I believe in the fairly basic precept that no person should have a second home as long as there is one person who has no home. Will the proposed legislation—I

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1249

address specifically the issue of extending the right to buy, the sequestration of housing associations—make any difference whatsoever? It will. It will make matters a great deal worse. Housing associations will lose their collateral base. They will lose their ability to borrow. There will not be some great freeing up of assets spreading across the nation. Rather, there will be the same slithering, slimy people scurrying around the remnants of our housing estates trying to persuade people to buy their property, to realise their assets and to free up the money in their property. These poodle-faking spivs have had the time of their lives under Conservative Governments. We do not want to see it reach an efflorescence again under this ludicrous Bill.

In case after case in our surgeries, every one of us surely hears heartbreaking stories arising from the housing crisis. If someone is ill, they can go home until they feel better. If they lose their job, they can go home and apply for other jobs. If they lose their home, they are on a slippery slope to perdition. Homelessness means not just not having a home; it means being on the street and losing one’s health and one’s future. I spoke earlier about a primary school child making a one-and-a-half-hour journey in the morning and afternoon. What will be the corrosive effect of that on future generations? It will destroy their hopes, their dreams and their ability to learn and become good citizens.

The Bill will not help. Let us save the Conservative party and say, “Get away from this nonsense of trying to bribe the future with their own property”, and let us look at building new housing. That is what it is all about. That is the important thing. Let us do that and get rid of this insanity of trying to sell something that does not belong to the Government in the first place.

3.55 pm

Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): I also congratulate you on your ascension, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I join the Secretary of State in lamenting the lack of humility from Labour over their previous policy. It was my colleague on the London Assembly, the charming Tom Copley, who blew the lid off its record by revealing that more social housing was built in the final year of Margaret Thatcher’s Administration than in the whole of the 13 years of Labour. The situation is even worse than that, however, because during those 13 years Labour created an unsustainable housing market, with rapidly rising prices, very thin mortgage equity requirements and a much looser credit situation than now. It then crashed the market and, once it had been revived, decided that the best thing to do was to propose a tax on it—the mansion tax. That is no solution to what is an extremely pressing problem.

There is much to commend in the Government’s plan presented in our manifesto and the proposed Bill, which addresses access to the market as well as supply. The brownfield register; the housing zone; the promotion of garden towns, the starter homes—all that is extremely welcome, but there are two areas I particularly want to address. One is the extension of right to buy, which I support. It has much potential to enable the same social change and progression that the right to buy council housing did during the 1980s and 1990s.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1250

I want, however, to bring two areas to my right hon. Friend’s attention. One was eloquently highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry): exceptions for small rural communities, particularly in extremely delightful areas to live, such as large parts of my constituency, where there is pressure on housing already—I will not elaborate on that. Secondly, will the Secretary of State consider a transferable discount, so that housing association tenants can realise the value of their discount and transfer it into the private sector, with various conditions applied. That might solve the problem of disposing of the house, but also give them the freedom to move on.

The second area I want to talk about, which sadly is not mentioned in the motion, is the role of the planning system, particularly the Planning Inspectorate. One of the revolutions that the previous Government introduced was the notion of local neighbourhood plans. I am pleased to say that large parts of my constituency have embraced the idea with extreme enthusiasm. From larger settlements, such as Whitchurch, Oakley, Kingsclere and Overton, to small villages, such as St Mary Bourne in the middle of my constituency, people have worked hard on their local neighbourhood plan. It has excited much interest in the community and quite a lot of debate, and for the first time in these areas, people feel as if planning is something being done with them, rather than to them.

Still hovering above them, however, is the role of the Planning Inspectorate. I hope that over the next few months or weeks, as we debate the Bill, we can address the issue of the inspectorate and the game of poker that its existence creates in the planning system for local authorities. Far from smoothing the passage of planning applications, the planning inspectorate is more often used, I find, as an excuse to slow things down, as a complicated game of chicken is played between developer, local authority and local community about what each thinks the planning inspector will deal with. If localism is really to take hold, locally elected democratic representatives, including the Mayor of London—even with his vast majority and mandate, he has to bear in mind the chap in a suit from Bristol—will have to play a part in dealing with the possibly negative effect of the planning inspectorate. I think that any fear and loathing generated in communities by this problem needs to be addressed.

Finally, let me say a few words about homelessness. The shadow Secretary of State tried to offer a simplistic solution to the rough-sleeping problem by saying that it is just about housing. That does a disservice to those many people who unfortunately find themselves on the street. There are complicated issues relating to mental health, alcohol, drug addition, previous life experience—particularly for the high proportion of rough sleepers who have been in the forces and might have post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health problems—that need to be addressed. Having worked as a councillor on this issue, I am aware that many people living on the street are very hard to help. Offering them just housing as a solution will often not get them very far.

It was Ronald Reagan who said:

“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do”

in politics,

“if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1251

I am extremely pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his place on the Front Bench. We were councillors together, and he has worked very hard on the localism agenda over the last five years. It is good to see him in a position where he is able both to achieve great things for housing in this country and to take much of the credit.

4.1 pm

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): It is an honour to give my maiden speech today in the birthplace of Westminster democracy—a model that many other countries have used as a blueprint for their fledgling democracies. We must never forget that others look to us for leadership internationally not just on democracy, but on human rights, too.

In the constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, democracy features strongly. In the year I was born, 1966, the Conservative Hugh Rossi was elected and remained the MP until 1992, when he resigned. He was followed by the Labour Minister Barbara Roche who was the MP until 2005, when the Liberal Democrats’ Lynne Featherstone won the seat. Tory, Labour and Liberal over a relatively short space of time—democracy is certainly alive and kicking in Hornsey and Wood Green. My predecessor, Lynne Featherstone, was well respected locally for her ministerial work on gay marriage and her campaigning for an end to the vile practice of female genital mutilation—causes that I am sure she will continue to pursue.

I am very pleased to speak on housing and equally happy that my hon. Friends have brought this crucial matter forward as an Opposition debate so early in this Parliament. I am pleased, too, to see a fresh face in the Government. I am not sure what happened to his predecessor, but it is with a huge sigh of relief that those of us who come from local government see a slightly different face. I hope that this will presage some positive moves around the housing agenda.

My constituency is one of great contrasts, with households on low incomes living in the graceful, but dilapidated, Victorian Noel Park estate. I was always amazed by our Victorian and even our post-war predecessors who saw the need to invest in housing for working communities and made it happen. In the coming months, so much energy will be spent on needlessly debating the merits of the ‘right to buy’ for housing stock where people are securely housed, when we could be getting stuck into building more for the many who lack housing security. There are so many excuses why we cannot do that, when we should be determined to build, build, build to address the critical imbalance between the supply and demand for housing.

In the west of my constituency, leafy boulevards of Edwardian splendour nestle in the foothills of Alexandra Palace Park and run along the boundaries of the spooky Highgate and Queen’s woods—28 hectares of ancient woodland known for its archaeological treasure trove of Roman pottery. The famous landmark of Alexandra Palace, originally known as “the Palace of the People” was leased to the BBC in 1935 for its new television service, and its glass dome provides a magnificent backdrop, which today’s shoppers can gaze at from the Wood Green shopping city. One hundred and eighty languages

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1252

are spoken in our local schools. As an immigrant myself, I am proud of our rich diversity. Immigration is too commonly seen as a handicap when, in truth, it is our strength.

Recent research has shown that households privately renting in Hornsey and Wood Green spend £250 of the average weekly wage of £500 on rent. Guidelines issued by Shelter, the national housing charity, state that a third of average weekly earnings should be spent on housing costs, not 50% as is the case in Hornsey and Wood Green. Costly housing is holding back the London economy, making London unaffordable for the workforce, and creating public health problems as a result of overcrowding. In short, “generation rent” needs a break. It is good to see so many London Members here today. Not a day goes by without a London Member of Parliament or councillor hearing someone’s heartbreaking story about overcrowded housing.

The knock-on effect of high-cost rented housing is that fewer young people can purchase their own homes. The Government’s much flaunted Help to Buy scheme has helped fewer than 20 households in my constituency. Meanwhile, the deregulation of pensions in recent times is fuelling the “buy to let” market and pushing up prices. There is nothing short of a housing crisis. People in housing need are being failed by this Government—and I am tired of hearing Members talk about what we did in the Labour Government. That is ancient history. I have been here for one month, and for me it is ancient history. I do not intend to let up on the fact that the housing benefit bill is costing the public purse dear, and that is a national disgrace.

The only way out of this spiral is increased housing supply. Whether young people are trying to get on to the housing ladder or trying to rent a social home, councils must be permitted to build more affordable homes. That is the most efficient way. They must also be allowed to insist that 50% of all newly built homes are genuinely affordable, not with rents at 80% of the market rate. That is utterly unaffordable for average or middle-income households. To date, in the current Parliament, I have not heard anyone make a commitment to addressing the crucial issue of housing supply. We ignore it at our peril, but that is symptomatic of the tin ear of this Administration when it comes to investment in vital housing infrastructure—and, for that matter, any kind of infrastructure. There is also the crucial issue of social mobility for our young people, which our society desperately lacks.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for indulging me in my first speech in Parliament. I look forward to standing up for the people of Hornsey and Wood Green, challenging the housing inequality in our society, and fighting for the things that matter.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. The Front-Bench speeches will begin at 4.10 pm. That does not give the next speaker much time, but I look forward to a very potted speech from Suella Fernandes.

4.7 pm

Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. In the interests of time, I will rapidly condense my planned speech.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1253

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) on speaking eloquently and passionately about her constituency, and about what she hopes to achieve in the House. I wish her well. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) on an excellent maiden speech. He spoke about real aspiration, hard work and getting on, which are key values of his and guiding principles of this Conservative Government. I have no doubt that he will make an invaluable contribution during his time in the House.

I must declare an interest, as a barrister specialising in planning law who has represented local planning authorities and house builders at planning inquiries.

“Housing is the first of the social services. It is also one of the keys to increased productivity. Work, family life, health and education are all undermined by crowded houses.”

Those words are taken from the Conservative manifesto of 1951. The 1951 election, about which we have heard a great deal today, was narrowly won by Winston Churchill, who appointed Harold Macmillan as his Housing Minister. Macmillan achieved great feats, delivering more than 300,000 houses between 1952 and 1953 alone. He achieved that by liberating the market and providing incentives for house ownership, and he increased supply considerably. Thirty years on, Margaret Thatcher and Lord Heseltine achieved the same with the right to buy, and today, another 30 years on, I am proud to be part of a Conservative Government who are continuing that tradition of home ownership, helping people who are working hard, counting their pennies and saving in order to afford a home for their families—all in the name of responsibility, aspiration and the securing of a financial future.

