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Column 977also thought, perhaps based on flawed research, that patients from outer London do not use inner-London facilities. Recent research by the King's Fund shows that that is also a flawed assumption, and that about 30 per cent. of patients currently using inner-London hospital facilities come from outside inner London.
Tomlinson thought that the location of casualty services was not important. That again is a flawed assumption. Clinicians speak about the golden hour during which it is important to get a person who needs intensive care to the facilities. Therefore, geography is important. I am sure that the hon. Member for Beckenham would agree with that. Although Tomlinson and the Government did not hold that view when discussing the capital in general, they seem to have taken it when discussing St. Thomas's hospital and its proximity to Whitehall. The Government should not try to have it both ways, because that does not do the debate a service.
Philip Harris house is an integral part of Guy's hospital and it is a modern, state of the art, national health service facility. As the hon. Member for Chislehurst said, it cost more than £150 million. Some of that money came from charitable sources. My right hon. Friends the Members for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) and for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) and I have visited the site. I agree with the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman) that it is interesting to see the facilities. The fact that they are not to be used for the purpose for which they were intended is mind- boggling. It is astonishing that provision for intensive care is to be ripped out and the building used for some other purpose.
I understand that, when the Minister's predecessor visited the site, he looked at the tower block and sent surveyors from the Department of Health to see whether it could be sold for development into flats. That is not a responsible way to treat NHS facilities. Such development would be an act of clinical and financial vandalism. It is inconceivable that any independent review would or could possibly endorse such a decision, and Labour is calling for an independent review. Moreover, that review must not be pre-empted by irreversible decisions to close facilities.
We ask the Minister to pause and think again. He has satirised Labour's call for a review of a review but it is better to stop and think again than to proceed in the wrong direction. The Minister should think about what is happening in London and about the special case that has been made for Guy's hospital, because Guy's is a special case. It is not a question of setting it against St. Thomas's but if, because of its proximity to Whitehall, St. Thomas's is to be made a special case, that is a national issue and it should be funded as a national consideration and not placed as a burden on local health care.
Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): I should not like the House to be under the illusion that the only case for St. Thomas's is that it is near Whitehall. As my hon. Friend knows, about 500,000 signatures were collected some two years ago when there was a huge campaign about the importance of St. Thomas's, not just as a national hospital but as one serving the local community. I am sure that my hon. Friend did not mean that its proximity to Whitehall was the only reason for St. Thomas's being considered as a national hospital, because that is incorrect.
Column 978for Health paid particular attention to St. Thomas's location. Of course there is a strong case for St. Thomas's, but there is also a strong case for Guy's and that case, which I endorse, has been made in the debate. I do not intend to set the debate in the adversarial context of Guy's versus St. Thomas's.
As I have said, the case for Guy's is overwhelmingly persuasive, and it rests not just on the superb facilities, the renowned history of the hospital and the major development programme that the Minister seems prepared to abandon. Its compact layout makes it an ideal modern hospital, and the building stock is good. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan) about damage to the morale of staff and patients if the clinical teams are broken up and transferred elsewhere. For all those powerful reasons, I urge the Minister to think again.
The Minister for Health (Mr. Gerald Malone): My response to the debate will certainly have a compact layout. I welcome the debate and I have listened to as many contributions as possible. They have been extremely useful. I place even more congratulations on the shoulders of my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims). My hon. Friend shakes his head. No doubt that is because he has had so many congratulations that he finds them overwhelming. They were offered not just on his success in the ballot but on the sensible and constructive way in which he produced his arguments and presented his case. I extend that compliment to the hon. Members for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and for Dulwich (Ms Jowell).
The arguments are in the public domain. As the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey rightly said, at this point in the consultation process, the matter is being debated in the House. I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he and other Members sought. Of course Ministers will listen carefully to all views, including those expressed in the debate, and not just to those expressed during the consultation process.
I visited both Guy's and St. Thomas's before consultation commenced. I am pleased to see the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) in her place. When I visited St. Thomas's, she was also there. I have taken every care to ensure that the fullest possible attention has been given to all the matters that have been raised in the debate. I shall continue to do that, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will look carefully at what has been said in the debate before making final decisions.
I have a number of points about the overall aim of our health policies in London. Basically, they are to improve the quality of patient services and the health of Londoners. In particular, they aim to improve family doctor and other community health services so that Londoners may enjoy the access, level of provision and standards of excellence that are common elsewhere.
