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That presents a significant challenge to orthodox economic theory. Creating the analytical tools to help us understand these potentially catastrophic processes will require the incorporation of some of the more radical economic theories into the mainstream. The current analytical framework that excludes externalities such as pollution and fails to identify environmental sustainability at all, will simply not be fit for purpose as we confront the challenges of climate change.

Stern is correct to emphasise the role of the economics of risk and uncertainty, the long time horizons necessary to price the environmental cost of human activity appropriately, and the need to drive a dramatic and rapid switch to less damaging activity over a relatively short time scale. He concludes that we must develop major non-marginal change at a global level. The move to a “significantly lower carbon trajectory” must be seen as an investment rather than a cost, as it would be seen traditionally, and it has to be globally co-ordinated if it is to be effective.

Happily, the Stern review also charts realistic ways forward and emphasises that there is not a choice between economic growth and irreversible climate change. We can continue with economic development, but only alongside carbon pricing, rapid technological development and technology transfer, as well as significant behavioural change among both individuals and corporations. All of that is challenging, but possible and we must now build the global framework agreements and institutions that will make it a reality. The climate change Bill is one small part of what must be a huge international effort.

One major issue that works against both security and opportunity in our society as it is currently constructed is the stubborn persistence of significant discrimination and unfairness in Britain. The lives of far too many of
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our fellow citizens are still blighted by bigotry and narrowed by unlawful discrimination that simply goes unpunished by ineffective legal protection or inadequate enforcement. People with disabilities are at only the start of their long fight for access to adequate educational and employment opportunities. Illegal discrimination against pregnant women is rife and mostly unchecked. Only 58 per cent. of people from ethnic minorities are in work, whereas the proportion for the population as a whole is 75 per cent. Both the gender and the race pay gaps persist and are widening in many areas, especially in the private sector. The part-time gender pay gap now stands at a massive 40 per cent. Despite 30 years of legislative effort, much still needs to be done. This Government have made great strides and have introduced important new protections, but now is the right time for a step change in this crucial area.

Ministers have recognised the need to look again at the nature of the equality law by appointing the head of the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights to undertake the discrimination law review. That is expected to result in conclusions that will feed into a single equality Act in the lifetime of this Parliament. That is an exciting once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver the step change that we need.

We must create a radically simplified but more comprehensive and effective legislative framework for equality and opportunity than the one that we have. To tackle the pay gaps, we need to have compulsory pay audits and annual monitoring of the situation in the private sector. That works well in Northern Ireland, where the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998, which requires such monitoring and publishes the results, has had a big impact. We also need to allow class actions, to make a reality of the legal requirement for equal pay for work of equal value. It is completely unacceptable that equal pay claims currently take up to 12 years to resolve and, even if they are successful, they only apply to the individuals who were brave enough to take them up.

A single equality Act should extend the duty to promote equality from the public sector to the private sector, where the pay gaps are much larger and are growing. It should also allow the use of public sector procurement to require compliance with those standards. The current word in Whitehall is that the discrimination law review is turning into a missed opportunity—or, to put it another way, a damp squib. It appears to be narrowing its vision and scaling down its ambition. That must not be allowed to happen.

I appeal to Ministers to seize the opportunity that they have to turn our under-inclusive but over-complex equality law into a real instrument for change. We need it to help us achieve the improvement in life chances that the original law was put on the statute book to produce. It must be simpler to understand, focused on outputs and much more effectively enforced. Such a Bill should be included in this legislative programme and not have to wait for the next, because it is at the centre of Labour’s values and philosophy.

I wholeheartedly welcome the measures contained in the Queen’s Speech, and I hope that we can work on a cross-party basis to improve our prospects of dealing
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with the global challenge of climate change. I also hope that Ministers will heed the following words: be bold, be ambitious and give us an equality law that we can work with.

7.14 pm

James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): The debate has been wide-ranging and all the more interesting for that. However, I wish to focus on environmental issues.

I welcome the fact that I can talk about a climate change Bill that will actually be introduced. Climate change was debated in this House only a few weeks ago and we were unsure whether we would get a climate change Bill in the Queen’s Speech. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman), who is no longer present, said that Queen’s Speeches are all the better when they follow strong public opinion. Certainly, the work of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and a number of Front-Bench Members of both the Government and the Opposition has led to this Bill being rapidly brought forward.

I have some concerns about the Bill’s contents. The hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) alluded to targeting issues. We have to meet our target of reducing carbon emissions by 60 per cent. of their 1990 levels by 2050. I do not believe that a five-year target will, on its own, suffice. The Stern report alludes to the necessity of doing something within 15 years, and the World Wide Fund for Nature says that 10 years is the point of no return, in terms of our activity. If we simply go for one five-year target and the WWF is correct that there is a 10-year window of opportunity, that means that we will have an interim target—a one-point review. That is not so much a target as a simple checkpoint.

