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Sir Ian Lloyd : May be it has not had the chance, but even the most optimistic assessment--the free capital investment at zero rates of interests--gives figures of about 5 per cent. I am not concerned about those figures, but about the other 95 per cent. of contributions which we know cannot be met in that way. I have no doubt that the contribution from energy conservation could be dramatically increased but, during the next several decades, we shall depend on slow transition because there is no other way. Our societies cannot afford greater capital investment than more than the 3 per cent. or 4 per cent. change per annum in our energy systems.
During the next few decades we shall be vitally dependent on not only coal, the supply of which we shall have to improve by dramatic capital investment and changes in technology, but on nuclear power. We may well have to become dependent, if predictions prove correct, on natural gas and the nuclear power processing of natural gas. Therefore, those who cry triumph must look carefully at their analysis and the information on which they have based their judgment. I fear that they will have to eat their words and will become uncomfortable.
Let us not destroy the prospect of nuclear power by clutching vast numbers out of the air, as we have been doing, and attaching them to such processes as decommissioning when we do not know what the capability and contribution will be from the ingenuity which will exist in science and technology in half a century or a century's time. We may be able to decommission a nuclear power facility at a small fraction of the cost which is now estimated. Therefore, let us not take a figure of £10 billion, apply that to the British nuclear industry and say
Column 1324that it is uneconomic, we must scrap it and not consider it as an option. That is a fatal judgment which is fatally flawed.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that last night a European instrument was discussed and debated in the House and that next week further European instruments are to be discussed and debated. Those instruments have a major effect on the powers of this House. You will also know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of the dramatic events in Germany and the potential for the reunification of Germany which is pregnant with impact for our continent. Massive events are taking place which could radically effect the relationship of this country with Europe and European institutions.
Mr. Marlow : The point of order for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that in view of the dramatic events which have taken place and the, as yet unknown, impact which those events should have on our potential relationship with Europe and European institutions, would it be possible for you to get a Minister to come to the Dispatch Box to give a statement on the relevant significance of these major events and the likely outcome for this country and its relationship with other European institutions? That is an urgent point which should be addressed immediately.
Mr. Gordon Oakes (Halton) : When I was coming into the House on Wednesday I read a headline--I think in the Evening Standard --which struck terror in my heart. It said "Thatcher to save the world". That was the sort of hype about the speech last Wednesday. If the Prime Minister wants to save the world, why do we have a debate in the House on a Friday and not in prime time? If she wanted to save the world, why did not the Prime Minister come to the House and make a statement about her speech to the United Nations? Apparently, the whole world was in her hands. Surely she could come to the House and tell us about it.
The matter is being discussed on a Friday and the Secretary of State is not even present. However, a Minister is present for whom I have the highest personal regard and respect because he has helped me and my constituents considerably. But even he has to leave the House before the end of the debate. That is a sign of the sincerity of the Government's attitude to the environment.
Let us consider the events of three days of this week. When my noble Friend Lord Wilson of Rievaulx was the Leader of the Opposition he coined the famous phrase that a week was a long time in politics. As time has advanced, the timescale has gone down and now three days is an immensely long time in politics.
The Minister attended and led the delegation at an important conference at The Hague. He has given his version of events to the House, but it contradicts what I have read, and not only in The Guardian. The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), the Liberal spokesman, also gained a totally different impression of the conference.
Column 1325My impression of what the Government were going to do was formed from my reading of The Observer -- [Interruption.] The Minister laughs about The Observer and The Guardian. I read The Observer and the impression that I formed, and still have, is that we were delaying and saying that instead of having fixed dates and targets we would act as soon as possible. That was what we were saying to Europe when the issue of air pollution was raised. At that time we wanted to delay and forestall our action. I fear that that is precisely what the Prime Minister was doing in New York.
It is well known that if there is a problem, a royal commission is set up. The Prime Minister suggests that we should set up a world commission and do nothing about the problem. Although I admire and appreciate the Government's generosity in spending £100 million over three years to stop the erosion and deforestation in Brazil and Africa--it is a good and generous move on the part of the Government who are heading in the right direction--they are spending money on more blotting paper when we should stop spilling ink. We should not put the blame on the Brazilian or Zaire Governments and bribe them not to use their natural resources.