The facts speak for themselves. Housing completions have increased hugely. Some 200,000 new starter homes and the Help to Buy ISAs are directly helping first-time buyers get on to the housing ladder. In my constituency, a total of 258 new homes were started in 2014. It is crucial that sufficient schools and infrastructure are provided to meet demand. The hypocrisy on the Labour Benches is astonishing given the present-day failure. Let us look at Wales: Labour-run Wales has a paltry delivery record on home ownership, and has the lowest house building rate per capita of the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. In the UK overall house building increased by 28% in 2013, but it declined by 12% in Wales. Rent controls, which are being used in Sweden and New York, are failing. They are socially divisive and are decreasing supply.

I am proud to say that housing is the key to social mobility. It is the building block for social justice and it is at the heart of aspiration. Both the achievements of the last five years and the programme for the future are well thought-through plans of which Macmillan would be proud.

4.11 pm

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): I welcome you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to your new role. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair.

It has been an interesting—but quite short—debate. I congratulate in particular the Members who made their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) spoke passionately about the achievements

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1254

of his constituents and his predecessors. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) reminded us of the importance of increasing the diversity of Parliament and this Chamber. He conjured up an amazing image of cathedrals and castles in Norwich and of their being defiant against injustice, which I am sure we would all want to emulate. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) spoke very movingly about the wide range of issues facing his constituents and how the actions of this Government and the previous Government are exacerbating them. He did a very good job in speaking up for all his constituents and speaking about the support they need and are not getting from this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) gave a moving speech. She reminded us of the problems facing “generation rent” and the difficulty young people have in getting into the housing market, the need to promote social mobility and, especially in London, the need to address rising house prices, which are putting housing beyond the reach of so many.

Elsewhere in the debate we heard a wonderful speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck), who highlighted the particular problems of housing in London and the need to breathe new life into shared ownership. The hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) made some interesting points about the need to reform buy to let and I will be interested to see how those on his Front Bench respond to them. The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) made some interesting points about the need to do more to promote neighbourhood planning and ensure that infrastructure is in place to support new housing—a point emphasised by the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes).

Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the removal of section 106 and community infrastructure levy tariffs from the proposed new starter homes programme will result in our building communities that are not well enough supported by the infrastructure and the services that they need to be successful in the future?

Dr Blackman-Woods: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point; it is one that we made a number of times when we were opposing the Government’s changes to section 106 agreements. Those changes are incredibly short-sighted and will lead to a long-term dearth of the infrastructure that our country so desperately needs.

Our housing market is in crisis because the Government are failing to build the homes that our country needs. We need 245,000 homes to be built every year in England alone, just to keep up with demand, but only 125,000 new homes were built in England between April 2014 and March 2015. Recent figures from an LSE report demonstrate clearly that house building figures were much lower under the coalition Government than under the previous Labour Administration. Indeed, house building fell during that time to its lowest level since the 1920s.

Between 2011 and 2014, the total shortfall against the need for new homes was a massive 515,000. This has led to record numbers of young people in their 20s and 30s living with their parents. Analysis by the estate agent Savills has shown that in areas such as the south-east,

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1255

where there is high demand and a strong employment market, approvals for new builds are

“falling well below objectively assessed need”.

In other words, even the homes that are being built are not necessarily in the places with the most acute housing need.

As a result of the Government’s continuing failure to tackle barriers to housing supply, prices are continuing to rise, reflecting sky-high demand. Even though there is deflation in other parts of the economy, the annual rate of house-price inflation is now 8.6%. House prices have outstripped wage inflation and hit an affordability ceiling in all parts of the country, with figures for last year showing a salary-to-house-price ratio of 10 times across the UK. Houses are unaffordable right across the country, with a rate of seven times in the north-west and 14 times in London. As prices are pushed beyond the reach of an increasing majority of us, home ownership has fallen to a 30-year low.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that there are now real issues with recruiting to our vital public services because people cannot afford to live in our cities any more?

Dr Blackman-Woods: Indeed; my hon. Friend makes an excellent point.

The Government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme is also stuttering to a halt, with completions falling by 43% in the last quarter of last year and at the beginning of this one. The record on private renting is no better. For renters who aspire to home ownership, the future poses huge challenges. Around 11 million people are now renting privately. They are not just young people trying to get on to the housing ladder: 1.4 million of them are families with children, and almost half of private renters are over the age of 35. The undersupply of private rented homes is making housing unaffordable for many, particularly those who rely on that sector. Rents are rising, and between 2008-09 and 2013-14, the mean average private rent increased from £153 a week to £176 a week—an increase of 15%. The increase in London was 21%.

What are the Government doing about this? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, the previous Conservative chairman, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), denied that private rents were rising, much to the incredulity of Labour Members. The Tories’ record on social renting is no better. In 2013-14, only 10,840 social rented homes were delivered. That was a 71% decrease from the 37,000 delivered in 2012-13. Furthermore, despite Government promises to replace every home sold through the right to buy, that simply did not happen—for every 10 sold, only one had started to be built to replace them.

The Government therefore have real questions to answer about their extension of the right to buy scheme. In particular, we must have better answers about how the extended scheme will be financed. Selling off expensive council houses to fund the policy will mean that, for some areas of London and for other inner cities too, all council housing might need to be sold, with like-for-like replacement unlikely to be achieved. That point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1256

South East (Mr Betts) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan). I look forward to hearing from the Minister how the scheme is to be financed.

All the measures that the Government have put in place, however, do not tackle the issue of homelessness.

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Dr Blackman-Woods: I am out of time.

I hope to hear from the Minister how his Government will address the massive undersupply of housing, deliver more social housing for rent, tackle barriers to home ownership and produce a private rented sector that offers stable and secure housing for the people relying on it. In moving the motion, we are asking the Government to bring forward a comprehensive plan to address the housing crisis that our country is facing and to do so now. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I urge all Members to vote for our motion.

4.21 pm

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Brandon Lewis): I welcome you to your new role, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is my first time at the Dispatch Box with you in the Chair.

I will first touch on some of the speeches made by my hon. Friends and other hon. Members in an interesting debate, which has included some great contributions. I was slightly surprised that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) gave a critique of Labour’s past performance—something we agree on and which I know was something to be worried about. We are disappointed that the SNP, as she said, has ended the right to buy in Scotland, therefore crushing the opportunity for aspiration for so many people.

Dr Whiteford: Will the Minister give way?

Brandon Lewis: I will not, given the time that is left, I am afraid.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) made a great contribution and gave some superb ideas for us to look into. He rightly outlined the work that we have done for family-friendly tenancies with the model tenancy agreement that the Government launched in the previous Parliament. I look forward to working with him over the months ahead to ensure that we will do what we can to deliver homes for people throughout our country and across tenures.

In particular, I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp) on his maiden speech. He made a good start in the House by respecting the comments of Mr Deputy Speaker and keeping himself short and tight in his words, while outlining his clear passion for his area and his experience as a man from London, although I would question his loyalty to Crystal Palace football club. I am a supporter of Queen’s Park Rangers, so that might be one area where we fail to agree, but his passion and knowledge of housing will be a great contribution to the House, particularly his clear passion for the use of public sector and brownfield land.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1257

The hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis), one of my new neighbours as a fellow Norfolk MP, gave an interesting maiden speech, with an interesting outline of the Norwich that I know best as the city of ale, as I am a former pubs Minister. I look forward to him joining us in putting pressure on Labour-run Norwich City Council to use the powers and money that it has to build council houses in Norwich. I have met the council about that and I encourage him to join me in nagging it to go further.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) for a thoughtful speech. He outlined some of the issues and problems left by the Labour party because of its failure to regulate properly, which led to some of the problems in the economic crash that Labour gave us just before it lost its majority in Parliament in 2010.

The hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) in his speech outlined his 100-year family background in the area, which he is clearly and rightly proud of. I am pleased that he, along with other Members, has given a clear message to the House that he has a focus on housing. I am sure that he will want to join me in congratulating the Leeds area on having the highest number of beneficiaries of the equity loan Help to Buy scheme in the entire country, for which it can thank a Conservative-led Government.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) on another excellent and thoughtful contribution, which outlined the importance of local plans. She rightly seeks to ensure that absolute pressure is put on her local authority to deliver a local plan to serve the constituents she has been elected to represent. I hope that the council will have listened to her speech and taken note, and will deliver that local plan which it so badly needs and should rightly deliver for its residents.

The hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) gave a typically robust, if a little far-fetched, outline of the Government’s policies, but I look forward to debating with him further when we come to the housing Bill later this year. [Interruption.] Yes, it was not a maiden speech, but it was close.

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) made a thoughtful and helpful contribution, as I know he will do throughout his time in this Parliament. As with my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale and Darwen, I particularly noted his comments about rural exception sites, and we will come back to that as part of the housing Bill in due course.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) on her maiden speech, in which she paid a clear tribute to her predecessor. Again, I thank her for showing that she will have a clear focus on housing, and I hope she will join me in making sure we deliver the housing we need across our country.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Suella Fernandes) for giving a short but insightful speech, supporting good-quality development and highlighting the poor delivery of housing under the last Labour Government.

I am fortunate, as the Minister for Housing and Planning, to be able to build on excellent work done by my predecessors, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr Prisk), who did fantastic groundwork on the private rented sector, setting it up to

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1258

be the strong and growing sector it is today, and in his general work on housing. My hon. Friends the Members for Henley (John Howell) and for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) have also contributed through work on neighbourhood planning and on the NPPF. My neighbour, the hon. Member for South Norfolk, has done fantastic work on custom-build and right to build. That is all contributing and will go on to contribute further to build the homes we need across our country.

I was surprised at a couple of things said by the Opposition Front Benchers, not least because we are still not entirely clear—I do not know whether any Labour Members are—about whether they support or do not support the aspiration to own that people who benefit from right to buy will have. Conservative Members absolutely support that. It is deeply ironic, at best, that the Opposition have called today’s debate at all, in order to raise the alarm about the housing crisis that they created. It is a little like listening to the arsonist ringing the fire brigade to report a house that they burned to the ground. Let us remember where we have come from: in 2010, they left this country with the lowest level of peacetime house building rates since 1923, with millions of first-time buyers locked out of the market and—let us be clear about this—with a net loss of some 420,000 affordable houses. That was a shameful track record to leave this country.

