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14 Dec 2006 : Column 1002

EU Emissions Trading

7. Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): What contribution he expects the European Union’s emissions trading scheme to make to tackling climate change. [109021]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): Under phase 1 of the EU emissions trading scheme, the UK is set to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 65 million tonnes. Our proposals for phase 2 should deliver extra savings of 29.3 million tonnes a year. All EU member states are required to set emission caps that take account of their Kyoto commitments.

Kali Mountford: We can no longer be one-nation or one-generation environmentalists, and the European Commission has said that only one member state’s plans—the UK’s—are tough enough. What, therefore, can we say to the British people to convince them that the phase 2 plans—we are now in phase 2—can be sufficiently ambitious and will work, given that we have yet to convince our neighbours to produce good enough plans, and to do the right job?

Ian Pearson: I am very encouraged by the robust approach that the Commission is taking in assessing the phase 2 national allocation plans. Member states understand that they need to meet their Kyoto commitments, and that the NAPs for all member states will be sufficiently robust. The EU ETS is working. Phase 1 has been a trial period but, according to recent estimates, it is already producing significant CO2 savings. I have no doubt that phase 2, given the tighter caps that will be introduced, will be even more successful and that emissions trading will play a key part in reducing CO2 emissions in the European economy.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): When does the Minister expect phase 2 of the EU’s emissions trading scheme to be fully in place, and does he agree with me that until we have a longterm and robust system under the banner of the ETS, necessary investment in the UK energy market—such as renewables but also nuclear—cannot proceed?

Ian Pearson: Very shortly, we will produce detailed figures on our national allocation plan installation-level amounts for companies to comment on. We will submit the final plan to the Commission in a few weeks’ time, which will be in plenty of time for the start of phase 2 of the scheme. The hon. Lady will be aware that the ETS is being reviewed in the first half of next year in order to assess what will happen after 2012. The UK will play a leading role in that, just as we played a leading role in the original design of the ETS.

Carbon Emission Targets

8. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): What new policies he is considering to cut UK carbon emissions in the next 10 years. [109022]

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The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): We set out significant measures to strengthen domestic and international action on climate change mitigation in the 2006 climate change programme, and through the energy policy review published last June. In addition to our proposed climate change Bill, we are considering ways to help large commercial and public sector organisations and individuals to cut their emissions.

Hugh Bayley: I welcome those initiatives. My right hon. Friend has been promoting in recent speeches some very important ideas about cutting individual carbon usage through a system of carbon allowances. Both as a matter of social justice and environmental necessity, we need to introduce policies that limit the personal use of carbon according to people’s actual usage, so that those whose lifestyle produces most carbon have to make the biggest cuts. Sir Nicholas Stern’s report says that there is very little time to change policy radically. Will my right hon. Friend’s Department bring forward a Green Paper to develop those ideas further, so that we may legislate in due course?

David Miliband: The science and the economics tell us clearly that we have between 10 and 15 years for global carbon emissions to peak and 30 to 40 years for emissions in industrialised countries to be reduced by between 25 per cent. and 50 to 60 per cent. The ideas being developed were first trailed in the energy review and we continue to discuss them. In respect of the incentives and rewards that we can offer to those individuals who are carbon thrifty, we published this week an issues paper about the idea of personal carbon allowances and we will take forward the debate in as many ways as we can.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Of course one of the quickest ways to reduce carbon emissions is to replace fossil fuels with biofuels and bioethanol. I know that the Secretary of State will be following closely developments at Whittington where a biofuels plant is being established. Will he look to establish such a plant in the north of England, perhaps in the constituency of the hon. Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on the site of the British Sugar plant, which is closing at great cost to local farmers in north Yorkshire?