We should stop pollution, but the Government are significantly failing to do that. I agree with the hon. Member for Havant (Sir I Lloyd). Indeed, I agreed with every word of his speech--as I usually do. It is always interesting to listen to him.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that, environmentally, the nuclear industry could be the salvation of the atmosphere. Yet what happened when she stepped off her jet plane? She went to a Cabinet meeting which, for commercial reasons, said that the nuclear industry should not go ahead. That is the measure of the Government's sincerity on the atmosphere. I fully accept the right hon. Lady's assertion that nuclear energy is cleaner for the atmosphere than our fossil fuels--but having boasted about that, she has decided that the taxpayer must take responsibility because the private sector cannot afford decommissioning and the control of nuclear waste. Presumably, the public nuclear sector will be in competition with the privatised sector, which exists to make a profit. Will further resources be committed to nuclear power when it is in the public sector while the remainder of the industry is in the private sector? The truth is that when it comes down to commercial reasons, the environment goes out of the window.
The nuclear industry is costly because we set environmental standards following public concern about the disposal of nuclear waste. We accept that the disposal of such waste must be paid for. Coal-fired and oil-fired stations simply chuck their waste up into the atmosphere where it does no much damage. If we dealt with those fumes--as we have the technology to do- -reduced the amount of acid rain, took out the SO and reduced the carbon dioxide content, the true cost of the privatised energy sector would be as high as the nuclear sector. At the moment, we merely chuck all the fumes into the atmosphere and other nations, as well as ours, suffer.
There are three main factors in the warming of the atmosphere : first, carbon dioxide, which is by far the biggest ; secondly, the emissions from cars of nitrous oxide ; and, thirdly--and more minor--CFCs. As I have already
Column 1326said, the Government are simply providing blotting paper for Brazil, but are doing nothing about the ink that is being spilt. Indeed, they are going backwards.
For carbon dioxide and car emissions we have the necessary technology. We do not need new technology, we simply need to spend more money on the technology that we already have. It is a question of cash. I noted that in her New York speech the Prime Minister referred to lean-burn engines. Britain is in the forefront of the world in that technology. But although they reduce pollution at slow speeds--for example, when driving round London--once on a motorway when the speed increases the lean-burn engine emits just as many pollutants as the traditional engine. We already have catalytic converters, and I believe that they are the answer to the problem. I am glad that the Government reduced the tax on unleaded petrol ; it is the sort of initiative that they should be showing to a much greater degree. Catalytic converters would significantly improve the environment. They should be compulsory not only on new cars but on existing cars.
Sir Hugh Rossi : Although the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the use of catalytic converters will reduce the volume of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emitted into the atmosphere, they also increase the amount of carbon dioxides emitted--in other words, they aggravate the greenhouse effect and global warming.
Mr. Oakes : I am not a scientist, but I understand that nitrous oxide from car emissions has a catalytic effect with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which seriously increases the warming effect. Apparently the two go together. I am not a scientist, so I will not argue the point.
The Government have not seriously dealt with the two factors of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. The Prime Minister might make a great speech in New York, but this country is doing nothing about that problem.
Britain has a success story on CFCs and the Montreal agreement, although no thanks to the Government. I am proud to say that in my constituency, ICI-- the cradle of the chemical industry--has found the alternative to CFCs. It has spent more than £100 million on a crash research programme. The plant making the new product will be in operation in 13 months, in January 1991. Another plant will be opened in Louisiana in the United States. This country is ahead of the world in providing substitutes for CFCs. The new product will be called KLEA 134A--it is a trade name and the initials have no significance. It has been toxicologically tested and is as good as, or better than, CFC 12. In addition, and at its own expense, ICI has agreed to take in all old refrigerators so that it can safely dispose of the waste. It will also take in fire extinguishers using halon. ICI is an environmentally conscious company.