Let us contrast that with what has happened during the past five years of a Conservative-led Government. We have had the job of clearing up the mess, and progress has been made. [Interruption.] Labour Members may not like to hear this, but let me give them some facts. Housing starts and the number of first-time buyers have doubled since 2009, and those continue to rise. Councils are building at the fastest rate in 23 years; just five years of a Conservative-led coalition built more social housing than 13 years of Labour. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State rightly said, we were the first Government since the 1980s to finish with a larger stock of affordable homes than we started with.

We plan for a brighter and a bigger future, which the Opposition cannot come to terms with. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set out a clear goal and a clear mission for him and for us in this Parliament, which is to ensure that everyone who works hard can aspire to have a home of their own. More than 1 million tenants in housing association properties will be helped to buy a home. Some 200,000 starter homes will be built with a 20% discount for first-time buyers, and 95,000 homes will be built on brownfield land. We will help communities to have more control over house building and we will build 275,000 more affordable homes, which is the fastest rate in more than 20 years. As my right hon. Friend said, we have a rich legacy on which to draw.

Today we have heard the difference between a Government with plans to fulfil housing goals and an Opposition who want to frustrate them. We are offering working people a ladder, and the Opposition are telling them to form a queue. We will build more homes that people can afford. We will make it easier for local people to build the homes they need for the future in the places they want to build them. Above all, we will support the aspirations of working people who want to buy a home of their own.

Question put.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1259

The House divided:

Ayes 281, Noes 321.

Division No. 7]


4.29 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bardell, Hannah

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Boswell, Philip

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Douglas

Chapman, Jenny

Cherry, Joanna

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Crawley, Angela

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

Day, Martyn

De Piero, Gloria

Debbonaire, Thangam

Docherty, Martin John

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Gray, Neil

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Chris

Mc Nally, John

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stewart

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McLaughlin, Anne

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Salmond, rh Alex

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whitford, Dr Philippa

Williams, Hywel

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Susan Elan Jones


Phil Wilson


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Osborne, rh Mr George

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Guy Opperman


Jackie Doyle-Price

Question accordingly negatived.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1260

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1261

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1262

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1263

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1264

Climate Change

4.43 pm

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House believes that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change conference in Paris in 2015 is vital in ensuring that the target of keeping global temperature increases below two degrees is met; further believes that the UK Government should push for ambitious emissions targets for all countries, strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards the two degrees goal, a goal of net zero emissions in the second half of the century, transparent and universal rules for measuring and reporting emissions, climate change adaptation plans for all countries, and an equitable deal in which richer countries provide support to poorer nations in their efforts to combat climate change; and further notes the importance of making adequate plans for domestic mitigation and adaptation and ensuring communities are protected from the worst effects of climate change, including flooding.

It is an absolute pleasure, Madam Deputy Speaker, to be under your wise chairship for my first Opposition day debate of this Parliament. I also welcome the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to her new position and offer my congratulations to the Minister of State. I had rather hoped that it would be a different woman running the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but such is life.

I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the former Member for Vale of Clwyd, Chris Ruane, who served as my Parliamentary Private Secretary. Mr Speaker once described him as an incorrigible delinquent, which I think he meant kindly. To me, he is a loyal colleague and friend and he will be much missed from the House, not least for his outstanding work on voter registration to ensure that as many people as possible do not lose their right to vote.

I want to pay particular tribute to the former Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, Tom Greatrex. He served as shadow Minister on my team for four years and I could not have asked for a better right-hand man. Tom’s knowledge of energy policy was respected on all sides, and the House is a poorer place for his absence.

Why have we chosen to use half of our first Opposition day in this new Parliament to debate climate change? We have chosen to do so because some have recently tried to argue that we do not need to worry about climate change any more and that temperatures have not risen for 18 years, but that is wrong. The earth’s average surface temperature has indeed risen since 1996, and even using 1998 as a starting point, which was an unusually warm year, the world has got warmer.

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con) rose

Caroline Flint: Can the hon. Gentleman be a little patient?

The scientific consensus is shown by the fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published last year, which said that warming of the climate is “unequivocal” and that human influence on the climate is clear. We have chosen the subject because this is a crucial year in keeping the global rise in temperatures below 2ºC and avoiding catastrophic damage to the planet. That 2ºC target was agreed at the UN conference in Cancun in 2010. As we know, above that the risks of climate change move beyond our control.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1265

We have chosen the topic because this year our country needs to show international leadership, especially in Europe. As the official Opposition we have a role to play in helping to encourage the Government to get the best possible deal in the fight against climate change at the Paris climate conference towards the end of this year.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): In the light of the incontrovertible evidence that my right hon. Friend has just cited and the importance of the conference later this year, does she not find it extraordinary that there are still Conservative Members who deny the existence of climate change? I noted the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) trying to intervene.

Caroline Flint: It is extremely worrying that so many Government Members are still in denial and refuse to accept the views of the majority of scientists around the world. Not only are they a threat to the environment; they are a threat to the jobs and opportunities these changes bring.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend and I have worked on environmental issues for a long time. Does she agree that there are very good people on the Government Benches who are extremely good on the environment and would like to speak out more, but are worried that that might harm their prospects in their party?

Caroline Flint: My hon. Friend is right. We want to hear more of those voices in the months ahead. Despite the fact that we will have our disagreements across the House, on this issue political consensus is key to playing our part not only on our national stage, but on the world stage.

David T. C. Davies: Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Flint: I will give way shortly.

We have chosen the subject for this debate not only for environmental but for economic reasons. The floods last year showed that climate change and more extreme weather events are felt in the constituencies of many Members in all parts of the House, which makes it a matter of national as well as international security. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) will discuss the domestic mitigation and adaptation necessary to protect our communities, but let us not lose sight of the green jobs and investment that are the prize for making the right decisions now about the future of energy and energy efficiency in a new, cleaner economy.

Dr Andrew Murrison (South West Wiltshire) (Con): I am listening with great interest to the right hon. Lady. The Government in which she served made a big thing about lots of eco-measures, one of which was the building of 10 eco-towns. Can she remind the House how many were actually built?

Caroline Flint: The eco-towns were such a good idea that the coalition Government did not dump it—they called them garden towns instead. We have just had a debate on the need for more housing. If we build, we

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1266

should do it in a more sustainable way, creating communities like those great garden cities of the past that took account of transport, jobs and health. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that he does not believe that housing is important, he is on the wrong side of that debate.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): My right hon. Friend mentioned flooding, which has been a very serious issue in recent years. The previous Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition Government cut the Environment Agency’s flood defence budget by a massive 21% and cut the capital grants for flood schemes by 31%. Was not that incredibly short-sighted?

Caroline Flint: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it was incredibly short-sighted. Not long after that, the Prime Minister said that he would sign a cheque for whatever amount to sort out the problem. After the event is not good enough. We need to take action before these events to make sure that we address not only the financial costs for the communities affected but the devastating social costs that families and businesses suffer from if we do not get this right.

In government we passed the Climate Change Act 2008, which legally bound us to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. It is worth remembering that back in 2008 only five Members of Parliament voted against this ground-breaking legislation, and that strong consensus influenced policy around the world. There are now climate change laws in 66 countries, and even more are developing them. Denmark, Finland and Mexico have all now passed their own climate change Acts with legally binding emissions targets. Labour is proud of its leadership on climate change. We doubled renewable energy generation and put in the work to make sure that the UK was a global leader in a range of clean energy technologies. Two thirds of the renewable projects that came online in the past five years started under the previous Labour Government, and we can be proud of the jobs that those projects have created.

We put climate change on the agenda at the G8 in Gleneagles in 2005, making sure that this issue was discussed at the highest levels. We welcome the agreement that the G7 countries reached this week to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of this century and to cut greenhouse gases by 40% to 70% by 2050 from 2010 levels. That is positive, but only if the Paris conference sets out staging posts on how to get there.

Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater and West Somerset) (Con): I am sure that the right hon. Lady knows what I am going to ask. Does she agree that the way forward on a lot of climate change is to restart the civil nuclear programme in this country as quickly as possible and start the building of Hinkley C and the other power stations we need to reduce climate change?

Caroline Flint: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am pleased to have visited Hinkley, and to have recently visited Anglesey as well. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Albert Owen) speaks up very much for his constituents and the jobs that would derive from the power that the nuclear power station generated for the future. Because nuclear power is a difficult issue, I am proud that the previous Labour Government decided that it had to be part of the mix if we were going to

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1267

meet our climate change targets. Labour took that position when this Prime Minister said it should be a last resort and the Liberal Democrats were against it. They have obviously changed their tune in the intervening years, and I am pleased about that. However, as the hon. Gentleman will be aware, a lot of outstanding issues need to be resolved in the months ahead. I hope that the Secretary of State will give this due care and attention to make sure that we do not stall in what should be an important part of the mix in our energy generation.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): One of the outstanding issues that we are facing was mentioned last week in The Sunday Telegraph, which carried a story about the potential threats to onshore wind if the Government change the financial support mechanisms. No clarity has apparently come from the Government since then. From within the industry, I am being told that civil servants are uncertain as to what the steer is from Ministers. Do we not need a statement from the Government, or some other clarification as to what exactly they mean, because investment in the sector is being frozen? What is the right hon. Lady’s view?

Caroline Flint: I will come to that shortly, and I hope that I will answer all the hon. Gentleman’s questions.

In Paris we need to agree a set of tough, ambitious targets that will keep us under 2 °C and we need a goal of net zero global emissions in the second half of the century, but those ambitious targets must also be strengthened every five years on the basis of a scientific assessment of the progress towards that 2 °C goal. We cannot just keep relying on crunch moments, as we saw in Copenhagen, to deliver the targets we want. Fighting to limit climate change is part of an ongoing process that will require continual commitment. Transparent rules for measuring, verifying and reporting emissions are vital to that. This is going to work only if there is widespread confidence that everyone is playing by the same rules. We need a fair deal between richer and poorer nations, because the richer nations have a duty to help poorer countries get access to clean heat and power.

There are reasons to be optimistic, but only 39 countries have put in plans for emissions reductions to the United Nations framework convention on climate change, despite the fact that the deadline has passed. We welcome those plans, but an analysis submitted earlier this year shows that we are not on track.

