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Column 203prosecute people who poison their customers, pollute the system or destroy public property. We should look to common law remedies to deal with faults.
People conserve privately-owned property. One way to conserve and improve the quality of our rivers is to make them privately owned so that people cannot dump their rubbish in them. The Government's proposals to set up new agencies to control rivers is one option. If animals are privately owned, people look after them. The way to save elephants is to create the private ownership of herds. They will then be properly husbanded, conserved and managed. If one owns property, one does not set about destroying it by over -using it, by drawing minerals out of the soil and so on. Again, there are private enterprise market solutions to the problems. Therefore, I welcome organisations such as the National Trust which, in the name of the public and its supporters, takes property into private ownership and, as we all know, does that job extremely well.
Many myths are abroad at the moment about the environment and the greenhouse effect. In passing and while I have the undivided attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I should like to remind the House that, although we should all be concerned about carbon dioxide emissions, it is a fact that about 99 per cent. of the effects on the climate of our planet are due to our proximity to the sun, which we cannot alter, and to the presence or absence of sunspots, the eruption of which make a vast difference to our climate. The tiny amount of carbon dioxide emitted into our atmosphere--I stress that it is absolutely minute, being about 300 parts per million--is the equivalent of a needle in a haystack when seen in proportion to the effects of the natural elements over which we have no control. Therefore, before we begin lambasting industry and developing expensive devices which will make products difficult for people to buy or use--I refer, for example, to the motor car and the refrigerator- -we should examine all these problems thoroughly and scientifically.
The same goes for food. We have heard so many stories about the dangers of food, but if one examines the number of poisoning cases--all of which are to be deplored--one realises that they represent only a tiny percentage of the portions of food that we eat. While we should urge people to adopt good hygiene practices, we must be careful that we do not end up taking the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut, by overlegislating and making it difficult and expensive for the private sector to undertake to continue to provide us with an excellent supply of good, cheap food.
Therefore, I urge the Secretaries of State concerned, when bringing their Bills before the House, to ensure that we have a thorough examination of the scientific cases behind many of these alleged problems, and that we thoroughly examine the free market alternatives to how we may deal with these public concerns. We must ensure that we do not legislate in such a way that the 1990s, or even the year 2000, become known as the era when we introduced a regime of regulation into two new areas--just as housing, health and planning in their times all became subject to a regime of new regulations--which a future generation of parliamentarians may have to dismantle.
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Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : I have spent nearly twelve and a half hours in the Chamber over the past two days to speak for but a few minutes. I hope that those outside who consider our proceedings on television will understand why our Benches are often empty. It is because to sit here is not the most cost-effective use of one's time when one is paid the salary of a Member of Parliament.
When we assess the Government's commitment to "sustained economic growth", the phrase used in the Gracious Speech, we must take three matters principally into account. The first is the effectiveness of economic policy. The second is the effectiveness of the industrial strategy--that is, if the Government still retain one ; I suppose they do. The third is the effect of the combination of both on the reduction of unemployment.
We can consider economic policy only in the light of the substantial increase in interest rates during the past two or three years. We must also consider the Government's commitment to what is, in effect, an increase of less than 1 per cent. in growth. Another issue is the Government's commitment to what is clearly now a long-term policy of balance of payments deficits-- [Interruption.] Perhaps the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) would bear in mind that I should like to hear myself speak while I am on my feet. We must finally consider the Government's general attitude towards industrial policy.
When the Gracious Speech was announced, and following the Autumn Statement which was made last week, I went to the Vote Office to look up the figures on industrial development, aid to industry and the Trade and Industry budget. I found to my astonishment that last year we spent £1.7 billion on the Trade and Industry budget ; this year we are on target to spend £1.4 billion ; next year we are projected to spend £1.2 billion ; and the year after we shall reduce that expenditure to £1 billion. So, at the very time when we have a major balance of payments deficit in this country, we have a Government who, for reasons that I cannot comprehend, are determined to reduce their commitment to industry, and especially to industry in the regions. In defence of their position the Government tell us that if we are to comply with European directives and if we are to see a reduction in regional assistance throughout the Community-- I understand that that is one criterion set down by the Prime Minister--it is for Britain to take the lead and to pursue a line that will lead to those major reductions.
