6.17 pm

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I of course loved the speech of the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) on an excellent maiden speech.

I am very pleased to be speaking on climate change. My constituency of Twickenham has many homes at risk of flooding. Most Twickenham residents are very aware of their carbon footprint and know the three Rs of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. People come to Twickenham because of the quality of life, and it is also a destination place for heroes.

As hon. Members will know, the previous MP, Dr Vince Cable, is highly respected and was a brilliant local constituency MP. He was also in the Cabinet, and the apprenticeship programme for which he was responsible has benefited Twickenham greatly. He served Twickenham for 18 years, and I am very privileged to follow on from that record. I am also very privileged to follow on from Toby Jessel, who served Twickenham for 27 years. I may be the first woman MP for Twickenham, I may be the first woman MP from one of my university colleges, I may be the first Conservative MP from my school, but I am not the first Twickenham MP to put Twickenham residents first in everything they do in Parliament.

On that note, I was saddened to read Toby Jessel’s maiden speech. When he made it in 1970, he mentioned that aircraft noise was a problem for Twickenham residents. In the 21st century, it is still a problem for Twickenham residents. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, three quarters of a million people suffer from Heathrow noise pollution of 55 dB, and a quarter of a million people suffer from Heathrow noise pollution of 57 dB. We know that noise pollution is related to cardiovascular

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events such as stroke and heart attacks. I am against Heathrow expansion. I am against night flights. Twickenham residents deserve a better quality of life.

Nevertheless, Twickenham is still a great place to live. We are top for culture. We are top for sport. We are top for science. Noel Coward was born in my constituency. JMW Turner built a house in my constituency and painted the River Thames from his back garden. Eel Pie Island has hosted the best bands. Olympic canoeists train on my part of the River Thames. Olympic athletes train on Twickenham’s running tracks and we will be hosting the rugby world cup. Furthermore, no laboratory is better than the laboratories in Twickenham: the National Physical Laboratory and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist.

Beyond all that, we are a place for heroes. Teddington Lock is where the little ships assembled before going to Dunkirk, but I want to talk about the unknown heroes and heroines in Twickenham. Many years ago, when I first came to Twickenham, one of my neighbours, Jack Green, was the perfect neighbour: he would not invite me in for a cup of tea—it was always a glass of whisky. As he stood in his living room, his wife Winnie would wander in and out. She did not know who she was. She did not know where she was. She had dementia. Every time she came into the room, Jack would smile and say something cheery. When he died, we realised he had looked after her 24 hours a day and never ever asked for help. He was an unknown hero.

That is why I support the Care Act 2014. We need to identify these carers. That is why I support health and social care integration. Unknown heroes and heroines need help.

I have worked in the NHS for many years and there are many heroes and heroines in the NHS, but the NHS needs more of our help. I want people to choose the NHS first. By that I mean top cleaners should choose to work in the NHS first. Top administrators and top managers should choose the NHS first. All our scientists should think about working in the NHS first because we need more heroes and heroines in the NHS.

Madam Deputy Speaker, when you come to Twickenham, as you surely must, I will show you the memorial to the little ships that assembled before going to Dunkirk. Then I will take you to the Memorial hospital in Teddington. As you walk around the constituency, know that you are brushing shoulders with unknown heroes and heroines because that is what defines Twickenham.

6.22 pm

Chris Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab): I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to address the House for the first time. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) not only for their maiden speeches but for setting the bar so high. I also pay tribute to my predecessor as Member for City of Chester, Stephen Mosley, who will be missed in this House, not least because he was here so often. He was justly proud of his record as one of the most active Members in the Chamber, always, as he would put it, championing Chester. He was very proud of our city. For me, however,

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his greater contribution was his work, so often undervalued, on the Select Committee on Science and Technology promoting the importance of science across Government and beyond. As a non-scientist, I recognise that that is an area where the UK still has a world-leading position that must be protected. Indeed, in the area of climate change, our scientific expertise should present an opportunity, as much as man-made climate change is a threat. My right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) talked about the potential for a revolution in engineering.

I therefore urge consideration of two issues related to today’s debate. First, those in our academic science sector must be given the support to take their research wherever it takes them. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge and learning for the sake of learning are as sound foundations as any on which to base scientific research. Secondly, when technological applications spin off our science base into industry, we must maximise the return to the UK by ensuring that the full value of that innovation remains in the UK. The value of any product is in the knowledge that is used to create it, but also in the skills used to manufacture it. We must retain the value of that product by retaining high-tech manufacturing in the UK and resisting the short-term appeal of low-cost manufacturing countries that allow the value added by our science base to seep out of Britain over the years.

I grew up in rural Cheshire, and my happy childhood within a strong family and community has shaped much of my outlook. I now live in the county town, Chester, and it remains a wonderful place to live, and especially to visit. I urge all hon. Members to spend a weekend there, to walk along the banks of the River Dee; to visit Chester races, one of the oldest racecourses in the country; to visit Chester zoo, where the North of England Zoological Society does so much globally leading work in conservation and ecological research; and to enjoy the rich history of my city.

