that already been considered in the departments? It would be interesting to know that before the debate on the 60/80 issue.
All I can say to my noble friend is that the Bill refers to at least 60 per cent. There is a strong indication there that the Government accepted that 60 per cent was the minimum and that the desirability was to be above 60 per cent. That is probably an inadequate answer for my noble friend. The fact is that it was considered relevant in Whitehall and among those planning the Bill that the target would be not 60 per cent but at least 60 per cent.
I thank the Minister for going through the Government’s view of this new clause in great detail and the other amendments in the group. I return to the understanding of temperatures in the past and their variability. I am sympathetic with the many Members of the Committee who spoke about the habit of statisticians who talk about great accuracy in statistics when there is none. There is considerable research about these temperatures and there is sufficient evidence on which we can rely. Our own Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology’s publication on climate change science states:
“Over the last 100 years the global mean surface temperature has warmed 0.74oC ± 0.18oC, although there is significant regional variability”.
We all understand that there are limitations, but that shows that we can have confidence—as much as we can in any climate change science—about the figures that we are discussing. Indeed, we risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater if we start to question the numbers that the Bill is based upon. The Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill, chaired so well by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, went through so much of this so that both Houses could assure themselves that the figures were correct.
I return to the amendments. I agree with many of the comments by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, particularly those in his second intervention. There is a great need for clarity in the Bill. The fact that something has not been done before in UK domestic legislation should not put us off doing something special here, as the Bill is very special. Therefore, we owe it to have clarity. We are asking the Committee on Climate Change to consider revising the specific targets in the Bill, so it is important to have that context and objective in the Bill. That is why the argument for having 2 degrees centigrade in the Bill, and at the beginning, remains important. We will wish to pursue this, but for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.]
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement on the Children’s Plan made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary for State for Children, Schools and Families. The Statement is as follows:
“The first ever Children’s Plan, which we are publishing today, follows months of consultation with parents, teachers, professionals, and children and young people themselves, up and down the country.
“Over the last 10 years, the lives of children have improved. School standards are up and child poverty is down, while we have many more outstanding schools and many fewer failing schools. However, following our detailed consultations, the results of which I have laid before the House, I have concluded that we need further reforms to deliver a world-class education for every child; that we must do more to prevent children falling behind or failing to fulfil their potential because of learning difficulties, poverty or disadvantage; and that, while there are more opportunities for young people today than ever before, families want more help to manage the new pressures that they face in balancing work and family life, in dealing with the internet and modern commercialism and in letting children play while staying safe.
“The Children’s Plan is our response. First, Mr Speaker, there are new measures to support the learning of every child. The early years are critical. So as we raise the entitlement to free nursery care for all three and four year-olds from 12 to 15 hours, we will now allocate over £200 million over the next three years to ensure that young children get the highest-quality care in their early years, with at least two graduates in nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas, and we will extend the offer of free nursery places to 20,000 two year-olds in the most disadvantaged communities.
“School standards are rising, but I want to accelerate the improvement. I have therefore asked Sir Jim Rose to undertake a root-and-branch review of the primary curriculum to create more space for teaching the basics—English and maths, with a foreign language in all primary schools—and to ensure that all children start secondary school with the personal skills to succeed. If our Making Good Progress trials are successful, we will implement ‘stage not age’ testing nationally—the biggest reform to national curriculum assessment since its creation.
“To back our teachers, I am today allocating £44 million over the next three years so that all new teachers will be able to study for a masters-level qualification, and to establish a new Future Leaders programme to bring even more talented people into teaching.
“Supporting parents is central to this Children’s Plan. In future, every parent will have a record of their child’s development and education through the early years and into primary school, and the Minister for Schools will consult parents and schools over the next few months, and legislate if necessary, to ensure that every child has a personal tutor who stays with them as they progress through secondary school; every parent receives up-to-date information about their child’s progress, attendance and behaviour, using ‘real time’ reporting and new technologies such as mobile phones or the internet; and, so that parents know what they can expect, how they will be consulted and how they can express concerns and complaints, every secondary school will have a parents’ council.
“Parents also want earlier intervention if their child falls behind. Alongside one-to-one support for reading and maths at primary school and our new Every Child a Writer programme, I am allocating £18 million over the next three years to improve initial teacher training about special educational needs and to find new ways of identifying dyslexia earlier. Following the Bercow review, Ofsted will lead a full review into our special education needs provision in 2009.
“In our consultation, head teachers told us that schools need more support from other services to tackle all barriers to learning. Today, one in 10 children has a diagnosed mental health problem, but schools repeatedly say how hard it is to get the CAMHS children’s mental health service to engage with them early enough. So I have agreed with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health that we will launch a review of CAMHS to investigate how it can work better with schools and to identify where early support is most needed. Our two departments will also produce the first ever child health strategy in the spring.
“We will also enhance inspection across schools and children’s services and examine whether children’s trusts arrangements need to be strengthened, including through further legislation if necessary. To further improve services for parents and to enable better early intervention, we will publish new guidance for Building Schools for the Future to ensure that, where possible, schools are designed with other services—health, police, social care, advice and welfare services—collocated with them. Because schools must be sustainable for our children and their children, we will now set a new ambition that all new schools will be zero-carbon by 2016.
“With the reforms that I have announced to the House to tackle failing and coasting schools, to expand the academies and trusts programme, to raise the education leaving age to 18 and to introduce new diplomas, this Children’s Plan sets us on course to deliver ambitious, long-term goals for a world-class education for every child.
“Discipline in schools is essential for raising standards. We have given teachers new powers to tackle bad behaviour and 97 per cent of schools are now in behaviour partnerships, co-ordinating behaviour and exclusions policy, which Sir Alan Steer’s report recommended should include all schools by 2008. I am minded to implement that recommendation and I am now asking Sir Alan to assess progress on all his proposals and to make recommendations in the spring. We will also strengthen the regulation of pupil referral units, improve the quality of provision and pilot a range of alternatives, including this being one role for studio schools.
“To break cycles of reoffending among young people, the Home Secretary and I are together allocating £66 million over the next three years to target support at young people most at risk of getting into crime. As we prepare our youth crime action plan, we will reform the education and resettlement of young offenders and pilot the use of restorative justice from April 2008.
“Our consultation reports that, although parents are clear that it is their job to bring up their families, they want more information and support to help them to keep their children safe and healthy. Our Children’s Plan includes provision of £167 million over the next three years to fund two new expert parenting advisers in every local authority area, expand family learning, support young carers and deliver new support for families with disabled children.
“Dr Tanya Byron is investigating the potential risks to children from harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games and will report next March. In the spring, we will make proposals on young people and alcohol and investigate how the huge increase in commercial activity, advertising and marketing aimed specifically at children and young people is affecting their well-being.
“I have two further announcements. In our consultation, children and young people told us that they want more places in which to play and interesting things to do outside school and that they want to be recognised for their achievements.
“Earlier this year, the Minister for Children set out our 10-year strategy for young people, with an ambition of new youth facilities and places for young people to go in every constituency of the country, funded by proceeds from unclaimed assets and new investment from my department. However, I want us to start transforming youth services now. So, prior to the unclaimed assets legislation taking effect, we will invest an additional £160 million over the next two years to develop high-quality youth facilities for young people, shaped by young people themselves. This could mean 50 new state-of-the-art youth centres, 500 refurbished youth centres or more than 2,000 smaller-scale centres, including mobile units. The funding will be available for every part of the country starting in April and I urge all honourable Members to start working with young people, the voluntary sector and their local community to draw up local plans.
“Finally, to help parents to keep their children safe while they are playing outside, I can also announce that we will launch a new national play strategy early next year. To make this a reality, and starting next April, we will build 30 safe and supervised adventure play parks in disadvantaged areas. With a total investment of £225 million over the next three years, we will also be able to build or upgrade more than 3,500 play areas across the country—an average of 23 per local authority and seven per constituency, the largest government investment in children’s play in our history.
“With schools, children’s services, the voluntary sector and the Government all playing their full part and meeting their responsibilities, and with the £1 billion over the next three years that we are allocating to meet our Children’s Plan commitments, we can unlock the talents and promote the health and happiness of all children, and not just some; back parents as they meet their responsibilities to bring up their children; and intervene early so that no child or young person is left to fall behind. Making our country the best place in the world for children to grow up is the mission of this Government and of this Children’s Plan”.
My Lords, I commend the Statement to the House.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement on the 10-year Children’s Plan. We have been strong advocates over the years of much of what this wide-reaching programme seeks to deliver. We have studied many of the issues in our own childhood review, which we completed earlier this year. As my honourable friend Michael Gove said, improving children’s lives and closing the gap between rich and poor are vital. Therefore, there are elements of the plan that we welcome. However, if we really want to engage with parents and if we want higher standards so that our children can reach their full potential, we have to recognise that some of the plan’s recommendations are gimmicky and demonstrate poverty of aspiration.
We discussed many of the issues in our excellent debate on education on Thursday. Some of the themes in the plan—advertising to children, the sexualisation of young girls, risk and adventure for young people and safe play—are massive subjects in their own right. It would be impossible to cover them all today, but I see many rich veins for future debates.
I would like to say how pleased I am that the Secretary of State, Mr Balls, has recognised what we have always known: that my noble friend Lady Thatcher is a role model that we should all be proud of. On the basis that spice means interest, excitement, zing, zest and pizzazz, Margaret Thatcher was the original spice girl.
We have always believed in affordable, good-quality childcare. It is quite right that it should be as accessible to those in our most deprived areas as it is to those in our most affluent. That is why we supported the Government over the Childcare Bill last year and why we appreciate the extension of free entitlement to the most underprivileged two year-olds. However, we have some concerns and some questions.
I am sure that the Minister would agree that Sure Start has disappointed in many areas and has failed to reach the very children whom it was designed to help. How will this improve for two year-olds? Has there been an impact assessment on how it will affect the private and voluntary sector providers? The establishment of free provision for three year-olds and four year-olds was a destabilising factor. If the Government are genuine about wishing to work with the private and voluntary sectors, this is a vital issue.
Another concern is that what is right for a child of two years and, say, eight months may not be right for a child who has just turned two, especially in areas such as attachment. Once again, I want to raise our worries over the early years foundation stage, about which experts and parents alike now question whether the Government know what is best for children. Where is the room for different approaches?
I welcome the commitment to a review of CAMHS and how it can work with schools but, with one in 10 of our children suffering from a diagnosed mental health problem and the poor access that so many have to CAMHS, this review is long overdue. We also welcome the extra help for disabled children.
Our main concerns with this plan concern education. The 10-year plan comes only three and a half years after the Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners, which heralded reform and ambitious targets to be reached by 2008. We were told by the Government that they would have,
“reached and sustained our literacy and numeracy targets of 85 percent of children reaching the expected level at the age of 11”.
The reality is that this target was missed and has now been dropped in favour of a target of 78 per cent of pupils reaching the required level by 2011. This is set against a background of the recent PIRLS study, which showed that since 2001 England had plummeted from third to 19th in the international reading literacy table with only Morocco and Romania seeing sharper declines. Is the Minister happy that by setting a target of 78 per cent of pupils reaching the expected level, the Government are effectively saying to two out of every 10 parents that they are prepared to see their children fail?
The Government have said that they wish to include parents more in the education of their children. Who could disagree with that? One of the ways in which they envisage doing that is through regular e-mail contact, which is fine as far as it goes, but it is not the answer to failing standards. The single most important way to get parents involved is to give them real power; that is, the power to take their child out of a failing school and into a school of their choice, so that schools are properly accountable to parents. In 2005-06, 79,000 appeals were made against school place allocations; 58,000 failed and those children ended up in schools to which their parents did not want them to go. What makes it worse is that this failure to meet demand for good school places is concentrated in deprived areas: of the 58,000 children refused a place in their preferred school at appeal, more than 50 per cent—nearly 32,000—were in the 25 per cent of local authorities with the highest levels of deprivation in England.
Schools play an important part in the community and it is important that parents feel part of that community. That is already happening in our best schools. But first and foremost our schools should be a place where our children learn and where we prepare them to take their place in society as well rounded individuals.
We all want the best for our children and yet the Children’s Society found in its excellent work on childhood that the most important area for children was a happy home life where they spent time together as part of a family, an area not mentioned today. I worry that the Government have sent so many confusing messages to parents that either parents are scared of doing things in case they do the wrong thing or they feel that they need not bother because the state is doing it all. We should be empowering parents to help to unlock their children’s talents and we should be very careful not to stand in their shoes.
