Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

I acknowledge that that does not meet the full requirements of openness that have been raised today, but I also want to point out that, in a sense, the thinking in this House about the inquiry has also evolved in that regard. When we spoke in this House on this subject in January 2008, the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, said:

“I believe that issues such as this should be investigated by a committee of privy counsellors together with others with expert knowledge. It is right that it should be ... answerable to Parliament. It is certainly not the occasion for a lengthy judicial inquiry, such as that into Bloody Sunday, or, for that matter, the marathon of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott. The focus of such an inquiry should not be on blame, but on learning the lessons—lessons which might help us in formulating policy elsewhere”.—[Official Report, 24/1/08; col. 342.]

It is certainly also the case that, in the other House, the opposition Front Bench have similarly stressed the importance of a privy counsellor inquiry, including

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1263

the fact that it might make only limited public disclosure. On 11 June 2007, in response to a question during a debate in the other place, William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary, said:

“That is one of the arguments for having a Privy Council inquiry. It would have to make its own judgment, as would any inquiry at any stage, about how much of the information could be published. All the conclusions would certainly have to be published”.—[Official Report, Commons, 11/6/07; col. 535.]

So I think that there has been a very genuine debate about the appropriate degree of public disclosure.

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I may have misunderstood the Minister, but it seems from what he has said and read out from the letter that the whole form of this inquiry is up in the air. The Prime Minister seems to have passed it to Sir John Chilcot to determine, after meeting the families of those involved or who have lost their lives, the exact arrangements for the inquiry. Is that correct?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the Prime Minster has given Sir John Chilcot a certain discretion to find a form that enjoys as broad a competence as ever. However, I think that there is a bridge that the Prime Minister does not wish to cross, and that is not to move to the point of a judicial public inquiry where it became necessary for witnesses to engage legal counsel and to get into a protracted public defence of their position in a way that risks continuing controversy before conclusions have been arrived at, and, in the worst of circumstances, for certain innocent individuals to be all over the press for weeks before they had the chance to rebut the claims made about their performance. It is not correct that we have moved to a public inquiry but, in our anxiety that this inquiry enjoy public support, we wish to give those leading it as much discretion as possible.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, will the Minister explain why it is right to hold a public inquiry into the death of one man, investigating the way in which he died and other people were treated? There was a proper public inquiry with a website being used and all documents and transcripts of evidence being displayed there so that everybody knows what is going on. Why should there be a public inquiry into that limited instance, but not into something that concerns the whole of the war?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord has in a way answered his own question. It is precisely the vast scope of this inquiry—covering some eight years, from two years before the conflict began through to now, the end of the conflict—which means that, if this is to be done with some dispatch, and conclusions arrived at, it must be a process in which information and disclosure are managed in an effective way.

Noble Lords must forgive me—I stood up late because we had such a full discussion of the issues—for drawing the debate to a conclusion without having answered many of the critical questions. However, I will address the point about why, if it is a private inquiry, we are only now entering into it. Again, the issue is, as the press debate has already shown, that even a private inquiry generates a lot of controversy

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1264

and heat and we felt it important that military operations were brought to a conclusion first. From Gallipoli onwards—and even before—that has been the tradition.

I will make one further response, to the very important intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. I am sorry that I cannot respond more fully to his forceful critique. The Government will de facto seek approval from Parliament for the inquiry, courtesy of the Opposition, who have tabled a resolution for next week. This will now be an inquiry that, one way or another, does or does not get the endorsement of the other place.

4.51 pm

Lord Fowler: My Lords, we have one or two minutes, and I thank everyone who has spoken. In many ways it has been an outstanding debate, although occasionally the time restraints have been irritating. It is impossible to go through all the speeches; there were some outstanding and devastating ones. I pay particular tribute to the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Steyn, from the Cross Benches. Every issue was raised: the legality of the whole operation, whether intelligence justified the position, and what meaningful consultation took place before the inquiry was launched.