I have found an interesting document, the "18th Report on Competition Policy" produced by the Commission of the European Communities and on the issue of assistance it says :
"For aid to industry, the development of expenditure in real terms over the period has differed between Member States : a downward trend in the United Kingdom, stable in France, a slow upward trend in Germany and a marked increase in Italy. In fact for industry in 1986 Italy gave over three times as much as Germany, four times as much as France and eight times more aid than the United Kingdom."
That sentence in that extremely important report underlines the problem in industry in the United Kingdom. The figures are set out clearly in the document as well as in another book that I got from the Library on the relative contribution of Governments within the European Community to their various industries. Those
Column 205figures show that, over the years, there has been a progressive reduction in aid which has undermined our industrial effort. In the book on relative Government contributions I also found a number of tables that set out the comparative position of each EC country in terms of regional aid. Every table demonstrated repeatedly that the United Kingdom is at the forefront of making cuts while being a member of the EC and despite the requirements on us to comply with directives. It is clear that far higher levels of regional assistance are paid in other EC countries.
Assistance to industry includes 100 per cent. exemption of local business tax liability in France. In Italy there is 100 per cent. relief from certain forms of corporation tax. Luxembourg offers substantial concessions on corporation tax and southern Ireland offers major concessions on corporation tax that do not expire until the end of the century. Those other European countries have been able to retain that level of assistance while the United Kingdom insists on reducing its levels of regional assistance.
When one compares the level of aid with our competitive performance abroad and our balance of payments, one understands why Britain has got itself into a sorry state. The figures on import penetration are revealing--for office machinery and data equipment it is 93 per cent., for man-made fibres it is 38 per cent., for instrument engineering it is 58 per cent., for electrical electronic engineering it is 49 per cent. and for the boot, shoe and leather trade in general it is 49 per cent. Those figures demonstrate a high level of import penetration into a country where much of our industrial base has been lost because the British Government refuse to accept that they have some responsibility for sectorally supporting and providing adequate assistance to regional companies to set up plant in competition with the major importers into the United Kingdom.
I have a few minutes left and I want to put a proposition to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Suppose he were an American industrialist who wanted to establish a plant somewhere in western Europe. He would have the choice of major corporation tax concessions in Italy, major rate relief and other tax concessions in France, lander support through the industrial committee structure of Germany as well as substantial regional assistance. Backed by western capital he might also have the opportunity to put industrial plant in East Germany or in other parts of eastern Europe. On the same agenda there is the possibility of placing a plant in the United Kingdom, but, given the level of regional assistance available here, where would he put his plant?
Mr. Campbell-Savours : The Secretary of State may say, "Here" but from what I hear and the consultations which I have had with industrialists abroad, in the main they want to go to Europe where there are substantial levels of--
Mr. Ridley : The hon. Gentleman must stop making such silly points and realise that the real complaint in the Community is that the vast majority of overseas investment comes to this country rather than to any other.
Column 206American capital and that regional assistance considerations within western Europe were very much on the minds of American
When one follows debates in other European Parliaments, it seems that they think that the policy works and it is only here in the United Kingdom that the British Government feel that these matters are of no concern to foreign industrialists.
Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham) : In the Queen's Speech we are assured that the Government will continue to attach great importance to protecting the national and international environment. Those are fine words and we have no objection to the sentiments. Indeed, we welcome that assurance, but we question the delivery of that promise and the commitment to do so.
We have heard these same pious aspirations in a number of speeches, not least those made by the Prime Minister over recent weeks and months. We heard them in her speech to the United Nations a week or so ago. The Prime Minister appears to be happy to make speeches on the subject, and I suspect that her pollsters tell her to do so. However, she fails to grasp--she is someone of notoriously narrow and limited vision--the magnitude and urgency of the issues with which we are confronted.
I assume that the Prime Minister will not have seen the report on the greenhouse effect published today by a study group commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of the Environment. The report bears a sobering message for us all. It shows that, even on the most optimistic assumptions about all the other factors which might be
involved--deforestation, CFC levels and so on--the CO emissions which we can expect will alone threaten a degree and pace of global warming which is simply unacceptable. The report clearly shows that, unless we take action now, that global warming will produce a greenhouse effect which will do enormous and unpredictable damage.
