House of Commons
|Session 2007 - 08|
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General Committee Debates
Climate Change Bill [Lords]
Climate Change Bill [Lords]
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
John Benger, Sara Howe Committee Clerks
attended the Committee
Public Bill Committee
Thursday 3 July 2008
[Mr. Peter Atkinson in the Chair]
Written evidence to be reported to the House
CC01 Professor Banatvala
The Chairman: Before we start, I should say that we anticipate three or four Divisions in the House at about 3.15 pm, in which case I will obviously suspend the Committee for 15 minutes for each Division. If, at the end of the series of votes, we are all back a bit earlier than that, we will endeavour to start proceedings immediately.
Advice in connection with carbon budgets
Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 12, in clause 34, page 18, line 6, leave out subsection (5).[Joan Ruddock.]
Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.
The Chairman: I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following: Government amendments Nos. 19 and 20.
Government new clause 3Advice of Committee on Climate Change on impact report.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Atkinson.
I was endeavouring to answerclearly not successfully some questions asked by the hon. Member for Cheltenham. I shall now, once again, try to clarify just why some of the adaptation sub-committees functions in subsection (5) are to be deleted.
As I have said, our objection is to the policy role. That was agreed in the other place. We do believe that the Committee on Climate Change, through the sub-committee, should be given not the job of commenting on the adequacy of the Governments adaptation programme, as under subsection (5)(a), but rather functions relating to the progress of implementation. We will come to that when we debate the next clause. We consider the adaptation programme to be a policy matter and, therefore, that is ruled out by what I said about policy matters earlier.
What we believe should happen is what we have already made provision for in clause 63, under which the Secretary of State must publish a strategy for the use of his powers to issue guidance and directions to reporting authorities. That is a policy issue as well. For that reason, we are removing subsection (5)(d). I hope that the hon. Member for Cheltenham will see that there is a coherent theme and that we are removing
Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): It is good to be serving under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr. Atkinson.
I am grateful to the Minister for her comments and her permission for me to talk to her officials during the break. However, I am afraid that both her remarks and those conversations reinforced my belief that while subsection (5), which gives the adaptation sub-committee the duty to provide expert advice, is being removed, nothing equivalent is being substituted. Government new clause 4, to which the Minister referred, puts in place a scrutiny duty subsequent to a Government programme for adaptation being developed, but I am afraid that I cannot see any equivalent to the core function of the adaptation sub-committee described in subsection (5) being replaced. I am afraid that I have to remain opposed to Government amendment No. 12.
The Minister has not addressed amendment No. 20 a great deal, but I shall comment on it in passing. During the recent debate in the Chamber on detention without charge or trial for 42 days, new clauses to the Counter-Terrorism Bill were moved allowing the Secretary of State, on making an order under powers to declare reserved power exercisable, to
forthwith notify...the chairman of the Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons...the chairman of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and...the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee,
thereby giving statutory functions to Select Committees. There is a precedent for including Select Committees in statute and it should be followed in this case.
Joan Ruddock: On that latter point, the issue is not at all comparable. That was a notification process, including a whole range of Committees. We are talking about one Select Committee being in the Bill, when we believe that other Select Committeesindeed, manywould be relevant.
As the hon. Gentleman and I differ on the matter, I will say one more thing to him: new clause 3 will be added to the Bill after clause 55. That means that when we come to debate clause 55 in part 4, it will be clear that that part of the Bill deals with adaptation. Therefore, the new clause and what it tells us about the duties falling within that section make it clear that this is advice on risk assessment, which is related to adaptation.
Question put, That the amendment be made:
The Committee divided: Ayes 9, Noes 3.
Division No. 9]
Question accordingly agreed to.
Clause 34, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Reports on Progress
Joan Ruddock: I beg to move amendment No. 13, in clause 35, page 18, line 38, leave out subsection (3).
Government new clause 4Reporting on progress in connection with adaptation.
Joan Ruddock: We have already discussed how the second aspect of the sub-committees role would be to provide scrutiny of the implementation of the adaptation programme. We set out that function in new clause 4. I should clarify that the scrutiny of the programme would be for England and reserved matters only, as the devolved Administrations have their own adaptation programmes. That new function of the committee will ensure that Parliament receives regular, independent reports on the progress that is being made on the implementation of the objectives, proposals and policies in the adaptation programme.
The committee will consider how much is being done by the UK Government, their agencies and everyone else involved in ensuring that we are adapting to a changing climate. The committee will report to Parliament every two years, at the same time as every second report on progress on mitigation issues under clause 35.
We have listened carefully to the calls that have been made for annual progress reporting, but we do not think that that is justified in the case of adaptation. Adaptation to a changing climate is a long-term issue. It takes time for many of the benefits of the programme to be realised and to be measured against our assessment of the changing climate. Those assessments are being undertaken on a five-yearly basis.
We will use our annual public service agreement reporting to highlight any significant changes and provide a full report under the Bill every other year. We think that that arrangement is a better use of resources as it allows us to focus more effort on delivery of the programme. However, we have introduced a provision that will allow us to bring forward annual reporting, should that prove to be both practically worth while and necessary at a later time.
Clause 35(3) currently requires the Committee on Climate Change to comment on the Governments adaptation programme. However, that is now superseded by new clause 4, so Government amendment No. 13 will remove those sections. As we are giving the committee a formal role in providing independent progress reports on the adaptation programme, we propose, through Government amendment No. 21, to remove the Secretary of States functions under clause 36(3). As we will discuss later, we have also tabled Government amendment No. 22, which proposes removing clause 57, which requires the Secretary of State to produce regular progress reports on adaptation.
The amendments will remove the requirements for the Government to produce regular reports on adaptation as they are no longer necessary. The Secretary of State will instead respond to the committees progress reports on the adaptation programme at the same time as he responds in relation to mitigation, which will be by 15 October in the reporting year.
The existing provisions under clause 36, alongside new clause 4, will ensure that the reports of the Committee on Climate Change include advice on progress on adaptation, and the Government will have a duty to respond to those reports. Government amendment No. 21 thus simply removes duplication from the Bill.
This reporting process will improve existing arrangements and ensure compatibility with the new role of the adaptation sub-committee. It will ensure that Parliament receives regular independent assessments of how well the Government are doing in delivering the adaptation programme, and will require the Government to respond to those. It will also join up reporting on adaptation and mitigation, which is really important, and it will provide flexibility for the future if more frequent reporting is needed.
Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): I will be brief. My comments on this set of amendments will be similar to those that I made on the previous group, on which I appreciate that the Minister went some way to assuage our concerns. Although I recognise that some tidying up of the Bill is required, we must be careful and judicious and note what powers we may be diluting in the process.
The Minister has alluded to this in her comments, but will she say whether it is the Governments wish to remove the requirement for the independent committee to report to Parliament on the Governments progress on the adaptation programme? Why is it necessary to remove the Secretary of States duty to give an assessment to Parliament on the progress that the Government of the day have made towards meeting their adaptation policies specifically? Will the Minister assure the Committee that new clause 4 is in no way inferior in its demands on the Government to the clauses that it will replace? We would appreciate a degree of clarity on that.
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