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8 Jan 2008 : Column 739

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend and I would make the point that when we talk about the Army or the Armed Forces being stretched, we are talking about shortages in certain trades and disciplines. Others have a lot more experience than I have in dealing with these matters, but I believe that that has always been the case—there have always been shortages in certain trades and disciplines. These are being addressed through retention incentives, through increased recruiting and by rebalancing the Army under future structures. At the same time, we are reducing some operational commitments in the Balkans, in Northern Ireland and now in Iraq. This helps to decrease the frequency of operational tours, both for units and for individuals.

Lord Addington: My Lord, will the Minister accept that there is a perception that the stress on the pinch points of those particular trades is now more intense than ever? Do we have a point that we cannot go to if we are to maintain the effectiveness of those units, with the stress that is caused to long-serving, experienced personnel?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we are continually keeping under consideration those pinch-point areas that the noble Lord referred to. Through FAS, through the new reorganisation and reroling of specialisms within the Army, we hope to start meeting those pinch points. I believe very firmly, as do the senior officers in the services, that we have those pinch points under control, we are aware of them, and we do not see the position as catastrophic in any way.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, I am sure the Minister will agree that the meeting of harmony guidelines is an important factor in morale. When were the present harmony guidelines set up; are they under review; and is there any likelihood that the present figures will be reduced?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, as I said earlier, the figures are being reduced over time. In 2005, the harmony guidelines were exceeded by nearly 17 per cent. Now they are exceeded by 10.3 per cent, so those figures are reducing over time.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, my question relates to the figures that are the harmony guidelines, rather than the number of individuals who are not meeting them.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, there are no plans to reduce the length of time for operational tours, for instance, or to reduce the figures, within the harmony guidelines, as regards not exceeding 415 days within a 30-month limit. So 415 days would be the time when our armed personnel would be expected to be on separated service. The rest of their 30 months would be on a home base.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in an attempt to meet the harmony guidelines, essential training is being cut?

Baroness Crawley: No, my Lords, I do not agree with that.

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Dr David Kelly

2.59 pm

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we have no plans to do so.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer, but is he aware of the new book by Norman Baker MP, which collects a large amount of new evidence? I do not know whether he read it over the Christmas holiday, but it is quite a frightening read. It concludes that suicide by Dr Kelly would be extremely unlikely and is certainly not proven beyond reasonable doubt. As my noble friend will know, the Hutton inquiry was not statutory, and no evidence was taken under oath, so is it not now necessary for the Government to set up a proper statutory inquiry to investigate fully the circumstances of the death of this senior government employee?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have read extracts from the report, which I would describe as a good Christmas read. There was a thorough inquiry by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, who reached the conclusion that Dr Kelly committed suicide. He found that the cause of Dr Kelly’s death was:

He was,


Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, the then Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, used an exceptional power to direct the coroner not to continue with the original inquest and not to resume it unless there was an exceptional reason. The inquiry of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, is the only time this provision has been used in a non-statutory inquiry. Surely the new evidence that has come to light since the Hutton inquiry and to which Mr Norman Baker refers in his book is an exceptional reason, which requires the events to be fully investigated, witnesses to be called and cross-examined and a verdict to be reached beyond reasonable doubt, just as in the current lengthy inquest relating to the Princess of Wales.

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: But, my Lords, the Hutton report was sent to the coroner at the end of the inquiry in accordance with Section 17A and, in an open court hearing on 14 March 2004, the coroner himself decided that there was no exceptional reason to resume the adjourned inquest. There is much supposition in the report but, if evidence there is, it is open to Mr Baker and any other person, if they wish, to seek a new inquest under Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, surely that is not good enough. The book by Mr Baker is well researched and shows that there is no evidence that Dr Kelly was suicidal in any way. Furthermore, Mr Baker absolves MI6 and the CIA from any blame but believes that perhaps some very nasty people in Iraq, who did not want things disclosed, might have been behind his death. Do we not owe it to Dr Kelly’s wife and family to have another, thorough inquiry in the light of this new evidence?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I do not think that any of us can speculate on what Dr Kelly’s family are thinking at the present time or around the tragic circumstances of his death some years ago. I have nothing further to add. The Government believe that the inquiry by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, in this matter was conclusive. The noble and learned Lord set out the reasons for his conclusion. I say again that, if any person has evidence, they can take it to the authorities—to the police—and there is a procedure for a further inquest to be held. That is surely the approach that should be taken here.