We are very proud of our history in Chester, dating from the Roman era. Deva, to give Chester its Roman name, was host to a Roman garrison for 400 years, and the remains of the Roman amphitheatre and gardens are still a sight to behold today. The city walls date originally from this time, but they have been rebuilt many times since. In the middle ages, every village nearby needed a giant to scare off evil spirits, and Chester was a centre for giant-making. We still have a giants parade through the city even today.

Chester is also a centre for the financial services. MBNA, Bank of America, M&S Bank and Lloyds Banking Group all have major presences in the city, and I urge any business looking to invest or relocate to consider the merits of Chester—its beauty, its quality of life, its transport links, its skilled workforce and, if I may, its enlightened electorate.

But it is to Chester’s manufacturing base that I wish to turn, particularly in the context of this debate. In the immediate vicinity we have major employers such as Airbus, Vauxhall-General Motors and Toyota, some of which I am proud to have worked with when I was an official of the Unite trade union. These top-level businesses generate skills and value for the area and drive growth through the supply chain. Our manufacturing sector has shown adaptability and innovation in responding to the increased threat posed to the planet by climate

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change. The successful employers in my area that I have mentioned have responded not just in the products that they make but in the way in which they make them. Innovation in design and investment in skills are good for the environment and good for the economy.

Yet industry can respond to the challenges of climate change only if we have the skills to do so. Ours should be a high-skill, high-wage economy, not least because the richest and most successful countries are those with the highest wages and the highest skills. Top-level businesses can drive growth through the supply chain, and we should look to other countries that have policies that are constant, not stop-start, and long term, not short term.

Our skills base can create decent skills through proper apprenticeships and through engineering and science, not through cheap and cheerful qualifications that have little genuine value at the end. Sadly, it seems that the Government’s industrial policy and priorities at the moment are focused on further attacking trade unions rather than on building skills and building partnerships involving employers and employees to achieve common aims together.

With its history, heritage and culture, our leisure and shopping in the city, including the famous rows, and our financial services and manufacturing, Chester should be a model of a successful mixed economy. It is my home and the area where I grew up, and today I pledge my commitment to my constituents to serve them with diligence, fairness and good grace, and never to lose a sense of my gratitude nor lose sight of the honour they have bestowed upon me.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I have to reduce the time limit to three minutes. I am sorry that not everybody will be able to be called this afternoon, but we have had some excellent maiden speeches.

6.28 pm

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I will use the first part of my three minutes to congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) and my near neighbour the hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) on their excellent maiden speeches this afternoon.

We have had Opposition day debates on energy many times over the past five years, and I am delighted to say that this is one of the first motions that I am happy at least not to oppose, even if we are not going to vote for it. Climate change clearly matters to us all, and it is worth reflecting on why the solution is so difficult. Why is the world struggling to keep the increase at 2° C or keep the level of carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million?

It is important to understand the context: the UK is responsible for 1.5% of global emissions. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), in an interesting speech, made the point that the initial submissions for the EU offer on climate change are significantly less onerous than those in our own Climate Change Act 2008. That is something we will have to fix in Paris, because it is not right. Emissions in the UK are, roughly speaking, 30% lower than those in Holland and Germany, and they are among the lowest in the EU.

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France has very low emissions—even lower than Scotland—because it has civil nuclear power at the heart of its energy production. The issue we have is how to get the rest of Europe and the rest of the world to do anything that comes close to the 2008 Act’s 80% emission target by 2050.

Four things have made that more difficult than it needs to be. First, we have confused renewables with decarbonisation. We have gone after renewables targets when we should have been going after decarbonisation targets. The impact has been that we have not spent enough time on either carbon capture and storage or nuclear power. We also have not spent enough time looking at gas as a very viable alternative to coal. I will mention just one statistic as I wrap up in the last 30 seconds. If the world were able to replace all our coal with gas, that would be equivalent to increasing the amount of renewables we have by a factor of five. Those who oppose fracking need to think about that. This is a very serious issue and it will not be solved by slogans.

6.31 pm

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab): At the weekend I met Action/2015 campaigners in Bristol, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), to discuss inequality, poverty and climate change. Tomorrow night I will be meeting members of UK Youth Climate Coalition to talk to them about how they can lobby MPs, and next Wednesday we will be lobbied by those taking part in the Big Climate Summer rally. I hope that this means we are seeing climate change back firmly on the political agenda.

The Labour Government led the way with the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act has now, in one form or other, been adopted by 99 countries around the world. Since then, however, the UK has stepped off the international stage. We failed to push for a stand-alone climate change goal in the sustainable development goals, we have not secured the ambitious EU targets we need, and at home the Government failed to include a 2030 target to decarbonise the power sector in its Energy Bill.

Any deal reached in Paris should include a goal to phase out fossil fuel emissions and a transition to a low carbon global economy by 2050. It is very good news that the G7 has decided that the decarbonisation of the global economy should be completed by the end of this century. As a step towards this, will the Energy Secretary commit to phasing out coal without carbon capture technology by 2023?

