Climate Change Bill [Lords]

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New Clause 15

Advice on climate change policy from Committee to Secretary of State
‘(1) The Committee may provide the Secretary of State with advice on any policy matters related to climate change.
(2) The Committee must, at the time it gives its advice to the Secretary of State, send a copy to the other national authorities.
(3) As soon as is reasonably practicable after giving its advice to the Secretary of State, the Committee must publish that advice in such a manner as it considers appropriate.’.—[Martin Horwood.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Martin Horwood: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The purpose behind the new clause is once again derived from the Environmental Audit Committee report, and in particular from its comments on the importance of the Committee on Climate Change in being able to provide
“challenge to, and public reporting on, Government forecasting and policy analysis.”
It seems extraordinary to set up that expert body, with enormous authority in the fields of climate science, economics and Government policy making, and to give it huge influence over British Government policy and the future shape of the British economy by being able to advise the Government on the overall targets for carbon budgets and carbon emissions by 2050, and then to deny that extraordinary body the right to comment and advise on the policies that will be required to get to those targets. That is somewhat equivalent to asking Einstein to say that E=mc2, but not allowing him to say how that was achieved. Earlier Government amendments have clouded the issue of whether policies and processes will be a subject for the Committee on Climate Change. Some of their amendments have taken out measures that were put in by our noble Friends in another place, and they have clouded the issue of whether the committee is simply an advisory body looking at a dry analysis, or a body that will be able to advise and comment on Government policy. I would welcome the Minister’s clarification on his latest reading of the current version of the Bill, in response to the new clause.
Miss McIntosh: As with any other measure that will enhance the authority of the Committee on Climate Change, we are happy to lend the new clause our support. The content of the new clause echoes a number of our earlier debates, and perhaps the hon. Member for Cheltenham was being assiduous on the back of earlier comments when he tabled it. The duty of the committee is to advise the Secretary of State and report on progress, and the new clause would require the committee to publish that advice in an appropriate manner. It is thus interesting that the new clause does not go on to say that the advice should be debated by Committees of both Houses. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has considered that as it would enable not only the Secretary of State, but both Houses to consider that advice.
To have a group of such renowned experts as the Committee on Climate Change provide advice on policy matters should be considered not an onus, but rather a privilege for the Secretary of State, and I am sure that the Government will jump at the opportunity. I am mindful of our previous debates, and perhaps the Minister will look favourably on the new clause.
Mr. Woolas: We are going back to our debate on clause 35 because the new clause is about the role of the committee. I fear that to hand over policy recommendations on
“any policy matters related to climate change”
would effectively franchise the Government to the committee. Let me explain our policy.
Clause 35 requires the committee to lay an annual report on its progress to Parliament. The committee also has duties to provide advice on carbon budgets and carry out a review of the level regarding the 2050 target date. Clause 37 contains further duties to provide advice, and clause 38(1) states:
“The Committee may do anything that appears to it necessary or appropriate”
in relation to any of its functions.
There is already considerable opportunity for the committee to express its views on progress in tackling climate change, but there are three reasons why I have a problem with the new clause. First, as I set out a moment ago in relation to new clauses 13 and 14, we must ensure that the committee is adequately resourced. The new clause could distract the committee from its key tasks. Secondly, the committee is set up as a UK-wide body that is responsible for the UK Government and devolved Administrations. Finally, the committee’s key role is to provide expert advice on the optimum levels of budgets and to report on the progress made towards that. We do not wish to include provisions in the Bill for the committee to come forward with specific policies.
To clarify the situation, when Lord Turner appeared before the EFRA Committee in March, he said that the role of the committee was to consider the range and effectiveness of the policies in place, because without that, a credible budget could not be recommended. He wishes to have a policy role in that regard. However, perhaps I may quote from the other place, when the Liberal Democrats argued against giving the committee a role on policies in that way. Lord Teverson said:
“I will have a great concern if the Committee on Climate Change starts making major policy recommendations to government...It would not depoliticise the decisions but would utterly politicise the Committee on Climate Change.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 8 January 2008; Vol. 697, c. 802.]
Looking at the existing policies of the Government of the day and making progress towards the budgets, when backed up with Lord Turner’s explanation, gives scope for what the hon. Gentleman’s new clause rightfully addresses. However, the new clause goes too far because it franchises decisions of policy to what is ultimately an independent committee, not an accountable Government.
Martin Horwood: The Minister has cited some persuasive and authoritative voices in support of his case. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion and clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 18