Climate Change Bill [HL]

3.04 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 6 [Amendment of target percentages]:

Lord Taylor of Holbeach moved Amendment No. 39:

(a) a recommendation to make an order under this section is made by the Committee on Climate Change;(b) the recommendation is approved by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament;and it must be exercised as soon as practicable after a recommendation is so approved.

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The noble Lord said: After what has been a rather eventful Christmas break—and I hope the Minister is recovering from his inadvertent break during our recess—we return to consider this important Bill. The fact that these three weeks have gone by in a flash rather suggests that 2050 may not be as far off as we imagine. I am moving Amendment No. 39 but I will be speaking to all other amendments in this group. It is appropriate that we return to talk on this subject because it is one that we have raised in previous debates. I remember clarifying our view that the Bill needed beefing up and that the best way of doing this was by strengthening the role of the Committee on Climate Change in its triangular relationship with the Government through the Secretary of State and Parliament. These amendments put the Committee on Climate Change centre stage in determining the effectiveness of the Bill in achieving its objectives. It makes it difficult for the Secretary of State to counter the decisions of the Committee and to override it in setting targets and budgets.

How in practice do these amendments operate? They limit the order-making powers of the Secretary of State when amending target percentages as well as carbon budgets by transferring the power to the Committee on Climate Change, subject to parliamentary approval. Let me explain how this would work. Essentially no targets could be amended without the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change and the approval of both Houses in Parliament and an order must be made if those conditions are met. The Committee on Climate Change is subject to the same limitation in the exercise of power as the Secretary of State is under the Bill. The triangular balance is maintained—committee, Government and Parliament. The detailed form of the order would of course be left to the Secretary of State. Perhaps I can elaborate on this scene. As on the last day of debate on this Bill, we on these Benches will today be repeating the broad themes that form the substance of our approach. These amendments entrench those themes. We have mentioned that it is of the utmost importance that science and not politics leads the strategy against climate change and we have repeated that there is a need to strengthen the committee’s powers and to limit those of the Secretary of State. I have already rehearsed our motivation for doing this. There is an important point about balance of power that should not be overlooked. Our amendments are designed to shift that balance—I make no secret of that fact—but not to completely reverse it. We recognise that tackling climate change will require the co-ordination of Parliament, the Committee and the Government. It is the Secretary of State who will implement the policies and I do not want to suggest for a moment cutting the Government out of the equation. After all, they are the agency through whom all will be delivered.

However, we on these Benches feel that it is simply not acceptable for the Secretary of State to be the one to set the targets. If the scientific realities are to be addressed, we must follow scientific recommendations. The only reason the Secretary of State would have for straying from the committee’s recommendations would be political, which cannot be allowed to happen in this framework and in the way in which the Bill is constructed. How we implement the suggested strategies might well

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be a political issue and consequently left to politicians. However, the targets are in a sense an absolute issue.

As the Bill stands there is not enough check on the power of the Secretary of State on matters of science. Our amendments would shift the balance back to where it belongs, such that no Minister could change a target by order if he feared he might not achieve it. When considering the magnitude of the issue and the consequential significance of changing the targets, we on these Benches feel that it should be subject to the approval of both Houses of Parliament. If there is a circumstance that would make the Minister stray from the recommendation, he would have an opportunity to make his case publicly. That mechanism would allow for the scrutiny that a change of this magnitude requires.

I suspect that the Minister thinks that we on these Benches perhaps go too far in our emphasis on the driving role of science in these matters. Even if he will not go as far as we would like, does he at least agree that there is a fundamental problem with leaving so much power in the hands of the Secretary of State when setting targets and budgets? Does he not think that there needs to be some shift or ground given beyond merely taking advice that could make the Bill more effective and increase the public’s confidence in the ambitious goals that we are setting for ourselves?

I expect that noble Lords will have much to say on this subject, and I will listen to the Minister’s response with interest. I beg to move.

Lord Crickhowell: I was not going to follow my noble friend immediately because I thought that other Members of the Committee would rise.

Before the Minister responds I have one or two observations to make about the amendment. My noble friend has performed a valuable task in raising an important issue, but I hope that he will forgive me if I say that I am not absolutely certain that the balance in the proposed scheme is completely right. We need to give a good deal of thought to this critical issue before we go further in Committee. Interestingly enough, it was not a matter that we really dealt with in the Joint Committee on the draft Bill.

