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Other noble Lords have referred to the problem of the growth in air traffic and it is worth reminding ourselves that, on current forecasts, the UK air passenger numbers will rise from 180 million to 475 million—much more than a doubling—by 2030, which is only 20 years away. This will trigger great increases in aviation fuel emissions, as will happen if permission is given for the third runway at Heathrow. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research recently warned that this kind of expansion will see aviation fuel account for almost all of the nation’s permitted carbon outputs by 2050. No one else will be allowed these emissions; there will have to be a balance. It is an extraordinary idea that only the aviation industry will then be allowed to do it. I do not believe that the case has been made for the third runway or for any other kind of air transport expansion. It is also the case that if the third runway goes ahead, the pollution on the ground around Heathrow will exceed EU limits.

That deals with air; what about roads? The Government policy in the gracious Speech of protecting the environment for future generations will not have been helped by the announcement made by my right honourable friend Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State

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for Transport, on 25 November as part of his autumn Statement. He quite rightly wishes to contribute to job creation and said that in the transport field he is going ahead with £1 billion of new road construction, particularly connecting airports and ports. I immediately thought, “What is he doing for rail?”, which is much more environmentally friendly and has lower CO2 emissions. What the Government were doing for rail comprised 200 new passenger coaches which were already in the programme but were being brought forward, and a widening of the North London line after the Olympics had finished, which is four years away.

Why should we build roads to increase emissions when railway building could reduce them? I have been inquiring into that. Some people have said, “Well, all the road schemes are already prepared and waiting for someone to sign the cheque. The Highways Agency and local authorities have a big bank of schemes which can be used as soon as the money comes off a tree or something, like it did in November”.

I have also been inquiring why there were no rail schemes in that situation. It is difficult, as is usual with the railways, to know whose fault it is, if anyone’s. The Rail Regulator rejected a number of schemes in November as either not being quite ready or not having value for money, but I suspect some of the roads come under that category as well. They include the Kemble-Stroud doubling, the East Midland resignalling, some electrification and of course Skipton-Colne, which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, spoke about earlier. I am a member of that organisation too. There are probably many other schemes that could have been given the go-ahead if they had been prepared—or were they prepared? I do not know the answer, but it is pretty extraordinary that between the Department for Transport, Network Rail and, sometimes, promoters, there is not a bank of schemes that are ready to go when the money becomes available from either the private sector or the Government, or from allowing Network Rail to spend some more money.

I invite noble Lords to compare that situation with France where, I suggest, the economic climate is much the same. President Sarkozy has recently announced the construction of four high-speed lines concurrently. He is going to go through what they call “fast-track planning”. In France planning is pretty fast anyway, so I do not know what fast-track planning will be; it might be rather quicker than even the lovely Planning Bill, which my noble friend Lady Andrews piloted so successfully in the previous Session, will allow. Should we not be comparing the reaction of France—build four TGV lines quickly to create jobs, improve accessibility and generally improve the economy—with the reaction here, when we are spending £1 billion on motorways, airport links and port links but nothing on railways? I hope my noble friend can give me some comfort that I have got it wrong and that there is a big stash of rail projects that I do not know about, ready to be announced after Christmas. I fear, though, that he may not be able to, and I hope that he can reflect on how we can get this done better next time.



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8.57 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, this has been quite a long debate—although slightly shorter than I thought it would be at the beginning—about an eclectic group of subjects. The most optimistic speech was from the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, about the equality Bill. Equality is an area I believe in, obviously—at least I hope that is obvious—but not one that I often participate in when it comes to the legislative process, so this was a great opportunity to hear more about the Bill and the optimism around it as well as practical examples of how communities and different faiths and beliefs can be brought together. That was excellent.

I was also pleased to hear the contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark. I look forward to those fantastic female priests out in the country joining us on the Benches as bishops before the House is reformed, but we will see—that is not up to us so much.

I was slightly surprised that only two Conservative Back-Benchers contributed to the debate today.

The Earl of Selborne: Three.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I do apologise. Still, I was surprised that there were not more.

My noble friend Lord Greaves was right that, as the Marine and Coastal Access Bill has its Second Reading on Monday, we should probably not go into detail about it now. I will, however, say: thank goodness that at last it has landed here in Parliament and we can get on with that important work. I think there will be broad consensus across the House. There is a huge task there with regard to marine management as well as the renewables programme and everything that will be required to put that in place, particularly in the waters of England and Wales.

