Previous Section Index Home Page

This Bill will end the use of hydrofluorocarbons—HFCs—in the refrigeration units of large supermarkets. I seek to introduce it because urgent action is needed to end the devastating impact of HFCs on global warming, and because supermarkets are responsible for more than half of all HFC emissions.

Before I set out my case, I must stress that I do not seek to impose additional financial burdens on small retailers, which we all recognise as small, corner convenience stores. I should expect smaller retailers to be required to introduce equipment that does not add to global warming when their old units need to be replaced. There are already many environmentally friendly alternatives for smaller supermarkets, and they generally use different refrigeration technology from the larger stores. Small stores tend to use what is called “plug and play equipment”, which does not involve large centralised systems, is often much less likely to leak and increasingly uses low-global-warming alternatives, such as hydrocarbons, which also offer improved energy efficiency. Those alternative carbon-based systems are neither more expensive to purchase nor more expensive to run.

The Bill seeks to deal with emissions from larger stores. Hydrofluorocarbons, are part of a group of gases known as F gases. F gases, according to Greenpeace, can be up to 20,000 times more harmful in terms of global warming than carbon dioxide. HFCs were introduced into widespread use under the Montreal protocol in the 1990s to replace chlorofluorocarbons—CFCs—and end the depletion of the ozone layer that their widespread use caused. HFCs do not harm the ozone layer, but they are powerful global warming gases.

In 2005, stationary refrigeration was the biggest source of F gas emissions in the UK, accounting for almost 27 per cent. within the sector. HFC emissions from supermarkets account for more than half the total emissions, and direct emissions from leaking refrigerant gases can account for up to one third of a supermarket chain’s carbon footprint. The phasing out of HFC use in the supermarket sector by 2015 has the potential to save 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between now and 2050, which is more than one quarter of the UK’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2005, the amount of HFC emissions leaking from supermarket refrigeration was estimated to be equivalent to 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. To put that into perspective, I should say that that equates to one person flying in a plane from London to New York more than 2.5 million times; to the production of 10 billion plastic bags; to one billion car trips to the supermarket over an average distance of 7.5 miles; to the annual carbon foot print of 200,000 people; or, to driving round the circumference of the earth 300,000 times—if that were possible.

The issue of HFC emissions by supermarkets was highlighted in a report called “Chilling Facts” from the Environmental Investigation Agency earlier this year,
30 Jun 2009 : Column 184
and I commend the agency for its work to highlight this important issue. The report confirmed that supermarkets are the biggest source of HFCs in the UK. It investigated the progress that had been made by supermarkets that signed up in 2007 to reducing emissions of HFCs, and the agency asked 11 of the large high street supermarkets what they were doing to reduce the climate change impacts of their refrigeration. The results did not make for encouraging reading. The best-performing supermarket had succeeded in introducing climate-friendly refrigerants in only three out of 620 stores. For others, the figure was four out of 1,700 stores, and for one supermarket, it was one out of 2,250 stores.

My intention today, however, is not to name and shame any single supermarket. There is widespread agreement, from the campaigners and the supermarkets themselves, that action is necessary, and my Bill aims to bring everyone together to secure an agreement to end the use of HFCs in refrigeration units. In response to the publication of the EIA report, supermarket representatives indicated a willingness to make more progress in this area. They said that they wanted the Government to regulate to create a level playing field for their industry, suggesting that that would allow the large supermarkets to plan in the knowledge that their competitors would be required to do the same. This is a highly competitive market in which supermarket giants are constantly seeking to exploit any advantages over one another. The Government should take the industry at its word and legislate for a level playing field in relation to emissions of HFCs.

The UK Government are committed to an 80 per cent. reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. Today, HFCs equal 1.5 per cent. of total greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. However, if emissions continue to grow at about 3 per cent. per year, then while we make efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by 2050 HFCs will constitute 12 per cent. of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bill does not seek to introduce a complete phase-out of HFCs, but that is an attractive option for climate protection. A phase-out would be based on production and consumption of HFCs. A total HFC phase-out would cover all types of HFCs. Based on 3 per cent. annual growth from 2006, a phase-out schedule would save almost 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent between now and 2050—more than three quarters of the UK’s current total annual greenhouse gas emissions. The fast phasing out of HFCs in supermarkets would save about one quarter of the UK’s current annual greenhouse gas emissions in that period.