What should we do both at home and abroad to set the right example and to give the talks the best possible chance of success? First, we need to show leadership at home on clean energy: we need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Yesterday, we got the news that the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project had received development consent from the Secretary of State, which is very welcome.

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend will be aware from her recent visit to my constituency, the Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay is a global game changer in renewable energy. Does she agree that Wales led the way in providing the fuel for the industrial

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1268

revolution and, now that we are entering the era of the climate change revolution, that Wales and specifically Swansea East will lead this next revolution?

Caroline Flint: Absolutely. Just as the railways were so important in the 19th century and just as super-highways will be so important, so clean energy is important. It is an energy industrial revolution that we should embrace. I am very pleased to pay tribute to my hon. Friend as well as to my hon. Friends the Members for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) for the work that they have done to support the project. The Welsh Assembly and, I should say, the former Member for Swansea East, Siân James, deserve massive credit, as do local councillors who have fought hard for it.

I would, however, tell the Secretary of State in relation to yesterday’s announcement that more steps need to be taken to take us closer to the clean energy and green jobs that we will need. I urge her to have a look at whether the civil servants working with the company can get a bit of a shift on and get some of the documentation into the Commission as soon as possible so that it can start to check it out for state aid. With such projects, to get shovels in the ground—or whatever they will use in the bay—people need to know the timescale so that they do not miss it because of the weather and the seasons. I urge the Department to help make that work happen sooner rather than later.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): I welcome this debate. I was delighted to notice earlier today that nine Labour Members of the European Parliament joined the Greens in voting for a Europe-wide moratorium on fracking. Will the right hon. Lady reconsider her and her party’s position on fracking given the importance of what she has just said—that what we do at home sends a really strong signal about the seriousness with which we treat leaving fossil fuels in the ground?

Caroline Flint: As the hon. Lady will know, we have been very clear—we made it very clear at the tail end of the last Parliament—that no fracking should take place unless the safeguards that we set out in amendments in Parliament are in place to allow it to go ahead. She knows as well as I do that 80% of our heating comes from gas, so we have to think about where gas fits into the picture, but fracking has to be done safely. She will also know that I think we should have a review of the possibilities for green gas, because all the evidence shows that that could be a major contributing factor in making sure that we can still heat our homes as we come off fossil fuel gas.

More steps need to be taken to bring us closer to realising clean energy and green jobs, but with yesterday’s announcement the Government are sending out some damaging mixed messages. The Queen’s Speech reiterated their commitment to fighting climate change, but also followed through on their plans to make it more difficult to build onshore wind projects. No one is saying that we should not be sensitive to the best places to put onshore wind farms, but let us be serious: that is not what is going on. As we saw in the last Parliament, we have a Government searching for ways to placate their Back Benchers. The moves currently being briefed out to end the renewables obligation a year early show that the

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1269

Tories are bad for green business. Investors have been spending money in good faith under an agreed framework. There are nearly 1,000 projects with planning permission. I would like the Secretary of State to clarify whether those 1,000 projects will be affected by the statements we have heard since the general election.

That damages investment not just in onshore wind but in other technologies—it damages confidence that the Government will not withdraw support from them or move the goalposts. Onshore wind is currently the cheapest type of clean energy. The Government’s actions mean that it may cost consumers more in the long term. The truth is onshore wind could be cheaper than new gas generation by 2020.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): Does the right hon. Lady accept that in some parts of the country there is massive opposition—overwhelming opposition—to the imposition of onshore wind on the scale proposed and that any Government that do not listen to the people will find that they are not electable?

Caroline Flint: Of course there should be a debate and people should raise their concerns. That is what the planning framework is about, but the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the former the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government sat on planning applications that had been agreed at a local level. I do not know what the answer to that is. It seems that when the public agree with something a big Secretary of State sits on them and—[Interruption.] By big, I mean the office of the Secretary of State. As we know, DCLG is a big office—it is much bigger than DECC, sadly, but there we go. I digress. The hon. Gentleman seriously cannot have it both ways. During the Parliament, we had a consultation on the guidelines. A number of Conservative Back Benchers thought that that was great and we were going to see an end to onshore wind farms. Actually, the consultation did nothing to change the guidelines on that. They were led up the hill and down again. I believe that there are ways in which we can enable communities to see greater benefits from these projects. I would like to see more community-owned wind farms. I would like communities to get more out of the wind turbines and the benefits to go directly into households in the communities. Rather than taking a more positive approach to the issue, the Tory party is just saying no.

Mr Sheerman: I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that Labour Members and many Members on the Conservative Benches want evidence-based policy—there has not been an ideological knee-jerk reaction saying all wind power is bad. I could give the example of the east coast of Yorkshire, where we have had an all-party, positive attitude. We have been working across parties together to get the vast investment with Siemens to get wind power from the sea.

Caroline Flint: I agree. There is a gap between what the Government say and what they do. That is bad—

Several hon. Members rose

Caroline Flint: I am going to make some progress because it is a short debate.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1270

That gap is bad for jobs and for tackling climate change and it does not bode well. Leadership needs to be shown in the months ahead.

By this time next year we could have a binding agreement from 196 countries that puts us on a path to a sustainable future, but it will require us to show real leadership. It used to be said we would never get a deal without the world’s biggest emitters stepping up. Well, America and China have already taken one step with a deal that could see China’s emissions peak in 2030 and would see the US reduce its emissions to 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

The current bid from the EU for “at least” a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 does not go far enough. We are already signed up to a tougher target of 60% by 2030 at home, because of the Climate Change Act and the fact that we met our first carbon budget. We should be doing everything possible to toughen the EU position. The “at least” in the EU submission makes it possible to do that. The EU has already met its 2020 target five years early. I think we should be more ambitious. In his statement today, the Prime Minister said we needed to be ambitious, so I ask the Secretary of State, what does ambition in the EU look like?

We also have to recognise the link between the sustainable development goals being negotiated in September and the Paris conference, because we will not make progress in reducing poverty unless we succeed in limiting the effects of climate change, which we know devastates communities and affects food security, transport and jobs. It leads to the displacement of people with no home or hope, and to the costs that follow in disaster relief. I am proud that under the last Labour Government, the Department for International Development led the world in helping countries adapt to climate change, such as Bangladesh, where 300,000 people were helped in raising their homes above sea level.

Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Is the right hon. Lady going to address the issue of cost? She criticised me and four others for voting against the Climate Change Act, but I did so because the impact assessment showed that the potential costs were twice the maximum benefits. According to the Government, the costs will now reach something like £400 a household by 2020. Will she address that issue?

Caroline Flint: The problem is that although the right hon. Gentleman is right that there is a cost to change, there is a bigger cost to doing nothing at all. The investment that we make will not only help us make energy cheaper and homes warmer but create job and investment opportunities. He might like to stay in the 19th century, but I would like to take us forward to a better—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but that is what it is—“Let’s stay with what has gone on in the past, even though we know that it is not fit for purpose for the future.” There is everything to gain from having a cleaner-energy future. However, I am glad in some respects that he continues to be a minority voice in the House on the issue.

Stephen Doughty: I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend’s point. Does she agree that the Stern report made it clear that the medium and long-term costs to this country and many others, particularly

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1271

developing countries, will be far greater than the costs of not dealing with the challenge of climate change now?

Caroline Flint: Absolutely. At the moment we are ranked sixth in the world for green goods and services. Just think how many more jobs we could create if we moved up to third or fourth place. The benefits would not just be at home, because we can export new technologies abroad. One example is carbon capture and storage. Not only can the technology be applied to fossil fuels, but it has industrial applications for our energy-intensive sectors.

We had an awful lot of shilly-shallying in the past five years about support for carbon capture and storage—nobody was quite sure where the money was and what it was being spent on. I ask the Secretary of State whether we will see any cuts in support for CCS in the forthcoming emergency Budget. She will obviously say, “I can’t say, that’s a matter for the Chancellor,” but I really hope that the new DECC team is putting its shoulder to the wheel to ensure that such cuts do not happen. There was too much interference from the Chancellor in the past five years—he did not work for investment and did not support this area of public policy.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): Is it not a shame that although we are now in a position to develop carbon capture and storage, the coalition Government, in their last throes, denied the British deep-mine coal industry the opportunity to prosper by not allowing state aid? We will be developing carbon capture and storage for countries around the globe that import coal, but we will not have the jobs to deal with it.

Caroline Flint: My hon. Friend is right. It was exactly like the coalition Government’s approach to CCS, which I do not think they ever fully embraced. There were delays and delays in the state aid procedure, until it just ran into the election period and was done for. We all heard the comments of the Minister whose former responsibilities straddled DECC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and we all know now that his warm words counted for absolutely nothing.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend share in my congratulations to the Teesside Collective, which is embarking on a feasibility study on bringing CCS to Teesside? That would not only bring climate benefits but mean that industries on Teesside could be retained and inward investment could be attracted.

Caroline Flint: I very much welcome the work that is happening there. CCS is sometimes talked about as though it were not yet working anywhere, but as far as I am aware there are eight working projects happening around the world as we sit here. I thought that we were a country that wanted to back innovation, technology and invention. Was it not the Chancellor who said that we wanted to be the makers? What happened to that?

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): Does my right hon. Friend share my bitter frustration and disappointment that before 2010 we were, according to the US environment group Pew, third in the world in

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1272

terms of innovation and investment in this incredible sector? In the past five years we have gone so far backwards in terms of the green investment bank, solar and the green deal—the list goes on. The next five years should be an opportunity that the Government grasp.

Caroline Flint: We left a legacy that formed a firm foundation for new endeavour. We should have been going up, not down. The sad thing is the other side of this: energy efficiency. I think some 400,000 fewer homes were insulated as a result of the changes the Government made to energy insulation programmes—another missed opportunity. I really hope this new team will grasp it and, when it is in the national interest, work with everybody, including us.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Caroline Flint: I have taken a lot of interventions. I will just get to the end of my speech now, because a lot of colleagues want to speak in this debate.

Progress in energy efficiency is the other area that could stimulate jobs and investment while helping to reduce fuel poverty. I hope that when we come to discuss this matter, perhaps in another debate, the Government will be open to taking about some of Labour’s proposals to deliver energy. I have to say that they were widely welcomed by industry and campaigners fighting fuel poverty.

