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As I understand the relationship, there is no statutory basis for the principle of agreeing reports. It seems to have its roots in custom and practice. A Treasury publication entitled Managing Public Money states:
The PAC expects that [the] NAO will agree the texts of these reports with the Accounting Officer(s) of the organisation(s) concerned ... What this means in practice is that the factual content of every report is taken by the Committee to be undisputable. There are occasional disagreements
The minute deals with the relationship which is at the very heart of this debate, and I want to refer to it. It was provided for the Public Accounts Committee on 23 April 1986 and in paragraph 4 stated:
In agreeing the Report there was, as DES have said, extensive correspondence between NAO, DES and UGC and discussions that went on for quite some time (Q781). Throughout these exchanges the NAO assumed that departments understood that, in agreeing his Reports with departments, the C&AGs intention was to establish that:
DES, however, understood that they were required only to satisfy themselves that the Reports presentation of the relevant facts was fair. They did not consider they had been invited to express a view on the C&AGs findings. It would clearly be unsatisfactory if there were continuing differences of understanding between departments and the NAO in clearing Reports. Action is therefore being taken by the NAO to remove any uncertainty that may exist, and to clarify the objectives of the clearance arrangements on the lines set out in paragraph 4 above. As a result, although there should always be agreement that the Report fairly presents all the material and relevant facts, it might disclose difficult differences of view between the C&AG and the Department over the interpretation of the facts and the conclusions to be drawn from them. This has long been accepted by PAC and does not stand in the way of agreeing that a Report is an appropriate basis for subsequent PAC consideration.
If we were to apply that principle, which works in this relationship between the NAO and departments, to the debate we are having here, it would mean, effectively, that both sides would have to agree. We are not saying that the committee only would be able to veto a government view; it would mean that they would have to put their heads together to agree facts, findings and conclusionsand, indeed, in our case, recommendations. It would create within this committees relationship with the Government a dynamic tension that would concentrate the mind of the committee on taking realistic and right decisions. At the same time, it would concentrate, within Government, the need to compromise with the committees objectives. In the event that they could not agree a position, no action would be taken. In those circumstances, it might well be referred to the committee. Last week, I proposed that there be a sort of climate change ad hoc Select Committee, which would intervene to deal with issues where agreement could not be found and try to take the whole process forward.
Effectively, we would have two vetoes: the right for the Government to veto and the right for the committee to veto. In those circumstances, they would seek to agree. I believe that we should be going down that kind of route, as against giving the Government, with all the pressures I have referred to on previous occasions, the right simply to block what Parliament and the committee might feel to be a very constructive way forward in implementing policy on climate change.
I have, perhaps, slightly abused debates in the Chamber today, but this is the only opportunity that remains for me to set out an alternative way of dealing with the problem of this relationship. The reality is that those of us who want to give the committee power are, at the moment, losing the argument because the Government insist on saying no. I understand the departmental decisions that will have been taken. I am trying to feed in an alternative approach and I ask my noble friend to consider it seriously.
Lord Teverson: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for that useful explanation. I will go back through that before Report. I wonder whether we are talking about similar things, even though I am sure that there are differences. The National Audit Office is very useful, in that we on these Benches see a stronger role for the Committee on Climate Change than is in the Bill at the moment. We will, I hope, come to this amendment later this afternoon. The Committee on Climate Change should have a very positive role in auditing, assessing and judging the policies of the Government in meeting the budgets and targets that it has set itself. In that area, the Committee on Climate Change has a huge responsibility, one that is not in the Bill at the moment. The noble Lord will know all this far better than me, given his deeper experience.
The National Audit Office would not, therefore, take forward something in, for example, education, saying which policies are needed, and that we should go 100 per cent down the route of academies, or whatever. However, I do not see that as coming within the bodys role. It assesses what is going on, the areas of value and all those other areas where it might well
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As regards the amendment, we have thought long and hard about this area. We fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, about the need to strengthen the climate change committee in all sorts of ways. I regard the name issue slightly more subjectively and do not reject his analysis of the derivation of the word commission and the various rights that that normally confers. Over the weekend I put commission into Google, which came up with the Forestry Commission, the Gambling Commission, the Sustainable Development Commission, the Human Genetics Commission, the Low Pay Commissionnoble Lords could probably do with its help occasionallythe Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Electoral Commission. One could compare the gravitas and fear of government that those bodies induce with that induced by the Monetary Policy Committee; I know which one has real power within the nation state of the United Kingdomthe Monetary Policy Committee has far more power than the others. It has a different style of governance to many of the commissions that I mentioned although they are extremely varied in that respect. Nevertheless, I consider that the Monetary Policy Committee has the most power, and certainly the most authority, of the bodies that I listed. The electoral
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Does the noble Lord agree that the full title of that body is the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England? It is of the Bank of England. The climate change committee is not a committee of anything. That is the inconsistency in its name that I am trying to point out.