Back in 2010, the coalition agreement talked about becoming

“champions for British companies that develop and support innovative green technologies around the world, instead of supporting investment in dirty fossil-fuel energy production.”

That did not happen, however. Earlier this year, figures obtained by The Guardian through a freedom of information request showed that UK Export Finance gave £1.13 billion in export credits to “dirty” energy operations abroad, compared with just £3.6 million to clean energy—and £3.2 million of that was for a single deal, an offshore wind farm in Germany. Joining the USA and France in stopping support for coal through export credits would send a strong signal to the rest of the G7 and G20.

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May I ask the Minister to comment on last week’s report by a UN panel of experts released to coincide with UN environment day, which ranked products, resources, economic activities and transport according to their environmental impacts? The experts concluded that both energy and agriculture needed to be decoupled from economic growth if we are to meet our climate goals. Agriculture is on a par with fossil fuel consumption because both rise rapidly with increased economic growth. Environmental impacts rise roughly 80% with a doubling of income. That is simply unsustainable. By 2050, global consumption of meat and dairy is expected to have risen by 76% and 65% against a 2005-07 baseline. That is simply incompatible with the objective of limiting warming to 2°.

The final point I would like to make in the very limited time available to me is that the Financing For Development conference in Addis Ababa in July is very important. Will the Minister urge the Chancellor to attend?

6.34 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) on his excellent maiden speech and his generous tribute to Stephen Mosley. I would very much reiterate his comments. I also congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) on their fantastic maiden speeches. The Conservative party is in extremely good hands with such people on our Benches.

In the short time I have, I would like to concentrate on why I believe the issue of climate change is so important. My reasons come from a very practical standpoint. I lived in Tanzania for 11 years on Mount Kilimanjaro and I saw the diminution of the glaciers there, which continues to this day. I also worked—I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—in small-scale agriculture, and I saw the impact on smallholder farmers across the world of both erratic rainfall and unseasonable events, such as hail storms that could destroy crops and droughts that could mean they had no crops at all. That is why adaptation is so critical, and the work of the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Department for International Development is incredibly important.

My approach is also practical in the area of distribution. We have talked about generation quite a lot, but the distribution of power is vital, which is why I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to mention smart grids and interconnectors between the UK and elsewhere, allowing us to balance generation both within the UK and across Europe.

Finally, I would like to reiterate the comment made by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) about high energy-intensive users. We have to be practical. We do not want imported carbon emissions. We have a large trade deficit, and perhaps one reason our carbon emissions have decreased over the past 20 years is that we have a substantial deficit in manufactured goods. As we seek to increase our trade and cut that deficit, we might see an increase in emissions related to those exports, despite the energy

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efficiency of our industries. We have to adopt a practical approach, like the French and Germans do. We also have to remember that our house-building programme, which is vital, depends on the availability and manufacture of bricks and tiles in this country, often from Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, part of which I represent. We have to make sure that we do not drive the manufacture of those products overseas by policies that might have those unfortunate consequences.

6.37 pm

Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): Climate change is development in reverse. A changing climate threatens the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world, and it is one of the gravest development challenges we face. Global warming slows growth and creates new poverty traps for families and communities already struggling to survive. Failing to tackle it will not only stifle progress on poverty alleviation, but cause millions of people to fall back into poverty. If temperatures continue to rise on current trends up to 2030, Malawi, Uganda and Zambia alone face an increase in poverty of up to one third.

When someone’s very survival is under threat from failed crops or natural disasters, from thriving diseases or conflict over resources, economic development and other priorities become a romantic ideal. The recent news of the agreement by the G7 fully to decarbonise the global economy should be welcomed by all sides, but the lack of more immediate binding targets from the world’s richest nations points to a profound lack of global leadership. The news from Bonn that negotiations are floundering just six months from what must be a historic climate change agreement is also deeply worrying.

There is an opportunity coming up to address this matter, but it is not in December in Paris; it is in September at the sustainable development goals conference. It would allow us to set binding targets that are achievable in our own lifetimes and during our own political careers. Therefore, I urge the Secretary of State and her counterpart in DFID to ensure in September that the climate change situation remains a stand-alone goal in the post-2015 sustainable development goals, with the 2° target embedded in the language. Although I welcome her to her position, I was disappointed that she did not get the opportunity to speak about the September conference in her opening remarks. Environmental sustainability should be integrated in the attendant targets. We need measures on mitigation and adaptation and we need to make sure that both are adequately funded.

It is vital that the UK Government lead by example and push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of progress made towards the 2° goal. The poorest people in the poorest parts of the world deserve nothing less.

6.39 pm

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): We have had an excellent, if short, debate on this vital issue. I begin by welcoming the Secretary of State to her role and the Minister of State, who will be replying to the debate, to hers. I would like to compliment all Members who made their maiden speeches—the hon. Members

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for Braintree (James Cleverly) and for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) and my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson). We all enjoyed hearing three excellent maiden speeches. I am sure that their constituents will enjoy reading them and will enjoy their contributions over this Parliament and into the future.

