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Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East) : Not on the Finance Bill.

Mr. Gow : No, not on the Finance Bill. The hon. Gentleman, to whom I shall give way, does not seem to have read his own new clause, which provides that the Chancellor shall lay before the House, no later than 14 days after the Finance Bill has been laid before the House, the environmental assessment--that is a proposal in the new clause. The question my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington asked the House and I am trying to answer is, who will prepare the assessment. My hon. Friend did not answer that question, nor did the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, and so it falls upon me to try to answer it.

6 pm

The list has now come down to my right hon. and noble Friend the Paymaster General. We have not always had a Member of another place as a Treasury Minister. The first Treasury Minister in another place, under the premiership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, was my noble

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Friend Lord Cockfield, who went on to Brussels. He is one of the folk of whom I am speaking. Perhaps he could be called back from retirement to assist with the preparation of the environmental assessment. Lord Cockfield was sent to Brussels to challenge the Commission, but when he got there he facilitated the Commission's task in seeking to impose its will on the 12 member states of the Community. To whom do we come next?

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : Perhaps Lord Cockfield changed his line from one of attack to facilitation because he was persuaded by the merit of the argument.

Mr. Gow : The hon. Gentleman's own party would be happy to submerge this kingdom into a federal Europe. That view is not shared by Conservative Members.

Mr. Hughes : We know that.

Mr. Gow : Yes--that is why I shall not give way again to the solitary representative of the Liberal party. That party once represented Eastbourne, but once only, and we shall not give way to the Liberal party again.

I am pleased to welcome to our proceedings my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley), who is an expert in these as in other matters, and to whom I shall give way presently.

I was just coming to the fourth of the Treasury Ministers--who is he? He is my right hon. Friend the former Financial Secretary. My hon. Friends have been falling over one another in paying tribute to my--is he now my right hon. Friend-- [Interruption.] There is disagreement among Treasury Ministers about whether he is right hon. or honourable. My hon. Friends have been falling over themselves in congratulating my right hon. Friend, the former Financial Secretary, on his appointment as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I do not join them. I deplore the appointment of my right hon. Friend as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The House will not misunderstand me when I say that I deplore it because I deplore the departure of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury. I give good wishes to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and congratulate him, but I deplore his arrival for that reason, and that reason only.

Can my right hon. Friend the former Financial Secretary be engaged in the environmental assessment? How can he when he is about to go off to the Department of Trade and Industry which, according to some people, is one of the greatest pollutants of the environment?

Mr. Campbell-Savours : May I help the hon. Gentleman and put it to him that all the work will have been done before the Budget statement has been made, so he does not have to worry himself about such matters? The Chancellor will have the statement in his pocket when he stands at the Dispatch Box because it will have been produced as part of an assessment made prior to the introduction of measures in the Budget. [Interruption.]

Mr. Gow : I have just been told by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Sackville), who normally sits on the Front Bench, that he wants a vote to be called and so I have been invited to shorten my remarks- -

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd) : Or perhaps make them more pertinent to the new clause.

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Mr. Gow : Even if I am not willing to accept the rebuke from my hon. Friend the Lord Commissioner, I shall, of course, accept the rebuke from you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I have been going through the Treasury team, and one Minister remains--the Economic Secretary, who is today, as usual, wearing a green tie and who is to reply to this debate.

The new clause is unnecessary. The Treasury, in conjunction with the Department of the Environment, already takes proper account of all the relevant environmental matters. I have no wish to heap further burdens on Ministers, particularly Treasury Ministers. Therefore, when my hon. Friend replies, I hope that he will say that an environmental assessment is surplus to requirement.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : The new clause is one of the most important new clauses that we are debating this evening because, while the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) spent much of his speech humouring the House, he was, in effect, referring to what I perceive to be very much Labour's policy as it will be at the next general election. Built into the new clause is a proposition that is electorally saleable, certainly administratively practical and environmentally popular. It is the way to go in future, and I suspect that the hon. Member for Eastbourne, if he were more candid with the House this evening, would have found much in the amendment with which he could agree.

I shall deal with one part of the new clause and produce an example of how, if such matters were not considered when tax policy was framed, things could simply go wrong, damage could be done to the environment, and local authorities could spend lots of money repairing damage and preventing potential damage to the environment. If new clauses such as this already formed part of the existing law, one case would never have arisen--the sale of the Westminster cemeteries in London.