My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I regret the fact that we do not have the original Spice Girl on our Benches but I bet you we have a Scary, a Posh and—what are the other ones? We certainly have a Sporty. In this House we do less political grandstanding and more scrutiny and I intend to focus very carefully on the Statement and ask quite a lot of questions. If I ask for further clarification that does not mean that we do not welcome every single extra pound, or particularly every million pounds that the Government are going to spend on children, and the additional focus and outside expertise that the Government are bringing in to inform their policy-making. That we all welcome. In general, though, top-down policies will not work and so some of my questions will be to find out how much is being decided locally and how much is being determined by the Government from Whitehall.
I agree with the Minister that the early years are critical. We welcome that the Government are providing enough money for at least two graduates in nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas but will the Minister confirm that the Government will not specify how many graduates will have to be provided? That should be for local decision-making. I also welcome the extra nursery places for another 20,000 two year-olds but, as my honourable friend David Laws in another place said, one must put that in the context of there being 650,000 children in that age group. How is this going to be done? A two year-old is very close to its parent, and should be. The Government run the risk of being called a nanny state if nursery provision says, “We are going to take your children away from you at the age of two. We know better how to do it”. Perhaps the Minister could say a little more about how the parents of two year-olds will be involved in helping children to develop with expert advice.
I, too, question the need for another root and branch review of the primary curriculum and wonder what the Minister envisages being taken out to allow more space for teaching the basics. Children already spend over 50 per cent of their time on English and maths. I welcome the concentration on personal and social education but I have some concerns about the evaluation of the SEAL programme and whether the teachers doing that evaluation are actually best equipped to do it. Does the Minister agree that before reading, the child must develop adequate listening and speaking skills? Parents play a crucial role in language development so can we not include that as a priority for all health visitors and in all government-sponsored parenting programmes? I agree with the Minister that partnership and multidisciplinary working are crucial to early identification and intervention, but the training stage of all professionals is the most appropriate time for the Government to intervene. Ministers should ensure that professionals who work with children are trained to understand other professionals’ areas and how and when to bring them into play to work with them, and not take over the decisions that those professionals should be taking themselves.
What are the Government doing about this? Speech and language fall between health and education, and although it is great to hear that the Minister is working with his counterpart in health, what in the plan will support the estimated 1.2 million children who have a communication disability, particularly the 50 per cent of children in some parts of the UK who are arriving at primary school without the speech and language skills required to learn? This involves people working together. That is why I welcome what the Minister said about the Building Schools for the Future programme, as it is quite certain from my visits to certain special schools that the collocation of professionals really helps them in multidisciplinary working. I certainly welcome the £18 million that the Minister has announced for initial teacher training in special educational needs, but what about continuous professional development for existing staff? Most members of the teaching workface are already in work. Will the Minister say what will be done about them? The review into special educational needs provision, which the Minister mentioned, will undoubtedly discover that there are major unmet needs. Will he commit to funding for the needs that are discovered?
I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, about the problem with CAMHS. The Minister said that the Government will investigate how they can work better with schools to identify where early support is most needed, but does he not recognise that quantity and quality also need to be considered to fulfil the need for CAMHS treatment? Can he give us a little more detail about the Children’s Trust arrangements that he envisaged, which may need to be strengthened through legislation? On the powers to tackle bad behaviour, will the Minister confirm that the Government will concentrate on the positive activities in Sir Alan Steer’s report and not concentrate simply on the punitive in relation to children’s behaviour?
Lastly, the Minister mentioned £167 million for new parenting advisers in every local authority area. Will these advisers be health visitors? The Minister will know very well that I am a great fan of health visitors, particularly because they are a universal service and carry no stigma. Can he tell the House how they will be involved in this programme?
My Lords, I am very grateful to both noble Baronesses for their broadly supportive welcome for the Children’s Plan. I sense that they are both trying to set themselves up as the Spice Baronesses. I shall not volunteer them for particular roles in that regard, but I am sure that Members of the House will be glad to take offers. We could even set up an adjudication panel for later, as I sense that the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, in particular is keen to steal my right honourable friend’s limelight, and perhaps even the limelight of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, whom we are sad not to see in her place this afternoon.
As I said, I was particularly glad that the two noble Baronesses supported the broad thrust of the Children’s Plan: the importance of improving children’s lives; the importance of supporting parents—although we recognise that the prime responsibility for bringing up children must of course reside with the parents, who need help, information and support, and parents in more deprived circumstances need a great deal more support than others; and the importance of narrowing the gap between the affluent and the poor. The latter has been a consistent strand of government policy in the past 10 years, and we need to take that further forward.
The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was in acute danger of becoming party political in a less productive sense when she said that the proposals were gimmicky or lacking in ambition in many places. I was not quite sure which proposals she thought were gimmicky or lacking in ambition. Did she think that the 3,000 new or upgraded play centres are gimmicky or lacking in ambition, or the £160 million spent on new facilities, the expert parent advisers in every local authority area, the 20,000 new nursery places for two year-olds in disadvantaged areas, the expansion of short breaks for the parents of disabled children, the new masters qualification for all new teachers or the ITT training for teachers in special educational needs? I could go on. There is nothing gimmicky or lacking in ambition in the Children's Plan. It is a whole set of interlocking measures that will substantially improve the support available to parents and schools in the raising of children. I look forward to her support on the specific measures as we roll them out.
The noble Baroness asked a whole series of questions about schools and I will address myself particularly to those because, as Minister for Schools, they are causes that are within my own direct area of responsibility. She asked me straight out whether we were happy that, among 11 year-olds, two out of 10 of them are not up to the standard expected of their age in literacy and numeracy. I tell her absolutely straightforwardly that we are not happy with that situation. The number and proportion of 11 year-olds reaching the standard expected of their age has risen very substantially in the past 10 years. There are now 100,000 more 11 year-olds reaching level 4 in English than was the case 10 years ago, which is a 17 percentage point improvement.
We have seen significant improvements, but we are not satisfied with the status quo and we wish to see it improve further. That is why, for example, two years ago we appointed the Rose review. Sir Jim Rose recommended to us that best practice in the teaching of reading included much more systematic use of synthetic phonics. We are in the process of implementing that recommendation at the moment. The new letters and sounds materials, which exemplify Sir Jim’s recommendations, have gone out to every primary school in the country. We have changed the national curriculum to give primacy to synthetic phonics, and Sir Jim Rose himself, who is an acknowledged expert in the whole area of the primary curriculum, is leading the primary curriculum review that we announced today.
Sir Peter Williams, an eminent mathematician, is leading the review into mathematics teaching, which will also report in the spring, to see how we can improve the quality of teaching in that area. Therefore, I do not believe that we have been slow in taking forward the measures that are necessary to reach those two in 10 who have not been achieving the level expected of their age in literacy and numeracy.
In respect of failing and successful schools, where the noble Baroness raised the issue of too many schools underperforming, here again there has been a substantial improvement over the past 10 years. The number of seriously underperforming schools below the 25 per cent baseline figure of five or more good GCSEs has fallen from more than 600 in 1997 to less than 30 this year. We actually raised the baseline targets that we set to 30 per cent including English and maths, so we are much more ambitious for our schools as a whole. The number of successful schools is therefore improving.
We have been very robust in the setting up of new schools in areas where the schools are not good enough at the moment. We debated that at length last week when I set out the progress that we are making in the improvement of underperforming schools and in the establishment of new academies, of which I know that the noble Baroness has been supportive. I do not believe that we are lacking ambition at all in this area. Our ambition is that every community in the country should have outstanding primary and secondary schools and that every parent should have the opportunity to choose a good school for their child. That led us to take some radical and controversial decisions about school organisation, which we have debated in the past two years, to make that possible. It is also backed up by a capital programme for schools now running at £6 billion a year up from a capital programme of barely £600 million a year 10 years ago. Therefore, the investment necessary to create these new schools is also there and that is making possible the reforms that are described.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked me about the importance that we were giving to collocation, which she rightly recognised as crucial in improving the relationship between special educational needs provision and mainstream provision. Collocation and promoting proposals for collocation are at the heart of the Building Schools for the Future programme. Area by area, as BSF is being rolled out, proposals are coming forward for the enhancement of special educational needs provision in mainstream schools with, for example, the building of dedicated units in particular areas of special educational need but also for the collocation of special schools with mainstream schools so that the expertise can be shared between the two institutions. This is a central theme of BSF.
The noble Baroness asked about the 20,000 places we are providing for two year-olds and how these would be selected. Let me make it absolutely clear that this will be done only with the consent of parents; it will be parent-led. We will not be seeking to oblige children to spend time in nursery classes at the age of two without their parents’ consent. Of course, as an increasing proportion of parents now develop strong links with their children’s centres from the birth of their children, we expect there to be demand to increase that number over time, and to have no difficulty in filling the places.
The noble Baroness asked about the two parenting advisers planned for each area. We see health visitors as having a role in the provision of these parenting advisers, but do not believe that they will all be health visitors. We will seek a balanced recruitment of professionals who offer expertise in this area. On the review of special educational needs, we will seek to meet unmet needs. I should flag up that, for example, we have announced £330 million of extra provision for disabled young children, including a big national scheme for short breaks, so we are investing significantly in this area. Communications weaknesses and difficulties among children need addressing. We have the Bercow review; we will look at whether additional investment is needed in this area.
The behaviour partnerships referred to in the Statement are not punitive at all. Their main focus is to see that there is proper provision in each area, through co-operative activity between schools, for children who are excluded from school, so that they are not out of the system. The schools themselves may perfectly appropriately have had to exclude pupils in certain instances, but should then make collective provision for them. This is much better than the existing provision, and will both enhance the quality of their education and make it easier to reintegrate the children afterwards. I hope that that answers most of the questions, but I will respond in writing to the others.
My Lords, we all welcome the opening words of this Children’s Plan:
“The Children’s Plan aims to make England”—
extending that to the whole of the United Kingdom—
“the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up”.
That is a great objective, but it is a long-term objective—a 10-year objective for progress. Our most valuable service to education will be to reach a consensus on the way forward. An election is not far off. Schools will value us more if we can reach a consensus on these issues. As for the general thrust, I have not had time to study the plan in detail, but I very much welcome the emphasis placed on helping those who need the most help in education. Without that help, we are heading for the most serious social problems, which are bad enough already. We will reap the whirlwind unless we implement the kind of measures that we see here.
I want to make three points in detail; I will be brief about it. First, I notice with pleasure, echoing the Prime Minister’s words in his speech to the merchants and bankers of the City of London in the summer, that a foreign language is placed alongside English and maths as a basic. That is a major statement. I look forward to seeing the work that Jim Rose will do on how to implement this. I hope very much that the Government can implement it in September 2010, as recommended in the report to which I was party.
Secondly, taking the test when one is ready would mean that some key stage 2 children would take it after progression to secondary school. That will make sense only if they get real help to advance well and real support to reach the standard that is expected of them. The whole point is to identify and to give help. I hope that the Government will commit to that.
Thirdly, in paragraph 3.129, which deals with helping summer-born children, one sentence puzzles me:
“Research evidence suggests that allowing all children in the year group to begin at the same time (the September of the year they turn 5) has the most positive impact as it allows summer-born children to receive the same amount of full-time schooling as their peers”.
I cannot see why, if these children defer a year, they should nevertheless not get the same schooling as other children. They do not have to leave school early; they can have their full ration. I am not trying to argue with the policy. I particularly welcome the proposal that Sir Jim Rose should look into this, but that one sentence puzzles me.
Generally speaking, I wish this well. I hope that we will get into the detail at a later stage and make it something that will command respect and support across the House.
My Lords, this is one of the few statements of forward policy that I have made to the House that does not involve the setting-up of a review or a committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. His excitement at the prospect of not having to conduct another review is palpable. However, the plan takes forward the recommendations of his last important review on the teaching of modern foreign languages. As he rightly says, how the teaching of modern foreign languages is provided for in primary schools will be a key feature of Sir Jim Rose’s review. We will look to see how we can implement the commitment that we gave in the primary review that we would seek to make the teaching of modern foreign languages mandatory in primary schools.
In respect of summer-born children, which is becoming a constant theme of the noble Lord’s interventions, he is right that paragraph 3.129 of the plan mentions the positive impact of allowing summer-born children to receive the same amount of full-time schooling as their peers, but I am glad to say that it is followed by paragraph 3.130, which states that Sir Jim Rose will consider this issue and, in particular,
“whether it would be appropriate to allow greater flexibility in start dates”.
I encourage the noble Lord to speak to Sir Jim Rose directly about this, because there are not many people in the country who know more about it than he does. He and a group of researchers at the Institute for Fiscal Studies are serious experts on this issue, but there are not many others. I am sure that he and the noble Lord would have a productive conversation.