The report shows that we do not have much time left, that industrial countries must stabilise their carbon dioxide emissions within five years and that, having done so, they must engage in a major programme of carbon dioxide reductions if we are to avoid the worst outcome of the greenhouse effect.
However, there is no sense of this urgency in the Prime Minister's approach. She does not seem to understand that environmental damage operates on a ratchet which clicks forward at an ever-increasing pace and does not turn back. She does not seem to understand that there is no going back, the damage is irreversible, we cannot afford to sit and wait to see whether the damage materialises : the benefit of doubt must be given to our environment. The watchword can no longer be "Let's wait and see". We cannot say that our proper response is a leisurely programme of research such as the Prime Minister recommends. Action and safety must come first. We must avert the risk first, and then carry out the research to see to what degree suspect activity is to be permitted. If we do not do so, by the time we learn the facts, the damage will be irreversible.
Column 207Even in the face of this overwhelming imperative, this simple and central fact that matters so much to our planet's future, the Prime Minister's advice, in the speech she delivered to the United Nations, was that we can safely rely on the market. She goes further. Staggeringly, she tells us, without any apparent sense of paradox, that we can repose our trust in the multinationals, that we can look to them to protect our environment. That shows an amazing degree of naivety. The Prime Minister seems to be so impressed by the size and power of the multinationals that she is persuaded that those qualities somehow endow them with the character of public bodies acting in the public interest. She has not understood that the size and power of the multinationals make them that much more potent and much more potentially dangerous to our environment.
Mrs. Gorman : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Socialist economies in eastern Europe are responsible for the massive emissions of pollutants and exercise no control, whereas the multinationals are under state control?
Mr. Gould : I am sorry that the hon. Lady felt obliged to make that point, because if we take her view that it is always somebody else's fault and responsibility, we are taking the most irresponsible of all attitudes and condemning our planet to an environmental disaster. The Prime Minister is compelled to take her Micawberish view of markets and multinationals because she is trapped by her own ideology. For her, the market is infallible, and it follows that any intervention in the market is not only pointless but damaging. That is why there is always such a gulf between the windy generalities of the Prime Minister's speeches and the action on the ground. Despite the attempts by the new Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to arouse his Back Benchers to some response, there is some interest in what I have to say. At the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' conference in Kuala Lumpur, the Prime Minister felt obliged to oppose the concept of an environmental fund. Her Minister at the Noordwijk conference, who is not in the Chamber, was also obliged, no doubt by her diktat, to join a disreputable minority which refused to set any targets or any time scale for the control of carbon dioxide emissions.
Mr. Chris Patten : I assume that the hon. Gentleman is arguing for an immediate commitment to a target for emission reductions. Will he tell the House what baseline he will use? Secondly, what would he do about countries that import or export electricity?
Mr. Gould : I am glad to say that the Secretary of State illuminates the difference between the Government and the Opposition. He is right to suggest that we are arguing for the setting of a target and a time scale. The failure to do that marked the performance of the Minister who represented Britain at Noordwijk. In terms of the baseline, we are talking about stabilisation within five years of carbon dioxide emissions. Beyond that, we have to engage in a major programme to reduce that level.
I assume that the Secretary of State has not yet seen the report to which I have referred. I recommend it to him. I was privileged today to speak to its authors. It shows that we have much less time than he or the Prime Minister have
Column 208so far assumed. In her speech to the United Nations in New York, the Prime Minister followed up what she said in Kuala Lumpur and what her Minister said in Noordwijk. She again eulogised about nuclear power, at the very time when she should have known that her Ministers were preparing to face facts and acknowledge that the market had decided that the game was up, that we had been sold a pup and that nuclear power was no longer to be regarded as economically viable. Why was that? It was not just due to the pounds and pence of accountancy but because nuclear power is so environmentally dangerous that no one can foretell how much it will cost to clean up afterwards and to decommission nuclear power stations. That is why the Prime Minister presides over a Government who, day in and day out, neglect, ignore, and consequently damage the environment.
