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Mr. Francois: I am grateful for the Minister's remarks about funding, which is clearly important. However, part of the problem is bureaucracy and the over-interpretation of EU regulations. Can the hon. Gentleman reassure me that he has taken that on board?
Mr. Twigg: The hon. Member for North Cornwall referred to the DEFRA bureaucracy. I confess that the DEFRA bureaucracy provided me with the answer on funding, but not on the other matter. I will pursue the matter with DEFRA after the debate, rather than making something up off the top of my head, which might not be the wisest thing to do.
The hon. Member for Rayleigh raised the issue of a proposed new estate of 1,700 houses and an industrial estate in South Woodham Ferrers in his constituency. Any such proposal, particularly on the scale that he describes, would cause concern in any of our constituencies. We face difficult dilemmas in striking the right balance between national targets and local autonomy. I endorse the point made by the hon. Member for North Cornwall that, although local autonomy is clearly the ideal, complete local autonomy on these matters would probably cause us greater difficulties in relieving some of the housing pressures that have been drawn to our attention in this and other debates. I am not necessarily saying that we have got the balance right; much more needs to be done.
The hon. Member for Teignbridge (Richard Younger-Ross), who is becoming one of the usual suspects, even though he has only been in the House for just under a year, raised a number of issues that have been
The hon. Member for Teignbridge talked about his local youth council. The low turnout by young people in last year's election highlights the fact that one of our responsibilities as parliamentarians, individually and collectively, is to go out and seek the views of young people. I am impressed that in my area the Enfield youth council has developed into a youth assembly. All the secondary schools held elections, most of which were hotly contested and had a very high turnout. The youth assembly will provide a voice for local people, and that is very important and most welcome.
The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) raised a series of important issues, including constituency matters on which I will ask the relevant Departments to reply, and general issues about rural areas and agriculture. He also made a number of philosophical points, and it made a wonderfully refreshing change to have a little dose of philosophy in one of our debates.
The hon. Gentleman drew our attention to the fact that, instead of focusing on materialism as a source of human happiness, we should look a little deeper and a little wider. Although individual rights matter, it is important that we balance them against the responsibilities that we have as individuals and collectively. The hon. Gentleman made that point very powerfully.
Arising from that is the question of voluntary activity, to which many hon. Members referred. There are many positive examples of volunteering. When I got on the tube at Southgate this morning, people were collecting for ActionAid. I believe that collections are occurring throughout the country as part of a big charity appeal. Such initiatives are very positive and very welcome, but we need to encourage more of them, and I welcome the remarks that the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings made in that respect.
We had an interesting exchange about the relative merits of the 19th-century Liberal and Tory parties, but the main conclusion that I would draw is that neither really succeeded in liberating the poorest, which is why the Labour party had to be founded 100 years ago. [Interruption.] I had to make one tribal point in my speech.
I pay great tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North who made a very passionate speech. His work as the chairman of Labour Friends of India is widely respected in all parts of the House. The situation with India and Pakistan is very grave and disturbing. All efforts are being made to bring about a de-escalation of the present tension, but clearly there is a very real terrorist threat, as my hon. Friend noted. It is vital that the Pakistani Government do all that they can to end terrorism so that dialogue about the situation in Kashmir can begin.
I thank everyone who has taken part in what has been a fascinating, wide-ranging and good-humoured debate. We now break for two weeks for the Whitsun recess, although listening to hon. Members today I was under the impression that it is really the World cup recess, but it would probably have to go on a little longer if that were the case. Of course, we are marking the Queen's jubilee as well. I thank the House authorities and all those who work here for what they do to assist Members of Parliament. In particular, I thank my private office, for briefing me throughout the debate and for the general work that they do to assist me in my task as Deputy Leader of the House.
My main concern is to expose an international fix that is designed to prop up the right of an industrythe refrigeration and air conditioning industryto pollute, and to block the progress of a green alternative technology. The industry is dominated by hydrofluorocarbon interests. Some might think that area rather technical, and be tempted to dismiss the matter as a side issue, but in fact it is crucial to our success in delivering on our Kyoto targets.
