House of Lords
Monday, 25 February 2008.
The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwark.
Death of a Member
Armed Forces: Pensions
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I do so as honorary parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been the response of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal to the proposals set out in the consultation paper Transforming Tribunals.
My Lords, in their response, members of the tribunal opposed the transfer of their England and Wales jurisdiction to the Social Entitlement Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. However, the proposals in the consultation paper make it clear that members of the existing tribunal will be transferred into the new statutory tribunal structure to continue their excellent work in the same way as at present and to preserve the tribunal’s expertise.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend, but is he aware of the depth of disquiet in the ex-service community about the proposal to submerge the Pensions Appeal Tribunal—the guarantor of fair treatment for war pensioners—in the proposed Social Entitlement Chamber? Is not the chamber already too big? Why do the proposals fail to reflect the flexible framework set out in the Act and ignore the historical reasons for creating and continuing the PAT? With all his customary distaste for mincing words, my noble friend Lord Rooker told Parliament that our Armed Forces,
“enter into a unique contract with the state. In effect, they agree to die for their country if necessary”.—[Official Report, Commons, 24/7/00; col. 816.]
Is that not a compelling enough reason for a discrete specialised jurisdiction for our war disabled and bereaved?
My Lords, of course I pay tribute to members of the armed services and, indeed, to my noble friend for his outstanding work in this area. I assure him that these proposals have been the subject of a consultation, on which no final decisions have been taken. Perhaps I may refer him to Lord Justice Carnwath, the Senior President of Tribunals, who has made it clear that one of his principal objectives in the coming months will be to ensure that the changes do not come at the expense of continuity, specialisation or service to users. The proposals are an attempt to use the undoubted strengths of the current Pensions Appeal Tribunal, but within a larger and more integrated approach to tribunals generally.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Pensions Appeal Tribunal and its president, Dr Concannon, have over the years built up a strong position of trust among members of the Armed Forces? Would it not be folly to put that relationship, especially at this time, at risk by merging the tribunal with the much larger body, the Social Entitlement Chamber, in which it will be swallowed up and soon lost to sight?
My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of the president and all members of the tribunal for the outstanding work that they have undertaken. I accept that there is enormous confidence in their work among members of the Armed Forces and those who appear before them. As I have made clear, we are seeking to ensure that the strengths of the tribunal that the noble and learned Lord referred to will be taken forward in the new structure. Lord Justice Carnwath has made it clear that that is his intent as well.
My Lords, the stated intention behind the Social Entitlement Chamber is for expert members of the various panels, particularly medical experts, to be a general chambers’ resource, available for all types of appeal, such as social security and so on. How do the Government intend to use across the board the armed services members, who are currently an essential part of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal but who obviously could not be used in any other capacity? Those members give confidence to servicemen that the people listening to them know about service life. Why waste the expertise on injuries incurred in warfare that medical members have by allowing other people to come into the Pensions Appeal Tribunal system? Surely the whole purpose of the tribunals Act was to have a flexible system.
My Lords, that is what is being proposed, while we retain the current strengths of the system. The assignment and allocation of members of appeals will be the responsibility of the president of the relevant chamber. As far as I am aware, there is no intention to dissipate the expertise of the medical members, but there may be situations in which they can provide evidence to other tribunals and it would be a pity to waste that expertise. I should also make it clear to the noble Lord that before a member can be used in another jurisdiction, they will have to go through the appropriate training and be given a ticket enabling them to do so. There will be a quality check on that.
My Lords, by my reckoning it is the turn of the Conservatives, but we have time for both questions.
My Lords, if the Government subsume this highly skilled and highly specialised tribunal, in which families can have some trust, how do they propose to face the fact that tribunals will now be meeting all over the country as part of larger tribunals? Up to now, the Royal British Legion has had a special agreement with the PAT to provide people for specific meetings and tribunals when major issues are at stake, but it will be unable to run all over the country attending all sorts of large tribunals. These issues will be one small bit of the system, but they are nevertheless vital to the armed services. I feel that we will be betraying the military covenant and leaving families in a serious state of anxiety if we do not preserve something that has lasted since 1919 and which is trusted and needed.
My Lords, I have sympathy with the noble Baroness’s remarks and I pay tribute to the work of the Royal British Legion. My understanding is that cases will be listed. That will ensure that resources are used efficiently so that cases relating to a given jurisdiction within a chamber are heard on the same day. I hope that that will assuage some of the concerns of the Royal British Legion.
My Lords, in relation to the document Transforming Tribunals, will my noble friend further confirm the assurances given by my noble friend Lord Bach on 4 February—I had previously given notice of this—that there will be no change in the equal status of the three members of tripartite tribunals and that all the parties who judge the case will be equal?
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. This is subject to a second consultation by the department, BERR, which will respond to those issues in due course. I can tell him, however, that most respondents to that consultation have commented that the tripartite structure of the tribunal was a real strength that aided decision-making in cases where considerations of context and reasonableness were important.
Olympic Games 2012: Financing
My Lords, on 10 December 2007, the Government announced the result of work undertaken to ensure that the budget for the Games was fully aligned with the scope, programme and risks and confirmed that the findings of this work validated the ODA budget and the overall funding package of £9.325 billion that was announced in March 2007. Further details of funding for the Games can be found in the first annual report on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, published on 22 January this year.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, but is he aware that the National Audit Office report this month pointed out that there is a major risk in the lack of agreed cost estimates in the Olympic programmes? At the same time, is he also aware that Ken Livingston has guaranteed that there will be no increase in London tax bills to finance the Games? Since the Games executives are being paid very much more than was anticipated, does my noble friend gather that there will be some shortfall here, and how will he deal with it?
My Lords, as we have made clear on a number of occasions, there is no intention to have a shortfall in resources. The resources that will be commanded from the three contributors are £9.325 billion. That is the costed figure. The Government’s intention, determination and expectation are that that budget is adequate for the Games.
My Lords, are the Government aware of the growing concern among a number of charities that the funding of the Olympic Games will draw money away from very important charities in our society? Can the Minister say anything that would comfort charities that have great concern about this? It is no comfort to know that they might get back some funding in 2015 or 2016.
My Lords, the National Lottery intends to contribute 19 per cent of its resources to the Games, which certainly puts strain on other parts of its allocation, as has been recognised. Additional resources will still be available for the bodies concerned, but any loss from any increase that they could have anticipated will be made up when land values are realised after the Games.
My Lords, I can in this respect. There has been analysis of the Olympic budget at the highest level. In this analysis, where anxieties have been expressed, for instance with regard to the security budget, I can report that the contingency provision for the security budget is three times higher than the original allocation of resources for security. We are taking on board the fact that there could be significant increases in certain areas, but these were all included in the £9.325 billion budget, which was announced in March last year. We intend to stick to that budget, which is adequate to deliver the Games.
My Lords, has it been noted that the Government listen to what happens in your Lordships’ House? A few weeks ago, a similar Question was tabled about funding for the 2012 Olympics, and I asked whether the Government were properly funding the British Transport Police Authority in its endeavours to provide safety on the transport system during 2012? I have now heard from the authority that it has been properly funded so that the resources will be available for it almost to guarantee the safety of the transport system in 2012, which is to be commended.
My Lords, the legacy was an important aspect of the success of the bid. The noble Lord will appreciate that there have been suggestions that there is a failure to project accurately the returns that may occur after 2012. We are in difficult areas here because we are projecting land values. All of us will recognise that there are problems with regard to projection in those terms. Nevertheless, there is not the slightest doubt that the Olympic estate is an extremely valuable asset that is designed to supply the legacy and the resources for the enhancement of the area after the Games. The whole planning of the estate is along those lines.
Agriculture: Swill Feeding
My Lords, the Government welcome the thorough report published by the parliamentary commissioner for administration in December 2007. We are considering the report carefully and will reply to the ombudsman before the end of March.
My Lords, I am grateful for that encouraging response, but does the Minister accept that the ombudsman found that there was maladministration on behalf of Defra? What new evidence has Defra brought forward to justify the continued refusal to give compensation to the pigswill feeders? Was the swill tested at the time for virus?
My Lords, I do not think that the noble Baroness has given a fair assessment of the ombudsman’s report. Six out of seven complaints were dismissed. There were two areas of maladministration, one of which was discretionary by the Ministers about compensation and has been revisited by other Ministers on at least two occasions. In the report, the ombudsman has declared herself satisfied that she could not and would not wish to interfere in that decision. The only other area of maladministration relates to the record keeping of the vet, who was not responsible for foot and mouth. With respect, we will give a formal, considered response to the report, which did not find in the way that the noble Baroness said, before the end of March.
My Lords, is not one of the most important potential uses for waste food that of producing energy through anaerobic digestion? Given that the Government say we are leading in terms of renewables and the environment, why, on British farms, do we have only 20 anaerobic digestion systems whereas Germany has 3,000?
My Lords, the noble Lord is right. There is no argument about what can be done with the waste, including catering waste. In 1999, swill feeders were banned from using airline waste food and non-GB food. They were also banned from putting dead piglets in pigswill. The complete ban put in place in 2001 and subsequently across the European Union in 2003 means that an enormous amount of food waste is unfortunately going to landfill where it will pollute the planet. As the noble Lord says, anaerobic digestion would get the energy out of the waste.
My Lords, does the noble Lord recall that only 26 pig producers were involved in this, that the activities they were carrying out were perfectly legal, and that they had to re-equip themselves with the boilers necessary to bring the swill up to the temperatures required by Her Majesty’s Government and the European Union? They spent many thousands of pounds setting themselves up and their businesses were peremptorily closed by the Government at the start of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. For the noble Lord’s information, the pigswill was not tested for foot and mouth disease. I have the answers to a Written Question going back to just after the foot and mouth disease testing period.
My Lords, with respect, it goes wider than that. The advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee—SEAC—has always been that inter-species feeding ought to be banned, so you can put foot and mouth to one side. Feeding pigs to pigs and lambs to lambs does not make sense and the committee said it should not be done. That was part of the reason for bringing in the complete ban. It was suggested before 1997. Steps were taken in 1999 to make certain reductions. That is not the issue. There is no analogy with the fur farmers and others who were completely put out of business. There is business in waste and in trading in waste. I fully accept that, while the equipment is there for the boilers, pigs can be fed other materials and the waste can still create a lot of money for people unless they put it into landfill.
My Lords, there is increased pressure on food supplies. We know that poultry and livestock consume large quantities of cereals. Does the noble Lord not agree that it is time to reconsider the ban on swill feeding and devise methods of using the one-third of food that is grown in the UK and currently classified as waste?
My Lords, I am surprised at that suggestion from the noble Lord. SEAC has never changed its advice on this—it does not matter what you do to the material or how well you might cook it, inter-species feeding in this way is not a good idea. We do not want to turn the clock back on that. The noble Lord is quite right: one-third of the food that we sell and produce is not used. It is wasted, but it should not go to landfill. There are other ways of getting money and energy out of that waste food.
My Lords, it depends on the particular farm. The swill was made on a different farm from the one where foot and mouth started. I do not know whether that particular feed—or, indeed, feed around the country—was tested for foot and mouth. Obviously, as the noble Countess said, there were some two dozen swill feeders. There are 62 members of the swill users’ group, but I do not know whether all 62 were producing feed at the time. I will provide a Written Answer on this, but it does not alter the fact that we will give a considered reply to the ombudsman’s thorough report, which did not find in favour of six of the seven complaints made.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Would he not agree that steps must be taken to ensure that we remain in a pre-eminent position? This Northern Rock scandal has been running for six months and if it has not done any damage at home, which I doubt, it will undoubtedly have done some damage abroad. What steps will be taken to ensure that our reputation does not suffer? Furthermore, what proposals are there for the Granite trust, which is run from the Channel Islands and is apparently a subsidiary of Northern Rock? Finally, in hindsight, would it not have been a good idea to have done a deal with Lloyds-TSB last August?
My Lords, all these issues were raised in the debates on the Bill last week, but the noble Lord is right to say that it is important to protect the lead which London enjoys in the provision of financial services. That has been the burden of the Government’s intent ever since Northern Rock presented the problem and why the Government have made strenuous efforts to solve it over the past six months. The Bill passed last week represents the conclusion of those efforts so far as immediate action is concerned.
On the other points, as I mentioned last week, Granite is entirely separate from Northern Rock. However, later today a statement will be made on Granite to cover a number of points that have been raised. I am not able to go beyond that at this immediate moment.
My Lords, bearing in mind that the job of the Official Opposition is to oppose—they do it so marvellously that I am sure the electorate will see to it they it carry on opposing for at least the next decade—is not the lesson to be learnt from Northern Rock mainly about the immense strength of both the City of London and the British economy? Despite all the events of the recent past, both direct and portfolio investment is still pouring into the City and our reputation as the leading financial centre has not been lowered either here or abroad. What one would like to hear is a bit more support for the City of London and for the British economy rather than carping criticism.
My Lords, as always my noble friend is right in both his broad proposition and in some of the details. London produces resources from its financial services twice as large as any other financial centre, and of course we value that. On the more general issue of the attitude of the Opposition, what has been clear throughout the past six months is that while they have been strong on criticism, they have been very weak on constructive suggestions.
My Lords, has my noble friend seen that recent YouGov opinion polls show clearly that despite the best efforts of the Opposition both in this House and the other place, the people of this country blame the Northern Rock management for what went wrong and are fully in support of the actions that the Government have taken?
My Lords, I am concerned to be fair to the Opposition, which I am sure is prepared to accept that the Northern Rock management was a contributory factor to the problem, so I would not want my noble friend to be too stringent in his criticism in those terms. This is a problem concerning a bank in the private sector which was managed badly rather than well. The Government have taken appropriate action to solve the problem.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that one aspect of London’s reputation in respect of Northern Rock going forward will be how the Government manage their relationship with the bank? On Thursday, the Minister said that:
“The framework for the relationship between the Government and the company will be made clear and the strategic plan will be communicated to the House in due course”.—[Official Report, 21/2/08; col. 302.]
Given that Northern Rock has now been brought into public ownership, when will the new management have the framework and when can we see it?
My Lords, the Northern Rock management has a pretty full agenda at the present time. It has to produce a business plan that meets the requirements of the European Commission and it has to meet the proper requirements to ensure that it does not enjoy an unfair competitive advantage—for which the Government will also take responsibility. The House will recognise the time constraint of 17 March as regards Brussels, but the Government will want to see how the strategic plan of the relationship between the Treasury and Northern Rock develops, and of course it will be put into the public domain.
My Lords, I am not sure that I have addressed myself to that detail at the present point. I have given the assurance I gave last week that this aspect of the strategic plan will be put into the public domain. It may be considered adequate that the normal parliamentary processes of cross-examination take place, but if the Opposition are as insistent as the noble Lord that a Statement should be made upon it, I have no doubt that the Chancellor will pay due regard to that.
My Lords, does my noble friend accept that, in the current circumstances, it is important that we have maximum transparency on Northern Rock and that there is certainly none as far as Granite is concerned? He will have seen the letter that the Chancellor wrote to Vince Cable last week which makes it totally unclear what the position is. I am glad there is going to be a Statement, but could he make it clear today that there are no assets in Granite over which we would have had a first charge?
My Lords, I can assure my noble friend on the latter point that that is the case. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, because I misinterpreted his question and I want to clear the matter up. I thought he was talking about a Statement on the strategic plan for the future but he was talking about Granite. That is not the subject of a Statement, but the Treasury will be making the details of the position clear today.
Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]
My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In doing so, perhaps I may pay tribute to Lady Darcy de Knayth. She loved your Lordships’ House, and it loved her. She was a devoted Member for more than three decades and was always conscientious in questioning and ready with her help, whoever wanted it. She was devoted to the passage of this Bill and has taken part in refining and passing every piece of disability legislation over the past three decades, ever since the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act in which she gave her maiden speech. She will be greatly missed.
Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Wilkins.)
My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth was among the first group of female Peers that came into the House of Lords in 1969 following the 1963 Act. In 1999 she came top of the list in the election for hereditary Peers. She was, as we have heard, one of the most assiduous attenders, and we all know what that must have cost her. Her interests were wide and catholic and, time and again, she voted on the basis of conscience. She was especially involved in the rights for the disabled movement, where she was hugely and widely regarded. Having been in the House for so many years, she knew everyone and could count everyone, including the staff, as her friends, some of them very close friends. We shall miss her immeasurably.
My Lords, in wishing the Bill well in its passage, I wish to say that Lady Darcy de Knayth was one of the people who helped me when I first got here. I am happy to have been her ally on many occasions in this House. She embodied the true spirit of the Cross Benches; she struck equally hard at whoever happened to be on the government Front Bench, often very accurately. She went into every piece of legislation honestly. She was open to argument and was not afraid to change her mind. If any of us decided to become more than party hacks and aspired to her example, the world would be a better place.
My Lords, I was telephoned at 8.15 on Saturday morning from my noble friend’s home to say that she had had seizures and had been admitted to her local hospital in Slough, which unfortunately was not equipped to deal with a seriously ill person with spinal injuries. My noble friend had been treated for years at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which, tragically, would not admit her for some reason yet to be explained. As president of the Spinal Injuries Association, I will be asking the Government to review the very inadequate facilities for the 6,000 people living with the results of spinal injuries, especially in the south of England.
On Saturday, I gave my noble friend’s son the home telephone number of Professor Mathias of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, and Queen Square Hospital. He is an expert on autonomic dysreflexia, a condition my noble friend thought she had. The moment he heard, he tried to help. I pay tribute to Professor Mathias for his sense of urgency, his care and his support for the family and myself. I wish all the doctors had been like him.
Davina died in the early hours of Sunday morning. There will be a post-mortem as there has been an undiagnosed problem since before Christmas. My noble friend will be missed by so many people.
My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth’s mother and my mother were step-sisters, so she was my step-first cousin. I think she was the first person ever to be referred to as a “kinswoman” in this House. She did not know the meaning of the word “self-pity”. When the appalling car crash happened in 1964 when her husband was killed and she suffered the most dreadful injuries—she had three little children, though they were not in the car, thank God—she was in hospital for many months. One day, after she came out, she was with her mother, who was berating fate. Davina said, “But Mummy, don’t you see? Life is so much more interesting now. I have to lie there and work out how to turn over. Life is much more fascinating”.
As has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, among others, she used to come here and stay till all hours to move amendments. What many noble Lords may not know is that it took her three hours to get ready every morning. She never complained about that; she just took it as read, in her objective way, that that was how life now was. Sometimes when I am in America I am asked to make speeches. Americans have a way of asking you, “Who is your hero?”, and I always said, “My cousin Davina”.
My Lords, Lady Darcy de Knayth has sat in your Lordships’ House for nearly 40 years as one of only a very few female hereditary Peers. During that time she has been a considerable presence here and has made a notable contribution on behalf of many causes in the field of disability, a number of which she was herself associated with in an honorary capacity. As opposition health spokesman I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to her on numerous occasions and was always struck by her lack of affectation as well as her wisdom. My noble friends and I will miss her and her refreshingly positive approach to life.
My Lords, I wholeheartedly associate the Government Benches with the sorrow expressed by noble Lords at the untimely death of our friend and colleague, Lady Darcy de Knayth. I know that she will be very much missed across the House—her work, her laugh, her attitude and the enormous amount of work she did on behalf of many causes. I will miss her because of her personal kindness and friendship to me in the 10 years I have been in the House. I know that I am expressing the view that all of us feel at this time.
Northumberland (Structural Change) Order 2008
County Durham (Structural Change) Order 2008
Cornwall (Structural Change) Order 2008
Shropshire (Structural Change) Order 2008
My Lords, I beg to move the first four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 8 January be approved. 6th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 7th Report from the Merits Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 21 February.—(Baroness Andrews.)
On Question, Motions agreed to.
Wiltshire (Structural Change) Order 2008
My Lords, I beg to move the fifth Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 8 January be approved. 6th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 7th Report from the Merits Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 21 February.—(Baroness Andrews.)
rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert “but this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the draft order and not to lay an amended draft order until the Court of Appeal has issued its judgment in Congleton Borough Council and Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, for those who were not able to be in Grand Committee last Thursday, perhaps it would be helpful if I just mentioned the three points that were raised regarding Wiltshire’s objection to the order. The first was cost; the consensus is that Wiltshire County Council has grossly underestimated the cost. The second point, which is the substantive one with regard to my amendment, relates to acceptance. Prior to the consultation, the second objective of all these orders was stated to be that the proposals must be,
“supported by a broad cross section of partners and stakeholders”.
In the discussion that the noble Baroness and I had in Grand Committee last Thursday, she was kind enough to acknowledge, having twice stressed that one-third of the respondents from Wiltshire had been in favour of the plan, that two-thirds had been against the plan. I just point out to the Minister that two-thirds is twice as much as one-third. That is fairly simple mathematics, which even somebody like me can cope with.
The two boroughs in question are not in Wiltshire, but the result of the court case will affect all these orders, so I hope that I am allowed to speak on Wiltshire’s behalf by referring to Congleton and Shrewsbury and Atcham. The position as I understand it—I do not speak as a lawyer—is that the case went to court in September and Mr Justice Underhill upheld the Government’s case on all three grounds. However, the councils were granted leave to appeal.
I come back to one of the original objectives, which was to achieve broad consensus. The councils argued that the original wording meant that there must be support for a proposal before it could go forward to implementation. The Secretary of State changed that to claim that, if the proposals were implemented, the support would be forthcoming afterwards. This is slightly curious. The court conceded that the criteria had been changed but claimed that the Secretary of State was entitled to change her mind on the criteria as the process unfolded. The plaintiffs argued that such a claim was contrary to the concept of legitimate expectations.
I realise that this is sub judice and that it is completely inappropriate to go into the pros and cons of the case itself. The noble Baroness advised the Grand Committee last Thursday that, although the appeal was heard at the end of January, we do not know the result yet. However, she was kind enough to say that the result was—she did not say “confidently”, but let me put the word in her mouth—expected “before Easter”. That is less than four weeks away. The purpose of my amendment is strongly to ask the Government: what is the hurry for the sake of four weeks?
