29 Oct 2007 : Column 23WS

29 Oct 2007 : Column 23WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 29 October 2007

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Climate Change Bill

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): A Command Paper has been laid before Parliament today providing the Government's response to the pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation on the draft UK Climate Change Bill.

The document responds to reports by three parliamentary Committees: the Ad Hoc Joint Committee on the Draft Climate Change Bill, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee in its Fifth Report, and the Environmental Audit Committee as part of its enquiry entitled “Beyond Stern: From the Climate Change Programme Review to the Draft Climate Change Bill”. The Command Paper also responds to the nearly 17,000 responses to the public consultation on the draft Bill, which ran from 13 March to 12 June 2007. I am grateful to all three Committees which scrutinised the draft Bill and to members of the public for their many constructive suggestions.

Responses to the draft Bill have been very positive, reflecting the wide and increasing support for action on climate change. The reports by the different parliamentary committees, and the views expressed during the public consultation, have helped us strengthen the Bill further and increase the transparency it will bring to our efforts to reduce emissions.

The Climate Change Bill will put into statute our long-term 2050 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by at least 60 per cent. from their 1990 levels. As the Prime Minister announced in September, we will ask the new, expert, and independent Committee on Climate Change to report on whether our 60 per cent. target, which is already bigger than most other countries, should be even stronger still. The committee will also look at the implications of including other greenhouse gases in our targets, and we intend to take powers in the Bill to allow us to do this at a future stage if necessary. In addition, the committee's report will examine the implications of including international aviation and shipping emissions in our targets. Once the rules for including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme have been finalised, we will also ask the committee for its advice on whether there is a methodology for including international aviation emissions in our targets which is workable and compatible with the EU ETS and takes account of progress in the UNFCCC and the wider international context, and on the impacts of adopting it.

The draft Bill proposed a new system of five-yearly “carbon budgets”, set at least 15 years ahead and backed by a strong system of annual accountability,
29 Oct 2007 : Column 24WS
under which every year the Committee on Climate Change would provide an independent report to Parliament on progress towards meeting targets and budgets, and every year the Government would respond to this report. To further strengthen the transparency and accountability of the Bill's framework, we now intend to require the committee to publish its analysis and advice to Government on setting the budgets, as well as the minutes of its meetings. We will also require Government to explain their reasons to Parliament if it does not accept the committee's advice on the level of the carbon budget, or if it does not meet a budget or target. We will rationalise the current requirements on reporting greenhouse gas emissions to make them more coherent, and we will report annually to Parliament on emissions from international aviation and shipping in line with UNFCCC practice.

We intend to strengthen the institutional framework created by the Bill by enhancing the role of the new Committee on Climate Change, so that the Government are required to seek the committee's advice before amending the 2050 or 2020 targets in the Bill, before introducing the first set of regulations on the use of carbon credits, and before establishing any trading schemes under the Bill. In addition, we intend to strengthen the committee's independence of Government by confirming that it will appoint its own chief executive and staff, and plan to increase the resources which will be available to it in the light of the parliamentary Committees' recommendations.

We will use the Climate Change Bill to support the implementation of several specific policy measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We will use the trading powers in the Bill to introduce the Carbon Reduction Commitment, a mandatory cap-and-trade scheme covering energy use emissions from large, non-energy-intensive organisations. We will also use the Bill to improve the operation of the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation and to provide a power to pilot local authority incentives for household waste minimisation and recycling. We will announce proposals in due course. Together, these policies could save the equivalent of up to 9.4 to 13.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2020.

Tackling climate change requires a two-pronged effort: action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid future dangerous levels of climate change, and action to deal with the impact that we are already experiencing and will continue to experience over coming decades. The Bill will therefore require the Government, on a regular basis, to assess the risks to the UK from the impact of climate change and report to Parliament. In addition, the Bill will also require the Government to publish and regularly update a programme covering England and reserved matters setting out how we will address these likely impacts in a sustainable way.

Since the publication of the draft Bill, we have also been working with the devolved Administrations to clarify how the Bill will operate, given the relationship of reserved and devolved responsibilities in this area. We are pleased that a way forward has been agreed, so that the revised Bill will reflect the contributions of all four administrations and will provide a clear UK-wide framework for tackling climate change.