As regards pupils sitting tests when they are ready rather than on the set dates regardless of readiness, the noble Lord is right that such a step would require substantial and proper support. Big issues are raised about how it would be implemented in practice. That is why we are piloting single-level tests sat at two points in the year, with teachers entering pupils for them when they believe that the children are ready. This pilot is taking place in more than 400 schools and we intend to evaluate the results before we make firm commitments on how we proceed.
My Lords, these Benches reflect the views given by our two spice Baronesses. This is a case very much of a yes but one or two buts. I wish to make three points. First, the curriculum needs to be looked at. However, as the parent of two teachers, I can hear them groaning in the distance, “More change. Where is the stability?”. What about the Cambridge-led review of testing on which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, asked an Oral Question two weeks ago? I should register what we all know to be the case: that it will be mighty difficult to win over many teachers to a complete overhaul of the curriculum, even though parts of it need to be looked at.
My second point concerns that big word “resources”. I suppose that in broad terms we on these Benches represent the voluntary sector, or part of the voluntary sector. We all know that to put right what is amiss in childhood will be a long haul, not a quick fix. In some other areas, although not necessarily in education, the Government have a habit of throwing money at the community. I refer to the National Health Service as, I hope, an ex-patient. In the National Heath Service you will come across areas where lots of money is spent, and overspent, but other areas where it is underspent. That leads me to emphasise that the voluntary sector is increasingly under pressure as things are devolved to it that the statutory bodies can no longer afford to carry out. What about these drop-in centres that we hear about? Research has been carried out on parents whose experience of education has not been favourable. How will they take to these drop-in centres?
My final point brings us back to one made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, about family life. This is a minefield, but it is important. Right next to our house in Fareham, there is a lollipop lady, to whom I am married. She functions twice a day and I sometimes look at her clientele. We need to redefine family in terms of the extended family. It is very often grandparents who are doing the ferrying because parents are working. We all know that there are other more radical ways in which the family can be redefined, in terms of gender and so on. However, I want the importance of the family to be underlined. Perhaps, in the past, the church has overemphasised the family. I know that family life is not for everyone and that families can destroy people, but it is important that we underline and recognise the centrality of the family in society.
My Lords, I greatly welcome and agree entirely with the right reverend Prelate’s remarks about the importance of both the family and the voluntary sector and about seeing that the latter is able to access new resources on a level playing field, which we are anxious it should do. I also agree with his remarks about the curriculum. He is quite right that one needs to combine the necessary stability with a review of areas that need to change. I assure him that that will be the case, because the person whom we have appointed to conduct the review is Sir Jim Rose, who led the review on the teaching of reading two years ago and who is an expert adviser to Sir Peter Williams’s review on the teaching of mathematics in primary school; he is a long-standing expert on primary education, as the right reverend Prelate knows. With his wisdom being brought to bear on the review, there is no danger of our introducing policies that do not have a necessary degree of continuity with other recent changes to the primary curriculum.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement today and congratulate my noble friend and his colleagues on it. The plan is ambitious. There is a welcome shift of focus from the policy that we have had in the past five years. Never have I read a Green Paper where implementation is going to be more challenging but where, if we get it right, there are real opportunities to transform life chances for the many children whom we have not succeeded with so far. A couple of things are particularly welcome. First, I very much welcome the masters degrees for those new to teaching. I would welcome further correspondence and engagement with the Minister on that. On modern foreign languages, does he envisage that this will be compulsory rather than available in the primary school curriculum? Has he made up his mind on that?
I have three genuine questions to probe a little behind the Minister’s thinking. First, on testing, I am not one who thinks that primary school is overtested. One externally set test between the ages of five and 11 is not overburdensome. There is not a lot to be lost in that respect if the required grade at age 11 is not obtained. How will the proposals affect the reporting of results for parents and the wider public, so that we will be able to continue to compare school with school and to identify those schools that need extra support to raise standards? Secondly, in saying that we want to find more time for English and maths in the curriculum, we must ensure that we do not give a message that the arts, creativity, sports, the humanities and the sciences are not valued between the ages of five and 11. Finally, will my noble friend give a clear message to teachers that their role remains teaching and learning in the classroom? Almost the biggest danger of this Green Paper is that teachers might choose to take on some of the wider responsibilities that ought to fall to other professionals. If we ensure that their focus continues to be on teaching and learning, with other professionals coming in behind them, that might give us the best chance of success.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, who speaks with great authority in this area. She is right that there is a big implementation challenge with the various measures set out in the plan. We will be saying more about that over the coming months.
Let me deal with the points that my noble friend raised. She is absolutely right to highlight the significance of introducing masters degrees into education in a systematic way. This is a serious process of learning from international best practice. Over recent years, I and many of my colleagues have visited Finland and other Scandinavian countries, where masters courses are widely available; indeed, in Finland, they are now generally undertaken by teachers. It is hard not to make a connection between the degree of professionalism that is brought to the training and to the updating of skills in Finland and the success that Finnish schools achieve. Although we have said that this will be in the first instance an opportunity for newly qualifying teachers, I hope that we will be in a position to extend that in due course. I am very attracted to the idea that continuing professional development, which we rightly expect of our teachers, should, where they wish it, take the form of study and project work that leads to a higher-level degree. That would also help to raise the esteem and attractiveness of the teaching profession, if we can carry it through.
My noble friend is right to highlight the importance of comparable statistics on the performance of schools. I entirely agree with her comments on testing in schools; it is not overburdensome to have one externally assessed national test between the ages of five and 11. It is our intention with the new single-level tests, if they are introduced, that we will still have reporting on a comparable basis, school by school, of the proportion achieving at each of the levels. Although the pupils may sit the tests at different times and will sit the tests at single levels, rising up the levels as their capability advances, we expect to see the results reported level by level, school by school.
On the curriculum, I entirely agree with her that arts, creativity, sport and humanities are all vital. In my experience, those schools that are best at teaching children the basics also tend to do best in developing the arts and creativity. Like my noble friend, I entirely reject the notion that having a solid grounding in the basics, school by school, including proper catch-up support if necessary and one-to-one support for those children who are falling behind, as we also highlight in the Children’s Plan, is in any way antipathetic to the development of the arts, creativity, sports and the humanities, which we also want to see as a central part of the work of our primary schools.
My Lords, I am sure that we all recognise that the noble Lord has a most encouraging understanding of what goes on in schools, which must be a great encouragement to teachers. Does he realise the effect on staff of change and of sheaves of paper arriving on desks and hours spent deciding how to implement change? Can he assure us, with his understanding of these things, that the absolute maximum amount may be left to the school to decide how to implement these changes? This is a very important point. If a school decides how to implement change, it is far more enthusiastic and it will work better. I am sure that the former Secretary of State for Education, who has just spoken, would agree with that. That seems very important. As a small illustration of that point, there is the business of doing the right thing about carbon efficiency. If a school thinks about this, it might well decide that people will not always teach in shirt sleeves and that the temperature of the school can be reduced. If it is told to do that, it will not do it, but if it decides for itself to do it, that is a great help. That is a simple point. If the school decides how to involve parents, it would do it so much better.
On youth work, it is marvellous news that the Government are at last seeing that what happened in the 1960s was helpful and that a bit more concentration on thinking about where young people go and what they do in the evenings is very important. My experience on education committees goes back a long way. I remember those great and helpful days, and a lot can be done in that direction. I hope that the Government will not feel that they have got to do this through the public sector. The right reverend Prelate reminded us—and the Minister gave an encouraging reply—that voluntary organisations will come into this. There is still huge expertise in the private sector in informal youth work and that expertise can be built on. Some money going in will help enormously. Relaxing how people become youth workers would also help. There is so much suspicion about what youth workers might be like that lots of people are put off. I am sure that the Minister knows that, as it is an important area.
Lastly, how is this going to be paid for? Will the Minister’s department have to move money out of one area and into another? Given the prognostications about the economy for the next few years, funding is going to be tight.
My Lords, the investments that I announced in the Statement are additional to published plans. They are all based on firm allocations from the Treasury. We have the cheque and it has been cashed. I assure the noble Baroness that there is no danger of the investments being clawed back.
I entirely endorse what the noble Baroness said about the importance of the private and voluntary sectors in youth work. I did not have time to respond to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. The private and voluntary sectors also play a crucial role in the provision of under-fives services. There has been some dispute about how local authorities manage that role but, local authority by local authority, the private and voluntary sectors are a key provider. We wish to see their role in under-fives provision flourish, including in the extension of provision to two year-olds that I announced in the Statement.
In my experience as a Minister, the attitude of schools to change and the degree of enthusiasm with which they implement it depends on whether they like the changes. Schools are not against change per se, but they want to be fully consulted and engaged in the process of change. A key point about change in the education system in recent years has been that, as in so many other areas of life, power tends to follow money. The overwhelming bulk of funding in the education system is now devolved directly to schools, thanks to changes brought about by this Government and the previous Government. Comparatively little is now held by education authorities. That means that schools, head teachers, staff and governors are in a central and powerful position in determining policy on the ground, because they control the purse strings.
Climate Change Bill [HL]
House again in Committee.
Clause 1 [The target for 2050]:
4: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “Secretary of State” and insert “Prime Minister”
The noble Lord said: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 19, 65, 79, 88 as well; each is substantially in the same spirit as Amendment No. 4. Many noble Lords have stated that the Bill is unique, and therefore sets a precedent. I am sure that the Minister will say that it is the convention that securing the target and being responsible for it being met is dealt with by the Secretary of State of whichever department is in charge of the target. However, as the Minister said on the previous group of amendments, the problem is that this issue touches every department. From Defra to the Ministry of Defence, there is not a department that will not have to deal with it in a ministerial capacity and, on an individual basis, each department will have to look carefully at how it deals with its carbon allocation and reduces it.
We are talking about a 60 per cent reduction at the moment; further amendments propose an 80 per cent reduction of carbon dioxins from the 1990 levels. We should not underestimate the complexity of reaching that level. It is a 60 or 80 per cent reduction not just in the generation of electricity but in the use of carbon for every one of us—individually and personally—every company in the country and every department. That will be extremely difficult, because it will cover everything—flights, transportation, heating, lighting, the way we build and manage our homes, and the type of food we eat and where it comes from.
The issue should not be looked at just in this country. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the first carbon war, in Darfur, although some other regions have been affected. John Howard might be the first prime ministerial casualty, as the election in Australia was fought on the basis of the drought. The fundamental underlying feature of that drought was climate change, which brought about its severity. Is it conceivable that a Secretary of State—at the moment, I believe that it is the Secretary of State from Defra, but the Minister can say whether it could move to another department—will have the clout and ability to impose incredibly strict and harsh limits and regimes on every aspect of government and individual life? That will not be the case. The buck has to stop with the Prime Minister.
It will not be too long before each Prime Minister who comes into office will be judged to a degree by a significant proportion of the electorate on their ability to reduce carbon and mitigate the effects of climate change, which will become all too apparent for every one of us. We only have to look at the summer, when the Environment Agency became the fifth emergency service, defending infrastructure such as electricity stations, to see how each department will have to come to the fore. Of course, we have just had a Statement on schooling. I was at a meeting last night discussing the Severn barrage with a large company that deals with large contracts. The point made clearly to me was that the worst culprit of any client in thinking about mitigating the amount of carbon in any project at the moment was the Government. The cultural change has to take place from top to bottom, and only the Prime Minister can achieve that aim.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, raised this issue at Second Reading as one of concern to the Conservative Benches. I very much hope that they will support the amendment, and that it will command consensus throughout the Committee. I beg to move.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on the amendment. I raised the point at Second Reading. There are a number of reasons why the Prime Minister ought to be the person responsible. The noble Lord said that the issue covered every department. Of course he is right, but the most recent figures—those of 2005—regarding the share of carbon emissions from each sector show that energy industries produced 37.4 per cent, road transport 21.6 per cent, other industries 17.8 per cent and residential 14.9 per cent. If a department is to be in charge of climate change, it ought to be the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, not Defra.
There is another reason. We had a debate about agriculture last week, and I raised a couple of issues then. One is that Defra is still not trusted fully by the farming community. It has not got back to the level of trust and support that it had once. For that department to be put in charge of climate change is wrong. The second issue is the pressure that Defra is under. During the debate, I asked the Minister about the number of staff changes. I understand that there will be 300 redundancies; the best people are leaving Defra. I did not get a reply to any of my questions. Perhaps now would be a good chance for the Minister to tell us what the future of Defra is. How many staff will it lose? What incentives are there to retain the best people? How many people will be committed to the climate change division? What is the effect on other parts of his department?
That is a major thing. Perhaps Defra is capable, but if it is not and cannot give all the resources needed to make this Bill work, then it is far better that the Prime Minister takes the reins right at the beginning, and that we are absolutely clear about that.