The Prime Minister was at least right when she said in New York that some of the criticisms of multinational companies was wrong. ICI is an example of a multinational company that is making a considerable impact on improving the environment.
Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) : I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about KLEA 134A. Has ICI given an undertaking to take all the redundant refrigerators in the country and remove the harmful CFC gases, or is it just a local initiative? I am sure that it is a move that would be welcomed in Leicestershire.
Mr. Oakes : It is certainly not a local initiative ; I think that it is national. ICI has reached agreement with a major waste and scrap firm to take off its hands anything containing CFC 12, which is the most damaging of the CFCs to the ozone layer.
Mr. Dalyell : I wish to put on record the appreciation of an hon. Member from a different part of the country for the efforts both of my right hon. Friend and ICI at Runcorn in explaining objectively, while open to critical questions, the marvellous work that the company has done.
Mr. Oakes : I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), to my hon. Friends the Members for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) and for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and to some Conservative Members whom I do not see in the Chamber for attending the meeting with ICI. The people at ICI are scientists and know the damage that could be caused to the climate and to the world. They wanted to inform hon. Members about what they were doing, but not in an advertising sense because at that time they did not have the product. The ICI scientists merely told us what they were trying to do. At the time they had not succeded, but now they have. I am proud of that success and the fact that the product was developed in my constituency. I welcome the debate, but I do not think for a moment that the Government are sincere about the environment.
Mr. Trippier : I am listening carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. Much of what he says is fair and I am grateful to him for the nice things that he said about me. If he wishes to continue to be fair he should not make such statements. He said that the Government played no part in the reduction of CFCs. But about four things have happened in which the Government took the lead. First, as he and I know, it was British scientists taking part in the Antarctic survey who first discovered the erosion of the ozone layer. That survey was sponsored by the Government. We were the first to sign the Vienna convention and played such a part in the Montreal protocol that it was recognised that we should host the ozone layer conference. It is recognised internationally that we are in the lead because people are content to come back to London next June. We should be proud of that. The Government have taken many initiatives on the matter and the right hon. Gentleman should not say that we are not in the least concerned about the environment.
Mr. Oakes : The Government have taken an initiative by saying that there is a problem but they have done nothing to provide a solution. That was left to ICI. When the product was first developed by ICI no one knew about its effect on the ozone layer or the environment. As soon as the Government found out they reacted and tried to do something about it. The Government should take much greater initiatives with companies such as the Central Electricity Generating Board and with industry generally to make sure that it is as environmentally conscious as ICI. They should do something to save the planet.
Sir Hugh Rossi (Hornsey and Wood Green) : As this is the first opportunity that I have had of doing so on the Floor of the House, may I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside to his new
Column 1328post? Last week, my Committee found his attendance most helpful. At that time he gave evidence on another subject and displayed a concern, an openness of mind and a willingness to be flexible on the issues that concerned us. I am grateful for that.
I was fascinated by the erudite contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd) who is the Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy. The House knows the contribution that he has made to that subject. For many years he has devoted his parliamentary life to a study of such matters and he and his Committee have added greatly to our knowledge about matters which have recently become of much greater political significance than was the case when he embarked on his course many years ago.
It is understandable that Opposition Members should take a cynical view of what they regard as the conversion of the Government. Reference has been made to the speech by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the United Nations. My hon. Friend the Member for Havant put that speech in its proper perspective, and I join him in welcoming the profound and important statements that it contained. Britain should be proud of the fact that it is being seen to take the lead in matters that present the world with enormous problems requiring solutions.
I know that Opposition Members do not want to hear about such matters and adopt a cynical attitude. However, it is part of the Opposition's function to adopt such an attitude, because if they did not question what the Government were doing they would not be operating correctly. The way that some Opposition Members talk about what are called the green issues is a little rich. I recall--the hon. Member for Bootle will remember this--that only six years ago my Committee decided to look into the phenomenon of atmospheric pollution. We embarked upon an inquiry which, for want of a better term we called acid rain, into the consequences of the burning of fossil fuels. The hon. Member for Bootle will remember, when the Chairman first raised those subjects as possible matters for inquiry, the bemusement with which some members of the Committee greeted the suggestions. They asked what acid rain was, how it was important and how it affected us and Parliament. They asked how it affected the nation and, in an aside, they said, "There are not many votes in it, are there, because the public are not concerned?"