In the previous Parliament, we wanted the Government to back our target for decarbonising the electricity supply by 2030, because that would have given investors the certainty they need. It was argued then that a decarbonisation target would be set in this Parliament, but the Conservative manifesto ruled that out. We hope to see such a target set in 2016 in line with the fifth carbon budget from the Committee on Climate Change, which will make its recommendations at the end of the year. Will the Secretary of State confirm that that will happen? Will the Prime Minister’s pledge to be the greenest Government ever be revived in this Parliament?

This is a year with great potential. In 2008, there was consensus across the political parties over the Climate Change Act 2008. The Act sparked investment, created jobs and cut emissions. Before 2010, the Prime Minister promised the greenest Government ever, but by the end of the Parliament the husky was dead and the Prime Minister talked about “cutting the green crap”. [Interruption.] Those were the Prime Minister’s words, not mine. I am just quoting him. We all know the Chancellor could never be described as the greenest Chancellor ever. I hope the Secretary of State, with her all-female House of Commons team, will put the Chancellor and Prime Minister back on track so we can all be proud of what we can achieve in December. I commend the motion to the House.

5.12 pm

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd): It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me start by thanking the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) for giving the House an early opportunity to debate this issue. I wish her luck in her own election going forward.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1273

Let me first set out the strength of the Government’s commitment on combating climate change. The Government are committed to taking robust, effective action to tackle climate change here at home and on the international stage. Climate change, as the right hon. Lady said, is not a party issue. It is not a Conservative, Labour, Liberal or even a Scottish National party issue. It is not exclusively left-wing or right-wing, if we can use those terms anymore. Climate change brings together all the parties in this House, and indeed countries across the globe. The G7 on Monday demonstrated just how far the major developed economies are aligned.

The pledge signed by the leaders of the main UK parties in February this year ahead of the election, which was brokered by the Green Alliance, underlines our domestic unity. We are pledged to work together to achieve a fair, legally binding global climate deal; to work together to agree domestic carbon targets; and to work together to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy. We are united here in this United Kingdom, because climate change represents a threat to our national prosperity, our national security and our way of life. The science of climate change is sound. While uncertainties remain, especially on scale and pace, there is a lot we do understand. The evidence continues to point in one direction: a world warming due to human activity.

As an island nation surrounded by the sea, with an open economy dependent on trade, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. We are exposed to the ramifications of a world 2° warmer or more. Margaret Thatcher, one of the first world leaders to put climate change firmly on the international stage, told the World Climate Conference 25 years ago that

“the threat to our world comes not only from tyrants and their tanks...The danger of global warming is real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.”

She was right on this, as on so much else.

Acting on climate change also represents an opportunity for us to build a stronger, more resilient, more efficient low-carbon economy that conserves resources and energy instead of wasting them; that preserves a healthy natural environment; and that puts Britain at the forefront of the green global transition that must happen if we are to protect this planet for future generations. Getting a global deal on climate change in Paris in December is one of my highest priorities this year. I want, therefore, to talk about the international picture and the prospects for agreement, but first I want to set out how we in the UK, through the actions of successive Governments and with cross-party support, have been living up to our responsibilities on climate change.

Mr MacNeil: In an earlier intervention, I was seeking clarity on the issue of onshore wind. What is happening to the support mechanism? It is affecting jobs, the economy and even farming businesses. Will the Secretary of State clear that up today or make a statement to the House in due course? People need to know, especially if we are to meet our 2020 targets. Are we using onshore wind, or is she going to go for more expensive renewables?

Amber Rudd: Onshore wind is, of course, an incredibly important area. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that our manifesto said we would remove subsidies for onshore wind, and we will act on that manifesto pledge. We also

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1274

said in the manifesto that we would consult the devolved Administrations—a process, he might be aware, that I have begun—and I will continue to do that until we have arrived at a firm policy. He can rest assured, however, that I will make sure the House is the first to know on that matter.

Mr Gavin Shuker (Luton South) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her welcome promotion. She talked about global leadership and the G7. Is she not disappointed that the targets coming out of the agreement this weekend only referred to 2100, and why did it take the German Chancellor to put this issue on the agenda? Where has Britain been on this when hosting similar events?

Amber Rudd: I do not agree at all with the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation of the G7 communiqué. I met with non-governmental organisations and businesses at an event hosted by the Green Alliance on the same day, and they were delighted by the strong signal being sent out by the G7 that getting an answer and following it was a priority this year. The House should be in no doubt that there has been strong leadership from this Government, as there was from the previous Government.

David Mowat: On the point about leadership and the German Chancellor, is my right hon. Friend aware that Germany has commissioned more coal-fired power stations in the past four years than in the previous two decades, that those coal-fired power stations will be totally unabated and that, partly as a consequence, its emissions are now 30% per capita higher than in the UK?

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is right. I am aware that the German Chancellor has her own political issues to address, but because of that, it was particularly warming—encouraging rather than warming, perhaps—to see her taking such strong leadership on this and making sure it remained at the top of the agenda. Since my hon. Friend mentions coal, I take the opportunity to say how important carbon capture and storage remains to us. I spoke several times in debates in the last Parliament on this subject. The right hon. Member for Don Valley and her team should be in no doubt that we remain committed. We have spent, or put aside, more than £1 billion. We have two tests going ahead, one in Aberdeen and one in Yorkshire, and we are running a competition that we hope to take forward over the next six to nine months. There is a lot of activity going on. The whole purpose is to ensure that we can have a form of unabated coal going forward.

Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): My right hon. Friend is right to talk about carbon capture and storage and the two projects, and I hope that the White Rose project will get Government backing in due course. It is fair to point out that the Labour Government said in 2003 how urgent it was to bring CCS forward as it was critical to any hope of meeting our targets by 2050—and they failed completely and utterly to deliver anything by 2010. We should take no lessons on that particular subject from Opposition Members.

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is right to point that out. Opposition Members may carp at what we do, but they failed to take action themselves. I would ask for a little bit more support on the good changes that we are making.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1275

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Lady is kind in giving way, but I want to press her further on when the Conservative manifesto promises will kick in. There is much uncertainty in the onshore wind energy sector at the moment, and investors and developers are daily—sometimes almost hourly—beating a path to my door. They need to know.

Amber Rudd: I am aware of the pressing need to get a full answer on this question. I have put a lot of pressure on my Department to make sure that we establish exactly what is in the pipeline and what existing commitments are. The hon. Gentleman will have to bear with us a little longer, but I am aware that we need to give him a full answer as soon as possible.

I said I wanted to speak about the national picture. I stand here as one of a long line of Members who, over the past few decades, have helped to place Britain at the forefront of action on climate change. I want to pay particular tribute to my predecessors in the Department of Energy and Climate Change—Greg Barker and Ed Davey. The last Government achieved what they set out to do, making us the greenest Government ever. [Interruption.] I particularly want to pay tribute to former Secretary of State Ed Davey’s role in securing an ambitious EU 2030 framework deal.

The package requires all member states to make significant emissions reduction efforts, just as we are already legally committed to do under the Climate Change Act 2008. It substantially levels the playing field for UK business and industry to compete fairly across the EU, with UK leadership replicated across the world’s biggest trading bloc. That leadership is underpinned by the 2008 Act—an ambitious piece of legislation, the first of its kind in the world, supported by all parties.

In this Parliament, I know I can rely on sound advice and support from many colleagues, including my hon. Friends the Members for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), who has just spoken, for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith)and for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd).

Mr Nick Hurd (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con): I join others in really welcoming my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), the Minister of State, to their incredibly important positions at this very important time. I know how concerned my right hon. Friend is about fuel poverty. Does she agree with the Committee on Climate Change that low-carbon heat can play a much bigger role in helping to reduce both carbon and fuel poverty? Is she minded to look again at how the incentives around low-carbon heat work, particularly for low-income households?

Amber Rudd: I thank my hon. Friend, who is entirely right. Low-carbon heat is an area that we urgently need to address. We are looking in the Department at different ways of doing that. We are looking around the rest of the world, trying to establish what works, and we are taking a hard look at how to achieve what my hon. Friend rightly said is such an important way of addressing both fuel poverty and our carbon targets.

There are, of course, many Opposition Members who have an equally admirable track record in raising climate change up the agenda and in helping to put in place the practical policies that mean we are living up to our

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1276

commitments. Overall, I believe that the United Kingdom can be proud of the progress made in meeting the climate change obligations that we have collectively put in place.

The carbon budget system ensures that each successive Government undertake the long-term planning necessary to meet long-term targets, rather than defaulting to short-term thinking. I pay tribute to the work of the Committee on Climate Change in providing independent advice to the Government and the devolved Administrations and in monitoring our progress. It was confirmed in September 2014 that the UK met its first carbon budget and that we were on course to meet the second and third budgets through to 2022. In the last Parliament, the Government also maintained the ambition of the fourth carbon budget. Thanks to the actions of successive Governments and the structures we have put in place, UK greenhouse gas emissions are 30% lower than the baseline set in 1990.

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): If we look at the detail of the fourth carbon budget and the assumptions it makes about residential building insulation and wind insulation necessary to get even to the beginning of this fourth budget, does the Secretary of State agree that we are nowhere near being able to meet those terms at the moment, and that on the basis of present policies we shall not remotely be able to do so?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is well known for working in this field. I respect him, and have debated with him on other occasions. He has made a good point: there is definitely an issue with the fourth carbon budget. However, it is too early to give up on it yet. We will be looking at policies, and it is my firm hope that we will be able to come back and reassure the hon. Gentleman in due course.

Provisional figures show that under the last Parliament greenhouse gas emissions fell by a mammoth 15%, and that, even as the economy grew, they continued to fall. The carbon intensity of the economy as a whole fell by 6% between 2013 and 2014. Britain is demonstrating that economic growth and emissions reduction can go hand in hand.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): Is the Secretary of State aware of a letter that is published in today’s Financial Times? It is signed by 80 of the country’s biggest businesses, who call for ambitious action by the Government. That shows that there is a consensus throughout society, both in business and in the wider third sector. The letter says:

“Failure to tackle climate change could put economic prosperity at risk.”

What is the Secretary of State’s response?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The great thing about the battle against climate change is that it is cross-party and also cross-business. Businesses support us because they understand that it makes good business sense, and they also understand that their customers want it, just as our constituents do.

