Energy and Climate Change Committee - Pre-appointment hearing with the Government’s preferred candidate for Chair of the Committee on Climate Change - Minutes of EvidenceHC 555

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HOUSE OF COMMONS

ORAL EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE THE

ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE COMMITTEE

PRE-APPOINTMENT HEARING

TUESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER 2012

LORD DEBEN

Evidence heard in Public

Questions 1 - 35

USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Energy and Climate Change Committee

on Tuesday 4 September 2012

Members present:

Mr Tim Yeo (Chair)

Dan Byles

Barry Gardiner

Dr Phillip Lee

Albert Owen

Christopher Pincher

John Robertson

Laura Sandys

Sir Robert Smith

Dr Alan Whitehead

________________

Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Lord Deben gave evidence.

Chair: Good afternoon, and welcome. Thank you very much for coming in. This is our second meeting today, so we are well into the groove.

I think you asked to make an opening statement, but before you do I would just like to draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, in particular to companies involving renewable energy, neither of which, for the record, is eligible for or has business models assuming any support from taxpayers or consumers.

Barry Gardiner: May I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? I am the vice-president of an organisation of which Lord Deben is president, GLOBE International, although the post is unremunerated in any way.

Sir Robert Smith: I remind the Committee of my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests to do with the oil and gas industry, in particular a shareholding in Shell.

Q1 Chair: I think that concludes that. Do you want to carry on?

Lord Deben: Thank you for allowing me to say something at the beginning-it will be very short. It is simply, first of all, to pay tribute to the previous Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Adair Turner, and to the team itself-the Committee-for laying down what seems to me to be a most remarkable basis for the future. Being involved as I was in the creation of the Climate Change Act 2008, that is exactly what we expected and hoped for, which was that there would be a degree of scientific and economic understanding that would immediately gain the confidence of the nation, which I think we have; the determination to have rigour in what was being said; and an absolute determination not to be led astray on to things that were nothing to do with the Committee on Climate Change. I think that all of that has stood the Committee in good stead, and none of it would have been possible had it not been for David Kennedy and the team-a very remarkable team, often mentioned at the beginning of those documents that have been produced.

The second thing I wanted to say was that when it was first suggested to me that I was likely to be one of the finalists, so to speak, in the appointment system, I spoke with the authorities in both DECC and No. 10 as to what I should do about what interests I had that might appear to be conflicting. As a result of that, first of all I have relinquished my chairmanship of Corlan Hafren, which was the organisation designed to fight for the barrage on the Severn. Secondly, I made the changes that I mentioned in my note to you in response, Mr Chairman, to your request as far as what Sancroft does. Of course, almost everything that it does has no connection with the Committee on Climate Change, but there was one thing that I felt we ought to disengage from, and I said that.

Thirdly, if the Committee confirms my appointment, I would of course resign as chairman of Forewind, which is the organisation developing the wind farm on the Dogger Bank. I act as a kind of impartial independent, keeping four entirely different energy companies, each of which has got a quarter of the ownership from each other and with each other, which is a fascinating thing to do, and I will miss doing that.

You may say, "If these are so interesting and if you are proposing to reduce your income, why should you want do this job?" I just wanted to say why. I want to do it because I do believe there is no other material threat to our world more important than climate change, and that therefore all of us have a duty to do what we can to try to mitigate it and also to get the world to behave in a way that is likely to protect its future. I did that in my ministerial career. I just happened to look up again the foreword that I wrote for the first major document we did on climate change, in which I said very clearly then that if we can "confine the impact of change within a containable measure" we will act effectively, and if we cannot, "the effect could make the lives of our grandchildren immeasurably more difficult and perhaps threaten the future of the planet itself." That was back before Kyoto, so I have a long history of doing that.

Why do I think I could be more helpful, perhaps, than others? It is because I come from business; I have the respect of business; my business in Sancroft helps businesses to improve their corporate responsibility and they would not ask me or my team-which is quite a large team-to do that unless they thought that I understood the nature of business; but I also have an understanding of Whitehall and Westminster, which I think will be increasingly important as the stresses of recession and the like bring these contrasting differences and arguments to the fore. So that is why I want to do it.

Q2 Chair: Thank you. Do you think in what the Committee on Climate Change has done so far in its four-year history there is anything that could have been improved?

