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I do, however, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on his excellent explanation of why there should not be a trading scheme for government buildings. I wish that I had had that speech to put into one of my other speeches earlier on in the debate.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, I had not intended to speak, having arrived rather late for the remainder of this debate, but I cannot restrain myself from speaking on mandatory reporting. I very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said. I cannot believe that we are still discussing this issue at this stage in the climate change debate. Given the acknowledgement that climate change is one of the most severe threats facing the globe and that businesses, individuals and organisations in this country need to rally round and reduce carbon emissions, the fact that the Environment Agency has produced a valuable series of reports on environmental reporting by British industry, as well as the fact that a disparate variety of companies, large and small, are reporting sporadically on carbon but in a way that is singularly unuseful in tracking progress over time or making comparisons between businesses, it staggers me that we are still talking about some sort of discussion and consultation, with a timescale within which to reach a view about whether there will be mandatory reporting by 2012. All the arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, are absolutely the case.
We not only have the sheriff with his noises off; the noble Lord, Lord Davies, seemed to come clean when he remarked that reporting does not necessarily serve as a good indicator for managing emissions. That gave the game away completely. We need not bother to go out to report, so far as I can tell, because the Government seem to have made up their mind. Those graphs in the Stern report on the early reduction in carbon emissions were the most telling; it is not what we do by 2050, but what we do in the next five years, that counts. However, we are going to faff about for four of those five years trying to make up our minds whether some of the biggest companies in this countrywhich, by reducing their carbon emissions, will benefit by cost-reduction and developing technologies that will serve them well in the global marketshould simply write down in some reasonably standard way the product of the work that they inevitably will have to do if we are to hit the carbon-reduction targets. I cannot believe how pusillanimous the Government are being on this issue.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I have been caught in some rather devastating crossfire. After all, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, is upbraiding the Government because they seem to have made up their mind, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is upbraiding the Government because they have not made up their mind. It is difficult for me to respond to that duality, except to say that it will not do to argue that Governments are only about good ideas and good intentions. Governments are certainly about good ideas and goods intentionsthis Government in particular are full of bothbut we are responsible in Parliament for good legislation.
We are discussing not some generalised formula for the nation this evening but what we put into law. I hope, indeed beg, the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Taylor, not to press their amendments because they both have this element in commonthey would put into legislation and make certain something about which the Government are not definitive at present and that would require considerable consultation. It is easy for noble Lords to pluck out of the air one article in a newspaper from however esteemed the source might prove to be, but it will not do for idle reference to be made to the top three FTSE 250 companies, or whatever. The Government cannot work on the basis of surmising these terms; they must have some precision about who is to be involved in this.
I think the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, would certainly accept that his noble friend the Duke of Montrose was concerned about this issue and challenged me firstprobably, if I read his interjection accurately, on where the line would be drawn. Corporate reporting certainly involves a burden, and I am quite sure that the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, was concerned that the burdens on companies of a certain size might be excessive and might not provide sufficient benefit, consequent upon reporting, which the Government seek. We are not being definitive about that at this stage. We are saying that we must have provision for reporting and the opportunity to ensure that we can take this argument a stage further and make it definitive.
I am grateful to both noble Lords for tabling amendments that are constructively expressed, but the Government are not being definitive at this stage. We need to carry out extensive consultation before we can be definitive, which is why it should be recognised that the Government have amendments in place to create the capacity to act effectively. We are not in a position to be definitive in primary legislation about just where that categorisation takes place or how the reporting should be conducted.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, does the Minister agree that my amendment would do exactly that; it would give the Secretary of State the power to make different dates for compliance for different categories of companies? Indeed, it very much reflects the sentiment that the Minister has been trying to express; namely, that there is no need to hold back on getting something going simply because there are difficulties with smaller companies. Perhaps one would never include smaller companies in such a scheme.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for recognising some of the difficulties that are consequent upon this. That interpretation of his Amendment No. 47B does not detract from the Governments case, which I have been putting. In fact, it largely follows the line of thinking that I have sought to express. However, we already have this framework in the Bill. The noble Lords amendment would not give us any additional flexibility. In fact, we have a slightly greater definition than we are prepared to accept at this point, but I do not think that the positions of the Government and the noble Lord are that far apart. He properly recognises that a considerable amount of additional work needs to be done in consultation. I hear the pleas on all sides. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, would not be in her place if she was not concerned to speed the Governments processes and I accept the point that she made.
I am merely indicating that the Government need flexibility with regard to this issue. We know that we have to legislate with precision. The whole point of secondary legislation is to fulfil that role. In such an important Bill as this, it would be wrong to insert precision which is not accurate and which we cannot defend. At the same time, it is essential that we have a framework on which we can make considerable progress. I do not think that the Governments proposals are vastly different from that of the noble Lord. Having heard how close we are to his thinking, I hope that he will not feel it necessary to divide the House on such a limited disagreement.
Baroness Young of Old Scone: My Lords, does the Minister recognise the fact that the Government are asking for time to make progress against a background of eight years of annual reporting in considerable detail with City institutions and reporting of these issues by registered listed companies? Eight years worth of data and pressure for mandatory reporting seem to indicate that the Government are taking rather a long time to reach a view.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is true with regard to certain categories of companies, but the noble Baroness will recognise that what will be put in legislation will govern all companies so specified and that we have quite a significant task to fulfil in achieving that. I hope she will appreciate that, with regard to these amendments and the very substantial consideration of the issues that we have had in this House and the further consideration in the other place, the issue is not the Government in any way, shape or form resiling from the necessary advance that needs to be made; it is getting the legislation right so that we can make effective and accurate progress. I merely indicate to the House that I will have to take the noble Baronesss criticisms at this point that some information is available and that we could build on that. We can, but we do not have enough to solve the issues, nor for me to give the definitive reply that the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, hinted that I would have to give if I wanted to assuage his anxieties at this stage. Until I am in that position, primary legislation will need to be expressed in the terms which the Government have suggested.
(a) make regulations under section 416(4) of the Companies Act 2006 (c. 46) requiring the directors' report of a company to contain such information as may be specified in the regulations about emissions of greenhouse gases from activities for which the company is responsible, or
(b) lay before Parliament a report explaining why no such regulations have been made.
(1) It is the duty of the Office of Government Commerce to lay before Parliament each year a report setting out the progress Her Majesty's Government has made towards improving the efficiency and sustainability of its civil estate.
(a) reducing the size of the civil estate;
(b) improving the sustainability of the buildings that already form part of the civil estate; and
(c) ensuring that any new buildings procured for the civil estate are in the upper quartile of energy performance.
(1) It is the duty of the Treasury to lay before Parliament in respect of each year, beginning with the year 2008, a report containing an assessment of the progress made in the year towards improving the efficiency and contribution to sustainability of buildings that are part of the civil estate.
(a) reducing the size of the civil estate, and
(b) ensuring that buildings that become part of the civil estate fall within the top quartile of energy performance.
(3) If a building that does not fall within the top quartile of energy performance becomes part of the civil estate in the year to which the report relates, the report must state the reasons why the building has nevertheless become part of the civil estate.
(a) used for the purposes of central government administration, and
(b) of a description of buildings for which, at the passing of this Act, the Treasury has responsibilities in relation to efficiency and sustainability.
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