My example is relevant to the new clause because three of Westminster city council's municipal cemeteries were sold, two of which had been owned by the council for more than 100 years. Graveyards at Hanwell in west London and Finchley and Mill Hill in north London were sold for 15p, together with millions of pounds worth of land and buildings. The relatives of those buried in the cemeteries were not informed.

The sale of the cemeteries involved two factors. First, the land involved was raped in that it was not properly maintained. Historically the area had been well kept, well maintained and, I understand, well walked by people in the immediate vicinity. Those pathways and walkways were destroyed because of the nature of tax law in Britain.

Tonight I shall show how those issues interact and how in the absence of a proper tax framework--I shall explain how the law did not cover those matters in the way in which they would be covered by new clause 1--those who wished to pillage land and to speculate were able to destroy a beautiful area of London which had been immensely popular for a century.

I shall refer to how clauses 65, 66 and 67, on dual resident companies, and clauses 89 and 90, on income and corporation tax returns, would interact with positive tax legislation in the event that an environmental assessment were made of the Chancellor's proposals for tax legislation. I shall demonstrate how the Government lack

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the will and the way to tackle the problem, thereby giving rise to new clause 1, by reference to the sale of the cemeteries in Westminster.

It was a callous act. Lady Porter, the leader of Westminster city council, sold the graveyards for 15p. In some cultures, people fight to defend the graves of their ancestors and the immediate environment that surrounds those graves. In this case, some beautiful cemeteries were desecrated as a result of tax law and the absence of any provision such as new clause 1. Lady Porter was happy to sell off hundreds of graves--I am told perhaps thousands--for less than the price of a pint of beer. Those 90 acres of land used to be looked after with respect ; they were a fitting memorial and a place for contemplation. Now they are a wilderness because of tax law. The grass and briars grow waist high and the graves that once were tended with care are now choked with thorns and abused by vandals. The hon. Member for Eastbourne nods in agreement ; I am sure that he feels as strongly as I do about this matter.

It is environmental blight on an immense scale. The land, the graves and the memory of the dead are now no more than another counter in a commercial game of poker between the cynical policies of Westminster city council and the financial interests of the owners of the cemeteries. The mischievous, wealthy landowners who have profited by buying and selling graves have used misrepresentation to achieve those profits and offshore, foreign resident companies to preserve their anonymity and to avoid paying tax. Had new clause 1 been on the statute book, the framing of law governing investments overseas would have provided sufficient protection to ensure that the transactions in respect of Westminster city council's cemetery privatisations would never have occurred.

Despite a so-called in-depth investigation by the district auditor, and despite the supposed investigations of the police fraud squad, the dealers who have blighted the land and insulted our memories continue to live anonymous, well-heeled lives in big houses in St. John's Wood or the Thames valley. They are able to do so because they carry out their transactions through shadow companies based in the Channel islands, Cyprus, Panama or Liberia.

6.15 pm

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is a sufficiently clever parliamentarian to relate what he has to say to the clause. I have listened to him very carefully, but he has strayed some way from it. I should be obliged if he would relate his remarks to the new clause, and then he would remain in order.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I understand your ruling, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I am sure that you realise that I considered these matters before I came into the Chamber today.

One section of the new clause deals with land use in the United Kingdom, and I am referring to land use to show that unless environmental impact assessments are carried out on tax law relating to land use in the United Kingdom, inevitably stories such as that relating to Westminster cemeteries will recur. By relating that story, I am illustrating where the tax changes should take place in compliance with new clause 1.

The district auditor and the police are unable and unwilling to discover who those people are. They are even unable and unwilling to chase up the tax which should be paid on the multi-million pound gains made by those