This Government are not the only Government to have found themselves with a slightly bloody nose vis-à-vis judgments from the courts and having to reverse what I would call political decisions. I really think that it might help the Government if they just held hard the matter for four weeks and waited on the result of the appeal; then, everyone will know exactly where they stand. I beg to move.
Moved, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert “but this House calls on Her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the draft order and not to lay an amended draft order until the Court of Appeal has issued its judgment in Congleton Borough Council and Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council v The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.”—(Lord Geddes.)
My Lords, the word “consensus” brings me to my feet. The Government have told us on a number of occasions that they are seeking consensus, particularly in going forward to find the new composition of this House. They are conducting themselves in that regard as though consensus existed in favour of a proportion of elected people in this House, which does not exactly represent the views of the vast majority of the House. So, coloured by that experience, I look at this case and find—my noble friend has reminded me—that the Government were seeking to proceed by general consensus. They find that two-thirds of those consulted are against what is proposed, and yet they proceed as though consensus has been obtained. It is the same behaviour pattern.
The matter becomes more serious when one finds that one of the grounds of appeal was that all the links that the DCLG put on the website on this consultation went only to people in favour of it and not to those against. So there seems to be a determination to go ahead with policy in all areas as if consensus has been achieved when it has not. To do that ahead of a judgment that may overturn the decision that the Government are now trying to implement seems to be to take a considerable risk with their own popularity rating as well as to be a great waste of parliamentary time if the whole thing has to be done again. I therefore warmly support my noble friend.
My Lords, I hope for two reasons that noble Lords do not support the amendment. First, there has been no suggestion at any stage in dealing with any of these orders that consensus means the result of a plebiscite. Local government reorganisation, whether in 1974 or David Curry’s reorganisation in the 1990s, did not seek public opinion particularly strongly. The reason for that seems to me to be twofold. First, some of the authorities may have to have changed boundaries. Where people in, for example, a rural area may come within an expanded boundary, they enjoy urban services at a much lower cost because they are paying rural rates. In a completely non-judgmental way, I would point out that they are essentially piggy-backing on urban services for which they have not fully paid. To expect them to want to vote to come into such a system would be utopian at best. My second hesitation about talk about plebiscites and referendums is that consensus is not just about each individual council tax payer or each taxpayer, because local communities are made up of networks of interest—the churches, the faith groups and, above all, business—and it is business that in many areas has been driving this agenda for unitary authorities. As a result, you cannot pick up those community voices through a plebiscite.
As my noble friend made clear when we discussed this in Grand Committee, it will be a pragmatic judgment whether the key stakeholders, together with the principal players—that is, the local authorities—would make the proposed unitary authorities work. My noble friend was confident that, in Wiltshire’s case, they would, and went on to explain that the judge at that appeal said that it was perfectly appropriate and proper for the Government to go ahead and not to defer their activities to await any outcome of the formal decision.
My second point is that if my noble friend were to accept this amendment, or the House were to support it, that would mean that any individual of any party to any such order—we have a dozen or so of them coming our way, including some quite difficult ones in a week or two—could seek to delay and delay again by going through the court procedure. When, as here, the judge has clearly made it acceptable to go ahead and the Government won on all points of the first round, there is, presumably, nothing to prevent these local authorities from delaying yet again by taking the matter on to the House of Lords. We could end up delaying each system of change by months when the staff, the stakeholders and the electorate want us to go swiftly and seamlessly into the new authorities. On both those grounds, I hope that the House will not support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes.
My Lords, the Minister will recall my presence in the Moses Room during the longest county debate on Thursday, but Divisions in the Chamber, which could not have been predicted a week earlier, robbed me of a chance to speak on Wiltshire because of an alternative engagement. I therefore thank my noble friend Lord Geddes for giving me this unexpected opportunity to speak to his amendment. I shall not abuse that opportunity by making last Thursday’s speech, but I should tell the House that I speak, as Lord Geddes did, as a resident. I lived in north Wiltshire for five years, then in central Wiltshire for 17 years; I have now been in south Wiltshire for 12 years. I can therefore endorse the view that Wiltshire is a highly diverse county that is ill suited in its physical topography or human geography to a unitary authority.
I agree that, as Churchill once said, in democracy one vote is enough, but the Government primarily rest their case on a winning division of 25 votes to 24 in the county council. The Government make much of their consultation with stakeholders, yet, at the time of the Commons debate on 5 February, only one stakeholder was known to have been positively in favour. At first blush, the democratic statistics are against the Government. The Minister was a little free with personal parliamentary statistics on Thursday when she described admiration for the leader of the council among county MPs who were against the proposal but spoke of their warmth towards her. Of those who alluded to the leader in their speeches on 5 February, the Minister’s statement is correct of one; the only other one who spoke of her could not make up his mind whether he was in favour of or against the proposal. That seems not a bad summary of overall opinion in the county, incidentally, but it is a poor basis for going forward, for which the Government must therefore take full responsibility thereafter.
Governments of both major parties have had a curate’s egg reputation for their central government decisions about local government since, 40 years ago, they started relying on Ministers who did not have local government experience. My noble friend Lord Geddes is giving the Government the opportunity to wait for the court’s views on the analogous Shropshire case before finalising their views by pressing the order today.
As for the boundaries to which the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, alluded, in Wiltshire we had re-warding boundaries in 2003 and new parliamentary constituency boundaries in the interim; we are now to be asked to have all our local government boundaries altered again. As moonrakers, Wiltshiremen on the whole like a bit of peace and quiet.
My Lords, I crave the forgiveness of the House because I came in on the end of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes. However, I was struck by something that he said about awaiting a decision affecting both Wiltshire and Congleton Borough Council. I will be taking the opportunity to oppose what the Government propose for Cheshire next Tuesday, but my attention was drawn by the words not only of that noble Lord but of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis.
It is absolutely imperative that, if we are to carry these orders—and, indeed, the order for Cheshire—the criterion of consensus that the Government have demanded is reflected in the ability of the people in these counties to pronounce on them. In the case of Cheshire—I shall be exploring this further next Tuesday evening—I know for certain that the Government are refusing to publish information about the comments received by interested parties, whereas that is not the case in relation to Wiltshire.
I repeat the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, about the necessity of finding proper consensus and, if necessary, delaying orders. That is something with which the Government should particularly concern themselves, especially as, in the case of Cheshire, they are splitting up an authority that has successfully existed for many hundreds of years and are thus trespassing on the sentiments of people in Cheshire, whose comments made through plebiscite or, indeed, in response to the Government’s proposals indicate that they would like a single unitary council, not two unitary councils. I hope that that can be respected. I also hope that, if something is missing or lacking in the orders before us today with respect to a proper consensus being found, the Government will delay in order to repair this deficit.
My Lords, I have great sympathy with the frustration expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, and others in debating this Motion today. It is all the more frustrating because the difficulties with which local government reorganisation is now beset were predictable; indeed, they were predicted by these Benches when the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill was going through.
Discussions with the local authorities concerned began long before the Bill was published and took place within a framework that changed every time the Minister in another place changed—I think that there were three in charge while this was taking place. Above all, there has never really been any clear vision expressed for the future of local government beyond a rather vague “one tier good, two tier bad” mantra. We have not seen any robust analysis of the performance of local government in order to determine how it should be structured to provide good services, to be cost-efficient and to command public support.
It is all very well to say—as the Government have and, I have no doubt, as the noble Baroness will again today—that this was a bottom-up process, but the fact is that central government will decide the outcome of the local government review. Therefore, it is the responsibility of central government to have a framework providing clear ground rules and to have a transparent process that tests out financial claims and verifies claims about public support.
But we are where we are. We do not know when we can expect the outcome of the appeal against the judicial review. We do not know whether it will affect the outcome of the councils directly concerned, never mind the other councils involved in the process, such as Wiltshire. These councils are providing essential services such as education, social care and firefighting. Some of the councils face elections in just 11 weeks’ time. The noble Lord asks what the hurry is. This process has already been hugely disruptive for local councils. To create more uncertainty going on for weeks and weeks could damage public services. Therefore, it is with some reluctance and with genuine sympathy, because the Government have handled this very badly, that we shall not support the noble Lord’s amendment.
My Lords, I have great sympathy with what the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said. I declare an interest as a Northumberland county councillor and a Berwick borough councillor, although I shall not be standing for the new unitary authority. I recognise the problems. I was not able to be here last week when all these orders were debated, but I feel that the Government have been less than honest with people about the role of democracy. They have talked a lot about devolution and listening to people. However, I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, said in relation to Wiltshire. I have also heard about Cheshire and I know about Northumberland. I think that this is a very sorry way to carry on. My noble friend is absolutely right: we are going to have elections in Northumberland in eight weeks, as will others. The people of Northumberland, despite not liking much of what was going on, recognised that we could not stop it, so we are doing our best to make sure that it will work.
In all the debates that we have had, this has been very unsatisfactory and undemocratic. It was even worse in Northumberland; we had a referendum in which people said what they would like but the Government responded, “Oh, that does not matter; the chief constable and others want this to happen”. The Government have moved forward paying scant regard to democracy. This will be played out, in some cases, in the reorganisations. In Northumberland, it is the officers who are pushing this forward until the new council is elected. It is time that the Government thought carefully about how our democracy works. They have played fast and loose with it and they are now setting up all sorts of bodies that have no democratic accountability and are not going to be any better.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, for trying to assist the Government this afternoon. I have listened intently to what noble Lords have said. We had a good debate on Thursday. We debated each of the orders in turn and went into considerable detail. Indeed, I wearied the Committee by going through the processes at some length, so I will not repeat all that.
I am disappointed by what the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, said. The Government have not been less than honest. We made what we were looking for very clear in the criteria that we set out. I remind the House that this was the first time in all the reorganisations of the past 40 years that the Government offered an invitation to local authorities to tell us whether they were interested in change. Yes, we made a case for unitary status, but it is the case that many people throughout the land have made. Many local councils and district councils have also made that case. We forced this on nobody. We set out our criteria clearly.
We had 26 invitations and six have gone through. We have failed far more people and councillors on their proposals because they did not meet our criteria; they did not meet the financial criteria and they did not meet the broad support criteria. That is why we feel confident that the unitary structures that we now support—these five orders—are workable. That is the point.
Noble Lords are absolutely right to raise the question of the criteria for broad support. I will quote the criteria in the original invitation, because what we were looking for was clear. We said that the change to unitary local government structure must be,
“supported by a broad cross section of partners and stakeholders ... We recognise that any proposal may not carry consensus from or within all sectors … No single body or group of councils or bodies will have a veto”.
We also said:
“It will be necessary for any proposal to have support from a range of key partners, stakeholders and service users/citizens”.
In any reorganisation people are unhappy, particularly if their council is not going to survive. We know that this has caused distress and disappointment. I listened with great respect to what the noble Lords, Lord Brooke, Lord Elton and Lord Geddes, said about Wiltshire and their personal associations with it. They are right to make the House aware of those matters. However, we were never less than clear that we could not look for a majority of popular support, for the reasons that my noble friend made clear. We were looking for the sort of support that would ensure that this reorganisation would work to the benefit of the local people, with more strategic leadership and more neighbourhood empowerment. We have found that the local arrangements that are being set up—as in the case of “belonging communities” in Northumberland or in Cornwall—are real local associations rather than artificial boundaries. There will be a new way; this will not just be a reiteration or a reformation of an old council. That is why it is important to get it right.
In Wiltshire, there was a popular poll, which the noble Lord, Lord Geddes, quoted correctly. It was a postal campaign. We commissioned work into the nature of these polling campaigns in other places. They were not managed by the Electoral Reform Society. They were not supervised; the votes were merely collected at the end. There was not the supervision that we would expect in terms of a national postal vote. Consequently, we are saying that one has to be very careful about the value of that sort of vote.
At the same time in Wiltshire, an Ipsos MORI poll revealed that 80 per cent of people were looking for more information about the benefits of unitary councils and structures, which is a slightly different perspective. We had the support of many public sector stakeholders, some of the voluntary and community sector and most of the Wiltshire business chambers. We were looking for the partners to be signed up to this proposal so that, when and if Parliament agreed it, it would be delivered. The partners would see the new strategic arrangements and the new governance arrangements; they would be working with them, they would be committed to delivering them and they would make them work. We started off there—from the principles of validity, accountability and workability.
Let me say in response to what the noble Lord said that, as my noble friend stated, we are in a clear position in relation to the courts. In September, the court found conclusively in favour of the Government. It dismissed Congleton’s and Shrewsbury’s claim for judicial review on all grounds. It also gave leave for the parties to appeal, but the court made no suggestion whatever that the administrative processes should be delayed pending that appeal.
We have been open with the court throughout this process about the fact that we intended to proceed as quickly as possible. We were urged by the local authorities engaged in this process to minimise the process and the timetable for disruption. As we all know, and as has been made clear in this House, the process is very disruptive. At the start of this process last spring, during the permission hearing, the court refused an application from Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council and Congleton Borough Council to stay the process until the outcome of the judicial review. In refusing the application, Mr Justice King explained that,
“on the evidence such a stay would cause manifest and serious prejudice and detriment to good administration”.
The noble Lord will not be surprised that I cannot accept the amendment, which takes a diametrically opposite view to that of the court and seeks to put a hold on the process pending the outcome of the litigation, when we are now awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeal. As I have explained, the High Court, conscious of the process and the timetable involved in the structural changes, recognised at the very outset of this litigation the importance of pressing ahead and not holding back the administrative process for restructuring. Secondly, we gave every assurance to local authorities from the outset of the process that we would try not to drag this process out and make it more difficult. I do not know when the judgment on appeal will be given. The best we can say is that we expect that it will be given before the Easter Recess, but that is entirely a matter for the court.
The implications for delay are very serious for councils and for the implementation process. This has been done in extensive consultation with the local authorities concerned about what they wanted, the timetable of elections that they wanted to follow and the nature of the implementation teams. Everything has been in their hands. The timetable that Wiltshire, like other areas, is now following, with the agreement of all parties, is for new elections in May 2009. That allows sufficient time for the Electoral Commission to undertake the necessary electoral review before the May 2009 election. If the noble Lord’s judgment were to prevail today and the court upheld its original judgment, on the Electoral Commission’s timetable that review would no longer be possible.
The problems and confusion of such a delay more than outweigh, in our judgment, the problems and costs that would arise if an order were now approved and made but subsequently quashed by the court if it were to grant the appeal. We have to bear in mind the fact that, even if the court does grant the appeal, it is entirely at its discretion whether to quash the order or simply to make a declaration or grant some other relief.
I know that the noble Lord has spoken with what he sees as the interests of Wiltshire at heart and that other noble Lords have raised important issues. However, I hope that he will agree with Members in another place that, given the decision to go ahead—and without denying that there have been and always have been disagreements and upset over this sort of change—we must support those who have come through the process and are now committed to implementing those changes and making them work as successfully as possible. I think that it would be a major disservice to those very loyal servants in local government if they were not able to do that.
My Lords, I am immensely grateful to my noble friends and other noble Lords for their support of my amendment. I will just make a couple of points to the Minister.
First, on the crucial issue of consensus, which several noble Lords have raised, the Minister used a very interesting phrase. She said that the Government “forced this on nobody”. However, that is exactly what is happening now in Wiltshire—and probably other counties as well, but I am concentrating on Wiltshire. It is exactly what is happening: this is being forced on the people of Wiltshire. It was not achieved by plebiscite; I do not know why the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, has brought up that word again after doing so last Thursday. My honourable friend the Member for Westbury said in col. 924 of Commons Hansard of 5 February that he has photocopies of every response. I do not know whether the noble Baroness or her officials have seen those copies, but they are readily available. Two-thirds of the respondents in Wiltshire said that they did not want this. By any common use of English, that seems to me to be forcing a decision on the people of Wiltshire.
The Minister mentioned the MORI poll. I put no weight on it at all but, as she has mentioned it, I will, too. If I heard her correctly, she said that 80 per cent of the respondents would like to know the benefits of the unitary authority. I bet they would—so would I—but that does not mean that they will agree with them. It is plain common sense to want to find out what the benefits are of this thing that is being proposed. I cannot argue with that.
On the issue of the timetable, I am not an expert in local government, but it beggars belief that a pause of four weeks will put Wiltshire’s local elections in May 2009 into jeopardy. However, the noble Baroness has said that the judgment will be before Easter. Adding up on my fingers and my toes, I can say that that is less than four weeks. I find it extremely hard to believe that four weeks will make that amount of difference.
Sadly, I do not think that there are enough people here to warrant my testing the opinion of the House. It is with great reluctance, therefore, that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Climate Change Bill [HL]
1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause—
(1) The principal aim of this Act is to ensure that UK emissions of greenhouse gases do not exceed the level necessary to contribute to limiting the global average temperate increase to not more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels.
(2) The functions under this act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment received a hesitant response when it was first proposed in Committee because there seemed to be a great deal of uncertainty surrounding some of the wording. After much reflection, we feel that it is essential to bring the amendment back and I hope that I will be able to allay any of the previous concerns and anxieties.
As we consider all the amendments at this stage of the Bill, I hope that it is unnecessary to remind the House to keep in mind the historic nature of this legislation. No other country is passing legislation of this scope to tackle climate change. This is the first legislation of its kind and because of its purpose—its aim—it could be a model for legislatures and parliaments around the world. Other countries have laws on emissions; most developed nations are signatories on countless treaties, accords and protocols. However, what sets this Bill apart is that it is one country’s attempt to address and curb the entire scope of its domestic emissions in order to decrease global emissions—that is, it is one country’s attempt to do its part to stop climate change.
Our amendment ensures that this true purpose is reflected in the Bill. As I mentioned in Committee, the Bill, not our speeches and assurances in the Chamber, will show our intention. I trust that there is no disagreement in the House that this is to stop global warming, and thus on our side we feel that it is of the utmost importance to frame the decisions and actions that the Bill will lead to in their true and appropriate context.
The Minister told the House in Committee that,
“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”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 130.]
That seems a curious statement. All the evidence that we have received suggests that carbon emissions are leading to global warming. There might not be a simple relationship, but there is certainly a very important one. If it is not the 2 degree target, then what is behind the 60 per cent emissions reductions target, apart from an outdated scientific report? We understand that this is not a precise science. We understand that we cannot control all of the globe’s emissions. We take the point that even if global emissions stopped today, there would be no guarantee that we will not exceed the 2 degree target. Yet we still think that we should be committed to doing our part in trying.
Even the Government seem to think so, as the Minister told us in relation to the EU’s 2 degree target, which he claimed in Committee had the full commitment of the Government. Why have the Government committed to a target in the EU that they will not commit to at home in the Bill? We hope that he will provide an explanation before trying to persuade us of the problems associated with a 2 degree target.
One of the challenges to our previous amendment was that the Bill was not the place for general objectives of this kind. I could continue, as I have done, by stressing the unique and historic nature of the Bill which requires new measures and new provisions. There is a clear precedent for stating such principles—the Sustainable Communities Act begins by stating:
“The principal aim of this Act is to promote the sustainability of local communities”.
Having a principal aim anchors policy around a central theme. This legislation creates a multitude of new powers and has a scope that will affect policymakers all over Whitehall. It must do that if it is going to succeed. Having the principal aim stated in the Bill will colour and shape the way that the Act works in practice. It is not intended to provide a test for individual decisions. Judges would not apply this as an applicable statutory test for individual cases. However, the amendment places a general duty that can be evaluated and has regard to the way in which the functions under the Act are exercised. This would certainly be a consideration in any judicial review challenging a particular decision or action, for example, as to whether regard had been given to all relevant considerations and that the decision or action had been taken in a reasonable and rational way.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to clarify the issue, if he is still unsure. The key is that the primary purpose of the Bill is not to seek carbon emissions reductions but to effect climate change. It is called the Climate Change Bill, not the carbon emissions Bill. It is our argument—a substantial one—that the new clause should be included in the principal aim of the Bill because that is what the Bill seeks to do.
I believe that a consideration would be made as to whether a particular action was reasonable or rational in terms of the nature of the Bill. Essentially the Government have put similar general aims on other legislation and have committed themselves to the specific aim of a 2 degree target in Europe. It is difficult to understand the Government’s reticence to be bold and place their noble intentions in the Bill. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach. There is a duty on us legislators to make legislation clear and obvious to the public—the electors and citizens of this country. One of the best quality ways to do that is to state in plain language what the legislation is about. The amendment would do precisely that; it says what the Bill is about. Considering what the Government have said about the Bill, they are in many ways selling themselves short in how it has been presented not only to us but to the world community in terms of its objectives and what we are trying to achieve. It is not as if the Government are not absolutely clear about what the degree change should be. The Prime Minister, in his speech on 19 November when he comprehensively laid out for the first time his environmental credentials, described the 2 degree target as one that was an “overriding” mission. That was the word he used. If that is the case, what better place to put it than at the beginning of the Bill? For all those reasons, that objective should be at the front of the Bill.
Will the 2 degrees cause problems to the Committee on Climate Change, which has to take that into account and which will give it greater clarity in its own work? Is it too small or too large to ask for? When I was travelling here on the train, I went through the fourth IPCC assessment report for policymakers, which describes the sort of changes that can happen with just a 2 degrees centigrade change. Perhaps I could remind your Lordships’ House of some of them. The first is aridity—greater dryness and desertification—on the globe. The one that really struck me is the much greater risk that 30 per cent of species could become extinct; that there will be an increase in malnutrition and infectious diseases; and that cereal growth will be retarded at mid and low latitudes. The factor that really came over to me was one that the IPCC coolly describes as water stress. That sounds very innocent, but the IPCC says that hundreds of millions of people on this planet will suffer more from water stress. Is that as a result of a 4-degree, a 5-degree or a 10-degree increase? No, it is a result of this 2-degree increase.