Lord Deben: I do not think it is like that, Mr Chairman, because I think that what it has done is to do first things first. Until it had established its scientific and economic credentials and a reputation for robust thought, I do not think it could move on to other things. But if you mean, "Are there things that it could now do?", yes, I do think there are some. First of all, I believe that in the Act itself it was mandated to have considerable public involvement in its thinking and in its actions. I think that is something that needs to be improved, because I do not think we have got many of those things over. I have noticed, frankly, in the people who have come up to me to congratulate me on my nomination a surprising lack of understanding as to what the Committee on Climate Change is, and that, I think, is something that does need to be attended to.

Secondly, we are moving into a different stage now, and if I look at the members of the Committee-I do hope we can keep a real sense of continuity; this is a very, very good team, and similarly with David Kennedy, and I would want to build on that rather than change it-I wonder whether we do not have a need for somebody who knows about behavioural science, because increasingly the problem is going to be to help people change behaviour. That is itself a science. There is a great deal of knowledge about that, and I do not think that at the moment any member of the Committee would say that that was their speciality. I would look to see if that could be improved.

The third thing I would hope to encourage is an even greater connection with the nationalities. It seems to me that in a situation where Scotland is doing better than the rest of the United Kingdom there is a great role for the Committee to learn from and share the best practice. There are particular issues in Northern Ireland with the all-Ireland policy, as well as a concern for a Northern Irish policy.

There are some areas there that I would like to see, but they are continuations of what has been done, not fundamental changes. I certainly would not have done any of those things before what has been done was done.

Q3 Chair: What are the criteria by which Scotland is doing better?

Lord Deben: Simply, in a number of areas, they have more ambitious targets. They have moved rather quicker in a number of areas, and they have some imaginative ideas, and I think we should share those ideas.

Q4 Chair: Give us some examples.

Lord Deben: Some of the work they are doing in the construction industry and house building, particularly on putting higher-quality environmental rules into social house building. Some of the ways in which they are hoping to finance that are particularly interesting.

Q5 Chair: In your judgment, doing better means having more ambitious targets?

Lord Deben: No, it means having more ambitious targets and meeting them. I do not think there is any point having targets you are not trying to meet. I have to say that, in some areas, they have taken more seriously the urgency of this issue. For me, the key concern is urgency. Your Committee has said again and again in its reports that there are areas where we really have to do things more quickly. If there are things we can learn from Scotland, I would like to do so.

Q6 Chair: To be precise, and your predecessor was extremely rigorous in his comments on these issues, what are the more ambitious targets in Scotland on which they are making faster progress than other parts of the UK?

Lord Deben: The particular one that I am attracted to is the desire to move on with the lower carbon economy. I am not being imprecise because I do not want to follow my predecessor; I am being imprecise because I want to be broad in my feeling. What the Scottish Government has managed to do is give the impression to the whole community that climate change demands action right across the board in a connected way. That is a very important lesson to learn. It seems to me that one of the problems in England is that climate change appears to demand action on specifics. We very often have a silo approach. Somehow or other, and I would like to get to the bottom of how they have done this because I think it is important, they have managed to get a feeling that this is something that impinges on everything that they are doing. That isn’t precise, no, but they have created that atmosphere, and I want to find out whether we could do that more effectively elsewhere.

Q7 Chair: So there wasn’t actually a target that you had in mind?

Lord Deben: No, except that their targets are, in some areas, more precise and higher-in some other areas, they are perhaps not so precise or high-but it is not that that has really made the difference. The thing that has made the difference is that, when you talk to people in the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, you get the feeling that they recognise that this is something that should be said at all points whenever you are making Government decisions. This Committee has said that about a number of its dealings with the United Kingdom Government.

Q8 Dan Byles: Lord Deben, you talk about having more ambitious targets and hitting them. You will be aware that some people are concerned about unilateral action and unilaterally tougher targets in the UK perhaps creating additional cost to UK business.

Do you see that balance as part of what your Committee would look at, or do you see the Committee’s role to be to push one side of the argument, as it were, on the need for robust targets and it being for other people to put the counter-argument about the costs for industry and competitiveness? Or will you seek to achieve that balance internally?

