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Mr. Morley: There must be provision and planning, as there are for the 2012 time limit, to ensure that aviation and shipping are taken into account and included in carbon budgets. Lord Turner’s committee acknowledged that, although he recognised the current difficulties with agreeing international methodology and getting
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international agreements. It is imperative to achieve those and I hope that that will happen by 2009, when the all-important forum of the United Nations climate change convention at Copenhagen takes place. To fail to secure international agreement would be a global disaster. However, including such elements in the Bill demonstrates that the Government are serious about the matter. They are giving a clear lead to the rest of the world that those elements must be included if we are to move to a low-carbon future.

Steve Webb: Although we welcome the new clause and the Government’s acceptance of the spirit of amendment No. 72, which the right hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) tabled, we remain concerned that the guarantees that the nation—and, indeed, the planet—seeks from the British Government about aviation and shipping are not firm enough. Although we may have confidence in the Under-Secretary and the new Secretary of State—any Secretary of State whose first act is to add his name to a Liberal Democrat amendment cannot be all bad—what about their heirs and successors? Can we be confident that future Secretaries of State, who are perhaps not so committed, will be bound by the amendments? We contend that they will not and that, in addition to the new clause, we need new clause 14. We welcome the supportive comments of the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) about new clause 14, on which I suspect we will test the opinion of the House later.

We are concerned about new clause 15 because of its advisory nature. “Advise” or “advice” appear nine times in it—it is an entirely advisory clause. That would be fine if the Government were bound by the advice but, by definition, one is not bound by advice. Amendment No. 3 would remove the opt-out. The Government have the option after five years of saying, “This is all terribly difficult—we’re not going to do it.” Our worry is that aviation and shipping are so important that, if five years of the best brains around the globe getting together cannot crack the problem, we are genuinely in trouble. We do not want to give the Government the option after five years of slipping out a written statement on the last day of a parliamentary Session to claim that they had tried hard but could not include aviation and shipping because it was too difficult. There is not enough of a guarantee that those matters will be taken into account.

Although I am beginning to understand the theology of such issues, I cannot understand why the new clause and amendment No. 72, as redrafted, guarantee anything. They are a nudge and a wink and a hint from a well-disposed Secretary of State and Under-Secretary, but they guarantee nothing, especially when Ministers change and others may not be so committed. We therefore need to beef up those amendments.

New clause 14 states that the Government need to provide projections on aviation and shipping. We welcome the Minister’s assurance that the projections on aviation will be forthcoming and updated, but simply saying that shipping is too difficult, which is essentially the position, is inadequate. We need to resolve those difficulties. We need an approximation to the best guess, and doing that is not a science; it is an art. However, as my hon. Friend
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the Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) said, doing nothing is likely to be an awful lot further away from the optimal solution than having an approximation, an imputation or an assumption.

Our second concern is about the role of national leadership. I fully accept that in time everything will need to be done multilaterally, but we are not playing a game in which we cannot make a move until everybody else has moved. We are talking about a vital issue on which we need to lead by example and bring others with us. If we say, “We’re not going to include these things until everybody else does or until we’ve decided altogether how to do it”, the clock will be ticking in the meantime. That is our profound concern.

John Hemming: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Steve Webb: If it is about oil, no. [ Laughter. ] Of course I will give way.

John Hemming: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way to my standard question about oil. Last week the Prime Minister said that we needed an ever-increasing supply of oil, which confused me in the light of our objective of having a low-carbon economy, because burning oil creates carbon dioxide and water primarily. Will my hon. Friend share his views on whether we can satisfy the objectives of the Bill, with or without the inclusion of aviation and shipping, while having an ever-increasing supply of oil?

Steve Webb: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention. From our perspective we need to get on with decarbonising the economy. The goal of an ever-increasing supply of oil is literally nonsense and should certainly not be an aim of Government policy.

The point that I made in an intervention on the Minister is that it might be great that the Department of Energy and Climate Change sets such bold targets, but as long as the Department for Transport, for example, continues to act as if it were a wholly owned subsidiary of BAA, we will not achieve what we need to. It is vital to bring aviation and shipping within the scope of the Bill, so that the other bits of Government, which are perhaps not quite as well disposed towards tackling climate change as the Department of Energy and Climate Change is, are brought into line. The sooner we do that, the smaller the chance that irreversible decisions will be taken on airport expansion—decisions that would undermine the goal that we all share of tackling climate change effectively.