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman has said so far, and especially with his suggestion that concern for green issues has come late to all political parties. One of the things we complain about is that it has come particularly late to the Prime Minister. There is an element of cynicism among those of us who have been involved with those issues for many years, even before we were in Parliament. In many senses, the Prime Minister is using them as a way of diverting attention from what is going on at home so that she can get headlines such as :
"Thatcher's plan to save the world".
Sir Hugh Rossi : I do not accept that for a moment. I have nothing whatever to gain by doing so but I can say that I am perfectly satisfied that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has a deep personal conviction on these matters.
Let us look at what is happening. I spoke about the inquiry into acid rain, which was met with scepticism and cynicism all round. As my Committee says in the opening
Column 1329part of its report, members of the Committee approached the subject with an open mind because they knew very little about the subject at that time. That reflected the situation in the House. We came back absolutely convinced about the problem and the need for action, and we reported accordingly.
The reaction outside to the report was typical of the mentality of the country as a whole. No political party excluded, the reaction was summarised very nicely in the third leader of The Times following the publication of our report. It posed the questions : "What are these 11 men up to? Are they trying to scare us? They have gone over the top by exaggerating a situation for which there is no real scientific evidence."
The consensus at that time was that no scientific nexus existed between emissions from power stations and industry and damage to the environment. That was the majority view in this country and the advice given to the Government. That advice was given also to the Labour party. It required 11 hon. Members from all parts of the House to take the trouble to study, to go abroad and to investigate the subject for themselves, so that they could subsequently identify the dangers. From that time on, some notice began to be taken both in the House and outside.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : Is it not the case the Britain was about the last country in Europe to acknowledge the problem of acid rain and the last to join the 30 per cent. club? Is it not true also that Britain has done less to tackle the problem than any other Community member?
Sir Hugh Rossi : It is the last country in Europe to record the effects of acid rain, for the reasons given in the Environment Committee's report. The complacency that existed at the time of the report was based partly on the enormous success of the Clean Air Act 1956, which removed the dirt and dust from our atmosphere, did away with London smog, and brought a 100 per cent. increase in the sunshine enjoyed in London in the 1970s over the 1950s and the return to central London of many species of wildlife that had not existed there since the industrial revolution.
That was coupled with the tall chimney policy, based on the scientific belief--still prevalent in respect of the oceans--of "dilute and disperse" It was thought that the atmosphere was so vast that it could absorb, dilute, disperse and render harmless anything put into it. We know now that that theory was wrong. We were misled partly because, while tall chimneys took the muck high into the atmosphere, that only served to carry it elsewhere--and then the people at the receiving end started agitating for changes and corrections. That is why members of the Committee visited many of the countries so affected.
Mr. Allan Roberts : I accept, as a member of that Environment Committee, that the report was good and was before its time. However, it was published six years ago. Recommendation 3.50 in the Fourth Report was
" (a) that the United Kingdom joined the 30 per cent. club immediately"--
after six years, we still have not done so--
"and that this target be achieved by the CEGB being required to reduce its emissions accordingly."
Column 1330In fact, Britain has increased its emissions accordingly over the past six years, and the Government have done nothing.
Recommendation 3.50 (b) was
"that in the medium term as power stations come to be refitted"-- none has been refitted, and the proposal is to refit only one before the next general election--
"the CEGB should be required to instal equipment to attain the overall national reduction of 60 per cent in accordance with the EEC draft directive, that is, by the end of 1995."
None of those recommendations has been accepted or implemented by the Government, and nor have any of the Select Committee's latest significant recommendations.