It was quite interesting that, on climate change, the gracious Speech stated that,

I suppose that that is in a way quite right, because we are at a critical moment in climate change. The Pozn├ín meeting on climate change is taking place at the moment. It leads up to the Copenhagen conference in 2009, which will really show whether Kyoto will survive or die. If it is to survive, which I presume all of us here hope, as it is the only game in town despite its many difficulties, the European Council must tomorrow make sure—I know that the Government and the French presidency will lead on this—that that climate change deal does not unravel. We can understand the difficulties of Poland—perhaps less so those of Italy—and the east European countries in meeting that. If Europe does not stick together and lead that process, there is absolutely no chance for the rest of the world, even though the United States might now come in more positively. We are on the cusp of taking that process through to Copenhagen next year.

In the past month, we have had the carbon budgets arrive in the United Kingdom. That is after the Climate Change, Energy and Planning Bills became Acts. That area of work has been done. The boxes have been

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ticked. One could almost take it from the Queen’s Speech, although I know that it is not meant in that way, that that is it, that we can now leave it to Europe and Copenhagen to sort it all out, and that we have done our bit. However, we all know that the real action starts now.

The global policy responses to climate change and Kyoto have had little effect as yet. We are approaching 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is to be compared with 270 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. If business continues as usual, we will be up to 750 parts per million and a rise in temperature well beyond two degrees. We have a number of problems ahead of us: a predicted growth in population from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050; an increase in transport, with 1 billion more cars expected on the road, mainly in India and China, by 2030; and rising energy intensity. Even with all the actions and more that we are talking about being taken and working globally—not business as usual—we will still have carbon emissions in 2030 at 25 per cent above what they are now. That is the scale of the challenge.

We in the United Kingdom congratulate ourselves on having already met our Kyoto targets for greenhouse gases by their being some 12.5 per cent less than in 1990. However, if you look at it in a different way and include aviation and shipping, and look at carbon consumption rather than carbon production by the UK economy, you will see that we have gone up by something like 19 per cent and have understated our figures by 37 per cent. That is the size of the problem that we still have here.

When I look at the gracious Speech, I think, “That’s fine. We’ve got the targets right. We’ve got the committee there that’s going to start to look at making the necessary tough decisions for us”. I congratulate the committee on its work so far, but what are the challenges for the year ahead? Why are we still allowing the construction of buildings that use oil heating? We should just say that that should not be allowed to happen. In our membership of the EU Council of Ministers, why are we not being far more insistent that car emission regulations should not be diluted? Why are we allowing it to happen? Why do we not have standards of carbon emissions for power stations? They produce a large proportion of our total carbon emissions. Why are we waiting until 2016 for domestic housing stock to be carbon neutral when we have the technology now? Why are we putting £10 million into anaerobic digestion demonstrations here when we know that they already work in Germany? Why do we not just transfer the technology and get on with it? I do not understand.

A number of noble Lords mentioned Heathrow. I was not one of those who objected to the third runway. I thought we should get the carbon price right. We should get the market perfect and let the market decide about the investments. But when you look at the figures and what is happening in terms of the challenges faced by the UK, the European Union and the globe, you see that we have to start making tough investment decisions. Such decisions embed carbon into our economy well into the future. The marginal cost of operating air out of those facilities goes down

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immediately. Once the infrastructure is in place, you use it and maximise its capacity. I am a convert. Having been sceptical of my own party's position, I have come to the conclusion that you have to make difficult decisions, not just to show leadership, but because you are stuck with power stations and other types of infrastructure for 50 or maybe 100 years.

I would ask another thing, not in terms of infrastructure but in a more personal way. With so many more millions of people now in energy poverty, at a time when energy prices are now going down on the wholesale and commodity markets, why are we not being far tougher on our energy companies and on the way that social tariffs are implemented?

In terms of carbon budgets, I would like to bring to the Minister's attention that the committee lays down that there need to be clear strategies to achieve emissions reductions in aviation and shipping. What will the Government do about that? It also says, although not as strongly as I would like, that:

“Conventional coal-fired power generation should only be built on the expectation that it will be retrofitted with CCS equipment by the early 2020s”.