We have heard some excellent speeches from across the House. We know that the global climate is warming and that human activity is contributing to that change. That is solid, established scientific fact, which even the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) accepted. As global temperatures increase, so do the associated risks of drought, forest fires, the melting of the polar ice caps, sea-level rise and flooding. The consequential devastating impact of such risks on people around the world is obvious.

The fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, completed in 2014, makes it clear that to control these risks, we have to limit global temperature rise. That is why 2° of warming has long been accepted by economists, climate scientists and world Governments as the level above which the risks associated with climate change become unacceptably high. Dangerous climate change beyond 2° means natural disasters and human suffering on a massive scale in the decades ahead.

We in the UK will not be immune. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change here, with increasing incidence of severe weather events such as the flooding of winter 2013. Indeed, the chance of a catastrophic flood happening in England within the next two decades, causing in excess of £10 billion in damage, is one in 10, so inaction is not an option—a point with which the Secretary of State agreed.

This year will be a critical one for efforts to keep global climate change below 2° of warming. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Paris at the end of this year are a massive opportunity to get Governments from all over the world to agree to binding emissions reduction targets. This is a moment when politicians world wide need to be ambitious about what we can achieve through international co-operation. That will include agreeing in September a stand-alone commitment to combat climate change in the sustainable development goals, as my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) said. It also means pushing for success in Paris in December, with all nations committing to emission reduction targets for the first time. More work needs to be done, however. Based on the pledges made by Governments so far, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) said, global warming would be limited only to around 3°—insufficient to prevent the worst possible consequences of climate change.

Prior to the Kyoto talks in 1997, there was concern that the world lacked enough ambition. It was Lord Prescott and a newly elected Labour Government, leading from within the EU bloc, who fought for the toughest target possible. The UK has done it before and we have to do it again. I hope Ministers and the Secretary of State will rise to that challenge, as Lord Prescott did.

We welcome the historic commitment by the G7, led by Germany, to agree to phase out fossil fuels by the end of the century, but let us be clear—that is 85 years from now, and the truth is that it would be better if we were able to go faster. That is why our own domestic

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targets, enshrined in the Climate Change Act 2008, commit the UK to an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.

We need the UK Government to push for ambitious emission reduction targets for all countries, which the Secretary of State said she would. We need them strengthened every five years, based clearly on the scientific evidence, which she also accepted. We need to see net zero global emissions in the second half of this century, alongside transparent and universal rules for measuring them, which apply to all nations. It is simply not enough just to set targets if each country has a totally different method of accounting for its carbon emissions. Again, the Secretary of State appeared to be sympathetic to that call.

We also need a global deal that recognises the unique responsibilities of each nation. Richer countries that have played a far greater role in contributing to global emissions need to support and empower poorer nations, so that they can combat climate change and deal with its consequences. That point was made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), whom I welcome to his Front-Bench responsibilities.

Let us be clear: such a deal would be good for the United Kingdom. Achieving a global deal will mean reducing our own exposure to costly climate impacts, but it also presents an almost unparalleled economic opportunity to create new jobs and growth throughout the world. Many of our own citizens and UK companies could be part of that. The International Energy Agency, of which the UK is a member, expects nearly $7.8 trillion to be invested in renewable energy over the next 25 years in what Lord Stern has described as the “new energy-industrial revolution”. The UK should take advantage of that rapidly growing market. It should grab a slice of the worldwide action to enable UK companies to innovate and succeed, creating the good jobs of the future here in the UK.

Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend join me in asking the Minister why the Government are not sorting out the chronically under-performing green deal, which could help to keep people warm, cut their fuel bills, tackle fuel poverty and create thousands of jobs, as well as cutting carbon emissions?

Maria Eagle: That is a good point, and I am sure the Minister will refer to it. My hon. Friend hardly needs me to reiterate it for her.

We must have an active industrial strategy for the green economy, with the potential to create 1 million new green jobs by 2025. We need a legally binding target to take the carbon out of our electricity supply by 2030, and we need borrowing powers for the green investment bank. We also need to protect our homes and businesses from the impact of climate change, including flooding. Opposition Members do not think that the current national adaptation programme is good enough to meet the challenges of the times, which is why we have called for a new national adaptation programme to protect our most vulnerable communities and ensure that all sectors of the economy are adapting to climate change. We also hope that the £83 million cuts in the budget of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that were

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announced last week will not come from the funds that have been set aside to maintain our existing flood defences.

The Government should accept that we cannot separate the need to take action on climate change from the need to protect nature. Climate change is a serious long-term threat to nature, but restoring nature is also part of the answer to the problem of reducing emissions and increasing our resilience.

It is not just the Labour party that has called for those developments. This morning, as was mentioned earlier, representatives of some of Britain’s biggest businesses—including Tesco, Unilever, BT, and even Sky—wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, published in the Financial Times, warning that

“Failure to tackle climate change could put economic prosperity at risk. But the right action now would create jobs and boost competitiveness.”

