Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I turn to Amendment No. 96. Clause 17 as drafted requires that the Secretary of State must publish a statement setting out whether and how the amendment of the budget takes into account any representations by the devolved Administrations. I want to emphasise that it may look as if the clause rather suggests a limited obligation on the Secretary

8 Jan 2008 : Column 835

of State. In legal terms, “whether” means “whether or not” and “how” means “how or how not”. In other words, the Secretary of State under the phraseology in Clause 17 is obliged to give a very full account in his statement on whether and how the amendment of the budget takes into account the representations of the devolved Administration. It is not a limited or cursory approach but a fully comprehensive analysis of the representations that have been made and the Secretary of State’s responses. I recognise that as a probing amendment this is a very well motivated amendment and a very accurate one. At first sight of the clause it may look as if the Secretary of State is potentially involved in a rather superficial response in his statements—not so. In order to be watertight in legal terms, that statement has to take in the full range of representation and to argue the case for and against such representation. It is a very comprehensive document and I hope the noble Lord feels assured on that point.

Baroness Byford: I wonder if the Minister could clarify something for me. If for any reason one of the devolved Administrations gets into difficulty one year with being able to reduce its carbon, for example, or work within its limitations, is something built into the Bill that I have missed which makes allowances for that? Scotland could have an emergency for one year and not then be able to fulfil its obligation to the original agreement. Clearly this does not allow for that. It may be that elsewhere in the Bill exceptions have been made for that. I would be grateful for a bit of clarification.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The answer to the noble Baroness is that it is a UK symbol of account and therefore the measurement is the UK. In order for the United Kingdom to be able to meet its targets, it would have to take account of any such potential dereliction on the part of a devolved Administration and it would be beholden upon the Government to make other arrangements to cover for the weaknesses which might obtain in one area. That is a straightforward reflection of the fact that this is a United Kingdom Bill and the Secretary of State is responsible. That is why he has the powers that he has, which we sought to defend when they have been under challenge at times in the Bill. The responsibility rests with him but, by the same token, in the case of failures within the framework of the United Kingdom in any one area he or she must take account and make arrangements accordingly. It is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

9.30 pm

Baroness Byford: I might come back again on that one. For example, on waste and recycling, at the moment I understand that the county—if I can go down to a local level—is responsible for targets being met, but it is not the collection body, or the body that enables it to happen. That comes down to district or borough councils. In some ways, my reading of this is that it is exactly the same position. This aspect of the responsibility, willingness or ability of the devolved

8 Jan 2008 : Column 836

Administrations to meet those targets will then put on extra pressure. For example, if Scotland—this is a bad example as I am sure that Scotland would not be at fault—were unable to meet those targets, is the Minister saying that the rest of the Administrations within the UK would have to take up the slack? How will it happen in practice?

Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Baroness will recognise that the targets and the compliance of the devolved Administrations will have been the product of considerable consultation with the Secretary of State before they are arrived at. I am not an expert in local government but in a sense her parallel is exact. In certain areas the devolved Administrations will have their responsibilities and strategies on how to hit certain targets, and they will have reached the decision on their contribution with the Secretary of State. If there were a deficiency, the United Kingdom would be responsible for it.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I must pursue this a wee bit further. I accept that if one of the devolved authorities fails for a particular reason to meet its target it is a United Kingdom responsibility to meet the overall target if at all possible. That does not alter the fact that there is then a devolved authority that, for want of a better word, is in dereliction at that time. The question is whether the devolved authority has to catch up on its target or does the United Kingdom—the other two devolved authorities plus England—continue carrying that authority and its deficit ad infinitum? Is there an arrangement by which the devolved authorities have overall responsibility within their targets to catch up their deficits if they find themselves in the unfortunate position of having such a thing?

Lord Davies of Oldham: There is no responsibility written in the Bill in those terms, but the noble Lord will recognise that what is described in the Bill is the relationship between the Secretary of State and the devolved authorities. I appeal to his profound understanding of politics. This is a transparent and open process and in a clear case where there has been a significant dereliction that would be for a pretty good reason. To put it mildly, the whole nation would know of it, not just the devolved Administration.

Of course the Secretary of State would have to reach a judgment on how reparation would subsequently be made. The judgment might well be entirely right, fair and proper and the devolved Administration who had missed the targets might well be expected to make the reparation next time. On the other hand, it might be judged that no one could have foreseen the circumstances where the failure occurred. Within that framework, the Secretary of State might judge that with its rather greater resources it should be borne by the United Kingdom, which at the end of the day is responsible to the international judgment on these matters. I make the obvious point to the noble Lord, and indeed to the noble Baroness, that we are dealing with a process of consultation and an adjustment of understanding what is sought and should be achieved. There will be toing and froing within that framework

8 Jan 2008 : Column 837

in very much the same way as the noble Baroness has identified in her use of other authorities as an illustration. What is clear in the Bill is that the actual achievement of targets is the responsibility of the Secretary of State.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the Minister for that response. He correctly identified these amendments as being of a probing nature, but he and the whole Committee should be grateful to my noble friends Lady Byford and Lord Dixon-Smith for raising the issues in the way they have done—for the first time, although we have had indications of them earlier on various amendments. It shows the potential for tensions that might exist between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved national authorities. We live in a democracy where the governance of one part of the United Kingdom is not forced to be the same or to have the same political beliefs as those of another, and tensions can be built into such a system.