Although I have already indicated why this is important, there is another feature worth consideration. Whenever I go into a school, issues about the future of the world are at the top of the agenda of the people who want to talk to me. It is not purely a local issue for them. If the Prime Minister were to acknowledge this and accept some responsibility publicly, he would score enormously highly with those teenagers who will have to live with the consequences of what we decide. They probably mind about it much more than any of the rest of us. They are invested in it in a remarkable way, both in intellectual appreciation of what must be done and their persistence in holding to account those whom they think might be able to do something about it. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is not in his place to hear me say this. It would be an enormously important signal to the young of the country if the Prime Minister were persuaded that this was an important part of what he should personally head up.
I am pleased to speak to the amendments. Once again, although there is some difference in detail, there is strong agreement upon them. Some are jointly tabled by the Liberal Democrats and ourselves, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has suggested that he has a similar approach.
I emphasise that we are not seeking to remove the responsibility of the Secretaries of State of Defra or any other government department. Amendments Nos. 65, 79 and 88, to which we have put our name, serve a specific purpose: to put the Prime Minister in pole position on particular issues. The first is for him to read the annual report of the Committee on Climate Change and present it to Parliament. Similarly, the final statement of the budgetary period should be presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister. The final 2050 statement should also be presented by the Prime Minister to Parliament for approval. The reason behind this, as has been said by other noble Lords, is that climate change is a cross-departmental issue. It must be considered where all policy decisions are being made, not just in Defra. The brief of the Secretary of State for Defra is simply not broad enough given the magnitude of the issue. The only person whose brief cuts across all departments of state is the Prime Minister. Ultimately, his Government implement this law.
To ensure that the Climate Change Bill will take all policy decisions into account, we must make sure that it has bite. The only penalty for missing targets in the Bill is political. Putting it centre-stage and having the Prime Minister making the reports ensures that the penalty, as it were, is identified with the Prime Minister of the Government, so that he cannot just blame a Secretary of State and send him out to this country’s political equivalent of some Siberian power station.
A number of noble Lords have known what it is like to be blamed for government decisions. They have found themselves on the Back Benches, although I am very pleased to see that one of them has returned to Front-Bench duties recently.
I believe that we are correct in making the Prime Minister responsible. It puts him or her centre-stage as regards responsibilities in this matter. I hope that the Minister will give a positive response, so that we are not forced to move an amendment on Report.
I draw the Committee’s attention to the speech of the Prime Minister on climate change at the Foreign Press Association on 27 November, when he said:
“Every new policy will be examined for its impact on carbon emissions—not just those which reduce emissions, but those which increase them. And where emissions rise in one sector, we will have to achieve corresponding falls in another”.
That was a clear recognition of the fact that there is an inter-sectoral trade-off at the very heart of this legislation. The relationship between one department and another is critical to the Bill on an agenda which will probably dominate the next 100 years. I would have thought that any British Prime Minister would want to take on overall responsibility for seeing through this agenda, knowing that it is only the Prime Minister who can manage an inter-sectoral role interdepartmentally and also as regards wider policy governing various sectors. That paragraph of the speech continues:
“The legislation will enact our target of achieving a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of at least 60 per cent by 2050 through domestic and international action”.
Again, inherent in that is the proposition that many of the great decisions on these issues will be taken at international conferences—probably summits in the end—when we hit crises. I argue that it is only a prime minister with a central co-ordinating role—the important role of seeing through this policy—who would have day-to-day contact with this moving agenda and would be able to represent fully the interests of the United Kingdom in those conditions. With that in mind, I strongly support the amendment, although I understand it is unique.
I think this group of amendments is entirely misconceived. When I was a Minister, there were many occasions when I spoke to other Ministers in other departments—foreign affairs, environment and so on—and I do not think that anyone who had any experience of government would support this view. Here the Secretary of State speaks for the whole Government and inevitably, if the matter touched on the interests of another department, the Secretary of State would confer with that department’s Minister.
Of course, this issue is not entirely unprecedented, as I have already indicated. Quite often Bills or Acts ensure that one department is closely in touch with another. The Opposition—Liberal Democrats and Conservatives alike—are suggesting that the Prime Minister should be presidential. Fortunately, he is not.
As I have said before, this proposal is misconceived. Of course, the Prime Minister addresses this and many other things in his speeches; he has to, as he is presiding over the whole Government. It is inevitable that the Prime Minister should be associated with the success of each Secretary of State or Minister. I am bemused that this amendment is being considered. It is not worthy of the attention of anybody who has served in government. I thank heaven that we do not have a president at this stage.
I hesitate to contradict the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, because of his huge and unique experience. However, the difference in the tenor and nature of the challenge facing us means that we should, perhaps, cast off past practice and look at the challenge of the future. Delivering this process in the period between now and 2050 will be incredibly difficult.
Although I would not wish to undermine Defra—or the Minister, who will undoubtedly have to do the legwork on behalf of the whole Government to ensure that all departments are truly locked into what, if we are to succeed, will be a unique and unprecedented effort—it would, nevertheless, be a real sign to the whole nation and to all aspects of government if the Prime Minister were to commit to making the annual progress report to Parliament. That would put this issue, its unique nature and the difficulties of achieving it in its proper place.
I support this amendment, which came out of our Joint Committee. I will also take a minute to unbemuse my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis. I understand the practicalities and I am sure the Minister will set them out when he answers, but I beg him to consider this: every Member of the Committee has had some personal experience of the dismal problems involved in trying to press a coherent policy across government. Every one of us has some scar across our backs from attempting to do that. It is not true to say that Government act in a coherent and sensible way—if only!
I suggest that this is a unique Bill with unique challenges. It requires a unique resolution, and I cannot see that anyone but the Prime Minister could press each department to do its job as defined by this legislation.
I support what the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has just said. I have never had the privilege of serving in government; I would like to have done that, but have not. Yet, given the pressures on each department in the current economic climate, the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, is certainly confident to think that all departments will work as one—and will have the finances to support something so hugely important in terms of what the Bill tries to deliver. That confidence is wishful thinking.
The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, has put his finger on it; without doubt, the whole Committee wants the Bill to succeed. But who makes the ultimate decision? If a department is financially struck, which I am sure happens regularly—it did so in the day of the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and it continues to do so—someone has to be overlooking the system and saying, “Look, this is what we must do. We must give priority to the aims and achievements within this Bill”. I certainly have reservations about one individual department, or the commission itself, once it is set up, being able to do that, which is why I particularly support these amendments.
I rise briefly to add my support. Whenever you have a precedent—I am not sure whether or not this is a precedent, but it is certainly unusual—there are always those who say, “This smacks of presidential government”, or some other obnoxious connotation. The real connotation is that the Bill deals with issues that transcend most of those with which Secretaries of State are expected to deal. We all recognise that for “Secretary of State” you can read “every government department”. That is not the issue. The issue is whether we wish to give a signal that this is an issue that has international leadership connotations as well those of leadership within our Government. To write the name of the Prime Minister into the Bill, as is suggested in the amendment, is an eminently sensible proposal.
I must say at the outset that we do not think that this is a very sensible idea. I take the point made by the noble Earl about sending a signal. I am not going to gloss over the Rolls-Royce efficiency of decision-making in government. As my noble friend Lord Puttnam said, sometimes when things happen you think, “Heaven above, we are the Government. We are supposed to be able to do things better than this”. It is not completely a Rolls-Royce machine, but we must be realistic.
I say to the Committee in all sincerity that of all the amendments that could conceivably be made to the Bill by your Lordships' House, this is the one above all others that I would have no difficulty whatever in advising the other place to chuck out. There would not be any difficulty about that. There are other amendments on which it would be very difficult for the majority party in the other place to go against your Lordships' House; on this one, there would be no difficulty.
This is not a challenge, I am not looking to extend this debate, but I also have to say if there were a succession of ex-Ministers from the Cross Benches, the Conservative Benches, the Liberal Democrat Benches and these Benches saying that this was a good practical idea, based on their experience and knowledge of Whitehall, I might take a different view. The fact is that the only ex-Minister who has spoken, my noble friend, said—I see the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, nodding, but I will not put words into his mouth—that this is not a good practical idea.
No wonder. I cast no aspersions on the noble Earl; I had forgotten about that. There again, he went on about Defra more than anyone else. I will come to that point in a moment.
The amendment would not be sending a signal. If we transfer the powers in the Bill from the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister, he would be required to deal with meeting the 2050 target, with setting and meeting the budgets and with laying the emissions statement for each budgetary period and for the year 2050 before Parliament. The practical effect of the amendment is, frankly, difficult to define. In reality, the Prime Minister could delegate the duty to deal with all those things to departments, led by Defra but along with others. The whole thing is preposterous, given the staff numbers in No. 10. There is not the capacity there. No. 10 might be very large compared to previous Governments, but it is nowhere near as large as the secretariat of most departments. It is simply not resourced to carry out those matters. Therefore, it would fall to the Secretaries of State in the various departments. There is a real problem.
I understand the point about sending a signal. I thought that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours was going to come to the exact opposite conclusion to the one that he reached. He made the point that the Prime Minister is taking the lead on this issue. He cited the 27 November speech. Anyone who reads the 19 November speech on the calls for changes relating to climate change covering the whole gamut of international and domestic policy in terms of targets and how the Government are operating under his leadership will see that he is taking a lead on this crucial issue.
Therefore, we do not accept the unusuality, if I can use that word, of putting that in the legislation. There are bits of legislation where the Prime Minister is mentioned in making various appointments and in questions of national security. He cannot meaningfully take on the detailed responsibility, which is what is implied in the amendment. He would end up delegating it.
The amendments to which we have put our name limit the responsibility of the Prime Minister to the particular element that we think is important: to present the report to Parliament, so that he is accountable before Parliament. It is well understood that it is not for him to be setting the strategy or anything else, but the strategy must be accounted for to Parliament by the Prime Minister. I do not think that that is placing an overwhelming burden on his time. It just puts the responsibility where it belongs, across departments and in the hands of the Prime Minister of the country.
I fully accept that point. I have no knowledge of future plans, but I suspect that, given the nature and detail of the strategic speeches that the Prime Minister is making on the issue outside Parliament, from time to time he may deliver statements inside Parliament. To put a statutory duty on him, with all the detail implied, would be a big mistake. I am not arguing from a presentational point of view about sending signals. I freely admit that there are parts of the Bill where we might be able to look at ways of demonstrating that the Government as a whole are committed on this issue. That is the central point: there is a fear that “Secretary of State” means one department working in a silo. Cabinet government—as people understand the Cabinet sub-committees—will give instructions to Secretaries of State across the whole of Whitehall. That is usually done behind closed doors, which I fully accept does not send a signal outside. However, we are happy to look at where that can be done to show that the Government as a whole have a grip on this, as I implied when answering the intervention of the right reverend Prelate on the earlier amendment. All the departments in the whole of Whitehall—I do not know a department that is not—are involved in working on the Bill. It has to come together.
Your Lordships’ House prides itself that, at Question Time, the Questions are to the Government, not to departments. That causes considerable difficulty with many Questions, simply because they cross more than one department. There is mayhem in Whitehall when two or three departments have to agree an answer—compared to the other place, that is the reality, as those who have answered Questions in this place would find out. One Minister has to answer. If Ministers sometimes start talking about their department, they are corrected by your Lordships: “You are answering for the Government, not the department”. That is exactly my position presently. Although I am from Defra, which is the lead department on the issue, I am answering for all departments. That is the same for the Prime Minister.
Could I point my noble friend to the issue of national security? We have defence, foreign affairs and the Home Department all accountable, as I understand it, through the Prime Minister to Parliament. It is the Prime Minister who signs off reports from the Intelligence and Security Committee—it is not the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Defence.
As I said a few minutes ago, there are areas of legislation where the Prime Minister is referred to. The Prime Minister is responsible, because of accidents of history, for some odd appointments—I hope that noble Lords know what I mean by that. In other words, we are not saying that the Prime Minister is not referred to in legislation. We are not saying that, because that would be wrong— there are many such occasions. The nature of this is that we are quite happy to look at whether we can modify the Bill so that, from a presentational point of view, it clearly signals to everyone that the Government are responsible and that we have a plan. That plan will also be approved by Parliament so, in that sense, we are all in this together, across the generations and across the Floor. However, putting the onus on the Prime Minister in this clause is a big mistake. We are quite happy to look at the presentational aspects in other parts of the Bill, but not to put detailed, onerous requirements on the Prime Minister, which he would only farm out to the civil servants of other departments. There is nothing to stop him taking a lead and, in both those speeches that he made outside the House, he was taking a lead on this issue. In fact, he has been criticised, I understand, for making it clear that there have to be options for power generation, simply because of climate change. What do some of the NGOs do? They go to the lawyers to say that he has pre-empted a consultation. He is giving a lead on the issue. He is doing that now. Modifying the Bill is not required for that to continue.