They will enable hospitals to respond to the changing demands of an aging and shifting population and to the rising expectation and medical advances that we all know. They also aim to preserve and enhance London's international reputation, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, East (Sir G. Vaughan) spoke, for treatment teaching and research by concentrating facilities
Column 979into high quality centres. I assure the hon. Member for Dulwich that we shall ensure that changes to hospitals are paced alongside improvements in primary care, so that patients will continue to receive the services they need.
I welcome the fact that the process of public consultation has been soundly endorsed in the debate by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. I welcome the contributions that he and his colleagues in the Save Guy's campaign made to the process. Ministers are concerned that all views will be taken into account before any final decision is made.
As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering the proposals. It would not be proper or appropriate for me to comment today, but I want to emphasise that the proper amount of time is being taken to deal with all the issues before any firm conclusion is reached. The decisions made will be in the best interests of all concerned. Those decisions are hard, difficult, complex and far reaching. Many interests are involved, but decisions must be made and they will not be fudged or shirked.
I welcome the debate as a further opportunity at a vital time to hear and to take note of the views of hon. Members and of all the people whom they represent. Those views will be laid before my right hon. Friend when she finally considers the proposals for change. I know that she will consider--
Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston): The west coast main line is Britain's busiest railway. It serves a population of 16 million, in 16 counties or regions. More than 2,000 trains a day pass over its tracks. It is therefore of immense social and economic importance, yet it has been grossly neglected in the past 15 years.
It was originally built in the 1830s and 1840s, and it was the first inter- city railway in the world. In the first half of the century, some parts of the line were widened to four tracks, and the line was electrified between 1955 and 1975, but we are now in 1995, and virtually nothing has changed in the past 20 years.
The rolling stock is not of a modern standard. For some years, we who travel on the west coast main line have thought enviously of the east coast main line. We especially think about that when we listen to the all too frequent announcements about the breakdown of the locomotive pulling the train in front of ours, and about the fact that overhead lines are down in the Rugby area. That gives us quite a few opportunities to think enviously of the east coast line. Our hopes were raised a year or so ago, but, with the exercise of their remarkable logic, the Government decided that the west coast main line should be put into competition with the equally necessary Networker trains for the south-east. For reasons that we can only guess at, the south-east was declared the winner.
In November 1994, the then new Secretary of State for Transport published a glossy brochure called "Building Tomorrow's Transport Network", which mentioned the west coast main line. It said: "The intention is to launch a competition in early 1995 for the design and build, and to let a contract in mid-1995, for work to start as soon as possible after that".
In the summary published on 22 March, we at last had some firm recommendations, but, in the past four months, the time scale for starting any work has slipped at least a year. Page 55 talks about "the award of contracts for the implementation of the modernisation of the west coast main line in 1996."
We are being offered some, but by no means all, of what is needed. The recommendation is for what is called a core investment programme. That programme is essentially for an advanced train control and signalling system, combined with track renewal to maintain, or possibly to improve, its condition, and some enhancement of power supply, giving improved capacity, safety and reliability. It is therefore to be welcomed, but it is not sufficient. Further changes should be made. They have been identified, but they are to be regarded as optional add-ons, which may or may not happen. The feasibility study includes the recommended core investment programme and a range of other things, which are displayed, as it were, in a shop window, to be picked up or not by franchisees. One is new advanced rolling stock--trains--which is crucial for passengers. Another is the capacity to piggy-back freight containers--to take standard size road trailers and lift them on to modified wagons on the railway. That provides the opportunity for a truly integrated freight transport system, giving the advantages of the road when its use is
Column 981essential, but allowing full use of the railway for the larger part of journeys, with the massive environmental gains and great benefit to road users that that brings.
The published feasibility study gives little weight to the economic impact of full-scale modernisation of the west coast main line. It devotes little more than a page to it. In contrast, local authorities such as my own in Lancashire are well seized of the line's economic importance both directly, in transport terms, and in terms of jobs generated in undertaking the work.
One of the major worries of all of us who want a thoroughly upgraded service involves the question, "Where will the money come from?" The Government appear to have washed their hands of real responsibility in the matter. Railtrack says that it can find the £1 billion needed for the core investment programme between 1996 and 2004. That is a long time scale. I appreciate the technical and logistical constraints, but will the Minister assure me that financial constraints will not be allowed to lengthen the work further, and that that is the shortest time scale that is technically possible? Is it already influenced by cash constraints?