I think that it should happen before that, but at least it is being laid down by the committee. We are now at a point where we not only have to set ourselves targets, but Europe and the United Kingdom have to continue our leadership. We also have to persuade others and deliver decisions, not just about markets and mechanisms; we must take some tough decisions about regulations as well.

This has been an interesting debate. I thank noble Lords for having educated me on equality in local government, an area that I hope we all now agree should be subject to subsidiarity. From these Benches we look forward to contributing to the Government’s programme and improving the legislation to a large degree in what might be a rather less hectic Session than last year.

9.09 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I begin by declaring my interest as a farmer and grower and this evening I should like to declare my membership of the National Farmers’ Union. The NFU is 100 years old today and I am sure that the whole House will join in sending congratulations to this organisation, which continues to play such an important role in the life of our country.

The speeches in this debate have been of a consistently high standard. It has been a good debate on a gracious Speech more than usually lacking in substance. There are only 14 Bills in total, and only three deriving from subjects that we have discussed today. It is good to note that two of them are already under way here as Lords starters. They will surely receive the House’s customary scrutiny. The gracious Speech would have been enhanced and given substance if some of the missing ingredients were included. Where, for example, is the heritage protection Bill? I hope the Minister will explain why that Bill, trailed in the Government’s draft legislative programme, has been taken off the agenda.



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I am further disappointed by the absence from the Queen’s Speech of a draft floods and water Bill. What reason is there for it not appearing in the Queen’s Speech? The Bill, arising from the recommendation of the Pitt report, was first promised for late autumn. Why is it missing now? The Bill is vital if the Government are to address the issues and strategic weaknesses in flood prevention revealed by those July floods 18 months ago, as well as to provide a renewed focus on that ever-important strategic resource, water. What are those victims of the floods to make of the Government’s delay? What is the message to those families—5 per cent of the total—still not back in their homes 18 months on? There were still 1,045 families out of their homes on 17 November; 118 of these families are housed in caravans.

I thank the Minister for presenting the Government’s programme. The noble Baroness put a fine gloss on it all. My noble friend Lady Warsi exposed the real substance of the Government’s Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. The Minister may think that regional development agencies are local democracy in action, but that is not what they think where I come from. The noble Lord, Lord Mawson, speaking with the authority that his experience gives him, told the House what it was all about. Development is about personal initiative, and partnership is about personal connections, not interaction between bodies and structures. The noble Lord, Lord Mawson, showed the vision which has been lacking from the Government on local government. Unless the Government are prepared to trust people and let go, local government will continue to be about control and systems, and less about people and real empowerment. My reading of the Bill is that it means all change and no change. That is, business as usual: plenty of bodies and plenty of meetings, but no real effective action.

The Minister majored on housing. I am surprised by that, given the Government’s record. Where are the 3 million houses promised by the Prime Minister? Housebuilding fell by a quarter last year. What happened to the social homebuy project? It should have helped 10,000 people by now. It has so far helped 235. What has become of the eco-town project? Only one appears to remain on the list. How many zero-carbon houses have been built? I can save the Minister the need to look up the answer; the answer is only 15. It will not do to blame the current economic situation. Until the autumn both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were boasting of the strength of the economy. These are not policies abandoned; these are policies which never got off the ground. The Government are in denial if they believe otherwise.

I turn now to the equality Bill. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, in a characteristically thoughtful speech, pointed out the considerable challenges that face the drafters of the equality Bill. However, anything that tidies up the current extensive equality legislation is welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Lester, is wrong to say that the Opposition do not support the objectives of the Bill. However, we consider it a primary duty of the Opposition to ensure that legislation is practical and correctly constructed to fulfil the aspirations of its architects.



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Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I am delighted to stand corrected. I misunderstood because of what the noble Lord’s colleague said in her opening speech, but it is good to hear that the main opposition party is in favour of the equality Bill.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, we are unequivocally so, and I shall elaborate on that. I am sorry if the noble Lord misunderstood what my noble friend said in her introduction.

The noble Lord is right to point out the need to ensure that extensive bureaucracy is to be avoided. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick, who is not currently in his place, was also concerned about the impact of the Bill. The noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Hornsey, Lady Greengross and Lady Prashar, while welcoming the Bill, were determined to ensure that it achieved its objectives; that is our position, too. As the noble Lord, Lord Mitchell, said, no one can doubt my noble friend Lady Warsi’s commitment on this.

