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Environmental Issues

5. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What discussions he has had with the First Minister on environmental issues affecting Wales which are negotiated in Europe. [134263]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Nick Ainger): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I regularly meet Welsh Assembly Government colleagues to discuss issues affecting Wales, including environmental issues negotiated in Europe.


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Mr. Robathan: The EU, the United Kingdom and, indeed, the Welsh Administration all share a concern about the collapse of some species in Wales. There was a target—[Hon. Members: “Tories!”] I am sure that some are also concerned about the resurgence of the Tories in Wales. I am particularly concerned about the 81 per cent. decline in the number of curlew, for instance, since 1993, and the water vole has also declined by some four fifths in the past 20 years or so. I do not blame the Government for this, but what can the Minister and the Welsh Administration do to reverse this decline in biodiversity in Wales and to establish better wildlife conditions for the benefit of all the people in Wales?

Nick Ainger: The hon. Gentleman asks an interesting question. It is true that certain species have been recorded as being in decline, whereas others are improving. Species such as the otter are now returning to many Welsh rivers in which they have not been seen for decades, so the picture is mixed. However, it is important that factors such as climate change be addressed as well, because they may well have an effect on biodiversity not just in Wales, but throughout the world. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman read the Climate Change Bill, which will put in legislation clear targets to try to address the threat that we all face from climate change.

Mr. Martin Caton (Gower) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the National Assembly for Wales has a central role to play in protecting our environment and combating climate change? Will he support proposals for new law-making powers for the Assembly to tackle environmental pollution in all its forms?

Nick Ainger: Yes, indeed, my hon. Friend raises an important point. Issues relating to climate change and how we tackle it are now the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly Government. For example, I know their commitment to trying to achieve, by 2011, the target of all new buildings in Wales being carbon neutral. That is the sort of policy needed to tackle climate change, and we will also address it through technology and encouraging people and institutions to act more responsibly.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Is the Minister aware that ground-level ozone and summer smog caused mainly by traffic emissions has killed an estimated 1,500 people in Wales since 1997? I am probably the first Member of Parliament to ride a Vectrix electric bike, launched yesterday, a zero carbon vehicle with a range of 68 miles for a 20p charge. Does the Minister agree that such technology will reduce health risks and will he join me and the Welsh Liberal Democrats in promoting the use and manufacture of such vehicles in Wales?

Nick Ainger: The hon. Gentleman is right that emissions are not only about climate change, but about health and the quality of the atmosphere. My official cars in London and Cardiff are electric hybrids. The Government have produced a list of top tips for smarter drivers which, if all motorists followed them, would reduce emissions by 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 a year and save more than £2 billion in fuel costs. As I
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said to my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. Caton), it is important that individuals take the decision to address climate change in their habits, including the way in which they drive and the type of vehicles they use. That is part of the way in which we will tackle climate change.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): When the Secretary of State has not been repeating election slogans like a parrot, he has forcibly and repeatedly supported the proposed 200 turbine wind farm at Gwynt y Môr, to the extent that he has even attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) for raising his constituents’ concerns about the massive impact of that environmental project. In the past 48 hours, the First Minister has surprisingly and cynically taken the Conservative line and joined us in calling for a public inquiry. Will the Minister now condemn the First Minister for dumping official Labour policy on that wind farm for the sake of a few votes?

Nick Ainger: That policy has certainly not been dumped. The fact is that last year the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) came to north Wales, shortly before announcing that he was going to put a wind turbine on his house, and described the Gwynt y Môr development as a massive bird blender. He may have changed his view, but I can assure the hon. Lady that the First Minister has not changed his view on his support for renewable energy. Yet again, the Conservatives claim to have a grand policy in favour of renewable energy, but when it comes to hard decisions, they fluff them.

6. Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on environmental issues in Wales. [134264]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): My right hon. Friend and I regularly meet Welsh Assembly Government colleagues to discuss issues affecting Wales, including the environment.

Mr. Evennett: Can the Secretary of State confirm that Wales is on target to meet its national target to increase recycling and composting rates to 40 per cent. by 2009-10? What discussions has he had with the First Minister about that?

Mr. Hain: The recycling and waste disposal schemes being pursued by the Welsh Assembly Government are on track and we have discussed these matters. Wales has a big and ambitious recycling and waste disposal programme at all levels, and encourages households to do the same.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

Q1. [135075] Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 2 May.


