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Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the Prime Minister's blood-curdling remarks about the imminent threat to the people of this country from global warming are probably about as well founded as his earlier remarks about the imminent threat to the people of this country from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Before any further speeches are made or action taken, would it not be a good idea if the Prime Minister asked his close friend and loyal colleague the Chancellor to instruct the Treasury to undertake a thorough cost/benefit analysis of this difficult issue?
Lord Whitty: No, my Lords, I do not accept that for one moment. In fact, to call warnings about global warming "blood-curdling" seems to me the height of irresponsibility. I am surprised at the noble Lord, Lord Lawson. This is one of the major problems facing the world. It is important that we tackle it in a cost-effective way. The Treasury and the Chancellor have been very involved in developing the best policy measures, support systems and R&D in order for us to be at the forefront throughout the world in tackling climate change. I commend my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's speech. It indicates how Britain is leading the world in this respect and not being dragged backwards by the kind of comments that we have just heard.
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the target of renewable energies may be better achieved if something could be done about the anomalies that exist with planning permission? On the one hand, some of those who object to wind turbines, including His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, do so because they are highly visible. On the other hand, the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds object to them because they are highly invisible to our pilots and, indeed, to rare birds. Can the Minister resolve that anomaly because they cannot be both?
Does he know how many civil or military aircraft have been brought down in the past five years by wind turbines? How many rare birds, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, have been brought down compared with the small bird population, which has been reduced by 70 per cent in London by the
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erection of greenhouses and conservatories, for which planning permission has been granted but to which the RSPB has not objected?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I certainly agree with the noble Lord's basic point that some of the objections to wind farms, which we have debated frequently in this House, are based on quite absurd criteria. But it is important that the planning system operates and people and institutions are allowed to object. It is also important that the guidance on planning decisions favours renewable energy projects in so far as they are compatible with broader planning objectives.
Renewable energy, whether in the form of wind farms or other low-carbon and nil-carbon technologies, is an important part of the future landscape. As regards the numbers concerned, I am not aware of a single aeroplane that has been brought down by a wind farm either here or anywhere else in Europe. Denmark, which has a long history of technology, found that bird populations, although initially affected, rapidly learnt to avoid wind farms, although it was obviously too late for some of them. Birds are able to change their routes just as much as human beings and, I hope, Royal Air Force pilots.
Baroness Billingham: My Lords, is the Minister aware that European Sub-committee D has just completed a report on climate change? It has taken six months. For all members of the committee, it has been an enormously interesting and instructive experience. In that report, we make some fundamental and powerful recommendations.
Of course, it is a cross-party sub-committee and we are of a voice that this is something that we have to deal with here and now. Will the Minister lend his weight to the fact that we ought to have a very early debate on the report in this Chamber, which I am sure would be very interesting?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I very much welcome the report and the work that the noble Baroness and the other members of the sub-committee have put in. I do not necessarily agree with all of their conclusions, but I would suggest that the report is required reading for all noble Lords, including, perhaps I may venture, the noble Lord, Lord Lawson.
Clearly, this is one of our major political, economic and environmental problems. We all need to understand it better and face up to the dilemmas identified by that committee. As regards a debate in this House, I would welcome such a debate, but, as the noble Baroness knows, that is a matter for the usual channels.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that throughout the world there are 400 atomic power stations and 30 new atomic power stations currently being built? So we as a race are up to our neck in world atomic power development whether we like it or not. As this is the only long-term, inexhaustible CO2-free form of energy, is it not time that we stopped faffing
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about looking at silly green tokenism issues and got down to the one source of energy that can really save the planet?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, if I may say so, that, again, is a fairly irresponsible intervention. Green technologies and renewable technologies of all kinds will help to provide a diverse way of providing energy without the detrimental effect of carbon-based fuels. No one is saying that a particular form of energywhether wind power or anything elsewill supply the totality of the answer. But it is important to recognise that although nuclear power may be a low or near nil-carbon alternative, it is not a sustainable alternative until we have found the technology for dealing with the waste that emerges from it.
The Government are not faffing about that. We are saying that we do not rule out nuclear power playing a major role. But that problem has to be resolved as, frankly, does the current problem of many non-carbon technologies. Nuclear is one of the most expensive in terms of carbon saved, as we see now in the amount by which the Government have had to underwrite British Energy's operationsand in future will have to, even at the cutting edge of nuclear technology.
What is their response to the decision of the General Teaching Council that an experienced headmaster and mathematics teacher in the independent sector is not qualified, on retirement from his present post, to teach mathematics in a maintained school because he does not hold a postgraduate certificate in education.
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, the Government believe it right that anyone who wants to be recognised as a qualified teacher in England must demonstrate that he or she meets the required standards. A wide range of routes to qualified teacher status is now on offer, most involving an element of training. However, for very experienced teachers, including those coming from the independent sector, assessment-only options are available, some of which take only a few days or weeks.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. She must of course agree that as a former president of the General Medical Council I cherish the independence of statutory regulatory authorities. However, while
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accepting the view of the General Teaching Council that it is important that qualified teachers, particularly in the maintained sector, should have a postgraduate certificate of education, is it not the case that if the system were so inflexible as to exclude from such status a teacher of the type mentioned in my question, then the rule, if not the law, is surely an ass?
Baroness Andrews: My Lords, perhaps I may briefly take the noble Lord through the processes. The system is certainly not inflexible. The problem was that Mr Parry-Jones, the gentleman in question, who I am sure would grace any school, went first to the General Teaching Council when he should have gone to the Teacher Training Authority in order to obtain the information available.
Once the Teacher Training Authority understood that he was anxious to go through the assessment procedure, which is very rapid, it moved quickly. That afternoon the TTA contacted him and advised him that the University of Gloucester offered an accelerated QTS course based on assessment only, which takes just a few days. A meeting has now been arranged between Mr Parry-Jones and the University of Gloucester on 2 November. We look forward very much to having him in the teaching profession in the maintained sector as soon as possible.
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