Lord Teverson: I thank the noble Lord for that intervention. I clearly do not disagree with him but, as I said in my opening remarks, I am talking about gravitas, respect and a subjective view of how these things are looked at. From my early political days, when I thought of a UK commission I considered a royal commission. Royal commissions have a reputation for dealing with worthy causes that are kicked into the long grass. The word commission arouses such connotations in many cases. However, there are exceptions: for example, the Electoral Commission. Noble Lords may not be in awe of that body because they do not stand for election but that is not the case with people who do stand for election. Certainly, life Peers do not stand for election in this House; I apologise for having omitted the others.
The European Commission is extremely important and authoritative but does not operate in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, commission is French for committee and I believe that the climate change committee is the best title. The title of the Monetary Policy Committee does not in any way lessen that bodys authority. I accept that I speak from a subjective, political point of view but I do not like commission, which to me conveys within the British political culture the concept of long grass, arms length and a matter that government will ignore unless they really have to do otherwise.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: Had the noble Lord been a commissioner of the Manpower Services Commission, as I was many years ago, I do not think that he would have said that. At that time, it was extremely important that the Manpower Services Commission was seen to be completely separate from the Department of Employment. When the Secretary of State for Employment came to the commission, he came because it had invited him or he had asked whether he could come and it had agreed to that. He could not just walk in because he was in charge of it and it was a committee of his department. I therefore, think that my noble friend has a point.
The public may be mystified by what commission means. That is not surprising because the noble Lord from the Liberal Front Benches made rather a muddle of his speech in that he mixed up the European Commission and much lesser bodies in this country, which all have separate functions. Politically, however, my noble friend has a good point and I look forward to hearing what the Minister will say. The Government ought to consider it seriously.
I hope the noble Lord, Lord May, will contributeno, he has disappeared. The authority of the body is critical. If it is going to advise in the way described in this part of the Bill, it must have authority and must be accepted as having that authority. For that reason, my noble friend is making a good point.
Lord Crickhowell: I had not intended to intervene but I want to say that my noble friend made a very good point when he suggested that names matter. I share his doubts about the effectiveness of the word committee. Having listened to the noble Lord from the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, I suggestperhaps out of a sense of nostalgiathat if commission is not acceptable, we might consider authority. I was chairman of the National Rivers Authority. There were those who argued that it should not have been national because it did not cover Scotland, but it did give us an authority from the start that a lesser title would not have provided. I believe that, as a consequence, we proved to be a very effective organisation.
I support my noble friends amendment because it is important to strengthen the authority by giving it a more powerful name. When we come to Report, if there is some doubt about commission, I put forward a possible alternative of calling the body the climate change authority.
Lord Rooker:I realise that Amendments Nos. 121 and 122 refer only to the name, but both the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and that of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours went somewhat beyond that. I will do that myself because I feel that we have been with the Committee on Climate Change since we started the Committee stage, to be honest. As this is the first of the debates on the committee, I want to use the opportunity to set out our vision for the role of the Committee on Climate Change. The name of the body is relatively unimportant, but I realise that what is being bandied about here are different views on its function, which we will probably come to in other amendments.
We are establishing the Committee on Climate Change for two reasons. First, it is being set up to provide independent and expert analytical advice to the United Kingdom Government and devolved Administrations on the pathway to 2050. Secondly, the committee, with Parliament, will help hold the Government and, for that matter, the country as a whole, accountable for the progress we are making towards our 2050 target. Balancing all the factors that influence the optimum pathway to 2050 is a complex and technical task. The implications of the route chosen for the UKs economy and society will be far-reaching; we have accepted that in our debates so far.
We are talking about big numbers; the impact assessment for the Bill talks about tens of billions of pounds. That is why it is important that the committee is able to provide independent, expert, transparent and credible analysis. That is also why it is so important that we get the balance of power between the different institutions exactly right. We have talked a lot so far about the relationship between the Government, the committee and Parliament; today we want to add the public to that list. If we do not have a system that is accountable to the public, we will have failed. I will come back to that point shortly.
First, I want to set out how we see the committee. It is an arms-length, advisory, non-departmental public body. By definition, therefore, it is independent of government. We have listened to the views of the Joint Committee of both Houses and others, and we have taken even greater steps to ensure the committees independence, as set out in our response to the pre-legislative scrutiny process.
