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If Conservative Members wish to dismiss the content of the treaty as mere institutional tinkering, one must ask why they feel so strongly about the need for a referendum. Either the treaty is about institutional tinkering, and thus the question of a referendum is completely irrelevant, or there is a powerful case for a referendum because the treaty has more significance. The Conservative party needs to get its act together and its thinking straight on this issue.
Conservative Members seem to have forgotten that over the past 25 years every party that has been explicitly opposed to the European Union has lost the subsequent general election. That is largely because the public are far in advance of the Eurosceptic tendency. Whatever Conservative Members might think about the gut feeling of some of their partys members and their small band of core supporters, the anti-European tendency in the country today represents a minorityand not an election-winning minority. I encourage forward-thinking members of the Tory party to take that on board and to explain it to some of their colleagues. As long as the party has an intrinsic, obsessive, anti-European ethos, it will never come around to supporting the policies that are needed to deal responsibly with climate change.
It is important that the EU reflects its new expansion with the involvement of 27 members rather than 15. It is important that it changes its arrangements, such as on qualified majority voting, and that we have a single voice to the outside world. Rather than having a presidency that rotates every six months, it should last for a longer period to give continuity to policy. The EU must be the leading group of nations in the world on advancing climate change policy.
Howeverthis will be my final point, because I know that the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) wishes to speakclimate change cannot be advanced solely by top-down institutional structures. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) seems to assume that because there was a gigantic market failure, there will suddenly be a gigantic market solution, but the market alone does not hold the solution. We will need not only institutional change at the political level, the encouragement of enterprise and the development of new science and technology, but individual behaviour change and the greater involvement of local and regional government throughout the European Union. Does the Minister for the Environment agree that, on climate change, we need not only the right policies at national and EU level, but far greater involvement of local government in the United Kingdom?
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): I make common cause with the hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) to the extent that I have faith in the public. I wish him luck when he goes back to the public in Bury, North at the time of the next general election and explains why he voted against the referendum that was promised in his manifesto even though this treaty, by his own admission, is almost exactly the same as the original constitution, but now has the magical ingredient of six extra words about climate change.
Important questions have been asked during the debate. We have heard well-informed speeches, and I
would ask the same questions that others have posed about the emissions trading scheme. The EU is staking a lot on the scheme, so we need to ask searching questionsin the genuine sense of the term, rather than the sense in which the Government use itabout it.
I share the sense of curiosity expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). I agree with him that this is an important subject. I am happy to debate it now and to scrutinise what little there is about climate change in the body of the treaty, but I feel a sense of discomfort that we have not had the opportunity on previous occasions to scrutinise matters such as borders and immigration and defence, whereunlike in the present casethere have been substantial changes to powers, institutional arrangements and treaty provisions. The treaty makes barely any change on environmental mattersit adds just six words, which were implicit in existing provisions. The European Union is already able to do all the things that the Secretary of State told us about on the basis of existing provisions.
I am concerned about that. We are debating an important subject and I want answers to the questions that have been put, but I worry about the way in which this House is scrutinising the provisions of the treaty. It is just one more example of the inadequacy of our method of scrutinising very serious matters.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): We have had a good debateI think that we all agree on that. The first Back Bencher to speak was the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who has a distinguished record on environmental matters. Although I do not always agree with everything he says, I acknowledge that he made some sensible comments on the future of European reform. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Joan Walley), a distinguished member of the Environmental Audit Committee, also spoke, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who, in a well informed contribution, spoke movingly about world food shortages and concerns about biofuels, and about how Europe should deregulate more and grow more food.
We also heard speeches from the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), who spoke of the positive role for the EU in environmental matters, but expressed great consternation about the Governments denying a proper debate on the treaty more generally. The right hon. Member for Oldham, West and Royton (Mr. Meacher) drew attention to Drax and the fact that one chimney emits more CO2 than more than 100 small countriesan extraordinary figure that I had not heard before. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Hurd) spoke with his usual expertise and broad understanding.
Although I do not often agree with the hon. Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter), he made his points with great passion and I found myself nodding in agreement with some of them. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr. Weir) displayed his usual knowledge. Usually when the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) speaks, I learn something; on this occasion, however, somewhat disappointingly, most of
his remarks were about process and words, rather than the solutions with which he is normally associated. My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart), who is also a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, made an excellent speech: he has become quite an expert on biofuels.
The hon. Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) is also a great expert, but he, too, ended up talking about process and tinkering with institutional reform. Ultimately, his speech summed up what many of us feel about the debate, because he could not tell us one thing that the constitutional amendment will allow that the EU cannot already do or will not be able to do if the treaty is not passed. It is completely irrelevant. If any Labour Member would like to stand up now and tell me one substantive area where EU competency will be extended by adding those six words, I will gladly take an intervention. Answer there came none.
