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There is a large degree of consensusalthough I am not claiming support from anywhere in particularabout the way we are trying to do this. It is not revolutionary, it is evolutionary, but with all haste. The Bill is here, we have made the necessary preparations for the climate change committee and we have set out our stall. That is why the former Prime Minister can justifiably go around making speeches on the basis that the UK is giving a lead. If we were not doing this it would be much more difficult for Tony Blair to make those speeches, but he knows that we are on our way to giving a lead to Europe and the world, even though we are relatively small emitters of greenhouse gases. I hope that, on that basis, my noble friend will be reassured that we are taking on board social justice and equity, and will not push his amendment.
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for being so constructive in his response and to my noble friend Lord Puttnam for his remarks. One point that was made en passant was new to me: in 2009 there will be what I shall describe as the financial carbon budgets side by side with the quantitative carbon budgets. That is certainly a step forward.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stern, that we can grow the GDP. What concerns me is not the theory that we can but that, to use a variation on the word revolution, there could be a revolt. People will find that they are being hit by taxes to choke off demand. We need to have more discussion at some level or other about whether the argument made by Oxford Economics, which was the economic basis of some of the reviews analysis, is true, as I am saying. The argument is that the 30 per cent reduction from trend over the next 20 years will be from choking off demand through price. That is where ballpark numbers are quite important; my guess is that taxation will be responsible for at least half of that. This is the sort of thing we need to get nearer to, and I do not think this is the climate change committees area of expertise.
I know that hypothecation is unfashionable. When I did my economics at Cambridge many years ago I did a special paper on public finance, and I remember all the arguments that were stacked up to say, It is a very bad thing!. As we have seen with the congestion charge and the £50 notes going to buses or something, the issue is about winning hearts and minds. It is a question not just of economic theory but of how you get people to see that this is where their money is going and that is what it is being spent on. This is a revolution in terms of a huge change of economic structure. I have not even mentioned anything about employment structure and workers representation, but all those things are affected.
I shall not push this further today, naturally, but something like a carbon tax forumI do not mind what we call itis an idea whose time has come now. It will be overdue when it is finally introduced because those people in Burton-on-Trent will not know what has hit them. Helping them understand it is a job that, at present, the Treasury is not supremely good at.
I look forward to these issues being further debated in the Labour Party and all the other political parties. Before the Bill gets to the House of Commons, the
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 206, 208 and 210 as well. This group of amendments would once again strengthen the adaptation roles of the Bill. We are trying to ensure that only the most important public authorities are directed to make reports about adaptation and plans issues. It is important that this happens because we need to get on and do this, but only with respect to certain authorities. We believe that public authorities and critical infrastructure providers must assess the risk posed by climate change and take action to address it.
This is a direction to think about something that one should perhaps direct, but it seems a highly indirect approach. Our amendment states that this is important, and that priority authorities should have a duty to do it. Amendment No. 210 provides that the priority reporting authorities should be only category 1 and category 2 responders, which includes emergency services, National Health Service providers, utilities, local authorities and the Environment Agency.
The amendment is very selectiveit imposes a duty. If we are right about the threat of climate change and adaptation is as important as we say it is, then this is a measured but firm response to make sure that as a nationlocally and regionallywe are prepared. I beg to move.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we are grateful for the arguments presented by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. We have put our names to the amendment to highlight our desire to alleviate the confusion regarding
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The Government is Amendment No. 209 requires a report to be laid after 12 months outlining how they intend to exercise the power to give directions to local authorities. However this is simply deferring the issue. The Minister noted in Committee that the Government should wait until the results of voluntary action by local authorities under the new local government performance framework had been collected. Will the Minister give us any indication of the success of these programmes? Does he think that voluntary action is sufficient? If the Minister intends to place a duty to report, we feel that it is very important that the scope of the type and number of institutions that will be reporting and the nature of their reports is completely clear and explained.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, when we last addressed these issues I spoke of my experience as chairman of the National Rivers Authority for more than eight years, dealing with flood protection and flood emergencies. I immediately followed on from the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, chief executive of the Environment Agency. She spoke of her experience and her responsibilities in exactly the same field in recent months and years. I suggested to the Government that, in the light of the absolutely united views of her people, who have been responsible for those bodies over many years, they should take very seriously what was being said to them.
