My Lords, I apologise for detaining the House after Questions but I have to raise an urgent and important issue affecting today’s business. Later we will debate an amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Grantchester on the Government’s secondary legislation amendment to the Climate Change Act that commits to cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. We support that objective and obviously will not oppose the SI. However, we regret that there is a lack of detail as to how the target will be achieved and that shipping and aviation are excluded. Yet again, the Government are avoiding detailed scrutiny of their climate change policies. Still, none of that will stand in the way of the 2050 target becoming law, with our support.
It was therefore with some shock that we heard the Prime Minister, Theresa May, mislead the House of Commons today at Prime Minister’s Questions when she accused Labour Lords of,
“trying to block the net zero 2050 legislation”.
Clearly Mrs May has been misinformed. I would have welcomed an apology and correction by now. As that has not yet been forthcoming. I ask whoever is responding to confirm that the Prime Minister has got it wrong, and ask that she is now informed that she should apologise and ensure that a correction is made.
I am happy to recognise the Official Opposition’s support for our objective to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Of course I understand that Members on the opposite Benches will want to challenge our policies and how we achieve them. On an issue where we agree, though, I have to admit that we are slightly disappointed that we might have a vote this evening. We are absolutely committed to achieving the target and want to work on a cross-party basis on the goal that we all share. My noble friend Lord Henley will have more to say when he introduces the order later, and I very much hope that we will persuade noble Lords that a vote is not necessary.
My Lords, that is not good enough. The Prime Minister, albeit possibly inadvertently because she was badly advised, made a mistake. She has put misinformation on the record in the House of Commons. It is quite legitimate to support a target and an aim but to think that there are better ways of doing it. That is not opposing or trying to block something. I repeat: will the noble Baroness make it clear to the Prime Minister that she should apologise and retract her misinformed statement to the House of Commons?
My Lords, surely the Leader of the House has to recognise that the role of this House in tabling regret amendments, rather than opposing orders, is an extremely important one. If the Prime Minister is allowed to continue in the misbelief that a regret amendment is the same as opposition, perhaps this House might find itself opposing statutory instruments rather than simply regretting them.
My Lords, is the Leader of the House going to answer the question? I will repeat it if she has missed it. At Prime Minister’s Question Time, the Prime Minister clearly made an inaccurate statement. I was in the Chamber at the time and it stunned me when she said what she said; I probably had not followed this as closely as I should have done. I assume that she would gather her information about events in this House from the Leader herself; I may be wrong in that respect but I guess it might be the case in Cabinet or in another context. Is the Leader of the House now going to tell the House that the Prime Minister made an error and that that error needs to be corrected? Obviously it cannot be corrected immediately in the House of Commons, and I am afraid that it certainly cannot be corrected with as large an audience as is available nationwide at Prime Minister’s Question Time, but the least damage will be done if the Leader of the House now apologises for what has happened on behalf of the Government and responds to my noble friend.
I think I have responded, in the sense that I have recognised the Opposition’s support. I have also said that I will take back the concerns about the way that this has been interpreted. However, I have been very clear to the Prime Minister and my other Cabinet colleagues, as I always have, that members of the Opposition in this House have supported the target. As I have said, we look forward to the debate later, and I hope we will persuade noble Lords of our commitment and our realism in trying to achieve the target.
I am reflecting back some years and I cannot think of a case in which a problem created in the Commons was corrected in your Lordships’ House. There may be a precedent. I do not think my noble friend was in the Commons, so I will say that this is clearly an important issue and the Opposition should allow the Government Front Bench to reflect on it and find out exactly what happened. I do not see how it can possibly be answered at this time.