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Schools were mentioned earlier. I, too, was concerned about the original standards, but they have been improved. My own local authority is part of the current wave of
Building Schools for the Future, and I am very encouraged by the work put into sustainability and energy saving. A great deal more could nevertheless be done, and the Government could have an enormous influence.
Let me deal briefly with Copenhagen, because it is crucial. This year is crucial, because the outcome of Copenhagen is crucial: the outcome is crucial for every part of the globe, and it is not going to be easy to get the one that we want. There is still quite a gulf between many countries, particularly between the developing and the developed countries. My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) rightly touched on that, and I agree with what he said.
There must be an outcome, but I worry that the Copenhagen conference will just agree principles. There is some urgency, and Copenhagen must produce key objectives. Firm commitments from developed countries on their emissions are necessary. Given how difficult and crucial the conference will be, world leaders must be there. I am proud that our Prime Minister has given a lead by saying that he will go, and we need President Obama there, because key players such as the US, China, India and the UK will be very important.
Some commitments from developing countries are necessary, although they should not be the same as ours, as the right hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) has mentioned, because they are entitled to develop, as we have. However, they can develop in a clean way, and there is a role for the developed world in putting money into a clean technology fund. My last point, which my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) will welcome, is that we need an adaptation fund to help the most vulnerable, poorest countries adapt to what is happening now.
The challenges are big and of great importance. I have great confidence in the leadership from our Government, but an awful lot of work must be done to build confidence with other countries. Part of that confidence building is leading by example. I, for one, am more than happy to sign up to the 10:10 campaign, because we can give individual leads by example as well as national and international ones. That is the important point that should come out of this debate.
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal) (Con): I have shown that I support the Government when they do the right things in this area. I honour the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) who, from a standing start, worked extremely hard at Kyoto, where I was also part of the delegation, and gave a great reputation to Britain in those battles. I hope that he will therefore allow me to say that I am disappointed by the Government's actions in the run-up to Copenhagen, which, if they had been different, would have given our negotiators a much better position.
The Climate Change Act 2008, rather than being a great Government triumph, was, first, forced on the Government, and, secondly, had to be constantly improved by the Opposition. I remember the battle on 80 per cent., and how long it took to win the Government
round. Although I am pleased that the Government are on side, let us not take it as a great achievement. Let us look at how things have played out. Building Schools for the Future is still not right, because we still have to choose between green schools and schools that are big enough. As for recent changes, the new Ministry of Justice has installed hydrofluorocarbon air conditioning, and the same is true of the new Home Office. We know that HFCs are the most potent global warmer. We warned the Government, and they heard the warning. They said that they would act, but they did not do so. In every single case, we find the Government have not given the lead that they should. I do not want to go on about Heathrow, but how on earth can we go and fight such a battle at Copenhagen, when we have given the go-ahead to an utterly unnecessary and unacceptable extension to Heathrow?
I walked into my local prison-voluntarily, I am happy to say-and I was pleased to see on its energy notice that it has the lowest level possible, and if there were a lower one, it would have that. When I asked, however, I was told that there was no money for that. We are pouring out energy as a result of the fact that not even the smallest things are being done. Take the scrappage scheme-no other Government would produce a scrappage scheme that allowed people to scrap a car and buy the biggest gas guzzler they liked. Where is the connection there?
It is all very well for the Minister to utter soothing words, but let us consider the Obama statement about what the American Government would do. Some 38 per cent. of those measures contained a real green element, but where were we? Somewhere down in the low teens. Why were we not as good as the United States? Why were we not as good as Korea or even France? What was the Minister doing in allowing the Prime Minister to put forward something that put us at the bottom of the league?
Mr. Gummer: I must tell the hon. Lady that that is not true. If she goes through the measures put forward by the United States one by one, she will see that all of them could have been adopted with advantage here. If she had done that, we would have been at the top of the list rather than the bottom.
The Government amendment illustrates why the Minister does not carry conviction, and why the Government do not carry conviction. The amendment takes out anything that would cause the Government to do something and keeps in everything that would cause everybody else to do things. It reminds me of the beginning of "Wuthering Heights", which involves a man who is cleaning up outside going through the Bible in order to throw all the curses at other people and to keep all the promises to himself. That is exactly what the Government are doing. It is a case of "You get on with the job, but give me the credit." The situation strikes me as really serious.