One of the Government's initial papers on privatising the rail network, called "New Opportunities for the Railways", stated in paragraph 43 that the Government are
"ready to provide direct support for investment in the railway, for schemes which, although not earning an adequate financial return, provide a satisfactory cost-benefit return when wider benefits are taken into account."
The channel tunnel main line project will benefit from capitalised payments of £1 billion in recognition of the benefits arising from its handling of Kent commuter traffic, so clearly the Government are putting some flesh on their promise in "New Opportunities for the Railways". That was a belated, but welcome, recognition on the Government's part that the public sector should contribute to the provision of either new or upgraded railways. Will the Minister, in the same spirit, please explain how he proposes to ensure that an appropriate contribution is made to the west coast main line? Railtrack is implicitly treated as though it were already privatised. Further fragmentation will take place when the franchises come into being. The Government are effectively washing their hands of their financial responsibility. Talking of finance prompts me to hope that increased fares will not be extracted from passengers who are now paying high fares for what is often a substandard service. In any case, however, complex arrangements must be made to give Railtrack extra resources via the franchisees, assuming that more revenue is generated not from higher charges but from increased usage. In the feasibility study, Railtrack points out that those resources must, somehow, be conveyed from the franchisees, who will be the immediate beneficiaries, to Railtrack, which will bear a great deal of the cost. The Government are fragmenting the railway system, and the fragments will have to find complicated ways to recombine, which serves merely to illustrate the fact that the railway service should be unified. We have all heard the comments made in the past few days by Sir Bob Reid, who can claim some expertise in these matters.
One of the problems is that the Government are not giving sufficient weight to the economic importance of the west coast main line or to the beneficial environmental impact of attracting more passengers and freight on to the
Column 982railways. When those factors are taken into account and given due weight, it becomes clear that there needs to be public sector involvement. It is all very well to involve private sector finance--we are not in any way opposed to that--but if we depend on it entirely, we shall run into trouble and experience further delays.
Some of the leases on the current rolling stock do not finish until the year 2002. There is no guarantee that the new franchisees will be willing to accept the financial burden necessary to provide us with advanced trains. What is the Government's answer to these problems? So far, I have detected only a pretty deafening silence, which is not satisfactory. I hope that the Minister will answer my specific questions.
Are the Government committed to a piggy-back service to facilitate upgraded freight transport? If they are not, the Minister will have to explain to the nation why the Government are so careless of the environmental damage done to the planet as a whole, and to the roads in particular, by the excessive carriage of freight on the roads, especially when it could very conveniently be carried by rail if the west coast main line were improved.
What is the Minister going to do about injecting public sector finance into the railways as an acknowledgement of the important economic and environmental impact of a proper upgrading? What will he do to prevent the fragments from causing complete financial and technical chaos on the west coast main line? There are 16 million people in 16 regions along the line, which passes through many marginal seats, something that it is perhaps worth mentioning at this stage in the parliamentary cycle. What has the Minister to say to reassure all of us?
Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central): I endorse the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) about this important project. I wish to register the Labour party's concern about the fact that the Government are dragging their feet on a vital investment project for the next century.
Let us set the west coast main line in context. No one should doubt that it is an essential part of the national rail network, but it is also critical for regional development. It is an arterial spine of the railway system, and it must be renewed and refurbished. The next century is only five years away, but the refurbishment has not yet been started.
The line is also a vital link to Europe. In Committee earlier today, some of us were discussing the interoperability of trains in Europe. It is hoped that improvement of the west coast main line will not only improve services in Britain but provide a vital link to London through the tunnel and into Europe.
The line is also important as a symbol of what needs to be done in this country. We need to invest, to make the economy a priority and to ensure that passenger services are as good as they can be. For those reasons, the Minister must show some urgency in replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston.
I fear that the west coast main line project faces real problems, two of which are the lack of a real and effective timetable and the lack of effective funding. Much has been said about the private sector--we want to encourage private finance in all sectors of the economy--but, to coin a phrase, "Where's the beef?" How long do we have to
Column 983wait before we see the colour of the money? How long before we have a timetable showing the start of this vital project?
In addition to those considerations, privatisation is creating uncertainty. It has been a shambles. Uncertainty has made the private sector sceptical and suspicious of a Government who have apparently taken leave of their senses and who appear to lack commitment and enthusiasm for such an important project. The dumping of privatisation would allow the nation to return to the key issues of investment, jobs and passenger services instead of focusing on the nonsense indulged in day after day.