David Miliband: The hon. Lady raises an important issue. I know that she forms an important alliance—I shall not call it an unholy alliance—with my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) on certain issues, while maintaining a healthy competition with him on other matters. We are following the issues in York and its surroundings carefully. The most important thing that we can do is to ensure that the demand side has a clear bias towards biofuels and other such products. For example, the initiative in respect of the road transport fuel obligation—including the guarantee on 5 per cent. of forecourt sales being from biofuels by 2008, with an aim of doubling that figure—is the sort of signal that we can best give to ensure that we get the right pull through on those important new technologies.

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Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): As my hon. Friend said, we need a wide range of initiatives across Government and from individuals. He is probably aware that I have in my constituency a fantastic company called Intelligent Energy, which has produced the first hybrid fuel cell motorbike and hopes to move into cars. Will he ensure that there is sufficient funding to see those programmes through, not only from the research and development point of view—the company is probably years ahead of any other in the world—but to reach the point of production of such vehicles, so that we can reduce carbon emissions?

David Miliband: I am not aware of all the details of the work on the motorbike that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will look into it. I will also look into whether the Government have a funding role, but that may be more of a stretch, not least given the discussions we have had in the past 53 minutes or so about my Department’s funding position. I will look into the issues that he raises and I hope that his company is able to capitalise on the impressive advances that it has made.

Rural Proofing

9. Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to promote rural proofing of policy across Government. [109023]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Barry Gardiner): Rural proofing is the responsibility of all Departments. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plays a major role in making sure that it happens—as part of the policy-making process and in the design of delivery arrangements. We established the Commission for Rural Communities to monitor independently how policies are meeting rural needs.

Dr. Lewis: Given that rural access to banks, schools, GPs and indeed post offices has significantly declined and that total farm incomes have fallen by 11 per cent. in real terms over the past year, does the Minister really think that the impact of Government policy on rural communities has been properly considered?

Barry Gardiner: The hon. Gentleman made some particular challenges. Let me just say that in fact there has been a 37 per cent. increase in the number of cash points and in banking availability in rural communities since 1997. The hon. Gentleman mentioned rural transport. Bus availability in rural areas has increased from 35 to 51 per cent. between 1997 and 2006. I agree that the rural proof is in the rural pudding, but we have delivered it.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend agree that social enterprise has an important role in all forms of rural development? We need to look at a range of new services, including working with health and education. Will he make sure that other Departments are as keen as DEFRA about using models of social enterprise?

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Barry Gardiner: I am very pleased to endorse my hon. Friend’s remarks about the importance of social enterprise. It is one way for many village and rural communities around the country to take ownership of services, and they are beginning to be able to provide those services for themselves. I trust that I do not need to spread that message around my colleagues in other Departments, as most are well aware of the social enterprise work that is going on, through the co-ordinating work of the Cabinet Office—

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Miliband.

Barry Gardiner: Indeed, but it is the brother of my Secretary of State who has been co-ordinating the work going on in Government, to great effect.

Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): When he looks at rural proofing, will the Minister have a word with the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), who is officially in charge of Food Standards Agency regulations? An abattoir in my constituency has been closed for two weeks while the FSA dillies and dallies over investigating whether its licence should be restored. In looking at rural proofing, it is clear that one thing that has to be considered—

Mr. Speaker: Order. That is fine. I think that the Minister can manage an answer.

Barry Gardiner: I understand the seriousness of the hon. Gentleman’s question. I know of the investigation to which he refers. Although it would be improper for me to comment, we want it to be concluded at the earliest possible date.

Waste Strategy

10. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): What progress he is making in reviewing his Department’s waste strategy. [109024]

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): We intend to publish the revised waste strategy for England in the new year.

Dr. Whitehead: In reviewing the waste strategy, has my hon. Friend considered giving local authorities powers to introduce variable charges for waste collection, to reflect the real cost of collection and incentivise waste recycling? If so, will he consider discussing with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether suitable enabling clauses can be introduced into the forthcoming local government Bill?

Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend is right to raise this important matter. Evidence from other countries suggests that giving householders a rebate for recycling can incentivise recycling and reduce overall waste. In turn, that cuts the costs incurred by householders and
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local authorities. The Conservative-controlled Local Government Association has requested that we give local authorities that freedom, and it is being actively considered.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Local authorities have targets for household waste recycling, and I am pleased to say that Kettering borough council has one of the best recycling rates in the country. When will DEFRA introduce targets and incentives for local authorities and others to recycle waste from commercial organisations?

