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30 Mar 2010 : Column 206WH—continued

Finally, on the economic side, there will be an expert group on the long-term financing of early intervention. That is very welcome. I hope it will not be as narrowly drawn as the document suggests. That seems to favour social impact bonds only. There are many other instruments. There are early intervention bonds and many other possibilities whereby the market, which over the past two years has shown its brilliance and invention in getting us into trouble, could show its brilliance in organising out some of the social problems and being seen to be even more socially responsible. I do not mean soft money, ethical money or money with Government
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underwriting. I mean a hard-faced proposition about making money from ensuring that babies, children and young people grow up to be productive people, rather than an imposition on taxpayers. That should not be limited to the 14-to-16 age group. On the contrary, the focus should also be on babies who are 14 to 16 days old, rather than just on young people who are 14 to 16 years old. It would be useful if the Minister told us when the expert group on financing early intervention will be created, who will be in it and how she sees it functioning.

There are a number of crunchy particulars in there. I hope the Minister will take the questions in the spirit in which they have been offered. Once again, I place on the record my thanks to her, her civil servants and her Department for what I hope will be seen in many years to come as probably the first big building block, philosophically, to be put in place by the Government. The breakthrough to make early intervention a philosophy and a vision will benefit children as yet unborn and generations still to come. If we can start to lay the groundwork and operate consensually as far as possible with other parties, everyone will look back on that in the future and say, "If they did nothing else, they did a good thing on moving early intervention forward."

12.49 pm

The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Dawn Primarolo): I join my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) in welcoming you to the Chair, Mr. Wilshire. This will, as you put it, be your last outing, so let me say how much I have valued your friendship and our discussions about Bristol City football club-when its performance has been good and when it has been bad. I will sorely miss that, because we are probably the only two Members in the whole of Parliament who follow Bristol City.

Mr. David Wilshire (in the Chair): Once I have retired, the attendance at Ashton Gate may increase a little. I understand that the club is looking for a manager. Should I apply, can I count on the Minister for a reference?

Dawn Primarolo: Mr. Wilshire, it will certainly be great to see you regularly at the games. Given the recent publicity about retiring Members of Parliament offering themselves in various roles, perhaps you and I should have a private conversation about your idea.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on the debate. His commitment in his constituency, in the city of Nottingham and in the House in pressing forward the urgent and important debate on early intervention stands as a beacon in this Parliament. As he rightly said, early intervention is at the heart of all our children's and young people's services. As we know, the most effective way to improve young lives is to act at the earliest possible opportunity. My hon. Friend talked about securing the social and emotional capabilities of every child and young person, and I agree with what he said.

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear that there are, regrettably, many definitions of early intervention. For the purposes of the document-not as a final conclusion-we are talking about intervening as soon as possible to tackle the problems that have already
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emerged for children and young people, and I take exactly my hon. Friend's point about the need to take that wider step as well.

My hon. Friend talked about the cultural change that is necessary in our children's and young people's services. The document seeks to lay out a simple process for early intervention. The aim is, first, to identify the particular issues that make intervention necessary. Secondly, we need to have a good assessment of need. That is then carried forward into the final step, which is about making sure that the results inform a purposeful response. As my hon. Friend said, such a response is about making a stitch in time and acting early for the benefit of the individual, the family and the community.

The consultation-the document the Department has published-is intended to open up a debate further to clarify and develop the issues. The Government are determined that we-frankly, the same is true of all political parties-need to improve outcomes for children and young people. That is why we have already made significant steps on early intervention, but we need to go further.

With our 3,500 children's centres-the number is rising-we are providing services to intervene early to help families and children. We are also working on early development and we have put £1 billion into extended schools services. On transition, we often see problems later on with the eight-to-13 range, so it is important to intervene early to support the family, the child and those in the wider setting.

Mr. Allen: Could I just be clear about the status of the document? Is it a consultation document? If so, is the consultation still open? How do people put in their views to help improve the document?

Dawn Primarolo: I was going to pick that point up. I am sorry; I did not mean to mislead my hon. Friend. The document is up for debate; it is not a formal consultation, in the sense that the Government would have a 12 or 13-week period for responses.

My hon. Friend asked about the early implementation group, and the document is intended to be the starting point for the discussions that the group will take forward and lead. Those discussions will, for example, be about specific practice-we have tried to address this in the documents-that demonstrates clear outcomes that are of value to the child, the young person, the family and the community. There is lots of value for money around, but the question is how we spread understanding so that everybody locally does not invent their own solution, which may or may not work, and the data are not collected.

As part of the exercise-this relates to one of my hon. Friend's questions-we have asked C4EO, which already collects good practice for us, to make sure that good practice is fed into the implementation group. The Association of Directors of Children's Services is also advising the group. There are discussions about who will sit on the group, how they will link to an institute, how we can develop these things and-I will come to this shortly-financing. The implementation group is taking these issues forward.