A number of noble Lords were looking for a transport Bill that was not there. I am far from sure that the Government know what they want to do on this. Their messages appear confused. Where do they stand on Heathrow’s third runway? What are they to say to satisfy the noble Lords, Lord Greaves and Lord Berkeley, on the railways?

I am pleased that we have a Marine and Coastal Access Bill. We have argued for it. It has finally arrived after a long delay. “Dithering” is the word that comes to mind. New measures for marine conservation were announced in 2001. In 2002, Safeguarding our Seas was jointly published by the Government and devolved regions. In 2004, the Defra five-year plan strategy included marine issues. In 2005, the state of the seas report was issued. In 2006, comments were requested for the strategic direction of a marine Bill. In 2007, the White Paper draft Bill was produced. Well, it is here now; all 314 clauses, with 91 pages of schedules. We start the Second Reading of that Bill on Monday, and I do not propose to start debating the issues. I am sure that little divides us on the principles of the Bill, but it is full of the sort of detail in which the devil lies and I shall seek to search it out.

Although it is not within the scope of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill, the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, was right to raise the issues of fish discards. I assure her that she has the Opposition’s support in seeking to end the current system.

On agriculture, my noble friend Lady Shephard talked of the global crisis for food security. Policies and initiatives in agriculture of course lie in Brussels. The absence of any substantive reform of the CAP means that there is no chance of legislation in this area. What has become of the Government’s bid to reform the CAP? The answer is that it is nowhere. “For what did we give up our rebate?”, I ask. I remember that debate, only a few months ago in this House, looking forward to the CAP health check. How disappointed all those who participated in that debate must be at the outcome of those discussions. No reform of the CAP is in prospect. Without reform, the CAP will be unable to meet the demands of a hungry

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world. How right my noble friend was to point out that the priority should be to optimise agricultural production in this country.

My noble friend Lord Selborne rightly reminded the House of the need to optimise our agricultural resources while safeguarding the natural world. We do not achieve that by implementing the pesticides regulations currently proposed in Brussels. They could have a catastrophic effect on the food security agenda, and destroy at a stroke the localism food agenda. My noble friend drew attention to the debate that he has initiated, which I think will be held in January, on scientific research and agriculture. How right my noble friend Lady Byford was to point out how vulnerable our livestock industry has become. It is widely thought by many working and living in the countryside that this Government know little and care less about the welfare of rural Britain. If that is a false impression, I challenge the Government to provide evidence to the contrary through the deeds they perform.

The gracious Speech has been widely interpreted as indicating an early general election. If that is so, it may be the last of this Labour Government. Whatever the context in which the Government present their legislation, they can be confident that the Opposition will scrutinise with energetic thoroughness the miscellany of Bills identified in the gracious Speech.

9.20 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been an excellent debate, which has ranged widely, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, remarked. I have learnt a lot from the contributions. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that I am not, alas, in a position to comment on the date of the next election. However, we are very confident that our programme is good. I have no doubt that noble Lords will ensure that legislation in this House receives the considerable scrutiny that it deserves. Although some noble Lords referred to measures that they would have liked to see included in the programme, there is no question that they do not believe that what is included is important legislation. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that my understanding is that the financial privilege question is subject to discussion in the usual channels. I support that.

I will not respond directly to the interesting comments made about Scottish democracy. That is for another day. However, the debate about local democracy is very important. The noble Lord, Lord Mawson, spoke eloquently about active citizens and the role of social entrepreneurs. Of course, we aspire to joined-up government. There is no doubt that his work in Bromley-by-Bow is inspirational. We very much want to learn from his experience. I say on behalf of my noble friend that we are very keen to engage with him to learn lessons that will help to inform future policy.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the prospect of the Government pleading their cause to local authorities to raise tax must have featured in his dreams. Of course, I understand the benefit of local democracy. I became involved in politics through becoming a local councillor in Oxford and then in Birmingham. I well

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understand the hugely important leadership role that local government can play. In the present difficult financial conditions, that leadership role becomes ever more important. I believe that noble Lords very much endorsed that approach. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the public look for consistency. Governments have a right to set some kind of performance framework within which local authorities will operate. We have tried to get the balance right. The various pieces of legislation that my noble friend has taken through the House in recent years indicate that considerable progress has been made in shifting power and influence from central government. I shall not list the changes that have occurred but I believe that they are a visible sign of the Government’s wish to do that.


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