Lord Deben: I always find that argument to be a bad way to start the discussion, and I am sure you have found the same, because it suggests that there is inevitably a conflict between green policies and economic growth. My own view is that there is no such conflict. Indeed, the opposite is true: unless we grow in a green way, we won’t grow. I think our problem is that we have been very bad about explaining that to people. We have done something that I think is offensive, which is to shrug off any questions that are put up, as if people are in some way naive or ridiculous to come forward with them.

Secondly, I am absolutely and clearly a believer in free enterprise. It seems to me that although the Government have to set the framework in which business can operate, and NGOs have to set the standards and targets and press us forward all the time, it will be business that delivers the goods; no one else is going to do that. So we have to ensure that business recognises the connection between green growth and growth itself.

That leads to the third point, which is that the most important thing is for people to know where they are. I think the damaging thing is when business does not know the terms in which it is going to operate. About three weeks ago, I listened to the chairman of a major America-based company-one of the world’s biggest companies-speaking in London.

I had a copy of the speech; it is always interesting to follow what is in the written speech and what the person actually says. He interpolated a bit on climate change. In what he interpolated, he said that business has got to recognise that climate change is a business issue, because unless we do something about climate change, our businesses are not going to be here. For him, the question was not a contradictory one, but was part of the same issue. I do not think that I am prepared to make the distinction.

The fourth thing is specifically in terms of the rest of the world. As you know, I am president of GLOBE International, and I have had the opportunity of, in some sense, masterminding the document that we now produce every year, which is a comparative document showing what other countries are doing. The first thing is that we have a terrible view in this country that somehow we are the only people doing anything. Actually, when you look around the world-if you look at what China, Mexico or South Africa are doing-you begin to see a real pattern arising.

We have been able to influence those people because of what we are doing. In that sense, you do have to be ahead of the turn, if you are going to do that. In your own report on our relationships with China, you make the point that, apart from a certain lack of focus, the thing that has held us back is where it does not look as if we are being sufficiently demanding and have sufficient real ambition. I think that is tremendously important, because I have worked closely with the Chinese Government.

It is a mixture of knowing that we have to lead in order to have others follow and knowing that we have to do it in the most effective way so that it is cost effective. After all, I come from the cost-effective world, and that is what I believe in. I am a business man, and of course I want to do it in a cost-effective way and do not want to do things just for the sake of them. It is also about knowing that if we can get our economy into this form-not before other people, because some other people have done better than we have, but certainly as well as other people-we will guarantee growth. But we will not do any of that unless the business world in Britain is clear about what we are doing.

My biggest criticism at the moment is that there is an uncertainty. Again, it is to do with what you said when you reviewed the electricity market. The real problem is that unless you are certain about things, and unless people know where they are going to be in 10 years’ time, they are not going to invest for 10 years or 20 years. What you have been pursuing is exactly what I would hope to do.

Q9 Albert Owen: Can I take you back to the remark you made about best practice in devolved Administrations and meeting targets? You gave the example of Scotland. As a Welsh MP, I am sure that the Welsh Assembly will say that it has ambitious targets; some people would say too ambitious. Are you suggesting that Scotland has met those targets already? Are they just talking the talk?

My second question-if you could answer them both together-is how will you advise the Scottish Administration and other Administrations in your role? The UK will be measured as the UK on climate change in many ways. Will you be having regular meetings with individual Ministers-you mentioned joined-up thinking in the Scottish Government-or will you be talking with the First Ministers of each of the devolved Administrations?

Lord Deben: I am sure that in Ynys Môn there are all sorts of examples of people who say that the targets are too ambitious, but that is true about any valuable thing that you do, and one understands that. Wales has both some important things to show other people and some particular difficulties. The agricultural issues will be very important in climate change, for example. They are not covered by targets at this moment, but they will have to play a really important part in cutting emissions. It will be particularly difficult in Wales with its particular agricultural mix.

What I am really trying to signal is that this has to be a United Kingdom activity, but it also must be one in which the devolved Administrations play a full part. Obviously, in dealing with the devolved Administrations, it is proper practice to deal first with the First Ministers, because they are the people who, in the law, have the responsibility for both nominating to the Committee on Climate Change and indeed agreeing to its chairman. I would hope, however, that we would have a close enough relationship to-

Q10 Albert Owen: Sorry. My understanding was that, in Wales, it was the Environment Minister who nominated you.