In 2007, the value of the food market as a whole was estimated at £72.8 billion, with supermarkets accounting for more than half of these grocery sales. In April, Tesco said it had rung up sales of £1 billion a week, with annual pre-tax profits of more than £3 billion for the first time in its history—up 8.8 per cent. In May, The Guardian reported that Asda had unveiled a market-leading 8.4 per cent. increase in first quarter sales, and that Sainsbury’s had delivered profits of £543 million on sales of £20.4 billion. This sector, even in these difficult economic times, could sustain the costs of changing from HFCs to climate-friendly carbon alternatives.

The time to act is now. We are going to experience the most harmful impact on HFCs in the next 20 years, and the earlier we act to reduce their use, the greater the
30 Jun 2009 : Column 185
impact of our actions. Urgency is not just about the end users. Action now would send a message to manufacturers that it is time to start investing in new forms of coolants for refrigeration that do not accelerate global warming. That would prevent the production of more of these harmful gases and avoid their having to be stored and eventually disposed of in safety.

I know that my Bill is unlikely to progress in the time remaining in this parliamentary Session. However, let me stress to the Minister that the supermarkets themselves are seeking regulation for a level playing field, and supporting this Bill could offer the opportunity to get an agreement on the way forward: something that is urgently needed. If the Government do not act by supporting this Bill, the responsibility will remain for them to act, and they must do so quickly.

Question put and agreed to.


That Clive Efford, John Austin, Ms Karen Buck, Mr. Andrew Dismore, Mr. Peter Ainsworth, Steve Webb, Norman Baker, Peter Bottomley, Mr. Michael Meacher, Mr. David Drew, Jim Dowd and Andrew George present the Bill.

Clive Efford accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 July and to be printed (Bill 127).

30 Jun 2009 : Column 186

Parliamentary Standards Bill

[Relevant Documents: Memorandum from the Audit Committees on the Parliamentary Standards Bill, and written evidence received by the Justice Committee on Constitutional Reform and Renewal, HC 791-i.]

[1st Allocated Day]

Considered in Committee

[Sylvia Heal in the Chair]

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Sylvia Heal): The Committee will be aware of the considerable pressures of time today and tomorrow. Yesterday, some 40 additional amendments and new clauses were tabled. In view of the speed with which the House is being asked to proceed with this Bill, the Chairman of Ways and Means was prepared to select the majority of them, even though they are starred on today’s amendment paper. One result is that there are four additional groups, raising significant and distinct points, to be dealt with today.

Hon. Members will see that a measure of restraint will be very much in their interests and will allow us to deal with as many issues as possible. For example, I would hope that there might be little or even no debate on clause 1 stand part, as all its provisions arise in subsequent groups of amendments. I hope, too, that the Committee will resist the temptation to rerun the Second Reading debate that we had yesterday, and instead will focus closely on the substance of each group of amendments.

Finally, might I point out two printing errors on the first page of the amendment paper? In amendment 50, the word “third” should be omitted, and amendment 52 should refer to line 23 on page 11, not line 3.

Clause 1

Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

4.41 pm

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): Clause 1 sets out the basic structure and architecture of the new regime: the new bodies—the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and the Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations, which are detailed in schedules 1 and 2—and a special Committee of this House to oversee the work of IPSA. I went into further detail yesterday in my Second Reading speech, as did others. Of course, I stand ready to respond to any questions that are raised about the clause.

Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): In the interest of the brevity that you have called for, Mrs. Heal, the need for which we quite appreciate, I merely point out that the very name of the Bill and the new authority are not a perfect description of what they will do. It would have been much better if they had been called something like the parliamentary payments authority and the parliamentary payments Bill. We have a proliferation of the use of the words “standard” and “standards”, but this is really about money—money
30 Jun 2009 : Column 187
paid to a Member of Parliament by an allowances system and by any outside interests. The name is not perfect, and I hope that it will not be misused in our public prints in future.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I shall obey your injunctions, Mrs. Heal, and not make a long speech, or even a proper speech at all. What you said to the Committee a few minutes ago underlined the serious nature of the Government taking a Bill of constitutional significance through the House at the gallop and without time properly to consider and reflect.

