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5 Jan 2010 : Column 38

Alan Johnson: I am not getting into who authorised whom to say what. What the Prime Minister said about us exchanging information with the US was absolutely right. As I said in my statement, none of that information remotely suggested that Abdulmutallab was planning an attack on Detroit.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): One resource we could use better is the eyes and ears of the travelling public. Will my right hon. Friend consider creating a central reporting point for members of the public who spot lapses in security in airports from which they are travelling to the UK?

Alan Johnson: I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion. Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for people to report such things. There was a programme over Christmas about the 999 emergency service being used spuriously, but certainly for anyone who has the slightest fear that there is a security problem, that is one course of action, and there are others. He makes a good point, and we will look at whether we can make it easier for the travelling public to report any suspicions they have.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): As the Home Secretary is no doubt aware, the only UK airport to be subject to terrorist attack is in Scotland-Glasgow airport. Can Scottish airports therefore expect to be among the first in line for full-body scanners? Will he assure me that he will be working hand in glove with the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish airports are as safe as possible?

Alan Johnson: I can assure the hon. Gentleman on both those points. We need to talk to the airlines about which airports are first. I believe that Heathrow will feature, given the huge amount of transit-we are talking about transit passengers as well because, as we should remember, Abdulmutallab was a transit passenger in Holland and was not searched properly-but other airports, including Glasgow, will be very much part of the discussion. Indeed, I believe discussions with the Scottish Government have already started.

Alan Keen (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): We are obviously concerned today with the immediate threats, but may I pass on a warning to the Home Secretary from constituents of mine who have worked their whole lives in Heathrow airport, and the Unite union, that there has been talk of introducing competition between terminals? Will he ensure that security always comes before competition?

Alan Johnson: I can give that assurance, although I am not sure what my hon. Friend means about competition. Security, whether at terminal 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5, is the absolute priority, not competition between terminals.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): In the wake of the failed bombing, many in the intelligence community have expressed concerns about the activities of schools-or karatus-in northern Nigeria and the role that they play in radicalising young men and preparing them for jihad. In the international strand of the Home Secretary's work, which he mentioned in his statement, can he confirm that those schools will be swept up in
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that and that he has had discussions with his counterparts in the Foreign Office to ensure that those schools are properly addressed?

Alan Johnson: Again, the hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Of course, Abdulmutallab himself went to a British school, but it is an important issue that I need to discuss with the Foreign Secretary to ensure that we are doing everything that we can, not just on airport security, but-as I said in my statement-to prevent radicalisation taking place in the first instance, whether in this country or abroad.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): There have been some interesting proposals about investing in research on the technology required to detect terror. Although the Home Secretary acknowledged in his statement the risks of identity-based profiling, I am concerned that we will not have sufficiently robust research into the effects of such profiling on young Asian or Muslim men who think that they are expected to behave in a certain way and therefore think, "Why don't I?" Can he assure the House that robust research will be done on the potential consequences of identity-based profiling before any such proposal is introduced?

Alan Johnson: I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, but behavioural detection is different from profiling. Behavioural detection is used by British Transport police, who are trained in it, to observe individuals and how they act around uniformed officers as a preliminary to a possible search or questioning. On profiling, I recognise not only the sensitivities and civil liberties issues that were raised by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, but the possibility that the terrorists-who, as we have said, are one step ahead-will use our main weapon against them to their advantage by using people who do not fit the profile, such as pregnant women or old gentlemen like me. That is the other danger of profiling, and we need to be very careful. I am acutely aware of that, but it would be strange if, in response to Detroit, we did not thoroughly explore all the different elements and options-some of which may be discarded.

Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): This is a bit rich from this Government who year on year have cut the research budget that allowed our law enforcement agencies to stay at least one step ahead of the terrorists. When I developed the millimetre wave with the team at QinetiQ, before I came into this House, we had to go to the Americans to get the funding because the Government cut it. What concrete extra resources will the Home Secretary put into the further development of technologies and manning at airports to ensure that our borders are more secure?

Alan Johnson: I know that the hon. Gentleman has some experience in this field, but I just do not understand the criticism of this Government for what we have invested in science. The hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Mr. Taylor) is no longer in his place, but he has continually praised the Government for the 10-year science and innovation project and the fact that, when I was Secretary of State at the old Department of Trade and Industry, more than half of my budget was for science. It was also ring-fenced, which was frustrating at
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times because I could not touch it for other things. Criticise this Government for many things, but do not criticise us for our investment in science.

Mr. Parmjit Dhanda (Gloucester) (Lab): How will my right hon. Friend consult on and communicate any changes that are made in profiling? It is very difficult, because changes need to be made in a way that does not trigger people's knowledge that we are doing such things, but it is also important to avoid unnecessary community tensions.

