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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am happy to confirm again what my noble friend says. It will be up to the House to decide what it wishes to do with any report or recommendations that the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, makes. I agree with my noble friend that that seems a sensible way to proceed.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, is it not right that the House should not be too touchy about this matter? We pride ourselves on being one of the two Houses of Parliament. The House has had a certain measure of reform. Individual Members of the House can deal with the Neill Committee in the way they choose. As the Minister said, the House will decide. If we are too touchy about the matter will it not suggest
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, if the noble Lord invites me to make a political judgment, which is slightly different from my position as Leader of the House in attempting to facilitate, I hope, the sensible workings of this particular investigation, I wholly agree with him. Over the past year this House of Parliament has spent many hours asserting the importance of its role and, as the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, is keen to remind us on occasions, its improved legitimacy. It is right that we should be as transparent as possible about the way in which we conduct our individual and collective business. I agree with the noble Lord if he asks me to make that judgment.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, does the noble Baroness now regret her failure to make an oral Statement to this House to announce the inquiry under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Neill? Would that not have dealt with a good number of concerns raised outside this Chamber? Further, does the Leader of the House agree that significant differences exist between this House and the other place and that any inquiry should recognise those from the very start?
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am very happy to agree with the second point just made by the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladen, readily appreciates that the membership of the House of Lords is very different from that of the other place. As to the noble Lord's first question, I have no regrets. This committee operates independently. As the noble Lord knows full well, at the beginning we had some concern that the arrangement agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Neill, that this procedure should be announced by way of Question for Written Answer was overtaken by a leak in a newspaper. I have no regrets that it was done in the way that it was, although I was unhappy that it was precipitated by outside intervention.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, during the UK presidency in 1998 member states reached agreement on how to share out the European Community's targets at Kyoto. They also agreed that action was needed at both national and EU level to deliver those targets. In March the European Commission
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. I am delighted that the UK is among those leading the way. First, as a result of its good example, will the UK support fully the efforts of the Commission to get the necessary initiatives going to ensure that the whole of the European Union achieves the very desirable objectives that have been set? Secondly, does the Minister agree that, important though the European climate change problem is, it is even more serious in the Far East and that as China and India develop their economies by use of their large reserves of coal--which, in view of my past, I fully support--there could be adverse environmental impacts which would affect all of us? Therefore, will the European Union take the initiative to ensure that clean coal technology and other measures of that kind are developed and supplied to these countries?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, certainly, the UK Government are very much to the fore in EU councils in encouraging the Commission and other institutions of the Union to develop viable and robust policies which can be implemented at both EU level and among member states. The British example is important in some respects here. It is important that all EU countries meet their commitments under the EU bubble in order that the Union can deliver its own overall target. That has implications for the wider agreements at Kyoto. In particular, the commitments of rapidly developing countries like China and India, with very large potential carbon emission problems, mean that we must make maximum efforts in terms of both political will and helping with technology. One of the main preoccupations of my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister is to ensure that in particular China and India come on board and meet their commitments to the Kyoto objectives. A good number of the detailed issues will be resolved in the COP 6 meetings later this year.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, do the Government have any evidence to suggest that climate and other environmental objectives are better achieved through the scientific fog and incompetence of the European Union than they would be through international governmental collaboration?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is quite clear that if we, as the political leaders of this generation, do not act collectively to address these environmental problems the problems in 10 or 20 years' time will be catastrophic for the planet as a whole. The fact that the European countries have agreed to act together on this matter is a major achievement, but that is only part of
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, given global need and international economic opportunity, is it not appropriate at this stage for Her Majesty's Government to give the same priority to the encouragement of clean coal technology as they give to renewable energy supplies?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there are two aspects. As to clean coal technology, a good deal of effort is being made within the UK and Europe. The noble Lord, Lord Ezra, pointed out that we must ensure that as far as possible China, India and other major developing countries are able to make use of the best clean coal technology. Part of the jigsaw of energy use must also be to increase greatly the use of renewables. The UK has set itself the very challenging target of a 10 per cent take-up of renewables by 2010.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not satisfied with progress so far. However, there is now a new determination by this Government and much of industry to develop renewable sources and a belief that the target is achievable. It is a challenging target. We have not made much of a start in meeting that challenge in the past 10 years, but we are now determined to do so.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, can the Minister assure the House that British representatives in the EU, who are in touch with the European Association of Motor Manufacturers, which in turn is in touch with the Americans and Japanese, continually press for the adoption of the best available technology rather than the use of old methods and the continual postponement of the date of the introduction of the best environmental methods?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, there has been substantial progress in relation to European standards of motor vehicle emissions. The noble Lord was present last night when we debated European and British efforts in relation to alternative fuels. As to petrol and diesel-driven engines, the EU target of a 25 per cent improvement in emissions will now be achieved. There is a commitment to the European voluntary code among European manufacturers, and I am gratified that that is now being adopted also by the Japanese and Americans.
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