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I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have stressed twice that we should carry on with our steps, which I have lauded the Government for taking. This country has done a good job and, in some ways, we do set an example, but we should not exaggerate our influence on the world stage in the example that we set when all kinds of people in this country are taking more cheap flights. The Treasury Committee report released today mentions that, between 2000 and 2004, the annual number of passengers liable to pay air passenger duty rose by some 25 million or 35 per cent. We therefore have to be careful. It is important to set an example and to try to cut emissions, but we must also consider the other side of the equation, which, as far as I can tell from the reply of my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, the Budget singularly fails to do. The other side of the
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equation is: what will be the effects on the United Kingdom of the global warming that we already know is coming?
Mr. Redwood: The hon. Gentleman is making an important point. Does he agree, for example, that we could polderise new land in the Wash, and out of the profits from creating extra land, partly for development, build a much better sea defence? That would be a good scheme to introduce ahead of the kind of things about which he is worrying.
Rob Marris: It is a rare occasion on which I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, who makes a thoughtful suggestion. I do not want to stray too far from the Budget, Madam Deputy Speaker, but what the Treasury does with regard to green taxes tends to permeate our society and other Departments. The report published last month under the auspices of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, "Climate Change: The UK Programme 2006", in a summary on page 130 says:
"The Government will take action to develop a comprehensive and robust approach to adaptation in the UK through the Adaptation Policy Framework; publish revised and expanded climate change scenarios for the UK in 2008; monitor and develop the knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation through UKCIP."
Publishing estimates and scenarios and developing the knowledge base are laudable, but that is not concrete action. The Budget does not start to address the things that we can do about the impacts, such as polderisation, if that is a word.
"Some of the most widely expected adverse impacts in the UK include: an increased risk of flooding and coastal erosion; increased pressure on drainage systems; possible increased winter storm damage; habitat and species loss; summer water shortages and low stream flows; increased subsidence risk in subsidence-prone areas; increasing thermal discomfort in buildings; and health issues in summer."
Those examples are vague, but research is laudable. However, we do not even have a grasp on what will happen, in spite of years of knowledge about climate change. I was taught about climate change and greenhouse gases when I went to university in 1973, so it is not new. We still do not knowwe are still doing research on itwhether we will get a Newfoundland climate, which is pretty awful, or a Mediterranean climate, which might or might not be pleasant in this country; it will not be pleasant if half the country is flooded.
Mr. Ellwood: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concede that the big EU bus was parked outside No. 10, and the keys given to us, for six months. On top of that, we were responsible for hosting the G8 summit, which is exactly where these issues should have been addressed to tackle the monumental challenge that the entire world faces.
We are all prisoners of what we read and hear and talk about with people, but I do not hear this
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subject talked about much. I am open to correction, but I do not recall another Member making quite a long speechas I have done for almost 10 minutes so faron what society should do about the effects of climate change. I do not hear that debate going on in our society. I have the honour to represent an urban seat, and I do not hear from rural Members on the subject. I heard a little at DEFRA questions last week about the hosepipe ban in the south-east. I am not a scientist, but I suspect that the hosepipe ban and the worst drought in the south-east in living memory might be connected to climate change. When will society and Government start to talk about what they will do about the effects of climate change? If I am right that the matter is not debated in the House or elsewhere, that is an appalling indictment of all Members on both sides of the HouseI can make enemies of everybody, I suppose.
I stress with some passion that society ought to have that debate. We need to discuss the taxation regime, whether it is tax breaks for polderisation, research or life sciences developing new plants that can grow in this country with longer daylight hoursone cannot just transfer Mediterranean plants, because the daylight configuration is different further north. From the little information that I haveI always stand to be corrected, especially on this matterthis society and Government, through our tax regime in the Budget and elsewhere, appear to be doing almost none of that, except for the general research and development tax breaks introduced in recent Budgets, including this one, which I welcome, especially as a west midlands Member, in the hope of a positive effect on manufacturing.
In terms of where the world is going, and our country within it, we are not doing a whole lot about the effects of climate change. Mostly we appear to be saying, "We'll do a bit of research." I plead with the Government, through the Treasury, which has a huge say because it controls the purse strings, to consider the matter again and speed things up. Neither I, as a Wolverhampton Membernor you, Madam Deputy Speaker, representing a west midlands seatwant Birmingham to become the capital of the United Kingdom because London no longer exists, as it is under water because of climate change. That could happen. As I understand it, the Thames barrier, just a few kilometres down the river from where we are now, is being used more frequently, year on year, than when it was initially built to deal with climate change. I do not know which Government commissioned it, but it was a far-sighted piece of work. We need to do more of that sort of thing and we should change our taxation regime to do it.
Huw Irranca-Davies: My hon. Friend is making a thoughtful and insightful contribution. Does he acknowledge that that cause and effect is exactly the reason that the Severn barrage, which was ruled out three and a half years ago because of cost and ambition, is now very much on the cards, not only because of the energy that it could create but because of the environmental safeguards that it could introduce along the Severn estuary, which has the second highest tidal drop in the world?
Rob Marris: I am grateful for your assistance, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was relating my comments partly to the Bill and partly to the Opposition motion, which suggests that the Bill is not an adequate response to the challenges that we face in this globalised world. I apologise if I strayed too widely, but I will, if I may, respond briefly to my hon. Friend's intervention. I believe that the bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia is No. 1 in tidal terms, but we should consider the implications of the Severn barrage for electricity generation and the like.
As for the specific taxes that are or are not in the Budget, I think we should look at airport passenger duty, but there is a difficulty, to which I adverted earlier. A number of MembersI was one over Eastertake cheap flights. It ill behoves us to say that because we are on £60,000 a year, or more in the case of Ministers, we will put up the price of flights so that other people cannot fly everywhere and ruin the environment, although Members are likely to go on doing so, whether or not they have to save for their holidays. We have to be rather careful about stuff like that, because it could undermine support for the environmental, green taxation regime on which a consensus may emerge in the House. I hope that it does.
The hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Julia Goldsworthy) was coy about some issues. I should like to know whether she, like me, favours a swingeing top band for vehicle excise duty. I am not sure where the top band should start. Perhaps it should begin with carbon dioxide emissions of 250 g per kilometre, involving a fine of, say, £2,000. Would the hon. Lady care to say whether she or her colleagues would support such a swingeing top rate? She referred to it, but did not say whether she would support it. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady is still making up her mind, with assistance from the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne).
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