As my hon. Friend asked, where is the cash to come from? Will the scheme mean a dramatic rise in fares for those who use the refurbished parts of the route under the jurisdiction of Railtrack? Have the technical problems been solved?
We want to spend £1 billion on a much-needed refurbishment project, but we also want to franchise the west coast main line at the same time, and Railtrack is dividing the zone covering the line into two. I can hardly think of words to describe that, apart from "crazy" or "mad". The net effect will be to delay the project even longer, to the disadvantage of the various constituencies that my hon. Friend mentioned. That cannot continue.
The nation needs to consider urgently the future of the rail network. Let the Minister say that he is pursuing the matter vigorously. I have little faith that Railtrack will deliver on this project. The chairman is far too involved in privatisation and flotation of Railtrack itself. How on earth can his mind be properly focused on the issues facing people using the west coast main line when there are so many distractions?
Railtrack has to exhibit the expertise and enthusiasm to get the project under way, but today we look to the Minister to reassure us that he shares our sense of urgency, and that he will tell Railtrack that now is the time to move the project on so that we can reap the benefits. Then, instead of regarding privatisation as the main issue, we can make investment in the future of Britain and the future of the west coast main line our priority.
The Minister for Railways and Roads (Mr. John Watts): I thank the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise) for providing the House with an opportunity to discuss the west coast main line modernisation project, and congratulate her on her timing.
Last week, we saw what I regard as some exciting developments for the scheme, and I am glad to have an opportunity to review them before the whole House, as I did with the all-party group last week. The hon. Lady gave us the history of the line and, at one point, I thought that we might have had the same speech writer as our words were identical. In any event, I shall not repeat them.
The hon. Lady emphasised the importance of the route, which runs from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow, with a further connection to Edinburgh, and the fact that it crosses 16 regions with some 16 million inhabitants. Its annual traffic is around 3 billion miles of passenger journeys, and 5.5 billion tonnes km of freight. Unfortunately, I have to use kilometres when dealing with statistics, contrary to my preferences.
Column 984The electrification of the line was completed 20 years ago, which is one reason that an upgrade is now timely, and that my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor), the former Secretary of State for Transport, announced in December 1993 that the modernisation of the west coast main line would be a flagship project for the private finance initiative.
In March last year, after keen competition, Railtrack let the contract for the first phase of the project. The key tasks set for that stage of the scheme were to assess the technical options for the modernisation of the line and to make recommendations on the appropriate funding and contracting strategy for the main modernisation project.
The successful consortium was the West Coast Main Line development company, a diverse group of private sector companies. The feasibility study was completed on time.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): When the Minister originally announced the scheme, he said that it was to be funded by £600 million of private sector money. Will he tell us why that figure has become £1 billion, and whether it will be a mixture of private and public money?
Mr. Watts: Clearly, as the examination of the feasibility has progressed, the estimated costings have been more clearly defined and we have moved to a different cost base. There is scope for a mixture of public and private funding. The hon. Gentleman knows that we have secured the inclusion of this important project in the Christophersen group of projects of Community significance, which may be one of the sources of available funding.
As I was saying, the feasibility study was completed on time just before Christmas and delivered to the Government. The development company recommended a comprehensive modernisation of the infrastructure of the whole line, involving major work over a number of years on track, power supply and structures. The work which the consortium has carried out on the line's essential assets is important and thorough. However, the most inspirational element of its report, as well as that which will be the most complex and time-consuming to deliver, is the proposed new signalling and control system.
Railtrack and the consortium carried out a very careful assessment of existing signalling technologies, and reached the conclusion that none of them represented the way forward for the west coast main line. Instead, the consortium recommended the development of a new generation of transmission- based cab signalling and the construction of a single, integrated control centre.
Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton): Will the Minister confirm that this cab control system, which he spoke about at the meeting of the all-party west coast main line group, to which he referred, has not been proven to work for passenger traffic? It has only been proven to work in north America, where trains are separated by anything up to three or four hours, and it has never been contemplated for use on a line so busy as the west coast main line.
Mr. Watts: I do not claim any great technical expertise, but my advice is that the equipment required is already in existence. What will be new is configuring it into a system to meet the needs of the west coast main line.
Column 985It is not entirely new territory. I am told that it is very similar to the control system used in the channel tunnel, for example, and it is also very much in line with the proposed technical standards for the European train control system, which is also being developed. While I would not pretend that the system is not breaking some new frontiers, I do not believe that it is beyond the ability of our industry to develop a suitable system, and it is not so ground-breaking that there are any serious doubts that it can be delivered.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): Is it not also important to recognise not only that the line has to be exclusively equipped for the new Intercity routes on the west coast main line, but that signalling will be made difficult because, on certain stretches, it will still have to be able to cope with local services?