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wealthy malefactors. I shall reveal for the first time in public who are some of the people behind the dealings and how they have successfully blackmailed Westminster into dropping its policy--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I have given the hon. Gentleman quite a lot of leeway, but he is rather taking advantage of the clause and of the present debate. He should relate more directly what he has to say to the clause. I understand his great concern, but I hope that he will now speak to the clause before us.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am speaking specifically to the queston of land use in the United Kingdom and the need for an environmental impact assessment to be made by the Chancellor when devising tax policy that affects land use in the United Kingdom. The only way in which I can argue the need for that is by producing an example of where the law has been deficient and showing its consequences. That is what Parliament is about. One cannot simply set one's proposition ; one has to explain the basis on which one wishes to argue a case for reframing the law. I should have thought that I was in order, but I bow to your judgment, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Gow : Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. He may know that Westminster city council now accepts, and leading counsel has advised, that the sale of the cemeteries by the city council was unlawful. In my judgment, the consequence of that is that in law the cemeteries are still owned by the city council.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I should like to think that that is the case, but I understand that that is not accepted by the developers and that Westminster city council is already negotiating a compromise which may well be at a substantial cost after all the environmental damage that has taken place.

In my view, local authorities should not be able to act in that way. If a provision such as new clause 1 already existed in legislation and there had been an environmental impact assessment of any tax policy changes that the Government were introducing, we should not be in the position that we are in today.

I ask the Government to take appropriate executive and legislative action to ensure that those people are made to answer for their actions. New clause 1 would prevent the activities of such people in future in so far as they blighted our environment. The graveyards which, as I have said, were beautiful, and which have been the subject of an environmental disaster, were sold on 30 April to a Mr. Clive Lewis, of Lewis and Tucker, in Hanover square.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield) : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have listened with great interest to the hon. Gentleman, but I find it difficult to identify the exact relationship between the problems with the graveyards of Westminster council and the new clause. Surely, according to the amendment, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is obliged to bring before the House the environmental implications of the Budget. The graveyards affair related to a local authority. It has no bearing on the environmental considerations of a Budget.

Madam Deputy Speaker : The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I advise the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that to give an example is perfectly in order, but to pursue the example as he does in

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such detail is an abuse because it shifts the purpose of the debate to a different subject. It is perfectly legitimate for the hon. Gentleman to give an example, as it is for any hon. Member, but he is pursuing that example to such an extent that he is shifting the subject of the debate from the new clause.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am tired of Conservative Members raising spurious points of order to prevent the truth from coming out every time that I come into the Chamber to say something that is controversial and causes concern among the general public and to set out the truth. The facts are simple.

Mr. Roger King : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I protest at that.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : The hon. Gentleman wants me to be thrown out because I wish to explain matters--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order.

Mr. King : I do not accept that allegation.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. Let us keep it cool. The temperature is very hot outside, but let us keep it cool in here.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : The truth is coming out.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I have explained to the hon. Gentleman that it is perfectly legitimate to give examples, but he should not pursue them to such an extent that he shifts the subject of the debate.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I understand that, but I find it hard to accept that I am shifting the debate. The words

"land use in the United Kingdom"

are on the amendment paper. The new clause is about building into Budget calculations an environmental impact assessment and about the need to report 14 days later to Parliament on what is in the assessment. It refers specifically to land use.

In my 10 years in Parliament, perhaps on less controversial issues, I have heard hon. Members speak many times at great length, setting out by way of example the reason why they adopt a cause.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to do that. He has set out his example. It is perfectly legitimate to do that. I ask him not to shift the subject of the debate, that is all.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I use every debate, as any hon. Member does, to make my case. My argument is based on what happens in a particular case. If it had not been for interventions from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), I should have been well on in my case. As it is, I am still arguing defensively that I have a case and a right to raise it here in the House. If Parliament wants to shut out the truth, so be it, but the truth will come out.

The graveyards were sold on 30 April to Mr. Clive Lewis, of Lewis and Tucker, in Hanover square. His home is at 33 Carlton Hill, St. John's Wood. At this point I should say that there is another Clive Lewis, who runs a surveying company called Clive Lewis Associates. He is entirely unconnected with these events.

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With the beautiful lands of the graveyards came 12 acres of even more beautiful land--building land--three gatehouses, a flat, £10, 000-a-year rental from a crematorium, a car park and a nursery plot, together with a cheque from the council for £70,000. Those items were subsequently split up and bought and sold for millions of pounds through companies in various different tax havens. Most of the land is now in the hands of a company called Wisland Investments, which is based in Switzerland and registered in Panama.

Mr. Forman : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am an old friend and great admirer of the hon. Gentleman and I am very fond of him. He has his eccentric ways. Do you agree that his case is eminently an example of a matter which, if he wishes to go into it in great detail, he should raise on the Adjournment?