We welcome new clause 15 and the advice that will be forthcoming, but we simply do not believe that it goes far enough. In addition, we need the projections provided for in our new clause 14 and a calculation of what that means for non-aviation and shipping carbon emissions. The Minister’s view seems to be that the rest of the economy can just take the hit, because as long as the grand total is okay, we are all happy. However, the rest of the economy might have a view on taking more of a hit than aviation and shipping simply because aviation and shipping were not included in the budgets.

There is an equity issue, too. We might have a view, for example, on how fair it is to expect manufacturing to take the entire hit because aviation and shipping have been allowed to run away with their emissions. There is
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an equity issue to do with the balance of reducing emissions, not only at household level but between different sectors of the economy. Favourable treatment towards one sector, which would be likely if we did not bring it within the Bill, is undesirable for us all.

Mr. Hurd: The hon. Gentleman started his speech with the premise that the Bill places no absolute requirement on the Government to include aviation and shipping in the budgets or the targets. That is correct, but I have struggled to follow how his new clause 14 would change that. I can see that it might improve the transparency of some of the information going into the mix, but it does not change the basic premise of his argument, does it?

Steve Webb: As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, our new clause 14 would require projections on aviation and shipping that would otherwise not be made, which would deliver an impact assessment on the rest of the economy. As he knows, our concern is about the actions of future Governments. The consequence of our proposal would be for other sectors of the economy to exert more pressure to include aviation and shipping, because it would be much more transparent that they would take the hit. That would be an indirect way of bringing pressure on future Governments not to neglect the other sectors of the economy.

Mr. Graham Stuart: Does the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact of aviation and shipping not show the absurdity at the heart of the Bill? Independent studies show that a 75 per cent. increase in emissions from shipping is expected in the next 15 to 20 years and that emissions from shipping already constitute more than double those from aviation globally. The fact that we are introducing an 80 per cent. reduction today while critical elements of delivering it are not within the power of the Secretary of State shows that we are posturing and not really putting down legally enforceable limits on emissions. In the meantime, we are failing to take the practical actions that could be taken to deliver emissions changes today.

Steve Webb: I partly agree with the hon. Gentleman, in the sense that we certainly need a legal framework and practical, urgent action now. His point highlights the fact that the Government’s approach to aviation and shipping is almost one of “predict and provide”. They are almost saying, “We will let that rip, and then we will pick up the pieces in the rest of the economy.” That is why we cannot go on risking excluding those elements.

We are sure that the Government’s intentions are good, but we do not believe that even this Government—and certainly not future Governments—will be bound by what is in new clause 15 or amendment No. 72. We are therefore seeking to add new clause 14 to the Bill.

4.45 pm

Dr. Strang: I think that the whole House welcomes the movement by the Government in this area. I congratulate the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock), and I particularly welcome the fact that the Government are accepting the amendment tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley).

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My hon. Friend the Minister rightly referred to the important interim advice from the Committee on Climate Change in the letter earlier this month to the Secretary of State of the new Department from the Committee’s chairman, Lord Adair Turner. I want to highlight two or three important sentences in the letter. The advice provides the basis for the Government’s movement, but it should also send an important message to Parliament and the Government about the decisive action that we need to take on this issue in the coming years. As we all know, the important recommendations were that the target for the reduction in emissions covered by the Bill—between 1990 and 2050, which is quite a long way ahead—should be 80 per cent., and that the target should include international aviation and shipping.

In an important point in the letter, Lord Turner explains the reasons for the change. He sets out what has changed since the report from the historic royal commission on environmental pollution in 2000, which is where the original 60 per cent. target came from. He lists six things that have changed, but I shall not refer to all of them today. However, I want to quote one of them. By way of an introduction to that, I want to point out that he suggests that

He makes six points, and in point No. 5, he states that

John Hemming: I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman my usual question. If we are going to reduce carbon emissions, why do we need a constantly increasing supply of oil?

Dr. Strang: The important thing is the demand for oil. We must use less oil; that is not in dispute. Obviously, we want to use less oil, and fewer fossil fuels. I do not quite grasp the hon. Gentleman’s point—

John Hemming rose—

Dr. Strang: I am not going to give way again, because many people who have served on the Public Bill Committee want to take part in the debate. However, we are not going to stop using oil in the next few years—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I must remind him that this group of amendments is to do with shipping and aviation. An opportunity for more general comments about the targets for the reduction of emissions will crop up at a later point on the Order Paper.

Dr. Strang: I am grateful to you for that advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Lilley: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you assure us that we will have an opportunity to debate the Third Reading of the Bill, and to raise the more general points that the right hon. Gentleman has tried to raise, and which many of us would like to discuss, in the course of assessing some of the new clauses, particularly in relation to their cost effectiveness?