Another thing has changed almost since the start of Committee some time ago. I was quite sceptical about the scare stories of discontinuities as a result of climate change, whether in relation to ocean currents, whole ice sheets disappearing or major extinctions of species. Even since then, it is quite clear from reading the scientific press that there is a great deal more uncertainty about when those things, the effects of which we can never reverse, will happen. That is why 2 degrees is so important, and why it needs to be stated clearly in the Bill, for Britain and the global community, where we, and I hope the Government, stand.
My Lords, I do not think I was here when this matter was discussed in Committee, but surely the phrase “pre-industrial levels” is unacceptably vague and imprecise in any Act of Parliament. What exactly does it mean? I assume that it means pre the industrial revolution, which took place over an extremely extended period of decades or even centuries in different countries at different times. Indeed, it has not been going for very long in India and China, so I ask the noble Lord to explain, if he can, precisely what “pre-industrial levels” is meant to mean.
My Lords, I have not intervened before in our consideration of the Bill but I hope that the House will forgive me if I intervene briefly to explain why I cannot support my Front Bench on the amendment. It is misconceived for two reasons. First, as the noble Lord has just said, the notion that defining a temperature 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels is the right temperature is entirely without basis. The world’s temperature, as we know, has gone up and down through large ranges over history, and the notion that we can define a temperature as the optimum temperature is without basis.
Secondly, I certainly question the notion that the science is sufficiently defined for us to be able to define what level of carbon emissions would produce any particular effect on the Earth’s temperature, or indeed whether those would be the primary driver of any change in the Earth’s temperature. There is so much uncertainty about both the level and the quantity of change that would result from any particular set of emissions that to build into a Bill a set of objectives that try to define emissions to achieve some precise notion of temperature change again fails to take account of the unrealities and the uncertainties in the science backing this. With much regret, therefore, I do not think that the amendment is appropriate, although I understand the motives behind it. I suspect that a number of other noble Lords will find it difficult to support the Conservative Front Bench on this one.
My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken. It is important to avoid in the description of the Bill anything that is controversial. So far as I can see, the amendment is entirely irrelevant. There is no legal requirement to spell out in legal terms what the Bill is about. That is important so far as the speeches are concerned, particularly on Second Reading. My noble friend has told the House exactly how important the Bill is, but I add another caveat. We are setting a very dubious precedent if we describe this Bill in the form that this amendment permits. In particular, it inevitably invokes a controversy, which we have witnessed already. For that reason, the Bill goes in the right direction and I oppose this amendment for the reasons I have said and for the reasons which have been articulated.
My Lords, I, too, oppose this amendment but for rather different reasons. First, I very much agree on the importance of this Bill. I am conscious of how much the Bill is supported internationally and of how much international interest there is in it, as I discovered at a meeting of G8 plus 5 parliamentarians on climate change in Brazil last week.
I support, too, very much the inclusion of the principal aim in this Bill and in other Bills. I agree, too, on the need for ambitious targets, but it seems to me that targets should be supported by the science and be within the capacity of the British Government to achieve. Amendment No. 3, standing in the name of the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Redesdale, meets both those tests, and I will be happy to support that amendment. But this amendment seems to meet only the first test. It is wholly conceivable that a target of 60 per cent or 80 per cent might be met, but that it could still be above the 2 degrees because of the action, or inaction, of others, which would put the Government of the day in an almost impossible position.
I would have supported a principal aim, framed in more general terms, such as to take action to avoid dangerous or irreversible climate change, but I cannot support an amendment which includes the specific aim of the 2 degrees.
My Lords, I echo the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jay. As framed, the amendment proposes that UK emissions aim to be set at a level to ensure that global emissions are not more than 2 degrees. In effect, if the United States, China and others decide to make little or no effort, what will be required by the United Kingdom will be truly astronomic. The amendment would put those countries which decide to make an effort in an almost impossible position and there would be little or no pressure on other countries to make that effort. As the noble Lord, Lord Jay, said, this is something with which I entirely agree, but it is an amendment that has to be opposed.
My Lords, I, too, oppose this amendment. It seems to me technically flawed that the mention of 2 degrees appears at only one point in the Bill. Currently, the Bill has a target specified in greenhouse gases as parts per million, followed by a number of procedures to reconsider that over time on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. But there seems to be no such mechanisms in relation to this 2 degrees. If, over time, scientific opinion changes upwards or downwards, we are left with 2 degrees in the Bill. If this is to be adopted, a whole series of consequential changes have to be made to allow for advice and reconsideration. For the reasons that noble Lords have put forward, it would be better for this not to be in the Bill.
My Lords, it is true that this is not the first time that this issue has been raised, but it is the first time that it has been raised in this way. During our previous discussions, I set out the Government’s concerns, which still stand, about proposals to add a purpose clause. I shall give several reasons why, many of which have been given probably more succinctly in the past few minutes. First, to go to the heart of the way in which we do legislation in this country, we are not legislating for the rest of the planet or for the European Union; we are legislating for the United Kingdom. General purpose clauses are generally unnecessary in UK legislation. I do not say that they have not occurred—examples have been given and I could give some myself—but they are generally unnecessary and we think that the purpose of the Bill is already clear. The proposed new clauses do not work. Although we are debating Clause 1, it is in some ways linked to other opposition amendments. We are dealing with it on its own at the moment. The underlying concerns that have prompted the amendment will be met anyway.
General purpose clauses are unnecessary. First, while there are exceptions, very few pieces of UK legislation have special purpose clauses because we legislate by drafting clearly, and interpreting through Parliament as best we can, so that it is crystal clear. Obviously, it is interpreted by the courts later. The system works very well and has done so for a long time. In our system of statutory law, primary legislation is drafted so that Parliament goes through it line by line, as we are doing here, teasing out ambiguities and complexities, so that the powers, duties and prohibitions contained in the Bill can be clearly understood and applied in a practical way. The courts then interpret on that basis. There is a fundamental difference between legislation setting out a purpose for a particular body or set of bodies, and a purpose for a piece of legislation as a whole. That is why some of the past examples that may be given do not quite square with this one.
A purpose clause for a piece of legislation as a whole is only relevant when the legislation is ambiguous. Generally speaking, UK legislation is designed not to be ambiguous, and this Bill is no exception. The powers, duties and prohibitions in this Bill are clear. If some parts around the margins are not, they will be clear by the time it has gone through this House and another place. That is why there is no need at all for a special purpose clause. There is obviously a desire in parts of your Lordships’ House to make clear statements of principle. I have to remind the House that the Bill is about making law. It is not pulling a paragraph out of a manifesto onto the statute book, which is how this could be interpreted because of the reference to “pre-industrial” and the rigidity of 2 degrees. There is that issue: it is not normally the way we do it. It was much criticised in the still very influential report on the drafting of legislation, which I remember being introduced in the other place by Sir David Renton, later Lord Renton, in 1975. Nothing has changed since then, as he constantly reminded us.
Secondly, the Bill’s purposes are already clear. The Government consider that it is clear to anybody interested in it. We are not alone in this. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said on the final day in Committee that,
“the purpose of the Bill is made quite clear in Clause 1”.—[Official Report, 4/2/08; col. 908.]
Something must have changed his mind since then. If someone asks what the Climate Change Act is, they will look at the Short Title, which will be the Climate Change Act, and then at the Long Title, which clearly sets out that the Bill is to:
“Set a target for the year 2050 for the reduction of targeted greenhouse gas emissions”.
They will look at Clause 1(1), which sets out the duty to reduce the net UK carbon account by at least 60 per cent by 2050. If that does not make the purpose of the Bill perfectly clear, they can look at the debates in this House and the other place to understand the intention behind the words. That is another reason that a specific clause is unnecessary: the Bill’s purpose is already clear.
Thirdly, the Government believe that this proposed purpose clause could do more harm than good by confusing the message in the Bill. The problems, as have been outlined by more than one noble Lord in this debate, stem from the reference to a two degree rise in global temperatures. The first difficulty is that having any measure based on the global temperature would mean that we are dependent on what happens elsewhere in the world, and it is a principle of our legislation that we cannot legislate on an extra-territorial basis. We cannot tell other countries what to do through domestic legislation. We can show them what we are doing, but we cannot make them do the same. Likewise, other countries cannot tell us what to do through their legislation. There is a real problem with setting out a purpose that is entirely dependent on what other people are doing. What does,
“the level necessary to contribute”
to global temperatures mean? It would depend entirely on the actions of others, which we cannot control. This means that the purpose would have a different meaning as time goes by depending on what the rest of the world is doing, so it could obscure what we believe is the Bill’s already clear purpose.
The Government consider that that in itself is a good reason for not making any reference to global temperatures, but there is a further problem with the reference to two degrees centigrade. The science on climate change tells us that there are major uncertainties in attempting to draw a direct line of causation between our actions in the UK and the rise in average temperatures across the world. That is why such bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change use a range of probabilities to reflect the current level of scientific understanding. One has only to look at the panel’s reports and those of others to see that while this is a big issue—something is happening to the climate and the reasons are partly man made—there is an enormous amount of uncertainty.
The science tells us that we are talking about degrees of risk. Even if emissions around the world were to peak in the next decade and then decline to 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050, there is still a 60 to 70 per cent chance of exceeding the two degree goal. The UK represents only 2 per cent of global emissions, so even if we stopped all UK emissions tomorrow, the overall likelihood of reaching the two degree global goal would be barely affected. Instead, we need a comprehensive, ambitious, globally agreed framework to tackle climate change, and the UK is working hard to achieve it. We had a good outcome from the Bali talks last year and we are working towards an agreement on the post-2012 framework at Copenhagen next year. This is also a vital part of the UK’s contribution to avoiding dangerous climate change, but it is not mentioned in the proposed purpose of the Bill.
In moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that judges would not test each decision against the two degree purpose. Actually, they would. Subsection (2) of the amendment states:
“The functions under this act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act”.
Courts would be duty bound to look at any decision to see whether that had been done. I do not know what legal advice the noble Lord has taken, but the judges would take that into account if anyone wanted to pursue a judicial review at some point.
As we discussed in Committee and as the Prime Minister announced in October, one of the Committee on Climate Change’s first tasks will be to review the level of the 2050 target, and the Secretary of State has the power to amend that target in the light of the committee’s review. Some Members of the House may be concerned that the reasons behind a change in the target will not be clear and that the purpose of any change might get lost in the paper trail. I have tabled an amendment which I believe will address that, and we will come on to it shortly. My amendment would place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to publish its advice and the reasons for it. The Secretary of State would obviously either agree or disagree with it, and if he disagreed and set the 2050 target at a different level, he would need to explain his reasons.
Moreover, as I have said before but can say again today with more certainty, we are putting together a committee and asking it to do a job; we are not seeking to second-guess it. It was much more difficult to say that with any force when we did not know who would serve on the committee. Now we know who the chair is, and since last Friday we know who the first five members are. The quality of those who have been appointed is clear. I simply ask, therefore, that the House does not pre-judge the committee, bearing in mind that it is known that one of the first things the committee will be asked to consider is the 60 per cent target.
I do not criticise noble Lords for tabling the amendment but it is an incredibly clever way of trying to have your cake and eat it—in effect, to try to stick it into the 80 per cent. We have a good case for leaving it at 60 per cent and leaving it to the Committee on Climate Change, and that is what we should do. To accept the amendment would tie everyone’s hands; it would be as though the decision had already been made.
As well as many technical and legislative reasons for not doing so, there is a further reason. Now that we have appointed the Committee on Climate Change—obviously in shadow form until Royal Assent—it will be seen from the quality of its members that this matter is being taken extremely seriously. If your Lordships accept the Government’s amendment, the effect would be to put the purpose of any 2050 target even further beyond doubt and explain the reason behind it to anyone who needs to know. The Explanatory Notes to the order making the amendment will have to refer to the statement of reasons, so it will be easily identifiable and there would have to be debates in your Lordships’ House and in another place. In other words, the amendment that I will bring forward will make quite clear the role of the Committee on Climate Change and the role of the Secretary of State in agreeing or disagreeing to its advice. It will not be able to be carried out behind close doors and become a fait accompli—it will have to come back. So the issues will be fully aired and the debates and the statement will be more valuable than any purpose clause.
As I said, for technical reasons, the way in which the new clause is drafted could do more harm than good. I am sure that is not the intention of the noble Lord in proposing it and I ask him to think again.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for trailing amendments yet to come and we look forward to them with interest. However, I wish to focus your Lordships’ attention on the amendment we are considering at this stage. The question is whether the Climate Change Bill and cuts in carbon emissions are simply a means to an end.
I accept what the Minister said about a judicial review. Unfortunately, at that time I gave way to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, and I may not have expressed exactly what I want to say. It would be a consideration under the terms of the amendment whether a particular decision or action had been taken with proper consideration and in a reasonable and rational way—I accept that. Indeed, it would be a driver, I hope, to reinforce the need for the Committee on Climate Change and the Government to do that.
I ask my noble friend Lord Blackwell and the noble Lords, Lord Jay, Lord Turnbull and Lord Woolmer, who all felt that the wording was infelicitous and not useful to the construction of the Bill, to read the amendment as printed. The objective is to play our part and ensure that we contribute to limiting the global average temperature increase to not more than two degrees. That is the essence of the Bill and, as far as I understand it, it is government policy. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made the point earlier about the Prime Minister’s comment.
I understand that the phrase “pre-industrial temperatures” is rather abstract and vague. None of us was around at the time to know how warm or cold it was. However, it is the accepted wording in international protocols and the standard reference point for defining climate change. It is a widely accepted concept and I make no apology for using it.
My Lords, I simply fail to understand why we have to incorporate the amendment in the Bill. If there is a duty on the Government to do something, that would be justiciable; but equally, if there is no duty, how do you go about it? Being justiciable requires a duty—and in that regard the Government are under no duty at all.
My Lords, as I hope I explained earlier to the noble Lord, the duty is to contribute to a reduction of 2 per cent. Carbon emissions are a mechanism. The duty of the Government is to influence climate change. That is certainly the policy of these Benches. In the light of the debate we have had, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Clause 1 [The target for 2050]:
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 5, after “to” insert “promote policies and take measures, including the setting of targets and five year budgets, best calculated to”
The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 2 would change Clause 1(1). The provision 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 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline”.
With the amendment, it would state:
“It is the duty of the Secretary of State to promote policies and take measures, including the setting of targets and five year budgets, best calculated to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 60 per cent lower than the 1990 baseline”.
The use of the word “promote” is taken from Section 1 of the National Health Service Act 1946, and the words “best calculated to” come from the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946.
Unfortunately, I did not have the Marshalled List of amendments when I headed north to home in Scotland, and it was only when I saw the groupings at lunchtime that I saw that government Amendment No. 50 was grouped with this amendment. Had I known that earlier, I would have asked for the two to be separated, because the government amendment is actually nothing to do with this one. I have dropped a note to the Minister; I apologise for not letting him know earlier, but the information does not seem to percolate through to the north of Scotland. It could be said that this House is designed for those in the south of England rather than those in the north or indeed, in the case of the chairman of the Joint Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam—I wish him a happy birthday—on the west coast of Ireland.
The amendment would give clear legislative expression to the underlying purpose of the Bill, setting out its principal objective, goals and conceptual basis. It is deliberately linked to Clause 4, which requires the preparation of budgets. The Joint Committee that I have just mentioned considered the question of enforceability at some length. Indeed, it was my noble friend Lord Crickhowell—he sends his apologies to the House today—who led the argument that to impose a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that a particular target should be achieved in 2050 was absurd and meaningless and that such a duty would never be enforced by the courts. The committee shared those doubts about enforceability. The issue was raised again during the debate on the Queen’s Speech and again at Second Reading. My noble friend and I put down amendments in Committee to make Clause 1 a purpose clause that clearly set out the objective of the legislation, linked to Clause 4, imposing duties to achieve targets and five-year budgets, and underpinned by a clause establishing compliance mechanisms similar to those under the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.
The object of those supporting the amendment is not to weaken the Bill but to strengthen it. It also fulfils the objective of clarity that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned in respect of Amendment No. 1. Those who want the legislation to work are concerned that the whole exercise will be undermined when it comes to be understood that all the Government’s words about leading the world by imposing a statutory obligation that is legally enforceable are really no more than spin. Other countries will certainly not be impressed, but they will perfectly understand a regime based on compliance mechanisms, with which they are familiar; we will come on to those in Amendments Nos. 22 and 81.
It is interesting to look back and see how the Government’s arguments have shifted like sand on the question of enforceability. At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said:
“Putting a duty such as this into law is important in itself. It is not just about the punishment in the event of failure; it is about trying to change institutional behaviour through a change in the law … By putting these duties into law, we are giving them a constitutional significance which will permeate down to every level of decision making”.—[Official Report, 27/11/07; col. 1209.]
In Committee, the Minister then made it clear that the clause was not drafted for the purpose of making it enforceable:
“The intention was to attempt to change the infrastructure culture in Government … We were trying to find a way to achieve behavioural change in Whitehall … That is the central objective”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 163.]
There is the whole reason for this amendment.
It seems extremely doubtful to me that civil servants will keep saying to themselves, “I must not forget Clause 1, and my Ministers and I may be held responsible in 40 or more years’ time”. It is much more likely that they will say, “There’s not a cat’s chance in Hell that the courts will want to get involved in making judgments about these extremely complex issues and actions, which in many cases will be outside the control of the Secretary of State”.
Also at Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, raised the possibility of a court making a stringent order, such as one ordering the Government to purchase credits to remedy a position. He then moved significantly from the propositions made previously when he said in Committee:
“We are saying that we do not accept using the law and judicial review as mechanisms to solve the problem. … we have taken on board the representations, which have been made again today, that we need to look at the provisions in the Bill for compliance”.—[Official Report, 17/12/07; col. 543.]
We then come to day three in Committee. The statement by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that compliance mechanisms might be important was a big step forward, but in response to an amendment from my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, produced what he described as “an absolute gem” from his brief, which established with devastating clarity—far more than I am able to give your Lordships—the very point that my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I had been trying to make about the legal duty in Clause 1. The Minister said that,
“A legal duty to implement the proposals and policies would be highly unusual in legal terms. Ministers can say all they like about implementation, but a legal duty—this is what my note says—would be highly unusual in legal terms. On another point, the amendment would be very restrictive. If the Government were unable to implement one element of the plan—through, say, unforeseen events—they would be in breach of the law. The same problem would apply if evidence came forward supporting a change in policy approach. It is not intended—this is not to demean the Bill at all—that the programme should be drafted as a legal document. It is therefore likely that any duty to implement would raise questions about precisely what the duty is and what needs to be done in order to fulfil it, and it would be very difficult to determine whether the duty had actually been fulfilled. Legal duties need to be set out in a way that shows precision and inflexibility. We do not want the proposals … to be drafted in this way. We want them to be understood and informative to the public”.—[Official Report, 8/1/08; col. 778.]
That is exactly the argument in our amendment. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Crickhowell stood up immediately and mentioned that to the Minister, but the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, fell back to his previous defence that the clause,
“was drafted so as to send a signal to the Civil Service; the noble Lord knows how the culture of Whitehall works. That is what Clause 1, line 1 is intended to do”.
Then the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, produced another gem when he said that,
“a duty to implement a plan could be seen as a very broad enabling power for the Government to carry out any actions they proposed through the plan. I have no doubt the Delegated Powers Committee will have a look at that. I only say it “could” be seen to be a very broad enabling power. I do not think a power of that breadth would win the support of your Lordships’ House”.—[Official Report, 8/01/08; col. 779.]
The current situation is not satisfactory. We do not have a legally enforceable duty. The Joint Committee pointed that out, and its position has been reinforced. The wording that I propose tries to give that legal enforceability when combined with an amendment to Clause 4. I very much welcome the government amendment to Clause 4, although it does not go as far as my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I wish to go, and we shall debate that. I beg to move.
My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, I support this amendment. I did not take any part in the lengthy proceedings in Committee and I do so now to make one short point only. I say at once that I do not like the drafting of Clause 1. In my view—this was said by others in Committee—it is meaningless to impose a duty on the Secretary of State that cannot be enforced. By way of contrast, many noble Lords present will remember the duty imposed on the Lord Chancellor under the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, under which he is obliged to protect the independence of the judges. That duty is unobjectionable. If, for example, the Government were to attempt to oust judicial review—as they did in one of the many Bills dealing with applications for asylum—they could, on the face of it, be in breach of that duty and the question could then be tested by way of judicial review.
Clause 1 of this Bill is quite different. It could not be said that the Secretary of State who happens to be in office in 2050 was in breach of the duty imposed by Clause 1 until the very last moment of 2050, by which time it would be far too late for anybody to do anything about it. In the mean time, there is nothing that anybody can do—and certainly nothing on which the courts could possibly adjudicate. That applies to all Secretaries of State between now and then. So Clause 1 is what Roman law—it is a very long time since I studied Roman law—called lex imperfecta. It has no force and it has no place in this Bill.
There could, of course, be no objection to stating a target figure in the Bill to give meaning to government Amendment No. 50, to which we shall come in due course. But to express it in the form of a duty is, as I say, meaningless and wrong. So whether we agree with Amendment No. 2 proposed by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, or with Amendment No. 50, I hope that we shall get rid of Clause 1 as it stands.
I have one other point. From what was said by the Minister in Committee, I gather that the real purpose of Clause 1 is, as the noble Earl observed, to give a wake-up call to the Civil Service. One could have no objection to that, but surely there must be other ways of achieving that desirable objective without putting something on the statute book the like of which I have never seen.
My Lords, I support the amendment, which emphasises for me the fact that the Bill, much as it has broad political support from us all, does only three things: it sets targets, sets up an advisory committee and enables further legislation. That is all that it does and all that it pretends to do. It is good as far as it gets, but one of the most important things that we need to bring into the Bill is policy. Unless policies follow the Bill, we have no chance of meeting the targets. I like the fact that the amendment relates the duties of the Secretary of State to policies. That is why we support the amendment from these Benches. Government Amendment No. 50, which has been grouped with Amendment No. 2, is also a considerable improvement, because it does exactly the same thing and relates the legislation to proposals and policies. However, it still uses the language that we criticised in Committee, albeit without much support from the rest of the Committee. It says:
“The proposals and policies must be prepared with a view to meeting”.