I hate saying nice things about the Liberal Democrats, but if the Government had read the Liberal Democrat motion, they would have noticed that they could have included the House. We could meet the 10 per cent.
target merely by having a cool Chamber. The Chamber is incredibly hot today. Why on earth have we allowed that to happen? We would all be better with the odd jumper in the winter and rather less heat.
The Government have put themselves in a position in which it is difficult to defend their activities at home, and thrilling to support their statements abroad. We are all proud of a Government who, with their consensus attitude, have been trying their best to promote these matters. I do not for a moment take that away from the Minister. I am merely saying that we cannot go on saying something abroad and not doing it at home.
Let me list five things that the Minister could do, in addition to changing her mind about the motion. First, the Government should commit themselves to not taking on any building of any kind that does not meet the highest energy rating. Secondly, they should commit themselves to ensuring that that applies to all quasi-governmental organisations. It would not be difficult; it is quite possible-we are only talking about new actions to be taken in the future.
Thirdly, the Government could stand up and say that they will ban HFCs. The Government voted with the "brown" people-the people in the European Union who did not want to ban them. They voted against Austria and Denmark. What were we doing supporting the dirty team rather than the clean team? Why were our Government voting on the wrong side?
Why do we have a climate change levy, which is only good because the name is good, and not a carbon tax? What kind of attitude is that? The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East, has left the Chamber now that I have given him his compliment, but I will give him the opposite now. He cannot defend a climate change levy that is a levy on energy and not on carbon. The Government should change that forthwith. There are five very simple things that they could do, but they are not even prepared to sign up to the 10:10 campaign.
The Minister has put me in a difficult position. I do not want to be directly unpleasant, but it is not possible to say that we cannot achieve the 10:10 target on the way to meeting our carbon budget. Let me explain why we have to do it. We have gone on for too long believing that if we say that something will be done by 2050, 2020 or 2015, it will all happen. We must show that it has to be done now, because the urgency is huge. If the Minister really thinks that this Government are so efficient, and these buildings are so energy-efficient, that they cannot manage a 10 per cent. decrease in one year, she is going against every bit of advice and anecdotal evidence. I do not know of a company worth its salt that has not seen that for economic reasons it has had to save 10 per cent. of its carbon footprint. Why do this Government not say, "This is nothing to do with greenery; this is just to do with trying to balance the books. In the next year, in this very difficult situation, we will do it"? The Minister must say that, and not simply say, "I don't know how we're going to do it. We may not be able to do it." She must stand up and say, "We'll do it," and then it will be done.
Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South) (Lab): I am not a Johnny-come-lately to the environmental cause, having joined Friends of the Earth shortly after it was formed and having campaigned with it throughout the course of three decades. I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister and the Government for giving Friends of the Earth £30,000 to go around Europe to campaign to ensure that in Copenhagen we realise its goals, and our goals too.
I cannot support the motion because it comes from a party whose record when in power at local level, as well as when not in power, is absolutely woeful. To take just one example, trying to cut back on the use of cars through road pricing is a key environmental policy, but the Liberal Democrats are the party who opposed the extension here in London, and fought and campaigned against it being introduced in Manchester and my home town of Edinburgh, while all the time saying, "Of course, in principle we generally support it."
The Liberal Democrats are the party whose policy statements say it wants to see hundreds of new trains and a massive investment in rail, but in Edinburgh it could not find the £38 million last year that consultants recommended in order to reopen the south suburban line stations and to ensure that up to 1.4 million commuting passengers were taken off our roads.
Nigel Griffiths: Let me give the hon. Gentleman an example to put in his pipe and smoke. In the western isles, where the principled former Labour Member of Parliament Calum MacDonald supported the independent local council's bid to grant a wind farm, and where the Member of the Scottish Parliament, Alasdair Morrison, did the same, it was the hon. Gentleman's party, along with the Scottish National party and the Tories, who ran the campaign against the wind farms there, as they do elsewhere, and succeeded in removing these two people of principle. That, I am afraid, is rather typical.
I feel sorry for the Vestas workers in the Isle of Wight, but it is no secret that its Conservative council will not allow any wind farms to be put on the island. It is then very difficult for such workers to argue in the
interests of their manufacturing base if their own neighbours-their own council-will not support them when they try to lobby Government or anyone else.