The question that remains unanswered, even after what the Minister said, is, “What is the presumption in this inquiry?” Is the presumption that it should be an open inquiry, or that it should be private and secret? If the presumption has changed, it makes a nonsense of everything that the Prime Minister said on Monday.

I am afraid that the Minister’s response at the end was not adequate, through no fault of his own and I make no complaint. We will come to this issue again—I promise him that—but at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

Climate Projections


4.54 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My Lords, with permission, I will repeat the Statement on climate projections made by the Secretary of State for the Environment in the other place earlier today.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the publication of new projections for the UK’s future climate. A summary will be placed in the Vote Office and full details can be found on the Defra website.

The House knows that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face. The world's climate is already changing; the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1990, including every year between 2001 and 2006. In the UK, the 2003 heat wave led to more than 2,000 excess deaths, and yet average temperatures that year were just 2 degrees higher than normal. In 2006, the south-east experienced a severe drought. Eight million people in the region are dependent on rivers for their water supply. In 2007, we saw

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1265

widespread flooding across the country, and a storm surge came within 10 centimetres of overtopping the defences at Great Yarmouth.

The projections we are publishing today—more than 4,000 maps on the website—give us a clear sense of what we might expect over the next 100 years. They represent the best science we have on how our climate is likely to change, and they are a call to action. I want to thank the scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre and many others for bringing home to us how these changes in our climate—with a greater likelihood of heat waves, flooding, drought, and coastal erosion—will affect our society, and how important it is that we reach a deal at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen this December.

We are, of course, already taking significant steps to cut our emissions. With the Climate Change Act we became the first country in the world to set legally binding carbon budgets. Across the UK, the projections show a range of climate changes up until the end of the century based on three possible greenhouse gas emissions pathways—high, medium and low. Broadly speaking, the world's emissions are currently closest to the medium pathway, although there is a risk we could still be heading for the high one. While we cannot be absolutely sure what will happen in future and there are uncertainties as these projections are not a long-range weather forecast, they do show the probabilities of potential changes for the United Kingdom, and it is a future we must avoid. The projections, based on the medium emissions scenario, show that by the 2080s—within the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren—we could face an increase in average summer temperatures of between 2 and 6 degrees celsius in the south-east, with a central estimate of 4 degrees. They show a decrease in average summer rainfall of 22 per cent in Yorkshire and Humber and in the south-east—which is already short of water—and an increase of 16 per cent in average winter rainfall in the north-west, with increases in the amount of rain on the wettest days leading to a higher risk of flooding. They also show a rise in the sea level for London of 36 centimetres.

Temperatures would rise even more under the high emissions pathway, which could mean peak summer temperatures in London regularly reaching more than 40 degrees. These results are sobering, and we know that these changes will affect every aspect of our daily lives. The first clear message is that only by cutting emissions through a global deal in Copenhagen can we avoid some of the extreme changes that the projections describe. Even if we achieve our international target to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees, we will still have to live with some level of change. This is because it will take 30 years for past emissions to work through the system, so the next three decades of climate change are already set. By 2040, what was exceptional in the summer of 2003 will become normal. So the second message of these projections is that we must plan to adapt to changes that are now unavoidable, and this is a job for all of us.

That is why we have more than doubled spending on flood and coastal protection since 1997, and we are on course to provide better protection to around 160,000 more homes across England.

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1266

We are taking action to tackle water scarcity and improve water efficiency. For the first time all government departments are producing their own adaptation plans, which they will publish by next spring. The NHS now has a heat wave plan to protect vulnerable people from hot weather. The Department for Transport has reviewed its design guidance for roads, looking at drainage capacity and new road surfaces. With Communities and Local Government, we are already working with over 50 local authorities that have made adapting to climate change a priority in their local area agreements. All local authorities will, in future, have to consider adaptation in taking planning decisions and, from today, all major government investment will have to take into account the risks from climate change.

In the Climate Change Act, we took the power to require public bodies to adapt and to report on the steps they are taking. Today, I am launching a consultation paper proposing the first 100 organisations—including Network Rail, the National Grid, Ofwat and the Environment Agency—that will be required to tell us what they are doing. I am placing copies of this consultation in the Library of the House.

