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I alluded earlier to the consensus stretching from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench to the Pentagon on the need to tackle climate change. I would like a consensus
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to emerge across the House on the need to understand why there has been resistance to housing development in the past. That consensus should include an appreciation of the vital importance of ensuring that new homes are eco-friendly and play their part in the battle against climate change. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire has talked about practical examples of that trend, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) has put the matter at the heart of Conservative housing policy.

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument with great interest. He seems to be putting forward a hypothesis that nimbys are essentially eco-warriors demanding that new housing development should have higher standards. Has that heroic hypothesis been tested empirically in his own constituency?

Michael Gove: Yes, it has. During the general election campaign, and in the course of carrying out my duties as a constituency MP, I have found that one of people’s prime concerns about new development is its impact on the environment. There is a direct relationship between them. The Minister uses the term “eco-warriors”. Most of us remember that the most famous eco-warrior, Swampy, found himself operating arm in arm with tweedy Conservative ladies in Berkshire and elsewhere in the home counties in resisting development. He was resisting transport developments. Whether we use the dismissive term “eco-warriors” or the term that I prefer, “conscious environmentalists”, we must acknowledge the direct link between concern for our environment and resistance to development. Unless we address that link and ensure that people realise that development can be environmentally conscious, we will continue to stoke resentment towards new development.

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman seemsto be questioning the commitment of some members of his party to transport development. Will he joinme in condemning Conservative councils such as Gloucestershire county council, which has shifted money out of climate-friendly integrated transport and into road maintenance?

Michael Gove: The hon. Gentleman tempts me, literally, to go down a road that I have not travelled before. As I am unfamiliar with what the admirable and enlightened leaders of Gloucestershire county council have done, I shall not comment on that matter. I also notice that Madam Deputy Speaker is suggesting, with a flutter of her eyelashes, that this is perhaps slightly off topic.

I wish to see the Bill pass on to the statute book, not only because it tackles the issue of climate change but because it makes a contribution to energy security and to competition. I particularly want to see it pass on to the statute book because my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle has made a direct contribution to building a durable, eco-friendly consensus in favour of
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matching new development with a sensitive concern for the environment.

12.42 pm

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), with whom I agree absolutely that there is a good bit in the Bill about energy security. There is also some important stuff about diversity of supply and the promotion of competition. I disagree with him, however, on whether there is a balance of scientific opinion to show that clause 1(1) makes the correct assumption on which to base the Bill. The clause states:

Having looked at quite a lot of evidence, it is my considered opinion that the case for that assumption has not been made. Indeed, I would say to my hon. Friends the Members for Surrey Heath and for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), and to other hon. Friends who have spoken so ably in the debate, that they should look at the article by our noble Friend, Lord Lawson of Blaby, which was published in The Spectator in March this year.

Chris Huhne: I find the hon. Gentleman’s remarkson the weight of scientific evidence slightly curious, given that the world community has set up the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Since the 1980s, the panel has generated a succession of documents drawing attention to the overwhelming evidence. There is no other example of such a structure or precedent for it in the scientific community. I wonder whether he should at least be reassured by that, and give a little more weight to the deliberations of the intergovernmental panel on climate change than to the no doubt excellent deliberations of Lord Lawson of Blaby.

Mr. Chope: Following that long intervention, I hope to have the chance to refer to issues such as those that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I thought that a good starting point for colleagues in my party would be the assessment made by a former very distinguished Chancellor of the Exchequer and indeed Secretary of State for Energy.

I hope that my hon. Friends will look at the article, which covered three pages in the 11 March edition of The Spectator and was headed “Deep thought: Climate of superstition”. The byline was:

I shall not refer to the article at great length, because hon. Members can read it.

Gregory Barker: Nigel Lawson was a great reforming and pioneering Chancellor of the Exchequer who did many great things for the British economy, but I am slightly mystified as to why he should be quoted as a great guru on climate change. Will my hon. Friend tell me what it is about the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer that prepares and trains Nigel Lawson to lecture the rest of the world on climate change and the specific science about it?