There is a slight issue here. The fundamental point was not to raise the issue of the Prime Minister being a figurehead for the Government. The nature of the amendments that we tabled—there are obviously certain differences with the other amendments—is that this is not just a presentational issue but one that comes to the heart of what the Bill is about. We cannot pretend that the Prime Minister will not be seen by the country as being responsible for meeting the targets. We cannot then pass it off to a Secretary of State. The Minister has said that of course the Prime Minister will not do the work himself. I quite agree. However, we have the major problem of different departments with different objectives. A classic example was the decision for the third runway at Heathrow: DBERR—or DEBRIS—made one decision, about the economic impact, while Defra would make another, about whether we should build a third runway at Heathrow. There are going to be major issues throughout government, between departments.
On the transport issue, I was talking to a transport expert, who said, “The definition of a necessary journey is one that I take; the definition of an unnecessary journey is one you take”. The big problem is that each of the departments is going to have major difficulties. We already see this in the ETS—the aviation industry is interested in signing up because it can buy credits from other industries. The problem, taking that to its logical conclusion, is that the aviation industry would take up all the carbon units for every industry if it carried on buying up those credits. Therefore, there would be none left for power generation or for other industries. The issue is not just presentational. If individuals write their manifestos about how they are going to run the Government in the future, they will have to make sure that every single one of the policies that they sign their parties up to meets those objectives. Otherwise, we are greenwashing in this Bill. That point has been made about the Bill.
I would have been absolutely amazed if the Minister had said that he would wholeheartedly accept the amendment, but he has said that there are some areas that he would like to discuss. I would like to talk to him and to his department and officials, perhaps with the Conservative Opposition, because if they put their name to the Bill, we might look forward to an amendment that will meet some of the provisions we have set out. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
5: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “ensure” and insert “develop policies and take measures, including the setting of five year targets and budgets, with the object of ensuring”
The noble Earl said: The amendment stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. My first duty is to send the apologies of my noble friend to the Committee—he is in Moscow with Sub-Committee C and not even he, in his brilliance, can be in two places at once.
We come to an important part of the Bill, the first clause. Clause 1(1) reads:
“It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 60% lower than the 1990 baseline”.
The word that we wish to delete is “ensure”, replacing it with the words on the Marshalled List.
The Joint Committee took evidence on this issue—our comments are in paragraphs 104 to 117 of our report. As said on many occasions and by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, who chaired the committee, this is a unique Bill. When we questioned those who gave evidence on Wednesday 16 May about this duty “to ensure”, we found that it is a unique clause, which has never been used in a Bill before. Mr Wilson, who is a director of Cambrensis and a barrister at its environmental law unit, told us that, in his opinion, the clause might add a little to public pressure and organise public opinion, but he went on to say that:
“it is difficult to enforce it in a conventional way”.
Professor Forsyth said that he was unaware of any other example of a Bill,
“concerned with the setting of targets”.
In considering our conclusions, the members of the committee discussed how we should try to strengthen the Bill and how we should impose a duty on the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister—it is still the Secretary of State now—in a way that is enforceable in law. In his evidence, my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth put it very well. He said:
“The problem is not one of target setting, nor of embodying a target in statute, but rather the imposition of a duty to meet a target, the fulfilment of which relies on circumstances beyond the control of the body vested with that duty”.
That is the nub of the problem.
We have a duty that binds the Secretary of State and future Secretaries of State, yet it is practically unenforceable. That is why my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I have proposed our wording—in order to put some meat on this important bone. We do not want to dilute the importance of this clause or the importance of the Bill. We want wording that is equally as strong as the word “ensure” but which also enables the Secretary of State to be held to account in a proper way, rather than through just public opinion or, as the Minister said, in a way that puts pressure on the civil servants through the Ministerial Code and the Civil Service Code. I beg to move.
I support this amendment. I have talked to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell who asked me to enter my tuppence-ha’pennyworth. The Secretary of State is Mr Hilary Benn. His grandfather was, I believe, Secretary of State for India in 1927. His father was a distinguished Minister in the Labour Government in the 1960s. There is an element of the fact that the Benn family are becoming hereditary Members of the House of Commons, which has an element of irony about it. I believe that Hilary Benn’s son also is standing as a Member of the House of Commons, so the tradition continues.
I suppose that it is possible that a Mr Benn—or perhaps a right honourable Lord Stansgate KCMG or something—will be Prime Minister at the time that this duty is imposed on the Secretary of State. Those are probably the unique circumstances in which someone could be held responsible in 2050 for actions taken by others between now and then. For the sake of argument, let us assume that this passion for wind power turns out to be what a lot of the wind power sceptics say that it will be in not reducing CO2 emissions. I believe that there is recent evidence of that in Denmark. We know that wind power cannot be used all the time because either the wind is too strong or too weak. Consequently, it has to be backed up with other forms of electricity generation.
If the policies adopted by the present Mr Benn as Secretary of State are the wrong policies and they do not affect CO2 in the way which we all wish and all know to be quintessentially essential, how can Mr Benn junior—probably the present Mr Benn’s great-grandson—or whoever is Secretary of State in 2050 be held responsible? Of course, we should have something of planning in the Bill. This goes a long way towards it. Perhaps it would be better to have a declaratory clause. I know that modern legislators do not like them, but they have been present in other legislation. I have been trying to show the difficulty and illogicality of putting this wording in the Bill. I therefore support this amendment completely.
I, too, support the amendment. We probably devoted more time to this matter in the Joint Committee than to any other single issue. We certainly took more expert evidence on it. I started as a sceptic, but I became increasingly convinced that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, were correct in their position. Common sense tells me that the words,
“with the object of ensuring”,
are far more sensible than the claim to ensure something which in reality it is impossible to ensure. I urge the Government to take this amendment very seriously.
I, too, support the amendment. As my noble friend Lord Puttnam has said, we spent hours deliberating this issue, which was at the heart of much of our debate. This amendment strengthens the purpose and the objectives behind the Bill, which will be better for it.
In the debate on the previous amendment, the Minister said that he was putting words into my mouth when I nodded in agreement about the foolishness of replacing the words “Secretary of State” with “Prime Minister”. I was nodding in agreement because we have collective government in this country: we have Cabinet government. The Bill states:
“It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 60% lower than the 1990 baseline”.
That drives a coach and horses through our whole constitutional approach. No Government can bind their successors. A Secretary of State may be a member of an Administration that has a target to reduce,
“the net UK carbon account for the year 2050”,
so that it is 60 per cent lower. But, as the Bill is worded, the Secretary of State is put in an impossible position. He or she will not know what their successors will do. Far from offering any radical change to the nature of the Bill, the amendment puts into common sense the position of a Minister, as my noble friend has argued.
I also worry a little about the use of legislation to make declaratory stands on policy. In the other place, I was involved, as I am sure was the noble Lord, in taking tours around the Aye and No Lobbies. In one of the Lobbies one can see the legislation that has been passed. I was always rather embarrassed that there were far more shelves for the period when we were in office, never mind for the modern period, than for the previous 150 years. I repudiate the idea of using legislation to make a point, to highlight an issue or to set a target. I worry that this no doubt well intended Bill is being used for this purpose, which does not seem to me to be a proper purpose. The first line of the Bill falls down in that respect and the amendment does much to improve it.
I do not seek in any egocentric way to interpolate a personal note, but it follows on the speech by my noble friend Lord Onslow. The building of the British Library took only 20 years and not the 43 years for which we are legislating. But there were a number of Secretaries of State during the building of the British Library and I was one of them. In 1994, when it had been 16 years in the building, I was summoned before Mr Kaufman’s Select Committee. About two-thirds of the way through the committee, after a great deal of evidence had been considered, Mr Kaufman said, “Now, Secretary of State, we really must come to a conclusion. This is a very bad business. Who is responsible?”. I knew perfectly well that if I said anything other than, “Mr Kaufman, you know perfectly well where the responsibility lies: the Secretary of State is responsible and, therefore, I am”, the hearing would go on for at least another three-quarters of an hour beyond the time that was set for us to finish it. It was therefore much simpler to say, “Mr Kaufman, you know perfectly well who is responsible, and that is myself”.
Three or four years later I came across a paragraph in a history of the Labour Government of 1974 to 1979 written by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, in which he described the efforts of the Treasury to so hold down the detail of the building of the British Library that, as he said in his concluding sentence, given what had been achieved in terms of controlling expenditure on this item, if there had been the slightest economic quiver in the next 20 years, it would have been a miracle if the British Library had been concluded before the end of the century. I say to my noble friend Lord Onslow that the consequence of that particular remark was that, when Her Majesty the Queen opened the British Library in 1998, we had achieved it before the end of the century and I was in the happy but wholly accidental position of taking the credit for achieving what was in fact a miracle. The fact remains that although I said what I did in 1994, it is difficult to see how the Secretary of State at a particular moment is responsible for the whole 20-year span of the business. The Minister would be doing your Lordships’ House a service if he gave full consideration to this amendment which would to make the situation slightly less redolent of Alice in Wonderland than its present wording.
I presume from the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, that the debate that took place in the Joint Committee—I do not know as I was not on it—was about the words,
“setting of five-year targets and budgets”,
and not about the words,
“develop policies and take measures”.
I see no difficulty with the words,
“develop policies and take measures”,
but I do see some difficulty with the words,
“setting of five-year targets and budgets”.
What is the position then if they have to be amended in some way? The words,
“setting of five-year targets and budgets”
are locked into the Bill.
Perhaps if my noble friend is minded to accept this amendment or consider it for Report he might have in mind my comments on the setting of five-year targets and budgets and the problems that might arise.
My noble friend has done a great service by raising this topic and we have benefited from the wisdom of quite a few Members and their experience in Government. The amendment helps to focus on what the duties of the Secretary of State might amount to; it will be interesting to see whether it is possible to tempt the Minister to tell us the Government’s view of what the Secretary of State’s duty might amount to.
People have been looking at what problems might face a future Minister—Prime Minister Benn or otherwise—but the plight one should be thinking of is that of a Secretary of State who is in office in 2045. If there has been slippage in the previous five-year plans, he may be faced with a policy to reduce emissions dramatically to still meet the targets we are setting for 2050. He might have to close down whole sectors of industry. There will have to be fairly rigorous enforcement of each of the five-year plans proposed. The brief that we received from the CBI mentions a survey by McKinsey saying it will be quite difficult to meet the interim target of 26 per cent by 2020. In the natural progression of things, trying to serve at the front end is the easiest bit. We are relying on major scientific breakthroughs if we are expecting to save very much in the later stages.
We have, of course, set an even higher challenge by suggesting that the Secretary of State will have to try and ameliorate the average global temperature. The Secretary of State may not be able to give up his efforts even if he hits the target of 60 per cent as laid down in the Bill if other emerging economies do not also make an effort. There would have to be something more than the present participation of emerging economies such as India and China under the Kyoto treaty joint initiative. That has already achieved considerable savings but considerably more will be needed if the Secretary of State is to be able to give up even on these targets.
I hope what I have to say will be accepted as positive. This issue was raised at Second Reading, and I fully accept that I am not familiar with all the detail raised in the Joint Committee, but I am not sure whether it has helped us for the next stage. It seems to have been thought that the intention of the amendment was to address the perceived lack of enforceability of this requirement or duty to meet the targets and budgets in the Bill. It was not drafted for that purpose, as I said, probably inadequately, on Second Reading, and as was alluded to by the noble Earl—although I thought as he sat down that he was making the opposite point from the same information.
The intention was to attempt to change the infrastructure culture in Government, which is quite important if one is to transcend departments and Governments, as long as there is an acceptance that we are legislating for decades. Governments come and go and each is sovereign. We were trying to find a way to achieve behavioural change in Whitehall, in the Civil Service as much as among Ministers. That is crucial. I cannot say that I agree with them but examples were given of different departments’ attitudes to energy generation and transport, as though the departments were fiefdoms in their own right, quite independent of Government and with their own messages. That may have been case in the past and there may still be elements of that but we are attempting to use the law to change the institutional behaviour in Whitehall through the Civil Service Code and the Ministerial Code.
The dilemma would be if two or three departments worked on an issue, each with a substantially different attitude. The requirement of the law is pretty important as far the Civil Service and our system of government are concerned. If they ignore the law, or worse still, if they go in the opposite direction to the law as set out by this clause, there would be major problems and judicial review could follow. So the intention is to give a constitutional significance and to permeate the attitude in Whitehall that there is a duty to ensure the outcome. We believe—and I stand to be corrected on this by lawyers—that the amendment would in practice weaken the duty on the Secretary of State. If you focus on the process, it would be possible to do your best, stay within the budget and end up complying with the duty because you thought it was the right policy. In the words of the amendment, you tried,
“to develop policies and take measures … with the object of ensuring”.