The point that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) made was extremely good, and it is a pity that we do not have the opportunity to discuss a different name. I very much hope that the Government will reflect on what was said yesterday during a debate that pointed out the widespread concerns in all parts of the House about what they are doing and the speed with which they are doing it. I hope that this afternoon and tomorrow, in this indecent haste, the Government will respond with a degree of sensitivity to the points that colleagues and I will make to try to make a very, very bad Bill just a little bit better.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I strongly object to the time limit on the Bill. Some of us withdrew from the debate yesterday, conscious that many hon. Members were trying to catch the Chair’s attention in a very full day’s debate. We would have liked more opportunity so that we, too, could have spoken about the big underlying principles. Of course, I accept your injunction, Mrs. Heal, because I want as much of the detail as possible to be examined in the Committee stage, which is too short.

However, I cannot let clause 1 go without asking the Minister on duty why the complex and expensive bureaucracy will be better than the current bureaucracy. Why is it thought superior to beefing up, amending or improving the current system? We should have some idea of what salaries will be paid, and some budgets for the complicated authority. We should know how it will be superior to the system of recent years in carrying out payment and audit functions.

The Government have not made the case for the new authority. There was little detail in the remarks yesterday about the sort of people it would comprise, the cost, and how the job would be done differently from the way in which our staff currently undertake it. More reassurance is needed for current staff so that they know what the terms and conditions of transfer are likely to be, who will be transferred and so on. As an employer, we owe some sort of duty to our staff, who must feel rather concerned about the peremptory discussions. Has the Secretary of State properly consulted the staff concerned? What has he told them about what their future holds? Is there any sort of guarantee that they will be transferred and get jobs, or is the idea to put all the jobs out to tender and have new people? Are different sorts of people from the current staff being sought, or is it intended to transfer as many as possible, but make them go through some kind of competitive process? We have a right to know those things. I accept your instruction, Mrs. Heal, but we really need two or three hours to debate those issues.

30 Jun 2009 : Column 188

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I, too, would like to place on record my concerns about the management of the Bill. It is proper to reflect on the fact that many hon. Members would be present for today’s debate but for being members of the Select Committee on Justice, which will meet in 13 minutes to take evidence from the Clerk of the House on the aspects of the Bill that cover privilege. That highlights the inadequate way in which the measure is being tackled.

The Liberal Democrats do not take issue with the principle of contracting out the functions of the Fees Office. It is a necessary part of restoring public confidence in the House and its operation. However, as the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said, several issues of substantial and practical concern arise from that. There is little about it on the face of the Bill and, if the debate is truncated, it would appear that we are simply to take matters on trust. I am disinclined to take a great deal from the Government on trust, in view of my experience as a Member since 2001.

As I said yesterday, we have yet another fisher in a fairly small pond, and what we do is all without prejudice to the possible conclusions of the Kelly commission, which we will doubtless learn this autumn. I hope that, once we know those conclusions, it will be possible to review the number of actors because piecemeal development, which responds to each individual crisis as it arises, leaves us with a far from satisfactory landscape.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): I support the points that my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) made. As a member of the Committee on Standards on Public Life, I get correspondence about matters with which the Committee on Standards and Privileges is dealing because of the public’s confusion about those two bodies. To add another body with the word “standards” in the title is just asking for trouble. I just suggest that the Secretary of State think that over and perhaps come up with a name that refers to payments or something different. The whole purpose of the exercise is supposed to be to try to make the thing more transparent and understandable, but it is actually making it more confusing.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I would like to draw the House’s attention to clause 1(2), which states that schedule 1 provides for the new body’s

The Secretary of State will know where I am going with this—at least I think he will—because paragraph 17 of schedule 1 refers not just to administrative functions, but to regulation functions. I invite hon. Members to glance at page 13 of the Bill in order to follow what I am about to say.

Paragraph 17 distinguishes those two functions from one another, so that, “So far as possible”—whatever that means—

That must happen

by the way, the word “functions” means powers and duties—

30 Jun 2009 : Column 189

Paragraph 18 of schedule 2 gives the meanings of “administration functions” and “regulation functions”, but I have to say—I say this as gently as possible—that it is utterly disingenuous. I know the Justice Secretary well enough to be surprised that he has allowed the drafting of the Bill not to refer to the regulatory functions in clause 1(2), but they are hugely important, for the reasons that I am about to give.

Paragraph 18 of schedule 1 says that the new body’s administration functions are


That raises a raft of issues, which I do not need to go into now. The paragraph continues:

Paragraph 18(2) says that the regulation functions of the body are

Next Section Index Home Page