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The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Before I list my engagements for today, I again have the sad duty of asking the House to join me in sending our profound condolences to the family and friends of Rifleman Paul Donnachie of the 2nd Battalion the Rifles, who was killed in Iraq at the weekend. We pay tribute to him for his dedication and sacrifice. This has been a difficult month for our forces in Iraq, and more so for their families. We send them our thoughts, prayers and sympathy at this time.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I will have further such meetings later today.

Andrew Selous: The whole House will wish to join the Prime Minister in his expression of condolence.

If the Prime Minister had a quote for an extension on his house 18 months ago, which was resubmitted today for more than two and half times the original amount, I suspect that he might get a few more quotes. Could I ask him to do exactly the same on behalf of my constituents, all of whom will benefit from the A5-M1 link, and very kindly meet me and Highways Agency officials to find out why costs have escalated so astronomically, and to see what can be done about it?

The Prime Minister: Although the costs of the particular scheme to which the hon. Gentleman refers have escalated, it is only because the Government are making money available for investment that it can go ahead at all. I am perfectly happy to meet him to discuss the scheme, but the business case for the link has to be made good on the basis of the funding available from the Department for Transport.

Mr. David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside) (Lab): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the 10th anniversary of his premiership, and on the tremendous vision and leadership that he has shown in this country? What is the balance that must be achieved between understanding the hurt and concern of those bereaved or injured on 7 July 2005, and the need for maintaining absolute focus on the work of the Security Service and the police? We owe them congratulations and a debt of gratitude for the work done in Operation Crevice which, in early 2004, saved us from the most devastating terrorist attack that would have involved the most enormous loss of life.

The Prime Minister: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the magnificent work that our security services and police do in protecting this country from terrorism. It is worth reminding ourselves that Operation Crevice was an enormous success for those services, focusing as it did on one of the many different plots against which they protect our country, day in and day out. I entirely understand the concerns of the families of the 7/7 victims, but I believe that the Intelligence and Security Committee report is the right one, and that at this stage it would be wrong, as my right hon. Friend indicated, to divert resources, attention and energy into anything other than fighting terrorism on all fronts.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Paul Donnachie and the
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soldier from the Royal Signals Regiment who were killed in Basra in the past week. As the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) said, the conviction of five British-born men for planning terrorist attacks on a massive scale reminds us of the risks that we face. However, the links between them and those responsible for the 7/7 bombings that killed 52 people in London raise a number of important questions. Given the need to enhance public confidence in the fight against terrorism and to answer those questions, will the Prime Minister clarify whether he has ruled out, once and for all, holding a proper independent inquiry?

The Prime Minister: I have ruled out having another “proper independent” inquiry. The fact is that the Intelligence and Security Committee went into all the issues in immense detail. It had to be somewhat cryptic in its report, because the case in Operation Crevice was sub judice at that point, but it received the vast bulk of the information and is now perfectly entitled to call for anything else it needs. The Committee went into immense detail, so I believe that it would be a mistake for us to have another inquiry as if their inquiry were somehow either not proper or not independent—it was both those things.

Mr. Cameron: The Prime Minister says that the ISC report will be equivalent—as it were—to a full independent inquiry, but I have to say that I really do not think that is right. For all the good work the ISC does, it has limitations; it has no investigative powers, it has no investigator and it did not hear evidence from the West Yorkshire special branch. Are not those good reasons for an independent inquiry—not a public inquiry, but a full independent inquiry?

The Prime Minister: Let me make one thing clear. The ISC was perfectly entitled to ask for any information it wanted. As far as I am aware, everyone gave the maximum co-operation throughout so it would be wrong to say that in some way or other the Committee did not have the information it wanted. Any information the Committee wants it can have. The ISC is headed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who is a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and its members have experience in the intelligence and security field—many of them as former Ministers. We have to be clear about the reason why people want another inquiry. I totally understand both the grief of the victims of 7/7 and their anxiety to have another inquiry, but the reason why people want another inquiry is for it to reach a different conclusion. That is understandable, but in circumstances where the ISC has had access to everything it needed, and could have access to anything else it needs, it would not be responsible for us to have a further full independent inquiry that would simply divert the Security Service, the police and others from their task of fighting terrorism.

Mr. Cameron: I have to disagree with the Prime Minister. The reason why people want an independent inquiry is the scale of what happened in London on 7 July, when 52 people were murdered and 700 were injured. The reason why people want a full inquiry is to get to the truth— [ Interruption. ] It is important. In the
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case of the intelligence failures before the Iraq war, yes, there was an ISC inquiry but the Prime Minister ordered the Butler inquiry as well. Is it not equally important to get to the truth in this case, too?

