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House of Lords

Tuesday, 30th October 2001.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Climate Change Impact: Policy

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their policies for guiding the United Kingdom and the international community in adapting to the likely consequences of climate change; and whether they will publish such policies for consultation before the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the climate change programme issued last year by the Government outlines our position on adaptation priorities for the UK and action that the Government and the devolved administrations have already taken to build adaptation into their policies. The Government set up the UK Climate Impacts Programme in 1997 to help private and public sector organisations to develop their own adaptation responses. The UK supports adaptation in developing countries and actively contributes to discussions on impacts and adaptation under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. Since Her Majesty's Government endorse the scientific conclusions that climate change will adversely affect people's lives--for example, by sea level rise and heatwaves--in the UK, Russia, Africa and elsewhere, how will the Government be supporting renewed efforts both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to help sustainable development around the world? I declare an interest as chairman of ACOPS.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the House will recognise the importance that Her Majesty's Government attach to international co-operation in this field and in particular in relation to sustainable development. Indeed, the Prime Minister was the first leader of any country to announce his personal attendance at the world summit in South Africa, to which my noble friend's first Question referred.

Developing partnerships with other countries is vitally important. The Bonn Agreement established an adaptation fund under the global environment facility to help developing countries. We have committed £215 million to the facility. A further £200 million has been committed over the past three financial years in related programmes and bilateral projects. We also

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recognise the importance of the marine environment in this context and the work that the noble Lord has done and that of the organisation to which he refers--ACOPS. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be taking a leading role in not only the conference in Marrakesh in the next few days but also at the Johannesburg summit.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, can the Minister indicate what are the prospects in the EU for achieving its objectives in the reduction of greenhouse gases by the period 2008-12?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the commitment of the EU countries expressed in the targets agreed in the bubble at Kyoto are constantly monitored within the EU. It is true to say that the United Kingdom, Germany and possibly Luxembourg are the only EU countries which are on target. Nevertheless, the other EU countries have taken some radical steps to get themselves back on target. The EU, as a whole, is committed to meeting the overall objectives committed to at Kyoto.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I should declare an interest as the president of ACOPS. Does the Minister agree that there are strong advantages in ACOPS being in London? Does the Minister further agree that the aims of ACOPS are identical to those of the Government? For that reason, why do the Government not do more to support ACOPS than they have done?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the previous government, my predecessor department and DfID have given support to ACOPS in developing help on the ocean side for countries such as those of Africa and Russia. Any particular project proposed by ACOPS will receive appropriate consideration by the two departments. Although the level of funding is not as high as it was a few years ago, it depends on projects being assessed as being appropriate to help the international process and, in particular, the developing countries.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, returning to the original Question, what are the Government doing to guide people in the United Kingdom and to advise them on how to adapt? In particular, we are told that all the flooding that has taken place is due to climate change and is likely to become much worse. What are the Government doing to help people in areas suffering from recurrent flooding?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it is true that the likely outcome of climate change will be that we shall have wetter winters and probably more flood events. Whether any particular flood event is due to climate change or due to natural variation is another matter. In terms of getting the general population involved, the climate change programme chapter is followed by a programme on coastal and flood defences. My colleague Elliot Morley announced increases in the capital amounts to be spent on flood defences. Clearly,

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that must take into account the effects of climate change on what is defendable and where the most appropriate form of flood defences should be established. That is one of the priority areas for adaptation to climate change.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, following his response to my noble friend Lady Gardner, can the Minister clarify, first, the position of the Government as regards coastal defences? I understand that the Government no longer intend to support such defences. Secondly, what action is the department taking on the question of building on flood plain land? That is now a huge problem which affects everyone who has bought or is likely to buy a house built on a flood plain. Those home owners are likely to be deeply affected by any future climate changes.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the noble Baroness is not correct to say that the Government are not supporting coastal defences. Indeed, in the announcement made by my honourable friend Elliot Morley, we indicated our substantial support for such defences. However, we need to assess where it would be most appropriate to spend the resources. Decisions must be taken in the light of the effects of possible changes in sea levels over the medium term and those of climate change. The amount that will be spent on coastal defences will increase.

In response to the question of building on flood plains, we have issued advice to planning authorities and to developers stating that overly intensive development of flood plain areas can create problems. In some parts of the country, any additional development on flood plains would not be appropriate. However, the matter is a responsibility primarily for the planning authorities.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that approximately 30 per cent of the greenhouse effect is due to the sun's radiation? Is he convinced that sufficient funds have been allocated to supporting projects aimed at monitoring variations in the sun's radiation, which could affect life on the surface of the planet?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, monitoring variations in the sun's radiation and its consequent effects on our climate forms a part of the responsibility of the Hadley Centre and other institutions around the world studying the effects of climate change. As regards expenditure, I must be frank and say that we need to focus our resources on areas we can control or hope to influence. Regrettably, variations in the sun's radiation is not one of those areas. Therefore we must concentrate on manmade influences, in particular the control of greenhouse gas emissions from transport, industry and domestic consumers. To return to the question put by the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, we need to raise public consciousness in those areas.

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Terrorist Organisations

2.45 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking concerning identifiable members of terrorist organisations at present in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, it is an offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 to be a member of any one of the 35 organisations proscribed under Schedule 2 to the Act. Any suspected members of these terrorist organisations are therefore liable to arrest and prosecution. The provisions of the Terrorism Act of course apply to all those involved in terrorism, irrespective of whether the organisation they claim to represent is proscribed. The investigation of any such alleged criminal activity is a matter for the police.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Are the Government prepared to expel or to extradite, on a valid request, identified terrorists even though they entered the United Kingdom as asylum seekers?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord's question is yes. If someone is identified as a terrorist, regardless of their country of origin, they cannot seek protection under the terms of the asylum convention. The convention is a complex instrument and covers more than the one sentence generally referred to. In such a case, we would take action. Certain caveats would apply, but I stress that this country is not a safe haven for terrorists. Asylum legislation and the convention cannot be used by anyone against whom evidence has been gathered which indicates that they have committed terrorist offences. Furthermore, the interests of national security would apply, and such people could not seek the protection of the European convention or the Human Rights Act. In the interests of our own national security, such people could still be removed.

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