I now come to the Secretary of State for the Environment. It has to be said that he has been appointed by the Prime Minister to wave the green banner. It also has to be said that he starts with one great advantage : at least he is not his predecessor. At least he is able to utter the word "environment" without a curl of the lip. But we need and the environment needs more than a pleasant manner and a thoughtful expression. We need a Secretary of State prepared to remedy the deficiencies of the Prime Minister's deficiencies in matters of vision, analysis and commitment.
I am sorry to say that the evidence so far does not give grounds for optimism. Throughout the past decade or more of Thatcherism, the Secretary of State has managed to preserve a reputation for liberalism while nevertheless sustaining the Prime Minister as her researcher and speech writer. I fear that in the Secretary of State we have someone who is unlikely to tell the Prime Minister that she is wrong on this issue or on any other.
Mr. Gould : If the hon. Lady continues to say that long enough and loudly enough, she too may make it to the Cabinet. That is the one criterion that seems to guarantee promotion to that office. All that can be said in mitigation of the charges against the current Secretary of State for the Environment is that he is hardly alone in the Cabinet in being unwilling to tell the Prime Minister that she is wrong.
There is the odd glimmer of hope. I read in yesterday's newspapers that the Secretary of State told the Confederation of British Industry, or at least an assembled group of journalists, in Harrogate that changes in transport policy may be required if we are to get on top of the problem of carbon dioxide emissions. I assume that by that he means that some shift in the balance between private motor cars and public transport will be required. Opposition Members naturally applaud that, but it will not make him popular with the Secretary of State for Transport. For that reason, I believe that it may have been a somewhat unguarded comment and that we may not hear much more of the idea once his right hon. Friend takes him to task. If he is serious about it he will have to take on not only the Secretary of State for Transport and the Prime Minister but half the Cabinet. The Secretary of State will have to do more than make the odd comment. He will have to demand action and tell the Treasury and his former Department, the Overseas Development Administration, that there is no point in
Column 209lecturing developing countries about destroying rain forests while tying them into a straitjacket of debt which they have no hope of repaying unless they can exploit their natural resources as they wish.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to take a serious step in talks with the Secretary of State for Energy. He will have to tell him that, with the chimera of nuclear power disappearing, we face a level of carbon dioxide emissions which makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's lip service to the need to combat the greenhouse effect. The Department of Energy has revealed in figures released to the United Nations that on a business-as-usual, let- the-market-decide, no-intervention basis, carbon dioxide emissions will not stabilise or even decline but will power ahead. Those are the Department of Energy's own predictions. By the year 2020 those emissions will have risen to 1 billion tonnes--a 73 per cent. increase. What sort of example is that for developing countries which need a degree of growth and energy consumption to alleviate the problems of poverty and despair? Is it not wholly irresponsible for a rich country such as the United Kingdom to show so little concern for the need to limit carbon dioxide emissions? Is it not to add insult to injury for the Prime Minister to lecture others on what is required?
When will the Secretary of State tell his right hon. Friends that this is a rake's progress which makes neither economic nor environmental sense? More than that, when will he tell them that it cannot be allowed to happen and that what is urgently needed now is a massive commitment to energy efficiency and conservation? We need a complete reversal of the Government's policy, which is epitomised in the cut in the budget of the Energy Efficiency Office.
The Secretary of State's responsibility lies most directly in his Department. He is responsible for a water industry which is of major significance to our environment. As is universally acknowledged, the industry is in deep trouble. It fails to meet approved standards. It poses a threat to public health because of the dangerous levels of nitrates in the water. It gives rise to a great deal of public anxiety. It has already been sued by its consumers and is subject to prosecution within the United Kingdom and at the suit of the European Commission. It has a massive backlog of unmade investment and a massive infrastructure which is crumbling away.
What is the Secretary of State's response to that desperate state of affairs? Does he acknowledge the failure to meet the agreed standards? Not a bit of it. His first response is to go to Brussels and try to twist a few arms to avoid prosecution. It need hardly be said that he failed. Does he demand that standards should be met and investment made? No, he assures the industry that he will protect it from its failures by delaying as far as he can the application of legally imposed obligations. Does he guarantee as his first priority higher standards and fair prices to the consumer? No, his priority is to make room for private profit, to do nothing about the real environmental problems and simply to concentrate on transferring the industry at whatever cost into private hands. I say "at whatever cost", because today we know, by virtue of what is supposedly called impact day-- the day on which the share price is decided--that the share price means that the loss and cost is enormous.