HFCs are extremely powerful global warming gases. On average, they have 2,274 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. It is no surprise, therefore, that Kyoto included HFCs among the emissions that must be reduced to stop global warming. The UK fully recognises the pollution potential of HFCs, and the Government's stated position is clear. According to "Climate Change: the UK Programme", published in November 2000:
Turning to product standards for refrigeration, there are four key European and international standards committees, including the CENthe European Standardisation Committee and the ISO, the International Standard Organisation. The HFC industry predominates, with majorities over rival HC manufacturers and users of 12:4, 9:3, 12:0 and 15:4. The TC182 committee is overwhelmingly dominated by HFC interests, and is chaired by a consultant for the American Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute, which has a formal policy against the use of HCs. That committee has proposed a standard for hydrocarbon air conditioning that would outlaw 80 per cent. of units currently in use, and which would also cover refrigeration equipment. The
A review meeting in Switzerland is scheduled for early June, but it is still likely to be HFC-dominated, with the HC voice either not heard or overridden. The refrigerant charge in air conditioning is relatively large. If that sector of the market is shut off to HCs, it will remove most of the incentive for market entrants to invest in the cleaner technology. That offends against a sense of British fair play. As I said, Professor Swann underlined how important it is for the Government
I understand that a better regulation action plan will be published soon by the EU and that the European Parliament will be urged to devolve some of its responsibilities to self-regulating industries. In principle, that sounds good, but, as the evidence shows, self-regulation is in practice subject to anti-competitive abuse. What signals does that send? What confidence can we have in such a well-intentioned process if it is
It will not be good enough for Governments and Ministers to wash their hands of the matter by claiming nobility of intent. Far from being self-standing, the process will be tarred as self-seeking. What are the Government doing to protect the honour of better regulation and self-regulation from flagrant manipulation?
If that move is left unchecked, the losers will not only be the HC manufacturersfor whom I hold no briefbut the integrity of the CEN and the better regulation initiative. The global environment will continue for generations to pay the price exacted by greenhouse gas manufacturers clever enough to manipulate the system.
One way to examine the Government's attitude to HFCs is to look at what they have done when installing air conditioning and refrigeration systems in their own buildings. Do the Government walk as they talk on HFCs? The Government's stated position is clear:
The good news is that they have followed that policy. I am grateful to Star Refrigeration for informing me that the government building leased to the International Maritime Organisationjust across the river from us here in the Houseis having two large 1.4 MW building services water chilling systems installed, using ammonia refrigerant. So is the message is getting through? Unfortunately not.
In the past few weeks I have tabled questions to various Departments to find out what they have been doing. I tabled the questions on 22 April and out of the five Departments questioned, I have not yet received a reply from the Ministry of Defence. I hope that that is a sign that I will receive a full answer to the question. I do not, of course, expect my right hon. Friend the Minister for Rural Affairs to respond to that now.
The first to reply, on 30 April, was the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. It said that it had no significant building projects under constructionI will come back to thatand that the Department sought to avoid or minimise air conditioning but where it had to be used, the use of coolants that contribute to climate change will be avoided wherever that is safe, cost-effective and technically feasible.
We have seen a watering down of the Government's policy. We have moved from a presumption not to use HFCs unless there are other safe, technically feasible, cost-effective and more environmentally acceptable alternatives to one where coolants that contribute to climate change will be avoided wherever it is safe, cost-effective and technically feasible to do so.
The next answer came from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which had been asked about the coolant for the new Government Communications Headquarters building. It said that the building will use the refrigerant HFC 134A, a commercially available,
The Secretary of State for Health provided me with a list of 77 building projects currently under way, but the information on the coolant is not collected centrally. However, the Department did say that NHS Model Engineering Specification Rev 3 November 1997, MES C10 Refrigeration Plant General advises that HFC 134A or 407C and its associate blends are used. That is even further from the climate change policy.
I will not detain the House with lengthy resumés of other parliamentary answers I have received. However, it is significant that the Lord Chancellor's Department states that although it has no building projects under construction, it has a number in the planning stage and its policy is not to use a coolant if possible, but if it has to, it must be non-ozone-depleting. There is no consideration of climate change impact. Disappointingly, the Government are not doing very well in implementing their own climate change policies.
I have shown the problems that are being created by the standard-setting process which is working against the Government's climate change policy and how the market for coolants and refrigerants will continue to be skewed towards a product that has massive climate change implications. I also think that I have shown that, perhaps unwittingly, the Government may be undermining their own climate change programme. The question to my right hon. Friend, to whom I am most grateful for coming to the House this afternoon, is what are we going to do about it?
In conclusion, I have two specific questions for my right hon. Friend. What will the Government do to prevent standard setting for refrigerants from undermining our climate change programme and meeting our Kyoto undertakings? Secondly, what will they do to ensure that when they buy refrigerants or coolants for their own buildings, they do not act against their own climate change programme?
May I make a suggestion? How about placing an item on the agenda of the next Green Ministers meeting stating that all Departments should draw up their construction advice or specifications so that they marry up with the climate change programme? I would begin the parliamentary recess feeling happier if I could get such an undertaking from my right hon. Friend today.