Alan Johnson: I take my hon. Friend's point. There would be no benefit in even studying the use of profiling if we were not talking to groups representing different ethnic minorities in this country. We have to take them along with us on this. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook and Small Heath (Mr. Godsiff) actually supports the use of profiling, and there will be different views in different communities and ethnic minorities. All I am saying is that it would be irresponsible not to look at whether profiling can play a part in strengthening our defences.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): If we are to search people more thoroughly and introduce body scanners, we will need far more space and personnel at our airports. Given that most of our airports seem to be crammed full of duty-free boutiques, will the Home Secretary make it clear to airport operators that security matters have to come first?

Alan Johnson: I see an advantage for our alcohol policy coming up here. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is inviting me to change the use of space at airports. This is one of the important discussions that we have to have with airport authorities and airlines: physically how we can do this properly with the minimum of inconvenience to the public and ensure that people can go about their daily business. That is an important part of these discussions.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): May we have stronger action to deport immediately those people in this country suspected of promoting extremism and of becoming radicalised? May we include in that list those who would hold offensive marches?

Alan Johnson: We always keep such issues under review. As I said in my statement, it is important that we do not take action simply because people have views that we find abhorrent but which are not illegal. We are a democracy, and there needs to be proper debate on our university campuses. It would be totally counter-productive for us to be heavy-handed in that respect. Through the Prevent strategy we are strengthening institutions, helping individuals and providing information, facts and advice to those who want to counter some of these radical views. As part of that, of course, we deport, and seek to deport, lots of people; many are queuing up for deportation at the moment. However, in a democracy, they have their right to judicial review and to go to the European Court. All of that, of course, is important, but at the end of the day they will be deported, providing we have done our job properly.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): Given the strong links that Umah Farouk Abdulmutallab had with Britain, can the Home Secretary tell us whether, in due course, the British police will have an opportunity
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to question him, particularly with a view to ascertaining any continuing links that he might have with Britons and what those links are all about?

Alan Johnson: All I can say at this stage is that two Metropolitan police officers are working with the FBI in America on the case. As the hon. Gentleman will have seen on his television screen over Christmas, the police took immediate action in this country. We do not comment on current police operations, and we will have to wait for them to come to a conclusion. That might well involve the British police wishing to ask questions, but we will have to see how the operation goes.

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): I have had e-mails from constituents expressing concern about health risks and dignity as a result of the use of the scanners. Can the Home Secretary say anything on the public record to reassure people about such matters?

Alan Johnson: My understanding is that there is less radiation from a body scanner than from the flight itself. On privacy, as I have mentioned, we can probably think and do more, but at the moment all the images are destroyed immediately and the person operating the machine is remote from the person being scanned, which means that there is no face-to-face contact-they are anonymous while being scanned. However, it is difficult to get around the privacy issues, given where Abdulmutallab was trying to hide his explosives. If that is how terrorists seek to get around such issues, obviously we might have to be a little less delicate about privacy if we are to counter the threat effectively.

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Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

4.44 pm

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about December's Copenhagen climate change conference, at which I represented the United Kingdom alongside my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Today I want to report back to the House and set out where we go next in the global battle against climate change.

Let me say at the outset that the outcome of Copenhagen was disappointing in a number of respects. We are disappointed that Copenhagen did not establish a clear timetable for a legal treaty and that we do not yet have the commitments to cuts in emissions that we were looking for. However, I also want to report to the House the significant progress that the accord agreed at Copenhagen marks and explain how we can build on the progress that was made.

The Copenhagen accord, which is available in the Library, was agreed by a group representing 49 developed and developing countries that together account for more than 80 per cent. of global emissions. The key points of the accord are as follows. It endorses the limit of 2° C in warming as the benchmark for global progress on climate change. Unlike with every previous agreement, not just developed, but all leading developing countries have agreed to make specific commitments to tackling emissions, to be lodged in the agreement by 31 January.

Also for the first time, so that we can be assured that countries are acting as they say they will act, all countries have signed up to the comprehensive measurement, reporting and verification of progress. On finance, significant commitments have been made by the rich world to developing countries. They include fast-start finance worth $10 billion a year by 2012, with a total of up to $2.4 billion from the UK, and specific support to tackle deforestation. In the longer term, the accord supported the goal, first set by the Prime Minister, of $100 billion a year of public and private finance for developing countries by 2020.

By any measure, those are important steps forward, but we know that the world needs to go much further. We need more certainty and a greater scale of ambition. So the urgent task ahead is to broaden, deepen and strengthen the commitments that were made in Copenhagen, drawing on the large coalition of countries that wanted more from the agreement. Broadening the commitments is vital. Forty-nine countries signing up to the agreement is not enough. To tackle the global problem, we need a wider group. The United Nations is seeking to persuade all countries to sign up to the accord, and the UK is determined to play its part in making that happen.