Britain is demonstrating that economic growth and emissions reduction can go hand in hand. That is of immeasurable worth as we enter a key period in our international negotiations.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1277

Stephen Doughty: We all want to see emissions falling. Celsa Steel in my constituency uses one of the most efficient steel-making processes in the European Union—it is in the top 10%—and has invested massively in a carbon-efficient steel workshop. However, it is competing against increasingly carbon-inefficient steels that are coming from, for instance, China and Turkey. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet me and representatives of Celsa, to discuss how we can drive down emissions while at the same time not offshoring them to countries such as China and Turkey?

Amber Rudd: That is a very good point, and I, or my hon. Friend the Minister, will certainly meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it. He is right: we must make certain that none of our carbon reduction programmes leads to carbon leakage. We must ensure that we keep business and industry here, and that we keep growing employment while also maintaining those commitments. Let me add—slightly controversially, given that I have spoken so much about consensus—that the way to deliver that is to have a strong economy, and some might draw attention to the difference between the parties in that respect. If we have a strong economy, we can lead the way.

Through our actions, we are providing a guiding light for others. We are demonstrating that climate-friendly economies can be successful economies, and that the low-carbon sector provides opportunities for jobs and investment. Britain’s low-carbon sector grew at 7% last year, outstripping the growth levels in other parts of the economy. It is now valued at around £122 billion, and supports nearly half a million jobs. It is larger than the aerospace, pharmaceuticals and chemicals sectors, and equivalent to the gross value added by the food and drinks sector.

Clean power is booming. Over £42 billion has been invested in renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage since 2010, and that investment is spread across all regions and countries in the UK. Last year the UK attracted a massive 30% share of renewable power investment in the EU.

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend to her new job, and very well deserved it is too. While I support everything that we can do with regard to renewable energy, does she not agree that we have a particular problem in the south-west, namely the vast solar farms that are springing up across the land? Hundreds of acres of good agricultural land in my constituency are being wasted, and replaced by the vanity mirrors that are solar farms. Is there any way of limiting them to industrial sites, schools and so on?

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is right. We have introduced limitations for large solar farms, and we will consider what else we can do in this regard. I also agree with him that solar energy is best dealt with by community energy projects. It should not be on people’s houses; it should be on public buildings and factories. That is an excellent way of generating solar energy, and it has become much more affordable and possible since the price has fallen so much under this Government and the previous one.[Official Report, 11 June 2015, Vol. 596, c. 1MC.]

Last year was our best year ever for new build renewable energy finance according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with the UK ranked 4th in the world behind

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1278

only China, the US and Japan. Renewable generation now provides almost a fifth of our electricity needs and often exceeds that. Last Saturday afternoon, for instance, renewables provided as much as 42% of Great Britain’s electricity. Not only are we increasingly using clean energy, but we are increasingly saving energy as well. Thanks in part to the Government’s energy efficiency drive, energy consumption fell by 7% between 2013 and 2014.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I was astonished by that figure of 42%. Will my right hon. Friend kindly say how it came about, because it is fantastic if that is the case?

Amber Rudd: It was windy and sunny. A good combination of renewable energies is required to reach such high achievements.

Luciana Berger: I welcome the Secretary of State to her post. She is reading out some very positive statistics, but has she reflected on our fuel poverty statistics? She will know that in the previous Parliament her Government scrapped the target to eradicate fuel poverty by 2016 and I wonder whether she can update the House on progress in eliminating what is a scourge across our country.

Amber Rudd: Fuel poverty is an incredibly important issue, which must be addressed. I share the hon. Lady’s concerns. I was pleased that fuel poverty fell under the last Government and we will shortly announce policies to make sure we do that again. We did meet our targets on creating over 1 million houses with home efficiencies, and of course creating a more competitive market is also the way to achieve that. So there is a suite of policies to be addressed.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to her post. Does she recognise that advances in technology—such as much more sophisticated filters—can make gasification technology to burn waste particularly appropriate in urban areas, and they can be readily linked into district heating schemes and well targeted towards areas of fuel poverty? Can we do more to encourage and incentivise that?

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is right. District heating schemes are an excellent way of addressing reducing heat and making sure that we have a more efficient way of delivering it. The great thing about this sector is that there is so much technological innovation. So much is being done and we do not really know which innovation will be the big winner, but we must make sure that we continue to support them through our Innovate UK programme with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and other initiatives.

I shall quickly make some comments about the international picture before finishing, so that colleagues have time to speak. We agree with the sentiment behind this motion. Only a global response on the scale required can hope to keep a 2° pathway within reach. A global deal can help ensure that the transition to a low-carbon world happens as cost-effectively as possible with a more level playing field for business, because business plays a very important part in making sure that we can deliver on these targets and make this transition.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1279

A global deal will protect the most vulnerable countries and share the burden. Paris will be a seminal moment in this process. It will not be the last word. Indeed, holding 195 countries to their commitments will be as challenging as bringing them to agreement in the first place, but that should not curtail our ambitions. In Paris we need to ensure that all countries come forward with emissions reduction contributions that keep that target within reach. The agreement needs to be legally binding, so we can all have certainty in what each country is doing.

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP) rose

Amber Rudd: I will not give way again. I want to allow other colleagues time to make their speeches.

This agreement needs to be based on a set of rules that define commitments and how they can be met, so that each country’s progress can be tracked and there is no room for backsliding. Indeed, we want the opposite to be the case. We need to build in a process for regular reviews, so that ambition can be further increased.

Both the US and the EU have already made public their so-called intended nationally determined contributions. Those publicly declared cover 31% of global emissions, and we are still waiting for others to come forward, including China, which is expected to declare in the next month or so. As we speak, officials are gathered in Bonn at the United Nations framework convention on climate change inter-sessional, focusing on improving the text to be agreed in Paris and seeking to make progress on key elements such as effective rules and mitigation ambition.

The last Government set out their strategy for Paris in September last year. Although I agree with the sentiment of this motion—which I note was lifted verbatim from Labour’s green manifesto—I am afraid that we will not be able to support it in the Lobby this evening. In setting this Government’s detailed approach and to ensure that we maximise our negotiating position, I need to take stock of the results of the Bonn inter-sessional. In the signals we send to our negotiating partners, we will need to be precise in our language and united in our text. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Don Valley will understand that. Tackling climate change is not just a noble aim. It is not just the right thing to do. It is an economic and social imperative.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the next speaker, I should like to inform the House that after the Scottish National party spokesperson has made his speech I shall impose a six-minute time limit on Back-Bench speeches.

5.35 pm

Callum McCaig (Aberdeen South) (SNP): I, too, would like to congratulate the Secretary of State on her promotion. I look forward to working with her in this role, and I hope that the majority of our discussions will take place in a constructive manner, although that might not always be the case. I also want to thank Labour colleagues for securing the debate.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1280

Climate change is clearly a matter of great importance to those in the Chamber and in the constituencies that we represent, as well as to the globe on which we reside. We are facing an historic challenge, and it is one by which this generation of political leaders at home and abroad will be judged. The conference in Paris will be a seminal moment, and it is incumbent on us to do everything we can at home to enable us to act responsibly at the conference and show leadership to the world on what needs to be done. The effects of climate change will be felt at home and abroad, and its mitigation needs to be addressed at international level, at national level and within our local communities. Indeed, some of the actions taken in local communities could have the greatest impact on delivering what is required.

Turning to competency, the Scottish Parliament has a climate change Minister and has introduced climate change legislation that in many ways leads the world. A curious quirk demonstrates how this issue has grown in importance. When the Scottish Parliament was set up, it was those matters that were not spelled out in black and white in the Scotland Act 1998 that were to be retained in Westminster. I am not convinced that, were we to go through that process again, this place would decide that it was appropriate to devolve the issue of climate change to Scotland, but I am glad that it was devolved. That signifies just how important climate change has become in the intervening 18 years or so.

I mentioned the fact that the Scottish climate change legislation was world-leading. We have made a legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 42% by 2020, and by 80% by 2050. The figures for 2013 were published yesterday, and they show that we are three quarters of the way towards achieving our 2020 target. There has been a 34.3% reduction in our carbon emissions since 1990, which is higher than the UK percentage and among the best in Europe. Those targets are tough, and owing to some technical changes, they might not have been met year on year, but had they not been put in place, the changes in Scottish society and the Scottish economy that have enabled those reductions would not have taken place.

Action relating to renewable energy and fuel efficiency has largely been behind that drive. I will talk about renewables in a moment. The investment in fuel efficiency in people’s homes has been hugely important. Levels of fuel poverty in Scotland are very high, largely due to the historical inadequacies of the building stock. It takes more fuel to heat the buildings, which obviously has a societal impact, in that people cannot afford to heat them. One in three houses has received support relating to fuel efficiency. That has helped to reduce emissions and, above all, has had the short-term human impact of reducing fuel poverty in Scotland.

Aileen McLeod, the Scottish Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, has written to the Secretary of State about a joint approach to such challenges. I hope that that will be acted on—there has been mention of discussions with the devolved Administrations. There are cross-cutting competencies and we need to be singing from the same hymn sheet on them.

I am pleased to be joined in the Chamber by my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), who is the SNP spokesperson for climate justice. One of the sad ironies of climate change is that those countries that have contributed

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1281

least to carbon emissions will pay the biggest price as the changes to our climate come into being. We have a moral duty to act on that and the climate justice angle will I am sure be raised by my hon. Friend in the Chamber and in this Parliament to great effect.

Renewable energy has been a major part of the progress made in Scotland. We are now at the stage where nearly half of our electricity demand is met by renewable sources. A large part of that is from onshore wind, which has delivered large reductions in carbon emissions and enabled diversification in the economy of Scotland. My hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil)—I am from Aberdeen, where Gaelic is not spoken, so I cannot pronounce his constituency name very well—has said that removing the subsidies prematurely has the potential to damage the economy of Scotland severely, to damage our ability to meet the targets that we have set in Scotland and to damage the United Kingdom targets.

I understand the Government’s mandate to remove subsidies, but I do not believe that that mandate stretches to Scotland in the same manner. The planning aspects are clearly different. I hope that in the consultation to be undertaken with the Scottish Government nothing to do with how that might be progressed will be left off the table. An important factor is that there are not the same political difficulties with onshore wind in Scotland, although there are clearly some. Significant investment in the pipeline could also be damaged and, if there are going to be problems, grace periods need to be brought in.

In work commissioned by the London School of Economics it was suggested that the No. 1 priority for tackling climate change is investor confidence in the low-carbon economy. Changing the goalposts for onshore wind will damage such confidence. As has been said from the Labour Benches, that will damage not only onshore wind, but the entire range of renewable technologies.

