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I also said in Committee that the idea of a compatibility test would have a limited practical effect, and that it would be difficult if not impossible ever to demonstrate that a single act of legislation was, on its own, incompatible with the aims of the Bill. Even if particular legislation would lead to an increase in emissions, that would not in itself be incompatible with the 2050 target, as there would be nothing to stop compensatory action being taken in another area to reduce emissions. In practice, then, we could honestly say that every piece of legislation was, if looked at in isolation, compatible with the aims of the Bill. This has been looked at very carefully, and therefore the amendment would achieve nothing at all.
As I said in Committee, we agree that an important pointabout making sure that we take account of the full range of government policiesunderlies the amendment. As I emphasised earlier, this is across the Government and not just Defra. The full range includes those that might put up emissions as well as those that might bring them down. As I said in my letter covering the Governments amendments, there are already robust processes in place within government to ensure that the carbon impacts of policies are assessed at every stage of their development process. That is important as legislation is often made toward the end of policy development, so a test applied only at that stage would not, in itself, achieve much.
We have looked further since being in Committee. I can assure the House that the Government are committed to amending the guidance on Explanatory Notes that accompany primary legislation. That change will require the section of the Explanatory Notes covering the impact assessment to refer specifically to the more detailed carbon impact assessment carried out for that legislation. By explicitly detailing each policys carbon impact in the overall cost-benefit analysis and, where applicable, the package of parliamentary documents, we should be able to signal the carbon impact of the policy to as wide an audience as possible.
I hope that the new change to the Explanatory Notes, which has come about following our debates in Committee, provides sufficient reassurance about the robustness of the existing mechanism to assess the carbon impacts of policiesnot just legislationso I am grateful to noble Lords for bringing this up. I hope that with the spirit having been there in Committee, as I indicated then, bringing this about in practice with such a change to the Explanatory Notes will go some way to showing that we have, first, listened and, secondly, done something practical about it.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I hope that it will be possible to keep this matter under review to see how we can make sure that the information is made as public as possible, so that it comes into the public
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment No. 10 and, with it, consider Amendment No. 11. I have been enormously impressed and persuaded by my noble friend Lord Rooker on this issue. Although he gave no undertaking in Committee, I think that he was sympathetic to what I was proposing. He said that the committee,
I made inquiries earlier, on this occasion, and I understand that my noble friend is likely to say that the advisory committee has wider functions and cannot be confined simply to being an advisory committee. Yet, if I may remind him of it, ACAS also has wider considerations.
While I am not prepared to go to the wall on this issue at present, the Government should think again about it for the reasons given in Committee. I stress, then, that the word advisory is all-important. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am of course grateful to my noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis for his attempt to assist the Government. We sought to clarify in Committee, as I want to now, the nature of the Committee on Climate Change. My noble friend suggests that its having the word advisory in front might assist. My noble friend Lord Rooker indicated in Committee that he would certainly look at this but, as he put it, he liked the ring of Committee on Climate Change and the element of authority and importance which that represented.
We are wary about changing the name of the committee when we have the opportunity to spell out its exact role and how it will work. I recognise that my noble friends amendment is relatively minor, as when, in that earlier debate, we debated whether it should be called a Commission rather than a Committee. The only reason for changing the name of the body, in our view, is if there is a difference in view about what sort of body it should be.
We have had several opportunities this afternoon to clarify these issues, and we are quite clear about the nature of that committee. It will be an advisory, non-departmental public body by classification and, as my noble friend Lord Rooker has already emphasised, it would not be appropriate to give it executive functions. That was the burden of debate earlier today and in
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I thought that my noble friend might be fertile in referring to significant bodies that also have advisory in their title. I take his point. However, as we shall discuss later, we are tabling amendments further to strengthen the role of this committee. In particular, we are proposing that the Government should be required to seek and take account of advice from the committee in three additional situations of great import in relation to international aviation or international shipping emissions, greenhouse gas emissions other than carbon dioxide and carbon accounting. We are also tabling amendments to increase the transparency of the relationship between the committee, government and Parliament, which was the burden of the debate we had a few moments ago.