The economic case for acting now is very strong, as the Stern review made clear. By investing in flood defence, for example, we estimate that we can reduce the annual cost of flooding by 80 to 90 per cent in the years to come. There may also be some economic opportunities: for tourism and agriculture, businesses developing adaptation technologies, and jobs in new infrastructure projects. Climate change is going to transform the way we live. These projections show us both the future we need to avoid and the future we need to plan for. So as well as cutting emissions, we have to start making changes today. I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.01 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place earlier. I am grateful to him for the advance copy of the text and for the opportunity of learning directly at a briefing today from Professor Bob Watson, chief Defra scientist, and from Professor Julia Slingo, head of the Met Office science team.

The picture painted by this Statement is serious and demands our attention but is not a cause for panic. We can be grateful that we have this predictive model, which will help us to take steps to moderate and adapt to climate change. Vital though carbon reduction is—and nothing in this Statement does other than to reinforce that message—it is, however, something that we shall need to act on globally, and the key will be in the Copenhagen summit. However, the particular lesson of this Statement is the action that we shall need to take nationally if we are to adapt to climate change.

It is clear that all possible predictors—high, medium or low—follow a similar trend for the next 30 years. That is because of the inertia built into the ocean system, and the past and inevitably continuing carbon concentrations in the upper atmosphere. The change to an average temperature 2 degrees above the norm is inevitable, and the minimum that we can anticipate.

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1267

While that may not sound much in itself, it is very significant; it will be accompanied by wetter winters, but far drier and hotter summers. That change in seasonal rainfall patterns poses great challenges to agriculture and horticulture, particularly at a time when demands for food security and the global pressures on food supply are increasing, for we shall not be facing climate change on our own.

The key will be water, and the need to invest in the infrastructure that enables us to conserve water supplies from our wetter winters to assist us through the drier summers. Water management will become a key issue, and water companies will need to look at the models presented and plan for their investment programmes. All infrastructure, as the Statement says, will need to recognise the impact of those detailed predictive maps. Likewise, flood prevention moves higher up the league table of priorities. The threat is not just of sea level rise; noble Lords will know of my interests as a fenman in that. Paradoxically, in some ways, the hazards there are fairly easy to engineer out. No, for in line with the dynamic of climate change, the predictions now show a greater risk of extreme weather events.

Science points to more variations and more extreme weather. Those who will be most at risk, whether from tidal surges or heat waves, will be those who live or work in areas loosely described as flood plains, and who are vulnerable to flash flooding. I emphasise that those areas are not necessarily the same as low-lying areas. Some may easily be thought to be unlikely to face flooding. The catastrophic flooding of two years ago could become a regular occurrence if we do not have the necessary investment in flood-protection schemes and, in particular, the proper maintenance of water courses, sewers and drains. What progress are the Government making on implementing the recommendations of the Pitt report?

The work of the scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre, whose excellence we should acknowledge, has given us an insight of which we will all need to take notice. It must be our hope that it will continue this work, monitoring outturns and seeking corroboration. Can the Minister confirm that this work will continue?

Notwithstanding what may be achieved in Copenhagen to reduce global carbon emissions, we have to accept that, even on the lowest predictions, we will have to come to terms with the effects of climate change here. Can the Minister confirm that Defra is the lead department in ensuring that the Government sustain the activities of other departments, agencies and contractors in following through climate change policy? How successful has Defra been in this task?

Cutting emissions and energy efficiency are only part of the story. Adapting to this new world may be a challenge, but the Government and all of us will be unable to ignore it. This Statement mentions the consultation process. I hope that the Minister can convince me that this will be about action and not aspiration.