So you could satisfy the requirements of the law and completely fail. It comes down to intention and lack of enforceability. I fully admit, as I said at Second Reading, that the purpose of putting this in the Bill was to change the behaviour of the Civil Service in Whitehall and, through that, to change the behaviour of Ministers. That is the central objective.
Perhaps I can help the Minister with an analogy. When we were in government, we had an objective to reduce the proportion of the GDP that was taken in taxation. We were not particularly successful, but it was an objective. Had we passed a law that said that it was the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the amount taken by the state in taxation, I doubt very much that it would have influenced future Governments. This is declaratory legislation, and placing such a duty on a Secretary of State or a Chancellor, who might be faced by a change in economic conditions or a shock, might put him in conflict with his other duties and it may be impossible for him to achieve it. In this case, he would not know whether he had achieved it until 2050, so why will it change the culture? There is always a reason for people to make a different case.
I fully accept that, and I am grateful for the noble Lord’s practical examples. I am not saying that this is perfect. It is open to a future Government to tell Parliament that they want to change this requirement and to give reasons that explain the weakening of the situation. It would be up to another Government to do that. However, the Committee on Climate Change, if set up under the Bill when it becomes an Act, will be an important body that, from the point of view of public accountability and the court of public opinion, will have a role in, and an attitude towards, this. People would see what was happening, so there would be pressure. No one is going to say that one policy over a period of years may be seen to be more practical than others.
One thing is seriously worrying me. What happens in, say, 2035 when there has been a major slippage in target achievement? How will the law be enforced? That is what we would all like to know. How can you enforce this? What happens if you go to court? That, I think, is what none of us understands.
As I said, this is part of how we will ensure that the targets are met. This is an incredibly difficult issue, as we explained on Second Reading. There is no perfect answer. It is not pie in the sky to say that we want to ensure that the policies are taking place or that we want the Secretary of State to ensure that at least 60 per cent is achieved. In the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, the Select Committee in the other place stated:
“By institutionalising the targets, the political pressure to achieve them will be increased”.
The Government of the day will be open to public scrutiny because of that. That is not a penalty in the sense that you break the speed limit and you get a fine, but that aspect is crucial. We do not rest our whole case on that, but it is part of building the pressure on Governments and Secretaries of State to deliver.
We are trying to introduce a clause that is totally unenforceable, but there is another major factor. We are setting up the whole Bill as an exemplar to the rest of the world of how to try to reduce carbon output. There is nothing wrong with that, but after we have done this for a decade or so, and the British public have got fed up wearing the economic hair shirt that will be put on them, see the rest of the world producing massive quantities of carbon, and see our efforts making no impression at all on the global climate and very little impression as an example, they will not want to wear this hair shirt for long. A Secretary of State, far from being under pressure to tighten the targets, is much more likely to be under pressure to loosen them. That is a very important element.
I remember the noble Lord’s contribution on Second Reading. I was constrained from commenting on everyone’s speech at the time, but I thought that his speech was a little more revolutionary than he actually thought. He gave some examples, which I thought were quite practical, of what would happen in the future and he talked about the need for change. He approached the matter from a different direction, but I respected the point. I was going to say that I was stuck for time and I did not want to accuse him of being a revolutionary, but he made some quite revolutionary points on Second Reading. He is absolutely right: if that situation arose, one can imagine the debates that would arise in the country, as well as in both Houses of Parliament, and the pressure on various Secretaries of State to make a policy change; in other words, to make change through legislation. It would be quite substantial if we got to that point. I am not saying that that will not happen; I am saying that we are setting out with the best intentions to give a lead and to be the first nation to put such detail into our legal framework. I think that one other country has partial legal requirements, but not to the extent that we have here.
As I said, we believe that that aspect of what the EFRA Committee said in the other place is quite crucial, but we can see no other way in which to achieve that cultural change within our system of government than by putting the duties into law. That is the reality. You cannot get the equivalent effect without using the law. Civil servants, advisers to government and Ministers have to be reminded from time to time, as we all are, that you cannot do something, or that you cannot not do something, because you are going outside the law. We know the consequences of that, and I doubt that there has ever been a Minister in office who has not been reminded that they are expected to follow the law. There are degrees of discretion, but this must be looked at in the constitutional sense rather than in the sense that you have gone over the traffic lights and there is a fine. The objective of putting this into legislation in this way is to make that cultural and behavioural change in the Civil Service and consequently in government. I have no doubt that we will come back to this; as my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours says, there is more than one way in which to do this.
The choice of words in the amendment to replace two words makes the amendment rather long, although, as I said, I am not saying that everything is perfect. The Committee knows what the Government’s intention is, and was when we drafted the legislation. We may not have interpreted the purpose of the amendment in the way in which many noble Lords who have spoken tonight have done, but we will reflect on it in due course.
If the Minister is the Secretary of State and the Bill has been passed and has become law, what does he have to do in the next five years to fulfil that duty? Is it a matter of taking the timescale and dividing it in a linear way? How would he determine whether he was complying with the clause? He has not answered my noble friend’s question about what would happen to him if he did not. I am more concerned about how a Secretary of State actually organises himself to comply with the duty and to be seen to comply with it. That is a very difficult duty to have thrust on you.
Yes, it is. I fully appreciate that. To comply with the duty, the Secretary of State must first inaugurate with his colleagues across government a range of policies—there is no single policy initiative, and I do not think that anyone is claiming that there is—that lead to achieving the target of at least 60 per cent, as in the current legislation. Those policies must be tested independently by the Committee on Climate Change and the court of public opinion, and the Secretary of State must make the necessary changes. We did say on Second Reading that the consequences of climate change, and the consequences of the Bill, will change how society operates and how we live. They will affect everyone in the country. As Stern said, the earlier we do this, the less the disruption and the cost will be. The later we do this, the greater the disruption and the cost will be.
A thought has just crossed my mind. Presumably, the Secretary of State would be open to judicial review. Someone could take him to court if they thought that he was not doing what the Act tells him to do. Is that a satisfactory answer? We are all on the same side as the Government on this, but I simply do not understand the clause, which seems to be a terrible muddle. That is all. I know what the Minister is trying to do.
I may be explaining it inadequately. The answer is probably yes, depending on the policies that are being proposed. As I say, this is not a question of going over a red light or the speed limit and getting a fine. That is not the kind of penalty that is implied. The penalty is, if you like, parliamentary opinion, the court of public opinion, and the opinion of business. There has to be a degree of certainty about the policies.
This is not just about individuals: businesses will have to change. A lot of businesses will grow. Businesses that do not exist at the moment will make a lot of money and there will be more investment because of the changes that will happen. There has to be a degree of certainty and confidence. That will only be tested by the operation of the individual policies. From time to time, governments are open to judicial review, but the case would have to be made.
We recognise that this is a difficult issue. There is no perfect answer, but I hope I have explained why we drafted the Bill in this way. We are quite happy to see whether there is another form of words that satisfies the opinions of the Committee and the Joint Committee, and describes what we want to do, which is to get that change inside government—that is what this is about. This is not necessarily a change for Ministers. It is about the advice that Ministers receive and the way they operate on it, bearing in mind that they are required to stay within the law. That is the fundamental point: if there were no requirement to stay within the law it would not be so meaningful. The advice that they receive is pretty important in that respect.
I am extremely grateful to all Committee Members who have taken part in this debate from all sides of the Chamber. I believe that we are all pushing on the same door: it is a question of getting that door open in the right way to make sense of the Bill. The Minister gave a very full reply and I was particularly grateful for his penultimate sentence when he said he would look again to see whether there were better wording.
I want to press him on an earlier point. He said that if a department went against the wording of the Bill as amended there would be major problems. Could he identify what those major problems are and what are the solutions, because that might help us? He also said that the amendment would weaken the Bill as drafted. Yes, I admitted that right at the beginning. It was one of the problems that the committee toyed with. We could not get the right wording because we felt that whatever we came up weakened the Bill. But we also wanted—and this is clear in our recommendations—to make this enforceable. If we use the word “ensure” when Britain will be the lead country in the world, any country can turn round and say, “You can’t ensure it. This is all just a pretence, spin, a sham”. That is what is wrong with the word “ensure”. It cannot be enforced. It sets a very bad example both nationally and internationally.
We need to give a lead. We need to be able to set an example that others can follow. If we are to do that, we have to get this part of the Bill absolutely right. The wording is crucial. I know that the Minister listened to everybody in the Committee and there is a common theme here that this part of the Bill needs to be looked at. Has the Minister any further points he would like to make on the major problems? Could he come back to me at another stage?
Perhaps the Minister might write to me about the major problems and put a copy of his letter in the Library of the House because that would help us. Again, I thank all Members of the Committee and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
6: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, leave out “net UK carbon account” and insert “quantity of UK greenhouse gas emissions released to the atmosphere”
The noble Lord said: The Minister might be slightly relieved to hear that this is a probing amendment. We move from what I would call the hard intricacies of the practice of government in this country to the more ephemeral subject of leadership, to which the Government have pretensions on a global scale, which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Salisbury has already mentioned.
The Government wish to lead the world in the control of carbon emissions in order to limit global warming. That is certainly an ambition that we would all support, but in the first line we have yet another set of words that, in my view, are far weaker than they either should be or need to be. I read the “net UK carbon account”, not with despair but with horror.
First, we should go through the background a little. We certainly do not lead the world at the present time. Other European countries are ahead of us in some regards. France is a unique country, curiously enough. In some ways it is fortunate for the whole world that its nuclear programme in the 1970s and 1980s is outwith the timing for Kyoto, which begins in 1990. France is unique because it is the only developed country in the world that I have seen that actually has a reduction plotted on a graph of its national carbon dioxide emissions. It is possible to go on to the internet and pull down the carbon performance of practically every economy in the world, and they are all plotted in graphs, which rise consistently, with the exception of France. With its nuclear programme in the 1970s the 1980s, France’s carbon dioxide emissions diminished.
One other country has a similar reduction—Russia. But Russia achieved it through total economic collapse, which I do not think any of us would accept as a practical or sensible policy. Germany is way ahead of us in the field of microgeneration, because it has very effective lead-in prices. One could go on.
This legislation is significant if we are to get the initiative into this country, but we have to walk the walk and not talk the talk, hence this particular wording—the first line in the Bill, about which we keep arguing. Why do we have “net UK carbon account”? I accept that it is a commonly used phrase and it is easy to slip past it, but the implication is that we can offset some of our emissions by actions that we take in third-party countries. We can continue with carbon emissions by aiding others. Again, that is all very worthy, but it is shilly-shallying. In effect, wealthy countries can purchase the right to continue doing what we do by aiding other countries. In a global sense, I accept that that will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but if we want to lead, we actually have to reduce our emissions ourselves. We have to get our emissions all the way down, so I object to that particular wording.
I then looked to see what the Bill actually had to say about those words. It is worth doing that. If Committee Members look at Clause 70 on page 29, there is a list of defined expressions in the Bill—definitions. On page 30, line 20 directs us to Clause 22 (1), which states:
“Net UK carbon account
(1) In this Part the ‘net UK carbon account’ for a period means the amount of net UK emissions of targeted greenhouse gases for the period—
(a) reduced by the amount of carbon units credited to the net UK carbon account for the period in accordance with regulations under this section, and
(b) increased by the amount of carbon units that in accordance with such regulations are to be debited from the net UK carbon account for the period.
(2) The Secretary of State must make provision by regulations about—
(a) the circumstances in which carbon units may be credited … [or] debited …
(3) The regulations must contain provision for ensuring that carbon units that are credited to the net UK carbon account for a period cease to be available to offset other greenhouse gas emissions”.
and so on and so forth. I am afraid that, first of all, a rather shocking image came to mind: that of the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, playing a rather politically incorrect game of croquet. I think she said at one stage during that game, “When I use a word, it means what I want it to mean”. The net UK carbon account, bearing in mind all this regulatory process to define it, comes into that category.
Then I thought that perhaps I was being a little harsh, so I thought of a more appropriate metaphor. We are appointing a whole lot of people, all of whom are going to be involved in a marathon. The Government, and particularly the Climate Change Committee, are leading us to the start line, or whatever we finally call it when we get to that. Having got us more or less to the start line, the Government then appear to say that they have not quite decided where the finishing line is yet; that will be done by regulations at some point. That weakens the whole first line of the Bill.
