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Petitions

Monday 21 April 2008

Observations

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Deforestation

The Petition of Ellen Pisolkar and others,

Declares that in the next 24 hours deforestation will cause as much carbon to be released as eight million people flying between London and New York. The destruction of the rainforest is recognised as one of the main causes of climate change. Tropical deforestation accounts for one-fifth of all carbon emissions, more than the entire transport sector (including the aviation industry). The burning of trees is releasing as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as the United States and has pushed Indonesia and Brazil into the world’s top four polluters. The Stern Review concluded that forests offer the single largest chance for cost-effective and immediate reductions of carbon emissions.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the British Government to encourage nations to halt deforestation in the Tropics and adopt the following policies:

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Lynne Jones , Official Report,18 December 2007; Vol. 469, c. 824 .] [P000100]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Envi ronment, Food and Rural Affairs:

The Government’s advice and calculation is that emissions from deforestation every 24 hours are equivalent to approximately 25 million people flying across the Atlantic.

The Government worked with international negotiating partners to achieve a successful decision on reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries at the UN climate change conference in Bali, in December 2007. The decision notes the need for stable and predictable resources in order to provide positive incentives for
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reducing emissions from both deforestation and forest degradation, and encourages early action through demonstration activities, to help build the capacity of developing countries to participate and to trial the approach. The UK is supporting early demonstration activity through the World Bank forest carbon partnership facility, and in Bali announced a contribution of £15 million to the scheme. We have also committed £50 million for deforestation and poverty reduction in the Congo basin.

The decision provides indicative guidance for these activities, consistent with sustainable forest management, and notes their potential recognition under a post-2012 climate agreement.

The Prime Minister has appointed Johan Eliasch as a special representative to review innovative financing mechanisms for avoided deforestation. The review will report on the development of carbon credits for avoided deforestation and sustainable forestry and how they could be introduced.

The Government are pleased about overall progress with the clean development mechanism (CDM). CDM projects that cover land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) are currently restricted to afforestation and reforestation (A/R) project activities—deforestation was not included because of the risk of project activity simply displacing deforestation within a country. To date there is only one A/R project registered by the CDM executive board. The reasons for the lack of take-up have been the subject of much discussion under the climate negotiations and are presented in developing parties' submissions to the UNFCCC ahead of COP/MOP3 in Bali. Lack of demand is thought to be the main cause, but forestry projects are also expensive—relative to the potential emissions saved—and time-consuming to set up. To facilitate the establishment of A/R CDM projects, parties agreed in Bali to raise the threshold for small scale A/R projects—which have reduced administration fees—from 8 ktCO2e to 16 ktC02e per year. Parties also approved the use of non-renewable biomass in the CDM, meaning that projects encouraging the use of more efficient cooking stoves for example, are now possible through the CDM. These types of projects, together with recent guidance provided by the CDM executive board on programmes of activities under the CDM, will mean that project activities which were previously uneconomical to develop under the CDM can now be replicated on a large scale throughout the developing world.

The efficient and effective functioning of the EU emission trading scheme is dependent on a robust system for monitoring, recording and verifying emissions. The UK supported further consideration by the European Commission (the Commission) of including forestry credits in the EU emission trading scheme (ETS) as part of the discussions on the revised EU ETS Directive. The Commission have indicated that they will only consider new credits for inclusion that are capable of meeting the current standards of monitoring, recording and verification, but that forestry and land use projects do not currently meet these standards. Including credits from reforestation and afforestation would require a robust monitoring system, an understanding of the potential impact on the EU ETS allowance price, and assurance that non-permanent credits would not damage the environmental integrity of the scheme, before they could be included in the EU ETS. It is important that
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access to the EU emissions trading scheme is considered in relation to wider international agreements, for example on how to incentivise reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries.

On 19 February the Government announced the final framework for a code of best practice to set standards for how carbon offsets are sold to UK consumers. The code will be voluntary and offset providers can choose to sign up to it. The code will allow the use of Kyoto compliant offsetting credits. The Government recognise, however, the value the non-regulated market can add, and are inviting the industry to agree and put into practice its own standard which can provide a similar level of assurance as the compliance mechanisms. This standard should address the principles of additionality, avoiding carbon leakage, permanence, verification, transparency and avoiding double counting. Once industry has reached a consensus on a standard and it has been fully operational for six months, the Government will conduct an audit to confirm whether credits approved under the industry standard can be included under the Government code.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

EU Constitution (Referendum)

The Petition of Cllr. Alan Wood and residents of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and surrounding areas,

Declares that the Prime Minister has no mandate to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon and cites as firm evidence a professionally conducted ballot in the constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath asking residents the unambiguous question: ‘do you want a referendum on the EU Treaty of Lisbon, Yes or No?' to which the result was 81.6% in favour of a referendum, and that the result was accurate to + or - 7.8% at the 95% confidence level and that this result is remarkable considering that there was no pre-publicity and is yet another illustration of the people's concern about the breach of promises made at election times and the further and historically most significant erosion of the UK's parliamentary powers and democracy.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consult the people on this question of fundamental constitutional importance.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Bob Spink , Official Report, 27 February 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1206 .] [P000127]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Our membership of the EU has brought real benefits in jobs, peace and security. Through it, we belong to the world's biggest trading bloc. Half the UK's trade is now within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to our membership. The Union allows Member States to co-operate effectively in tackling issues like organised crime and climate change, which do not stop at national borders.

But Europe could achieve more if it was not operating under out-dated rules drawn up for a different world and an organisation with less than half the members it has now. The Lisbon Treaty updates the framework for cooperation and aims to help the
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European Union work more effectively for the people of this country and other EU member states.

