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The problem of how this country adapts to renewable energy is not one that involves simply the statement that that is an objective. There is not enough land to provide a viable wind farm base, but wind farms play a part. A lot of money should be spent on
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ensuring that wave power can be viable, but at the moment it is a non-starter in terms of commercial viability. I am saying that nuclear has to play a role and we have to make the decision now. Renewables will also be part of that process.

Mr. Robathan: My hon. Friend speaks with great knowledge on this subject. He mentioned Government hypocrisy. Will he cast his mind back to the 2003 energy White Paper, which was published in the lead-up to a general election? The Government made no mention whatever of new need for nuclear power, although they now seem to be suddenly converted to it.

Mr. Taylor: I shall not answer for the Government, but my hon. Friend makes an interesting point. I shall simply say that if this country is to face up to energy security, it needs diversity of resources. The idea that we can postpone a decision on nuclear power is foolhardy and dangerous. If we cannot postpone that decision, we must work again on what investment criteria would function in the City markets.

My final point is about education, and there is a higher education Bill promised. Recently, I have spent quite some time visiting universities as chairman of the Conservative policy taskforce on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. By and large, beneath the surface, there is a continuing crisis. I do not know what the education Bill will say in depth, but I hope it addresses some of the real problems.

First, universities are still severely underfunded. I can say that with some degree of self-respect, because I was one of two Members on this side of the House to support tuition fees. Then, the right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) was trying to process them through the House; now, they are, thankfully, the official policy of my party. At some point, however, we will have to lift the cap, and there is no point pretending otherwise. Interestingly, only last week the Higher Education Funding Council increased the funding for physics and chemistry subjects in universities. That is welcome, but they are still loss leaders.

The crisis in education is extremely serious in schools. I am talking about science subjects. A witness to my committee pointed out that

The Government have done a very good thing, or rather, they have nearly done a very good thing. They have set up science learning centres, and one of them is at Keele university—not far from your constituency, Madam Deputy Speaker. They have co-funded it with the Wellcome Trust, although they have promised money only through to 2008 while the Wellcome Trust has promised it until 2010, so there is a slight question mark there.

I say that the Government have almost done a good thing because, with the other hand, they have passed the whole continuous professional development budget for teachers down to head teachers. Not surprisingly, because schools have a bit of a financial problem too, the head teachers use that budget for other things.

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The science learning centres are not giving enough of today’s teachers continuous professional development in the hard science subjects, which are crucial to this country’s well-being. We face a genuine skills shortage in relation to the graduates in the hard sciences of physics, maths and chemistry. That means either that companies in this country will move abroad or that we will have to attract graduates to address that shortage. Even with the expenditure that the Government have in their science programme for 10 years, we do not have enough indigenous graduates.

There is no point in us trying to go back to a target of 50 per cent. of youngsters going to university if only 25 per cent. of them get a decent A-level. We must focus hard on how, in our schools and universities, we can enable children and students to study the high-skilled subjects. That must happen quickly, which means not only that such things as the science learning centres must be given budgetary continuity, but that we must talk to head teachers and explain to them that continuous professional development for today’s teachers is absolutely critical.

If the Bill addresses any of those issues, I shall find myself, as was the case with the Bill that introduced tuition fees, sympathetic towards what the Government are attempting to do.

7.57 pm

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): What a pleasure it is to follow that thoughtful speech from the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor), although I disagree with quite a bit of what he said. To finish—from my side anyway—the exchange that he kindly allowed me on nuclear power, I suggest to him that nuclear power is dinosaur technology. It has been around for 50 years and it has been subsidised greatly all over the world. There is nowhere in the world where nuclear power has been installed without huge public subsidy, and after 50 years it cannot be made to work economically, nor do I think that that will be possible. As the hon. Gentleman posited, that might turn out to be the case with many renewables, but the jury is still out. As the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) said, if renewables had received anything like the subsidy that the nuclear industry has had, we would have had the answer to that question, and I think that it would have been a positive for renewables.

I must refer the hon. Member for Esher and Walton to an extremely important point that he did not touch on when he was, in a sense, trying to discover my position—conserving energy. I refer him also to an excellent paper by Dr. Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain institute on the opportunity cost of nuclear power. Nuclear power, on many calculations, is bad for the environment and bad for climate change because the opportunity cost of spending the money that would need to be spent on new nuclear power stations could have greater effect in relation to cutting emissions were it put into renewables and, in particular, energy conservation.

