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This also brings to mind the way in which businesss commitment will be calculated. If there is not a robust mechanism for measuring and reporting on emissions, how can business be asked to be held to account in a proper fashion? The National Audit Office review on UK greenhouse gas emissions, published this week, noted that the Government currently use two different methods of calculating our national emissions, one which includes the pollution from aviation, and the other, which does not. Unsurprisingly, each method
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Before many of the orders to be made under this Bill are carried outand it seems that most of what will happen under the Bill will have to come through ordersa firm system should be in place to address the issues in the NAO review. The issue of financial penalties is a choice example of how unclear reporting procedures will lead to a bungled application of the measures intended to curb emissions. Though it might sound a bit tangential, it is very important to this amendment that we have clear assurances on how the Government intend to handle the issues presented in the NAO report. In general terms, how do the Government plan to make regulations to reduce emissions when it is unclear what those emissions are?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I apologise if I overstepped the mark here, but I have simply moved two government amendments the only purpose of which is to change the procedure under the Bill, at the point when action is taken, from the negative procedure to the affirmative procedure. I have not changed any powers whatever in the Bill. Nothing has changed. That is all that has happened. In these two amendments we have simply changed Parliaments voting powers so that Parliament can deal with these issues under the affirmative resolution.
The issues which the noble Lord raised go way beyond these two amendments. If we were in Committee I would probably have a wad of notes saying how we might operate this. On the other hand I might be advised that we will not know until the situation arises. But all I have done here is to ensureon the very issues which the noble Lord raisedthat Parliament has the opportunity of a debate under the affirmative procedure when these powers are used, rather than it being slipped through under the negative procedure. I say under the negative procedure as though that does not matter, but the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee will always look at these issues and draw the Houses attention to them if it thinks that we have got them wrong. All the issues that the noble Lord raised would rightly be raised in such a debate and in a vote under the affirmative procedure. I cannot go into any other detail on the issues he raised.
The noble Lord said: Government Amendments Nos. 193, 198 and 204 delete the words from time to time in Clauses 48, 49 and 50 and then tidy up the grammar. We are making these amendments to reassure noble Lords that we understand the urgency of adapting to climate change, and I hope this will clear up some of the confusion over the reporting timetable set out in Clause 48(2) and (3).
On government Amendment No. 202, as I set out during our earlier debates, the Government believe that Parliament is the body best placed to scrutinise progress on adaptation to climate change. To ensure that there can be proper scrutiny, we need to ensure that regular progress updates are provided to Parliament on how we are doing in addressing the impacts of climate change.
We have listened to concerns raised in Committee and therefore have tabled government Amendment No. 202, which requires mid-term reporting on progress in implementing the adaptation programmethat is, no later than 30 months after the last programme was laid before Parliament. These new mid-term reports will contain an assessment of the progress made towards implementing the objectives, proposals and policies set out in the five-yearly programme. We believe that the mid-term report is an appropriate response as it will provide more regular updates to Parliament. It also ensures that we can maintain a long-term approach to adaptation, balancing reporting needs with efforts on delivery.
I turn now to the other amendments in this group, Amendments Nos. 194, 196 and 199. While I appreciate the concerns that we need to ensure that we can quickly identify and respond to the more immediate climate tasks, we do not believe that these amendments are the correct way to achieve that. Amendment No. 199, calling for yearly updates on the programme, is unnecessary. The Governments amendments to the Bill, and the usual departmental reporting processes, will ensure that Parliament receives regular updates on progress of the programme.
There must be policy continuity. The national programme for action is unlikely to be overhauled on a yearly basis, and we need to allow sufficient time for the measures to take effect. Reporting fully every 30 months, as in the Governments amendments, is therefore a more measured approach.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for raising in our previous discussions the possibility of using departmental reports to provide further information to Parliament and strengthen its ability to hold the Government to account on progress. We have considered this, and can reassure your Lordships House that Defras annual departmental report will provide updates to Parliament on the government-wide adaptation programme. Across government, where the impacts of climate change are likely to affect the delivery of the
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I am unable to accept the proposals for yearly risk reporting under Clause 48 as set out in Amendment No. 194. That would compromise the need to build an accurate evidence base on which we can develop policies. As I explained in Committee, we firmly believe that it will not be possible to produce a comprehensive risk assessment more frequently than every five years. This is an immensely complicated and comprehensive piece of work and the scientific data and computing capacity are not available to provide meaningful updates to the climate models more regularly than every five years.