To sell the water industry to their friends in private industry, the Government have been prepared to accept on behalf of taxpayers a loss of at least £1.3 billion. Having
Column 210given away £5 billion in debt write-off and £1.6 billion through the so-called green dowry, and having settled for receipts under £5.3 billion, even if the sale succeeds and every last share is sold, the Government are forced to accept that loss. We all know that investing in water remains a dicey proposition. There are so many uncertainties--unmet obligations, unquantifiable legal commitments, litigation poised over the heads of water companies and political uncertainties. All that means that only by offering it at a give-away price can the Government begin to hope to float the industry, even at a £1.3 billion loss to the taxpayer.
Far from making good the deficiencies of the market, the Secretary of State's response is to invite it in so that it is the drive for profit and the values of the short-sighted and greedy which will prevail in the water industry rather than the public good. So much for environmental concern. For this Government and for this Secretary of State, it is clear that environmental concern means, "Let's sell it off to the highest bidder."
No wonder the Government's green credentials look so shabby. But not everything is yet lost. We are told that the true colour of the Government's concern will be shown when they publish and promote their environmental protection Bill. We have yet to see whether that Bill deserves the accolade of being described as a green Bill. It seems unlikely to measure up to the scale and urgency of the issues with which we are confronted. That is not to say that there will not be in the Bill much that we can support. I am glad to read that some aspects of the Pearce report will be reflected in the Bill's provisions. We welcome that as a partial repudiation of the Prime Minister's view that everything must be left to the market. We welcome the notion that some intervention is essential if we are to protect our environment.
Let me put the Secretary of State on notice that the "polluter pays" principle, while welcome to a limited degree, is not, and cannot be, a comprehensive policy.
Mr. Gould : I will tell the hon. Lady. She need not intervene, because I have heard her question and I will give her the answer straight away. The right to pollute cannot be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Some forms of pollution cannot be tolerated, whatever the price the polluter is prepared to pay.
We also support the measures designed to deal with the problem of litter. It may be thought that this is a small-scale problem by comparison with the greenhouse effect and the hole in the ozone layer. That is true, but I have always believed that the litter-strewn streets, the crumbling pavements, the stinking public places and the graffiti-covered walls are the visible signs of what has gone wrong in Thatcherite Britain. Raising the fines for litter louts may be a partial response, but it is hardly adequate, and somehow raising fines epitomises all that is wrong in the pettifogging response that the Government make to real and widespread practical problems.
I am sorry that he is not present now, but I agree with the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi). We do not need piecemeal and superficial measures. We need a more sustained and comprehensive approach. He argued, and I agree, for an environmental protection agency. I also agreed with my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow
Column 211(Mr. Dalyell) that the last thing that we should be doing is dismembering the Nature Conservancy Council. I was interested in the Secretary of State's intervention, which revealed a certain embarrassment on his own account on that score.
Above all, we want real resources and real support for the environmental protection agencies that already exist, and I refer to the local authorities. If they are required to take on responsibility for littering, for recycling and for controlling waste, they must have the resources to do so. They cannot be constantly undermined by attacks on their resources, competence and independence. We cannot expect to tackle these problems--the hard, detailed, practical day-to-day local problems of litter, waste and recycling--if we constantly attack the agencies that are best placed to do the job. I hope that I have said enough to show that we shall submit the Government's plans to a very harsh test, and we make no apology for that. That test will be one of practical efficiency. We have gone beyond the point where posturing and rhetoric are a sufficient response. Hard decisions and choices must be made. There is no evidence in prime ministerial speeches or in the information trailed about the environmental protection Bill that the Government have yet steeled themselves to take those hard decisions. If they will not take them, we will. That readiness to act in the future, for the future of our planet, is one of the most telling differences between the Government and the Opposition. That difference provides one of the most potent arguments for the election of the next Labour Government.