It is particularly interesting that the Minister confirms that it is the United Kingdom that will actually have to adjust to any deficiency of delivery by a national authority. I presume that means buying carbon credits internationally in some way or other, so there is a budgetary implication for the United Kingdom Government. I do not know whether the Minister has thoroughly thought that through. I am very reassured by his comments on Amendment No. 96, which made it clear that the Secretary of State has to do, in effect, what our amendments sought to achieve. I am interested in the response we have had to this very useful debate about the relationship of the Bill, the authorities, the discussions that have currently taken place and the commitments that have been made up to date—knowing full well of course that no parliament can bind its successor and that the agreements that have been made with a devolved authority currently within the United Kingdom may not be persistent. It is important that we have mechanisms for resolving these difficulties, because I suspect that differences of political impact and political priorities may produce tensions within the system on occasion. But, given the lateness of the hour and the commitment of the Minister to talk on these matters, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 96 not moved.]

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Alteration of budgetary periods]:

[Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 not moved.]

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Targeted greenhouse gases]:

Lord Teverson moved Amendment No. 99:

The noble Lord said: I sometimes think that I am trying to do the Government a favour in moving these amendments but that it is not always appreciated. We come to the issue of defining greenhouse gases and the strange anomaly that although this is called a Climate Change Bill, it deals only with carbon dioxide—not that we in any way underestimate the importance of carbon dioxide’s contribution to global warming.

8 Jan 2008 : Column 838

I remember being reprimanded by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, at the end of the first Committee sitting—and I am glad that she is able to join us now. She told me off when I tried to change the carbon budget period to three years, saying that it did not in any way comply with the international time periods and that we should have an international dimension. She said:

That is absolutely right. The Kyoto targets relate to greenhouse gases and not just to carbon dioxide, and the EU targets for 2020 and beyond concern greenhouse gases. The UK Government were part of setting that at last year’s spring European Council. Looking at the European ETS, we think of it as a carbon trading system, but in fact Annexe II lists the gases included under the directive that set up the trading scheme and—guess what—listed there are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. I have never yet met a sulphur hexafluoride, but the point is that all these gases are extremely important in terms of emissions and they are the accepted basket of gases for measuring the effectiveness of the fight against climate change. However, in the Bill we restrict that. We do not do so for ever—there are clauses to amend the list in future—but at present and for the likely future we say that the provision relates just to carbon dioxide. That is not in line with international practice.

Strangely enough, if we were to say that the target was still 60 per cent, although we would want to change it to 80 per cent, then in terms of the 1990 base our reductions in non-carbon greenhouse gases have been far more effective, which makes meeting the targets of the 1990 base slightly easier. However, I believe that those gases should be included. It is equally as important to reduce them according to their weight and use as it is to reduce carbon dioxide. I suggest to the Government that we bring the Bill in line with international and European practice, both of which we have been a part of, and that we include all greenhouse gases so that we can truly call this a Climate Change Bill. I beg to move.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes): If this amendment were to be agreed, I could not call Amendment No. 101 by reason of pre-emption.

The Duke of Montrose: This has become an interesting discussion and I shall be keen to hear the Minister’s reply. In particular, perhaps he could clarify for us whether the gases listed under Clause 64 are exactly the same as those in the Kyoto agreement. I understand that under the Kyoto agreement these gases have all been allocated a carbon equivalence and are therefore totted up as part of the savings in carbon emissions.

At first sight the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, seems to be a splendid effort to tidy up the Bill. No doubt the noble Lord has thought about this issue a great deal more than I have done, but there is a critical difference in that under

8 Jan 2008 : Column 839

Clause 19 the definition of a greenhouse gas is subject to affirmative resolution, whereas under Clause 64 it is subject only to the negative procedure. I do not know how much argument will arise about which gas should be included or added, but I should like to think a great deal more about whether the affirmative resolution is the route to follow.

Clause 19 is also part of measures required under Clause 10 which have to be taken into account by the climate change committee, and that is quite an important element. I am sure that further criteria will emerge regarding chemicals that affect elements of the atmosphere.

I see hydrofluorocarbons in the list in Section 64. I know that somewhere down the line I have run into chlorofluorocarbons, but I do not know whether they are already included or whether we will be extending this list to cover other elements. There are obviously nasty things out there that can have a large effect on climate change and I am interested to hear what the Minister has to say about that.