We believe that they should be “prepared to meet”; I do not understand that language.
My Lords, I, too, find the clause incoherent and the logic of the amendment compelling. Instead of imposing a duty to ensure that the nation reaches its target by 2050, it creates a separate objective and a duty to deliver everything that will make the objective possible. It is more sensible to attach the duty and accountability to the things that the Secretary of State does than to the way in which society responds to those things. The test becomes whether the Secretary of State, by action or omission, could be deemed to have behaved reasonably in relation to the objective in force. That could be in relation to the things that Secretaries of State do: they legislate, impose taxes and negotiate treaties, and they should be held responsible for those things.
The amendment’s merit is that you would attach the duty to the things that Ministers did, such as authorising a suite of coal-fired power stations without a legal requirement that they should have carbon capture and storage or reducing the caps under the various trading schemes when we were behind schedule.
The Conservative Benches have an in-house constitutional expert in the noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth. I found his criticisms of the clause and his evidence to the pre-legislative scrutiny committee compelling. That is why we need to look at this again.
As a former head of the Civil Service, I do not agree with the Minister’s comments about the purpose being to make civil servants do something. Civil servants serve the Ministers of the day. Either that is binding on Ministers and civil servants or it is binding on neither. You cannot say that you are doing it to bind one and not the other. We should proceed along the lines put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.
My Lords, I am mostly reassured by what the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, has said. We probably spent more time discussing this issue in the pre-legislative scrutiny committee than any other. The broad consensus moved from being sceptical to being supportive. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, has beautifully set it out. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is correct. What I like about this amendment is that it is crisp, sharp and precise. What I do not like about the government amendment is the phrase “with a view to”, which strikes me as bringing in an unnecessary ambiguity. I enthusiastically support this amendment.
My Lords, the past two speeches were extremely refreshing, if I may say so. Not having been present for much of the Committee stage of the Bill, I am struck by the fact that those people who have been taking part and who have been putting a lot of energy into it have gone somewhat native on the subject. The Bill has become a sort of cause for itself in the way in which it will make these great changes.
I was delighted that my noble friend won the first amendment. It seems to me that the public are looking for a reduction in temperature, because they all see the flowers coming out too soon and the potatoes shooting too soon and all the rest of it. They are very worried and they want the temperature reduced. They want this country to contribute to that. That is what the amendment says—that this country should contribute to it, but not do the whole thing. Now we have the means by which that will happen, through the promotion of policies and measures, including the setting of targets and five-year budgets. That is simple and crisp, as we have just heard. It is interesting when someone in this House who knows more than most of us about how civil servants react to legislation tells us that anything as simple as this is helpful. I very much hope that we will accept the amendment.
My Lords, I voted against the first amendment because I thought that it was inoperable. I think that the wording of the clause that we are now debating is inoperable, too, and that it would help the Government to achieve their purposes if they accepted the amendment.
My Lords, in a debate on a climate change Bill and in an era when a candidate for the presidency of the United States believes that the world began in 4004 BC, it is happy that we can take for our text on the amendment Genesis, chapter 27, verse 22. The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau. Today, the voice is the voice of Caithness but the words are the words of Crickhowell.
It is genuinely bad luck for my noble friend Lord Crickhowell that he should have been in Moscow for the first day of the Committee stage and is in Mexico for the first day on Report, but he is to be greatly admired for the extent to which he carries out climate change research on the ground. I shall not rehearse what I said in Committee about the British Library Bill but, unlike my noble friend Lord Caithness, I find both my noble friend’s Amendment No. 2 and the government Amendment No. 50 to be genuine and constructive responses to the debates that we had then and I could happily support both of them.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Caithness has usefully informed the House about this issue. It has also been useful to have the views of subsequent speakers, in particular the graduates of the pre-legislative scrutiny process. I wonder whether I ought to declare an interest as a flower grower who, faced with Mothering Sunday and St David’s Day coming in the same weekend, has a great interest in making sure that lots of flowers come out before the markets close.
We understand the purpose of the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Crickhowell. As the Bill stands, there is a legal duty to ensure results. That is simply not within the power of the Secretary of State. Though we are in favour of placing the most stringent possible mandate on the Secretary of State and using the full power of the law to ensure that he does everything to achieve the targets, we understand that he has at his disposal only policies and programmes. However, mandating him to have policies that aim to reduce emissions and placing a duty for these to be sound policies by obliging him to submit them for approval to the Committee on Climate Change are enforceable and something that we would expect from the Secretary of State.
The government amendment, which is grouped with Amendment No. 2, only partially addresses the issue that my noble friend intends to address with his amendment. Indeed, on this side of the House we welcome the Government’s amendment, which requires the Secretary of State to draw up policies and proposals with the aim of meeting the budgets and targets. We are also grateful that the Government seem to have heeded the call that has long been coming from the Conservative Benches to have regard to sustainable development issues when such proposals are made. That is certainly to be welcomed. However, it in no way addresses the issue that my noble friend seeks to address. We want the Secretary of State’s mandate to be realistic. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I, too, regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, but I do not think that he is travelling between Moscow and Mexico by pony and trap, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, implied. A few gases were being put into the atmosphere there. I cannot put words into the mouth of the noble Lord, but I think that if he were here he would say, “Thank you, the Government have listened to what I said in Committee and have come forward with a practical solution”. Our amendment does not go all the way, but I do not think that anybody is ever going to ask for everything to be perfect. The one regret that he would express is that the government amendment is placed elsewhere in the Bill, after Clause 10, not in Clause 1. However, the amendments essentially cover the same area.
The noble Earl talked about the difference between the duty to meet targets and the duty to implement plans or policies. They are quite different. The duty to meet a target—a budget in this sense—is fairly clear, because we can see whether it has been met from all the emissions statements. Theoretically, therefore, whether you have met your duty can be ruled on. A number would be there; it would have been achieved. The duty to implement policies is not so clear at all. You can get a policy document written in what looks like precise terms but which turn out to be vaguer in implementation. In legal terms, the duty to implement a policy is much less specific. There is a difference, as I hope is accepted.
The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, raised another issue. This place is full of ex-heads of the Civil Service, but I am served by its present head and my notes are no different from the notes that I had in Committee. The central plank of Clause 1 is to change behaviour in the Civil Service, not just in government. That is intended to send the signal around Whitehall—I gave examples of ideas and submissions that come from Ministers and from the government machine—that the duty in Clause 1 will be instrumental in changing or guiding behaviour in work across Whitehall. Another point is that this is not a Defra Bill; this is a government Bill covering all departments. I made that point in Committee, too. It is true that the Bill is about changing behaviour in the Civil Service and in government, but that does not mean that judicial review will not be possible. If we had no doubt that a budget would be missed, the court might make a declaration to that effect. Therefore, this approach does not close that off completely.
We had a useful discussion in Committee about the importance of ensuring that Secretaries of State are bound by the requirement to meet the 2050 target. I said then that the duty to meet that target was fundamental to the Bill. The target is clear and quantified. It will encourage the action that is necessary for it to be met, and assessing compliance will be straightforward. Therefore, we would not want to accept an amendment that would replace the 2050 duty with what we believe is a weaker alternative. That is why we do not accept Amendment No. 2. Removing the duty to meet the 2050 target would in practice weaken the duty on the Secretary of State. By focusing on the process rather than the outcome, the Government could fail to stay within budget and still comply with their duty so long as they had developed what they thought were the right policies. I made that point in Committee and it is still valid.
The proposed duty under Amendment No. 2 could result in a situation whereby the proposals and measures individually had the objective of ensuring that we reduced emissions in general terms but without addressing the need to reduce overall emissions by a specified amount. The Secretary of State could discharge the proposed duty by developing two or three policies and take a few measures with the genuine objective of reducing emissions by at least the current figure of 60 per cent, but if the measures turned out not to be enough he would still have complied with his obligation. That cannot be right. Amendment No. 2 would weaken the Bill.
The important rationale for the Bill is to provide greater certainty about the UK’s direction of travel. Weakening the duty is not the best way to do this. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said when he raised these issues in Committee—I agreed that we wanted to take account of them and to get this as clear and as accurate as we could—we are keen to provide the strongest possible assurance that every Secretary of State between now and 2050, and beyond, will be under an equally strong duty.
However, it would be a mistake to look at Clause 1(1) in isolation. The overall effect of the Bill’s existing framework, as a whole, goes a long way towards relating short-term government actions to the long-term target. In particular, there is already a legal requirement that budgets from this year onwards must be set with a view to meeting the 2050 target and proposals and policies must be published to show how we plan to meet each budget. The Bill’s annual reporting framework will ensure that the Committee on Climate Change and Parliament have a role in scrutinising performance every year. That is an important point, which I probably did not stress sufficiently in our first debate today.
However, bearing in mind the debate that we had in Committee, we want to provide further reassurance on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. Government Amendment No. 50, which I shall move at the appropriate time, will therefore place an additional duty on the Secretary of State to bring forward proposals and policies that, in his view, are sufficient to meet the carbon budgets for the periods for which the budgets have been set. These policies and measures should be developed with a view to meeting the target for 2050 and any subsequent targets that may be set. To ensure that a UK-wide approach is taken, our amendment provides that in preparing the proposals and policies the Secretary of State may take into account the proposals and policies that he considers may be prepared by other national authorities. This is a better approach, which complements the duty to meet the 2050 target rather than replaces it.
There is strength of feeling on this issue and I understand why the noble Lord has tabled the amendment. We want to put our intentions beyond doubt in legislative terms. It goes without saying that climate change mitigation policies must not ride roughshod over the need to consider other environmental issues, such as biodiversity. In most of these cases, we would expect policies to seek win-win situations.
It is true also that the broad existing principle is well established and embedded in government policy making—I am thinking here of the sustainable development strategy, which was quoted back at me earlier. Given the sustainable development action plan published by government departments and the independent advisory advocacy and watchdog role relating to government operations that we have given to the Sustainable Development Commission, there is no need to make additional provisions in the Bill. We raised this argument in Committee, and government Amendment No. 50 meets the points that we made then. Amendment No. 2, however, would weaken the Bill. We can argue about the duty, whether it is supposed to send signals to the Civil Service, or whether that would be the appropriate mechanism, but the words in the amendment would weaken the Bill. That cannot be a sensible way forward.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, stands alone in trying to defend the Government on Clause 1(1). The score is 9:1—almost familiar to a game of football against Scotland these days, sadly. Having listened to what has been said in the House about Clause 1 being incoherent, inoperable and having no force, I am convinced that what my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and I are trying to do is right. I acknowledge that government Amendment No. 50 makes a small response to our concerns, but we have to consider Clause 1(1). It is unenforceable; it is a spin on the actual situation, which does not set a good example. In view of the government amendment, it is right that I should come back with slightly revised wording to take it into account. I cannot do that now, but I give notice to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that his reply has not satisfied me. I do not think that it has satisfied the rest of the House; certainly, those of us on the Joint Committee are still not happy. I commend the Government for going some way, but perhaps between now and the next stage they might put another gentle foot forward. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out “60%” and insert “80%”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment goes to the heart of what, we believe, the Bill should be about, which is setting targets. Noble Lords have talked about the aim of the Bill as set out in Clause 1, but this short amendment looks at its core aim, which is the 60 per cent figure that was set out. Many noble Lords have talked about the science, and this figure was reached by the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution in its 22nd report, Energy—The Changing Climate, which was published in 2000—seven and a half years ago. An enormous amount of work has been done on climate change since then. In understanding climate change and its effects, we have not even plumbed some of the intricacies of such things as feedback mechanism.
The issue of 60 or 80 per cent is important because that is our commitment. Many noble Lords have said that it makes no difference what we do, because a new power station coming on board each week in China will make our actions almost irrelevant. However, we have created an historical legacy of carbon in the atmosphere. People talk about pre-industrial levels, but it was inventors in this country who utilised the steam engine, and we have some responsibility for the vast amounts of coal that have been burned since then, which have added dramatically to the problem.
We should not look at moving up to an 80 per cent level as a problem; it is an opportunity. If we are to move to a low-carbon economy, we must look at adapting all our technologies. If every country in the world were also honour-bound to meet those obligations, it would give us a position in the market place that would be extremely helpful. We need only look at the Danes taking on the wind turbine industry to see that we missed out significantly in that area.
The real issue behind this, as we discussed at Second Reading, is whether the decision to go to 80 per cent should be taken by the climate change committee or in Parliament. It is an important point that we cannot get away from. I took on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, that the decision could be the first indication that the climate change committee had teeth. However, that is a real problem. We are talking in a legislative chamber about a target that looks very bland on a piece of paper—this is an extremely short amendment—but that will have massive implications for how everyone in this country lives their life, for how laws are formed and for how local authorities set their own targets for meeting this objective. It will have implications, both financial and personal, for many people and businesses throughout the country. Turning it over to a committee is a major problem. The committee is a worthy organisation, but does it undermine the political push behind the 80 per cent target if that target comes from the committee? The target might well be based on science, but we should not fool ourselves. It will take an enormous amount of political will power to meet this target, and for that to happen, it must be set by the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and, if I can say this on his birthday, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, said that this could be the first decision that the committee took; indeed, I hope that it will be the committee’s first decision if it does not get passed to Parliament. However, there is still a fundamental problem with passing the decision to a committee. It really must be taken in this House. When speaking to an earlier amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said that he was not going to second-guess the committee. I do not think that we should second-guess the committee; the committee should be given firm and direct guidelines that 80 per cent is the target that we believe will be met. The target is based on science and is the one about which most international observers are now talking. If we are not prepared to stick it in legislation in what is a very brave Bill, as has been noted, that undermines the entire case and the strength of the committee. On that basis, I beg to move.
My Lords, I certainly appreciate the commitment of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, to ensuring that the 2050 target for carbon emissions is robust. However, we do not think that this is the best way of gaining such a commitment. We certainly agree that the 60 per cent target is outdated. As we have noted in the House many times, that target is based on eight year-old science, and it is almost certainly not the right ultimate goal. However, we do not feel that parliamentarians should set the targets, which should be scientifically based. This is why we have tabled an amendment that would place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to set the targets. That has been part of our position on this side of the House from the outset: science, not politics, should be the driving force behind the targets for carbon emissions.
Last November, the Prime Minister said that the 60 per cent target seemed insufficient and that, in all likelihood, the overall target would be increased. We on this side of the House hope that any change in the target will be a reflection of the scientific deliberation of the Committee on Climate Change and not the result of a ministerial proclamation or even of an amendment voted on in this House. Thus, although we recognise the importance of having robust targets, we continue to insist that they must also be authoritative. Therefore, although we understand the spirit of the amendment, we cannot support it.
My Lords, we on the scrutiny committee discussed this at great length, and I thought that we came out at exactly the right place, for all the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor.
The amendment is inappropriate because this is the golden opportunity for the climate change committee to establish itself. Furthermore, it will not have escaped your Lordships’ notice that this Bill, which affects every person in this country, is going through this House untouched and unnoticed by the media, which I find extraordinary. It is my sincere hope that, when the Committee on Climate Change comes up with the science to require that the target be moved to 80 per cent, it will be a sufficient wake-up call for the media. I hope that national newspaper headlines will cover it and that the media will realise the situation that the nation faces. For that reason, almost more than any other, I should like to leave this to the Committee on Climate Change, which will unquestionably make a lot of noise when it makes this decision—and I hope that it does.
My Lords, I hesitate to take a different view from that of the chairman of the Joint Committee, particularly on his birthday, but I support the amendment.
It is clear that 60 per cent is now widely seen as being too low a figure; the Prime Minister, a large number of scientists and some UN bodies have said that. My noble friend Lord Stern has said it, and he repeated it in a newspaper article a couple of days ago. Therefore, against all that background, if the Bill says 60 per cent, it will look and will be weak, which will destroy its credibility nationally and internationally.
I welcome the Government’s proposal to put a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to decide as one of its first acts what the target should be, but I am not convinced by the argument that that will strengthen the position of the committee as an independent committee—rather the contrary. There is a risk that, if the committee is asked to do something with a nudge and a wink from the Government that 80 per cent is the right answer, that may weaken rather than strengthen it. I would strongly argue that we should put 80 per cent in the Bill and that the committee should focus on other targets and on means of implementing that 80 per cent.
My Lords, I had not intended to speak on Report, although I spoke at Second Reading when I supported the 80 per cent objective. I have been persuaded by what the noble Lord, Lord Jay, has just said. It is a great opportunity to say what we really think we mean, which is to go for 80 per cent and to have it in the Bill. So I support the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and I am sorry that I shall not be taking the advice of my Front Bench.
My Lords, it is an index of the importance that our world attaches to climate change that the first global conference that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association ever held—under the auspices of the UK secretariat—should have been on climate change. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, chaired the first session of that conference at the end of November. I attended the conference, and I had to make up my mind on whether to attend the Second Reading of this Bill in the House or to go on attending the conference, and I chose to stay at the conference.
One piece of evidence to emerge from that conference was from the polling of 18 to 34 year-olds, which had indicated that they had no intention of reducing the amount of flying that they did, compared to that done by their elders and betters, and, therefore, were not initially instantly going to modify their behaviour. A briefing sent by the British Youth Council to all Members of your Lordships’ House in advance of Second Reading, which it reinforced thereafter, said that the target figure should be 80 per cent. That indicates a discrepancy. I acknowledge that the British Youth Council goes up only to the age of 24 and that its members are younger than the 18 to 34 year-old group, but there is a discrepancy in attitude to behaviour and attitude to aspirational targets. We are more likely to achieve our ultimate objective if we seek to change behaviour and to demonstrate it during the evolution of this policy, rather than if we put it in the Bill now and do not wait for the Committee on Climate Change to give us its advice. In those circumstances, I hope that the willingness of the nation to adjust its behaviour will be more likely to occur.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred to a “brave” decision. I do not think that we should be taking brave decisions. We need to take action to change people’s behaviour, but they have to be given a reason for it. With all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, putting 80 per cent in the Bill, whether in this or another place, is not sufficient to explain meaningfully the changes in the way people will have to live. I will give some financial examples in a moment. The Committee on Climate Change will probably be much better placed than this House to explain the reasons for decisions. This is the same amendment that we had earlier; the arguments are the same, save that we now have the membership of the climate change committee.
The level of the 2050 target will have implications for all sectors of the economy and at all levels of society. We have probably not spelt those out sufficiently here. The Stern report went some way towards doing it, but the Committee on Climate Change will be able to do a lot more on that. It is therefore imperative that work considering the level at which the target should be set considers a wide range of issues. The terms of reference by which the committee will conduct this review demonstrate the breadth of the issues that will be considered. Moving to another number, namely 80, ahead of the review, on the basis of a limited analysis, would not be appropriate. We are setting up the Committee on Climate Change to do this job, which is why we have tabled government Amendment No. 121, which we will come to later. This will probably be a theme of Report stage. Amendment No. 121 will place the review by the Committee on Climate Change on a statutory footing and set clear, legally binding deadlines, by which this review must be reported.
Placing the committee’s review in statute, as our amendment proposes, sends a strong signal that, while the Government understand that a reduction of 60 per cent may no longer be a sufficient level of effort for developed-world countries, it is absolutely essential that we base decisions on the level of the 2050 target on the best possible independent, and most up-to-date, advice. The terms of reference set out exactly what the committee will be expected to consider: all the relevant evidence to provide a thorough analytical study of the level of the 2050 target. We cannot do this in debates in this House or the other place. Until the expert committee has carried out its review, it would be premature to change that target to 80 per cent or, indeed, any other number.
These are big issues with serious implications, which is why I emphasise the use by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, of the word “brave.” The Defra analysis, published alongside this Bill, suggested that a 60 per cent target could cost 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2050, while an 80 per cent reduction could cost between 1.1 and 2.6 per cent of GDP in 2050, depending on the assumed level of future technological change, fossil fuel prices and the availability of particular technologies. This is only an initial analysis. These are exactly the kind of questions that the Committee on Climate Change will need to look at. It demonstrates the seriousness of the issue. Someone has to explain that you must change the way you live and work. It is much better that this should come from the advice of the Committee on Climate Change to Government, and then through Parliament, than from us simply putting in another number because the message is that at least 60 per cent is not sufficient and we ought to do the committee’s job for it. It is a fairly fundamental choice: get the evidence, take the decisions and explain them; or decide now and get the evidence later. The explaining process of the Committee on Climate Change will be absolutely fundamental. The former is probably the better approach, which is why I sincerely hope that the noble Lord will not press his amendment today.
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, responds, perhaps I may say that after 30 years in Parliament it requires very considerable skill to make a speech which is intended to be helpful to the Government but causes the Minister to believe that I am on the other side. Nevertheless, I shall read my speech again and see whether I was actually trying to help him.
My Lords, the Minister will probably guess that I am certainly not on his side on this issue. I was interested in how the Minister set out the way that the committee is going to have explain climate change—as if the Committee on Climate Change will be the only body in the country doing that. The committee will be an important body, but it will not be the only one. In fact, vast numbers of other bodies have talked about climate change. The Stern review examined it, we have the UN panels, and of course all the scientific evidence is looking at 80 per cent.
I like government Amendment No. 121 because I think it will achieve one of the objectives. However, it is almost a bit much for the Minister to say that while the Government will base the level on the science, Amendment No. 121 will make sure that the climate committee comes up with the figure straightaway, so everything will be all right. We are a scrutinising Chamber. To say that it is quite acceptable to go for a figure we know is going to be changed is in fact unacceptable. On that basis, those noble Lords who care about the scrutiny of this legislation and do not want it to be weak in any way should not see this as a political manoeuvre—there are no politics in this because all sides of the House are looking at the science—because there is nothing to be gained from specifying either 60 or 80 per cent. But I believe that this should be on the face of the Bill and on that basis, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
4: Before Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to set a new target for 2050
(1) It is the duty of the Committee to recommend to the Secretary of State within six months of its constitution a new target for the minimum percentage by which the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 must be lower than the 1990 baseline.