Secondly, the Committee on Climate Change must be expert. Recruitment to the shadow body is well advanced. We are looking for world-class experts, who will be backed by a strongly analytical secretariat. We have increased the budget for the committee secretariat by about 50 per cent since the publication of the draft Bill less than a year ago. The quality of the committees analysis will be key to its credibility; it must balance all the relevant factorsscientific, social and economicin coming to its advice.
Thirdly, the committee must be transparent. As I indicated in our discussions on Part 1, we are looking again at whether that can be strengthened further. We have already discussed the committee extensively during our previous discussions on Part 1, and it has become clear that in some important respects the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, takes a different approach to that of the Bill. I apologise for taking some extra time now, but I want to set this out clearly ahead of our debates on the rest of Part 2.
We need to ensure that the system that we design in the Bill is democratically accountable. The proposals put forward previously would mean that the Committee on Climate Change would essentially be responsible for taking decisions. The Governments only options would be to do what the committee said or to do nothing at all. As I said previously, the decisions about how we reduce our carbon emissions will have far-reaching consequences and therefore, as the Joint Committee noted during pre-legislative scrutiny, it is only right
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The history of the Bill demonstrates the importance of ensuring that we have a democratically accountable system that responds to public demand for action. If the Committee on Climate Change were responsible for taking decisions, how would it be accountable to the public? For instance, if the public wanted to reduce emissions more quickly than the committee, how would they ensure that the committee listened? Could they vote the committee out of office? Obviously not. For that matter, how would Parliament be able to hold the committee to account? We have well established mechanisms for Parliament to hold the Government of the day to account, and we would need to duplicate those so that Parliament could hold the committee to account. Ultimately, such decisions are for the Government of the day, who are accountable to Parliament and ultimately to the people of this country.
Lord Rooker: It might be possible; it might mess up the nice ring of CCC. I am sure that all advice and suggestions are welcomed by the Committee and by the Government. I have made it clear that it is an advisory committee. I digress, but I remember that when ACAS was set up it was not called ACASI was on the Standing Committee in the other placeand the A was added during the course of the legislation. The suggestion made by my noble friend is welcome, but I cannot comment on it today.
The climate change committees role is to provide the best possible advice on the level of budgets and to hold the Government and the country accountable for progress towards them. The Governments view is that the committee should not have a role in choosing the policy mechanisms most appropriate for meeting the budgets. I admit to agreeing with by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, when he said in last Tuesdays debate that if the committee starts making major policy recommendations to government, it would not depoliticise the decisions but would utterly politicise the committee.
I will comment briefly on the contribution of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. With him, I had the privilege of serving on the Public Accounts Committee in the other placethe only Select Committee I ever served on, and I did so for two yearsand our period on it overlapped. I much enjoyed it and learned far more about the machinery of government in two years on that committee than I learned in 16 years on the Opposition Front Bench. I freely admit. I am also a strong supporter of the NAO. One of the reasons why the Public Accounts Committee never has a Minister as a witness is that it does not do policy. There is that distinction about the role of the NAO and the PAC, which does not do policy, although I know it comes across in the media as doing policy. In fact, a Minister is nominally a member of the committee. I fully take on board the point of my noble friend about the agreement on the publication of the reports. It is an
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As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, there are already a number of bodies with expertise in specific areas to which the Government can look for recommendations on suitable policy instruments. What we need from the Committee on Climate Changethis is why we are creating itis an entirely new body that provides independent, expert and credible advice on the science and economics involved and on how quickly, from a practical point of view, we can move towards our 2050 target.
For the advice to be credible, it must be formulated outside the political arena and therefore above decisions on the particular choice of policy mechanisms. We should also bear in mind that any attempt to depoliticise decisions about policies by delegating them to the committee, for example, would alsohere again I am fully in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Teversonde-democratise them. We could take, for example, the question of nuclear power. The Government have set out their position. We know that there are a range of views within the country on the issue but it is important that the Government are held accountable by Parliament and the people for their decisions on matters such as this. We would not want the Committee on Climate Change to be responsible for these sorts of decisions. We strongly believe that our vision of the role and the functions of the committee is right. We need a body that is independent, transparent and influential with a strong focus on analysis and evidence. I very much expect that is what we will be able to create. As I have said, we have raised the budget for support by 50 per cent. It will be almost if not directly equivalent to the backup provided for the Stern committee; the House of Lords and the country received its valuable report just over a year ago.
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