In a debate on a previous amendment, the Minister said that we are starting now. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, rightly pointed out, the government amendment on this issue hardly involves starting now: it tells us that in 12 months the Government will report on how they intend to exercise the powers of giving direction. Yet if the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, were hereI understand that she is attending a board meeting todayshe would point out that this is a matter of great urgency. We are dealing with these emergency situations now. We are likely to be dealing with them in the near future. However, a number of the organisations that are most involved and where it is most likely that urgent action needs to be taken are not showing many signs of urgency at present.
My noble friend Lord Taylor referred to the new local government performance framework. My information is that the results so far show that only about a third of local authorities have adopted the climate change adaptation performance measures as important for them. It does not suggest that they are showing great urgency.
We have heard from the Environment Agency that a number of the key players in this game, such as the water supply and sewerage services, are not showing great signs of giving these issues the priority that is needed. We heard the excuse provided by the Minister
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It is no good putting this off. The Government will look foolish if, while the Secretary of State is considering what report he should lay before Parliament about what action he may take at some date in the future, there is a major emergency such as a flood disaster or another east coast flood of the kind that we have experienced in the past. If we find that the electricity utilities, for example, have not taken effective action or that other bodies that might be disastrously hit in such a flood have not taken preliminary measures, the Government will rightly be blamed for not giving this priority and for a lack of urgency.
All we are urging the Government to do is take this issue as seriously as it needs to be taken, not to delay and to get on with it. I therefore strongly support these amendments and urge the Government to take them more seriously than they appear to have done so far.
Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has made many of the points that I would have made. It is a question of small, local bodies putting this matter sufficiently high on their priority list. This should not be seen as an imposition on those bodies, but as a help in so far as, the people allocating resourcesmoney, time or what have youevery day have 1,000 immediate short-term pressures on them. It is difficult for them to say, These matters, which may impact us in four, five or 10 years time must be worked on now. However, if they can answer their local electorates, officials or councils and say, The Government require us to do this, they can do it. It is a matter of getting inside that mentality, and giving them the support they need to give this important area the priority it must have.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, I sometimes wonder whether, when we talk about priorities, we remember that all these clauses mean that Britain is trying to be an exemplar to the rest of the world. I wonder whether we fail to see the wood for the green trees.
The world population will increase by 3 billion people over the next 30 years. That totally overwhelms anything we could do to alleviate climate change. There is a big selling job to be done to get the British public on board as to the realities of the sort of measures we are suggesting. Although I totally accept that so many of these measures are proposed for the best possible motives, we must remember that they will not make the slightest difference to the climate change we are so worried about.
There are measures we can take, but they are on a much more international stage. I agree that measures such as these will help us to show what good world citizens we are, but the point will come when the British public will get fed up with being good world citizens and look to the rest of the world to do its stuff. We should paint all our endeavours against the world situation and, as I repeat, try to see the wood for the green trees that are preventing us seeing the world situation more clearly.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I rise to support the amendment. I have little to add to the terrific speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Oxburgh. However, I want to make one additional point; the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, is not here and I suspect it is something that she would have wished to say. Maybe, because of the difficulty she may have as chief executive of the Environment Agency, I can put it a little more plainly.
The Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, has rightly said, will get the blame if, as and when there is a disaster. They will quite likely seek to lay the blame and responsibility on the Environment Agency. Is it reasonable or sensible, politically or morally, not to take the firm advice of the Environment Agency on this matter, and allow this amendment to stand?
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I will in due course speak to government Amendments Nos. 209 and 229 in this group. In doing so, I hope to reassure your Lordships House that the Government have taken on board the debate we had in Committee. I want to reassure your Lordships that the Government have a commitment to ensure that vital services, critical infrastructure and the natural environment are protected through appropriate action to adapt to climate change.
The government amendments will ensure that there is greater transparency over, and an early report to Parliament on, the authorities which are a priority for adapting to a changing climate. But they also set out a flexible and proportionate approach, now and into the future, which will ensure that we can respond to the impacts of climate change quickly, without the need for future primary legislation. They would place a new duty on the Secretary of State to lay reports before Parliament, setting out how he intends to exercise the power to give directions to reporting authorities to prepare adaptation reports under Clause 52. These reports by the Secretary of State will outline the circumstances in which such directions will be given, and those reporting authorities that are a priority. Before laying the report before Parliament, the appropriate persons or bodies will be consulted. Government Amendment No. 229 also lays out a similar arrangement for Wales.