This first line of the Bill is going to be the one line that most people read, so we need it to be absolutely clear. Therefore, I have suggested that we use the greenhouse gas emissions wording of my amendment to improve clarity and, more importantly, for a psychological improvement in leadership. Of course it will, technically, be a slightly more difficult target to meet, but in the mysterious psychology of the world of leadership—if that is what the Government aspire to—it will mean a great deal more for this country abroad than the present wording, however much that may be common practice in the relation to emissions and global warming. I beg to move.
This amendment, which I like very much in principle, highlights one of the main dilemmas of this Bill: are we talking about de-carbonising the UK economy, or about doing some of that and then helping the rest of the world, which we count to our own benefit at the end of the day? Amendment No. 8, tabled by my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, looks at a similar issue. I shall reserve my longer remarks for that. In terms of leadership and our global position in negotiations, it is very important, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has said, that it is seen as certain that we are looking to take the major hit in our own carbon emissions, rather than helping to stop others, noble cause though that may be. From these Benches we very much support the principle of this. We believe that there should be an ability to trade on the way towards these targets, but by 2050 we need to have met this as an economy ourselves, whatever route we take.
I support this amendment and I am minded to do so because of a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, when summing up on the previous amendment. He said that several companies would make a lot of money out of this. If these harsh duties—I use the word advisedly—are imposed on industry, society and government, which is what the Bill will do, somebody will come along and say that they can sell us a widget for one and sixpence—or £20, or whatever the sum may be—to help us do this. There is going to be an immense incentive for companies to invest in things that will help us. That is how we are going to conquer this problem. We will conquer it more by investment and intelligent science than by exhortation. We must create the right climate for investment and intelligent science. That is why I support what my noble friend has proposed.
We had some sympathy with this amendment, but it is a bit of a curate’s egg; it is good only in parts. I had thought that my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith was trying to include all the greenhouse gases in the target figure in line 1. I thought that was good. If the goal is to stop global warming, all contributions to the problem should be taken into account. The very first page of the Climate Change Bill says that it is a Bill to set a target for 2050 to reduce targeted greenhouse gas emissions. That is what I thought my noble friend meant. Having heard him, the bad part of the curate’s egg is the whole bit about not netting off the emissions. I know that overseas carbon credits and what the right emissions netting-off ought to be will be discussed later. There is room for some sort of overseas carbon credits and, of course, carbon trading to be taken into account. I do not think we support that, because my noble friend does not include the word net. We think it should be in there, so that overseas carbon credits and carbon trading are taken into account.
I speak along the same lines as the noble Lord on the Opposition Front Bench. This would strike at the very heart of the idea of getting emissions reductions where they are most effective and most cost-effective, driving a cart and horses through the whole idea of trading and lease cost. I am presuming what the outcome is, effectively, for example, in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. It would mean that every country in Europe would have to achieve the same level of reduction, even if that is nonsense—as it is indeed, even though the noble Lord shakes his head. If everybody in Europe agreed, there would be no net trading between the member states. Regardless of the position and circumstances of each country, they would all have to achieve the same reduction. That simply cannot make sense. It will, over time, be clear that some countries, some parts of countries and some industries will be able to secure improvements in reductions better than others.
I sympathise with the noble Lord. There are two separate points here: one concerns measurement and the other concerns trading. The two are related but are not the same thing. I will come on to this point on Amendment No. 8, but the whole point is that trading systems allow that great efficiency for which we all wish. At the end of the day, how you measure a country’s performance can be separate from that. It does not in any way stop trading taking place.
This goes to the heart of one of the problems in taking a series of amendments in isolation from the others. Amendments have been tabled that propose that the target should be 80 per cent. This amendment says that these must be actual reductions in the UK without allowing for net trading to improve that. Another amendment proposes that there must be a defined limit to the amount of trading there can be. If you put all those together, and if that was the position that we wanted to advocate to every other country in the world to get support in international agreements, I have to tell the Committee that we would not get international agreement on any of those things. If you take one proposal in isolation, that is not too bad, but if you add up the thrust of the amendments from the Liberal Democrat side, there would be a very high reduction from the UK and you could have very little net trading at all. Then you would get a very tough regime, which would mean effectively that every country would adopt a stand-alone position. I suggest that is not a position that lends itself to getting international agreement.
My noble friend Lord Woolmer almost stole my central point, but it is a good point to make. The amendment would end our participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme straight away, leaving aside everything else. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, shakes his head but the fact is that that is what it would mean. Amendment No. 6, as drafted, would be incredibly restrictive on our capacity to take action.
In its report, the Joint Committee noted the concept of the “net UK carbon account”, and stated that therefore,
“the draft Bill represents an important development in the nature of UK targets for carbon reduction”.
Deleting the concept of the net UK carbon account would mean that emissions reductions supported by UK companies or the Government which took place outside the UK could not be counted towards our 2050 target. It is as simple as that. This would be the case regardless of whether these carbon units represented low-carbon investment in developing countries through the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, or whether they represented the efforts of UK companies to meet their targets under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme by trading with other companies elsewhere in the EU—as they are allowed to do under EU law.
Amendment No. 6 would therefore significantly increase the cost of meeting the 2050 target. Unless I have read my notes wrong—and I would be happy to take advice on that—and I know that we are in 2007, and 2050 is 43 years away, but I have a figure in front of me of £5 billion more that would be needed to meet our target than would otherwise be the case. That is a lot of money in anyone’s book. I understand the approach that was pleaded for at Second Reading, that we might start off being able to purchase and offset abroad but that we would gradually move away from that over a period of years. However, this amendment would not do that; far from it, it would go straight in. So it would straight away undermine the international approach to tackling climate change. That would not help anybody. It would not help the UK give a lead to other countries and the planet. We will meet our targets and we will ensure—if I can use that word—that the Secretary of State operates to meet them through both action to reduce UK emissions and action to support other countries in reducing their emissions. We need to do this in line with our EU and international obligations. That is by far the best way of doing it. We are strongly committed to the international principle set out in the Kyoto Protocol that the use of the international mechanisms should be “supplemental” to domestic action set out in the Kyoto Protocol.
The concept of the “net UK carbon account” recognises that our targets can be met through both action at home and action overseas. We shall have other debates on this aspect but the narrowness, harshness and simplicity almost of the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is such that it is completely impractical and outwith what we seek to do. It constitutes a costly approach that would completely ruin all the arrangements that are in place, and will be put in place, for trading by UK companies to help us achieve this target. That is not in anybody’s interests and I do not think that is what the noble Lord wants at the end of the day anyway.
The Minister is quite right but I wanted to have this discussion. As regards leadership pretensions, the Bill will be thoroughly dissected by other countries and we need to be absolutely certain about which bit of ground we are standing on. To some people the relevant phrase will look like weakness, and we have to recognise that. I accept the practical realities of the situation. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, is quite right; we certainly do not want to become isolated on this issue, and I had no intention that we should. But the other way of looking at this—if we qualified it a bit—is that it would set a rather more severe and challenging 2050 target. One could perhaps come back with an amended amendment that would do that. However, it was important to have this discussion and I do not apologise for having it. Too many aspects of trading in carbon swaps and carbon offsets have, frankly, verged on the fraudulent. Even with the United Nations clean climate initiative, there are still large question marks over much of the trade that goes on because it is not a universally accepted standard and so there are very real difficulties with it.
There was even a report in the Financial Times some months ago that the Chinese were thinking of bringing in a tax on the payments that investors in carbon saving technology were receiving because for some Chinese firms their income from these carbon offsets was greater than their income from anything else. I did not like the idea that we should make that sort of fiscal contribution to the Chinese Government. So the question of this international trade in carbon certificates needs very strong and internationally agreed controls. It does not yet have that. For so long as that is the situation we shall have trouble in this area.
This has been an extremely useful discussion. I am very grateful to those Members of the Committee who took part in it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
7: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out “60%” and insert “80%”
The noble Lord said: We come to targets. The Joint Committee on the draft Bill was aware that the important thing at the end of the day is not to meet a 50, 60, 80 or 100 per cent carbon reduction by 2050 but to address the issue of all the tonnes of carbon that will be put into the atmosphere between now and 2050. That is what affects the climate, not meeting a 60 or 80 per cent carbon reduction by 2050. Although that issue is included in the Bill in terms of carbon budgets, it is very difficult to refer to thousands of tonnes of carbon being put into the atmosphere as a target within the Bill’s objective.
We agree that there should be targets but it is important that they should be realistic and that they fulfil the objectives of the legislation. I believe that the 60 per cent target was set by a Royal Commission some years ago. We are all aware that the climate change science and our understanding of how global warming works have progressed hugely since then, and, indeed, since the draft Bill was published earlier this year. The IPCC itself has said that to keep within the limit of 2 degrees centigrade on a global basis we shall probably have to reduce carbon emissions across all nations by some 50 per cent by 2050. We believe that to achieve a fair and equitable solution for developed nations that figure needs to be something in the order of 80 per cent.
There are three ways of approaching the 60 per cent target in the Bill. Either we can decide to take out the target altogether and do what the Government suggest later in the Bill, which is to ask the committee to come back in a few months—I cannot remember the timescale—to give us a scientific, authoritative, well considered litmus test, as it were, of what we believe the target should be, so that we can agree to that target in due course. Alternatively, we can stay with 60 per cent. Frankly, that is the worst option. Putting in what everyone accepts is the wrong figure would be wrong not only for the United Kingdom but also for our position globally. The third option is for us to put in the figure that we feel is, given that this is not an exact science, most realistic and most likely.
We believe that 80 per cent is the right figure to put in the Bill. To back up my arguments, I quote two prominent Labour Party members. The first is the Prime Minister, who said in his 19 November speech that,
“the evidence now suggests that, as part of an international agreement, developed countries may have to reduce their emissions by up to 80 per cent”.
The other is the Mayor of London, who,
“supports an amendment to the Bill to reflect the 80 per cent 2050 target at the very outset”.
We believe that it is important to have a target. That target needs to be realistic and the best understanding at this time is that 80 per cent is such a target.
The other concern—this is a correct theme of the Government—is that the business community, which has to deliver a huge proportion of this commitment, has to have a degree of certainty. However, there is almost a guarantee of uncertainty in the 60 per cent target. Keeping a target until the Committee on Climate Change has been appointed, considered the evidence and come back within the time constraints would actually delay a decision. There is much greater certainty if we go for a realistic and a best figure now. Again, I applaud the Government’s wish to lead globally on the targets, but that lead can be preserved only if we have a target of 80 per cent in the Bill now. I beg to move.
Much hangs on targets, but we do not see this amendment as relevant to the Bill’s intended operation. Our position is that the Committee on Climate Change, not the politicians, should set the targets. We see the committee as being science-based; it should bring its scientific expertise to the task. The Bill, as the Minister emphasised, refers to a target of at least 60 per cent lower. We believe that the reduction may well prove to be higher than 60 per cent. We are all talking in this manner, but we are all aware that many NGOs are talking of an 80 per cent target. The Minister has told us that setting this target is an early task for the Committee on Climate Change. We believe that that target is best determined by the committee on the basis of the evidence and with its scientific evaluation. Our approach will lead to a more authoritative outcome, acceptable to Parliament and to the people of this country.
I was involved in quite an interesting debate on these matters yesterday evening with a number of colleagues. I left the meeting in the belief that we should set an 80 per cent target in the Bill, but I am now not altogether convinced that that is the right way to proceed. My view is that we should not refer to 60 per cent. It is a dangerous figure to put in the Bill. It would undermine the credibility of a Labour Government and it would send out the wrong message to NGOs. We have two options: either we put nothing in the Bill and leave it to the committee, or we put in a target of 80 per cent.
I have consulted people in the trade unions on these matters. As my noble friend will know, the general view in the unions—particularly Unison, with which I have talked at length—is that a target of 80 per cent should be set. However, it might well be best—I take the view of the opposition Front Bench on this—to say nothing at this stage and leave it to the committee to decide. At the heart of my case is the belief that there should be no reference to 60 per cent. That figure is dangerous for our credibility.
At the end of discussions in the Joint Committee, my view was that it was right to have a figure of at least 60 per cent in the Bill. However, I have come to the conclusion that circumstances have changed sufficiently, even since last summer, to make it right to include 80 per cent. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson said, the Prime Minister has already spoken of recognising that up to 80 per cent is likely to be the amount of reductions needed. We know that other countries are moving in that direction, too. France is considering legislation that would provide for emissions reductions of 75 to 80 per cent by 2050. The German Government have announced a legislative package incorporating cuts of 80 per cent by 2050. In the United States, two of the leading contenders for the presidential nomination, Senators Clinton and Obama, are talking in the same kind of figures.