(2) It is the duty of the Secretary of State as soon as practicable after the making of a recommendation under subsection (1) to lay it before both Houses of Parliament and make a resolution for its approval.
(3) On the approval of a recommendation under subsection (2), the Secretary of State must make an order amending the percentage specified in section 1(1).”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 4 is grouped with a series of government amendments. Our amendment seeks to place a duty on the Committee on Climate Change to propose a new 2050 target within six months. This is a straightforward transfer of responsibility from the political to the scientific. The proposal would still be subject to approval by Parliament and thus there is no concern about a democratic deficit or about handing too much power over to bodies outside Parliament. It simply places the recommending power where it should be with those who know how to do it.
The Government have obviously noticed that there is a problem with this aspect of the Bill. There needs to be a larger role for the committee in regard to scientific issues. However, in our view, the Government’s amendments do not go far enough and still leave the ultimate decision regarding the target in the hands of the Secretary of State. Their amendments place a duty on the committee to advise the Secretary of State. In our view, this is too weak. Under the Government’s scheme, the Committee on Climate Change will give its advice on the new targets and publish it. The Secretary of State will then lay a resolution before Parliament to change the target percentages or, if he chooses, he can foolishly ignore the advice entirely. The Government’s amendments rely on the Secretary of State not being so foolish as to ignore the advice. While I hope he would not, there still seems to be scope for him to do so.
Much of the Bill deals with setting out the framework for policies. Our amendments are part of an attempt to beef-up the role of the committee. I have asked that some of these policies and orders be subject to the committee’s scrutiny. We have no interest in cutting out the Government and replacing them with an all-party, oligarchic committee. Ministers get advice from all kinds of committees and departments, much of which is published. At the end of the day, the public perception is that these are ministerial decisions. We want to avoid this perception. By placing the burden of target setting on the committee we ensure that the 2050 target is not only genuinely authoritative but that it appears to be so. A Minister agreeing with the committee’s advice and proposing precisely what it recommends does not possess the same degree of authority.
In practice, all of this might not matter tremendously under the Government’s amendments. We appreciate the Government heeding the advice of the House on the need for an increased role for the committee. Their amendments are a step in the right direction. With their amendments, ideally the Minister will follow exactly the published advice of the committee; our target will be more robust and, more importantly, scientifically validated. If this is what the Government truly have in mind, it seems strange that they were not willing to go that extra mile, be a little more courageous and pass the job of setting the targets more fully into the hands of the committee. I beg to move.
My Lords, my noble friend’s amendment and the government amendments go a long way towards meeting the concerns of the Joint Committee. Although I like my noble friend’s amendment, I am quite attracted by the Government’s amendment. My noble friend’s amendment seeks to place a duty on the committee to recommend to the Secretary of State within six months of its constitution, whereas the Government’s amendments seem to establish a rolling programme for the committee to advise the Secretary of State and there may well be further changes in due course. If my noble friend’s amendment was amended to be a rolling one, I would give it my wholehearted support.
My Lords, setting targets is now very much up to the Committee on Climate change. On the whole, we on these Benches prefer the Government’s amendments in terms of the balance between the committee, the Government and Parliament. We believe that ultimately it is up to the Government to put proposals to Parliament. We hope that the advice of the Committee on Climate Change will seldom be changed or ignored; that is why the publication requirements we shall come on to later are so important. We certainly support the Government’s amendments in this area.
My Lords, I support my noble friend’s amendment. Earlier in our debates, the Minister clearly identified that the committee would have an important role once it was up and running and that it should not only be up to the Government to sell the Bill to members of the public, whose support we need to gain for it to work effectively. In reflecting upon my noble friend’s amendment, does the Minister accept that it seeks to put a duty on the committee within six months—it could be sooner but obviously within a six month period—to set a new target and recommend it to the Government?
It is difficult having the government amendments within this group because the Minister will not speak to them until we have sat down, and we cannot come back to him in the same way that we can in Committee. I would be grateful if the Minister would tell us more about his amendment at this stage and how he sees the difference between my noble friend’s amendments and the government amendments. If it is left until we come to, let us say, Amendment No. 121, in its proper slot at Report stage, my understanding from past experience is that the Minister will move it formally and we will not debate it. If history has moved on since I took my last Bill through and I am wrong, I will not be so anxious. However, I am anxious that we should have a chance to debate the Minister’s amendments within this grouping before we find ourselves in a position where we cannot question the Minister directly.
At this stage, I would like to place on record my support for my noble friend’s Amendment No. 4, and I shall listen with interest to hear what the Minister has to say about his amendments in this group.
My Lords, I will do my best within the rules of the House to answer any questions as they come up. As he is moving Amendment No. 4, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will have the last word on this debate anyway. I will speak to that amendment. Basically, we do not like it, because it cuts the Government out completely. We did not use these words, but, to be honest, it is doing exactly what we said we were opposed to: giving the climate change committee an executive function. That is, root and branch, what we are opposed to; it should have an advisory function. We are sympathetic to the aims of the amendment, as indicated by the group of amendments we have tabled. If I may be a bit nitpicky, Amendment No. 4 does not address the consequential issues of carrying out the review, which the government amendments do—but then I have probably got a bigger team than the Opposition. The central issue, however, is that the amendment would cut the Government out.
I will explain the Government’s amendments in some detail. As I indicated earlier in the debate on the 2050 target, we have tabled amendments that will place a review of the 2050 target by the Committee on Climate Change on a statutory footing. That will improve the transparency of the process, and I understand that it will be welcomed as evidence that we have delivered on what we promised in this respect.
The Prime Minister announced that the committee’s review of the 2050 target should consider whether it should be tightened up to 80 per cent. We have committed to ensure that the review will take place as soon as possible, and the committee should report at the same time as it produces its advice on the level of the first three budgets. Government Amendment No. 121 delivers on both those promises, and actually goes significantly further by making the review statutory—that is, a legally binding obligation.
Last week, we published the terms of reference for the review, which add further transparency to the whole process by showing exactly what we want the committee to consider. The terms of reference make clear that the climate change committee will consider important associated issues including the impact on the 2020 target, whether the target should be extended to cover all greenhouse gases and the implications of including international aviation and international shipping emissions. We debated all those issues at various stages in Committee. I hope, therefore, that this shows we were in listening mode, in that we specifically want the climate change committee to look at these issues. That will allow us to take decisions on the level of the 2050 target, based on the best possible independent advice. As I have said, we do not consider it appropriate to pre-empt the outcome of the review by putting the different target in the Bill now, as proposed in Amendment No. 3.
I turn to Amendments Nos. 19, 151, 164, 172 and 173. As I mentioned, the other amendments in this group address the consequential issues relating to the timing of the committee’s first budget advice, its first progress report and the government response, and the guidance and directions clauses of the Bill. Following discussion with the shadow Committee on Climate Change—because there has been a shadow secretariat there for some time—we believe that December 2008 is a realistic timetable for the committee to complete its review of the 2050 target. That has a number of knock-on effects. It makes sense for the committee to give its advice on the first three budgets at the same time as its advice on the 2050 target, so Amendment No. 151 delays the committee’s advice on budgets for three months; that is, from September this year to December this year. It is a three-month extension to the deadline in the Bill as currently drafted. We do not consider that to be an inappropriate delay, and it will give the committee enough time to complete its work.
As the committee’s advice on the first budgets will be three months later, government Amendment No. 19 also extends the deadline by which the Government must set the first three budgets by the same length of time, to 1 June 2009. That ensures that the Government have as much time as previously proposed—that is, six months—to consider the committee’s advice, consult the devolved Administrations and set the carbon budgets. Because the Government will not set the first budgets until June 2009, it makes no sense to ask the Committee on Climate Change to produce its first progress report in the same month. Government Amendment No. 164 extends the deadline for the committee’s progress report, and Amendments Nos. 172 and 173 extend the deadline for the Government’s response.
I assure your Lordships that those proposals are there purely to reflect the proposed timing of the 2050 review, and would apply only to the first progress report and the first government response. Every future progress report by the committee and response by the Government would need to be published to the deadlines set out in Clauses 28 and 29 in the Bill as drafted.
Amendments Nos. 179 and 180 are consequential amendments that simply make specific provision for any guidance and directions relating to the 2050 review to be given by the Secretary of State alone following consultation with the devolved Administrations. That simply reflects the existing arrangements for the committee’s advice on budgets or on any of its other functions.
In due course, I will formally move those amendments, but I hope my explanation is sufficient within the rules. If there are questions, I will gladly give way.
My Lords, will my noble friend answer a simple question and place his reply on the record in simple language? The Conservative amendment says, in subsection (2),
“make a resolution for its approval”—
in other words, make a resolution for the approval of the recommendation made by the committee. The Government’s amendments do not do that. They do not require the Government to approve the recommendations. They therefore potentially invite drift on a recommendation by the climate change committee. Is that true?
Absolutely, my Lords. I have not sought to hide that at all. The Conservative amendment takes the Government out of the process completely, save for laying the order. They have no power either to reject it or to amend it. The Government’s position has been all along to get the best possible independent advice, act on that advice and bring a decision that the Government make, having had that advice, to Parliament. In the main, one would assume that we would follow the advice, but there may be occasions when we do not. My noble friend is right.
My Lords, may I then pursue my noble friend further down this route? He talks about the best possible advice. The assumption I had made was that the best possible advice would be the advice given by the climate change committee. Does that not suggest that there is other advice that might be treated as more significant and more valid than that given by the climate change committee? Does that not equally invite drift? Does drift not worry my noble friend?
My Lords, it would do. I am sorry; I should stick to the brief, really. “Best possible advice” means the climate change committee. The point is that the committee is small, but it itself will draw in advice in forming its position to come back to the Government and Parliament. It is not as though the five or six people appointed now will work in isolation; they themselves will be taking advice. As we know from the rest of the Bill, there can be sub-committees of other people. That is what I meant by “the best possible advice”.
I meant to say to my noble friend that the best possible advice is not the hunch of a Minister, or the hunch of a pressure group or some lobby group—it is the transparent advice from of the climate change committee. If that is not accepted, the procedures in the Bill are such that Ministers will have to be up-front at the Dispatch Box and very clear about why they are not accepting it. The default position is that the climate change committee’s advice will be accepted, and, if it is not, Ministers will have to explain to Parliament why not.
My Lords, that is precisely the problem in this Bill. We will come to my amendments some time next week. This brings us to what happens in conditions of drift. Ministers will explain to Parliament why they are not prepared to implement a recommendation or follow the advice of the committee. At that point the debate may well stop and that is where the problem of drift arises.
My Lords, the committee has been set up with particular terms of reference and people have accepted appointment on the basis that they understand that the legislation can always change as it goes through and that the committee is in shadow form. There may be cases where the Government do not accept the advice and have to come to Parliament to get approval for something else. However, the advice of the Committee on Climate Change will be open and transparent for all to see. The committee would have a view—quite a serious view—if the Government decided not to accept its advice. My noble friend uses the word “drift”. I do not think this is drift at all—this is what normally happens. This is an advisory climate change committee, which will give independent advice to Government and, through Government, to Parliament, because it will be published and transparent. It is not an executive committee. It is not making the decision, The implication of what my noble friend is saying is that it should make the decision and there should be no choice whether Government accept it or not. Our view has always been that the Government should make the decisions and be accountable for them to Parliament.
My Lords, I can understand the Minister being somewhat confused at this stage. I have been heartened by the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because they reinforce our view that the key to getting this right lies in that balance between Parliament on the one hand and the climate change committee and the Government on the other. We have that other great body, public opinion, on the outside. To some degree, the Minister has called on that fourth force in suggesting that no Minister is going to publicly override a recommendation from the climate change committee because it would be so electorally difficult.
This is an interesting debate to which we may well have to return at Third Reading, because it involves matters of principle. I recognise the strength of the Minister’s commitment to increasing the role of the climate change committee while reserving the authority of the Secretary of State—I think that summarises his position. We are also pleased that the arguments that we presented in Committee have manifested themselves in a series of Government amendments. It is in the interests of the House and the Bill that we encourage the Government in their listening mode. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 2 [Amendment of 2050 target or baseline year]:
5: Clause 2, page 2, line 4, at end insert—
“( ) Those powers may only be exercised—
(a) if a recommendation to make an order under this section is made by the Committee;(b) if the recommendation is approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament;and they must be exercised as soon as practicable after a recommendation is so approved.( ) It is the duty of the Secretary of State as soon as practicable after the making of a recommendation by the Committee to lay it before both Houses of Parliament and make a resolution for its approval.”
The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Clause 2, the Secretary of State may by order change the 2050 target and change the 1990 baseline. While I am sure that a Secretary of State would not make these important changes out of political expediency, we want to ensure that they are made with the blessing and recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change. Our amendments are designed to ensure that the committee is playing a central role in terms of the overall scientific framework—that is, the targets in the baseline year. Orders to amend these shall not be made unless there is approval of the committee. In that respect these amendments are very straightforward.
I concede that Clause 2(2) says that changes can only be made if it appears to the Secretary of State that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change. The Minister talked about “best possible advice” in the debate on the previous amendment, which of course means the Committee on Climate Change, and I am rather hoping that when he responds to this he will come up with the same thing. When there is a reference to scientific knowledge about climate change, it means scientific knowledge from the climate change committee.
We do not want to allow the Secretary of State the leeway of ignoring the Committee’s advice, or indeed not seeking its advice at all, on these very important issues. We do not see these amendments as taking away powers from the Government. We simply feel that how much carbon emissions need to be reduced, by when, and how that is to be counted, are wholly scientific matters. Of course, how the Government go about doing so is up to them. We will come to the committee’s role in this later on.
As my noble friend Lord Taylor said, we want a balance between the roles of the committee, the Parliament and the Government. We called it a triangular relationship in Committee. The amendments seek to ensure that the appropriate emphasis is placed on the appropriate side of the triangle and that these scientific matters need to be considered by the committee. I appreciate that the Government do not intend to build a situation in which they can ignore the committee. We are just trying to guarantee that this does not happen. I beg to move.
My Lords, I can be brief because my arguments are exactly the same as on the previous amendment. If one simply takes the effects of Amendments Nos. 28 to 30, the Government would have to follow the committee’s recommendations and the only alternative is not to act at all. If either House of Parliament rejected the committee’s recommendations there would be complete stalemate and nothing could be changed. It may be triangular to the noble Lord, but it is giving the committee executive functions.
We want the committee to give advice and the Government to be accountable to Parliament. This is the very last point my noble friend was asking me about. I agreed with him that it Parliament would take the decision and not Ministers, because Ministers would have to come to Parliament in any event. Therefore, we had these discussions at some length in Committee. We want to ensure that we design a system that has some element of democratic accountability. The proposals put forward in this group of amendments would mean that the Committee on Climate Change would essentially be responsible for taking the decisions. As I have said, decisions about how we reduce carbon emissions will have far-reaching consequences which, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, will require brave actions. It is only right these are made by an elected body. Delegating such decisions to the unelected committee undermines democratic accountability.
The committee’s role is to provide the best possible advice on the level of budgets and to hold the Government and the country accountable for progress towards them. The Government’s view is that the committee should not have a role in choosing the policy mechanisms most appropriate to meet the budgets. The climate change committee will be incredibly influential. In this respect, it will be much more powerful than some advisory committees. I hope that good heart has been taken from the members who have been appointed to the Committee.
I cannot accept the amendments but I promised in Committee to consider how we can ensure that the committee’s advice is given full prominence and that the Government’s response is fully transparent. In particular, it needs to be clear where our views diverge, if and when that happens. We will debate the Government amendments separately. We are proposing that the Government should be required to seek and take account of advice from the committee in three additional situations. We are tabling amendments to propose that the Secretary of State should be required to explain if he disagrees with the committee’s advice on targets, greenhouse gases and budgets, and we will come to those at the appropriate time. But that is largely why we cannot accept this group of amendments. They fall into the same trap as the previous amendment.
My Lords, I think that this issue—this relationship—is at the heart of the Bill. I ask noble Lords to consider for a moment what happened with the establishment of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. I remember being advised as a humble Labour Back-Bencher at the time that we could not trust the politicians and that we needed an independent body to take a major decision affecting management of the economy, whereby prior to elections we would not put interest rates down and after them we would not put interest rates up. It was as simple as that; that is how it was presented. I accepted it on that basis and I think that my noble friend probably accepted it similarly on that basis. I cannot see the difference here. The policy of raising interest rates after elections and putting them down before is the policy of drift, and it does not work. The Labour Government’s greatest success in all these years has been to take that one decision which removed from us that responsibility. It did not provide for drift. This is another amendment which is trying to tie us down and tie us in to a decision taken by the committee; whereas, alternatively, some of us believe that drift is inevitable.
I remember some weeks ago when my noble friend stood there and told us that, one day, he would return to the Back Benches. I have a vision of him standing on the Back Benches in a number of years’ time hectoring and belabouring the then Government—not necessarily a Labour Government—over the fact that they have allowed drift to interfere with the committee's decisions and that we will not meet targets because they have allowed electoral considerations to interfere when the real decisions have to be taken.
My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. I think that he has misread the analogy with the Bank of England. The true analogy is that the Government take the fundamental political decision on whether we are a high-inflation or low-inflation economy and on the degree of rigour. The Government set the target and then assign the task of delivering that target to an operational body. The analogy is not the same in this case. What is being proposed is that the target should be set by the committee. That is a completely different constitutional position. The position set out by the Minister is therefore right. The target is set on advice and then various people may be given the task of implementing it. I think that the evidence of the Bank of England actually leads one to exactly the opposite conclusion.
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours will undoubtedly repeat variations of his remarks throughout the two to four days of this Report stage. We may therefore rehearse them again. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, says, it is not an exact analogy at all. Far from a tripartite arrangement, it is not at all clear—as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said—what role the Government would serve here other than as a post box. The opposition Front-Bench proposals throughout the Bill effectively involve the climate change committee taking decisions about a whole range of things. If it made a recommendation on the emissions from energy generation of a particular scale and rigour and those could effectively be met only by nuclear generation on a large scale—and that is not impossible—it would mean that the Government of the day, even if opposed to it, would have to accept the target knowing that the means of achieving it was something to which they were diametrically opposed. That seems—although I would personally be in favour of such a policy—nonsense.
The climate change committee will make proposals based on judgments it has reached through its scientific and rigorous assessment, and those proposals will have implications. The Government of the day will have to face the question of what they will recommend to Parliament, and they may have to take a different view. That is the role of government. The Government of the day have to weigh up a whole range of complex issues as well as the expert scientific advice. I cannot imagine a situation where any Government would want to be bound in this way.
I finish with the following conundrum. If Parliament rejected what the climate change committee recommended, who would negotiate with the committee to change the situation? Would it be the Government, who are a post box for a disagreeing Parliament? With which House of Parliament or party would it negotiate? It is the politics of the madhouse. The Government of the day ultimately have the responsibility of proposing to Parliament. That is their political responsibility. They will agree or disagree. But if Parliament rejects the proposal, it is then clearly the Government's duty to negotiate with the climate change committee. If the Government are simply a post box, the Secretary of State will be in a totally invidious position. He would have no locus or authority. The climate change committee would say, “It’s no good negotiating with you because Parliament has rejected it”.
My Lords, when we had the debate on Schedule 1, particularly on paragraph 1, where there was a reference to the experience that the committee would need in terms of their individual contributions, I raised the issue of the absence of change making. The Minister, to his very courteous credit, not only responded in the debate but kindly wrote to me thereafter saying why the Government did not believe that it was necessary. In that debate I said that the Government might well believe that their ability to calculate the process of change was inherent anyway. If change making is not going to be in the experience which is looked for in the Committee on Climate Change, and will therefore be supplied by the Government, then I can totally see why the Government would wish to retain the possibility. But they will obviously have to defend any occasion when they are at variance with recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change. I therefore find the Minister's observations convincing.
My Lords, as things stand in the Bill, the Secretary of State can amend the 2050 target or baseline year if it appears to him—and that seems to be a hunch to me—that there have been significant developments in scientific knowledge about climate change. We were trying to tie the Minister down that it will be the Committee on Climate Change that gives this scientific knowledge to the Secretary of State. I think that we can take some comfort from that and I thank the Minister for setting out his stall on this. At this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]
9: After Clause 2, insert the following new Clause—
“Statements of compatibility
(1) A Minister of the Crown in charge of a Bill in either House of Parliament must, before Second Reading of the Bill—
(a) make a statement to the effect that in his view the provisions of the Bill are compatible with the principal aim of this Act (“a statement of compatibility”); or(b) make a statement to the effect that although he is unable to make a statement of compatibility the government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.(2) The statement must be in writing and be published in such manner as the Minister making it considers appropriate.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I was very pleased by the positive reception that this amendment received in Committee; by and large, many noble Lords seemed to think that the idea behind the amendment was a sound one. I return at Report with the same amendment, hoping that, having had time to consider it fully, noble Lords will give it a similar welcome not just as an idea but as a point which your Lordships will seek to include in the Bill. The Minister agreed to take the idea away for consideration and even said that,
“it ought to be possible for a body of legislation, a range of legislation, to be covered by such a statement”.—[Official Report, 11/12/07; col. 212.].
Although the Minister did not make any commitments to bring back anything on Report, I was slightly dismayed when I looked at the Marshalled List and did not find a government amendment attempting to do what our amendment does. I therefore look forward to hearing from the Minister. I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right that I was sympathetic. Yet even where I have made no commitment to look into an issue, we have had the best brains in Whitehall looking seriously at what your Lordships have been saying because, as I constantly remind my ministerial colleagues, the Government do not run the Lords, so we have to listen. I also explained that in a letter that I sent.