Sir Hugh Rossi : I acknowledge the enthusiastic role that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) played subsequently in the work of the Select Committee. Like him, I regret that the Government did not see fit to join the 30 per cent. club, as the Committee unanimously recommended. However, he knows as well as I do that this country is likely to attain the targets that have been set far earlier than many of the signatories to the agreement. We have, however, joined in agreeing the targets of the EEC directive in respect of large combustion units, and we are well on target with the reductions required by that directive. We are playing our full part. The hon. Member for Bootle is right to say that there was a reluctance to accept immediately the dangers that the Committee cited, because of the scientific advice that the Government were then receiving. The attitude taken by the scientific world at that time was very similar to that which it adopted many years ago on the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer--"Not proven it is in doubt that the balance of probabilities is " A similar view was taken in respect of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions and their impact on the environment.
One cannot blame a Government, having listened to scientific advice, for adopting a cautious approach. However, the hon. Gentleman must acknowledge that the Government accepted all the Committee's recommendations--
Sir Hugh Rossi : --as to the need for research and for monitoring air quality, in order to establish the facts. Contrary to the hon. Gentleman's remark from a sedentary position, I had it from the chief scientist to the Department of the Environment that, following the Government's acceptance of the Committee's report and recommendations, money became no object insofar as scientific research into that area was concerned. It proceeded apace.
It is hardly surprising that, following that research, just as night follows day, the Government reached the same conclusions as the Committee reached in 1984. Some 18 months after our report was published, a programe of desulphurisation costing £600 million, now increased to £2 billion, became part of our country's efforts to achieve the norms set in the EEC directives. I am satisfied that the United Kingdom will continue to honour its obligations under that directive and will reach its targets before many other members of the 30 per cent. club.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : We obviously welcome reductions in sulphur emissions, which reduces acid rain, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will turn his attention to another significant cause of pollution that is increasing throughout the world : the internal combustion engine. Is it right for the British Government and every other Government in Europe not only to predict a 120 per cent. increase in private car ownership over the next 25 years but positively to encourage it? Should not the Committee turn its attention to reducing the number of internal combusion engines and to increasing the use of public transport, which would inevitably give rise to much less pollution?
Sir Hugh Rossi : If the hon. Gentleman will compose himself and become more patient, he will find that I shall direct myself to transport in a minute or two. I wish that my Committee could examine problems that are associated with transport. It has been difficult to deal with energy matters without trespassing far too far into the province of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Sir I. Lloyd), who is Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy. Similarly, it cannot examine transport policy. It can, however, consider the environmental consequences
Mr. Oakes : I intervene on the £2 billion and the report of the hon. Gentleman's Select Committee. Surely he must realise that the spending of £2 billion is not directly the result of his Committee's report. The Government fought tooth and nail against it. They lost, and that is why they are spending £2 billion.
Sir Hugh Rossi : The hon. Gentleman must be relying more upon newspaper reports than on personal knowledge of what happened. If he studies the record, he will find that the Minister who was concerned in the Department of the Environment with EEC directives on large combustion played a leading part in getting the norm settled and agreed to. That is the role that Britain played in the Montreal protocol and its revision.
The right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) must be fair. It is not always entirely safe to rely upon newspaper reports as a source. If he wants sources, I suggest that there is more than an abundant supply to satisfy him in the Library, in the reports of my Committee and in those of the Committee of my hon. Friend the Member for Havant. In that material he will find the matter dissected and analysed, followed by recommendations. I recommend that he read that material instead of the more facile commentaries upon what may or may not have taken place, many of them being based on conjecture.
My Committee dealt with the subject that is before us again in 1985-86, when we produced an update on acid rain. We did so once again when we produced the report on air pollution of May 1988. We discussed the Montreal
Column 1332protocol and recommended that the Government should take action to tighten the protocol, which happened subsequently.