Adaptation requires a long-term approach. However, we recognise that there is a need to asses more immediate risks and to manage emergency responses. To inform medium-term planning, the Cabinet Office already undertakes a yearly national risk assessment process looking at all major risks to the United Kingdom, such as outbreak of pandemic flu or chemical spills and so on. This is focused on a five-year timeframe and is not so heavily reliant on the climate change science. The risks from flooding, for example, are currently routinely considered as part of the UKs risk management processes. A programme of work to address some of the risks at national level is detailed on the UK Resilience website. A separate process of annual risk reporting would duplicate this process and is therefore unnecessary. We will of course ensure that the Cabinet Office process is informed by the longer-term risk assessment and national programme under Clauses 48 and 49, and vice versa.
We also need to maintain flexibility on reporting in order to respond to other work being done internationally or to major events, and to align national reporting with our international commitments, which is likely to be every four or five years. That is why we cannot accept Amendment No. 196, which would remove our ability to respond to new developments, events or advances in science. As I said in Committee, we want to reassure noble Lords that the Government have plans in place to fully meet the reporting requirements and we do not expect to have to extend the reporting period.
On that basis we feel that the Bills existing provisions for risk reporting, coupled with our proposed new amendments, are appropriate, will provide the best information and will allow for a comprehensive response. It would be futile, self-defeating and a waste of taxpayers money to produce the risk assessment more regularly.
I therefore hope that noble Lords will accept that we listened to what was said in Committee, and that they will take on board the assurance about departmental reports to Parliament and the fact that the Defra report will cover the government-wide approach. Taken together as a package, the Cabinet Office national risk assessment process, picking up the short-term risks, and the government amendment on mid-term reporting will provide robust scrutiny of how well we are dealing with the impacts of climate change. I beg to move.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we welcome the Governments willingness to report on the efforts they are making to mitigate the impacts of climate change; as the Minister pointed out, that is largely the effect of these amendments. The necessity of such a programme now seems finally to have been met with the equal necessity of informing Parliament about the progress of its implementation. We welcome that.
There is still a curious feature in the government amendments in this group. There is no real time constraint on these reports. The government amendments require successive reports to be laid before Parliament at least every 30 monthstwo and a half yearsafter a programme has been created. For the report to be meaningful, it must come some time after the programme has been implemented. However, there is no timeframe for the programme. Is two years long enough? Surely the progress could be tracked in a shorter timeframe. Can the Minister explain how, for example, he arrived at 30 months?
These amendments refer also to the section on reports on the impact of climate change. What will be the frequency of the reports? Our amendments propose yearly reports. In introducing his amendments, the Minister said that one year on data collection is not long enough for reportable differences to be noticed. But the government amendments remove the timeframe altogether. The Secretary of State also has in the Bill the power to delay the report for as long as he likes provided he publishes a statement saying why. That is unacceptable. There is a need for stronger provisions to ensure that this information is regularly and thoroughly reported on. The government amendments do not seem to go quite far enough.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, before the Minister responds to my noble friend, will he clarify his initial contribution? I understand that the Government clearly accept that they will come forward with something every 30 months. The Minster then spoke of other departments feeding into the system, headed up by the Cabinet review every five years. I do not quite understand how you could get those two views together, when one is on a 30-month basis and the other, if I understand the Minister correctly, is on a five-year rotation. I would be glad if the Minister could clarify that.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, following what my noble friend has just said, when the Minister talks about the input from government departmentswhich is obviously extremely importantdoes that include the devolved Administrations? As we have been saying constantly at various stages of the Bill, so many of the matters being referred to are devolved. Will those Administrations be required to feed in to these reports in the way that government departments have? Have they agreed to do that already? Will it work all right? Can the Minister clarify that as well?
Lord Teverson: My Lords, in Committee we proposed that these reports should be annual. From that discussion, that is not the best way forward and 30 months is the right period for adaptation reports. I therefore welcome the government amendments.
Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, I, too, think that 30 months would be the right reporting period, for the reasons given. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will receive information in sufficient detail for these reports to be significant? On flooding, for example, the responsibilities for the management of drains and waterways are dispersed around the country, ranging from individual landowners, farmers and city councils to river authorities and what have you. Only one has to fail in its responsibilities for the whole system to come apart. I would be grateful for assurance and advice on that.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I hope that I can be brief. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, asked why it was 30 months. Basically, that is half of five years. Annually is too frequent; the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has accepted that. We thought that we could come up with a sufficient review mid-term.
The noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked about the Cabinet. The Cabinet Office undertakes these risk assessments already. That is part of the ongoing process of resilience and preparation for all kinds of issues, some of which it would probably be quite wrong to read out for serious reasons. I gave the examples of pandemic flu and flooding or chemical spills. These are major issues which are ongoing as part of the government operation for the public good, to be as prepared as possible for all these issues. However, that is more short-term in the sense that it is looked at annually, in the context of the five years we have worked on, the two-and-a-half year interim reports and the annual checks as a package. That is almost my last paragraph about the departmental reports.
I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, that the Bill is approved by the devolved Administrations. In the departmental reports, I therefore take it that I am covering that acceptancein the departmental reports of the Scottish Executive or the Welsh Assembly Government, or the Scottish Office in terms of Whitehalland that this information will be covered and put in the public domain.
My earlier point was that Defras annual report will cover all the government departments so that everything is in one area, except for where the public service agreement targets have to be looked at. It is much better for one report to cover everything. Although Defra may be leading on this, this is a government-wide Bill. My only answer to the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, is that the Government will be responding to the report on last years flooding by Sir Michael Pitt. There were two excellent reports and the interim report certainly went into great detail. He mentioned how all the various bodies involved in potential flooding have to be clarified and how failure by one, whether it is the Environment Agency, local authority drainage, the water companies or the internal drainage boards, throws the effect on the others. The protection of towns against flood risk causes flooding elsewhere. One has to be aware of that and prepared for it before one
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Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, with regard to this information being collected, the Scottish Parliament has its own departments. They will all have to collect information before the Scottish Parliament can feed into this Defra report. That is all going to take time and be quite complicated. Have the Government faced up to that? I am just trying to be practical; I am not trying to put a spoke in the wheel. But collecting this information is not just about government departments sitting around the Cabinet table. Departments in Scotland will all have to feed in. Do the Government recognise that?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I cannot speak in great detail on this but the reality of devolution is devolution. There is a Parliament in Scotland holding the Executive to account. This Bill will affect the devolved Administrations and the national authorities, but the Parliament in Scotland is the body to hold the Scottish Executive to account, not this House. All I have said is that this is a package Bill agreed with the devolved Administrations. The appropriate procedures as to how the departments of the Scottish Executive report to the Scottish Parliament are for them. But the information will be collected and it will have to be published at some point.
Clause 48, page 21, line 31, leave out from Kingdom to end of line 32 and insert including the risks of damage to or deterioration of the environment including biodiversity, living organisms and the ecological systems of which they form part, and nature resources; and of the current and predicted impact of climate change
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we discussed at some length in Committee the areas of biodiversity, ecology and the environment. These areas are not often mentioned in the Bill as a whole and we feel strongly still that they need to be specifically mentioned. Having listened to the debate in Committee, we have been very modest in our ambitions to include, under the section on reporting and adaptation, the environment, biodiversity, in particular, and ecological systems. We feel that it is vital that these areas are introduced into the Bill and we are disappointed that the Government have not fielded their own amendments on this. I am also speaking to Amendments Nos. 200 and 201. I beg to move.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this amendment is very similar to one that we tabled in Committee. We are thus happy to support the ideas behind it. It is absolutely essential to take account of the broad range of impacts of climate change and, indeed, the impacts of the policies which combat it. This broader sense must include the impact on the actual environment
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Climate change has far-reaching effects, and the wider our understanding, the better the proposals. Thus, appreciating the impacts on ecosystems and the environment should be a fundamental consideration in the development of policy. We want to ensure that we are preserving the very thing we are trying to protect.
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