In addition, we must act to deepen the commitments on emissions made by countries across the world. Lord Stern has shown that if nations make the biggest emissions cuts in the range that they have put forward, we can be within striking distance of the two-degree pathway that we need, including with the peaking of global emissions by 2020. We know that that is in our economic as well as our environmental interests. Greater certainty about emissions is necessary to provide the strongest incentive to business, including through the carbon price. So we
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will work to persuade other countries that we all need to show the highest levels of ambition on emissions as part of the commitments that we make. For Europe, provided that there is high ambition from others, that means carrying forward our commitment to moving from 20 to 30 per cent. reductions by 2020 compared with 1990. We must also act to strengthen the accord, including by continuing our efforts to secure a legally binding framework. In taking on clear commitments and actions, we should recognise how far major developing countries have come in the past year. However, we must also seek to allay their concern that they will be constrained from growth and development by the demands of a legal treaty.

We must draw on the coalition between some of the world's richest developed countries and some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable developing countries, such as Ethiopia and the Maldives, all of which want a legally binding structure. Strengthening the accord also means that richer countries must make good on the promises made on fast-start finance and show that we can fully fund the longer-term goal of $100 billion, one of the tasks for the high-level panel on sources of revenue that was agreed in the accord.

Those efforts to make progress on substance must, in our view, be accompanied by reform of the process of decision making. The conference was held up by disagreements over procedure: which text negotiators should look at and whether, as in Kyoto, a representative group of countries could be formed to avoid having to discuss everything in a plenary of 192 nations. Those disputes about process meant that it was not until 3 am on Friday, the last day of a two-week conference, that substantive negotiations began on what became the Copenhagen accord. By then there was simply too little time to bridge some of the differences that existed. We need to find better ways of running the process of negotiation, so I welcome the UN Secretary-General's decision to look again at those issues.

We also welcome the decision by Chancellor Merkel to host a conference as part of the mid-year negotiations in Bonn, and we will work with the incoming Mexican presidency, which will be hosting the next conference in November. But dialogue and negotiations need to restart before June-something I made clear to Yvo de Boer, the executive secretary of the convention on climate change when I met him in London just before Christmas.

In looking back at Copenhagen, we must bear in mind that reaching agreement would inevitably be tough because we were seeking consensus among 192 countries. Like most ambitious efforts, it was always going to be difficult to succeed the first time round. However, we should not let frustration with the two weeks at Copenhagen-albeit justified-obscure the historic shift that this past year has marked.

I want to pay tribute in particular to the enormous effort of those in the UK, from the scientific community, civil society, British business and the general public, who have mobilised on climate change. Their ideas and energy helped to drive us forward over the past 12 months and during the Copenhagen conference itself. Let me assure them and the House that we are determined to strengthen and sustain the momentum behind the low-carbon transition in the UK. Building on our low-carbon transition plan, our world-leading policy on coal and
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our plans for nuclear, we will be making further announcements in the coming weeks and months on energy generation, household energy efficiency and transport. Following Copenhagen, as part of the work already ongoing on the road map to 2050, we are looking at whether further action is necessary to meet our low-carbon obligations, and we will report back by the time of the Budget. This will include looking at the advice of the Committee on Climate Change published last autumn.

Internationally, thanks in large part to the deadline of Copenhagen and the mobilisation behind it, every major economy of the world now has domestic policy goals and commitments to limit its greenhouse gas emissions, including the United States, China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, South Africa and, of course, the EU. Throughout the world, policy is now set to improve energy efficiency, to increase investment in low-carbon power, to develop hybrid and electric vehicles and smart grids, and to reduce deforestation.

So although Copenhagen did not meet our expectations, 2009 did see the start of a new chapter in tackling climate change across the world. This global shift might not yet have found international legal form, but scientific evidence, public opinion and business opportunity have made it irreversible. In 2010 and in the years ahead, this Government-and, I am sure, the vast majority in this House-are determined to ensure that we redouble our efforts to complete the unfinished business of Copenhagen.

Climate change remains the biggest global challenge to humankind, and it requires a global solution. We owe it to our children, their children and the generations to come to find it. The work has started, it will continue this year, and I believe that it will succeed. The fight against climate change will be won. I commend this statement to the House.

Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement, and for the briefing that he kindly gave me in advance of the Copenhagen summit. It is disappointing that the Prime Minister is not making this statement, however. He missed questions in the House in order to go to Copenhagen early, and it is surprising that he has chosen not to report to the House on what he accomplished there. The Secretary of State and I share the view that we need to see global action on climate change. If Copenhagen showed one thing, it was that the discussions should not end there, and that they must continue.

Before Copenhagen, we said that a rigorous deal should achieve three things. The first was a commitment to limiting warming to 2° C. The second was a clear focus on adapting to climate change and on finding a dependable mechanism to finance that. The third was urgent action to preserve the rain forests. On the first, the 2° C proposal was noted, as the Secretary of State said, but the accord is completely unclear about when emissions should be cut, and by how much. On the second, it is welcome that adaptation was so prominent in the discussions, but there is no clarity on the sources of finance. On the rain forests, there was once again discussion of the issue, but nothing that could be meaningfully described as a political deal, let alone a legal framework. By any objective assessment, therefore, Copenhagen was a flop.

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