On the Queen’s Speech itself, I wrote to the Leader of the House four or five weeks ago—in my usual inimitable style, I suppose—suggesting that, after nine and a half years of a Labour Government, who have
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passed many excellent pieces of legislation, some good ones and a few poor ones, there should be no legislation whatever in the Queen’s Speech this year and that the Government should concentrate on implementing the legislation and the changes that we have already introduced, which have thus far made a considerable improvement to life for many, if not everyone, in the United Kingdom.

Unfortunately, and totally to my surprise, the Government did not accept that submission and we had a Queen’s Speech today with a large number of Bills included in it. If we have to have a Queen’s Speech—it seems that we do; it is the will of the Government to introduce yet more legislation—this is not a bad one. I want to focus on one aspect of climate change, adaptation, that never gets discussed in the House, and which, as some hon. Members present will know, is my bugbear. In one sense, I am building on remarks made by, for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) and the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), and particularly by my near neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, West (Mr. Bailey). Of course, cutting emissions is important, but I will not spend much time on that because all hon. Members are at least aware of the issues involved, although they might have different views on how to tackle those and what measures would be desirable. However, it is worth bearing in mind what has already happened and what will almost inevitably happen.

Thus far, the United Kingdom has a great record on cutting emissions and on global leadership on the issue. Even in the UK, however, carbon dioxide emissions have risen in the past six years. The International Energy Agency predicts an increase in world energy demand of 60 per cent. by 2030, with an implicit 62 per cent. rise in emissions. The Prime Minister referred to China, saying that if we cut our emissions—2 per cent. of the world total—to zero tomorrow, that would be taken up, if the current trajectory of increase in Chinese emissions continued, in less than two years. In fact, the time frame is 15 months.

Mr. Weir: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Chinese Government have perhaps finally begun to recognise the danger of climate change? They made a statement the other day recognising that they must do something about their emissions. Despite what was said earlier, China is investing heavily in wind power and clean coal technology. Mitsui Babcock from Scotland is installing clean coal technology in many of the new power stations being built in China, although I accept that many of the older ones are very polluting.

Rob Marris: I accept the point made by the hon. Gentleman, who, like me, is a member of the Trade and Industry Committee and takes a considerable interest in these matters. I was therefore careful to say that that point would apply only if China continued its current trajectory, which it might not, and I hope that it does not. I am in no way suggesting a counsel of despair, or saying that we are all doomed. Tackling climate change, however, requires a twin track approach—to deal with emissions, both domestically and in terms of world leadership, and to deal with adaptation to the climate change that has already happened and that will
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inevitably, in the short term, accelerate—in the medium and longer term, one hopes that it will lessen if we are successful in cutting global emissions.

For example, the Met Office published research in the Journal of Hydrometeorology, using the Palmer drought severity index, with which I am sure all hon. Members are familiar, indicating that extreme drought could increase from its current 3 per cent. to 30 per cent. by the end of this century. That is a frightening figure. It is estimated that if current trends continue, by the end of the century the earth’s average temperature could rise by approximately 3.5° C, and sea levels by 1 m. I will return to the question of sea levels. Over the next 1,000 years, the globe could warm up by 13° C, which is a huge increase in average temperature. I do not think that any Members will live for 1,000 years, although we might wish to do so, but such a temperature increase would lead, on current trends, to an 11 m rise in sea levels—about 36 ft—which is huge.

The evidence of climate change is already seen in Scotland, which has experienced a 72 per cent. increase in the ferocity of rainstorms over the past 40 years. Dr. Hayley Fowler, a senior research associate at the school of civil engineering and geosciences at Newcastle university, pointed out:

There were widespread floods in southern England in October 2000, which affected 10,000 homes and caused £760 million of damage. All hon. Members will remember what happened two years ago in Boscastle, Cornwall, where 8 in of rain fell in four hours—worse than in the monsoon in Mumbai. Dr. Fowler also said:

Climate change, which we are already experiencing, is accelerating. It will affect lives even more deeply than it currently does. For example, it will affect the National Trust, which will have a problem adapting the guttering of listed buildings for the sudden downpours that we will increasingly experience. The National Trust says that it has had an increase in pest problems in its properties in the past five to 10 years, exacerbated by damp and by mild winters. Barry Champion, who has been head gardener of Trelissick, a National Trust property, for 27 years, said:

That is a tremendous increase. The National Trust estimates that the growing season has lengthened by about a month in central England since 1900.

Mr. Kevan Jones: I am interested in my hon. Friend’s comments. Will he also note that my geraniums in North Durham are still in full bloom and looking very healthy?