Mr. Allen : Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether you were present earlier when the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made an entertaining speech about four or five different Ministers and whether they would be capable of producing a report.

Mr. Chris Smith : He gave five examples, not one.

Mr. Allen : I bow to my hon. Friend. Entertaining as the hon. Gentleman's speech was, many of us felt that it was wholly irrelevant to the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was speaking about people who have abused the tax system for gain. The relevance of that to the debate has been outlined. If there was an environmental impact assessment of tax proposals, such abuses could not arise. With the greatest respect to the Chair, the items that my hon. Friend has raised are absolutely and strictly in order and certainly

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. That is for the Chair to determine. I remind the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) that the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) was also called to order.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Most of the land is now in the hands of a company called Wisland Investments which is based in Switzerland and registered in Panama. The land is environmentally significant to London. It includes natural walkways and is on the edge of the green belt. The land is being environmentally damaged due to the absence of precisely the environmental impact assessment called for in the new clause.

In order to sound like a credible purchaser, Mr. Lewis initially misrepresented himself to the counsel of the agent of the Western Synagogue in west London. As Rabbi Rosen of the synagogue rightly said, and will confirm :

"No instruction was ever given to Mr. Lewis. Indeed, it would have been beyond the constitution of the Synagogue to have purchased the land."

Mr. Lewis insinuated his way into the counsel's confidence by taking in vain the name of the church where his father was an officer. Mr. Lewis was soon the only buyer, and when he declared his interest in the scheme Lady Porter was too pig-headed and her officers too frightened to stop the sale from going through. Right from the beginning, it seems that it was Mr. Lewis's intention to asset strip. New companies were set up to buy the different pieces of land.

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In particular, a company called Cemetery Assets was set up 13 days before the exchange of contracts to take over the graveyards. The graveyards cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to maintain, yet Cemetery Assets had capital of just a few pounds.

Much of the other valuable land went to a Cyprus company called Bestwood Property Limited. Again, that company took advantage of British law.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman is taking great advantage of the Chair and the House. I ask him again to relate his comments directly to new clause 1. Otherwise, I shall have to invoke Standing Order No. 41, which requires me to stop any irrelevance that the hon. Gentleman utters. His comments during the past five or 10 minutes were irrelevant to new clause 1. I seriously ask him to relate his comments to the environmental assessment of land and not to do so with the detailed examples that he has used so far.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I understand that in Sweden, where one of the beneficial owners and principal investors in Wisland is part resident, the matters that I bring before the House are commonplace. The cemeteries are now in the hands of a Panamanian company, Wisland Investments. For years, the company has sought to conceal its true owners. I can now reveal that one of the investors in the company is a Swede by the name of Bertil Rosquist of Orchard Dene, Riverdale, Bourne End, in Hertfordshire.

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I now ask the hon. Gentleman to discontinue his speech. It is totally irrelevant to the new clause.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have spoken in the House on many occasions in the past 10 years. It may be that you cannot see the connection, but I feel sure in my mind that there is patently a clear connection. It has been drawn to your attention by several of my hon. Friends. You may not be prepared to accept the connection, but there is one, and if, in this mother of Parliaments, we are to be prevented from arguing our case on the basis that Parliament never wishes to consider the real arguments that lay behind our decisions to amend legislation, it will be much the poorer. I can say only that, under pressure from Conservative Members, you have conceded, and I take strong exception

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I take great exception to what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I have been extremely tolerant since he started his speech. I understand the passion with which he speaks about this matter. He has never been stopped by me. I am sorry to have to stop him now, but I have given him ample warning about speaking directly to the new clause. I ask him to resume his seat. 6.30 pm

Mr. Campbell-Savours : I do not refuse to resume my seat, but, on a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, may we assume that, for the rest of this Finance Bill, the strictures as they have operated in relation to me tonight will operate for every other speech? If so, over the next two days some Labour Members should spend their time in the Chamber, and every time that, in our view, Conservative Members step out of line--that is what has happened

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today ; representations were made about me-- we should object. If that is so, we shall find that the Finance Bill terminates tonight by--

Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. As long as I am in the Chair, hon. Members will speak directly to the clauses or amendments before us.