This Government must wean themselves off the Chancellor’s misguided idea that to be in favour of action to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change is somehow anti-business. Persisting with that view will put at risk our ability to lead the world in securing high-skill jobs as we innovate our way to a low-carbon future.

In the run-up to the Paris climate negotiations, we need a Government that set out real solutions to the problem of reducing our emissions and adapting to climate change. If that is to happen, there must be a huge increase in commitment from the Conservative party. All too often over the past few years, what we have seen from it has been equivocation on the science, and warm words instead of real action. We have high hopes of the new Secretary of State: we hope that she will be able to change that. The last Government were too fast to slash investment in flood protection in the early years of the last Parliament, and even their revised plans following the 2013 winter floods actually allow an increase in the number of households that are at significant risk of flooding.

Over the past few months and years, the debate about our national security has been dominated by calls for 2% of our GDP to be spent on defence, but we have heard far less about the 2° target towards which we shall be working at this year’s Paris climate talks. We need to hear more. If we fail to keep global climate change below 2° then I fear the threats to our national security in future will dwarf those that we face today. We could not, and we should not have to, justify to future generations why we failed to mitigate and adapt to climate change caused by human activity. The UK has a proud history. It falls to this Government to make sure it continues to have a good reputation. I wish them well and I hope they are up to the task.

6.50 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom): This has been a valuable debate on climate change and the international negotiations to secure an ambitious outcome in Paris in December. We have had some excellent maiden speeches and we have heard some knowledgeable and passionate views from Members on both sides of the House.

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As many have rightly said, climate change is happening and is already impacting on our environment, economy and health. A global deal is the only way we can deliver the scale of action required, and it is the only credible way to drive down the costs of climate action. It will give a clear signal to businesses and investors that Governments are committed to delivering a global low-carbon economy. It will also give a clear message to our citizens that we are determined to ensure affordable, secure and cleaner energy for them, their children and grandchildren.

A global deal is fully in the UK’s interests. It provides the route to leverage more from others without taking extra effort ourselves and, as a leader in green technology and innovation, our economy and competitiveness will benefit more from a global deal than without one.

Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Andrea Leadsom: I am sorry, but there is not enough time.

In addition to the science and sustainability arguments, there is a compelling case to avert direct threats to the UK such as severe weather events from floods to heatwaves that can wreak economic and social damage, as well as indirect threats through global changes such as rising costs and regional instability. So it is vital that we act.

We had some excellent contributions including from the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Aberdeen in my first week in this job. He talked about being collegiate and working together. He also talked about climate justice and I applaud him for his interest in that subject. He talked about onshore wind subsidies, recognising that this Government have a mandate to act to balance the views of local communities against the need for renewables. He has the opportunity to consider, and will be consulted on, those changes to subsidies and what Scotland can do for itself to maintain them if they wish to.

Andy McDonald rose—

Andrea Leadsom: I am afraid I cannot give way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) offered some challenging proposals, saying the climate is changing but that that is not necessarily man-made. I would say to him that there is a lot of evidence that the current level of atmospheric CO2 concentration is unprecedented in the earth’s history. The Royal Society has said:

“The present level of atmospheric CO2 concentration is almost certainly unprecedented in the past million years, during which time modern humans evolved and societies developed.”

I can also tell my hon. Friend that when I met DECC’s chief scientific adviser—an engineer, not a climate scientist—for the first time he told me that if we keep adding CO2 we will warm the earth. We can argue about how much and by when, but I personally, with 25 years’ experience in finance, tend to take the probability argument that it is not something I would want to bet against, so even if we do not accept the 2° argument, we must accept that we cannot take away the risk to our children and our grandchildren’s futures. At the same time, I assure my hon. Friend that my priorities and

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those of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be to keep costs as low as possible, and to keep the lights on while delivering a secure and clean energy future.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) talked about the fourth carbon budget and the importance of meeting it. He was concerned we may not do so. Interestingly, he talked about the cost, and I am glad to hear an Opposition Member talking about the cost of these things, as that is a huge priority on the Government Benches. He will appreciate that we are determined to meet our fourth carbon budget, but with a growing economy. We do not believe that decarbonisation and a growing economy are opposing goals. I am sure he knows that we intend to set our policies to meet our fourth carbon budget after we have announced the targets for the fifth carbon budget, which will be some time in the middle of 2016.

My hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) made an excellent maiden speech in which he praised his predecessor, Brooks Newmark, for his brilliant intellect. I certainly remember Brooks from the Treasury Select Committee, and I am sure that, as a huge supporter of getting more women into Parliament, he would have been pleased to see today’s all-female line-up on the Front Benches for this important debate. My hon. Friend gave us a wonderful insight into his lovely rural constituency and told us of his determination to defend and improve it, including by fighting for better road and broadband infrastructure.

The hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) has great experience in the area of energy and climate change. He talked about his duty to his three children’s futures. With three children of my own, I fully share his commitment to all our children’s futures. He talked about love—feeling the love, sharing the love—which was a good, even heartfelt, way of approaching this subject. I am glad that he acknowledged the leadership shown by the Prime Minister in prioritising our low-carbon future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias) made a fantastic maiden speech without notes. She quite rightly paid tribute to the work of Dr Cable, and pointed out that she is the first woman MP for Twickenham. She said that she would put Twickenham first in everything she did. She is against expansion at Heathrow. She talked about culture, sport and science being great strengths, and about how Turner had painted the Thames from his home in her constituency. And of course Twickenham will be hosting the rugby world cup. Fantastic! She might not know that the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington in her constituency contains the centre for carbon measurement, which plays an important part in tackling climate change.

The hon. Member for City of Chester (Chris Matheson) also made his maiden speech today, in which he praised his predecessor, Stephen Mosley, for his work on the Science and Technology Committee. He talked about the importance of the high-tech manufacturing sector in the UK and said that many of the businesses in his constituency were involved in the aerospace, automotive and other high-tech industries. He emphasised the importance of supporting them. He also talked about the impressive history of Chester, about its giant-making legacy, which I think we all need to look into, and its financial services capability. He described Chester as a model for a mixed economy and expressed his gratitude to his constituents for voting for him.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) is extremely knowledgeable in the area of energy and climate change. He asked how we could get everyone else to do something that came close to the target in our 2008 Climate Change Act of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. He gave us cause for optimism by mentioning ideas and pointing out what we should be doing. He talked about what we had not done and what we needed to do, and I am grateful to him for his thoughts.

The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) spoke passionately about her need to see further and faster decarbonisation. I can assure her that we share her concern and her determination, but we believe that we can achieve decarbonisation with a growing economy. We do not see those two goals as mutually exclusive.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) talked about his considerable experience in fuel-poor developing countries and about the importance of smart grids and interconnectors. I can assure him that we share his interest in the vital importance of getting better and smarter, and in the grave importance of keeping manufacturing in the UK rather than driving it out by raising energy costs.

The hon. Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker) talked about fuel poverty in developing countries and about how the survival of people in Malawi, Uganda and Zambia was under threat from failed crops. He spoke passionately about the need for greater ambition, and we share that concern.

It is clear that the most cost-effective and competitive way to address the severe impacts of climate change is through an international legally binding rules-based agreement covering all 194 countries under the UN framework convention on climate change. Securing an ambitious deal is a priority for the UK Government and we are already working closely with our international counterparts to reach consensus. This can clearly be seen from the G7 summit last weekend, at which the Prime Minister, along with other leaders, prioritised an ambitious climate change package and agreed the language on the need for a deal in Paris on finance and on future ambition. Negotiations will not be easy, but we are making progress and we will work hard to achieve an outcome that keeps the 2º target within reach and puts us on the pathway towards a global low-carbon future.

As Margaret Thatcher said:

“No generation has a freehold on this earth. All we have is a life tenancy, with a full repairing lease.”

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put and agreed to.


That this House believes that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris in 2015 is vital in ensuring that the target of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees is met; further believes that the UK Government should push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the two degrees goal, a goal of net zero emissions in the second half of the century, transparent and universal rules for measuring and reporting emissions, climate change adaptation plans for all countries, and an equitable deal in which richer

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countries provide support to poorer nations in their efforts to combat climate change; and further notes the importance of making adequate plans for domestic mitigation and adaptation and ensuring communities are protected from the worst effects of climate change, including flooding.

Mr Speaker: Perhaps I might gently appeal to Members who are unaccountably not staying for the Adjournment debate to leave quietly and with consideration for the hon. Member who has the debate, just as they would wish that courtesy to be extended to them if roles were reversed.

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Unduly Lenient Sentences

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Margot James.)

7 pm

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, I am pleased to secure this debate to highlight the unfair situation that exists with appeals against sentences in our criminal courts.

At present, the defence is able to appeal against sentences that are too harsh in almost all situations, whereas only in a very limited number of situations can the prosecution appeal against a sentence that is unduly lenient. Sentences given out for serious assaults such as actual body harm, malicious wounding, cannot be appealed against by the prosecution. Neither can sentences given for burglary, distribution of child pornography or causing death by careless driving, to name but a few. A worrying situation also affects youth court cases, as no sentence imposed there can be appealed against by the prosecution, and yet the youth court deals with some serious matters, including a limited number of rape cases. It is simply wrong that no safety net is in place for the victim of crime to respond to sentences that are too lenient.

I spent 20 years working in the criminal justice system. In my experience, judges and magistrates generally get sentences right, but it would be naive in the extreme to believe that that is always the case—it simply is not. Sometimes our courts get things wrong and impose sentences that are unduly lenient, and it is wrong that in most cases absolutely nothing can be done about it. We should not be telling victims of a serious crime who have had their suffering compounded by a pathetic sentence that there is nothing that can be done, but that is exactly what happens today. It is something of a cliché, but we need to see the scales of justice balance—they should not favour one side or the other, if possible. That is not the case now in appeals against sentence. That needs to change.