I also said in Committee that the idea of a compatibility test would have a limited practical effect, and that it would be difficult if not impossible ever to demonstrate that a single act of legislation was, on its own, incompatible with the aims of the Bill. Even if particular legislation would lead to an increase in emissions, that would not in itself be incompatible with the 2050 target, as there would be nothing to stop compensatory action being taken in another area to reduce emissions. In practice, then, we could honestly say that every piece of legislation was, if looked at in isolation, compatible with the aims of the Bill. This has been looked at very carefully, and therefore the amendment would achieve nothing at all.
As I said in Committee, we agree that an important point—about making sure that we take account of the full range of government policies—underlies the amendment. As I emphasised earlier, this is across the Government and not just Defra. The full range includes those that might put up emissions as well as those that might bring them down. As I said in my letter covering the Government’s amendments, there are already robust processes in place within government to ensure that the carbon impacts of policies are assessed at every stage of their development process. That is important as legislation is often made toward the end of policy development, so a test applied only at that stage would not, in itself, achieve much.
We have looked further since being in Committee. I can assure the House that the Government are committed to amending the guidance on Explanatory Notes that accompany primary legislation. That change will require the section of the Explanatory Notes covering the impact assessment to refer specifically to the more detailed carbon impact assessment carried out for that legislation. By explicitly detailing each policy’s carbon impact in the overall cost-benefit analysis and, where applicable, the package of parliamentary documents, we should be able to signal the carbon impact of the policy to as wide an audience as possible.
I hope that the new change to the Explanatory Notes, which has come about following our debates in Committee, provides sufficient reassurance about the robustness of the existing mechanism to assess the carbon impacts of policies—not just legislation—so I am grateful to noble Lords for bringing this up. I hope that with the spirit having been there in Committee, as I indicated then, bringing this about in practice with such a change to the Explanatory Notes will go some way to showing that we have, first, listened and, secondly, done something practical about it.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I hope that it will be possible to keep this matter under review to see how we can make sure that the information is made as public as possible, so that it comes into the public domain and is not just privately circulated among relatively few individuals. However, we are pleased with the Minister’s reply to the extent that it imposes a discipline on government, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 3 [Consultation on order amending 2050 target or baseline year]:
10: Clause 3, page 2, line 33, after second “the” insert “Advisory”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment No. 10 and, with it, consider Amendment No. 11. I have been enormously impressed and persuaded by my noble friend Lord Rooker on this issue. Although he gave no undertaking in Committee, I think that he was sympathetic to what I was proposing. He said that the committee,
“is an advisory committee … but I remember that when ACAS was set up it was not called ACAS—I was on the Standing Committee in the other place—and the “A” was added during the course of the legislation. The suggestion made by my noble friend is welcome, but I cannot comment on it today”.—[Official Report, 14/1/08; col. 1070.]
I made inquiries earlier, on this occasion, and I understand that my noble friend is likely to say that the advisory committee has wider functions and cannot be confined simply to being an advisory committee. Yet, if I may remind him of it, ACAS also has wider considerations.
While I am not prepared to go to the wall on this issue at present, the Government should think again about it for the reasons given in Committee. I stress, then, that the word “advisory” is all-important. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am of course grateful to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis for his attempt to assist the Government. We sought to clarify in Committee, as I want to now, the nature of the Committee on Climate Change. My noble friend suggests that its having the word “advisory” in front might assist. My noble friend Lord Rooker indicated in Committee that he would certainly look at this but, as he put it, he liked the ring of “Committee on Climate Change” and the element of authority and importance which that represented.
We are wary about changing the name of the committee when we have the opportunity to spell out its exact role and how it will work. I recognise that my noble friend’s amendment is relatively minor, as when, in that earlier debate, we debated whether it should be called a “Commission” rather than a “Committee”. The only reason for changing the name of the body, in our view, is if there is a difference in view about what sort of body it should be.
We have had several opportunities this afternoon to clarify these issues, and we are quite clear about the nature of that committee. It will be an advisory, non-departmental public body by classification and, as my noble friend Lord Rooker has already emphasised, it would not be appropriate to give it executive functions. That was the burden of debate earlier today and in Committee. However, the committee will be an extremely influential organisation and, in that respect, a much more powerful body than some other advisory committees. In terms of influence, it may be compared to the Monetary Policy Committee, although it does not have the same executive powers. We are talking about an extremely influential body, by whose membership we have also shown how influential we intend it to be.
My Lords, I thought that my noble friend might be fertile in referring to significant bodies that also have “advisory” in their title. I take his point. However, as we shall discuss later, we are tabling amendments further to strengthen the role of this committee. In particular, we are proposing that the Government should be required to seek and take account of advice from the committee in three additional situations of great import in relation to international aviation or international shipping emissions, greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide and carbon accounting. We are also tabling amendments to increase the transparency of the relationship between the committee, government and Parliament, which was the burden of the debate we had a few moments ago.
In addition to strengthening the committee’s responsibility, we have taken steps to ensure that it is distinct and has significantly more autonomy and influence than a very large number of advisory committees. For this reason, the Committee on Climate Change is unusual in having powers to enter into contracts of its choosing and to appoint its own staff. I recognise that my noble friend is seeking to be helpful in an area where we are engaged in important debate. His intention is obvious enough; he accepts the Government’s position as regards the advisory nature of the committee. As far as the Government are concerned, the Committee on Climate Change has a perfectly suitable name. We do not think there is a compelling case to change it. However, we consider that it is important—the House is making this clear—to spell out with greater accuracy the committee’s powers and its relationship to government. Therefore, I am grateful to my noble friend but I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
My Lords, I am enormously unimpressed by the case put forward by my noble friend. He is usually very accommodating and reasonable, but on this occasion he is utterly unreasonable. The committee is undoubtedly an advisory one, so why should it not be called an advisory committee? We ought to be logical but we are not being logical on this occasion. The noble Lord talks about ACAS but that body employs its own staff. Why did my noble friend mention ACAS at all? ACAS is able to enter into contracts. Why did he not mention that fact? In fact, he argued the contrary. I am profoundly unimpressed by what he said. The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that I ought to come back to it. I hope that my noble friend will reconsider this. It is an advisory committee. There can be no doubt about that. However, much against my better judgment I shall withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 not moved.]
13: Clause 3, page 2, line 38, at end insert—
“( ) As soon as is reasonably practicable after giving its advice to the Secretary of State, the Committee must publish that advice in such manner as it considers appropriate.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 13, I wish to speak also to the other government amendments with which it is grouped.
At present, the Bill states that where the committee provides advice on the level of a carbon budget, and the Secretary of State decides to set the budget at a level different from that recommended by the committee, the Secretary of State must state his reasons for doing so. Government Amendments Nos. 14, 34 and 92 extend that requirement to apply to other aspects of the Bill, including where the Government propose to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas”.
This means that for most amending actions the Secretary of State takes under the Bill, he would be required to make his reasoning very clear in relation to the committee’s advice. I believe that picks up on the intention behind the noble Lord’s Amendments Nos. 33 and 39, and hope that he will be satisfied with that response. I shall explain why the government amendments take a rather different approach.
Government Amendments Nos. 13, 32 and 89 have a similar rationale. The Bill already places a clear statutory obligation on the Committee on Climate Change to publish the advice that it gives on budgets under Clause 27. It is also bound by the Freedom of Information Act to disclose most other material on request. I believe that, to further improve transparency, it would make sense for more of the committee’s advice to be published proactively. These amendments would therefore require any advice from the committee on government proposals to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas” to be published, as soon as reasonably practicable after giving the advice. This would also be subject to exemptions—as in Clause 27(7), for instance—for information that would be protected under the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations, or by other legislation. The exemptions are set out in our Amendment No. 136.
I will say a little bit more about government Amendment No. 136, which is connected with government Amendments Nos. 132 and 156. These merely tidy up the Bill. When we decided to increase the number of duties on the committee to publish various pieces of advice, we noticed that this would lead to the usual exemption provisions being repeated over and over again. So government Amendment No. 136 adds a general exemption provision that applies to all of the committee’s duties to publish advice. Government Amendments Nos. 132 and 156 remove a couple of specific exemption provisions as a consequence.
Government Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 also just tidy the Bill up. Government Amendment No. 37 amends Clause 9(1)(a) to refer directly to the committee’s budget advice under Clause 27, removing any unintended implication that some other kind of advice is needed as well. Government Amendment No. 38 recognises that the committee is already required to publish its budget advice under Clause 27(5).
Government Amendments Nos. 15, 35 and 93 make very minor consequential amendments to reflect the fact that the Secretary of State will be making statements, not just one statement, under Clauses 3, 7 and 17.
It will be appreciated that the Government are involved partially in merely tidying up the Bill here and in making clear crucial points with regard to a target, a baseline year and the definition of “targeted greenhouse gas”. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a question relating to government Amendment No. 14, although I think that it also relates to other matters we have discussed. Under Amendment No. 14, if the Secretary of State does not agree with what the committee has recommended and proposes something different, he has to,
“publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision”.
Under the present arrangements that Secretary of State is presumably the Defra Secretary of State. This is a matter for the Westminster Parliament; it is not a matter for the devolved Administrations. At later points in the Bill—my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and I have tabled an amendment to that—the devolved bodies are specifically given duties. But this is simply a matter of the Secretary of State responding on behalf of the United Kingdom.
In this case, it seems to me that the difference between what the committee is recommending and what the Secretary of State says might well affect a great many matters devolved to, say, the Scots Parliament; for example, matters of planning and transport—different matters through which the change might be implemented. How will the Secretary of State ensure that he is carrying the whole country with him when many of the functions that will be affected are devolved? I may be asking a legitimate question; perhaps I should know this. In trying to picture how this will work I see that there could be problems in Scotland. The Scots Parliament disagrees on a lot of environmental issues and other matters with the United Kingdom Government. There could be problems. Will the Minister explain how it will work?
My Lords, it is a little while since the noble Baroness and I have exchanged points across the Chamber. As she knows, I always quake when she rises, as she always makes a pertinent point and often one difficult to respond to. The noble Baroness will appreciate, and I want to emphasise, that the arrangements between the devolved Administrations and the Secretaries of State in their UK responsibilities have been already subject to prior agreement. The devolved Administrations support the Bill. Within that framework, the “Secretary of State”—it may not be any particular Secretary of State; it depends on the issue—will be acting on a UK basis. That is the arrangement that we have on the Bill with the devolved Administrations and that is the overriding consideration.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
14: Clause 3, page 3, line 2, at end insert—
“( ) If the order makes provision different from that recommended by the Committee, the Secretary of State must also publish a statement setting out the reasons for that decision.”
15: Clause 3, page 3, line 3, leave out “The statement” and insert “A statement under this section”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 4 [Carbon budgeting]:
16: Clause 4, page 3, line 7, at end insert—
“( ) to set within each of the five years within a budgetary period an annual amount for the new UK carbon account (the “annual target”)( ) to set in every calendar year until 2044 an annual amount for the net UK carbon account for the year six years ahead (the “rolling annual target”), and”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, our amendments in the group set up a mechanism for yearly milestones, which addresses a serious gap in the Bill. The Government have obviously recognised the gap but, in our view, have made an unsatisfactory attempt to address it. The rolling annual target mechanism provides for both flexibility and accountability in the budget process. The problem with the budgets as they are in the Bill is that there is no way of ensuring that the first few years of the budget period will see serious attempts and efforts on the part of Government to meet their targets. We would like to think that any Secretary of State will busy himself with reducing emissions from day one of a budget period, but that will be difficult. There is the obvious problem that if there is no accountability within the five-year period, it will be very easy for a Government to blame missing a target on the previous Government, or to have decreased motivation for achieving a target if it seemed likely that the next Government would take the heat. If we are to ensure that reductions happen, there needs to be steady pressure and constant accountability.
Objections were raised about the variations that can occur from year to year that may make numerical targets difficult to meet annually or give the wrong impression about the success or failure of an Administration’s efforts. The rolling factor takes care of that. Each year, the following six years would have their annual targets adjusted, to take into account things such as cold winters, to ensure that the budgets are met on time. Likewise, the rolling factor can take into account successes that, by happy coincidence, occur in a Secretary of State’s tenure. If a series of heavily polluting power stations were phased out at the beginning of a budget period, the Secretary of State could rest on his or her undeserved laurels and still achieve the budget without making any other serious attempts at tackling emissions.
One of the main objections was that it was difficult to set a single figure for a year because of too many contingent factors that would influence emissions. All targets are like that. We have no interest in setting off alarm bells unnecessarily, but the annual report gives the Secretary of State or, we hope, the Prime Minister a chance to explain. All government targets are contingent; the public realise that and we are kidding ourselves to think that there is not a widespread realisation that the nature of a target in general is a goal to be worked towards and one that will be met if appropriate actions are taken. There is not an extraordinary circumstance that derails it. The rolling feature of our proposed targets will provide the most realistic and robust goals and thus accountability.
Consider applying the same argument to taxation and the PBR. Just because the fiscal budget is on a five-year period, it does not stop an annual report from being a useful tool for scrutinising a process. Like the rise and fall of emissions due to temperature, the Government’s fiscal budget has to account for any number of extraordinary circumstances. Would we accept the argument that we should not have an annual budget presented by the Chancellor because it is difficult to pin down where we should be for any given year?
The Government’s amendments propose yearly indicative ranges of temperatures. This seems to be a fudge. How can it work in practice? For arguments sake, let us say that the first year’s indicative range is a reduction by between 3 and 5 per cent. What would that amount to? It would amount to 3 per cent becoming the target. Any Government would take all the credit that they could—the press officers overworked with reporting that the Government had delivered on their promises. The top end of the scale would become meaningless. A lot depends on how those ranges are set. If there were a minimum gap for the range, it may make the amendments more sensible. An indicative range of 3.00053 per cent as opposed to 3.00063 per cent would seem more persuasive. We want the targets to be at the upper limit of possibility, pushing Ministers to find ways to ensure that they are achieved. At the end of the day, or at the end of the budget period, doing just enough to meet the minimum requirement may not be good enough. We do not want Ministers continually to be able to justify their failures because of bad weather. Annual targets need to send clear signals; these ranges are anything but. It is like running a race with a victory ribbon that moves or, more aptly, it is like running the 200 metres but saying that anything between 175 metres and the finishing line will do. While we appreciate the Government’s recognition that there needs to be more accountability, the mechanism that they propose is too deeply flawed to represent even a step in the right direction. We strongly believe that if we are going to have genuine accountability during the budget period, it should come in the form of rolling annual targets—the rolling annual targets that we propose. I beg to move.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. I enjoyed his sporting analogy. I do not know whether he will be joining me on the Westminster mile for Sports Relief on Wednesday when we can get some energy out and support a charity. On these Benches, we started during Committee and at Second Reading on the basis that five years was too long. We felt strongly that because of the political cycle and of concentration on achievement rather than just setting targets, three years was more appropriate. Not having received rapturous applause from the other sides of the House, we have not put that proposition forward at Report stage. We believe that with five years still there it is critical that we should have distinct annual targets within the Bill. You cannot have a void over a period of five years for a subject as important as this. We were persuaded by the argument made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in Committee, for rolling targets. That is a useful addition; hence our support for the amendment.
My Lords, it is accepted that from one year to the next there can be a great deal of variability either in greenhouse gas emissions or temperature. The particular feature here is that much of that variability within a year would be difficult to explain; much more difficult to explain than variations in the government accounts. That makes this rather different. Therefore, I support the Government’s proposal of having a quinquennium, a base year, a target year and a trajectory in between, which is very much the methodology of the delivery unit.
Suppose that, after the annual target, there is one year in which we are below trajectory, by which I mean on the wrong side of whatever trajectory we are trying to achieve. The implication is that you are then setting another set of targets on the basis of that one year’s change in evidence, much of which will be noise rather than signal. The right response may not be to act immediately. If one’s antennae begin to detect something going wrong, it may be prudent to start researching or maybe start preparing what your response would be. Very often, it would not be a good idea to act. Suppose in the next year this variability reverses itself. What do you do? Do you then reset the targets back in the other direction?
I also find rolling targets confusing. Take the year 2017. This will have been set in the initial target setting of the initial quinquennia. It will then appear as year 5 in the 2013-17 period. It will appear again as year 4 a year later. It will appear again as year 3 in the next year. The public will be thinking, “What was the target for 2017? It has been reset six times in its lifetime”. Part of this mechanism is to provide clarity so that you can see where you stand.
Philosophically, I am unsympathetic to the hyperactivity and pot-watching that the amendment implies. I am sure that many Members of this House have been highly critical of Ministers for initiative-itis; for not spending long enough looking at the evidence. Yet this amendment promotes exactly that kind of impatient policy-making.
Let us remember that we are engaged on a 40-to 50-year journey to decarbonise our society. What is required is purpose and persistence and not a flurry of initiatives. The outcome will be decided by the way in which society—business, families and public organisations—responds. They need a clear set of guidelines and a predictable framework, not one that is dodging back and forth from one year to the next. For those reasons, with the addition of the trajectory—which I think is called the indicative guidelines—that has been proposed, this is the basis that we should support in the Bill.
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in responding, could clarify two or three queries that I have about the meaning of his amendment. First, are these indicative targets, or targets in the meaning of the rest of the Bill? Secondly, does the annual target apply for 15 years ahead? It refers to five-year budget periods and there are three five-year budget periods always in play. Is he asking for 15 years to be published, but for the rolling target to apply only for the next six of those years?
Thirdly, what are the means at the disposal of the Government of the day to fine- tune on this annual basis? Taking into account the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, the implication that I remarked on in Committee of having targets in the meaning of the Bill is that there are policies that can address those. If we are to go down the annual target route, and for that to be in some sense meaningful in its impact on policy, the Government of the day and the committee advising them must have some levers and tools by which they can respond on an annual basis, as opposed to setting a clear trajectory and a clear strategy with clear policies aimed at achieving that. What are the corresponding annual policies that could fine-tune in that way?
My Lords, it has been very seldom during the passage of the Bill that I have disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, but on this occasion I think that the Government have done very well. They have listened, and their Amendment No. 49 is not at all a bad attempt to deal with a tricky problem. All I would suggest to the Minister is that the term “indicative annual range” is a little broad. It would help enormously if that range could be narrowed to a point where people could have some confidence that it would be so, give or take 5 per cent either side of the range. As my noble friend Lord Woolmer said, the Government are rightly offering the opportunity to fine-tune, but fine-tune means just that. The phrase used at the moment in the amendment is a little broad and is probably broader than is intended.
My Lords, I will get off on the right foot. Subject to the government amendments being approved, I am always happy to look at their technical drafting, in answer to my noble friend, who speaks with the experience of chairing the Joint Committee. First, I apologise for the length of my response. A lot of key points have been made, and I am keen to explore why we think the opposition amendments are not a good idea and to get that across in a way that I hope the House will accept.
We had a detailed discussion in Committee on annual accountability, when I tried to explain the problems inherent in setting single-point annual targets, whether or not they were legally binding. We have looked again at the arguments presented in that debate, and it is clear that there is a good deal of common ground about what we are trying to achieve. That is to say, annual transparency and accountability about progress towards meeting the budgets are crucial for all of us, and some indication of the Government’s expected trajectory for reductions over the budget period would help in providing this. It is important that there is no divide between any sides of the House on that.
I note that the Bill already provides a strong annual accountability framework through a number of its existing provisions. Every year, the Government must publish a statement of emissions for the previous year. The climate change committee must then report to Parliament on progress towards meeting the budgets, and the Government respond to the committee’s report. Since our helpful discussions on this issue at Committee stage, we have considered ways in which still greater clarity can be provided about how the accountability framework will work in practice, because it has to work in practice. I will come to those shortly.
First, I want to look at the opposition amendments. Amendment No. 16 would require the setting of both an annual target and a rolling annual target in terms of the net UK carbon account. Amendment No. 18 makes the annual target set under the first paragraph of Amendment No. 16 legally binding. However, the rolling annual target, set under the second paragraph of Amendment No. 16, would not be legally binding. We have to ask: how is it possible to have two separate targets for the same thing in the same year? Let us take the year 2009. The Government would be required to have both a legally binding annual target and a rolling annual target that would not be legally binding. That looks like a recipe for total confusion.
Amendment No. 21 would mean that the Government could set both the legally binding annual target and the non-binding rolling target only at the level recommended by the Committee on Climate Change. Again, these amendments would cut the Government out of the equation, which is another reason why we cannot accept them.
The more fundamental problem with the opposition amendments is that we simply think that a single-point annual target does not work. It is too blunt and inflexible. Instead, the Government have tabled proposals that have at their heart government Amendment No. 49, which requires that the report on proposals and policies to meet budgets should include an indicative range for the trajectory of emissions over the budgetary period. We believe that the idea of an annual indicative range is superior to proposals for an annual single-point target. As I said in Committee, emissions can fluctuate from year to year for a variety of reasons, many of which, such as the weather, are out of the Government’s direct control. There is also an inevitable uncertainty between the forecast of the impact of a given policy and actual emissions, again for reasons that may be beyond the Government’s direct control.
We need a system of annual accountability that can deal with these real-world fluctuations and uncertainties but which still provides sufficient clarity about progress to ensure that the Government of the day can be held to account appropriately. We believe more generally that single-point targets, whether annual or rolling, are too inflexible and are likely to lead to regular false alarms. Instead, setting out an indicative range for the net UK carbon account for each year of the budget period combined with greater clarity about the timescales for policies to take effect, as required by government Amendment No. 53, will ensure that the Government of the day can be properly held to account for progress during each year of the budget period, not just at the end of the period.
Within the package of government amendments, Amendments Nos. 67, 68, and 70 are consequential and relate to the annual statement of UK emissions required under Clause 12. These amendments require that the annual statement must give total amounts of carbon units credited to or debited from the net UK carbon account for each year, rather than for the budgetary period in which the year falls, and totals of the net UK carbon account. Without this information, there would be no way of measuring progress against the indicative trajectory.