Waste authority’s power to reduce amount of council tax payable
‘After section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (c. 14) there is inserted—
“13B Power to reduce amount of tax payable in relation to household waste
(1) Where a person is liable to pay council tax in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day, any waste collection authority or waste disposal authority may require the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated to reduce the amount which he is liable to pay as respects the dwelling and the day to such extent as it thinks fit.
(2) The power under subsection (1) may only be exercised in connection with measures to reduce the amount of residual domestic waste produced in the authority’s area.
(3) The power under subsection (1) may be exercised in relation to particular cases or by determining a class of case in which liability is to be reduced to an extent provided by the determination.
(4) Where an authority exercises the power under subsection (1) the authority must pay or allow to the billing authority if requested an amount equivalent to the total reduction in the amount of tax payable each year as a result together with the reasonable administration costs of making such reductions.”’.—[Gregory Barker.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 11.
Division No. 14]
Barker, Gregory
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Maclean, rh David
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Webb, Steve
Banks, Gordon
Brown, Mr. Russell
Buck, Ms Karen
Chaytor, Mr. David
Griffith, Nia
McDonagh, Siobhain
Ruddock, Joan
Snelgrove, Anne
Walley, Joan
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause 19

Carbon emissions reduction targets: obligation to cooperate
‘(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations—
(a) make provision requiring energy suppliers to cooperate with responsible local authorities in the preparation and delivery of relevant local area agreements, and
(b) make provision as to the arrangements for such cooperation.
Brought up, and read the First time.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The purpose of the new clause is to suggest that the framework of the Bill be augmented by a number of practical measures. I believe that the carbon emissions reduction target programme is a superb addition to the armoury of action as far as climate change and energy efficiency are concerned. The resources of both the Government and energy utilities may be directed towards providing energy efficiency in homes. There is a process to ensure that fuel bills are lessened not by undertaking to provide assistance with payments, but as a result of changes to the way in which houses operate. The insulation of walls and microgeneration devices will lessen energy bills over a long period of time.
The new clause suggests that the CERT programme could be augmented and made even more effective by requiring utilities to contribute the amount of money that consumers are paying as a result of the programme, which is an average of £33 over the next few years. Utilities could place that money into an additional programme to ensure that energy efficiency was at its maximum in terms of changes to the way that households work. That could be done by ensuring that local authorities take the lead in identifying and undertaking work that can bring about energy efficiency.
With the contribution of the energy companies and the Warm Front programme, a range of programmes could be brought together to ensure that energy efficiency worked as well as possible. New clause 19, as hon. Members can see, would require energy suppliers to contribute that proportion of funds—the £33 per consumer—to the process. Therefore, the money, in addition to the £150 million that the CERT programme has already started to contribute towards the process, will be augmented by several hundred million pounds over a period of years, through the contribution of energy companies—utilities—to the process.
10.30 pm
One of the key targets of the Climate Change Bill is that we move permanently to a low-carbon economy. The success will be judged by whether that low-carbon economy works on a permanent basis, ensuring that we can live a life something like that which we live at the moment, but on the basis of a quantum reduction in carbon emissions as a result of our energy activities. That will be brought home, literally, by the preparation and retro-fitting, as it were, of homes across the country securing their domestic energy supplies on that low-carbon basis.
I anticipate that the exact wording of the new clause might not completely find favour, but I offer it as a structure for how we might proceed in making a real change, as a result of the Bill, to set us on the path to at least a firm low-carbon domestic economy. That, after all, accounts for something like 40 per cent. of the consumption—particularly in heat—in our energy economy. The new clause could make that substantial change to how those households work. I might add, in terms of the targets that the Government have set and continue to stand by, it would make a substantial contribution to the amelioration of fuel poverty by changing the basis on which people pay their energy bills. No longer would they be, as it were, a funded player in an energy market where prices inevitably are going to remain high, but they would have in their homes a facility to reduce their energy bills. They would have in their homes the equipment, devices and insulation, supported by the energy utilities, that would mean that their energy bills would stay permanently lower, with the savings that that would represent.
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Prepared 9 July 2008