The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Chris Patten) : Browsing through last year's Queen's Speech debate--not something that I did entirely for pleasure--as my right hon. Friend remarked earlier, I noted that last year the House debated environment and industry, but in that order. On that occasion the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr. Cunningham) opened the debate--how we shall miss his geniality on nights like this--and the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) wound up. This year the order of subject matter has been reversed, and the hon. Gentleman still finds himself bringing up the rear. Order of appearance is a more serious matter these days. While the ubiquitous television eye never sleeps, viewers are elsewhere. If they have any sense they will be watching Michael Palin at the moment. [ Hon. Members :-- "Oh!"] I am glad that the duty doughnuts are on such good form tonight.
It may be over the top to see the hand of the would-be parliamentary Labour candidate for Hartlepool in the arrangements made today, but into the limelight steps the Labour party's coming man--the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown). The hon. Member for Dagenham was once the coming man. He seems to have come and gone, but I am sure that his day will come again as he is clever, keen as mustard and is even a member of the Wine Society, so all should be well. [ Hon. Members :-- "What about policy?"] I will come to policy in a moment.
The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East is the rising star for the moment. He has risen--I think that this was once said of David Frost--almost without trace. Having
Column 212listened to the hon. Gentleman for the first time today, I think that I can understand why. His speech was full of admirable sound bites--it was the longest sound bite that I have ever heard. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East denounced us up hill and down dale. He was tall on rhetoric, but rather more elfin on prescription. He was good on politics, but less overwhelmingly convincing on economics. The hon. Gentleman would find that, were he to inherit the purple, there are a lot of economics involved in being Trade and Industry Secretary.
There was one point of potential disagreement between the hon. Member for Dunfermline, East and the hon. Member for Dagenham. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, East allowed cliche to run away with him. He referred to the Jaguar motor company being thrown to the wolves. That was an extraordinary way to describe a firm which employs 48,000 people in Britain, and an extraordinary way to describe a firm which employs 14,000 people in Dagenham. I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman meant what he said, unless he was one of those who threw his hat in the air when trade union instransigence last year lost £35 million of Ford investment in Dundee and 450 jobs.
When I listened to Opposition Members' speeches yesterday I wanted to take my right hon. and hon. Friends to task. Sometimes we are inclined to say that the Opposition have no policies. That is extremely unfair as the Opposition have several policies. They are, for example, in favour of low inflation and high employment. They want higher public spending and lower interest rates. They naturally want tighter credit and cheaper mortgages, although I recall that the hon. Member for Dagenham has his own policy on mortgages which may be subject to a smidgen of clarification from the Leader of the Opposition. They want higher productivity, higher wages, industrial peace and an easier life for secondary pickets. They are in favour of abolishing rates and of several different methods of paying for local services, all of which would naturally be entirely painless. Indeed, I suspect that most would be entirely costless.
There is no shortage of policy there. It is all perfectly clear, but the precise ways in which those objectives would be accomplished remains somewhat opaque. I assure the Opposition that we shall help them to hunt for the golden key to understanding of those policies in the months ahead in this Session. I am sure that they will join us in that voyage of discovery.
In several speeches, the growing awareness of the link between the two subjects of the debate--industry and the environment--was mentioned. First, I believe that it is common ground--I may surprise some people by saying this--between the main Opposition and us that we believe that industrial success can be an important ingredient in the enhancement of environmental quality. While we disagree about how to achieve it, we both believe in growth although, as the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, we both argue that growth needs to be sustainable. We believe that that is most likely to be achieved by a combination of Government regulation and market forces. We look forward to Labour's explanation that the answer is Government regulation and Socialism or even, perhaps, what is euphemistically called social ownership--if that is still on the agenda this week. Secondly, there is general agreement that we need an effective system to control, regulate and reduce industrial
Column 213pollution. Thirdly, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter) that industry should be seen not as the problem, but as a major part of the solution to environmental improvement. We want to encourage cleaner technologies. We are helping to do that through our environmental protection technology scheme. There is a world market worth more than £100 billion a year in clean technology and I want British industry to win a much larger share of it. To accomplish our environmental goals, we must act on three levels--national, European and global. At national level, the Bill that we shall introduce early in the Session will set in place what will probably be the most sophisticated and comprehensive pollution control regulations anywhere. It is trivial to dismiss that as being of little account, as the hon. Member for Dagenham seemed to do in an interview yesterday in The Independent. It is an important step forward in environmental policy, finally bringing to a satisfactory conclusion a story which began with the fifth report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution about 13 years ago. I should like to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) who made an extremely important speech--
Mr. Patten : I shall come to what I agreed with. These are the type of proposals for which my hon. Friend has been pressing for some time. He brings all the knowledge of his skilful chairmanship of the Environment Select Committee to bear on these matters. Until now, we have dealt with pollution of air, water and land in different ways, some of them more stringent than others. Regulation has been based on wholly different philosophies. For example, with water, the basis of control has been the impact of discharge on the quality of the receiving water. With air, it has been the technologies' ability to reduce emissions. On land, there have been no controls over the generation of waste, only controls over disposal.