5.06 pm

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I, too, thank the Minister for making the Statement. He made it in a suitably depressing tone—unlike the way he normally presents

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1268

things. It is a depressing story. The Statement is appropriate coming now, given that earlier this week the Obama Administration in America released a report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, which told a similar story but, refreshingly in terms of the American Administration, recognising the challenges globally and nationally from climate change. That had not been done previously. The report highlighted the problems of rising sea levels, heavy downpours increasing, retreating glaciers and thawing permafrost. It was a very similar list of trials and tribulations to that which we see today in the UK report on climate projections.

It is interesting that the report points out that there has been a 1 degree centigrade increase in temperatures since the 1970s. Again, there is the problem of more heavy downpours. There has been a 4 per cent increase since 2000, and there will be an increase in temperatures of 4 degrees by 2080. There will be changes in rainfall patterns—less in the summer and more in the winter.

I regret, perhaps, that the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is not here to hear this evidence and argue against something which I note, particularly in this report, has been peer-reviewed by 12 independent scientists and ties in with other evidence from around the world. It would have been interesting to hear his take on this area. What is absolutely true and comes through in this report is that climate change is happening, that we have the problem of lags of at least 30 years, that the various issues we predicted are already happening, and that they will get worse over time.

However, the key thing about climate change is not predicting it. One of the most telling sentences of the Statement was:

“We are, of course, already taking significant steps to cut our emissions. With the Climate Change Act we became the first country in the world to set legally binding carbon”,

targets. The action is still all around setting targets, whereas the action needs to be around adaptation, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, outlined, and mitigation. We are nowhere near where we need to be by our national, let alone international, action.

In July, the White Paper from the Climate Change Act will come forward from the Government, which will set out their full policies on these issues. We look forward to that, but I remind the Minister that since 1997 carbon emissions in this country have declined hardly at all—by only 1 or 2 per cent. There has really been a very flat line in terms of emissions decreasing.

I would like to hear from the Minister whether we will therefore state that we will stop the programme of coal-fired stations starting again. Will there be a real programme of energy saving, particularly in the Government’s aspirations for existing housing stock? Are we going to change that? What will we do to enable local government to implement adaptation through proper budget allocations? I do not particularly see those here. What will we do about transport systems where carbon emissions are still going up? Does the scenario painted by this report mean that, at last, we will get a reversal of the decision about Heathrow’s third runway?

Strangely enough, I was first aware of this report when I looked at the press this morning. It said that Cornwall and Devon will have the good life, with the

18 Jun 2009 : Column 1269

best wine regions, higher property prices, better summers and milder winters. I live in Cornwall; that is great. Maybe we will have those, but what will really happen is global migration, decreasing biodiversity and an increase in disease. All these will come to the UK. The Government have rightly recognised that and published this report. Now we need the action to make sure that we adapt and mitigate.

5.11 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords. If I look doleful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, it is because I am. This is a very serious Statement about the inevitability of some climate change and the danger—if we do not take action—of something far more drastic. I have six grandchildren. I owe it to them, as I do to the rest of the nation, to try to create a better future than the one that unrestrained climate change will produce for them. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. It is not a time for panic but for considered action and preparation for making such action effective.

I also accept that, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, actions are more important than words. Actions are more important than targets, but without words and targets in legislation, there will be no basis on which action can be mounted. Therefore, the noble Lord must recognise that we are the first country in the world to introduce legislation that establishes this framework. He is absolutely right that we should now see what that action will be. I give him the obvious reassurance that, of course, we intend to act on these matters as rapidly as we can. That includes such international action as taking our case to, and winning the support of, the nations in Copenhagen in December. We all recognise that there is no national solution to these issues; they require action on all our parts.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, rightly concentrated on water. He is right that we need to conserve water. The issue is one of water management. The noble Lord also mentioned that we could see a period of extreme weather events. He knows that we will shortly introduce legislation on flood prevention. I assure him that we take on board his points about the Pitt review. It was published on 17 December last year. The Government’s response was to commit to reporting further on implementation approximately every six months, beginning this month. We will honour that commitment and will produce our responses to the Pitt report by the end of the month. We are on target to produce the report, as we said we would. I am sure that the noble Lord will await that development, much as I will enjoy presenting the issues to the House at that time.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page