My Committee dealt also with the greenhouse effect. I am sure that the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) will agree with what I am about to say, because the Committee's findings conform very much with the burden of his speech this morning. The Committee underlined the necessity for more and more expenditure upon research. In paragraph 154, it stated :
"The urgent need for more research on the problem is underlined by our understanding that the development of abatement technology for greenhouse gases is in its infancy. Techniques of removing and disposing of carbon dioxide from fuel gases are unproven and, if technically feasible, are likely to be prohibitively expensive. We were told that carbon dioxide emissions are more likely to be reduced by a strategy of more efficient use of energy and a changing to non-fossil fuels."
In other words, we do not know very much about it and there is a great deal more to learn. The hon. Member for Motherwell, South underlined that when he spoke of the effects upon the oceans of the absorption of carbon dioxide.
Sir Hugh Rossi : At some stage, politicians have to make a judgment on the balance of probabilities. They cannot wait for absolute scientific proof : I accept that. However, we need to know some of the basics before we can make value judgments on the balance of probabilities.
There is unequivocal evidence that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has increased over the past 30 years, and that the gases existed in much smaller concentrations before the industrial revolution. The Meteorological Office has made a major international contribution to modelling climatic change, whether that be under the auspices of one Government Department or another. It estimates that the range of possible time scales for the doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations from their pre-industrial revolution levels is from 60 to 100 years plus. The effect of such a doubling would be to increase average world temperatures from 1.5 deg C to 4.5 deg C, with a rise in sea levels of between 20 cm and 1.5 m. The European Commission has analysed some of the possible effects of global warming in Europe. It suggests that these could include permament inundation of many coastal areas ; coastal erosion ; flooding ; storm damage ; lack of water for human consumption, power generation, effluent dilution and navigation ; changes in the growing seasons of plants, agricultural yields and crop certainty and quality ; changes in forestry ; an increase in tropical diseases ; more frequent famines and food supply shortages ; and an impact on marine life and the diversity of all life systems. That is an appalling scenario. One may feel that it is almost Cassandra-like in tone. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore it, even if it is only half true. The problems of predicting the effects of greenhouse gas emissions were emphasised last week when the Natural Environment Research Council revealed the results of the first phase of the North sea community project, to which the hon. Member for Motherwell, South (Dr. Bray) has referred. That research has revealed that the take-up by the ocean of carbon dioxide may be only 30 per cent.
Column 1333compared with the 50 per cent. thought previously. Dr. Andrew Watson of the NERC's Plymouth marine laboratory warned that CO in the earth's atmosphere may increase 20 per cent. faster than current models predict.
On 3 November, in The Independent --I am sure that the right hon. Member for Halton (Mr. Oakes) will not mind my quoting from a newspaper--Dr. Watson said :
"we do not know if, or why, the land vegetation takes the carbon dioxide up, or how long they might continue to do so. Scientists are being asked by the policy makers what they should do. It's rather embarrassing to admit we do not even know where the carbon dioxide is going."
That is the dilemma with which we are faced in discussing these matters, not as scientists but as politicians. It is the dilemma that the Government must face in deciding upon actions which might have enormous consequences for the people of Britain and throughout the world in terms of their lifestyles and way of living.
I should like to refer to some aspects of this dilemma, one of which is, of course, transport. We know that deforestation causes the build-up of CO in two ways. The burning of forests produces CO directly and means that there are fewer trees taking in CO to retain growth and then release oxygen. In addition, any change in land use which increases erosion and soil degradation is likely to result in a greater release of carbon held in the soil.
I was delighted when, last July, the present Secretary of State for the Environment, then Minister for Overseas Development--my right hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Mr. Patten)--signed the first agreement between Brazil's Ministry of External Relations and any foreign country. If the right hon. Member for Halton is asking for action by Britain, here is one : Britain will supply money and expertise to train Brazilian officials to explore the environmental impact of projects.
Last week, at a meeting of the International Tropical Timber Organisation, made up of the big consumer countries--such as Japan, the United States and the EEC--and countries that have or used to have tropical forests, it was the United Kingdom that proposed a worldwide labelling scheme for tropical hardwoods which would identify their origins and allow the consumers to refuse to buy those hardwoods. That would have an impact on the trade, but the matter goes further than that. It is essential that we help those countries with reafforestation programmes. If hardwoods have to be cut down because they are needed, new hardwoods must be planted at the same time to replace them.