Integrated pollution controls means that we shall bring all major industrial pollution under single control and a single piece of legislation. There will be one over-arching philosophy. This should combine the best features of the present system. In other words, it will incorporate environment quality standards and control through technology, and at the same time it will achieve the minimisation of waste at source and the best practicable environmental option. The system will be the means of delivering our international obligations including, for example, substantial reductions in emissions of sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides following on from the large plants directive.
Mr. Dalyell : If the over-arching philosophy and the emphasis on "single" applies to pollution, why does not this emphasis apply also to nature conservancy? Let us suppose that the other place decided to send the proposed Bill back to this place with reservations on, or outright opposition to, the concept of nature conservancy being split between Scotland, Wales and England. Would there be any circumstances in which the Leader of the House--I ask my question in the presence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman--could ensure that the measure would not be subject to a guillotine motion, as it could well be, in this place? That could well be planned.
Mr. Patten : When many members of the duty doughnut squad were not able to be present, the hon. Gentleman and I had a useful exchange about the future of the Nature Conservancy Council. I made it clear to the hon. Gentleman during my response to him that we were looking for ways to secure a Great Britain science base for nature conservancy work while establishing the existing councils on a territorial basis. I am obviously interested in what the hon. Gentleman says and I take note of his views. I am not sure, however, whether his views on the rights and wrongs of decisions that relate to the Nature Conservancy Council are shared by his Scottish colleagues. I have a welcoming statement from one of his hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman might find it interesting to read what the Leader of the Opposition, as a Welsh Member, has said about the future of the NCC. It may not be that the Leader of the Opposition has a role in determining Labour policy, but the opposite may be the case.
Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries) : Will my right hon. Friend accept that the majority view of the NCC is entirely in accord with the Government's policy of splitting the council for England, Scotland and Wales? It sees a positive way forward that includes a science base. The Government's view is entirely in accord with that of the majority on the NCC.
Mr. Patten : As I said earlier in response to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I recognise that the NCC has put forward its own proposals for how we can accomplish shared objectives on a science base and on establishing a United Kingdom identity for nature conservancy work. We shall be responding to the NCC's propositions in the next day or two. I hope that we shall be able to satisfy William Wilkinson that we have a shared view on how to move forward.
Mr. Flynn : We have all been listening with great fascination to the new ideas that have been enunciated by the Minister. Is it a fair summary to say that the first commandment of the new over-arching philosophy will be that the market can be bucked?
Mr. Patten : If the hon. Gentleman had been brought up in London during the 1950s, as I was, and had witnessed the consequences of the Clean Air Act 1956 introduced by a Conservative Government, he would know that there is no paradox in proper environmental regulations and in using market forces as the most cost-effective way to achieve environmental goals.
The environment protection Bill will demonstrate that the Government are playing their full part in establishing a strong regulatory framework for protecting the environment. As I said, I have no doubt that market forces have a crucial part to play in meeting those standards. Before Opposition Members snigger, they should think about the incredible surge in demand for unleaded petrol, from 2 per cent. to 26 per cent. in a year. There is also the voluntary phasing out of CFCs from almost all aerosols.
Column 21512 in the European Community for its recycling efforts? How will he achieve an upgrading of Britain's position without some intervention that goes against the philosophy that the Government have been practising for the past 10 years?