Rob Marris: On one level, that is very nice for my hon. Friend; on another, it is distinctly and disturbingly worrying.

According to the National Trust, we have a particular problem with beech trees, which, it says, are
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at the edge of their tolerance. The 720-tree beech avenue at Kingston Lacy is susceptible to drought and, the National Trust notes,

The National Trust is an extremely important body in this regard. Not only does it have the sorts of properties to which I have referred, but it cares for one tenth of the coast of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It notes,

That is a huge rise. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs research indicates that about 10 per cent. of the population of England and Wales live within areas potentially at risk from flooding or coastal erosion, in properties valued at £220 billion. The Environment Agency’s budget for flood defences has increased by 35 per cent. in real terms. I will return to that point, however, because it is not doing enough. DEFRA has found that erosion of the north Norfolk coast has been five times worse than Government studies predicted 10 years ago. Climate change, which is already causing huge damage, is accelerating. The climate change Bill should address issues of adaptation as well as emissions, and deal with effects as well as causes.

The UK climate impacts programme—a group of, I think, 15 research scientists located in Oxford and funded by DEFRA—has come up with a model of a low emissions future and a high emissions future. The high emissions future looks pretty bleak. By 2080, sea levels in south-west Scotland will have risen by 50 to 60 cm, or 2 ft; in north-east England by 66 cm; on the rest of the east coast by 77 cm; in the south-east by 74 cm; and in Wales by 80 cm. The low emissions scenario projected is that by 2080 the sea will have risen by 20 cm, and in some places less than that, but there will still have been a considerable rise. As was adverted to earlier, that could put some current nuclear power station sites at risk.

In the Chamber, and I think it fair to say in the country, we still have a huge blind spot about adaptation—about dealing with effects. The CBI produced quite a good brief called “Delivering for business and the environment” in July this year. It contains six principles on climate change, all of which deal with causes rather than effects. That is the kind of blinkered mentality that we are seeing. We are seeing only half the equation.

I was delighted to receive recently from AXA Insurance a document entitled “Climate change and its effects on small businesses in the UK”. AXA has also produced quite a good pamphlet for small and medium-sized enterprises, which I do not have with me tonight, on dealing with the effects of climate change. Page 6 of “Climate change and its effects on small businesses in the UK” shows a graph of a survey of businesses. It asked them:

I have to say that the findings do not make good reading for my Government. Admittedly, the document was produced by AXA, but according to the graph 66 per cent. of businesses thought that an insurance
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company had been helpful. The other percentages were 44 per cent. for the emergency services, 39 per cent. for a local utility company, 38 per cent. for the local council, 27 per cent. for the Environment Agency or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, and 12 per cent. for central Government.

The Government must do more by taking a leadership role, and they are starting to do so. “The UK Climate Change Programme”, published by DEFRA in March this year, is a step forward, but only 11 of its 193 pages deal with adaptation to climate change, although there are scattered references to it on one or two other pages.

I mentioned the climate impact programme research team in Oxford. The DEFRA document also mentions it. What we do not know from the research is whether we in the United Kingdom will end up with a Mediterranean climate, as I suspect many of our constituents fondly hope—particularly in southern England and the midlands, where my constituency is—or whether, as I suspect, although I am not a scientist, we will end up with what I call a Newfoundland climate. If the Gulf stream is diverted, we will have a Newfoundland climate. We will not be growing olives and grapes, as people are beginning to in the west midlands; we will be scratching out a living on root vegetables and so on.

I must say to the Government what I have said in the Chamber on several occasions—and they are starting to move; I give them credit for that—that I regard 11 pages out of 193 on adaptation to climate change as only half the equation, and not good enough. I believe that 45 of the 711 pages in the Stern report—I speak from memory—deal with the subject, a similar proportion to that in the DEFRA document published in March. Members will not be surprised to learn that I have not read all of the Stern report. The adaptation stuff is a step forward, but only a small step forward. I am glad that Stern took it up, but we need to take it up much more urgently.

It is all very well having a broad consensus in the House, as we do, on the need to do our bit in the United Kingdom to control the 2 per cent. of world emissions that we create. It is all very well having a broad consensus, as we do, on the need for the United Kingdom to have a leadership role and to build on the leadership that we have already displayed on the world stage. But we are missing half the equation, and it is the half—adaptation—over which the United Kingdom has total control. We cannot stop China, India or the United States spewing out emissions, although we can encourage and cajole them to do so. We can put our own emissions house in order, but we have no control over other countries. However, we have total control over adaptation in the United Kingdom.

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