Lord Deben: I think that, constitutionally, the way in which it is expressed, as far as I understand, is that it is the First Minister. However, I have no doubt that people can devolve the decision. Whoever it is, I would hope that we would get a close enough relationship to be able to talk to all those people, because this is a tough business. The more that we understand the toughness and the difficulties of the devolved Administrations, the better.

Q11 Albert Owen: You said that Scotland had good practice and that it is likely to meet its targets. Are you suggesting that the targets for England aren’t right or aren’t ambitious enough?

Lord Deben: If I may say so, you are not going to press me to say, "They’re better here and we’re better there and they’re doing that."

Q12 Albert Owen: You did.

Lord Deben: I am not. I am merely saying that I think there is a spirit in Scotland that is partially driven by some targets that are more ambitious, but it is fundamentally an understanding right across the Scottish Government. It is not just about this Scottish Government; I think it was true-I wasn’t close to it-previously, so it is not a new thing. It is not a party-political thing. It seems to be something that we could learn a lot from.

Q13 Chair: On that point, this will not hold the process up, but it would be useful if you could just send us a note about which targets you think that Scotland has got right and that England has not.

Lord Deben: Of course.

Q14 Barry Gardiner: In response to Mr Byles, you resisted being drawn into what you obviously saw as a false dichotomy between business interests and environmental interests, and I understand that. None the less, what Mr Byles was talking about in terms of conflict in this area is very real. One only needs to remember the conflict that there was in Cabinet over the 4th Carbon Budget. In 2014, if your appointment is ratified, that 4th Carbon Budget will be back for reconsideration by the Government. It may well be that there is conflict and very strident disagreement, at least among politicians, as to whether that budget should be implemented and followed.

I want to tease out from you what your role, as chair of the Committee on Climate Change, will be in such a situation of political conflict where there are real, genuine disagreements around the work of the Committee. What skills will you bring to bear? Which way will you be facing in your interlocutions either with Government or with the media in order to represent the Committee as chair?

Lord Deben: First of all, I am utterly committed to the independence of the Committee and the fact that the Committee reports to Parliament. It does not report to the Government, to DECC or to anyone else. It reports to Parliament. Therefore, I would be bound first to uphold that independence. The situation about the possible return to the 4th Carbon Budget is much more narrowly defined than has been put about. It is quite clear that it can only be returned to in any extensive way if certain clear situations have arisen. It will be for the Committee on Climate Change-not for anyone else-to declare whether those particular conditions have been met, and unless they have been met there is not a question of having in any sense a return to the budget.

The problem with the budget is very simple: the budget is as it is to achieve what is statutorily necessary, which is to cut our emissions by 80% by 2050. If you are going to do that, the steps on the way are very important. We come back to the issue that if you do not do early enough what you have to do, you only push it on to the next period, so I would be very conscious of that responsibility.

I am also very conscious that people often disagree with each other because of a lack of information. I would be keen to ensure that everybody was on the same page if we were to have that discussion. I will certainly be ensuring that I keep away from any of the newspapers’ suggestions that there is this side and that side and the other side and that he does not like that one and so on. It seems to me that I clearly have to be unconnected with that.

I would seek to find ways of defending the fundamentals all the time, defending the independence all the time and insisting on the role of the CCC all the time. If there are ways, however, of making it easier to meet the same ends in the same time scale, then of course one would look for those.

Q15 Sir Robert Smith: You have already touched in part in your opening remarks on dealing with the perception that people may have of you having a stronger background on the environment than in business. In your role, you will obviously have to communicate with NGOs, business and Ministers. Will you expand on where you see that public perception of your abilities and how you would gain the confidence of the business community?

Lord Deben: That may be a perception, but if it is a perception it is one that has arisen unconnected with the facts. Until I got into Parliament I was a business man. I ended up as the chairman of a medium-sized publicly-quoted company. I have earned my living all my life in that way. Since I left office, I have spent my time working with some of the biggest companies in the world and they rely on my discretion, my ability and my contribution. Of course, that is increasingly being done by my team; I have a big team of people who do that.

There is no doubt that people in the business world have been willing to respect the fact that I want business to succeed. I want it to succeed not only because I happen to hold that view in life, but also because, as I said to Mr Byles earlier, unless business succeeds, we will not win this battle.