Mr. Patten : It does not go against our philosophy to promote recycling. However, I agree that it is one area in which we have lagged behind, and we must do a great deal better. One of our problems has been our system of waste disposal, where there has been no separation between those who do the regulating and those who are regulated. One way in which we shall, I hope, promote recycling and waste minimisation through our legislation is by establishing the true cost of landfill disposal, which is absolutely crucial if we want to encourage greater recycling and greater waste minimisation. I note a deathly hush among Labour Members-- [Interruption.] I take it back--I am sure that the Labour party is about to provide us with lots of bright ideas on how to promote recycling. Chance would be a fine thing.
I want to say something else about the green consumer and the extent to which market forces can help to promote environmental quality. I have absolutely no doubt that there is a growing number of green consumers, and nor do I doubt that the best way to increase the strength of the green consumer movement is to ensure that there is adequate information in the market place. That is a powerful argument for a green labelling scheme, and we have been pressing for that within the European Community for some time. We are confident that a scheme can be in place before the completion of the internal market in 1992. A European-wide agreement is necessary, not least because it would be unacceptable to allow member states to freeze out imports of goods by claiming falsely that they are insufficiently
I attended my first meeting of the European Environment Council in September, and I shall be attending the next council meeting--
Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle) : Does the Minister believe that the privatisation of waste disposal, which will put the dealing of toxic and chemical waste in the market place--where the profit motive will determine how it is dealt with--will be popular or unpopular with the British public? It will be as unpopular as the proposals to privatise water.
Mr. Patten : I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman still does not accept the strong argument for making a distinction between those who regulate and those who are regulated. We are insisting that those authorities responsible for disposal should separate their disposal activities from their regulatory activities. I should be extremely surprised if local authorities took the same view as the hon. Gentleman.
We intend both at the next European Environmental Council meeting and at its future meetings to play a constructive role in the development of European policy. I believe extremely strongly that we should have as much information available to us as possible, so that we can compare environmental records in different member states of the Community. That is why we pressed for the establishment of the European Environment Agency in
Column 216this country. We believe that it should be sited here, and we have nothing to hide in respect of our environmental record. There is not a scintilla of evidence for the proposition often pressed by the Opposition that we have a worse record than other European member states. No member state has a better record of compliance with Community environmental directives. That is a fact, not a boast. It is a fact also that no country has a larger or more detailed programme of compliance with Community water directives than we have.
Action will of course increasingly be necessary not just at a European but at a global level. The problems of climate change or ozone depletion require that. Here too we shall play our full part in seeking essential agreements at international level to improve the quality of the environment. We were instrumental in securing the Community's agreements to a ban on all CFC use by the end of the century. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) played a key part in securing unanimous agreements at Noordwijk to stabilise carbon dioxide emissions by end of the century.
The issues that we are addressing are likely to dominate the international agenda for years to come. They raise matters of fundamental importance. They affect the economies of individual countries. They affect trade. They affect international growth. They affect the adequacy of international institutions. They affect sovereignty. They affect the relationship between rich countries and poor. Above all, they affect the way that we live today and the world that we shall pass on to our children. Those issues are not to be traded in a political auction, either at home or internationally. They are self-evidently the kind of issues where it does not make sense to make policy off the cuff or off the wall. That is not an argument for delay but an argument for building a secure foundation for international agreement and for global policy.
There are two requirements for effective international action. First, we must seek to include as many countries as possible in any agreement. It would have been a major setback for world action on the greenhouse effect if the Noordwijk conference had ended with the major economies divided. As they are the major CO emitters, it is essential that all industrialised countries remain actively involved in that process. As I said, my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen was instrumental in acting as an honest broker in achieving a positive consensus. That was the right thing to do and helped to secure future progress.
Secondly, it is right to wait for the evidence from the International Panel on Climate Change, which will be presented to the second world climate conference at Geneva next November, before deciding at what targets to aim. The panel's recommendations will be available then. It does not make much sense, to put it kindly, to pluck figures out of the political air, but I can pledge that when we sign our name we will deliver.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow referred, understandably, to the problems of tropical deforestation. I wholly agree with his remarks. We need to do more as an international community to deal with that problem. We can make a particular contribution because of our experience, our present science base, and the contacts we have made already, through our own aid programme.
I was delighted that in her speech to the United Nations General Assembly the Prime Minister announced that we should be spending another £100 million through our aid