The Lisbon Treaty is not a constitution—the Governments of the 27 EU Member States have agreed that “the Constitutional concept... has been abandoned”. Instead, the Lisbon Treaty follows the precedents of previous amending EU Treaties such as the Treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Furthermore, the UK has moved further away from the defunct constitution than anyone else because of the unique set of arrangements, or ‘red lines', which have been secured by the UK to protect our sovereignty.

No Government, Labour or Conservative, has ever held a referendum on an amending Treaty. Both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty were more significant than the Lisbon Treaty, but no referendum was held then. The UK Parliament is the proper place for debate and decision on the Lisbon Treaty. As with all Treaties, Parliament must be satisfied that it is in the national interest, before it can be implemented in national law.

On 5 March, the House of Commons voted on a referendum amendment to the Bill. The amendment was defeated by 311-248 (a majority of 63). The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords for further detailed scrutiny.

The Petition of residents of Castle Point and others supporting the Telegraph EU Petition,

Declares that the EU Reform Treaty will significantly affect the constitutional arrangements between the UK and EU, and affect the way Britain is governed, permanently removing powers from Parliament to Brussels, particularly through a European Head of State, an EU diplomatic corps and Foreign Minister, a common system of criminal justice and a European Public Prosecutor, the abolition of 40 vetoes, bestowing a legal personality, treaty making powers and therefore all the trappings of statehood on the EU, and reducing Britain's strength on the Council of Ministers by 30 per cent, and that all the main parties promised a referendum at the last general election and that those MPs who now renege on their election promise will be held to account when they seek to make further election promises.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to consult the people before ratifying the Treaty.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Bob Spink , Official Report, 5 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1884 .] [P000140]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

Our membership of the EU has brought real benefits in jobs, peace and security. Through it, we belong to the world's biggest trading bloc. Half the UK's trade is now within the EU, with an estimated 3.5 million British jobs linked to our membership. The Union allows Member States to co-operate effectively in tackling issues like organised crime and climate change which do not stop at national borders.

But Europe could achieve more if it was not operating under out-dated rules drawn up for a different world and an organisation with less than half the members it has now. The Lisbon Treaty is a good deal for the UK and a positive step for the EU—it will
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enable an EU of 27 or more nation states to respond effectively to the challenges of globalisation and to deliver on key issues like jobs, growth, security, the environment and foreign policy.

The Lisbon Treaty is not a constitution—the Governments of the 27 EU Member States have agreed that “the Constitutional concept... has been abandoned”. Instead, the Lisbon Treaty follows the precedents of previous amending EU Treaties such as the Treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdam. Furthermore, the UK has moved further away from the defunct constitution than anyone else because of the unique set of arrangements, or ‘red lines', which have been secured by the UK to protect our sovereignty.

The Lisbon Treaty will lead to no transfer of power away from the UK on issues of fundamental importance to our sovereignty. Its impact will be less significant than the 1986 Single European Act (SEA) and the 1992 Treaty of Maastricht.

No Government, Labour or Conservative, has ever held a referendum on an amending Treaty. Both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty were more significant than the Lisbon Treaty, but no referendum was held then. The UK Parliament is the proper place for debate and decision on the Lisbon Treaty. As with all Treaties, Parliament must be satisfied that it is in the national interest, before it can be implemented in national law.

On 5 March, the House of Commons voted on a referendum amendment to the Bill. The amendment was defeated by 311-248 (a majority of 63). The Bill has now passed to the House of Lords for further detailed scrutiny.

Work and Pensions

Means Tested Benefits

The Petition of FOCUS and the Richmond Fellowship Scotland,

Declares that the level of Permitted Earnings disregard for people on means tested benefits has not increased since 2001.

This £20 a week Permitted Earnings disregard has not increased in line with inflation or other benefits. The minimum wage increases have significantly eroded the value of Permitted Earnings. Similar to the minimum wage it is paid for by the employer, not the Government and not through Government public expenditure.


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Permitted earnings enables people to increase their skills and confidence in the knowledge that their benefits will not be affected. In some cases this can be a stepping stone to future employment.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to introduce legislation making an adjustment to the £20 Permitted Earnings disregard to get it back to it's original value and that this revised amount is then increased each year in line with inflation.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. —[Presented by Jo Swinson , Official Report, 26 March 2008; Vol. 474, c. 294 .] [P000130]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions:

People have signed this petition because they wish to see an increase to the current £20 earnings disregard within the means tested benefits.

The earnings disregards can provide financial incentives by making work pay for those moving into work from a period of incapacity or unemployment. They postpone the point at which benefit will start to be withdrawn and ensure that income can rise immediately upon entering work.

Raising the current disregards, however, would narrow the gains to full time work in that we would reduce the incentive for people to leave benefit for work—the gap between in work income and out of work benefits becoming so narrow as to discourage people taking up full time work. Therefore there is a balance to be struck.

Any increase in the disregard levels within current DWP income-related benefits would cost money and much therefore depends on whether increasing the level of the disregard could succeed in commanding greater priority than other competing claims for expenditure. Alongside disregards there are other ways in which the benefit system recognises the value of allowing people to decide if they want to work either part or full time.

People can currently take part in approved schemes without there being any adverse impact on their Jobseeker’s Allowance. For example, we allow longer-term unemployed customers to try out a job for two weeks whilst continuing to receive benefit. Similarly, volunteering is recognised within the benefit system and can play a key part in giving confidence to those who do not have recent experience of the labour market.


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