We have to ensure that the development of a sustainable economy and a low-carbon future is done in a way so that business can contribute fully to it, because otherwise it will not happen. That is my view and it is widely known. I have never found it a question in dealing with the business community. Although there may be some who, perhaps because of their closeness to Parliament, think of me as an environmentalist, outside of Parliament that is not really the truth. Indeed, I have to sometimes remind the NGOs that we are in the real world and not in a world where we wave a wand and all the things that we would like to happen will happen. So I will just have to go on being what I am-a business man.

Q16 Sir Robert Smith: Obviously, the role is a communications role in many ways, about the importance of the message coming from the Committee. Do you not think, therefore, that there might be some concern among commentators who may be hostile to what is coming from the Committee and try to paint it as, "Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he, because he came into the role with a strong environmental connection?"?

Lord Deben: Sir Robert, there are those who will try to rubbish any attempt to deal with climate change, wherever it comes from. They are the same people-you and I could write that list without any difficulty, and I doubt whether there would be a name left off it if we did it now-who have really got a conflict of interest, because that is how they proceed in their public life; it is part of their persona. They are going to attack anyone who is chairman of this Committee, and they will find different ways of doing it.

All I say is that, if they try to attack me on the basis that I am not very close to understanding business and have come from business, then they will find that an attack that will not stick because it is not true and, in the end, truth will out. But I do not think that any of us should kid ourselves. As these things become more controversial and as individual decisions are made, we must not kid ourselves that those who are professionally opposed to climate change and do not believe it is happening will not cause as much trouble as possible, but that’s life and we have to face that.

Q17 Laura Sandys: Lord Deben, you have a five-year term, which will take us across a general election. We do not know what the result of that will be, but it might mean a change in Government. On that basis, do you feel that your party political affiliation might cause communication with Ministers and your ability to galvanise Government and different Departments to be a challenge?

Lord Deben: I am very lucky in the sense that, first of all, when I ceased to be the Secretary of State for the Environment, the incoming Labour Government asked me to go to Kyoto, and I was not only very closely involved with Lord Prescott at that time but also was allowed by him to do many of the public statements on his behalf. I do not think that one would feel that he is a pushover for Tories, but that was okay.

I was also lucky enough to be asked to help with the work done under Mrs Beckett and Ed Miliband-all I am saying is that I had their confidence-and one of my two sponsors is former Labour Cabinet Minister Chris Smith. I do not think that in this area I am thought of, and people certainly should not think of me, as party political-in this area I think that I have established a reputation that shows I am not.

Q18 Laura Sandys: Obviously, the previous chairman was a Cross Bencher and very much seen as being politically independent, but you do not feel that that would compromise any of your relationships with Ministers or your ability to persuade Departments to achieve what they need to achieve.

Lord Deben: No, I don’t, and if I did then I would not have put my name forward, because the independence of this Committee is crucially important. I have even thought about whether one should sit as a Cross Bencher in the House of Lords, but it seemed to me that that would be a sort of tokenism, which I am not given to. People know where I come from and, even when I was Secretary of State for the Environment, a whole lot of organisations-whether the BBC or Friends of the Earth-complimented me in the sense of saying that I was not party political on this issue. I therefore do not think that that would make a difference, and as I said, I do not like tokenism.

Q19 John Robertson: What guidance have you been given by DECC on dealing with the potential conflicts of interest?

Lord Deben: I am sorry; I did not catch the first bit.

Q20 John Robertson: What guidance have you been given by DECC on dealing with the potential conflicts of interest?

Lord Deben: Well, Mr Robertson, it was not so much by DECC as by No. 10, it being not a departmental Committee, but I went through all my interests and we agreed what were the ones that seemed to have some connection here. I have followed that entirely-indeed, I have gone slightly further.

Q21 John Robertson: How would you deal with accusations that perhaps your Committee’s advice was being influenced by your own or your family’s financial interests-or, for that matter, No. 10’s?

Lord Deben: I do not think there will be any financial or other interests that will remain when I have completed the things that I have already told the Committee. My family does not have any financial or other interests of the kind that could possibly come into this. Of course, if something should arise in the future-something that I have not come across; something that somebody starts to do that I did not know about-I will take the same rather tough measures on this.