Mr. Watts: In considering how it would be implemented, Railtrack is planning a period when there will be dual signalling techniques on the line, so that services crossing the line, which would not necessarily have the new technology, will continue to be able to operate safely. Clearly it is important that, during a major upgrade on a line which carries 2,000 trains, provisions must be made for the line to continue to operate. We cannot just close it down while work is carried out.
Indeed, one of the benefits of new technology signalling is that it is not a matter of ripping up cables and trackside signals and replacing them. The existing cables and signals can stay in place and continue operating while the cab-based system is implemented. The two will not interfere with each other.
I was very pleased last week to be able to announce that the Government have given their approval to Railtrack moving ahead as quickly as possible to award a contract to develop the system. The contract will be structured to transfer to the private sector real responsibilities associated with the delivery and performance of the technology and the financial risk associated with those responsibilities. I expect Railtrack to let that contract later this year.
With regard to timing, I would say to the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) that I certainly do not wish to see any dragging of feet, and nor do the Government. We look upon it as a very important project, for all the reasons that he and the hon. Member for Preston have mentioned. There is no incentive for Railtrack to go slow either, because it looks on the project as an important commercial opportunity, and it is very much in its own commercial interests to be able to offer a better service to its customers who operate passenger and freight trains on the line. There is every incentive for all the parties involved to make progress as rapidly as possible.
The key importance of the new technology is that it substantially reduces maintenance costs. From the savings which arise from ceasing to maintain an outdated technology, much of the funding for the core investment programme will be released.
Column 986As well as the core programme, the study produced by the development company also assessed a range of possible service enhancements. For passenger services, they include the possibility of higher speeds on the line, leading to substantial reductions in journey times. For freight services, the report assessed a range of enhancements, including the increased clearances which would be needed to allow piggy- back traffic. Those enhancements will be offered by Railtrack to its customers and prospective customers on a commercial basis. I am due to have a further meeting with Lord Berkeley of the piggy-back consortium in the next few weeks, so that he may update me on the development of its ideas.
On the passenger side, though, the director of passenger rail franchising will have a pivotal role in the discussions and negotiations between Railtrack and the train operating companies. The franchising director has kept very closely in touch with the progress of the study, and I know that, over recent months, he and his staff at Opraf have been consulting widely with both rolling stock manufacturers and potential franchisees.
The hon. Member for Preston asked what the funding mechanism will be. The means by which money feeds into the railway for passenger services is of course through the franchising director's budget and the agreements that he enters into with train operators. In turn, those funds feed through to Railtrack through access charges. The mode will be that Railtrack will have the responsibility of raising money to fund capital investment. Its remuneration, as for all its activities, will be through the track access charges paid by train operators.
Mrs. Wise: Since the rail regulator some time ago announced that Railtrack access charges should be 8 per cent. lower this year than last year, and that they should fall by 2 per cent. in real terms in each of the subsequent years, how can we be sure that such a squeeze on access charges will not interfere with the funding arrangements that the Minister is now outlining, and make it impossible to get the money through to Railtrack?
Mr. Watts: In reaching his judgments on the appropriate level of access charges, the regulator will also have considered his responsibility to oversee Railtrack's investment programme to ensure that it continues to have the funds needed to invest in improvements, maintain the network and produce an adequate return. He has reached the conclusion that Railtrack has considerable scope for efficiency savings, and that some of those should be passed through to train operators rather than being merely for the benefit of the shareholders of Railtrack when it enters the private sector. There is a mechanism in place for funding to flow through and provide support for the investment proposals. I think that the hon. Lady will understand that the project is different from the channel tunnel rail link, not because of the region that it serves but because that rail link is a totally private sector project with an initial capital contribution from the Government, partly in the form--
Column 987Climate Change
Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North): I am pleased to have the opportunity to open a debate on this subject. As the first conference of the parties to the Rio climate change convention begins its deliberations in Berlin, it has become clear that accelerating global warming, resulting from human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases, is a reality.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--IPCC--is convinced that its earlier predictions were accurate, and that, unless action is taken, mean global temperature will rise by about 3 deg by the year 2100. That calculation is based on the conservative assumption that fossil fuel burning will increase by 1 per cent. per annum over the next 50 years.