The Prime Minister: I am afraid that what I object to is the idea that somehow there has been an attempt not to provide the truth up to now. I do not believe for a single instant that the ISC did not get to the truth; indeed, it had the information revealed in Operation Crevice before it and looked into it in immense detail. Some of what has appeared in the media is, frankly, misleading and wrong; what the shadow Home Secretary has been saying is also wrong—I think that he said in a newspaper article the other day that MI5 and the security services had been starved of resources after 9/11. That is simply not correct. The budget has been doubled and we have dramatically increased the number of people working for our security services.

The whole point is that those people do an immensely difficult task. They went along to the ISC; the then head of MI5 gave evidence three times and special branch gave evidence—again contrary to what the shadow Home Secretary has said. The Committee was able to call for whatever information it wanted. If we now say, effectively, that the ISC inquiry was not adequate and if we hold another inquiry, I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman that we shall simply cause great anxiety and difficulty in the service and we shall not get any more truth—because the truth is there in the ISC; what we shall do is undermine support for our security services and I am not prepared to do that.

Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): The Prime Minister will be aware that Labour has delivered on its commitment to build a new cancer unit in Leeds and that Leeds people know that only a Labour Government will deliver on a children’s hospital. A powerful campaign is being developed by parents and the Yorkshire Evening Post, so will my right hon. Friend use his energy and commitment to urge the NHS trust in Leeds to get its act together and submit a realistic plan to build a children’s hospital?

The Prime Minister: I shall certainly do exactly as my hon. Friend says. He is completely right: a huge multi-million pound investment has been set aside for Leeds. We want to see the best of services there and he will know, from experience in his constituency, that waiting lists have come down significantly and that there are extra doctors, extra nurses and, of course, a massive capital investment in the NHS.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): Once again, I join the Prime Minister in his expressions of sympathy and condolence at the end of what he rightly describes as a most difficult month. Now that the former Secretary of State for Defence has admitted that there were serious errors in the planning for post-war Iraq, who takes responsibility for those errors?

The Prime Minister: The responsibility for everything to do with the conduct of the Iraq war is, of course, taken by the Government. The points that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) made about deba’athification and the disbandment of the army are points that I have made before. However, let
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me just say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the reason why things are so challenging and difficult in Iraq is that we have al-Qaeda on the one hand—an outside terrorist organisation committing appalling acts of carnage in Iraq—and Iranian-backed Shi’a extremists on the other. Our job, in my view, is to stand up to both of those elements, as they are precisely the elements that we face in Iraq and Afghanistan and the world over.

Sir Menzies Campbell: But is it not clear where responsibility for Iraq lies? The President made the decisions, the Prime Minister argued the case, the Chancellor signed the cheques and the Tories voted it through. That is where the responsibility for Iraq is to be found.

The Prime Minister: If the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s policy had been implemented, Saddam Hussein and his two sons would still be running Iraq. [ Interruption. ] Yes they would. Hundreds of thousands of people died in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. We removed Saddam. We are fighting terrorism now in Iraq. Our troops are there with the United Nations mandate and the full support of the Iraqi Government. It is not British soldiers or indeed American soldiers that are committing acts of terrorism in Iraq; it is people who are going there specifically to stop that country’s democracy working. I believe that our job is to stand up for Iraq and its democracy against terrorism.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): If my right hon. Friend is not having an inquiry into the matters affecting 7 July, will he have another inquiry into Black Wednesday, on 16 September 1992? It is now apparent that new information has emerged. It appears that the Leader of the Opposition is in a photograph and he was not trailed at the time. I believe that that demands a new inquiry. It would suit this side of the House and it might even drive another man to drugs.

The Prime Minister: Actually, an inquiry is one way of dealing with that. The other way is to make sure that the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) never gets his hands on the British economy again.

Q2. [135076] Mr. John Baron (Billericay) (Con): On 24 September 2002, the Prime Minister told the House that if Saddam Hussein was able to purchase fissile material illegally, it would be only one to two years before he had acquired a usable nuclear weapon. Given that a recent letter that I have from the Cabinet Office can find no basis for that claim—a claim that was not attributed to the Joint Intelligence Committee and which did not reflect the standing JIC assessment, as the Prime Minister knew very well—on what basis did the Prime Minister make that claim, both in a statement to the House and in the Iraq dossier?


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