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Mr. Chope: Our right hon. and noble Friend Lord Lawson has experience as not only Chancellor of the Exchequer but Secretary of State for Energy. He also has been serving on a Committee in the other place considering the economic effects of global warming and the best cost-effective measures that can be taken. As my hon. Friend will know, the conclusion from the Committee’s report is that we should be investing in dealing with the consequences of climate change and global warming rather than trying to spend all our resources on fighting global warming on the doubtful premise that it is all man-made and that by changing our behaviour in this country we can change the planet. That is what our right hon. and noble Friend has been considering in depth in the other place. It is with reference to the report and to the evidence taken by that Committee that he writes his article, which I commend to the House and to my hon. Friend.

I hope that we will have a chance to reflect on what has happened since 24 March, when this debate began. We are now in a position in which neither my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst(Mr. Forth) nor the promoter of the Bill is present, and I join others in sending both of them our best wishes.

Other things have also happened since 24 March, however. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) has been to see the Norwegian fjords, and I hope that he will find time in his speech to give me a line to take on a letter from Philip Stott, emeritus professor of biogeography at the university of London. He states:

He concludes that

Gregory Barker: I will deal specifically with my hon. Friend’s point in my winding-up speech. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and I did not visit the Norwegian fiords, and we did not take a little cruise around the coastline. We were several hundred miles north of the Norwegian mainland at Spitzbergen in the high Artic. My hon. Friend’s geography, rather like his science, is out.

Mr. Chope: Well—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. Having had that point clarified, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will look at the content of the Bill and address his remarks to it rather than whatever did or did not take place in Norway or wherever else.

Mr. Chope: Absolutely, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall move on to that subject straight away, which means that I will not have to respond to the attack on my intellectual capabilities. When I refer to the balance of scientific opinion, it does not mean that I have conducted research—it means that I have looked at other people’s research.

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Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman is undoubtedly right that some glaciers have extended and some have retreated. However, he must recognise that the balance of evidence—for example, recent studies of west Antarctica—indicates that glaciers have been in retreat overall. There is firm evidence for the hypothesis, which the intergovernmental panel on climate change has resolutely supported, that we face a serious climate change problem that has been generated by man.

Mr. Chope: Again, the hon. Gentleman has made an assertion based on the work of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Since he places such emphasis on that organisation’s work, I hope that he therefore accepts the findings of its draft 2007 report, which is available on the internet, which states:

That is new information since we started this debate on 24 March. The consequence of that statement is that warming is inevitable and unavoidable for several decades, which surely makes the case stronger for investing in combating the consequences of warming rather than engaging in a futile attempt to prevent it in the first place.

A second change since 24 March was the publication of a letter from 41 distinguished international scientists in The Sunday Telegraph on 23 April, which is St. George’s day—perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle was celebrating St. George’s day on 23 April and did not see it. The letter stated:

The scientists also noted:

Martin Horwood rose—

Mr. Chope: I shall give way to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), who has attacked my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst for taking up so much time in this House. I remind the hon. Gentleman that when this debate started on 24 March, my right hon. Friend was the only Member to rise in his place. If the hon. Gentleman had been present then, he would have been able to rise in his place and be called.

Martin Horwood: The hon. Gentleman seems to be very dismissive of some of the climate change models that attribute anthropogenic source to global warming, which presumably includes the model recommended by David King, the Government’s chief scientific adviser. Last year, David King said that the 0.6 per cent. increase in atmospheric temperature was exactly as would have been predicted from the increase from an historic range of 200 to 220 parts per million of CO2 to 379 parts per million. That model seems to suggest that the link between emissions and climate change is spot on.

Mr. Chope: The model is based on an heroic hypothesis, to quote a phrase used by the Minister.

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Another change that has come about since our previous debate on 24 March is the publication on1 May of an article by Ruth Lea, the director of the Centre for Policy Studies.

Dr. Whitehead: I suspect the hon. Gentleman’s science, as well as his geography. He is also wrong about the date of the beginning of Third Reading, which was 17 March.