Interms of the Government process, I am not quite sure how we would describe the document; it is not a Green Paper, it is not a White Paper and it is not a
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formal consultation. It seeks to make more advice, support and good practice available, particularly to children's trusts, which have to bring together health bodies, local authorities, the police and the third sector-all the services on the ground-in their children's and young person's plan. Organisations have to look at how they can work together, based on a needs assessment, to deliver not only the services that they do now, but the early intervention that my hon. Friend has so rightly explained.

We need a practical method of doing such things. We do not want to tell people what to do or to issue guidance, although guidance might come at some stage, but to make sure that people not only sign up to the principle, but develop the practice, as my hon. Friend has done so ably with his partner agencies in Nottingham.

The implementation group will also need to look at financial considerations. My hon. Friend touched on the social impact bond, and there have been two pilots, which have given us some interesting results. That is not the only possible financial mechanism, but it is the one that has been piloted, and we are asking for it to be considered. I am attracted to such a bond for the following reasons. First, it gives charities, third-sector organisations and local authorities extra finance, so that they can start bringing together seed finance and early implementation provisions. Secondly, the local authority or charity would have to agree specific outcomes with those they had received the money from. They would have to track their data and show that their approach worked.

On that basis, the Government would pay for the bonds-that is the idea-but we would not do so if they did not work. Instead of having targets, pressures and silos from central Government, we are looking at whether a local assessment, based on need, could deliver. However, my hon. Friend is quite right that other financial solutions may be available.

To answer my hon. Friend's questions, therefore, the implementation group is central, and he is right that the question of whom we have on it is crucial. We are being advised by two important institutions, but we will make sure that we have more. Those involved will then engage in dialogue and settle the way forward on the other questions that my hon. Friend asked.

Why was the document low key? Whether publications are low key or not is not always in the Government's hands. Regrettably, the document did not attract attention, and nor did the children's centres. However, as the debate goes forward locally, I hope it will achieve what my hon. Friend and I want: great social and emotional development for young people and children, based on early intervention. With the support of my hon. Friend and others, I am sure we will achieve that.

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UK Chemical Industry

1 pm

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Wilshire. I wish you well in your retirement. I think that this will be my last speech in this place, as well. It is a great pleasure, also, to see my hon. Friend the Minister here, because he has shown quite an interest in some of the subjects in which I have been interested.

I dedicate this debate to Dr. Ashok Kumar, the late Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland. I succeeded Ashok as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the chemical industry, which is administered by the Chemical Industries Association. It was his intention to become chairman of the all-party group again after my retirement. I am sure that we all agree that Ashok will be sadly missed in this place, and I send my condolences to his family and friends.

The UK chemical industry, including pharmaceuticals, is a £60 billion business, which employs over 600,000 people. It adds £30 million to our balance of trade every working day and represents 12 per cent. of total UK manufacturing-twice that of aerospace. Throughout the 1990s, 16 countries produced 80 per cent. of the total world output of chemicals. The UK was sixth behind the USA, Japan, Germany, China and France. According to figures produced in 2005 by CEFIC, the European Chemical Industry Council, the EU chemical industry leads all EU manufacturing in terms of value added per employee, and is second only to the USA in world output. Therefore, for both the UK and Europe, the chemical industry is a valuable contributor to our economies.

The chemical industry's current major concerns are the cost and security of energy supplies, skills training and recruitment, the availability of capital for investment in developing new products and acquiring new plant and equipment, the costs of transport, and the regulatory burden placed on the industry in recent times, which has had the biggest impact. The election manifesto just published by the CIA expands on those concerns.

Our Government have decided that energy security is a major concern, and major changes in energy supplies are under way, with less reliance on imported oil and gas in future years and more reliance on a basket of renewable energy generation technologies and nuclear fission. Coal will play a major role in future, but only if either pre- or post-combustion carbon capture technologies are incorporated in new plant, or retrofitted to old plant. That will require massive capital investment which, in turn, will result in increased energy costs.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, who has been a superb advocate of and worker for the chemical industry in the UK. I wish him well in whatever he does in the future. No doubt he has plenty of ideas.

Did the CIA say how we can conserve feedstocks for future generations, so that we can keep the industry going, rather than burning them, as he is about to describe?

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Dr. Iddon: It did not, is the honest answer, but I have some thoughts about that, which the hon. Gentleman will hear.