Mr. Ian Stewart (Hertfordshire, North) : I very much regret the aspersions that have been made against you, Madam Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) pointed out, in his usual vivid and graphic way, the absurdity that would follow from the implementation of new clause 1. I do not wish to add anything to what he said, but I wish to pick up one point made by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell- Savours), not during his strange speech but in an intervention. He said that all the measures in the Budget would have to be checked for their environmental consequences before the Budget statement was made. Presumably, drafts of the Budget would have to be circulated around the globe and Governments of friendly, or perhaps less friendly, countries would have to relay information on the environmental consequences of clause 120 long before the Chancellor announced to the House that it was to be introduced. That point adequately emphasises the nonsensical implications of the new clause. If the Opposition's purpose is to debate the usefulness of the tax system for dealing with environmental matters, they have a point that is common ground among hon. Members. I compliment my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary and his colleagues in the Treasury on the way that they have taken effective and practical steps to achieve that.

By speaking in support of the Government, I should not wish you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to think that I was making a bid for a vacancy at the Treasury and to return to where I spent much of the 1980s. Unfortunately, infirmity prevents me from attempting to do so. Over the past few years, it has been shown how the tax system can be used to encourage environmentally friendly measures and to discourage those that are environmentally damaging. I refer in particular to the differential between the price of lead-free and leaded petrol. Some people criticised that differential as inadequate, but it has meant that almost a third of all petrol consumed is lead free.

I very much approve of the way that the Government have increased tax on company cars and I should like to encourage them to continue to do so, because so far as I can see there is still a substantial gap between the real value of a company car to the recipient and the amount at which it is assessed for tax. That is partly because the value of a car to the recipient has risen rapidly in recent years and it has been difficult for the tax charge to keep up, despite increases in successive Finance Bills. A further reason is that the amount assessed for tax is not a gross but a net figure. If the recipient had to buy, service and maintain his motor car, he would have to receive a substantially higher salary because he would have to pay income tax at the basic rate or perhaps the higher rate. If the value of a company car to a basic rate taxpaper were deemed to be £3,000, he would have to be paid £4,000 so that he could pay 25 per cent. in basic rate tax to be left with £3,000 to

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spend on his car. A higher rate taxpayer would have to be paid £5, 000 extra and, therefore, to pay £2,000 in tax before he had the necessary money left over.

I encourage Treasury Ministers to continue the difficult and probably not very popular process of increasing the taxation on company cars. I shall probably be lynched by half my constituents for saying that those allowances are unduly generous and have led to more motor cars, and larger motor cars, being bought than would have been the case if the tax system had been neutral on whether cars were provided privately or by employers.

I do not believe that the motor industry needs that incentive. Several of my constituents work for Vauxhall in Luton. The new Cavalier is an extremely effective motor car which has been taking some market share from imports. Much of the market in imported cars could be regained by domestic manufacturers, even if the number of motor cars sold did not increase as rapidly as it does because of the incentive provided under the generous company car taxation system. I encourge my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Treasury to go further and to reduce the company car allowances in years when they feel that it is right to reduce the basic rate of tax. This option is not open to the Labour party because it wants to increase taxation. It will not be in a position, as we have been in one or two years recently, to reduce the basic rate. Those reductions have made it possible to make a larger adjustment to tax concessions such as those for company cars. I hope that we shall again reduce the basic rate and make the position fairer between one taxpayer and another. As things stand, in effect those who do not have company cars bear a higher proportion of the overall tax burden, whereas those who are fortunate to have the cars receive an undoubted financial benefit, which needs further adjustment.

Hon. Members set a bad example by having a three-tier system for reimbursing mileage allowance. A few years ago, when the new system was introduced--I think in 1984--I found that my mileage allowance went down each month because I had a small car. Those who had large motor cars, which used far more petrol and caused more pollution, found that their mileage allowance was rising. They were rewarded for their greater consumption of fuel and greater contamination of the environment, while I was penalised for doing the same thing on a smaller scale--although I do not complain. I do not understand the anomaly whereby we provide those who have large cars with a mileage allowance more than twice the size of that given to the owners of small cars. In examining the environmental consequences of the motor car--which must figure largely in our thoughts when we are discussing the new clauses--we must realise that we are not setting a good example to the rest of the country. I hope that the time will come when we can change that.