29 Oct 2007 : Column 25WS

Copies of the Command Paper are available in the Libraries of both Houses and the Vote Office. The document can also be found on the website of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs www.defra.gov.uk along with a summary of the consultation responses. A revised Bill, incorporating the changes set out above, will be published shortly.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Legalisation Office

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Meg Munn): Legalisation is the official confirmation that a signature, seal or stamp appearing on a document is genuine. The Legalisation Office provides this service to members of the public wishing to use British documents overseas for a variety of reasons. For example, a couple wishing to marry in the Dominican Republic will need a number of documents legalised—birth certificates, decrees absolute from previous marriages etc. Similarly, many British companies need to avail themselves of the service to conduct their business in overseas markets.

The demand for this service can no longer be accommodated in the Old Admiralty Building. We have therefore taken the opportunity for a detailed look at cost-effective options for relocating. A study of the options available to the FCO was conducted earlier this year at the end of which there was a consultation exercise with our customers including the Notaries, Scriveners and the CBI.

Following these discussions and after further study, we have decided to divide the Legalisation Office into two operations. The bulk of the Legalisation Office will move to central Milton Keynes. where it will provide an improved, fast and efficient, same day service to callers, and a 48-hour turnaround on the postal service. In addition, to service the specific needs of major business clients, we propose to retain a smaller satellite (drop-box only) office in central London, offering a more focused, fast service.

The moves to the new locations will take place in the spring of 2008.


Community Justice Initiatives

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): Today I have published the evaluation reports of the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre and the Salford Community Justice Initiative. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The reports are also available on the Ministry of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/research.htm

29 Oct 2007 : Column 26WS

Three evaluations were undertaken by independent contractors. The qualitative evaluations were undertaken at a relatively early stage in the life of the projects, and the full impact of community justice may take years to assess; in particular in relation to the impact on re-offending and local people's attitudes and perceptions. The key findings include:

The Government wish to develop the community justice model further. As the then Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton, announced in November 2006, they are developing 11 new community justice projects in mainstream magistrates' courts in different communities around the country. Learning derived from these projects, as well as future lessons from North Liverpool and Salford, will be used to formulate ways of delivering community justice to meet the varying needs of communities across England and Wales.

I believe excellent work is being undertaken by all the community justice initiatives to engage with their communities and to join with the other criminal justice agencies, local authorities and the voluntary sector to tackle re-offending. I would like to pay particular tribute to His Honour Judge Fletcher, the magistrates in Salford and the judiciary, magistrates, criminal justice staff and volunteers involved in all the community justice projects for the hard work they continue to do to make these projects a success.


The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): The National Offender Management Service is closely monitoring the prison population and capacity in the system. Updated figures on the prison population, and the usable capacity, are published every Friday. The usable capacity allows for an operating margin, which is a measure of the headroom needed to manage the prison estate. It reflects the fact that the estate cannot operate at 100 per cent. capacity because of constraints on where different types of prisoner can be held and on movement into, out of, and within the estate.

We have reviewed the operating margin and revised it from a figure of 1,700 to 2,000 places. As a result, the usable capacity has been revised downwards by 300.
29 Oct 2007 : Column 27WS
This will be reflected in the published figures as from 2 November 2007. We will continue to keep the operating margin under review, and we will make any necessary further adjustments based on fresh analysis or operational experience as we continue to re-balance the prison estate.

Prime Minister

Surveillance Commissioners

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): In accordance with Section 91 of the Police Act 1997, I have agreed to re-appoint the right hon. Sir Liam McCollum as a Surveillance Commissioner as from 1 October 2007 to 30 September 2010, and to re-appoint the right hon. Lord Sutherland and Sir Charles McCullough as Surveillance Commissioners from 1 November 2007 to 31 October 2010.

Sir Liam McCollum has served as a Surveillance Commissioner since 2004, Lord Sutherland since 2001 and Sir Charles McCullough since 1998.


Roadside Facilities Policy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): I have today launched a six week Public Consultation on a proposed new policy for roadside facilities on England's strategic road network.

The draft policy has been prepared in light of responses to a previous 12-week call for evidence and is
29 Oct 2007 : Column 28WS
aimed at improving service to road users. Views are sought on the entirety of the policy which covers various issues, including:

Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Rail Freight

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): The Transport Innovation Fund was announced in the “Future of Transport” White Paper (July 2004). The productivity strand of this funding stream supports packages and schemes which are expected to make a major contribution to the UK's economy.

The Department for Transport has today announced a contribution of £132.5 million from this fund to enhance routes that will improve access to a number of our major ports. The improvements will deliver a number of benefits:

The DFT welcomes the contributions made to the scheme by other partners including the port operators and owners, the Regional Development Agencies and Merseytravel.

    Index Home Page