By sticking to 60 per cent, we will be behind what science—and, indeed, politics—in this country sees as necessary and we will lack that degree of leadership that the Government have rightly taken in the past few years and which they rightly see this Bill as demonstrating again. Eighty per cent is a very ambitious figure, but ambition is what is needed, as we have seen recently in the science.
There seem to be two options: leaving this to the committee to consider or writing 80 per cent into the Bill. If there were genuine uncertainty, there would be a strong case for leaving the matter for the committee to consider, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested. However, it seems to me, as I say, that there has been a sufficient movement in both the science and the politics since June for it to be right now to replace the 60 per cent target with an 80 per cent target, both to achieve the goal of the emissions reductions that we need and to continue to show the leadership that the Government have commendably taken up to now and which, I hope, they will continue to take. I support this amendment.
I oppose the amendment. The Bill provides for the Secretary of State to amend the figure. It provides that, when he does so, he must consider the scientific evidence and take the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. It does not provide that the committee should determine the figure. That is no doubt something that we will discuss later and noble Lords will not be surprised if I have a view about it.
We are talking about deciding now that 80 per cent is the figure, when the target of at least 60 per cent was firmly based some years ago. Subsequent evidence should be carefully weighed up. The Bill makes provision for that to be done. In fact, it is an obligation on the Secretary of State to do so and to take the early advice of the independent committee. When all the stakeholders who are subsequently affected ask, “Why is it 80 per cent and not 60 per cent?”, the Secretary of State will be able to provide a coherent argument based on scientific evidence and the view of the independent committee. Then the stakeholders, whose behaviour has to change radically, will have the confidence and security that the basis is one that they can buy into. If the answer is that Parliament, having the Bill in front of it, said, “We think 80 per cent is better; we will take a judgment by a vote on scientific evidence”, that does not seem to me to be the way to get stakeholders to buy into and undertake the necessary change.
I am confident that the way in which the Bill is framed is intended to allow the Government of the day to amend upwards, as it refers to “at least” 60 per cent. That can be done in the light of evidence, so that the stakeholders—who initially will largely be industry and, through that, consumers, although they may eventually, through personal allowances, be people more directly—will be able to feel that this was not about votes by different people about whether it should be 60 per cent or 80 per cent. That is not the basis on which to take people with us. Rather, people should feel that due process has been followed. I would be surprised if the figure is not revised upwards. This contribution is not intended to challenge or question that, but to ask how we get there and how we take people with us.
I rise to follow precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and my noble friend Lord Woolmer said. Reluctantly, I oppose the amendment, but not because I do not think that this time next year the 80 per cent figure will have established itself as the norm. There is an additional argument in favour of keeping the Bill as it is. The most important thing that we focused on in the Joint Committee was the credibility of the Committee on Climate Change. It was absolutely fundamental to us that it should be independent, credible and listened to. I can think of no better way of achieving that than through the urgent first job of the committee being to review the process, review the figure, recommend 80 per cent and have 80 per cent accepted by the Government. That would establish that the Government, the Secretary of State and the committee were in lockstep, and it would establish the credibility of the committee. We would earn a lot more brownie points that way than we would by jumping on the bandwagon of 80 per cent, a figure with which I happen to have great sympathy.
I fully understand what the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, says, but if the figure of 60 per cent goes on being around and in the Bill, that opportunity will not be signalled in the way that it would be if no figures were to go in. I do not know what the Minister is going to say in response to this amendment. He may want to resist it, as he wants to resist most things that are tried at this stage.
The suggestion that we might do better not to have a figure at all puts the onus on the committee more forcefully than having a figure that I have not heard anyone defend. We should not be putting into the Bill at the next stage a figure that none of us thinks is realistic or wants to defend, just because it happens to be there. I hope that the Minister, in responding to the amendment, will say that he will take the figure out. If we just left it there, the signal that we would give to people who read the Bill as it goes through its processes here would be that we are not serious about attempting to up this percentage.
I would very much regret it if we lost any reference to a percentage target from the Bill. If the first clause read, “It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least lower”, it would be a pretty limp beginning to a pretty important Bill. Let us not lose a target. I personally accord with the noble Lords, Lord Puttnam and Lord Woolmer, about the need to get that extra bit of work done to validate an increase in the target. A Bill that says that the carbon account should be at least 60 per cent lower gives us a backstop beyond which we cannot slide and sets us up well for a higher target, whatever that higher target is ultimately to be.
I agree with the nature of the persuasive argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, that the committee can get credibility by winning a victory that we know in advance it is going to have. Anyone who reads Hansard is not going to spot that this was set up in the first place—
The problem that I have in one respect, following on from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is that I believe that we should have targets, because that is what the Bill is about. We are saying categorically that we are reducing carbon by the amount that we have to come forward with. It is not a question of greenwashing. This is the purpose of the Bill and what everyone understands it to be. I would support the 80 per cent target because it is the figure that is generally accepted in the scientific community.
If we are not as parliamentarians prepared to make the political decision that that is the way in which we are going to go, with the subsequent costs that there will be on industry, on individual freedoms and on the right to take a £5 flight to Bucharest for a stag weekend, or for any other reason, we are missing an opportunity to make a direct contribution of saying that this is the political will behind the Government. This is a brave Bill, and it says that we are looking towards that.
In a phrase used at Second Reading, I am slightly worried that by saying that we will have the 60 per cent but will move on to the 80 per cent—I do not believe that anyone is really considering taking percentages out of the Bill—we will transfer what should be a political decision on to a committee to make as a scientific decision. Everyone who has read the briefings will realise that 80 per cent is the scientific view. The Prime Minister mentioned in a speech that the Government are seriously considering taking 80 per cent as the baseline target. I very much hope that the Government will decide to do so, because it has been raised by the Prime Minister in a speech; obviously he has not said that it is a policy statement, but it is an aspirational target. As we all have come to agree that that is the very least that we can look at if we are to meet the objectives of the Bill, to pass it on to the committee would be an abdication of our responsibilities.
The problem with the science, if you believe what has been said over the past few years, is that the scientific community might come up with a higher figure than 80 per cent. I do not have a science degree; I have only a degree in archaeology. I personally think—well, I studied prehistoric Europe, and that tells us that within a few decades the land bridge between Britain and France was broken by water. If London happened to be in that area that was flooded, in the space of decades, we would have quite a lot to say about the increase in a couple of degrees or percentage targets. It is very easy to talk about this as if it does not have a great deal of meaning and will not have a great deal of effect within a few decades, but obviously it will.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, partly gave the game away by saying what he personally thought and then going into the science. He said that he was not a scientist, but his personal view was that 80 per cent was involved and he was relying on the science. Around the Chamber, others have been wary of politicians making the change, because we need the scientists to do it. As I said earlier, we do not have the committee, but we will have.
Opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, quoted Prime Minister, who said:
“But the evidence now suggests that as part of an international agreement developed countries may have to reduce their emissions by up to 80%”.
The noble Lord stopped there, but the quote continues:
“So we will put this evidence to the committee on climate change and ask it to advise us, as it begins to consider the first three five-year budgets, on whether our own domestic target should be tightened up to 80%”.
At the time I read that as the Prime Minister giving a lead and as being as near to extending an invitation by the new committee to make the adjustment as you could possible get, without saying that the personal view of a non-scientist is involved. It is best left to the committee—noble Lords have put the case for that. We admit that the 60 per cent target is an old one; it is seven years old. It is consistent with the European Council conclusions in March 2007, which called on developing countries to reduce their emissions by 60 to 80 per cent. The Bill says, “at least 60%” by 2050. The view of Stern was that developing countries needed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 per cent. There have been significant advances in science since the 60 per cent target was set—everyone admits that; the Government admit that, and the Prime Minister could not have been be clearer in his speech. We should wait for the Committee on Climate Change before deciding the appropriate target. We want a considered view, based on the best evidence, of the cost of changing from 60 to another figure—I do not say 80 per cent, just another figure.
There will be environmental, economic and social implications of changing the target and operating it. The implications need to be understood before a decision is taken; that is the role of the Climate Change Committee. There is no doubt that there will be economic costs. Stern says that the earlier these things are done, the cheaper it will be. We need to look at the effect of the rest of the world taking meaningful action on climate change; the Committee on Climate Change can do that. On the other hand, what would be the implications of including other greenhouse gases, if the UK was going it alone? We are dealing only with some of the greenhouse gases here. They are all defined in the Bill; we will come to them later on. Before we take a decision of this magnitude, it is important that we have a clear understanding. That view is shared by the two Front Benchers and, probably, the majority of those who have spoken. If there was a quick vote on “Yes or no; what would you prefer?”, the overwhelming majority would be clear: the figure would change. I say that as a non-scientist; our view is to wait for the committee to be set up on the basis of what the Prime Minister said.
Using the legislation and a committee of international repute, we want to send the right signal to other countries about the way that we go about setting our targets. We are entitled as the legislature to do it, but we have to face the consequences. We should do it on the basis of a considered scientific view and come to Parliament on the basis of the best science, not on the basis of an amendment during the Bill’s passage through Parliament. I am not knocking that, but we need a good science base, and an understanding of the economic and environmental considerations and consequences.
Can the Minister clarify whether the Government will take the 60 per cent out of the Bill and leave that for the Climate Change Committee, which is in the Bill anyway, to consider? Or will the 60 per cent figure be kept in? I understand why the Minister is saying that he does not want to go to 80, but is he saying that the figure is going to come out altogether or will it stay at 60?
I think that I am listening to what I said; that is the last thing that I am saying. I was not saying that we will take the 60 per cent figure out. At least 60 per cent has the scientific validity of a seven year-old target—an aspiration—from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. There is a good scientific base for that view. Work has been done, in some respects, into the economic and social consequences of that, which probably have not yet fully dawned on everybody, and we need to pursue that. I am not standing here, on behalf of the Government, accepting the suggestion from my noble friend that we take out any target and leave it all to the Climate Change Committee. Based on the evidence, that would be wrong; the target of 60 per cent is the absolute rock-bottom minimum.
We would lose a lot of credibility. My noble friend will be very isolated outside the House if he said that we should have no target and no figure. We have the scientific evidence for at least 60 per cent, although the evidence is seven years old and science has moved on since then. We have a procedure for changing the figure; that is, through the Climate Change Committee and the relevant legislative framework in the Bill. We would lose an awful lot if we took it out of the Bill, and we would send the wrong signals to other countries. It would be completely misunderstood if we did that and it would undermine the efforts being made in Bali as we speak. We want our targets to carry weight internationally. Obviously, we are likely to get that by using the best and most up-to-date science and the best cost-benefit analysis, so that we do not misunderstand the economics.
There is widespread agreement across society that the changes are necessary and desirable. If the committee comes back with 80 per cent, we have to explain that the consequence is not just changing a figure from 60 to 80—if that is the figure that it chooses. The economic and other consequences have to be sold to the wider society. There is no question that there would be substantial changes.
My noble friend talked about losing credibility internationally. The international community knows the figures. It knows that the 2 per cent figure does not stack up with 60. It will say that the Brits have got their figures wrong because the figures do not add up properly. How will we answer that in terms of credibility internationally?
I am sorry, I did not quite follow what my noble friend said. If we take the figure out we have no figure; we currently have a figure of at least 60 per cent. It is known publicly and internationally that the Prime Minister—the leader of the Government—has already said that the new Committee on Climate Change will be asked, as its first operational task, along with setting the first budget, to see whether the figure should be changed in view of the scientific justification and the economic consequences that would result. It could not be clearer internationally that the Brits are on the move. That is the signal that will be sent. If we took the figure out, it would be sent the opposite way; we would be moving backwards. You would need a lot of spin to explain that one, and I am not good at spin. We agree with the Joint Committee that a credible way forward is to ask the Committee on Climate Change to look at all the evidence and come up with the right level for the 2050 target. The committee will have the independence and resources, the economic and scientific knowledge expertise to review it, and it will be asked to do so at the first available opportunity.
When is that first opportunity likely to be? Given that other states with which we want to maintain credibility are moving rather more quickly towards an 80 per cent figure, does the Minister not think that, unless we have an 80 per cent figure one way or another, there is a risk that we will be catching up with them rather than leading them?
I understand that we shall have a debate on that very point after the dinner break. I can pontificate because I roughly know the planned timetable for the Bill—to get Royal Assent in the spring. That is the objective; it has to go through the other House, of course. Before then, the climate change committee will be set up in shadow form—the chair and the members—but until the Bill gets Royal Assent, it will not have authority to start the operation. The secretariat has already been set up to serve the climate change committee, but we shall probably have a bit more detail on that on Amendment No. 10.
Given what we have said about the committee and the way in which it will be put together—its independence, and the fact that whatever it comes forward with will have economic and social consequences and a science base—it would be a rash Government who dismissed any of its suggestions out of hand.