9.45 pm

Lord Redesdale: I very much hope that the Minister will take on board this amendment. One problem that we often underestimate is the financial impact of not dealing with certain gases. Hydrofluorocarbons—HFCs—are quite extensively used in the production of strawberries in order to prolong their growing season. Without them it would be very difficult to grow strawberries in this country in the way that we have. They have a financial benefit and were exempted by the Government on the basis of their extending the growing season for strawberries. However, as a carbon-equivalent gas, it has a massive impact on the environment. They have the effect of carbon but by many magnitudes.

Dealing with such gases by means of the affirmative resolution procedure would be a positive step. One problem we will face is the financial implication of including certain gases while excluding others. We should not shy away from the difficulties that some sections of agriculture will face depending on whether use of these gases is banned or allowed. If we are to allow their use then we should understand the implications for carbon equivalence.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I wonder whether the Minister will cast his mind back to the recent Greater London Authority legislation which the Government amended to include all greenhouse gases as regards the Mayor’s climate change strategy, recognising that that should include the whole basket of gases. Why have the two been separated again in this Bill? With regard to strawberries, the growing season is incredibly long in Somerset and Devon and they do incredibly well anyway.

Lord Crickhowell: At this point in the evening I do not want to delay the Committee on what is an extremely complicated issue. I have just been rereading the Joint Committee’s report, which covers several pages on this issue. However, it is worth putting the Joint Committee’s conclusion on the record, because it made some recommendations and I would like to have the Government’s response to them.

8 Jan 2008 : Column 840

The Joint Committee—on which the noble Lord who moved this amendment was a member, though he was not able to carry us wholly on his views while in committee—agreed on balance with the Government that it is reasonable for the Bill to focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It went on to say that,

I think that that is an important set of recommendations directly relating to the point made by the noble Lord who moved the amendment. I would be grateful if the Minister could give some indication of how the Government are going to respond to that recommendation.

Baroness Byford: I wonder whether it is just me who is getting confused by the hour. Clause 19(1)(a) clearly defines carbon dioxide, but paragraph (b) refers to,

I am getting totally lost in this because I would have thought that paragraph (b) covers the very points that the noble Lord raised in moving his amendment.

Lord Dixon-Smith: Without differing from my noble friend, who I love dearly, paragraph (b) refers to gases designated by order of the Secretary of State, whereas carbon dioxide is on the face of the Bill. That is a distinction. Can the Minister explain why that distinction is made?

Lord Rooker: I shall try to answer the points, but one of the most confusing things for me is that I am responding to a group made up of Amendments Nos. 99 and 100 and Clause 20 stand part. The two amendments are in Clause 19, and there is another group consisting of Amendments Nos. 101, 102 and 106, which affect Clauses 19 and 20, as do Amendments Nos. 103 and 105. I cannot for the life of me see why I am required to speak to Clause 20 stand part when I am only dealing with Amendments Nos. 99 and 100 in Clause 19 and I still have other amendments to deal with. The whole point of a clause-stand-part debate is that it takes place at the end of the debates on the amendments when the Committee has discussed the Bill to see whether all the points have been answered. However, I have got a speaking note and at this time of night I am going to stick to it because it is the last time I am coming to this Box tonight. That is unsatisfactory because it is not a clear cut-off, but simply because of the way we are.

With regard to Amendments Nos. 99 and 100, which would include the basket of the six Kyoto greenhouse gases—the Clause 64 gases—within the Bill’s targets

8 Jan 2008 : Column 841

and budgets framework, we accept that there are strong arguments for including other greenhouse gases in our targets. However, the vast majority—some 85 per cent—of the UK’s contribution to climate change is from carbon dioxide emissions. We have a good understanding of the costs and benefits of reducing CO2 emissions, whereas there is much less understanding about the cost-effective potential of reducing other greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the long-term. That is not to say that we are doing nothing about it because we are taking measures in terms of local authority waste to reduce methane emissions from landfill, which account for 3 per cent. In pushing the uptake of anaerobic digestion for manure slurry and other organic waste and attempting to reduce other greenhouse gases, detailed work is going on in the department. However, 85 per cent of our contribution is to carbon dioxide emissions and we know more about how to deal with them.

The Joint Committee looked closely at this issue, and came to the view that:

It therefore recommended that there should be annual reporting on all greenhouse gas emissions, and we have accepted that recommendation. The Joint Committee also recommended that this should be a stepping stone, as the noble Lord said, towards an approach which addresses all greenhouse gases. That is provided through Clause 19 and will form part of the review of the 2050 target by the Committee on Climate Change. We have asked the Committee on Climate Change to look at this issue as part of its review of the 2050 target, so that we can take an informed decision on the level of the target and on whether to include other greenhouse gases now. I am here as the Defra Minister, it is true, but it is not my day job, and I regret that I do not know whether we have publicly said that we have asked the climate change committee—which we have not set up, but the secretariat is there in shadow form—to do that so the work is under way.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page