This debate has been a waste of time in the context of debating the Lisbon treaty. Time spent in this place talking about climate change is never wasted, however; well-informed right hon. and hon. Members can be found in all parts of the House, and I always gain from hearing what others have to say. The genuine conviction felt in all parts of the House is apparent, and when we talk about climate change, we see Parliament at its best. When they got down to solutions, many of the speeches we have heard today demonstrated that point. Conservative Members also welcome the opportunity to flag up the treatys failings, but the EU has effectively tackled all sorts of environmental challenges up to now without needing additional binding treaties. The Government are clearly all too aware of the irrelevance of the latest EU treaty to our UK and international efforts to tackle climate change. Indeed, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) reminded us, the Foreign Secretary said as much. Despite that irrelevance, the Government have insisted on setting aside a whole day for debate on the Lisbon treaty issue of climate change. The Conservatives have argued today that it is more important to debate UK policy, and the policy delivery needed to drive down carbon emissions, delivery solutions and adaptation, than to discuss institutional reform and tinkering with treaties, which are irrelevant to the goal.
In the time remaining, I shall consider a few examples of where the Government are going wrong in their performance on climate change. In the Climate Change Billa Bill that I am proud to say my party has been enhancing steadily throughout its passage through another placethe Government are rightly legislating to commit the UK to a minimum emissions reduction of 60 per cent. by 2050. I think that we all accept that that figure may have to be re-examined soon, but how can the Government expect significant carbon reductions in Britain when they have consistently underspent, cut and redirected budget commitments for energy efficiencyto say nothing of other thingsprimarily because of shortfalls in the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs due to chronic mismanagement? How can the Secretary of State expect emissions reductions from the UK housing stock when the low carbon
buildings programme, the capital grants scheme for energy efficiency, has been underfunded since its inception and is now being scrapped?
How can the Government expect the development of a renewable technology economy in Britain when they do not offer the industry any long-term market confidence? First they tried to U-turn and squash the Merton rule for microgeneration technologies; then they tried to wiggle out of the EU 2020 renewable energy target. The Government have failed to support plans to build the worlds first carbon capture and storage power station in Peterhead, opting instead for yet another round of dithering and consultation, followed by a competition. It is not that they are headed in the wrong direction; it is just that they cannot move fast enough. We reject that dithering, delay and incompetence. We reject institutional tinkering. What we really need are dynamic solutions to climate change. We need more vision, more ambition, more conviction and more delivery. We need robust policies that will deliver real change on the ground and drive dynamic industrial change in the economy.
In December, David Cameron announced our party policy to introduce feed-in tariffs[Hon. Members: Who?] My right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) announced the tariffsa mechanism that has resulted in the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs across Europe. That policy could do the same for the UK by providing long-term market certainty to the British microgeneration industry and, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey noted, it could greatly enhance our energy security and lower our carbon emissions in the process.
Our feed-in tariff policies are just the beginning. This afternoon at Imperial college, the shadow Chancellor, my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), announced three more policies that will energise UK plc to start reducing our emissions on a significant scale while helping to grow our economy by creating policy initiatives at three ends of the market. The first is in start-up and venture capital. We have some of the finest research institutions and universities in the world, yet in Britain today it is much too difficult to turn bright ideas into viable businesses. Too many technologies have failed to reach the market, getting caught in the gap between a great idea and a viable company. That is why we announced plans today to establish green technology incubators across the UK that will allow more ideas from our finest minds to become reality.
Secondly, Britain is privileged to have access to some of the worlds finest financial minds and largest investors in the City of London. The Conservatives recognise what an enormous economic opportunity it would be for Britain if we could harness that talent and entrepreneurial spirit and direct it towards the dynamic de-carbonisation of the global economy. To that end, we have announced our intention to establish, in conjunction with the London stock exchange, the worlds first dedicated trading market for companies focused on green technology. It will have its own listing criteria and its own set of principles and regulations. The green environmental market is designed to help London become the worlds leading centre for the listing and trading of companies in the field of environmental technology. The GEM will build on the alternative investment markets success in attracting
green technology companies, but will have its own distinct identity. That new market will help to drive the unprecedented levels of green investment required to transform Britains economy. Only by unleashing the full potential of Londons capital markets will we meet our ambitious goals and get the substantive investment that we require.