Mr. Simon Hughes : I shall deal shortly with the important and specific question of cars and car taxation that was raised by the right hon. Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Stewart). I agree with some of his propositions.

I support, in general terms, the two propositions in the new clauses : that there should be an environmental assessment of proposals put by the Treasury regarding changes in taxation, and that the tax system should be used to give advantage to forms of motoring and technology that are environmentally acceptable.

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There is nothing new about the proposal that economic policy should be subject to environmental assessment ; indeed, my first criticism of Labour's new clause is that Labour has come round to that view so belatedly. I remember taking part in a debate almost as soon as I became an hon. Member--my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) also participated--in which we discussed proposals from the Royal Commission on environmental pollution for an environmental audit and assessment. My colleagues and I have urged that policy mechanism on Government for many years. I would also go further than the Labour party does in its proposals, although I accept that in the new clause it is addressing itself to the specific inter-relationship of the environmental assessment and budgetary proposals in the Finance Bill.

One of the ideas that have been adopted in other countries is that of environmental assessments of all Government policy. Just as we receive legislation in the House that incorporates a Treasury indication of the economic implications as part of the financial memorandum, so we should have an environmental assessment of all legislation, which should be presented to hon. Members as advice before they assessed their reaction to each specific piece of legislation. That proposal could easily be implemented.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) asked a fairly rhetorical and somewhat whimsical set of questions about who should carry out the environmental assessment. If he really wants economic matters to be taken seriously by Government, he should address his mind to serious questions, and not to the somewhat irrelevant byways into which he went.

As part of the structure of Government, there should be a Ministry or office that has the same authority that the Treasury has now. At present, anything that requires implementation requires a Treasury imprimatur to ensure that it comes within the general acceptability of Government public expenditure plans. I do not dispute the propriety of that, but, if Britain is serious about environmental matters, all Government proposals should also go through a similar environmental audit. The only way to do that is to create a Department of environmental protection that has the same authority in government as the Treasury.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne asked who should do the environmental assessment. It would not be Treasury Ministers, as they have another principal function : they are there to be specifically expert in economic matters. However, they would be aware that no matters--even micro-economic matters--could be put through as Government proposals until they too had been vetted, costed and assessed in environmental terms. The hon. Gentleman is conservative in his view of what Government should do ; he justifies it and relishes his conservatism, but I encourage him to be less conservative.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development now regularly recommends in its Social Trends an environmental assessment of economic proposals. Many other countries do an environmental assessment. As part of his annual address to Congress, the President of the United States uses indicators other than gross national product and gross domestic product. The

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ultimate governmental responsibility falls to the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister's office : it should also be able to assess--if we think that these matters are important--the environmental impact of anything we do.

If the Government are as serious in practice about environmental matters as they say they are in theory, I would hope that they would be considering the practicalities. We know that the Secretary of State for the Environment has employed an environmental adviser. The Government should be seriously considering including in their expected autumn White Paper the proposal that there should be a Department with the clout to assess the environmental implications of all matters of public policy. The same process should be continued in the Prime Minister's office. That would go much further than the Labour party's new clause, as it would cover all matters of public policy, not just the matters set out here. It would be a test of the Government's commitment to put the environment at the top of the agenda.

6.45 pm

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) that it is impossible and illogical to regard environmental and economic matters as separate, as they are fundamentally intertwined. Government economic policy in this and every country will inevitably have an impact on the environmental agenda, on our environmental development and on environmental production and pollution. The levers of economics that we choose have a direct effect on the damage we do to or protection that we give our environment : the amount by which we tax resources, whether we tax carbon or whether we tax the use of vehicles--all those matters have a direct interrelationship, and we must recognise that.

One good development is that this debate has moved on from the debate in the 1980s, when many people thought that green politics and environmental issues were separate from other issues on the political agenda. There is now a ready awareness across the political divide, and among all who consider these matters, that environmental questions touch every area of public policy.

Mr. Cousins : I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely, but I must express a sense of caution about the creation of an all -embracing Ministry, let alone one that is accompanied by a large central department in the Prime Minister's office. The stock of skills that the country has to enable us to carry out environmental assessments is, sadly, quite limited. We hope that, in the course of time, it will develop but it is limited now. Surely it would be entirely wrong to centralise and limit the impact of those environmental assessment skills by tying them all up in one great Department of State.

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