Stewart McDonald: My hon. Friend is making a very reasonable speech. Does he share my frustration, however, that a community-led project in my constituency, the Castlemilk and Carmunnock wind park trust, which was set up by local people to reap the financial rewards of renewable energy, has had a horse and coach driven through it by a Labour-run council, depriving the area of more than £1 million since its inception? Surely communities should be empowered to deal with such things.

Callum McCaig: That is a disappointing scenario and I share my hon. Friend’s frustration. Onshore wind has the potential to provide a win-win situation for communities to see investment that they might not otherwise have dreamed of—though that might not be the case in Glasgow—as well as a reduction in our carbon emissions.

Scotland is doing well with carbon reduction. Given the nature of our geography and the potential renewable resources in our nation, we are willing, able and well disposed to do a large part of the carbon reduction heavy lifting on behalf of the United Kingdom. However, that can only be done in partnership while the required powers rest in this place. I reiterate the need for that detailed and meaningful consultation with the Scottish Government.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1282

I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention innovation, which will be required for a number of the renewable technologies that will play their part in meeting our climate change obligations. Offshore wind has the potential to deal with that; specific considerations in Scotland make it slightly more difficult there than in other places, owing to the depth of the water, but the resource there is unparalleled. We need the ability, through the contracts for difference mechanisms, to enable offshore wind in Scotland to take off and take up the heavy lifting on carbon reduction.

Clearly, there is a requirement for base-load, and I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention carbon capture and storage. I gently correct her by saying that Peterhead is not Aberdeen—it is a fair while up the road and the differences are stark, both for those resident in Aberdeen and those resident in Peterhead; we are friendly but competitive. CCS, too, has the potential to be transformational in how electricity generation and heat generation can be decarbonated.

Time is clearly of the essence, both in this Chamber and, more pressingly, as the temperatures—

David Mowat: I was interested to hear the hon. Gentleman mention “base-load” and “heavy lifting”. He will know that the low-carbon technology that does most to reduce emissions in this country is civil nuclear, and the same applies worldwide; we are talking about double the amount of renewables. That is clearly base-load, and civil nuclear is cheaper, even now, than wind, so is it something he advocates in terms of heavy lifting and base-load?

Callum McCaig: It is not something I would advocate in that regard, and I do not believe it is cheaper. The strike price for the new power station at Hinkley is £10 higher per megawatt-hour than the one for onshore wind.

David Mowat: I am afraid the hon. Gentleman may have inadvertently misled the House about the strike price for nuclear at Hinkley compared with that for onshore wind. The strike price in legislation for onshore wind is higher than that for nuclear at Hinkley Point C.

Callum McCaig: The figures I have seen are £82.50 as opposed to £92.50, but if I am wrong about that—I will check it—I will be more than happy to withdraw that statement. I do not believe that nuclear is safe or that it is an appropriate part of the energy mix.

Dr Whitehead: If the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) looked closely at the difference in the strike prices for Hinkley nuclear and for onshore wind, he would see that the years over which the price is given are quite different—it is twice as long for Hinkley as for onshore wind. The hon. Member for Warrington South, rather than the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), is misleading the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) would not be misleading the House—otherwise, he would not be an honourable Gentleman. If he is inadvertently misleading the House, I am sure he will correct his point. Usually, it is a matter of how

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1283

one interprets statistics, and the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) must not accuse another hon. Gentleman of misleading.

Dr Whitehead: I am sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I apologise for the inadvertent omission of the word “inadvertent”?

Callum McCaig: I am not entirely sure where to go with that, Madam Deputy Speaker, in case I get into trouble. I do not know whether to say that the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) is correct, but I agree with him on this: my understanding is that the deal for the new nuclear power station is over twice as long a period as that on offer to anything in the renewables sector. I do not believe that nuclear is safe, and I believe that there are other ways. On providing that base-load, I would rather see thermal generation, but with carbon capture and storage built in as standard.

As I was saying, we have a short window of time and we require action. This is a welcome debate, I look forward to hearing more about this issue and I hope that in future we will recognise the contributions of Scotland and the other devolved Administrations, and the part they play in the UK’s achieving what is required.

5.49 pm

David T. C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): No one has ever denied that carbon dioxide is a global warming gas. No one has ever denied that there is more CO2 in the atmosphere since we started industrialising. Not many people are bothering to deny the fact that there has been an increase in temperature of about 0.8 °C over the past 250 years, and although it is a bit more questionable than some would have it, there is no need to question it at the moment. It follows that CO2 emissions that are man-made have had some impact on temperatures. What does not follow is the argument that is so often put forward, which is that CO2 emitted by mankind has been completely responsible for the very minor increase in temperature that we have seen over the past 250 years. Nobody that I have met has ever, ever denied that the climate changes. I have met many people who are sceptical about the current policy and none of them has suggested that the climate does not change; the climate has always changed and it always will. The existence of glaciers is testament to the fact that the climate has always, and will always, change.

The climate has been changing over the past 2,000 years. It was warmer during the Roman period, a fact that is acknowledged in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent summary for policy makers. It said that it is warmer now than it has been for 1,400 years—as though 1,400 years is a long time. The problem is that, because we all live to be, hopefully, three score years and 10, we think of 70 years or 100 years as being a long time, but the Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years, and 100 years is the blink of an eye.

I hope that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State goes to Paris, she will deploy the same sceptical mindset about some of the things she is told that she

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1284

always deployed when we worked together on the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. I hope she will bear it in mind that it was warmer during the Roman period, cooler during the dark ages, and then warmer again during the medieval period. It then became much colder, and up until about 1800 we had what is called the little ice age when ice fairs were held outside Parliament on the Thames. It was at about that time that we started to industrialise. It was a coincidence that we industrialised at the same time as we came out of the little ice age, and it absolutely must follow that some of the temperature increase that has taken place—about 0.8 °C—must be due to the fact that the Earth was naturally warming up anyway, and the IPCC will not deny that.

Stephen Doughty rose—

David T. C. Davies: I am delighted to give way to Opposition Members who disagree with me, because, unlike the shadow Secretary of State, I am not afraid to have this argument.

Stephen Doughty: The hon. Gentleman keeps quoting the IPCC, but does he not recognise that one of the IPCC’s recent reports said that 100% of the climate change—the warming—over the past 60 years was due to humans and that the IPCC was 95% convinced about the argument overall? The IPCC has been very clear on this point.

David T. C. Davies: Let me read out something for the hon. Gentleman. Under the title “Summary for policymakers” on page 17, fourth paragraph down, the IPCC says:

“It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together.”

What that means in simple English is that slightly more than half of the increase that has taken place in the second half of the 20th century is down to man. The overall increase over the past 250 years is 0.8 °C, but in the second half of the 20th century, the increase was about 0.5 °C. What the IPCC is saying in this report is that slightly over half of that is likely to have been man-made.

Stephen Doughty indicated dissent.

David T. C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman can see the report for himself. We are talking about well under half of the total increase in temperature that has taken place.

Stephen Doughty indicated dissent.

David T. C. Davies: The hon. Gentleman can shake his head, but that comes from the IPCC. [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to the shadow Secretary of State if she wants to correct me on something. Even the IPCC is not saying that the increase in temperature is a result of man-made carbon emissions. It is saying that some of it is, and that the overall amount is well under half. On the basis of that, we are going ahead with a set of policies that have caused massive increases in energy bills for home owners and businesses. I say to the right hon. Lady that, with all due respect, none of the Opposition Members will back her when the policies that she may sign up to come home to roost, as they will create higher

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1285

energy prices for businesses such as Celsa, which the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. It is absolutely outrageous that steel companies and other manufacturers are finding it difficult to manufacture in this country because they are paying so much more for electricity than their competitors in the rest of Europe.

The reality, of course, is that it costs—I listened with great interest to this discussion—roughly £95 per MWh to generate electricity from both nuclear and onshore wind, and £150 per MWh to do it from offshore wind, so it is very expensive. It costs about £50 to do it from gas and about £30 from coal. We can therefore be absolutely certain that the more we rely on renewable energy, the more we will have to pay for it. No politician from any party should run away from that. They should be willing to go out and make the argument for paying more if they think it is a good idea, but nobody is doing that. Nobody on either the Government or the Opposition Benches thinks it is a good idea to put up energy bills, so why on earth are we prepared to support policies that increase them?

If we are going to do that, we should make absolutely certain that it is not just the UK that will do so. We generate about 2% of the earth’s total man-made carbon dioxide emissions, so we will have no impact whatsoever on the temperature if we unilaterally decide to whack up taxes and start making people pay more money. If there is going to be an agreement, it absolutely has to be global.

What worries me is that, while a graph on which 1 cm represents 100 years may show a slight increase, the reality is that the earth has been around for so long that if we went back 100 million years, it would have to be represented by 10 km and that would show periods with more naturally created CO2 in the atmosphere, as well as greater and smaller temperatures. We would have to go back only 30 cm—about 1,300 years ago—to see the Younger Dryas, a climatic event that was never properly explained but which was entirely natural and during which there was a sudden drop in temperature by about 15 °C within the space of just a few decades.

Somebody cited Margaret Thatcher, a lady of whom I am always happy to call myself a fan. In her book “Statecraft”, in a chapter called “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she actually repudiated much of what she had written when she pointed out that people were getting quite hysterical about this. I think she was absolutely right and I urge the Secretary of State to be very cautious when she gets to Paris, and to remember that there is a difference between healthy scepticism and denial.

5.56 pm

Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): We are discussing what I hope will be a global agreement. I hope it will be sorted out in Paris this December, that it will be sustainable and that everybody will play their part in making sure that global warming is curtailed and that the global temperature rise stays below 2 °C by 2050. It is extremely important that the UK takes a robust approach to the conference and that it bases its approach on our own climate change architecture, including the Climate Change Act 2008 and our carbon budgets, in order to make sure that the EU’s offer to the conference is also as robust as possible.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1286

The EU has collectively offered an intended nationally determined contribution of a 40% cut of 1990 levels by 2030. At the moment the UK is going along with that, but the problem is that if we look at the 38 INDCs that have so far been placed on the conference table, including the EU’s collective commitment, we will see that they will not get us below 2 °C. Indeed, we are looking at a prospective global temperature increase of between 2.9 °C and 3.1 °C, so it really is in the interests of a proper agreement, and of the UK’s existing commitments on climate change, that we produce a robust alternative and suggest that the EU increases its contribution, if possible, to 50%, because that is what the UK has committed to in our own carbon budget. In the little time available between now and the December conference, I urge the Secretary of State to push for that increase to the EU’s INDC, in order to emphasise just what we can do to secure a global agreement. Of course, that depends not only retrospectively on what the UK has achieved through its carbon budgets and related architecture to date but on what extent the UK can prospectively ensure that it can meet those commitments in the future. That is where we run into some trouble with the future commitments.