Mr. Chope: If I recollect correctly, Report started on 17 March and we did not move on to Third Reading until 24 March. However, that point is of little import, except that the hon. Gentleman uses it to attack my knowledge.

The hon. Gentleman is not going to prevent me from referring to the excellent article by Ruth Lea, which is headed, “The idea everyone agrees on climate change is a fallacy”. Many hon. Members will be unaware that she is a trained statistician and therefore in a strong position to be able to comment on the statistics of the issue. She says that the 0.6° C increase in global average surface temperatures is within the limits of natural statistical error and that global average air temperatures have not changed over the past 20 or30 years.

Michael Gove: My hon. Friend is making it admirably clear that he is sceptical about the scientific consensus on the arguments for an anthropogenic source of climate change. May I put it to him, however, that given that he agrees that the Bill serves admirable energy security and competition ends, it is worthy of his support notwithstanding that scepticism?

Mr. Chope: Certainly, I shall not be objecting to the Bill’s Third Reading; nor will I seek to take up so much time that we do not have a chance to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle and the Minister. That is very much in the spirit of the way in which the Bill has been debated. I accept that it is not wholly bad, but it is based on a false premise, and that is the purpose of my remarks. Nevertheless, I hope that there will be an amendment in the other place to get rid of parts of clause 13, which I do not like at all.

The Prime Minister has rightly said that

He exemplified the importance of international agreement by pointing out that

He probably had in mind the fact that China is producing 562 large coal-fired power stations between now and 2012 and producing a new coal-fired power station every five days for seven years.

Even the most enthusiastic supporter of the Bill would not say that it is about shutting down all carbon emissions. At its most ambitious, it is about shutting down 4.5 per cent. of total UK carbon emissions by 2050—about 45 years hence. That figure is gleaned from the microgeneration strategy report that we asked
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about during the earlier parts of our proceedings, which was eventually produced by the Government just before the expiry of the 18-month deadline. That report refers to the study by the Energy Saving Trust commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry which suggested that by 2050 widespread installation of microgeneration could be reducing household carbon emissions by approximately15 per cent.

We already know that household carbon emissions make up about one third of total UK carbon emissions. Fifteen per cent. of 30 per cent. is a 4.5 per cent. reduction in carbon emissions in the UK over that 45-year period. To use the example quoted by the Prime Minister, in the time between Report in March and today the Chinese economy has already made up the difference. That is the scale of what we are debating. Just in the past six weeks, China has already increased its carbon emissions by more than the amount by which UK emissions would be reduced if all the microgeneration proposed in the Bill were to come about, which would only reduce UK emissions by4.5 per cent. by 2050. UK emissions are at the moment only 2 per cent. of global emissions. Therefore the Bill, and clause 1 certainly, grossly exaggerates and oversells the ability of individual householders or Government in this country to deal with the “problem” of climate change and global warming.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Does the hon. Gentleman accept the moral principle that one should act in such a way that if everyone else acted in that way, the result would be acceptable? If everyone acted in the way that he suggests—all ignoring the fact of global warming because no one else can act efficiently or effectively enough to solve the problem—the result would be a disaster. Does he not accept that the moral imperative is to set an example to the rest of the world?

Mr. Chope: The hon. Gentleman obviously bases that moral imperative upon his reading of the science. I remind him that the UK has set, in his own terms, a very good example to Europe and to the world. Between 1990 and 2003, CO2 emissions in the UK fell by some 6 per cent. The fact that they have risen since this Government came to office is not a debating point that I want to make now, because I think that the overall picture is that the UK has done well. However, in that same period Spain increased its emissions by 32.9 per cent.; Portugal, where so many of us enjoy holidays, increased its emissions by 92.2 per cent.; Ireland, whose economy is booming—no one seems to be suggesting that that is a bad thing—increased its emissions by 38.5 per cent.; and Finland increased its emissions by 65.3 per cent., although, as we know, it is trying to deal with that by introducing a new generation of nuclear-generated electricity, which I think is a sensible response.

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