During the previous Parliament, I sponsored a private Member’s Bill to widen the scope of situations in which the prosecution could appeal against lenient sentences. Unfortunately, that Bill did not make it on to the statute books, but I was pleased to ensure that the Conservative party manifesto included a commitment to tackle the issue. I am sure that the Solicitor General knows every word of the Conservative party manifesto, but for those who are unaware of it, page 60 of the manifesto specifies that

“To tackle those cases where judges get it wrong, we will extend the scope of the Unduly Lenient Scheme, so a wider range of sentences can be challenged.”

That was the wording of the manifesto that Conservative candidates stood on at the recent general election. I hope that the Solicitor General will ensure that that commitment is honoured and that we implement this extension in a timely manner.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): In Northern Ireland, we had an animal cruelty case where a father and two sons were sentenced but the judge could not give a custodial sentence, even though he wanted to. Sometimes we have an opposite effect to the one the hon. Gentleman describes. Is it not also important to have laws that can actually punish people for doing wrong things?

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Gareth Johnson: The hon. Gentleman hits the nail on the head, because the criminal justice system is there to ensure that justice prevails. It is incredibly frustrating and hurtful for victims of crime not to see justice being meted out on their behalf. In both the situation I was describing and the one he described, what happened was wrong. The system has failed if it does not ensure that people are punished appropriately. I am happy to accept that it is not always the judge’s or magistrate’s fault; sometimes their hands are tied. This place therefore needs to look at how it can improve the law to ensure that such situations are eradicated as much as possible.

Let me take this opportunity also to thank the Solicitor General for taking this issue incredibly seriously and for going about things in his customary courteous manner. I pay tribute to the way he has approached this whole subject, and I am grateful to him. This is a serious issue. There have been a number of examples of offenders having been given weak sentences for nasty offences, yet when a complaint has been made to the Attorney General to seek an appeal, the Attorney General has been powerless to act.

Just this year, at a secondary school adjacent to my constituency, we had a case where a teacher had entered into an inappropriate relationship, over an 18-month period, with a 15-year-old pupil. That teacher received a suspended sentence, and when that sentence was, understandably, referred to the Attorney General by aggrieved persons, there was absolutely nothing the Attorney General could do about it. Under my proposals and the Conservative party manifesto, that would change. This basic protection for the victims of crime needs to be introduced. Just as it is right to have a safety net for the defence, there needs to be a safety net for the prosecution. The criminal justice system is there to protect the vulnerable. Its primary function is to protect, and it currently fails to do that in a host of situations where an unduly lenient sentence is imposed on an offender. That situation has to change.

7.7 pm

The Solicitor General (Robert Buckland): It is a pleasure to reply to the debate called by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), and I thank him for allowing this important issue to be aired this evening. In doing so, I pay warm tribute to him for his commitment to reform in this area over a number of years. He came to this House with a wealth of experience in the criminal law in his practice, and he and I struck up a friendship because of our common understanding of the criminal law and our mutual experience in criminal practice over the years prior to our entry to this House. Therefore he speaks with particular knowledge about these issues. But he also speaks as a Member of Parliament, representing thousands of people who, like all of us, expect to see consistency and a correctness of approach to criminal sentencing from the judiciary.

It is right for me to say that Her Majesty’s judges do a tremendous job on the sentencing of offenders; they deal, week in, week out, day in, day out, with a variety of sometimes difficult and complex cases, and it is right for me to thank them for all the work they do. But the issues that my hon. Friend raises are important, because there will be times when errors are made. It is perhaps right for me briefly to remind the House that the unduly

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lenient sentence scheme, which has been operating for just over 25 years, was introduced, in a way, to deal with that concern. Prior to it, there had been no means of increasing a sentence for any criminal offence once it had been passed by the courts.

The scheme was brought in because of a public outcry over a case that many of us will remember—the Ealing vicarage case. A gang of men broke into the vicarage. There were several victims. The vicar, Michael Saward, was severely injured and Jill Saward was raped. When the four offenders were sentenced some 11 months later, there was a public outcry when the men received higher sentences for the burglary than for the rape. I take the opportunity to pay warm tribute to Jill Saward, who, in the years since, has been a redoubtable campaigner on behalf of victims of sexual violence.

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 introduced for the first time a mechanism by which sentences could be increased by the Court of Appeal. Sections 35 and 36 provide the Attorney General and the Solicitor General with the power to refer sentences passed in certain Crown court cases to the Court of Appeal for review if the sentence is considered to be “unduly lenient”.

Parliament imposed strict safeguards when that power was created. The power had to be exercised personally by the Attorney General, or by the Solicitor General on the Attorney General’s behalf, in relation to indictable only offences or certain either-way offences specified by order, and only where it was considered that the judge had made a gross error in sentencing. Creating a power to correct these grossest sentencing errors was, and remains, the key mechanism to ensure that public confidence in the criminal justice system is maintained when unduly lenient sentences are passed.

It is important to note that it is not a prosecution right of appeal. It is as guardians of the public interest that we, the Law Officers, exercise the power to refer cases. In other words, it is a power exercised independently of Government, but by a Minister. The power to refer a case is subject to an absolute time limit of 28 days from the date of sentence.