Thirdly, the shadow Chancellor today announced our intention to introduce green individual savings accounts, which will enable the public to save more than they are currently allowed to, tax-free, provided that the funds are invested only in the most progressive, environmentally friendly companies. The green ISAsor GISAs, as some bright chap has named themwill engage the public in climate change issues in a new way and show them clearly the economic benefits of green investment. By providing lucrative new sources of investment, GISAs will create a race to the top, incentivising businesses to adopt environmentally friendly policies. At the moment, only 39 per cent. of FTSE 350 companies account for their carbon effectively. Hopefully the proposal will incentivise them and drive them all to do so.
It is policies and incentives such as those that will allow Britain to deliver on our climate change commitments. They will deliver dynamic industrial change and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the economy. We are not afraid of change, and we are the only party that can deliver it.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Phil Woolas): I concur with the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) that this has been a very good debate. The knowledge and experience displayed in contributions from Members on both sides of the House on the issue of climate change has been impressive. The Opposition spokesmens points about the treaty were less impressive. I suppose that congratulations are due to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle on reading out the shadow Chancellors press release; he did it eloquently and efficiently. Unfortunately, as ever, things are different when one scratches the surface.
Green incubators are a good idea: we have them. We have had them at the university of Manchester for donkeys years, and have been spending hundreds of millions of pounds on them. I suppose that the idea of share listing is good. The green savings account is a good idea, and I thank the Chairman of the Select Committee for putting it forward. However, I do not want to be churlish; the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle is doing a good job of trying to square a circle, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor) pointed out.
The Conservatives have a problem. The debate has been on the amendment in the name of the shadow Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague). The debate has presented us with a graphic display of the Conservative partys age-old problem of what to do about the issue of Europe. How is that problem to be squared with the Conservative partys new-found adherence to green policies? The Conservatives have been exposed; they are in a pickle. On the one hand, they like the six words on climate change that are in the treaty, but on the other they do not want the treaty. Later this afternoon, some of them
will support the six words, and some of them will oppose them. Others want more than six words, and others still do not want any of the words. Most of them will vote against the whole treaty, even though they like the six words, but some of them will vote for it. All of them are confused.
The fact is that if the six words, and the other words to which hon. Friends have referred, are simply tinkering, why are the Conservatives proposing a referendum on the treaty? The treaty is either developing the European Union and addressing points of principle, in which case they should have a referendum, or it is not, in which case they are wasting our time.
The Opposition spokesman accused my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of cynicism. How anybody could describe my right hon. Friend as cynical is beyond imagination, as anybody who knows him well would say, but the hon. Gentleman accused us of cynicism in calling the debate. He said that we were trying to mask the other issues and that six hours should not have been allocated to the debate on climate change this afternoon. The Oppositions amendment to the business motion on 28 January proposed six hours of debate on climate change, so how he can accuse the Government of cynicism is beyond me.
Let me address some of the substantial policy and political issues. The hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr. Stuart) correctly stated that it was wrong to say that the scientific debate was over. There are some who still disagree. Across the world, all countries, with the exception of Burma, now accept the scientific evidence of man-made climate change as a reality. However, I am delighted to inform the House about members of the flat earth society who still deny the existence of man-made climate change. One of them is Roger Helmer, Member of the European Parliament for the East Midlands for the Conservative party. Another is the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klausalthough not, I hasten to add, the Government of the Czech Republic.
climate change consensus is a journalistic fiction.
it would be cheaper to relocate the population of the Maldives than to implement the sort of emissions reductions that are proposed.
Who is the Conservative party putting on to the temporary committee on climate change in the European Parliament? Mr. Roger Helmer. [Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like having their divisions exposed. I will answer the points of substance.
Greenhouse gases in this country have gone down since 1997 by 7 per cent. Part of the reason why the United Kingdom provides such strong leadership in the United Nations conversations is that while our greenhouse gas emissions have gone down, our gross domestic product has gone up, thus showing the world, along with other European Union countries, that the lesson of Sir Nicholasnow LordSterns report that the two tracks can be decoupled is alive and well and evident in the UK.
Our record on these matters is a proud one. The Opposition spokesman said that there had been inaction. He failed to mention the carbon emissions reduction targetsthe £1.5 billion that has been mobilised to transform and retrofit UK homes. He failed to mention the climate change agreements or the carbon reduction commitments to be introduced in the UK next year. He failed to mention the raft of measures that have been put in place so that we reduce the emissions in this country and so that we can, in co-operation with our partners in the European Union, provide the leadership that some Opposition Members have been graceful enough to acknowledge.
On no issue is the need for international co-operation greater than on climate change. On no issue do we need the European Union more than on climate change. That is why it is important that the treaty of Lisbon recognises that [Interruption.] The hon. Gentlemen jeering from a sedentary position have to reconcile their attempt to con the British public, by trying to rebrand their party as the green party, with their opposition to the treaty of Lisbon.
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