The hon. Member for Scunthorpe said that there was a broad consensus in terms of desired outcomes, but that there was confusion over targets. We in this House have to grow up. The Government must be bold and set clear targets and the Conservative party and other Opposition parties must be courageous in not criticising the Government if they occasionally do not meet those targets. The concept of a rolling average seems sensible, although I was confused by some points made in this debate and by people outside the House. Commentators have asked, “What will happen if we have a cold winter? We would use more electricity and climate change would get more acute.” That misses the point: the whole climate-change problem means that, over time, it will be increasingly unlikely that we will have cold winters. There should be more of a fear that the targets will not be met, and that the Government will be punished not only by the public, but by Members of all parties in this House. We need to take a much more mature approach on this matter.

It is right to have an expert commission that is independent, although I have concerns about how that commission will be appointed; it needs to be at arm’s length from the Secretary of State.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Is not the point on targets that, if or when a Government miss a target—for example, because of a cold winter—we will need to know about that immediately so that corrective
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action can be taken, rather than waiting until the end of a five or 10-year period? There will be times when we miss a target for reasons outside Government control—such as climatic or economic reasons—and we shall need to know about that, so that we can take action.

James Duddridge: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is right that the sooner we know about any shortfall, the sooner we shall be able to remedy the problem. If we cannot measure our activities regularly, we will not be able to deploy our Government’s limited financial resources.

An annual carbon budget report will be needed, alongside the activities on climate change. That will focus our progress specifically on the issue of carbon, rather than simply on global warming in general. There should be a single dedicated Cabinet Minister responsible for climate change. I welcome the move towards having a single Minister with responsibility for that, but if we are serious about taking longer term action on the environment, one of the seats at the Cabinet table should be taken by someone focusing entirely on the issue. The Stern report says that climate change should be made our highest priority. so having one member dedicated to it out of a Cabinet of 20-odd Ministers does not seem inappropriate.

I support the move to an office of climate change. The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, who has just left his place, explained in a written answer to me that that office

In answer to other questions, he explained that there will be both a ministerial board and an officials board, but I was disappointed that that group will not produce ongoing reports; we will see the effect of that group only on broader Government policy and how it is presented to the House and the public. If the office is to have any teeth, it is worth sharing with us what it is doing in greater detail.

I am also cognisant of the changes in the roles of successive Deputy Prime Ministers. Each Deputy Prime Minister—be they Conservative or Labour—defines the job in a very different and special way, as we have certainly seen recently. If Labour Members do not support having a single Minister entirely responsible for climate change, perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister could take on a greater role in advocating dealing with the issue.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, of which I am a member, could play an important part in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the climate change Bill. In no way do I want to prevent the Bill from being considered more generally on the Floor of the House, because there is an urgent need for it, but there might be some merit in having a detailed cross-party discussion of how we set targets, so that we can depoliticise to some degree the issue before the Bill reaches the Floor.

The Select Committee is working on a series of climate change inquiries, the first of which concerns bioenergy, an issue to which I shall return. First, I want to discuss the Committee’s trip to China, to which our Chairman referred earlier. While there, we visited the
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Jilin province, where we were told that the aspiration was to put a car on the driveway of every Chinese family. The Committee found that enormously worrying, and our concerns were amplified throughout the visit. Several Chinese politicians told us of their distrust of capitalism, and they extended that distrust to our comments on climate change. They felt that what the western world was saying about climate change was potentially a capitalist conspiracy in order to stop—

Anne Main: As we all know, China is having a major impact in this regard. I am concerned about the possibility that China will dam the Brahmaputra river, which would affect Bangladesh enormously. We should all be very aware—as the Chinese must be—of the impact of such an action on the environment, and particularly on countries downstream that will lose the benefits of the water if the river is so dammed. China must take that point on board. Does my hon. Friend agree that we all need to listen to each other in this debate?

James Duddridge: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that water is a key issue in the climate change debate; indeed, I shall discuss flooding and the scarcity of water. The impact of the issue on international relations is certainly critical.

In expressing their distrust of what was being said about climate change, Chinese politicians were saying, “You’ve had your industrial revolution. You’ve developed and you’ve polluted. Now, it’s our turn.” They were talking about economic growth but, from an environmental perspective, if China’s economy continues to grow at its current rate, there is a strong chance that they will kill the planet, and we are culpable.

Angela Eagle: When the Treasury Committee visited Shanghai some 18 months ago, we were encouraged to discover that one of the five main themes of the next five-year economic growth plan—that is how they do things in China—is environmental sustainability. The Chinese seemed to be extremely interested in having the latest clean technology as they develop.

James Duddridge: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention and hope that her assessment is correct. I cannot speak for the rest of the Committee, but my assessment was that there was insufficient focus on environmental issues——specifically climate change——despite heavy activity from a non-governmental organisation perspective. I saw lots of evidence of ongoing damage to the environment by factories, but little was being done to ameliorate the situation.

