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Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, if the Government are really serious about reducing the impact of carbon is it not time that they, first, invested some effort into an education programme on the issue; secondly, put in place means by which people can travel without using aeroplanes; and thirdly, gave some active encouragement to the British tourist industry so that people do not have to go abroad?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord and I enjoy our debates on the rail and bus industries, and he usually fairly expresses the view that we have invested considerably in that sector, are making great progress, and that passenger numbers on both rail and bus are rising. As for his point about an education campaign, we have launched the Act on CO2 campaign, which is raising public awareness of the issue.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, while I have supported my noble friend Lady McIntosh in her line on this issue, I had not intended to intervene until I heard the Minister say that we should not focus on one industry. The Government need to recognise that we are not focusing on one industry. The aviation industry has special privileges in terms of taxation, the way in which it is treated in the trading scheme, and in how its planning propositions are bulldozed through, whereas other industries that are reducing their carbon content get knocked back. It is time that the Government in a coherent wayI appreciate that there is some confusion on the Conservative Benches, but there is also a confusing message from the Governmenttold the aviation industry that all we are asking is for it to be treated the same as every other sector.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I think that we are doing exactly that. We have a coherent emissions trading programme. We talked to the aviation sector about operational improvements in terms of surface transport feeding into that sector. We have a comprehensive programme on research and development, and we use a range of economic instruments to encourage what might be described as good behaviour by that sector. The offsetting scheme, and the fact that we are raising public awareness, tells me that we have a coherent government strategy to tackle a major, long-term, international problem.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, do the Government accept that part of the answer to the current expansion of the aviation industry in Britain has to be a real drive to shift national transportation from air to rail? Across the Channel in Spain, France, the Netherlands and Germany, one sees large, long-term investment in high-speed rail. One also sees Schiphol, Paris Roissy, Frankfurt and elsewhere with through railway lines to link local and national rail to international air travel. None of these projects has been carried through in Britain. The previous Government were equally culpable with the present one. Do we not want a long-term investment policy to invest in high-speed rail and direct rail links to airports?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we have a massive programme of investment into the rail network. I stand at this Dispatch Box as part of a Government who have introduced the Crossrail Bill, which is an important and significant cross-London linking element to our network. We have improved connectivity between our major citiesinto London, in particular. We continue to invest in expanding capacity in the rail network. No post-war Government could boast that record. I think that we are doing an extremely good job, and for the past 10 years there has been a 40 per cent increase in the number of passengers using our rail network.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, we seem to be looking at the aviation industry in a microcosm rather than at the economy as a whole. The noble Lord said that we have to increase the railway network to airports. Why? So that we can get more people to the airports and get more people to fly, which means constructing more runways, as has been done in Schiphol, Munich and Paris. We have to look at the whole rather than at just one part.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, wind turbines can affect a number of Ministry of Defence activities and interests, including radar, low-flying training and seismological equipment. Recent MoD objections to planning applications for wind turbines have been necessary because of the predicted unacceptable interference with radar. In some cases, this is air traffic control radar; in others, it is air defence radar.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for that Answer, but is she not aware that there have been obstructions such as oil rigs in the North Sea for about 30 years? Offshore wind turbines, to which the MoD has not objected, have been given permission. In fact, there have been wind turbines off the coast of Belgium, which is rather closer to parts of the UK than the new offshore wind turbine sites currently proposed, for 20 years. Why has the MoD only just woken up to this? If the objections are sustained, does my noble friend not agree that it will wreck Government energy policy?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: No, my Lords, the MoD fully supports the Governments renewable energy targets and we are working actively to mitigate
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Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the report by officials in the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, which was fortunately leaked to the Guardian. It pointed out that the Governments 2020 renewable energy target was unattainable, and that even if it could almost be attained, it would cost between £18 billion and £22 billion. Should not the noble Baroness instead be thanking the Ministry of Defence for getting the Government off this absurd and absurdly expensive hook?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, those are not absurd targets. The Governments policy is for 10 per cent of the UKs electricity supply to come from renewable resources by 2010, and 15 per cent by 2015, with an aspiration to rise to 20 per cent by 2020. As was evidenced by some of the comments in the previous Question, it is in all our interests to try to meet those targets. Wind energy has a role to play in that.
Lord Addington: My Lords, will the Minister assure us that the Ministry of Defence has a coherent line when any of these objections are raised, and point out where the line in this pattern of objections is? As with many other subjects to do with any aspect of wind farms, we discover that they are responsible for everything from lowering house prices to scaring cats. Can we please have a little coherence here?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, the Ministry of Defence raises objections only when there are real reasons for doing so. For example, with radar interference, turbine blades can create clutter on the screen; they can mask radar returns from real radar; they can create holes in radar coverage. This is not a concern only within the MoD; it is shared by those responsible for civil aviation. On occasion, NATS and the CAA have objected as well. We only do it when we have to. We think that there is a strong role for wind energy in the future. We offer advice where we can, so that people do not pursue applications for planning permission if we are going to object. We have a very big take-up and have received 4,800 pre-planning proposals from people who have contacted the MoD since 1996 and who value the advice that we have been giving.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I have not looked into navigation at sea, but the MoD works as a whole on those issues. We have some concerns, for example, on search and rescue operations, where wind turbines could cause problems. Steps are being taken to try to mitigate that and to assess the extent of that issue. It is a concern of which we are aware, but it is not thought overall that there should be a problem, although there could be in certain specific cases.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I think that that is extending the Question a little far. But, obviously, I mentioned that one of our concerns was air defence radar. We have very good coverage of air defence radar and we would not want wind turbines or anything else to interfere with the operation of that.