Since tabling these amendments, I have been asked what my expectations are for the range. How will it work and how wide is it likely to be? Those are critical questions if an indicative range is to provide the right balance between the need to take account of the likely variation in emissions from year to year and the need to provide a robust framework against which to assess annual progress. Clearly, a range will not fulfil its function effectively if it is so wide as to be meaningless. Therefore, we need to look at the likely effect of the main factors creating uncertainties about annual emissions.
One factor is, as I have mentioned, the weather. UK emissions are sensitive to variations in the temperature above or below the average. There will be increased use of heating, for instance, in a particularly cold winter and increased use of air-conditioning in a particularly hot summer. Population growth is another factor. The Office for National Statistics provides annual revisions to population forecasts that directly affect projected emissions. If the number of UK households goes up, UK emissions are likely to increase. There is also the question of policy uncertainty. Not all policies deliver the exact emissions savings that we expect when we design them. Some will deliver more, others less.
Variability in emissions as a result of these factors can be seen clearly in the UK’s annual inventory since 1990. For example, if you look at figures for emissions of all the Kyoto greenhouse gases, you see that the reduction was 6.5 per cent in 1996 but 14 per cent in 1999, against a 1990 baseline, with emissions for surrounding years being somewhere in between.
There is also the wider European and international context. Around half our emissions are already capped by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which operates on a multiyear basis. Actual emissions in any one year could therefore differ from our assumptions because companies have decided to bring forward or put back their emissions or abatement action as a result of changing carbon prices or other economic factors outside the Government’s control. Referring again to historical figures, we can see that in 2004-06, when emissions trading was introduced, the effective reduction in the UK’s net carbon account from the 1990 baseline almost doubled. This demonstrates the potentially significant effect of introducing big new policy mechanisms. As the international framework develops, other mechanisms may come on stream over time that will also influence our level of flexibility in how we reduce emissions. The range will also need to change over time as, for example, our understanding of the underlying factors behind UK emissions trends improves.
It is not possible at this stage to put a definitive figure on how wide the range will need to be because of these factors. However, we believe that we are looking at a variation in single-figure percentages overall. That is as accurate as we can get and is not pie in the sky. We are looking at single-figure percentages rather than tens of percentages. We cannot see that it would need to be a great deal wider than that. Obviously, I accept that that is a broad estimate and that more detailed work needs to be done. However, we believe that that represents a much better way forward, which will reflect the nature of reality rather than the spurious precision of a single-point annual target.
I regret that I have had to give such a lengthy response to this issue. In summary, we have problems with the practical effects of the opposition amendments. I say the practical effects and I genuinely mean it because I have been on the other side as well. Sometimes you want to do something but, if it is impractical, it is not right to put it into legislation. It may not be accepted that this is impractical, but I hope that I have explained that it is. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, reinforced that point.
I also believe that, as a whole, our proposals for an annual indicative range provide for even greater transparency on an annual basis about the Government’s expectations and progress while also maintaining the flexibility that we need in the five-year budgetary period. We are at one on that. We want to have that annual accountability within the five-year period, but the question concerns how we go about doing that.
Finally, I do not believe that the points made in favour of annual targets outweighed the problems that those targets would bring, or that such targets would add value beyond the proposals that we have brought forward. Obviously, our amendments are as a package designed to achieve the objective in a practical way. I hope that I have made the point that the opposition amendments are basically impractical. We are trying to achieve the same thing. I ask noble Lords to consider their position and not to press their amendments.
My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response and for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. I will try to respond to comments made by other noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, warned that the amendment could lead to impatient policy making. However, a rolling target provides a constant re-evaluation of where you are going. Indeed, I suspect that part of the purpose lying behind the government amendments is to make sure that there is a constant focus on the issues involved. I am not in favour of Whitehall knee-jerking, as I explained in my introduction to our amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Woolmer, asked about the form of a rolling target and whether it would have the same authority as the five-year target period. It is not designed to replace the five-year target, which is a crossroads, if one might take a pedestrian view of the issue, whereas the milestones are on the way. This is not meant to replace the five-year budget period; it is intended to provide a path.
I say in response to the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, and the Minister that I recognise that by introducing their amendments the Government have recognised the argument that we were making; I appreciate that. However, we should not be worried about accepting the amendments from these Benches because these indicative targets will induce a degree of numeracy on this issue. Our biggest problem in tackling issues such as climate change is that they should not be discussed only in government circles. They should have a popular buy-in; there should be a sense that the whole nation is seeking to achieve an objective. The displaying of road casualty figures at the side of the road is designed to reduce the number of dead and injured, although we all know that figures will vary from year to year for all sorts of reasons other than the way that people drive. They are designed for a purpose. I believe that these rolling targets can have the same impact.
I remain confident that our amendments would strengthen the Bill in a direction that it needs and I wish to test the opinion of the House.
Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Amendment) Regulations 2008
rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 30 January be approved.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government are determined to continue to drive through the real improvements to the immigration system that we said we would deliver. We have made substantial progress in recent years, and we are seeing the results. These are: record numbers of foreign national prisoners deported last year; fingerprint checks now in place for all visas for those travelling to Britain; and asylum applications being processed more quickly than ever before. This year, we are delivering further radical changes to the United Kingdom’s immigration system, including the introduction of biometric ID cards for foreign nationals and the implementation of a new Australian-style points-based system.
This year, we will have spent over £2 billion on securing our borders and managing the immigration system, and £630 million will have come from fees paid by those using the system. It is right and fair both to the users of the immigration system and to the general public in the United Kingdom that those who benefit most from the system contribute proportionately more to its true end-to-end costs. In setting current fee levels, we established the important principle of setting the fees for our applications and services on the basis of the value to the applicant. We are continuing to apply that principle in setting fees for this year. In order to do this, we are using the powers under Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004, which have been amended by Section 20 of the UK Borders Act 2007.
When my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland stood here last year, it was clear that the additional income being generated by the new approach to setting fees would deliver an important boost to the resource spent on enforcement activity. Some fees increased significantly to help deliver the additional resource but also to allow us to keep other fees below normal cost-recovery levels. This year, we are holding most fees steady or increasing them in line with inflation. This includes four of the fees that are covered in the regulations being discussed today: an application for a visa, including as a work-permit holder or a long-term visitor, which will rise from £200 to £205; an application for a certificate of entitlement to right of abode, which will similarly rise by inflation from £200 to £205; an application for a settlement visa, which will rise by inflation from £500 to £515; and an application for leave to remain made at a public inquiry office in the United Kingdom, which will remain at £595. I am sure that noble Lords will take full advantage of the further opportunities to discuss the wider points-based system when we return to the House to set these fees later in the year.
Today we are setting fees for new products—tier 1 and sponsorship—including the fee for an application for a visa under tier 1 general of the new points-based system, where we are consolidating the existing two-stage highly skilled migrant programme process into a single stage and a single fee of £600—the same as the sum of the current fees—and the fee for an application for leave to remain under tier 1 general, where the single fee will also mirror the existing combined fee of £750. Where migrants are already part-way through the highly skilled migrant programme process when we implement tier 1 general, we will charge lower fees in recognition of the fact that they have already paid a fee. These will be £200 for a visa and £350 for leave to remain. We are also introducing a new fee for which there is no existing comparator fee. That is the fee of £1,000 for medium or large businesses to make an application for a licence to sponsor skilled migrants wanting to enter the United Kingdom under tier 2 of the points-based system.
Sponsorship is at the heart of the new system. Employers and other bodies wanting to bring in migrants to the United Kingdom will have to take on certain duties and responsibilities, and we will police sponsors to ensure that they are fulfilling them. Where we have concerns, we will take action to ensure that there is no risk to the integrity of the immigration system. We anticipate 15,000 businesses applying for a licence in the first year of operation, of which 4,500 will be medium or large businesses. We expect to raise £4.7 million from all licence applications, with medium and large businesses subsidising the proposed licence application fee of £300 for small businesses and charities.
The fees proposed for a licence application are fair and proportionate and are set at levels that should not represent a barrier for a legitimate business wishing to employ a skilled migrant worker. The higher fee will apply only to businesses not recognised as small businesses by the definitions set out in Companies Act legislation. Typically, this fee will apply only to businesses with more than 50 employees. The licence will be valid for four years, effectively costing just £250 a year. That is a fraction of the costs incurred in recruiting and retaining a skilled worker with salary expectations in excess of £25,000 a year. The effective annual cost is also comparable to certain other statutory licence schemes, such as the £245 annual fee payable for a licence from the Security Industry Authority. We believe that it is right that small businesses and charities should pay a lower fee, which is only possible if larger businesses subsidise this. We have consulted key stakeholders on our proposals, including the business community. The proposal to cross-subsidise the fees for small businesses has been welcomed in particular.
The fees proposed here are fair and proportionate. They recover the costs of considering the application and help contribute to the true end-to-end costs of the system. I beg to move.
Moved, That the order laid before the House on 30 January be approved. 9th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord West of Spithead.)
My Lords, the regulations are largely uncontroversial. We accept the principle that there should be reasonable charges for people wanting to come into this country. It is only reasonable if they do so that they should make a contribution before they come in.
The cross-subsidisation of the fee charges is, as I understand the Minister, largely to support charities and small companies. Will the Minister confirm that? I was not sure when I read the draft statutory instrument what the cross-subsidisation would relate to.
The Government have estimated that this will raise an additional £43.2 million—I think that is what the Minister said—over the next five years. Presumably those are annual charges and annual updates, so is the £43.2 million the estimation for five years or for one year? What do those extra fees go to? The Minister said rather enigmatically that they went to border security, but how? What is the contribution made? What is the implication of the £43.2 million not being achieved if, for example, fewer people than expected come through the legal route into this country?
My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the regulations. The way in which the Government are using the powers in Sections 51 and 52 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 and in Section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 to set fees for immigration services that are higher than a cost-recovery basis has been discussed on several occasions, as I hope the Minister’s notes will have reminded him: in our consideration of the original fees order last March; on the regulations that followed in the same month; on an amendment to the UK Borders Bill in July; and most recently on the amendment order relating to the points-based system in December. Some of the concerns that we expressed on those occasions have not, I am sorry to say, been entirely resolved this evening.
The regulations specify the fees to be paid for a sponsorship licence as £1,000, other than for a small sponsor, which is a charity or a company with fewer than 50 employees. That is welcome in so far as it means that Bangladeshi and Chinese restaurateurs will not be required to pay this fee, as I understand it, although a further statutory instrument is coming down the track that will affect them. My first question is why the fees for small sponsors were not included in these regulations, as that would have saved parliamentary time and the proliferation of statutory instruments, which grow in number every year.
Secondly—I am glad to see the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, in her place, because she will be interested in this, too—can the Minister confirm that institutions of higher education are to be treated as small sponsors, irrespective of their size, because they are charities? In December in the debate on the amendment order, we mentioned calculations that Universities UK gave to us, in which it was assumed that its members would have to pay the £1,000 to be sponsors, and it would be useful if that could be clarified. It was feared that the cumulative effect of the higher-than-cost-recovery fees would be to deter students from coming to the UK, and, although it would probably be too early to detect any such effects from the previous statutory instruments, I hope that the Minister will encourage feedback from any institution of higher education that has any knowledge or experience of the matter. Have the applications been affected at all by the fees that are already in place?
On the charges for entry clearance in tier 1, the highly skilled migrants, investors and international graduates who have completed their studies in the UK would presumably be well able to afford the £600 being charged for entry clearance because they expect to earn higher incomes by coming to this country. However, the previous fee for highly skilled migrant approval, which was set before these regulations and came into effect last April, was £400, so this fee, as I work it out, is a 50 per cent increase in less than a year. I wonder whether that is simply a bit of profiteering, or whether there is some objective reason for that large increase.
On entry clearance for settlement, the fee was increased from £260 to £500 last April, so that, although the new fee is only a modest increase of 3 per cent, it comes on top of a previous steep rise. Many of those who come here as spouses or dependent children will not enter the work force—at any rate, not immediately when they arrive—so that can be a substantial barrier to family reunification. When the fees were raised the last time, it turned out that representatives of spouses had not been consulted. After the announcement, however, I had several letters which I drew to the attention of the then Minister—I think that it was the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland—protesting about the huge end-to-end cost of bringing a spouse into this country, which I calculated was the highest in the world. Was the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, aware of those representations, and were they taken into consideration in deciding the new charges?
I note that, in new Regulation 20C, no fee is payable where an application is for the purpose of family reunion under Part 11 of the Immigration Rules, which deals with asylum. Will the Minister confirm that a person who is being granted asylum or humanitarian protection is therefore entitled to bring a spouse and children here without payment of any fee? What has been the practice until these regulations?
When the higher-than-cost charges were first introduced, there was a formal consultation process, although no indication was given in that consultation of what the fee levels were likely to be. I suppose that, having got away with the huge increases that were then imposed, the Home Office now considers itself at liberty to charge whatever the traffic will bear. Is that why the Explanatory Memorandum gives the reader no indication of how the fees were determined? As it turns out, Parliament should have imposed some obligation on the Government to justify any fee levels that were to be proposed, instead of giving them carte blanche in the original legislation. The best that we can do now is to request the Government, as I do now, to have an audit of the revenue yield of the fees compared with the cost of providing the services in question. I hope that the Minister can at least agree to that modest proposal, so that Parliament can see in the end whether overall the fees that we are being asked to sanction are reasonable.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their input. As always in our discussions of statutory instruments there are a small number of noble Lords in the Chamber, but key points are always made that are very valuable.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, talked about cross-subsidisation. As I said, the support is for firms that employ fewer than 50 people and for charities. That is what the cross-subsidisation is aimed at. We felt that £300 was a fair and proportionate amount for them. We had a dialogue with them about that figure, and they seemed very content. Indeed, the large firms were also content that there should be some balance here, rather than the smaller firms paying the £1,000.
The noble Baroness referred to the £43.2 million. The amount is for the next five years. In the next financial year, the figure will be about £8.7 million. I thank her for broadly supporting the thrust of this. There is no doubt that, when we consult the British public on this, they feel that people should contribute to the costs of the flow of immigrants. That seems to be a popular step.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised a number of issues, the first relating to sponsorship and to encouraging people to get into this country. There were concerns about whether student flow into the country would be damaged. Students will know that they are going to a bona fide establishment. We will produce a list of establishments that are accepted. We will look after students coming into this country in the correct way and will make sure that the correct things are done. Therefore, they will benefit from this.
The noble Lord also raised the issue of fees for small businesses, including regulations made under Section 51, which is the power that we are using for that. The regulations set fees for above cost or for cross-subsidising.
We welcome feedback on student sponsorship and the list of establishments. We have regular dialogue with the stakeholders, including the joint education task force. We hope that we will get some good feedback on that point.
On new Regulation 20C, no fees will be charged for asylum seekers. We are aware of representations about the cost of a spouse visa and the need to ensure international competitiveness for family rates. We can confirm that there will be no fee for an asylum or humanitarian protection family member, spouse or child.
We have looked at the end-to-end costs of fees, how we arrived at them and how they were administered. We have rounded up just above that level and have increased for inflation. I hope that noble Lords will let me go away and look at the audit, and perhaps I can write on that when I am more aware of all the implications.
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, perhaps I may raise one or two other points. Universities will be the largest volume users of the new points-based immigration system due to the large numbers of international students, staff and visiting international staff that we welcome to our universities every year. I declare my interest as chief executive of Universities UK.
Because we will be the largest users, we have taken a very active part in the discussions with the Home Office about the new system. The discussions have been lively and sometimes we have agreed with the direction of travel. At other times we have disagreed. Let me say from the first that universities welcome many aspects of the new system. We are very keen to ensure that genuine applicants can navigate the immigration system successfully and easily, but also that those seeking to abuse the immigration system are deterred.
In particular, we welcome the following aspects: that is, student visas linked to a specific education institution, which is an enormously helpful step forward; recognition, through the sponsorship arrangements, that universities are in the best position to judge academic suitability; better information on the progress of people through the immigration system; greater use of online processes; and the new Post Study Work category within the highly-skilled tier of the system that will allow international graduates to apply to stay in the UK for up to two years after graduation.
We welcome the proposals to keep initial student visa fees at a level below cost recovery, although we are still concerned at the high cost of extension applications, and we welcome the proposals for lower sponsor licence fees for charities, as universities are charitable organisations.
However, I should like to draw three remaining concerns to my noble friend’s attention in relation to the implementation of the new system. First, on the IT support to the new system, there has been no opportunity for the higher education sector—I repeat that it is the highest user of the new system—to provide input into the development of the new IT system to support the points-based approach. As organisations which may receive 3,000 or 4,000 new international students every academic year, we must be able to ensure that our records system can “talk” to the new Home Office system. Otherwise, we will be forced down a very inefficient and insecure route of duplicating data entry.
Secondly, on the reporting process, all HEIs agree with the principles of reporting on their international students and staff in terms of compliance with the immigration rules. However, we must aim to ensure that the data returns required by the Home Office align with those required by other parts of government. To do otherwise would be to ignore the better regulation agenda and to force HEIs to have a series of relationships operating on different timescales rather than a single timescale.
Thirdly, the current proposals on the position of visiting international staff would create needless bureaucracy for universities by insisting that all visiting staff have to seek sponsorship from a third-party organisation and not from the university where they will be based. This seems very strange when universities are willing to sponsor these people and are sponsoring thousands of students and permanent staff. The proposed system would be less secure as the third-party organisation would have to monitor these people, but would not be physically located near them, unlike the university where they are based.
I am very pleased that the Home Office has listened to higher education’s arguments and has shown that it is aware of the need to ensure that we maintain the UK as an attractive destination for study and for cultural visits as well as for work. In the spirit of the consultative discussions already established with the Home Office, I hope that my noble friend can reassure me on the points that I have raised.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Warwick for those three points. Perhaps I should have made them more clearly; I have an interest in that I am a chancellor of a university and perhaps I should have identified some of those issues. On IT systems, it is an extremely good point that the PBI system needs to be able to link and work with the other systems. I understand that there is a meeting on 28 February with the officials responsible for this and a number of university IT people to get a better understanding of how our system works. I do not think, sadly, that there is a single university IT system across the whole of the UK, and that will go a long way to helping to resolve some of these issues. However, one must bear in mind that to maintain the integrity of the border and immigration controls, any IT system will need a level of security which may prevent BIA being able to undertake all the suggestions that no doubt universities will have. We will have to work on that.
My Lords, while I understand that the security requirements would not allow the universities to interrogate the Home Office system, surely it is not the same the other way around. If the universities want to supply information to the BIA, what security problems would that yield for the Home Office?
My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. There will not be a problem that way around, but there could be issues about security regarding alignment, which we will have to develop at the meeting on the 28 February and beyond. The noble Lord is right that there is no reason why data of a lower classification cannot be fed in.
I absolutely agree and understand how important alignment of returns will be. None of us wants to increase admin and, wherever possible, our requirements will align with those of other government departments. But they are for a wholly different purpose, so we cannot guarantee that. I know that there was a useful meeting with Universities UK on 15 February, and I thank my noble friend Lady Warwick for her work with that group. We will look to have a further meeting in the next couple of weeks to try to agree our requirements and help out in that area.
We understand the concerns about visiting international staff and the requirement for one overarching sponsor. We are working through the policy of who the sponsor will be and we remain very happy to discuss concerns which were highlighted in that question. The Government believe that the fees are an appropriate charge to the users of these services. Rather than relying wholly on the public purse to meet the costs of applications and processes, they should be met partly in this way as well. There is a general agreement that those who benefit most should contribute most to the end-to-end costs of the system. As such, I commend this instrument to the House.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 (Duty to Share Information and Disclosure of Information for Security Purposes) Order 2008
rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 10 January be approved.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this order is made under Sections 36(4) and 38(4) of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Section 36 of the 2006 Act introduced a requirement for the Secretary of State, in so far as she has functions under the immigration Acts, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and a chief officer of police to share certain passenger, crew, freight, service and other travel-related information where the information is likely to be of use for immigration, police or Revenue and Customs purposes. Section 38 of the 2006 Act introduced a statutory gateway to allow for the disclosure of similar information to the security and intelligence agencies where the information is relevant to their statutory purposes. This order concerns the information that will be shared under these two provisions. For reasons of brevity, I will refer to the border agencies when speaking collectively about the Border and Immigration Agency, UKvisas, the police and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
As Security Minister, I am responsible for a wide range of measures to improve our security arrangements and this order is a key component in our efforts to enhance the security of this country. The increase in global travel brings great social and economic benefit, but it is also placing increasingly heavy demands on our border controls and border agencies. In order to meet these demands, the Government are putting in place the most comprehensive package of institutional and practical immigration reform ever announced, including the establishment of a UK border agency, a unified border force and the e-borders programme.
Neither e-borders nor other joint working arrangements between the agencies will be able to function effectively without this order, as their success is dependent on an ability to share, routinely and in volume, data relating to people and freight crossing the border. Data sharing in this form is not permitted under current powers, which require a case-by-case decision on the justification for disclosure. This is a serious obstruction to the work of the agencies. For example, under existing arrangements, examination of travel data independently by each of the border agencies may result in three interceptions against the same individual, rather than one co-ordinated response. Indeed, one agency may have intelligence on an individual who is also of interest to the other border agencies, but the other border agencies, being unaware of this, would not make a request for those data. This does not help the border agencies to carry out their functions effectively and it does not help the traveller.
This order seeks to address these and other obstacles to joint working between the border agencies by placing an obligation on them to share the travel-related information specified in the order to the extent that it is likely to be of use for immigration, Revenue and Customs or police purposes. This travel-related information can essentially be broken down into three clear categories: information about a passenger’s or crew member’s travel documents or journey; information held by the border agencies, which relates to a passenger or crew member, or their journey, or a freight movement; and information about or related to freight.