Increased energy costs will obviously impact on the chemical industry, which is affected particularly by spikes in gas prices. It believes that those are caused by a shortage of gas storage facilities in the UK, which is now being addressed by the Government. In the winter of 2005-06, many UK companies were forced to cut or stop production altogether. Aluminium production in the UK has been particularly badly hit, as have processes such as chlorine production and metallurgical and ceramic processing. The image that the chemical industry had when I was a student in the '60s has changed beyond imagination through the introduction of environmental and health and safety legislation. Chemicals are highly regulated products today. In environmental legislation alone, more than 500 measures affect the industry. Much of the current national and international legislation is complex and some of it is obscure, and various organisations are pressing for better regulation of the industry. There are signs that the EU is beginning to take notice.

Retaining a viable chemical industry in this country, as against displacing it abroad by over-regulation, is of the utmost importance. If our Government over-legislate, however good their intentions are, displacement of our chemical industry to other countries will occur. There are signs, of course, that that has happened in the past few decades. The impact of displacement on the manufacture of just one strategic raw material can be illustrated by the case of ethylene oxide, which has many downstream uses. This year, unfortunately, Dow Chemicals will close its Wilton ethylene oxide plant on Teesside, which has supplied 98 per cent. of the UK's needs. The opening of a plant in the middle east producing monoethylene glycol, resulting in a significant drop in prices of that downstream chemical, appears to have prompted Dow's decision. Although ethylene oxide can be shipped into Britain, there is limited shipping capacity. It cannot be brought through the channel tunnel and ferries are reluctant to carry it in tanks. Those difficulties are causing the closure of other UK plants that use UK-produced ethylene oxide, such as the Croda ethoxylation facility.

Climate change is seen as the biggest global challenge facing mankind today. With a projected population increase from 6 to 9 billion by 2050, I see water and food security as our greatest global challenges but, of course, there is a connection. For two main reasons I believe that we should not be burning fossil fuels. First, coal and oil are larders of chemicals for the enjoyment of a high quality of life by future generations, in developed as well as developing countries. Secondly, 50 per cent. of the carbon dioxide generated since the industrial revolution has now been partitioned between the atmosphere and the seas, which cover more than 70 per cent. of the earth's surface. In turn, acidification of those seas is causing a breakdown in the marine carbon cycle. We are losing corals, on which other marine species rely, and shellfish. In any case, burning fossil fuels is an extremely inefficient way to provide energy.

We have to get things in proportion, however. This country is responsible for only 2 per cent. of current world emissions of carbon dioxide. However, we need to show countries such as India and China, especially,
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but also other developing countries, that there are alternative ways of producing energy that have an overall benefit to the environment. For every unit of greenhouse gas emitted through chemical manufacturing, the resulting products enable two to three units to be saved downstream. The downstream products that result in the greatest savings of carbon dioxide, evaluated in a recent report on responsible care by the International Council of Chemical Associations, for emissions-saving enabled by the chemical industry, are insulation materials, chemical fertilizer and crop protection products, advanced lighting solutions, such as compact fluorescent lamps, plastic packaging, marine antifouling coatings, synthetic textiles, automotive plastics, low-temperature detergents, increased engine efficiency, and plastic piping.

Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I declare an interest in that in the somewhat distant past I was an adviser to the United Kingdom Offshore Operators Association and to Shell and ICI. I take a great interest in the questions that the hon. Gentleman is discussing, from the environmental point of view, and in terms of enterprise. As a member of the all-party group on clean coal, I presume from the hon. Gentleman's previous remarks that he would regard what he was saying about not wanting to use fossil fuels as being overtaken by the advances that we hope will be made in carbon capture, which would overcome the difficulties he mentioned. I absolutely believe in carbon capture as part of our energy security.

Dr. Iddon: I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We need to keep oil for the petroleum industry, but of course there is far more coal on earth than oil so we can carry on burning it for a little longer.

The Government were one of the first to tackle climate change, initially through the introduction of the climate change levy. Climate change agreements allow energy-intensive industries to receive a discount on the climate change levy provided that they meet certain energy efficiency targets. More than 230 climate change agreements have been made in the UK chemical industry. However, the rebate received by energy-intensive industries will be reduced from 80 per cent. to 65 per cent. from April next year to comply with the EU energy taxation directive. That will cost the UK chemical industry £10 million, and UK manufacturing a total of £50 million. The CIA believes that the Government have gone further than necessary in meeting the requirements of that directive.

The introduction of the climate change levy has resulted in a change of behaviour in the chemical industry. The industry realised that it made sense to think about its energy usage and costs, and it changed its manufacturing processes as a result of regulation. Subsequent cost savings made those industries more competitive. Based on 1990 levels, the chemical industry reduced world CO2 emissions by between 8 per cent. and 11 per cent. by 2005, according to the IPPC. Since 1990, the UK industry has improved energy efficiency by 35 per cent., which is equivalent to a saving of more than 2 million tonnes of CO2.

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