There is an issue, isn’t there? If you are going to have somebody do a job like this effectively, they have got to know something about it. If they know something about it and they care about it, it is likely that they have done things in that area before. You can always have somebody who does not have any interests at all, but they probably do not know anything about it, or at least they are not enthusiastic enough to have bothered to do anything in that area.

So there is a balance to be got, but I think by removing myself from the energy companies of which I speak and changing the relationships on the question that I specifically wrote to the Committee about, and because of the fact that my family is in a position of not having any interest here, I do not think anybody could properly say-it may be that there are some people who will say it in any case-that I have any interests that would pervert my views. To be frank, Mr Robertson, if I may say this, I was a Minister for 16 years and was criticised and attacked for most things, but the one thing I was never criticised or attacked for was bringing personal interests into the decisions that I made.

Q22 John Robertson: I probably did some of the attacking.

You will appreciate that your Committee will be a very important one, particularly to this Select Committee, and we look forward to working with you in the years ahead, but we do not want to see the CCC being undermined by people, particularly if you are making important decisions that may go against the Government of the day. We want to make sure that we are happy with what your Committee is going to bring forward and we can support it as well, because I believe that this Committee has worked well with the CCC in the past and we want to do that in the future.

Lord Deben: I very much hope we will. When thinking about coming in front of this Committee-which is quite frightening if you have never properly done it before, as in my case-I reminded myself that the very first connection I ever had with Select Committees was a public argument with Enoch Powell, who did not believe in the setting up of Select Committees.

I remember the argument that we had. He suggested that I did not understand how Parliament worked-I was a relatively new Member of Parliament at the time-and I said, "Well, that may be, but the thing that I have noticed from the outside is that Parliament is very often criticised because its Members lack the ability to get down into the detail of issues so that they can give proper advice. It seems to me that the Select Committee is exactly that, and can therefore perform," say I to Enoch Powell, "a very important task."

I did not get anywhere with him on that, but I think that I was right and I think the Committee has a really important role to play. I would hope that the Committee would feel it possible to spare time to enable me, if I am confirmed, to meet with you when it is convenient, to talk about the issues that are clearly of mutual interest.

Q23 Albert Owen: Like you, I want to get a proper perspective on the potential conflicts of interest here. When you were shortlisted, you had a discussion with No. 10, but would the Department have-

Lord Deben: And with DECC, yes.

Q24 Albert Owen: We have had a letter from the Secretary of State at DECC, stating the procedure. Areas were identified that might be a potential conflict of interest, and you volunteered to step aside on those. Can you remind us of those ones-I did listen to your opening statement-and why you think you should remain on the others? I need some clarification.

Lord Deben: Most of the things I do have no connection with the Committee on Climate Change. As I explained, Sancroft, the company that I chair and set up, does all sorts of things, and of course it is not that I do it. Working in three continents, we help people do such things as getting their supply chain right to ensure that they don’t have improperly paid labour. We make sure their fire doors aren’t locked and all those sorts of issues in many areas. We also try to help people deal with things like obesity and how they should think about their formulations in that area. So it is a specialist business with nearly 20 people involved all the time, and it is growing. I couldn’t possibly do most of the things that it does because I am not a specialist. In that business, no one identified anything that they thought was a conflict, but there was this one thing that I mentioned to you in my letter. That was something that, simply because it involved talking to DECC, I thought was better not done in future. That is why I did that.

The other two things were both energy-related. People might say that it would be difficult to discuss tidal contribution to our future energy needs if I were the chairman of Corlan Hafren. I do not deny my belief that tidal is an important part of the future, but it is much better not to be connected with it. Similarly with Forewind, which is an offshore wind company, people might think that I was more inclined to be supportive of offshore wind. Therefore, I will resign from that chairmanship. Of course, in both those cases, no longer having any interest-when I say resign, I have also gotten rid of any shares that I may have had, so that I am totally unconnected-it seems to me that one is in a stronger position because I understand the problems of offshore wind farms.

Q25 Albert Owen: I have known you a long time. I know your interests, and I know your experience, but all I am saying is that you were sitting down with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and you are saying, "I shall stand aside from these three companies." Although you don’t think there is a real interest, that is the way you have described it. What about some of the others? I think that is a fair question to ask about the water companies, for instance. There are environmental and climate change implications there.