Lord Luke: My Lords, can the Minister answer what seems to me to be a fairly obvious question, bearing in mind that the Times on 4 and 5 February said that the trials which have been taking place under the auspices of the MoD were in 2004 and 2005? Did the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform consult with the MoD before he announced in December the draft plans for major expansion of offshore wind? Did he know about the 2005 trials?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, we spread information throughout government. As regards wind energy applications, there is a wind, energy and aviation interest interim guideline section for those who want to have wind farms and to develop them. The MoD interests are clearly laid out, as are some of our concerns. As well as that, we have, as a department, written to all planning authorities setting out our concerns so that all those who want to develop wind farms should be fully aware of the nature of the MoDs concerns.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the report relates to four proposals for new committees; two of them are one-off ad hoc committeeson the working of the Abortion Act 1967 and the Barnett formulaand two are sessional or ongoing committeeson the scrutiny of treaties and on the work of the Statistics Board. It is rather unusual for me to report to the House at this time of year. In the normal course of events, we would not consider further proposals for committees of your Lordships' House until later in the year, not least because the House has recently established an ad hoc committee on intergovernmental organisations. The basic understanding is that the House will have only one ad hoc committee in existence at any one time.
However, we agreed to bring forward consideration of these proposals in view of representations that consideration of a committee on the Abortion Act would be relevant to the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The committee recognised the important issues raised by each of those proposals and we were grateful to each of the proponents for their presentations to us. We thought that the case for establishing a new committee was made out in respect of the scrutiny of the work of the new Statistics Board, as recommended by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, and others. However, as the proposal here is for a Joint Committee of both Houses, its implementation does not rest within the power of the committee or of your Lordships' House. Our report accordingly simply sets out our support in principle for this proposal, which we hope will be taken forward by the Government. We did not support any of the other proposals.
The issue of abortion is self-evidently one on which strong opinions are held. The noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, strongly pressed the case for a committee on this subject. But committee members were unanimous in their view that the proposal of a wide-ranging review of the working of the 1967 Act was not appropriate for an ad hoc committee, and that the case for such a review was not strengthened by the current passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
We have considered the issue of scrutiny of treaties on previous occasions. The Government are currently considering reform of parliamentary scrutiny in this area and the House debated those issues last Thursday in the debate introduced by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, in which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, put forward similar arguments to those she advanced to us. We concluded that this issue should be considered further in the light of the Governments forthcoming proposals and that, given the considerable constitutional, procedural, resource and capacity issues, we should not pre-empt that debate.
Finally, we considered the case for a review of the Barnett formula, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett himself. In view of the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, it might be helpful if at this stage I were to say a few words about why I hope the advice of the Liaison Committee will be accepted. We have some sympathy with the noble Lord over the case in principle for a review of the Barnett formula. But our view was that a review of the formula was not a suitable subject for a committee of this House. We doubted whether any review would be constrained within sensible bounds and we thought that, in principle, this sort of highly politicised subject matter falls within the area of scrutiny more obviously occupied by the Commons. We thought that if a committee of your Lordships House were to be established, the extent to which it would carry influence in decision-making would be questionable. As a result, we did not feel able to recommend to your Lordships the establishment of a committee on the Barnett formula. I beg to move.
Lord Barnett rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert save for the recommendation in paragraph 7 relating to the Barnett formula, and that this House approves the proposal for the establishment of an ad hoc Select Committee to review the Barnett formula.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will be brief, because my submission to the committee is set out in full in Appendix 2 of the report. It seems to me that it is a very simple proposal. My memorandum includes the latest figures from the Treasury, which show that the average public expenditure per head in Scotland is £1,500 more than in England. That does not mean that I am proposing a committee to change those figures, but simply to review them. The method of calculation was produced some 30 years agoI was a child at the time. I want to be quite clear that this is not an anti-Scotland proposal. A review may well prove that Scotland should get those amounts, but surely, after 30 years, there should be a review. There is an urgency about this, because if something is not seen to be done soon, people in England will start to demand separation. That would be disastrous for the UK, and certainly I would not support any such idea.
My proposal is for a genuine ad hoc committee, for the obvious reason that it could not continue for years, like many supposedly ad hoc committees. The Chairman of Committees referred to paragraph 7 of the Liaison Committee report, which starts by expressing some sympathy for my proposal. What he did not mention was the point the committee made that any review could go too wide and start delving into devolution. I would certainly accept very tight terms of reference that would stick to a review of the formula.
The big issue referred to by the Chairman of Committees is that the committee said that it would not be appropriateI am using the committees wordfor this House to consider the matter. If we accepted that proposition, I do not know what we would do in this House. We deal with expenditure items all the timeit would be impossible not to. To suggest that it could be done only by the Commons seems to me to be a very serious matter for this House, and I certainly hope that your Lordships will not accept it.
Apart from anything else, I hope your Lordships will agree that this House does a better job in Select Committees precisely because we are not as party-political and are more authoritative. In any case, the House of Commons shows no indication that it wants a review of the formula. However, this is an urgent matter and I am sure that this House could produce an excellent report. The committee could be chaired by a senior Cross-Bench Peera former Cabinet Secretary, for exampleto produce the kind of authoritative report that would have to be listened to. To suggest that only the Commons Select Committees are listened to would be virtually to tell all our Select Committees to close down now.
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