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Brian Cotter (Weston-super-Mare): Can the Leader of the House help with a serious question that I asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on behalf of the small business community? I asked her to give a response to the Competition Commission's report on banking that was presented in October last year, and she said that she would publish the report as soon as practicable. That is an extraordinary, off-hand and cavalier response to a question that relates back to the Cruickshank report on

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banking, which was published two years ago this month. Can the Leader of the House help us to obtain a response to the report?

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman said that he asked my right hon. Friend to publish the report, but I think that he meant publish the Government's response to it.

Brian Cotter: Yes.

Mr. Cook: It is important for the Government to ensure that the response is well thought through and consulted on, because it is not a matter of one Department reaching a view. It is important that time is taken to get it right, rather than rushing it. The time frame that the hon. Gentleman referred to is not unusual, but I am sure that the Department will be well aware of his anxiety to see the response.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): Following a week in which a Manchester United footballer signed a contract to earn £90,000 a week with the prospect of others being paid even more, in which ITV Digital announced that it was forced to renegotiate its contract with the Football League because it could not afford to pay the original price for television rights, and in which Bury football club in my constituency became the latest club in the lower divisions to go into receivership, does my right hon. Friend agree that the globalisation of football is having serious consequences for small clubs in the lower divisions, which many thousands of people support? Does he agree that those clubs have a vital role to play in their communities, as well as contributing to our national sporting life? May we have an early debate on the future of small professional football clubs?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is correct about the importance of football clubs to local communities and local identity, which is why I am delighted that Livingston football club is currently beaten in the Scottish league only by Rangers and Celtic. That has done wonders for

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identity and pride in the city for the people of Livingston and the residents of West Lothian. That shows the success that can be achieved by a small club that only six years ago was in the third division. I recognise that it is important that we have a proper range of football clubs in the various communities of Britain, and that we do not end up with only mega-clubs.

These are choppy waters. I think that I have managed to build consensus in the House by avoiding controversy, but this matter is of such deep controversy outside it that although I shall report my hon. Friend's observations to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, I am not inclined to go further at the present time.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Will the Leader of the House be good enough to inquire now about the availability of Ministers to respond to urgent matters raised during the Easter Adjournment debate? I have used—and will continue to use—every opportunity to raise the urgent matter of the proposed demolition of important world war two buildings at the Dunkeswell airfield in my constituency. If I raise the matter in the Adjournment debate, it will be because I understand that Defence Estates has set a deadline of 1 April for the demolition of buildings that Defence Ministers previously have helped to preserve and that English Heritage has commended. If I do not get a positive response, I may end up spending my Easter recess chained to the control tower. I therefore hope that the Leader of the House will come to my rescue, and to the rescue of a very important world war two memorial site.

Mr. Cook: I feel under a very strong compulsion to try to find a way to avert that fate for the hon. Lady, and to prevent her from spending her Easter recess in that way. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will be grateful for the advance notice of what the hon. Lady will raise in the Easter Adjournment debate, and I think that he is open to hearing other advance bids. I hope that the hon. Lady secures an outcome that is satisfactory for her constituents, but I am sure that we all look forward to hearing what she has to say in the debate.

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1.31 pm

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the UK ratification of the Kyoto protocol.

Following agreement at the European Community Environment Council on Monday, I am very pleased to announce that the Government have today laid the Kyoto protocol before both Houses of Parliament. This significant step begins the formal process of UK ratification of what is a hugely important protocol.

This House is aware of the leading role that the Government have always played in the fight against climate change and, in particular, of the pivotal role played by my right hon. Friends the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment in the original negotiations on the protocol in Kyoto. We have maintained that lead in subsequent negotiations, and we are making strong progress with implementing a strategic and innovative programme of action to reduce the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. I firmly believe that the UK, as well as the rest of world, has much to gain from meeting the challenge of climate change head-on.

The deal that I helped to secure, first in Bonn and then in Marrakesh last year, was the latest in a series of major political achievements, and it paved the way for ratification. Since then, the EU has set an aim for the Kyoto protocol to enter into force in time for the world summit on sustainable development at the end of August. That summit marks the 10th anniversary of the Rio earth summit, which set up the UN framework convention on climate change in the first place. Although we do not expect or wish climate change, as such, to feature prominently on the summit's agenda, entry into force of the protocol before the summit takes place will demonstrate beyond doubt the world's commitment to taking its environmental responsibilities seriously.