A Law Officer considers all cases personally. It is very important that the filter is dealt with by the Ministers themselves. The Attorney General and I feel that that is a vital part of the system. Cases may be received at any point in the 28-day period. Although some cases are referred for consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service, anyone can make a complaint about a referable sentence, including members of the public, and it will be carefully considered.

The power to refer applies to all “indictable” only offences—offences that can be dealt with only by the Crown court—which include murder, manslaughter, causing death by dangerous driving, rape, robbery, wounding with intent, and many others. It also applies to certain either-way offences, which have since been specified and added by order. That phrase means offences that could be dealt with in the magistrates court as an alternative to the Crown court.

The various orders that have been made pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act 1988 were consolidated by an order made in 2006, which ensured that the ULS scheme now also applies to a number of sexual offences, some drugs offences, child cruelty, threats to kill, and offences that have been racially or religiously aggravated.

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Most recently, from July last year, we, as Law Officers, have been able to consider whether a sentence imposed for an offence under section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 is unduly lenient. I know that the right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) will be interested in this, because that is an offence of holding a person in slavery or servitude and requiring a person to perform forced or compulsory labour.

However, it is this incremental process of adding offences that has led to the current formulation of the scheme, and I acknowledge that there are inherent anomalies, which my hon. Friend has described very clearly. I shall return to that point shortly. Much more often than not, we decide that sentences referred to us are not unduly lenient. However, I am proud to say that, in referring cases to the Court of Appeal, we have achieved some considerable successes. I am talking not just about the high-profile cases, involving well known offenders such as Stuart Hall, but much more widely.

In one recent case, which I presented in the Court of Appeal—it is an important principle that Law Officers go to court to present cases on behalf of the Government to make the point that the public interest is being served—the offender was convicted after trial of the attempted murder of three sisters from the United Arab Emirates who were on holiday in London. During a burglary of their hotel room, he attacked the women with a hammer, causing life-threatening injuries. The Court agreed with me that the 18 years minimum term of imprisonment was unduly lenient and increased it, so that the offender must serve 27 years before he is considered for release. The presence of children during the serious attack and the use of gratuitous violence with a weapon were among the serious aggravating factors.

In another example, a referral was made in a case involving the sexual abuse, including rape, of a six-year-old girl by a male offender, who was assisted by his female partner. The Court of Appeal agreed that the original sentences were unduly lenient and increased the male offender’s total sentence from 12 to 19 years’ imprisonment. The Court found him to be a dangerous offender and therefore ordered that there be a five-year extended licence period after the 19-year term finishes.

Those are two important examples of cases where great damage has been caused to victims and in which the ULS scheme has played an important role in securing justice for them. There are many more such cases.

The high-profile nature of the ULS scheme in the recent past has meant that the number of referrals has been steadily increasing as awareness of the scheme widens. Very shortly, detailed figures of the latest trends within the scheme will be published, and I think they will show that the public are becoming more aware of, and more prepared to use, the scheme.

The Government will take very careful note of what my hon. Friend has said, and we will set out our plans as soon as is practicable. It is clear that at present there

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are inconsistencies and anomalies in the scheme, which the extension will seek to address. Both the Attorney General and I are very clear on that point, and we understand the concerns where offences—often serious offences—do not appear in the scheme, seemingly without a clear legal, or indeed logical, explanation.

I recognise that my hon. Friend and, indeed, all my hon. Friends are keen to see the Government make progress on a clear manifesto commitment. I hope I can reassure them when I say that work is very much under way with a view to delivering on that, and that the Prime Minister has been very clear that we will deliver on all our manifesto commitments.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): What do the Government plan to do? Are they suggesting, for example, that they would include all either-way offences, or just some? Will they include only serious either-way offences?

The Solicitor General: That is an entirely proper question and we are developing our view. All matters need to be considered and it would be wrong of me to prejudge or ordain the outcome today, but I can reassure the hon. Gentleman. I know that he shares a passion for ensuring that victims of crime are protected. He took important amendments to the criminal law on sentencing though this House in the previous Parliament, and I pay tribute to him for that, but I am sure that he would be the first to understand that there needs to be careful consideration, and that this will be done as soon as is practicable.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Will the Solicitor General consult victims’ organisations about what the scheme should look like, and how will he do that?

The Solicitor General: It would be a bit premature of me to sketch out a detailed version of what could be a consultation process, but I take what the hon. Lady says on board. I think she would agree that we need careful consultation rather than to come up with a glib and easy answer that would not be in the interests of victims. I will bear what she says in mind and will consider the matter carefully as we move through this process.

We must seek to ensure that a balance continues to be struck between a manageable system that enables truly exceptional cases to be referred to the Court of Appeal and ensuring that victims and the wider public, including hon. Members, have an opportunity to raise concerns when they arise. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford once again for raising this important element of the Government’s criminal justice policy. I hope that he is reassured that we will pay the closest attention to what he and others have said and will continue to say as the Government take forward our manifesto commitment to extend the unduly lenient sentence scheme.

Question put and agreed to.

7.20 pm

House adjourned.