We are determined to provide this information as soon as practically possible, taking on board the points made in Committee about the timescale for government action. Amendment No. 209 therefore proposes that the first report under this new clause is laid before Parliament no later than 12 months after this Bill is enacted. In order to meet this deadline, we expect the public consultation to be held before the end of the year, so we are taking action as quickly as
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I hope that these amendments will provide sufficient confidence in the decision-making process and help provide clarity to reporting authorities as to which of them are considered to be priorities. I hope that it also reassures the House that the Government expect public bodies to assess risk and take action. There is also a small set of technical amendments in my name: Amendments Nos. 234 to 239 make some amendments to the table of definitions in Clause 79 to reflect the changes made to the Bill in Committee.
Turning to Amendments Nos. 205 to 208 and 210, I have seriously considered the points made in Committee about the merits of placing a blanket duty on those bodies listed in Schedule 1 to the Civil Contingencies Act. However, we remain convinced that a power to request reports from these or other organisations, as set out in Clauses 51 to 59 and reinforced by the government amendments, is more appropriateand, indeed, more effectivethan placing a blanket duty on all organisations in the civil contingencies list, for the following key reasons.
First, identifying a particular group of bodies now is too prescriptive and inflexible. Under government Amendment No. 209, we will be able to identify those bodies that are a priority, not just now but in the future, without the need for further legislation. This is because the list of reporting authorities referred to in Amendment No. 210 has been set in primary legislation and cannot be updated except through further primary legislation. In addition, specifying bodies under the Civil Contingencies Act signals that adapting to climate change is solely about emergency response. We recognise that this is an important issue, and those organisations with responsibilities under the Civil Contingencies Act will, in any case, need to be planning for risks to human welfare, the environment and security under their existing statutory duties.
However, we also want to send a strong signal that climate change can impact on any public body, not just those identified as responding to national emergencies. Impacts can be gradualheat, water stressas well as sudden, and will impact different bodies in different ways. In some sectors there may well be opportunities as well as risks, such as some potential benefits for health and agriculture.
Furthermore, the Governments approach has the potential scope to cover up to 20 times more bodies than the civil contingencies list. For instance, organisations such as drainage boards, which may be identified as vital in responding to emergencies, are not covered by the list referred to in Amendment No. 210 but will be very important in our long-term response to climate change. This example highlights the inconsistency in the proposed approach. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, used a figure that I had given previously of some 25,000 authorities covered by the definition. In fact, we are now up to 28,000
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I do not interrupt the Minister lightly. Maybe I misunderstand our own amendment, but it does not stop the Secretary of State having that discretion in the Bill. It says that the Secretary of State must in terms of the priority authorities. He still has all the authority to ask others to report as well, so I do not understand that argument. The Secretary of State can ask those bodies without any change in primary legislation. All we are saying is that, for priority 1 and priority 2, he must; for the rest, he can.
The Civil Contingencies Act covers about 1,400 bodies whereas the definition we propose includes about 28,000 statutory undertakers. These are bodies such as schools, higher and further education institutions, public bodies sponsored by government departments, the Prison Service, probation boards and inspectorates, and royal colleges. Although we will apply a risk-based approach to targeting specific organisations, we do not envisage requiring all the 28,000 bodies to report. The definition we are using has not changed but we have now conducted some further work and believe the number covered to be closer to 28,000 and not the 25,000 that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, used. That is the reason for the figure. I am trying to update as we go along.
Secondly, a blanket duty would be overly burdensome and counter to the principles of better regulation that the Government are committed to and that your Lordships House has supported. The Better Regulation Commissions report on risk and climate change noted that the Government should keep administrative burdens to a minimum. We have accepted all the recommendations from the commissions report and fully intend to adhere to them. As I have already noted, category 1 and 2 responders under the Civil Contingencies Act will already be assessing climate change risks where appropriate, so an additional duty specifically on this group will be particularly unnecessary and burdensome. That may go some way to answering the noble Lord.
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