Lord Deben: I have looked at the water company. I am chairman of a water company, but the major job of the water company is putting in meters for other water companies. It does not own any water companies any longer; it sold those. If you look at what it does, it really has no connection at all. And if I thought it even had a remote connection, I would make that change. I think this job is too important to jeopardise in that way, but I can assure you that I have been through that very carefully.

Q26 Albert Owen: And they are very happy that your stepping down from those three companies is sufficient and that you are not breaking any of the Nolan principles or other Cabinet Office diktat?

Lord Deben: They have accepted that what I have done is precisely what ought to be done in both cases.

Q27 Albert Owen: You said, and I will finish on this, that you are giving up a lot of financial interests by stepping down from those companies. This is an issue that was raised earlier, but, politically, would you, for instance, still take the Whip in the House of Lords and be whipped on environmental issues? That is an important question. You said that you want to remain a Tory till you die. Those are not quite your words, but I am paraphrasing you. If there were a very narrow vote in the House of Lords on some of these issues, what would you do?

Lord Deben: Can I just say two things about that? First, I did not say that I will remain a Tory until I die, although I suspect I will. I merely said that I do not think it is right to pretend that you are other than you are. I do not think people trust you if you do that. Therefore, that is why I do not do so.

Your question would be better asked of my Whip, because he knows perfectly well that I haven’t followed the Whip on environmental matters ever since I have been there, so it will not make any difference.

Q28 Albert Owen: I don’t often follow the Whips on certain issues either, but that is not the question I am asking. The question I am asking is whether you would not vote on something specifically because you think there is a conflict of interest. That is a direct question. If there are issues on energy and the Government are pushing something through, would you abstain on principle because you are the Chairman of this Committee?

Lord Deben: If I thought that a particular proposal was damaging to the environment and particularly to our battle against climate change, I would not abstain; I would vote against it. I do not think you can abstain on issues such as this.

Q29 Albert Owen: But you are still going to take the Whip in the House of Lords.

Lord Deben: The Committee on Climate Change does not say very much about whether we should have a smaller number of constituencies and whether we should do a whole range of things. I think I can perfectly reasonably take the Whip.

Q30 Albert Owen: I understand that you are enjoying this knockabout. I don’t mean it to be like that. What I am saying is that your predecessor was a Cross Bencher and did not align himself with a party Whip. You have said that you will remain a Conservative Member of the House of Lords. I am suggesting that on environment issues, would you consider not voting because of your role?

Lord Deben: I think I am going a little further than you are suggesting. I think that on environmental, as on all other issues, I shall make up my own mind as to what I wish to do. As far as the environment is concerned, I have a record of voting in a way involved entirely in what I thought was right for the environment rather than any Whip that I have had. I shall continue to do that. It would be foolish to do otherwise. I do not think that merely abstaining is satisfactory.

Q31 Albert Owen: Okay. How about making a statement that you will not vote on this because there might be potential conflict with being chairman?

Lord Deben: I would certainly do that. Yes, of course I would. There are occasions when that would be the case, of course. If the issue were not the issue of the environment but was one of conflict of interest, of course on all occasions one should do that. I hope I have always done it on other things in any case. I have always been very careful about any interests that I may have otherwise.

Q32 Albert Owen: But you are going to retain the Whip.

Lord Deben: I am going to continue to sit as a Conservative.

Q33 Dr Whitehead: We mentioned the fourth carbon budget and the fact that it has been adopted. We also know that current policies will clearly not be sufficient to deliver the emissions savings to meet that fourth carbon budget. What do you think is the main area, if it is required now, to match emissions to that budget? And what do you consider the Committee on Climate Change’s role in keeping our noses to the grindstone as far as getting to 2050 is concerned?

Lord Deben: The most immediate thing, of course, is the EMR. Getting that right and making that effective is very important. We also have a responsibility before the end of the year to bring shipping and aviation within the system. Although that does not make an immediate impact, because it is already allowed for in the way in which the targets have been set in future, it is still a crucially important symbol and it needs to be brought there. Indeed, it is quite difficult to argue in EUTS and other circumstances unless we have done that. That is also true.