Mr. Bradshaw: Targets already exist that affect the commercial sector, where the level of recycling and reuse is nearly double what is in the household sector. In the past, our priority has been to try to get household recycling up to levels similar to those achieved in the commercial and business sectors. However, we are actively considering the role of the commercial sector as part of the waste review that we intend to publish in the new year.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): One element of reducing waste involves reducing the amount of material going to waste in the first place. What is DEFRA doing to reduce the amount of excess packaging that is so prevalent among many major food suppliers in the country?

Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend will be delighted to know that the latest audited figures, which I think will be published tomorrow, show that we have managed to decrease the overall amount of waste we produced over the last year by the biggest amount ever—and it is only the second time that we have managed to achieve that since the second world war. We can break the link between economic growth and waste growth, which is absolutely right. We need to do more on minimisation. Retailers have recently signed up to a voluntary agreement with our Department to end the growth of unnecessary packaging and reduce it in absolute terms overall by 2010. I very much welcome that agreement.

GMO Field Trials

11. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): How many field trials of genetically modified organisms there have been in England since 2001. [109025]

The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson): There have been 185 genetically modified crop trial sites in England since 2001, including the individual fields that formed part of the farm-scale evaluations programme.

David Taylor: In 2003, the GM nation public debate revealed widespread mistrust of the Government and multinationals, while the biotechnology commission into co-existence urged that farmers growing GM crops must follow strict, legally enforceable protocols. So why, last week, did the Secretary of State sanction a
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GM potato crop trial near Long Eaton close to north-west Leicestershire, demonstrating such a weak co-existence framework? Will the Minister reassure the public that these matters will be seriously scrutinised in detail in this place?

Ian Pearson: I can certainly assure the public that our top priority remains protecting consumers and the environment. We allowed this crop trial to go ahead only after rigorous assessment. We took advice from
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the independent body that deals with these matters—the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment—and it confirmed that there were no issues to prevent a trial from taking place. The potatoes grown there will not go into the food chain and strict crop separation distances will be enforced, so we do not believe that there is any problem here. I would also point out that three other European countries are undertaking similar trials at the moment and no issues have been raised there.

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Business of the House

11.32 pm

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Jack Straw): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 18 December—Second Reading of the Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill.

Tuesday 19 December—Motion on the Christmas recess Adjournment.

The business for the week commencing 8 January will be:

Monday 8 January—Second Reading of the Statistics and Registration Service Bill— [Interruption.] An excellent measure!

Tuesday 9 January—Remaining stages of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Wednesday 10 January—Opposition Day [2nd Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 11 January—A debate on social exclusion on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 12 January—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 15 January will include:

Monday 15 January—Second Reading of the Planning-Gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill.

I can also inform the House that Government time will be made available for a debate on foreign affairs, focusing on Iraq and the middle east, by the end of January.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 18 and 25 January and 1 February will be:

Thursday 18 January—A debate on the report from the Transport Committee on parking policy and enforcement.

Thursday 25 January—A debate on the report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on protecting and preserving our heritage.

Thursday 1 February—A debate on the report from the Foreign Affairs Committee on East Asia.

If I may, I would like to wish you, Mr. Speaker, a very happy Christmas on behalf of the Government—though I speak for the whole House. I would also like to thank, through you, all the staff of the House who work so hard. I wish all Members a happy Christmas, too.

Mrs. May: If you will allow me a little leeway, Mr. Speaker, before I ask the Leader of the House my business questions, may I just explain the absence of my deputy, my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Mr. Vara)? His second son was born earlier this week, and we offer him our congratulations. Indeed, his son had the foresight to wait to be born until after the 10 o’clock vote earlier this week, so I am sure that a future in the Whips Office beckons for him.

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