My tentative reaction was prompted by the brief that I received from Friends of the Earth, which, like my noble friend, wants to strengthen the Bill to make it more effective, but which also has doubts about the solution that he has suggested. That organisation points out that these are not just scientific questions; it describes them as moral and ethical, involving judgments about what we and the rest of the world should be doing. In that sense they are political issues as well. There is a case for saying that such crucial issues should not entirely depend on the advice of a committee, however well qualified or well respected it may be. These are crucial decisions that will affect all our people and generations to come.

3.15 pm

I suppose that my noble friend will say that in a sense it is not entirely left to the committee because Parliament will have its say. Parliament will debate the

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issues and can enter its views before final decisions are taken. My noble friend said that he wanted to strengthen the powers of the Committee on Climate Change, as do I. He said that he wanted to limit the powers of the Secretary of State; this is where I begin to ask my question. Of course the Secretary of State should have to seek the advice of the Committee on Climate Change. A whole series of amendments elsewhere should ensure not only that that should happen but that the advice should be published, and reasons should be given by the Secretary of State if he does not follow the advice.

My noble friend talked about some shift in the balance between the two. It is the extent of that shift that concerns me. If my thoughts were triggered by the paper that I received from Friends of the Earth, perhaps they were triggered still more by the remarkable book that I read during the parliamentary recess by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and Carole Nakhle entitled Out of the Energy Labyrinth. It should be compulsory reading for almost everyone who takes part in these debates and considers these issues.

When we come to a later group of amendments, I shall make the primary points that arise from my noble friend’s recommendations. The point that he makes is essentially that you cannot separate the kind of things that we are trying to do in the Bill from the whole issue of energy supply and the immediate and growing risks to energy. He argues that energy policy and the policies dealt with in this Climate Change Bill are interlinked and cannot be separated. Indeed, he goes further. He argues—I shall come back to this during debate on a later group of amendments—that it is all very well setting all these great targets in the Bill. We hope that we have them right and that they can be achieved but, if they are achieved, that will be done a very long time in the future. In the mean time, we have to deal with the consequences of our present carbon levels and the effects they are having, and that leads us to the whole question of adaptation, which we will come to again later in our debates on the Bill.

My noble friend argues that, if you are to carry world opinion or our European partners down this road, it is all very well saying that we are going to set a lot of long-term targets which may cause great difficulties and the people will not see the results until many years later; however, they will be acutely concerned—possibly quite soon—with an energy crisis which may have political causes: further warfare and turmoil in the Middle East, Russian policy or whatever. He believes that by bringing the two things together you can persuade people to act and to act decisively. If you link energy policy with climate change policy, you are more likely to achieve the result than if you treat them separately. Some of us have criticised the Government because we feel that their energy White Paper does not go far enough and that perhaps their energy policy is not linked closely enough to the objectives in the Bill.

That brings me back to my noble friend’s amendment. It seems that if you to link the two things effectively, the Secretary of State must have a role. The Committee on Climate Change can consider the energy equation; in a later group of amendments,

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when we talk about the things that it has to consider, I shall argue that it should do so. However, ultimately only the Secretary of State and the Government can effectively bring together the action that is needed on energy security and climate change. Therefore, I do not want to weaken the power of the Secretary of State to act if it is only he who can act. Of course I want him to have the advice of a very strong Committee on Climate Change. I am all for strengthening that role and for ensuring that the advice is published and that the Secretary of State sets out any reasons for disagreeing with it.

What worries me slightly about my noble friend’s amendment is that it seems almost to eliminate the ability of the Secretary of State—by the Secretary of State, I mean the Government as a whole—to take action if it is necessary to do so, particularly in the energy field. Therefore, I go with my noble friend quite a long way down the road that he is asking me to follow, but before we reach Report I hope that he and the rest of the Committee will consider very carefully how to get the balance absolutely right so that we have a strong and effective Committee on Climate Change but do not neuter the role of the Secretary of State to such an extent that we cannot bring together these two vital and absolutely interlinked objectives of achieving energy security and our aims regarding climate change.

Lord Dixon-Smith: It is always very difficult when two noble friends present obverse and reverse sides of the same argument. It is an argument which goes right to the core of this Bill and the way in which this subject is being dealt with. As my noble friend Lord Crickhowell said, it raises the issue of government structure and the way in which the Government do their business. Clearly, as I have said before, one department is dealing with energy policy and another is dealing with the consequences of that policy. The result is not that there is not cohesion but that there is a lack of definition and clarity of perception.

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