On the issue of EMR, we have to ensure that we cover the serious problem, which was not true three years ago. That is the divorce between those for whom these issues are really about energy security and those for whom these issues are really about emission reduction. For some time, we have been able to discuss these as if these were the two same things, Dr Whitehead. I think you have said in the past, and I certainly believe it, that you must never use the wrong excuse for what you are trying to do. You must actually say what you are trying to do. We are not trying to do this primarily for energy security, although energy security is a crucial thing, but for the long-term energy security, which is to be able to run our society in the way we want to run it at a cost that will not destroy the planet.

I am not a puritan; I don’t want a miserable life; I don’t take the open-toed sandals and the idea that we would all be morally better if we were colder. I have always thought that was an unhelpful way of looking at these things. It is still true to say that there are some people who have veered off the necessary steps, because they now think that there are other ways of achieving energy security. That is going to be one of the central issues. The role of gas, particularly in the present world, is going to be a very crucial one to get right. That is why getting the terms of the EMR right is crucial.

Dr Whitehead: I must confess to wearing open-toed sandals on my recent holiday.

Lord Deben: It was not a personal attack, I assure you.

Q34 Dr Whitehead: No, no. They were a fine pair of sandals.

You said earlier that unless we grow in a green way, we are not going to grow. But I am sure that you are fully conversant with the discussion on growth itself. How would you define green growth under those circumstances?

Lord Deben: At the heart of it, it is that phrase that I think is useful: doing more with less. One of the things that we have to learn is that we are a world of finite resources. If we are going to continue to have standards of living to which we have become accustomed, and other people wish to become accustomed, we can deliver that only by using fewer resources. We have had 200 to 250 years of productivity improvements largely by reducing the number of people. We are not short of people, but we are very short of resources. We have done that by using and raiding our resources to a large degree.

My problem in this is that I often find that environmentalists have done damage to their case by talking about people or about running out of things. That is not the issue. The issue is, in a world in which resources are finite, we have a responsibility to use them as effectively as we can. The quicker we have a green economy, the more we will be doing these things at a lower price, with less likelihood of shortage with a greater ability to deliver. Therefore, that is where the growth will come from. If we go on relying on, let’s say, rare earths to a point that we run out of them, we become puppets to those who have those resources. It is in that whole area that I see the growths. We have to grow, because we are going to have to feed 9 billion people. They are not going to want to be fed in a subsistence way, and they are not going to want to be housed in a subsistence way, nor do we have a moral right to demand that they are.

I do say to those who are sceptical about climate change that, really, there is no need to argue about climate change, because we have to do all these things anyway if we are going to meet a world that has 9 billion people. What we have to do for climate change, we have to do in any case. Therefore, if, within that, we are going to have the growth we need, it has to be green. In other words, it has to use fewer and fewer scarce resources to create more and more. Technology and science are going to be crucial to that.

I come back to the Committee on Climate Change itself. The importance of the science, not just straightforward natural sciences, but the science of economics and, in my view, behavioural science, is crucial. The report that was done last year by Ipsos MORI for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the public’s appreciation of science is very interesting. Nearly 80% of the public interviewed were willing to know more about science, wanted to know more about it and felt themselves not satisfactorily given the tools to make these decisions and to be supportive of scientific knowledge. Only 20% had a deep-seated opposition to the whole question of science. This we really have to break through. People have to be able to access this, because only in that way can we get the sort of society that increasingly finds technological ways to produce more with less.

Q35 Chair: Lord Turner expressed concern that the Government’s emissions performance standard might risk too much gas-fired generation instead of lower carbon investment. What do you think about that?

Lord Deben: I would entirely agree with Lord Turner’s comments and indeed supported them at the time. It is a temptation that we have to ensure is not given into. That comes back to the issue that I raised with Dr Whitehead, which is that we have to distinguish between the demands of energy security and the demands of reducing emissions in a low-carbon economy. The more that we can seek to have carbon capture and storage, the more we are able to use gas. The less we have that, although gas will play a part, we cannot have a situation in which gas makes it impossible for us to meet the target. That comes back to something that you yourself have talked about, which is infrastructure.

If you create infrastructure to meet an interim problem, at the end of that problem, you still have that infrastructure. That continues to drive your policy, so you have to be careful about saying, "For the short term, we can do this, and we will do the other later on." Getting that balance right was a warning that Adair Turner was right to make.

Chair: Okay. Does anyone have any other points that they want to raise? All right. Thank you very much for your time.

Lord Deben: Thank you.

Prepared 8th September 2012