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Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot give any such assurance. The progress that is made on dealing with the amendments that have been selected by Mr. Speaker depends entirely on the House, so I am afraid that I cannot give any such assurance. However, I have to rule on the relevance of any remarks made to the particular group of amendments under discussion.

Dr. Strang: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The crucial issue is the global temperature rise that the world has to avoid. There, of course, international aviation and shipping are highly important. Significant observations have been made to the effect that it is not easy to deal with these issues. I was a Cabinet Minister in the Transport Department when we were elected in 1997. The big thing that I grasped very quickly was that aviation was international. It was international organisations such as IATA—the International Air Transport Association—that had to be dealt with. International shipping is, of course, also important.

Mr. Gummer: It seems to me that the Government should be congratulated on proposing these new clauses. We Opposition Members are very pleased to support them. It also seems to me that the Government are in a difficult position. On the one hand, they cannot build into the Bill a unilateral system that might be wholly different from what emerges from negotiation. That is a perfectly reasonable Government position, but if it is to be tenable, the Government must give the House—not just now, but throughout the coming months and years—a real understanding of their commitment to doing the things that will make a reality of these new clauses.

John Hemming rose—

Mr. Gummer: I think I will leave the issue of oil alone, as it has been somewhat widely discussed but is not entirely germane, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the issues that concern us at this moment.

The Government need to give us the confidence to support them by being much tougher about what they intend to do in practical terms about these issues. First, it is obviously true that we need an internationally agreed system of measurement. In that, the Government need to be particularly attentive, so that we can all make a proper assessment of how successful we, along with other nations, are in reducing emissions.

Secondly, it is terribly important to recognise that we cannot do these things except in common with our neighbours. I thought that the intervention on the subject of European law by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who is no longer in his place, was outside the issue. If we do not do this on a European basis, there is simply no chance of doing it effectively at all. We need to recognise that the environment is not something that can be nationalised—it seems about the only thing that is not being nationalised at the moment, but it cannot be: we must do this on a European basis. It is an obvious fact of life.

Thirdly, if we are to proceed on a wider basis, I want to underline the points raised earlier about the danger of making things worse by accident. We know of many issues at the moment—the much-vaunted efforts for biofuels in the United States, for example—that have
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distorted the international situation very severely indeed. We have to be very careful that we do not do the same. The problem is that, in being careful, we must not put ourselves into a position of excusing not doing anything by saying how difficult it is to do. That is the issue that I want to press on the Minister.

If the Minister had come before the House to announce that there would be no third runway at Heathrow and that the ridiculous proposal to expand Stansted would not, in fact, go ahead, the House would have seen that the Government were doing all that they could do in advance of achieving the necessary international arrangements.

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): Does the right hon. Gentleman also oppose the expansion of our ports and docks? I do not know whether Felixstowe has any plans to expand, but should that expansion also be stopped? We are choosing just one target, aviation, which is fair enough, but perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should extend his argument to those other areas as well.

Mr. Gummer: I wish that the hon. Gentleman, with whom I often agree, had listened more carefully to my argument. I gave a series of examples to which the Opposition were committed. It was therefore not unreasonable for me to suggest that if the Government wished to gain the universal support that I believe will be necessary if the Bill is be effective, it would be helpful if they clarified their approach to some of the key matters that are before us. The expansion of Felixstowe, which I declare as an interest in my constituency, is not a matter before us; the matter before us is the Government’s decision on Stansted, and their decision on Heathrow.

I know very well that the Minister is not the person making the decision in this instance, and also that, if she were, she would make that decision in a way of which I would greatly approve. However, I do not consider it unreasonable for me to say to her that it is imperative that the Government take seriously some of the decisions which we understand—notwithstanding the essentially light touch of the new clause—will be translated into action.

I want to say a little about unilateralism as it applies to aviation and shipping. It may be suggested that Britain should do nothing that might put her in a less powerful competitive position, and in general I think that that is true, but I hope the Minister will not be put off doing anything on that basis, or we shall find ourselves unable to take the lead that we have taken. The Climate Change Bill is unilateral in a very real sense, and so it should be.

Although I cannot be accused by anyone of being unilateralist in the sense that the Minister was but—I believe—is not now, I can at least say that unilateralism, in the sense of being a step ahead of others and helping them to make their decisions, is often necessary. T.S. Eliot once said “Being a step ahead of the rest is something that deserves congratulation and you are a hero; two steps ahead, and watch out for the men in white coats.” There is some truth in that. I do not want us to get into a position in which we have so damaged our international ability to trade and compete that we suffer unilaterally, but we do need to ensure that we are taking a step ahead of the rest.

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