Bioenergy has a greater role to play in dealing with climate change. The Select Committee found the Government’s approach to bioenergy somewhat piecemeal and felt that a lot more could be done to use biofuels and biomass technology. For example, perhaps there could be fewer electric Priuses on the road and more Ford Focuses using bioethanol. Given that the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Basildon (Angela
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E. Smith), comes from Essex, she will perhaps support Ford in that regard. It is important to encourage the use of bioethanol.

During this debate, we keep returning to tax, which is all too often used as a stick in dealing with environmental issues when it can also be a carrot. Some countries have promoted bioethanol simply by not taxing such fuels, which is an approach that we could consider. More broadly, we have to develop a common carbon pricing system. A number of contributors—from all parts of the House—have described the inequity of aviation being treated differently from car, bus and train travel. Unless we establish a level playing field, politicians will make inappropriate transport decisions for individuals and communities. If we put in place a proper carbon pricing system that uses a market economy, we can allow the citizen to decide.

In discussing flooding, I was going to give a local example, but I am minded first to note the situation in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia over the weekend. It has clearly demonstrated that global warming and flooding are not just long-term problems but with us now and shown how closely intertwined environmental issues are with broader international development issues. The Association of British Insurers produced a report two weeks ago that covered a number of areas on the eastern side of the United Kingdom, including Southend, and which highlighted the extensive flood risk there. I am concerned that the DEFRA budget has been cut in terms of revenue spend on flooding. I understand from the Secretary of State that the capital element, although probably inadequate, is at least fixed. We in Southend were very badly affected by floods in 1953, when 68 people died. The circumstances were truly horrific, yet little has been done since then to mitigate the risk.

There is a proposal to build more than 120,000 houses in Thames Gateway. The Secretary of State said earlier that they will be green, environmentally friendly houses, but I contend that the Thames Gateway, which is subject to flooding, is a wholly inappropriate area in which to build more houses. Given the shortage of water—Essex’s water comes from much further north—this is not a particularly sustainable proposal. The hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell), who is no longer in his place, mentioned that houses are being built on flood plains in his constituency, and there are similar problems in my constituency. The ABI report raises a number of issues, and today I shall seek an Adjournment debate on that subject.

I want to touch on the absence of a marine Bill. I was sorry not to hear explicit mention of it in the Queen’s Speech, particularly given that 246 Members, 115 of whom were Labour Members, signed an early-day motion on the issue in the last Session. Perhaps I am being overly optimistic, but the hon. Member for Scunthorpe did say that not all the Bills that will be enacted during this Session are necessarily in the Queen’s Speech. Given his connections with the current Prime Minister, I hope that he knows something that has yet to be shared fully with the House, and that we will indeed get a draft marine Bill, for which there is cross-party support.

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This year’s Queen’s Speech has left me with some hope, but what was included and what was omitted has also given me cause for concern. I look forward to the substantive debate on climate change going forward in this Session.

7.29 pm

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): I found it difficult to choose a debate to which to contribute this week. The Queen’s Speech included Bills on issues such as child support, concessionary bus travel, consumer advocacy, estate agents and redress, digital switchover, further education and training, mental health, offender management and pension reform, to name but a few, that all have their supporters in my mailbag. Some correspondents have suggestions, others want change and others are concerned about the effects of changes. In the end, I chose to speak in this debate on the environment and climate change, for reasons that will become obvious.

I welcome the local government Bill, which will build on work done in previous legislation. It will strengthen and enhance the role and powers of councillors, especially in overview and scrutiny. It will also strengthen their links with the local community.

Plymouth has been named as one of the growth areas and I welcome multi-area agreements, and we look forward to building our relationships with surrounding authorities without them feeling that we are empire-building. Mackey, the international planner, has developed a vision plan for Plymouth that envisages that its population will grow from some 250,000 to 300,000 in the next 20 years. Unlike some parts of the country, we welcome such growth and believe that we have much to gain from it in terms of developing a sustainable community.

Last week, we launched our local economic development strategy to complement the strategy that Mackey has developed for us for our built environment. One of the key sectors of the growth strategy is marine sciences. The oceans make up some 80 to 90 per cent. of the earth’s surface and, at their deepest, are three times as deep as the highest mountain. They have absorbed more than half of the carbon dioxide that has been added to the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. There has been much talk of carbon capture and sequestration, and the oceans provide one of the key buffers. Plymouth has hidden its light under a bushel with regard to the scientific and economic activity involved in marine research, and we are set to develop that area. We have some excellent science that is being developed through the Plymouth marine sciences partnership, which is at the heart of the potential marine science cluster in the area.

The PMSP was formed in 1999 to collaborate on research projects and develop the profile of marine science in Plymouth. It consists of five organisations, including the University of Plymouth’s marine institute, the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom and the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science. Several of those organisations are involved in research that has a bearing on climate change.

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