The Environment Council's agreement on Monday to the Council decision on European Community ratification and to the EU "bubble" was a significant milestone. This needed to happen first, so that the reduction targets agreed politically by each member state in 1998 became legally fixed. I was delighted with the outcome of the Council meeting, which followed some detailed and, at times, sensitive negotiations. It means that all member states can now complete their own national ratification procedures, and that the EU and its member states will be the first of the key developed countries to ratify the protocol.

This Government are wasting no time in ensuring that the UK ratifies the protocol as soon as possible. Today's event marks the start of our process. The protocol will be before Parliament for the next 21 sitting days. At the end of that period, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will sign the UK's instrument of ratification. For legal and presentational reasons, the UK will deposit its instrument with the UN depository at the same time as the European Community and other member states. We aim to do that by June at the latest.

UK ratification of the Kyoto protocol sends an important message to the world that we are committed to tackling climate change. It reaffirms the Government's pledge to meet our environmental objectives, and it meets our manifesto commitment to provide leadership abroad and work for international agreement on climate change.

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I hope very much that countries not yet committed to ratifying will follow the EU's lead. The House will know that the United States recently announced proposals for domestic action to tackle climate change. We welcome President Bush's acceptance that climate change is a serious problem and his increased support for climate science and climate-friendly innovation, but our analysis of his proposals suggests that US greenhouse gas emissions will be about 25 per cent. higher in 2010 than in 1990. That contrasts starkly with the 7 per cent. reduction to which the US had originally agreed under Kyoto.

We continue to believe that the Kyoto protocol represents the only workable option allowing the international community to proceed with serious action on climate change, and we hope that the US will re-engage with the process. It is of course extremely important that we maintain a constructive dialogue with the Americans on climate change, and we will seek to establish a process through which that can be achieved.

UK ratification will mean that we become legally bound by the target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to 12.5 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. Our climate change programme sets out a range of policies that could reduce emissions by 23 per cent. by 2010, which is well in excess of our Kyoto target and stands us in good stead for future reductions. The programme therefore also addresses the Government's ambitious domestic goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions to 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010.

Our climate change programme is providing a strategic focus for action. It is stimulating positive action by UK businesses, local government and other organisations. It is encouraging longer-term changes and a move towards a low-carbon economy, and it is implementing a series of innovative and creative policies to ensure that the UK cuts its emissions in a flexible and cost-effective way.

Let me highlight the key policies. We have established the world's first economy-wide emissions trading scheme, backed by a Government incentive of £215 million over five years. The scheme is due to go live early next month, and is one of our major priorities. Emissions trading is a cost-effective way of making a low-carbon future a reality. In pioneering the scheme, we hope and intend that the City of London will become the world centre for emissions trading.

We have set a target to provide 10 per cent. of the UK's electricity from renewable sources of energy by 2010, backed by Government funding of at least £250 million over the next three years. We aim to double, at least, the UK capacity of combined heat and power by 2010. We will publish our draft CHP strategy shortly, along with a range of measures intended to achieve the target.

We have introduced a climate change levy package that will help to fund measures to promote better energy efficiency in business; and we have established the Carbon Trust, which will recycle around £100 million of climate change levy receipts to boost the take-up of cost-effective low-carbon technologies. There are also a range of programmes and schemes to promote better energy efficiency in the domestic sector.

At European Union level, we have secured voluntary agreements with car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency by at least 25 per cent., backed up by changes in vehicle excise duty and company car tax to encourage

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more fuel-efficient low-emission cars. Our 10-year plan for transport will address projected emissions growth in that key sector.

The programme takes account of what we might need to do to adapt to the effects of climate change in the UK. The Government are taking early action to identify adaptation priorities, and supporting the introduction of adaptation strategies on the ground through the UK climate impacts programme.

Our programme also begins to establish policies to reduce emissions in the longer term, beyond 2012. We know that Kyoto, while important in itself, is only a first step, and that much deeper cuts in emissions will be needed if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. The Government are determined to continue towards a low-carbon economy in a way that benefits both the environment and UK industry. This is one reason why we commissioned the recent performance and innovation unit energy report, which we are now considering and to which we will respond later this year.

I would like to finish by restating the Government's belief that meeting climate change targets will not only be good for the environment, but present new opportunities for businesses to improve energy efficiency, cut costs and get ahead of their international competitors by developing cleaner technologies and moving into new markets. It will present new job opportunities for people living and working in the UK, and will offer more choice for the consumer. We want to ensure that the UK makes the most that it possibly can of those opportunities, as well as making a strong and determined contribution to the global fight against climate change. Ratifying the Kyoto protocol is one of the most important steps on that road.

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