That will probably lead to a rise in sea level of about 45 cm, causing the inundation of large areas of land, including some entire island countries, with unpredictable effects on the weather and the spread of diseases, with possibly disastrous effects on agriculture and thus on the fate of entire populations, and with a catastrophic loss of species and of biodiversity.
Everyone knows that there have recently been attempts to rubbish the global warming theory, some emanating from powerful industrial vested interests. Bert Bolin, the IPCC chairman, acknowledges that there has been
"an increasing polarisation of public debate",
but insists that that
"is not a reflection of a similar change among experts". It is important to emphasise that the IPCC's most recent report had 25 main authors from 11 countries, and drew on a draft text from 120 authors, whose work was reviewed by more than 230 other people from 31 countries. The global warming theory is no mere nine days' wonder.
There is another kind of sceptic too. The commentator Frances Cairncross, writing in yesterday's edition of The Independent , acknowledged that global warming might be happening but suggested that the costs of action to arrest it might be greater than the benefits, so, because of the uncertainty, it would be better to delay action until the countries of the world were richer and had the resources to ameliorate its effects.
Frances Cairncross quoted the American economist William Cline, who argues:
"the benefits of taking action do not overtake the costs until about 2150".
Mr. Cline is obviously into cost-benefit analysis, which is, to put it mildly, a highly suspect process that ascribes monetary values to just about everything, including human lives, in order to determine what action should or should not be taken in particular circumstances.
The IPCC itself has economists, some funded by United Kingdom public moneys, working on cost-benefit analysis in relation to global warming. In my view the work that they are doing should be profoundly questioned. Typically, they base their valuation of anything on its potential for economic production. By that methodology the Maldives, home to 177,000 people, are worth far less than, say, the City of London, and an extensive area of Bangladeshi agricultural land is worth less than a single American automobile factory.
Column 988Thus, typically, it is argued that the loss to American GDP caused by reducing automobile production to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be greater than the gain in saving Bangladeshi farmland on which thousands of people depend for subsistence. In cost-benefit analysis, such conclusions are seriously defended.
Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central): Is it taken into account in cost-benefit analysis that, if most of Bangladesh is flooded, its population will presumably try to escape into neighbouring countries, and that under the pressure of that huge immigration, warfare and disruption are likely in those other countries?
Mr. Dafis: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing that out, and I doubt whether cost-benefit analysis has the sophistication to conduct such complex modelling that goes well beyond the immediate costs. However, I am trying to show that it is a basically flawed way of approaching the subject in the first place.
Worse than what I have already said is the fact that IPCC economists are now ascribing differential monetary values to human lives--a Bangladeshi life, for example, being worth about one tenth of an American or a western European life--and then feeding calculations based on such valuations into the consideration of whether particular actions are cost effective.
Such obscene ideas--I could even call them blasphemous--could become a serious impediment to progress in climate change negotiations. The Indian Minister responsible for the environment and forests wrote a letter to a number of Governments, including that of the United Kingdom. I know that the Minister has seen a copy of it, and I shall quote from it:
"In my judgment, the present impasse became inevitable when the alleged cost-effectiveness of Joint Implementation was sought to be based on absurd and discriminatory Global Cost/Benefit Analysis procedures propounded by economists in the work of IPCC Working Group III . . . We unequivocally reject the theory that the monetary value of people's lives around the world is different because the value imputed should be proportional to the disparate income levels of the potential victims concerned."
The Minister then moved on to a linked although distinct issue: "To compound the problem, global damage assessments are being expressed in US dollar equivalent. Thus the monetary significance of damages to developing countries is substantially under-represented. Damage to human beings, whether in developed or in developing countries, must be treated as equal, and cannot be translated in terms of currency exchange rate systems."
Finally, and powerfully and importantly, the Minister says: "Faced with this we feel that this level of misdirection must be purged from the negotiation process. The distributional issue of unequal-rights-by-income versus equal-rights-per capita must be resolved to enable fruitful discussions about possible protocols to the Convention, proportionality of commitments and financial mechanisms."
I certainly agree with that, and I am fairly confident that you do too, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am also confident that the Minister will give us an assurance that the United Kingdom delegation shares the view of the Indian Government and will act accordingly.
The economists may have a role. Let them help to identify the policies necessary to achieve environmental sustainability, and elaborate on the changed patterns of economic activity that sustainability would imply. Let them offer costings for such measures. That is the scope of their expertise, and they should stick to it.