The developed world can help the developing world by a price mechanism for hardwoods to enable developing countries to bear the costs of reafforestation. It is difficult for the developed countries to persuade developing countries to change their ways and not to maximise their produce as economically as possible. Developing countries may say, "You have had your industrial revolution and you have attained your standard of living. All you are trying to do now is to stop us catching up with you." We must recognise that problem and do what we can to solve it. It is true that there is virtually no control today over the world timber trade. The statistics are wholly unreliable and short-term cash need has meant that countries such as Thailand and Nigeria have literally run out of cash crops and have been forced to place a ban on exports.
Column 1334Research on the relative advantages of maintaining rain forests or cutting them down to cultivate other crops has shown that the forests produce twice as much cash if left standing. Managed Amazonian forests that produce Brazil nuts, rubber and honey yield £4,500 per hectare compared with £2,000 if cleared for cattle ranching. I hope that the future liaison between the United Kingdom and the Brazilian Government in carrying out research and in finding alternatives will make a contribution both to the Brazilian economy and to the world in terms of a reduction in global warming.
About 10 per cent. of land in the United Kingdom is wooded and that area could be expanded to 25 per cent. If the area were merely doubled and the extra land were devoted to broad-leaved species, 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide would be absorbed per annum. The Select Committee on Energy noted that if trees were used as fossil fuel and constantly replaced by new trees, no net carbon dioxide would be added to the atmosphere and they could provide 20 per cent. of the United Kingdom's electricity requirements. Clearly, there is a need to think out our policy on land use carefully. Taking land out of agriculture and the planting of trees--broad- leaved wherever possible--would not only create a pleasant environment in terms of the physical view, but would contribute considerably to alleviating the problems that concern the House today.
I was asked about cars, and I must say that the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) is right. Cars are responsible for about 60 per cent. of all greenhouse emissions from the transport sector. It is a matter of current controversy between Her Majesty's Government and our EC partners whether the three-way catalyst or lean-burn engine technology is the correct way forward. Our Government prefers the lean-burn technology and that was the conclusion to which the Select Committee on the Environment came in its 1984 report on acid rain. But again, the scientists do not agree and they continue to fight among themselves.
The hon. Member for Islington, North may be surprised that there is common ground between us on any subject, but it is clear that an increase in the use of motor vehicles, even in the light of recent technology, is bound to contribute significantly to the greenhouse effect. That must be taken into account seriously when evolving transport policy.
Mr. Corbyn : The hon. Gentleman and I agree that the internal combusion engine is the major source of greenhouse gases. Will he confirm that catalytic converters, while purifying vehicle emissions to some extent, increase carbon dioxide emissions because of less efficient burning and that we need a long-term policy of reducing the number of internal combustion engines and increasing communal forms of transport to reduce the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by transport?
Sir Hugh Rossi : The hon. Gentleman must have temporarily left the Chamber when I made precisely that point when I intervened in the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Dr. Bray). I put it to him that catalytic converters increase the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. That is why I told the Select Committee on the Environment that, in the light of information received in 1984, the lean-burn approach was the way ahead. Lean-burn motors operate on a reduced quantity of petrol compared to air, therefore emit fewer
Column 1335gases into the atmosphere. Whether we can achieve and implement that technology is still open to doubt--which is why, in agreement with our European partners, we are adopting the three-way catalyst solution.
Behind that European decision, there is pressure from the manufacturers of larger motor cars which rely on a powerful engine to sell their product and meet the market. Such larger engines would run less efficiently on lean- burn technology, so the manufacturers prefer the three-way catalyst which will enable them to build ever more powerful cars to zoom up and down the autobahns of Europe where there are no speed limits.
A European transport policy must be evolved to deal with the problems mentioned. The hon. Member for Islington, North will recognise that the people of Europe demand as much personal freedom of movement as possible. Nothing achieves that as well as the motor car parked on the doorstep, into which one can jump and arrive immediately at one's destination.