In practice, data will primarily be shared via the e-borders programme, whereby information will be pooled in an electronic database to which the border agencies, working in an operations centre, will have shared access. This will mean that passenger carriers will have to supply their passenger data to the Government only once, rather than receiving individual requests from the agencies. The pooling of data in this manner will allow us to develop a better awareness of suspect passengers, travel patterns and networks and to pre-screen passengers and identify those who carry a high risk of involvement in illicit activity. In turn, this will enable us to identify and target individuals who present a threat to the UK and to mount an appropriate, co-ordinated and proportionate response. This will also benefit the genuine traveller, as we will have information immediately available that will help us to make more informed decisions about them more quickly.
Our e-borders pilot, Project Semaphore, has demonstrated that this model works. The data collected by and shared between the agencies have led to more than 20,000 alerts being issued. There have been more than 1,600 arrests for crimes, including murder, rape and assault, and the offloading of passengers who would not qualify for entry to the United Kingdom, as well as to the seizure of many false documents, tobacco and drugs. Semaphore has also made a real contribution to the fight against terrorism. We are at the forefront of new passenger analysis systems and techniques, but we are not alone. Such systems are also in use in the USA, Australia and some EU countries and will rapidly become the norm in the developed world.
It is clearly important to ensure that data are shared safely and securely. We must also ensure that we act proportionately. I am convinced that these fundamental principles of data protection have been and will continue to be met. First, I can assure your Lordships that this order does not give the border agencies the power to share data without limitation. All the data specified relate to a passenger or consignment of goods coming into or leaving the UK. Information to be shared by the border agencies will have been assessed at the outset as likely to be of use for immigration, police or Revenue and Customs purposes. These purposes are clearly defined in law. It should also be emphasised that this order applies only to sharing between the border agencies and, where appropriate, the security and intelligence agencies.
Secondly, stringent safeguards will be in place to protect an individual’s data. In country, information shared between the border agencies will be controlled, monitored and audited through a combination of technical safeguards and operational procedures. Staff will be given access only to information necessary for their role and may be subject to a range of sanctions in the event of misuse of data. Data transmitted to border agency staff overseas—for example, UKvisas—will be transmitted only by secure means across government networks and to government buildings.
Thirdly, we will also ensure, as far as possible, that the data being shared are accurate. Data received from the travel industry will be monitored by e-borders, and existing information, such as visa information, will be used to confirm the accuracy of data received. Where appropriate, corrections will be made within e-borders, with feedback provided to carriers where issues of data quality arise.
Finally, a code of practice, currently before Parliament, will regulate the sharing of the information specified in this order and lays down stringent data protection and data retention guidelines that the border agencies must adhere to. This code has been developed in close co-operation with the Information Commissioner’s Office. Both the code of practice and the test to be applied in respect of data sharing under these arrangements will be kept under review, to ensure that we maintain the right balance between border security and data protection issues. Indeed, the border agencies have committed to reviewing the safeguards and data requirements in the code six months after its provisions commence, with the involvement of the Information Commissioner.
The order forms part of an important package of secondary legislation, comprising orders on both data acquisition and data sharing that will underpin the UK e-borders programme, more effective joint working arrangements between the border agencies and, in future, the UK border agency. It is clear that this package of legislation is essential to the effective management and security of our borders and to ensuring the safety and security of the public. I commend the order to the House and I beg to move.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 10 January be approved. 7th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.—(Lord West of Spithead.)
My Lords, this order, along with the others in the package, will have a wide-ranging effect on the control of our borders and on the freedom of individuals within our country to come and go without questions being asked. The orders themselves raise a number of questions and I hope that the Minister will forgive me if I go through them now.
The Explanatory Memorandum refers to the transfer of “bulk information”. Can the Minister explain what that means in this regard? In view of the amount of information likely to be gathered from passenger lists, other passenger information and travel documents, is it the Government’s intention that it will be possible to transfer it between agencies in total? Could a whole passenger list or even umpteen passenger lists be transferred from one agency to another? Will such a transfer require a request to be made from one or other of the agencies and, if so, what requirement under these circumstances will there be in respect of the protection of those data? What did the Minister mean when he said that all agencies would have shared access to the information? I suspect that ultimately this is all going to take place within e-borders, but will there be a common IT system to which the agencies outlined in the order will automatically have access so that information transfers between them? I would be grateful for a little more explanation on that point.
The Government’s IT systems and the transfer of data have taken a bad beating over the past few months. What further assurances can the Minister give that e-borders will be secure in this respect? Will the method of transfer be one that does not put individual travellers at risk of having their details lost in the post? Does the secure government network to which the Minister referred exclude any possibility of physical transfer by disk, for example, rather than a network transfer, so that there are clearly closed and secure methods of transferring the data?
At present, Operation Semaphore covers less than 12 per cent of all routes into and out of the United Kingdom. The calculated number of passenger movements annually is 250 million. Can the Minister tell us for how long it is intended that the information garnered will be kept on the system and, indeed, whether it can all be held on one system? A brief consideration would suggest that, at a minimum of five years of holding the information, over 1 billion loggings will take place—my maths is not very good, so there may even be another zero to add to that figure. At the current rate of some 16,500 alerts mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum—although the Minister mentioned the figure of 20,000—in 30 million movements, there will be a vast amount of data that is of no interest whatsoever to any agency. How and when will all that data be pruned so that the names of people who have no reason to be on anyone’s database are taken off? Will there be a maximum amount of time that data on persons who excite no interest in any of the agencies can be held?
Will the Minister tell us what sharing of the information gathered will be available to other countries? Would such a facility be subject to their having a similar system to our Information Commissioner in order to guarantee the integrity of any information passed on, if it is intended that it should be, as I strongly suspect must be the case? What costs will the requirement for information put on carriers? They are going to have to hand information over to the Government. Will they have to upgrade their systems to deal with requests from the approved agencies and, if so, what help will they get with this?
It is a sad fact that experience of terrorism, illegal immigration and crime, including the importation of drugs and the trafficking of women and children, seems to lead us to the inevitable situation where practically everything will be known somewhere about every person in this country. That may be an inevitability, but it is up to Parliament to ensure that this results only in the protection of our citizens and not harassment. The proof of that in terms of this order will be known only when and if the system breaks down, so it behoves the Government to ensure that, unlike some recent experiences, this does not happen with e-borders. Can the Minister confirm that e-borders is a stand-alone system and that it does not and cannot link up with any other IT system holding information on individuals in this country?
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the order. We have had the benefit in this case of reading what was said last week in the Delegated Legislation Committee, much of which was repeated in the noble Lord’s introductory statement. For example, Project Semaphore, which is the pilot on the sharing of passenger name records and freight records, has already contributed to the arrest of 1,600 people for serious crimes such as offloading passengers not qualified for entry to the UK, to the seizure of false documents and to contraband tobacco and drugs, as well as helping to combat terrorism. These are all objectives that I am sure all noble Lords will share.
The Minister told the committee in another place that the PNRs for an estimated 355 million passenger movements will be handled by 2015. I do not share entirely the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, about the volume of data, considering that IT systems are continually able to share more and more information. I carry around two gigabytes in my pocket, and some USB dongles now on the market at very low cost carry four times that amount. It is not difficult to imagine that the IT system will be capable of dealing with the volume of information required.
I understand that the information will be shared initially by the three agencies involved in the new combined UK border agency—the BIA itself, HMRC and UKvisas—but there are also proposals under consideration for sharing the data with equivalent agencies in other EU countries. Presumably the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I assume that that will require a further order; it would not be allowed by this particular instrument.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, the order also provides for the transfer of data in bulk to the security and intelligence agencies. We, too, would be grateful for an assurance that the transfer of these data will be electronic only and not by DVD, and I would add that it should be encrypted for the transfer. I hope that we can have that assurance from the noble Lord.
I gather from the reply given by the Minister to the Delegated Legislation Committee that for the time being fellow European Union member states will be able to consult the database only on a need-to-know basis. What is the statutory authority for that process and what criteria would need to be satisfied in order to trigger a successful request from another EU member state?
Are the PNR data to be recorded and exchanged under this order in the same way as the PNR data that we are now providing under the interim EU-US agreement of 2006, or will provide under the further agreement that was under negotiation when your Lordships’ European Union Committee reported on the matter last June, and will they be held in a common database? Surely it would be absurd to collect PNR data for the purpose of transfer to the United States and our own internal purposes in a different format.
There is a description of the information in paragraphs 7.4 and 7.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum. It consists of information about the passenger’s travel document details, held in the machine-readable section of the passport, and information normally collected for the commercial purposes of the carrier, such as the name, address and telephone number of the passenger, as well as information about the ticket itself. If the carriers are already collecting and storing this information, what are the additional costs of £242 million that they are expected to incur over the 10 years from 2007 to 2017? The Explanatory Memorandum refers in paragraph 7.13 to capital expenditure by “most carriers”, but surely, if my assumptions are right, this cost will fall entirely on carriers that do not fly to the US and therefore have had no need until now for computer systems that will store the data that are mentioned.
The Minister also told the Delegated Legislation Committee in the Commons that the estimated cost of the programme to the Government was £1.224 billion over the same 10 years. That struck me as being a surprisingly precise figure, unless it depends on contracts with the e-borders suppliers that have far stronger penalty clauses than is usual in these matters. How far have we progressed towards establishing the e-borders operations centre and developing the computer systems that will be needed to receive, process and store the data that are transmitted to it by the carriers? Maybe the experience with Project Semaphore allows us to have greater confidence in predicting the costs, but could the Minister say who the suppliers are so that we can look at their previous records of delivering systems on time and to budget, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, said, is not always the case with public sector IT systems? The Minister told the committee in another place that the estimated average cost per passenger movement was 14p. I assume that this includes the cost of the stringent safeguards that are imposed by the code of practice that is to be issued under Section 37 of the 2006 Act.
There is no doubt about the need for the collection and sharing of information about passengers and goods entering and leaving the UK for security purposes. As with any very large IT system, however, there is a small risk of erroneous data being recorded and I share the anxiety of the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, about whether the code of practice to which the Minister referred will deal adequately with the mechanisms available to persons who claim that wrong data have been recorded against them. Will it allow them not only the means of having access under freedom of information to the information that is recorded but good opportunities for making corrections?
My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate and for the good points they raised. On the use of bulk information and what is presently known as the JBOC—when e-borders comes into operation it will become the EBOC, the information centre—data are fed into what is effectively a sealed area, where it is recorded, held, sorted out and analysed. This is done by operators who will have gone through specific security training because, as has been said already, there has not been a good track record, not only in government but in private companies as well, of looking after data and making sure they are correctly protected. These operators have to undertake and pass a training course before they are even allowed to operate and use the machines. The procedure has been tightened-up well and will ensure that that is done properly. The bulk information is analysed within the JBOC—in future the EBOC—and when one finds data that are of interest to an agency in one of the other areas, that information is passed and that agency deals with that information about that specific subject.
I was asked whether discs would be flying around. There is a facility to produce a disc although some of the machines are disabled so that they cannot produce discs because it is so easy to put data on them and remove them. If discs are going to be used, there is a mechanism in place to ensure that these are looked after, logged properly and are only transferred by hand. That is how that will be dealt with within the structure.
Beyond the JBOC or EBOC, it will deal with specific data about someone of interest to that agency, which they will be able to pass to each other. For instance, if it goes to BIA, BIA will be able to talk to HMRC about that specific person. But the bulk data that has been fed in will not be flashing around to different people.
On the issue of Project Semaphore and how long data will be held, at the moment the information is held for about five years, although some police forces hold it for six and HMRC has said that some data may have to be held for longer for various customs and excise reasons.
The order does not cover sharing information with other countries although it is open to us to enter into agreements to share data with states. Clearly when we do that we will have to make certain that all the data protection guarantees and so on are in place, using the commissioner and other methods to achieve that.
The question of costs was touched on by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury. The costs for industry are variable. At the bottom end they are down at 0.04p and at the top end they are £6.31. When we worked it out, the average cost was 14p, as has been mentioned. It is up to the carrier to decide how to meet these costs but we feel that for that amount of money it is incumbent on an organisation to help in what this achieves for the security of the nation. As has already been said, it is amazing what has been achieved with Project Semaphore; the benefits from that have been quite huge.
The noble Baroness raised the importance of protection and balancing that against causing harassment. Exactly what the balance is going to be is the same in almost every context in the counterterrorist area. It is always a balance and we believe that we have it correct. The data that have been gathered and the way we are looking after that data are necessary to help our security, in the fight against serious crime and so on. We have put in place many data protection measures. We are constantly aware that when we are collecting huge amounts of data on people—and, as has been rightly said, more and more data are being held—there are risks.
But nowadays, I am afraid, in any big organisation, to be able to do these things you need to get that data. We have got to become better as a nation at looking after data, not only in pure physical security terms but in making sure that everyone who ever gets their fingers on it and works with it has been correctly trained and understands the full implications of doing so. However, I do not think that means we must not do it. In this modern world, we cannot avoid doing these things; instead, we must become very good at it. Within this context, the way that we will run JBOC—and then, in the future, EBOC—will achieve that.
The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised the encryption of data and whether they would be passed encrypted. The plan is that they will be passed by a secure means and encrypted, but this is an issue that I want to check again, so I shall get back to the noble Lord in writing. All my experience is that people are often not as good at that as they should be. I want to make absolutely certain that that is done.
The European Union is not really part of the order. There will be further debate about the EU and US aspects of it.
The carriers are already collecting some of these data. Clearly they have them there because they need to be able to issue tickets and do other things, but not always in a format that they can pass to us easily, which is why there is an extra cost aspect to all of this.
My Lords, my concern was that the PNR data, which are already being collected by the carriers for transmission to the United States under the provisional agreement we had with it in 2006, should be identical with the information that is now being collected by the Borders Agency. Otherwise, the carriers would have to collect two different lots of information, for transfer to the US and for use internally respectively. That would be a tremendous waste of resources.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point. As I understand it, we include the same data fields but we might need some more. Again, I will try to come back with a precise answer on that point.
The noble Lord made a point about the code of practice giving adequate ability for access to, and removal of, data. I think I can assure him that that will be the case. The removal of data can sometimes be quite difficult—we have to know exactly who gives that authority and how it is to be done—but the intention is that it will be incorporated.
I hope I have answered most of the points raised, and I am grateful that they have been, because they are all very valid. One does not like suddenly to apply a requirement to provide more and more, for the reasons we have discussed, but this is important and it will make us safer. It is something the public would expect a Government to do. I assure your Lordships that the necessary safeguards are in place; certainly, I will put a huge effort into trying to protect these data.
I will come back on that one point to ensure that that side of encryption is there. I have not yet visited the JBOC, but I was talking to the team in the briefing for this debate. I intend to go there and have a good look at it—it is out near Heathrow—to ensure that it will be as good as they tell me it will. I find that by walking around and looking at things, one sometimes gets a slightly different perspective from when one is told things by people. We are working closely with the Information Commissioner on this issue, and I believe we will achieve what we want. The order is good for this country, and I commend it to the House.
My Lords, before the Minister sits down, I want to go back to the sharing of bulk information. It was clear in the statement made by the Under-Secretary in the other place, Meg Hillier, that bulk sharing of travel-related data would take place under e-borders. I am not sure whether the Minister was referring to the transfer of bulk information or the sharing of that information and whether the sharing comes about in the whole of the e-borders system. We want to clear that up. Information piece by piece is one thing, but just transferring a whole load of data from one place to another is quite another.
The second issue that arises is the concerns I still have about transferring anything by disc. The Minister said in his reply that this would be from hand to hand. The Benefits Agency was meant to have transferred things by hand, but in practice people put items into little packages and gave them to someone else for delivery, and in the midst of that some of them got lost. Does the Minister not agree that the very least that can be done by disc should be encouraged? Perhaps there should be some very secure system that requires only the highest level of intervention if a disc is going to be made at all?
My Lords, to add to what the noble Baroness has just said, I do not understand why any data should have to be transferred by disc at all. You can transfer large quantities of data over the internet. The Government have their own secure internet system, so why is it ever necessary to use discs for transfer?
My Lords, can I just come back on those points and first address the disc issue? As I said, a number of the machines have been disabled so they cannot actually produce discs and therefore this would be done on a very exceptional basis. The sort of thing might be, for example, if the security service or the SOS IT system was not functioning. There might be a requirement, in terms of the encrypted transfer, to cut a disc for it. It would be done in very exceptional circumstances. It is not something that would be standard procedure at all. If a disc was cut, it would be done in the very special way that I talked about.
In terms of bulk data, perhaps I can reply in writing and clarify it. As I understand it, the bulk data, by which I mean the PNR information—all the data fields we have asked for from the various airlines, shipping firms and so forth—will all be transferred and pumped into the JBOC; into the organisation which I talked of. I think of it as a great operation centre cocooned and cut off with a huge pipe pouring in. Within that centre, the operators, who have all been specially trained and will not be allowed to use the machines unless they have passed the various tests on looking after data, will do the analysis. They will look at this, will decide, “These two match. This is someone they should be aware of”. That bit of data then goes out, so it is not bulk data pouring out again. That is as I understand it. If it is any different from that, perhaps I can get back to the noble Lord in writing. I think that that covers everything. On that basis, I commend the order to the House.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
My Lords, in view of our precision delivery here, I think I can predict accurately that the Minister will appear at this Dispatch Box almost within seconds. There is no need to further consider anything on these matters and I think we can probably proceed.
Climate Change Bill [HL]
Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 4.
[Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.]
19: Clause 4, page 3, line 15, leave out “28th February” and insert “1st June”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
20: Clause 4, page 3, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) A carbon budget may contain amounts for particular sectors of the economy.”
The noble Duke said: My Lords, I move the amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. With it I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 61, 78, 85 and 158. In Committee, the Minister remarked on what an interesting debate we had on this subject. We are very grateful to see the amendments that he has put down on this issue. Our amendments in this group offer provisions which would allow the Committee on Climate Change to set carbon budgets for particular sectors, should it feel that this would be a useful tool in reducing emissions. They also stipulate that the reports on carbon emissions should contain breakdowns by sector. We think that this is an important mechanism, even if there are not sectoral targets, as it gives a clearer picture of where particular challenges lie. We are pleased to see that, though the Government thought they were essentially negative in Committee, they have been persuaded by our arguments regarding sectoral reporting.
I am most grateful to noble Lords to see that the Government have also tabled amendments to the effect that the advice from the committee to the Secretary of State may include breakdowns by sector that it thinks represent a particular opportunity to reduce emissions. On the face of it, this does seem to come a long way to our position, but appearances can be deceiving.
First, there is no provision for the inclusion of actual sectoral targets. In Committee, we touched on many of the arguments for and against targets for particular sectors. It has been our view since the beginning that it is up to the committee to decide whether these would be beneficial. Crucially, the Government have not followed us thus far; that is, in enabling the Secretary of State and the committee to set sectoral targets. They might claim that it is already in the power of Government to do this by order, but we would like to see a more specific enabling section in the Bill. The important difference between our amendments and the Government’s is the way in which they operate. One of the biggest advantages of sectoral targets is that they provide industries with a framework within which they must innovate; that is to say, they encourage an element of bottom-up approach to the targets. So much of this Bill involves top-down government action. This was a window of opportunity to encourage innovation within the individual sectors. The Government's amendments do not really allow for that. Their Amendment No. 54 stipulates that reports must explain how the proposals and policies will affect the different sectors. That would be a very useful tool for industry, but do we not have enough faith in the industries themselves? Were targets placed on individual sectors or policies implemented that concerned them, they would know better than anyone the impact on their line of work. If we are going to embrace the potential benefits of the idea behind sectoral targets and reporting, we must seek to ensure that a bottom-up approach can be encouraged so that the most cost-effective savings can be made. I have later amendments that I think would re-emphasise that element.
The other government amendment, Amendment No. 144, calls for the committee to identify sectors where there are particular opportunities for reducing emissions. The same arguments apply. Although we very much welcome the Government's new-found appreciation for looking at individual economic sectors, we still feel that the real benefit in this type of thinking comes not when it makes it easier for the Government to see what they should do, though that is part of it, but when it can encourage those in sectors to identify savings for themselves. Thus while we appreciate the Government coming some of the way, we still feel that they miss out on some of the core benefits by not going far enough. I beg to move.
My Lords, it might be convenient if I spoke at this stage to Amendment No. 145, which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has joined me in tabling. I must apologise for having tabled amendments when I have taken so little part in the Bill, but it seemed of such importance that I desired to try my luck.
Clause 27 provides for the committee to give advice on contributions to meeting the carbon targets of the various sectors of the economy. That is fine. However, as the White Papers of 2003 and 2007 make clear, a quarter of carbon emissions come from households and, in addition, some 10 per cent come from private passenger cars, making a total of 35 per cent of emissions which are outside the scope of the committee's advisory role. That seems surprising, because if one thing is clear, it is that we need a major contribution from that sector.
The Government are not saying in the White Papers for a moment that they cannot influence consumption by the household sector as a whole, to which my amendment refers—they list ways in which it can do so. The Energy Saving Trust has written to me with proposals for further enhancing the contribution of the sector. So the proposals are there. When I read the 2007 White Paper I saw, around about the middle, a table showing how cost-effectively the target of 60 per cent might be met and giving projections for what might be reasonable expectations from various sectors, one of which is private households. The expectation is a fairly modest one; only one-third, compared with the overall target of 60 per cent. The Energy Saving Trust says in its letter that it thinks that they should be aiming for 60 per cent. That is another reason why the matter should be open to consideration and advice to the Government.
If I have interpreted the White Papers correctly, the 2003 White Paper refers to an objective of moving towards a 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions by 2010, taking 1990 as a base. It says that we had achieved a reduction of 8 per cent by 1999, which is fair progress. However, it also acknowledged that we had fallen back to 5 per cent in 2001, though it looked forward to a recovery in 2002. When I looked with a magnifying glass at the very small footnotes to an appendix to the 2007 White Paper I saw—if I read it right—that by 2006 we were still at 5 per cent, whereas the target is 20 per cent, or moving towards it. That indicates the difficulty of meeting the target.
Finally, in earlier