I want to praise my hon. Friend the Minister and remind the House of the record of the £1 billion already spent-not promised, not mere words-on regeneration and renewables, of the £97 million spent on marine, and of the £31 million on photovoltaics. In my constituency, that has meant that the Napier university Collington complex library computers are now powered by photovoltaics, the development of which was paid for by the Government. There is also the DART project to recycle tyres, that Professor Nick Christof and his colleagues have pioneered with £100,000 from the Government. That is part of the £1 billion already invested. I am delighted to note that we are stepping up our investment. That will benefit the country. I urge the House to reject the motion.
Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): I rise to support my hon. Friend the Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes) and this motion. Ever since I entered this House in 1997, I have had a deep interest in this issue and have tried to ensure that this House took it seriously. I served as my party's energy spokesman for about eight years, during which time I shadowed seven Labour Energy Ministers-I believe there were also five Conservative shadow Ministers, so consistency has not always been around in this area.
In 2004, I was fortunate to be top of the ballot and able to introduce the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Bill in this House. I wish to say to the House and to the Minister that there have been missed opportunities as a consequence of the Government not choosing to implement what was in that Bill, which allowed them to amend the building regulations to take account of the sustainability and efficiency of buildings. The Minister knows this very well, but I wish to remind her that buildings are responsible for more than 60 per cent. of this country's carbon emissions. If we are to make any serious effort to tackle the problem, we have to do something about buildings.
I also wish to remind the Minister that the Sustainable and Secure Buildings Act 2004, as the Bill became, has lain dormant for five years and that the Department for Communities and Local Government has a consultation document out on the next generation of building regulations that still does not include any reference to implementing that Act or making any of its provisions legally enforceable. I am not sure, because this has not been mentioned, whether any other Member in the House is aware that the Audit Commission today published a report entitled "Lofty ambitions", which makes the point that the single most important thing that the Government could do to reduce carbon emissions would be to increase the regulatory requirements in part L of the building regulations and commence an immediate programme to tackle the terribly poor standard of our building stock. Such an approach would reduce people's bills, reduce fuel poverty, increase the quality of life of the people living in these houses and help to save the planet.
I was terribly disappointed by the Minister's speech. The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) made one of the best speeches that I have heard him make-that is because he is a Back Bencher
now. I have heard the Minister make many excellent speeches when she was on the Back Benches, but her contribution today was a terrible disappointment. When she comes to write her autobiography in 30 years' time, she will not have this as her proudest day in support of the environmental movement.
When are the Government going to improve part L of the building regulations? When are they going to take advantage of the 2004 Act, which this Minister supported, as did the Government at the time? When is it going to come into force? May I also ask her when we will have a spark of life on tackling the built environment? Oh, how I agree with the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer)-we are not building schools for the future; we are building schools just as we did in the past. We have to tackle the issue of public buildings, the built environment in the public sector and homes-the legislation is in place to do so. The Audit Commission wants her to do that, as does the Association of British Insurers. I could cite a tremendously long list here. This House wants her to do it, so for goodness' sake let us start tackling the problem of the building stock now.
Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): I will tell hon. Members how the Liberal Democrats in Brent sign up to the 10:10 campaign. Under the Labour party, Brent council was on track for a 20 per cent. reduction in its emissions by 2011. On Monday, the Liberal Democrats and their Tory partners in the administration signed up, with great fanfare, to the 10:10 campaign. At the next executive committee meeting they will take delivery of proposals, which they intend to support, that will reduce the figure from 20 per cent. to 6 per cent. by 2011. Under the Liberal and Tory policies at Brent council, the 20 per cent. reduction will not be reached until 2020.
I regret the tone of today's debate. Normally when we debate matters of climate change, we have a considered and measured debate that is consensual and, usually, good. The responsibility for the way in which this debate has gone is to be found in the nature of the Liberal Democrat motion. The Liberal Democrats know, we know and everybody in the House knows that it is tendentious. It was put forward, as my hon. Friend the Member for Regent's Park and Kensington, North (Ms Buck) said, as a gimmick, to try to bandwagon and to do something that the Liberal Democrats thought might be populist and might embarrass the Government. That is why the debate has taken the shape that it has.
The hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) spoke, quite properly, about the discussions that he had had with the Chinese delegation this morning under the auspices of GLOBE and of the discussions that he had had with Congressman Wang. The hon. Gentleman also said-although it was when he departed from his script and got carried away-that that was why the Chinese did not take the Government seriously. Earlier this afternoon, as I was chairing the GLOBE discussions with Congressman Wang, I happened to note down what he said: "The UK is one of the few countries that has honoured their commitment and achieved their targets and I wish that all developed countries would learn from the UK in this respect." I am afraid that that knocks out of the water the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman.
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