I mentioned the fourth carbon budget in an intervention, and it was, I recall, accepted by the previous Government after some hiccuping. Among other things, according to the Committee on Climate Change, that carbon budget not only produces a gateway of reducing emissions by 50% by 2025 but makes assumptions such as that 23 GW of wind power will have been installed by 2020, that 2 million solid-wall homes will have been insulated for energy efficiency purposes by the early 2020s, and that 90% of homes will have had their lofts and cavity walls insulated by that period. The UK is failing hopelessly in reaching all those measures. That difficulty will be compounded by the policies being proposed, which means that our commitments are facing in precisely the opposite direction over the next few years.

Earlier today I asked the Prime Minister for his commitment that the budgets for home energy efficiency would be maintained. He gave no answer on that, but unless they are maintained and substantially increased we will fail miserably to get anywhere near the fourth carbon budget targets. Similarly, if we do not rapidly unravel the question of what is happening with wind power, we will fall miserably short of the targets. If onshore wind developers cannot get their renewable obligations stamped, they will go into the levy control framework to try to get their schemes sorted out. We know that the levy control framework is already bust as far as offshore wind is concerned, and it will become more crowded. The much-vaunted Swansea Bay development might come on stream if someone does a levy control framework-based contract for difference arrangement for it, but that someone will have to be the Secretary of State. Unless the levy control framework works in such a way that that can happen, that will fail too.

We must remind ourselves that carbon budgets are not just for Christmas. They need to be worked out properly, and if we are to ensure that our commitments in Paris can be maintained we need urgently to get to work on the carbon budgets and to make them work. That means that we in this country must stay by our commitments on climate change in the future.

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1287

6.3 pm

James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con): I am obliged to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this debate and I thank the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) for a riveting speech.

Right hon. and hon. Members might not be aware that there is a town called Braintree in Massachusetts in America. My predecessor, Brooks Newmark, embodied that transatlantic bridge as he was born in Connecticut before he came to the UK to go to school at the age of nine. Those who knew Brooks will remember a fierce intellect that drove success at both Oxford and Harvard universities and in the financial services sector. Any Member who was intimidated by that academic and commercial success need no longer fear now that I stand here in his stead.

Brooks was a Whip and a Minister and was well liked in the constituency. He was a huge support to me during my campaign and he was also supportive of other candidates in target constituencies, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Will Quince). It is fair to say that in the months after my selection Brooks and I hung out together quite a bit.

Since its creation, Braintree has had a history of strong MPs. Its first, Tony Newton, is still held up as a model constituency MP. He was able to do that while negotiating a successful ministerial career in the House. His Labour successor, Alan Hurst, was also highly spoken of, despite serving for considerably less than Tony’s 23 years.

Braintree has pre-Roman roots and was a medieval market town, but came into its own in the 16th century when Flemish weavers came to the town and brought with them their state of the art weaving techniques, heralding 250 years of future prosperity. Blooming foreigners!

The other town in my constituency is Halstead, which is also famous for its weaving industry and is typified by a wide high street leading up to the church at the top of the hill from the River Colne which runs through the town. My constituency stretches to the Suffolk border to its north and east and to Cambridgeshire in its north-western corner, and has a constellation of villages and hamlets scattered through it. In that constellation are a number of binary stars including Earls Colne and White Colne, Sible Hedingham and Castle Hedingham, and Steeple Bumstead and Helions Bumstead. There might be a degree of sibling rivalry between some of my villages. It is best not to ask directions to the famously beautiful village of Finchingfield from either of the neighbouring villages, Great Bardfield or Weathersfield.

It is appropriate in this climate change debate that I recognise the excellent work done by Braintree District Council. Many of the buildings in my constituency are adorned with solar panels, and I am a great believer in industrial, residential, agricultural and municipal buildings having solar panels, perhaps on their roofs, but I will fight hard to prevent the beautiful fields in my villages from being spoiled by row upon row of photovoltaic cells.

Small and medium-sized businesses typify my constituency and I will fight hard on their behalf. I hope the Government can help relieve congestion on the A120, a road so regularly and heavily congested that many drivers cut through Braintree in order to bypass the bypass. Rail services need to be greatly improved to

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1288

unlock the business potential in my constituency. But transport infrastructure alone is not enough. We also need digital infrastructure. Mobile signals in the rural parts of my constituency are sorely needed, as is superfast rural broadband.

These parochial issues, important though they are, are not the only reason that we are collectively sent to this place. We live in an increasingly competitive global economy and we, as a nation, must rise to that challenge or be swept aside. The challenge from former colonial countries now competing and in some cases overtaking us cannot be ignored. Throughout our nation’s history we have been at our best when we are globally focused on international trade—when we are indeed a nation of shopkeepers. I will fight for infrastructure investment in my constituency and for a good deal for my constituents, but I will also fight to keep this nation an internationally focused competitive trading nation.

6.9 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) for an excellent maiden speech. He will clearly contribute well, in the years ahead of us, to the business of this House. It was very good indeed. I also pay tribute to all those who have made their maiden speeches today and in the past few weeks. I am now far from a maiden myself, but I do feel a flush of second youth.

Having stepped back from the Front Bench after nearly a decade, I am glad to step forward boldly and early into the climate change debate. This is an issue that I have understudied in parts such as DEFRA’s marine and natural environment Minister in the previous Labour Government and as a DECC and a DEFRA shadow Minister in the previous Parliament. Stepping out of the shadows of shadow ministerial responsibilities brings a touch more freedom, and I intend to use it. Today, from these green Benches, I intend to speak of green government and of leadership, and, in particular, of climate change. Like sustainable development itself, our actions and inaction on climate change are a matter not only of looking after this planet and the delicate ecosystems on it, but of social justice and equity between the people and generations who live on different parts of this interconnected planet and those yet to arrive. I want my three teenagers to grow up in a world that is healing and not hurting.

As we begin this crucial Parliament, and this crucial year for climate change, it is worth casting our minds back to the stark diagnosis of the Stern review, and its prognosis. In 2006, Stern cited evidence demonstrating that

“ignoring climate change will eventually damage economic growth.”

He continued:

“Our actions over the coming few decades could create risks of major disruption to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next, on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the economic depression of the first half of the 20th century. And it will be difficult or impossible to reverse these changes.”

I think that Stern was right in his prognosis and may even have underestimated the damage already done, as subsequent research and real-life evidence are showing. Equally importantly, he was right when he said that the benefits of strong early action considerably outweighed the costs. He said:

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1289

“Tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy for the longer term, and it can be done in a way that does not cap the aspirations for growth of rich or poor countries. The earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be.”

That is still true. We truly, urgently, relentlessly need to get on with the actions that flow from that.

I say to the House today: let’s feel the love! That was the theme of the brilliant and ongoing campaign by the Climate Coalition, supported by hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, including my constituents, who lobbied and lobbied and persuaded the Prime Minister, the then Leader of the Opposition and the then leader of the Liberal Democrats to put their signatures to a climate change pledge brokered by the wonderful and clearly very persuasive Green Alliance, which I had many dealings with in government on the marine Bill, climate change adaption, biodiversity plans, and much more. I have the document here. It says: “Show the love. If you feel the love, show it!”

The party leaders and the current Prime Minister did feel the love—all together in one room, amazingly—and they signed and they pledged. They pledged that in this very special year of 2015, nine years on from Stern, they—and this Prime Minister—will work from now until Paris at the end of the year, and beyond, to reach that agreement on tackling climate change, with the UK playing its part in ensuring an ambitious outcome. They pledged to seek a fair, strong, legally binding, global climate deal that limits temperature rises to below 2° C; to work together, across party lines, to agree carbon budgets in accordance with the Climate Change Act; to accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy-efficient low carbon economy; and to end the use of unabated coal for power generation.

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): I would like to show the hon. Gentleman some love—I am not sure what kind. I totally agree that this is such an important issue that it needs to be about everybody deciding what to do—there should not be disagreement. I am delighted that this Government realise this and are forging their way ahead, following the lead of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, but also Margaret Thatcher before her, and the Prime Minister, who has really pushed all this forward.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I thank the hon. Lady. I agree that we need to find cross-party agreement on major, substantial issues to drive this forward and support leadership at a global and a UK level. There will be differences, and we will have to argue out those differences, but we need to focus on the big, substantial goal.

I give credit to the Prime Minister for his commitment. In accepting that commitment, he said:

“Climate change poses a threat not just to the environment, but also to poverty eradication abroad and to economic prosperity at home.”

He was right, so now we need the Prime Minister who was decisive with his pen before the election to be equally decisive in his actions right now. From now until Paris later this year is the time during which actions must speak as loud as the written words.

The G7 is the first test. Many have already been a little less than full of praise for the outcomes of the G7 summit, which simply shows the mountain we still have to climb. Oxfam has praised it faintly, declaring it

10 Jun 2015 : Column 1290

“a stuttering start on climate change”.

It has stated that there were some new and significant steps, but firmly says that the G7 is not pulling its weight and must put words into action by phasing out coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.

The excellent Oxfam briefing paper “Let Them Eat Coal” puts the case starkly and eloquently. To reassure colleagues from coal communities like mine in south Wales, the general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation is telling in her endorsement of that paper when arguing rightly and saliently for a “just” transition involving dialogue with workers and their unions, and one where their future and that of their families and communities is secured. She goes on:

“Climate change is serious. It is already destroying lives and livelihoods. All governments and all industries need a plan for a transition to decarbonise with clean technologies and energy is the key.”

She adds:

“This is the most significant challenge the world will face in the next 30 years but we must start now or we will lose the war on climate change with horrendous consequences for all working people and their communities. Governments and responsible industries must heed the call for a just transition with a transparent and ambitious plan that puts working families and their communities at its heart.”

In closing, I say to the Secretary of State that, as the climate campaign advocates and as spring is in the air, “Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.”