In addition to strengthening the committees responsibility, we have taken steps to ensure that it is distinct and has significantly more autonomy and influence than a very large number of advisory committees. For this reason, the Committee on Climate Change is unusual in having powers to enter into contracts of its choosing and to appoint its own staff. I recognise that my noble friend is seeking to be helpful in an area where we are engaged in important debate. His intention is obvious enough; he accepts the Governments position as regards the advisory nature of the committee. As far as the Government are concerned, the Committee on Climate Change has a perfectly suitable name. We do not think there is a compelling case to change it. However, we consider that it is importantthe House is making this clearto spell out with greater accuracy the committees powers and its relationship to government. Therefore, I am grateful to my noble friend but I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I am enormously unimpressed by the case put forward by my noble friend. He is usually very accommodating and reasonable, but on this occasion he is utterly unreasonable. The committee is undoubtedly an advisory one, so why should it not be called an advisory committee? We ought to be logical but we are not being logical on this occasion. The noble Lord talks about ACAS but that body employs its own staff. Why did my noble friend mention ACAS at all? ACAS is able to enter into contracts. Why did he not mention that fact? In fact, he argued the contrary. I am profoundly unimpressed
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At present, the Bill states that where the committee provides advice on the level of a carbon budget, and the Secretary of State decides to set the budget at a level different from that recommended by the committee, the Secretary of State must state his reasons for doing so. Government Amendments Nos. 14, 34 and 92 extend that requirement to apply to other aspects of the Bill, including where the Government propose to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of targeted greenhouse gas.
This means that for most amending actions the Secretary of State takes under the Bill, he would be required to make his reasoning very clear in relation to the committees advice. I believe that picks up on the intention behind the noble Lords Amendments Nos. 33 and 39, and hope that he will be satisfied with that response. I shall explain why the government amendments take a rather different approach.
Government Amendments Nos. 13, 32 and 89 have a similar rationale. The Bill already places a clear statutory obligation on the Committee on Climate Change to publish the advice that it gives on budgets under Clause 27. It is also bound by the Freedom of Information Act to disclose most other material on request. I believe that, to further improve transparency, it would make sense for more of the committees advice to be published proactively. These amendments would therefore require any advice from the committee on government proposals to amend a target, a baseline year or the definition of targeted greenhouse gas to be published, as soon as reasonably practicable after giving the advice. This would also be subject to exemptionsas in Clause 27(7), for instancefor information that would be protected under the Freedom of Information Act, the Environmental Information Regulations, or by other legislation. The exemptions are set out in our Amendment No. 136.
I will say a little bit more about government Amendment No. 136, which is connected with government Amendments Nos. 132 and 156. These merely tidy up the Bill. When we decided to increase the number of duties on the committee to publish various pieces of advice, we noticed that this would lead to the usual exemption provisions being repeated over and over again. So government Amendment No. 136 adds a general exemption provision that
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Government Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 also just tidy the Bill up. Government Amendment No. 37 amends Clause 9(1)(a) to refer directly to the committees budget advice under Clause 27, removing any unintended implication that some other kind of advice is needed as well. Government Amendment No. 38 recognises that the committee is already required to publish its budget advice under Clause 27(5).
Government Amendments Nos. 15, 35 and 93 make very minor consequential amendments to reflect the fact that the Secretary of State will be making statements, not just one statement, under Clauses 3, 7 and 17.
It will be appreciated that the Government are involved partially in merely tidying up the Bill here and in making clear crucial points with regard to a target, a baseline year and the definition of targeted greenhouse gas. I beg to move.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I have a question relating to government Amendment No. 14, although I think that it also relates to other matters we have discussed. Under Amendment No. 14, if the Secretary of State does not agree with what the committee has recommended and proposes something different, he has to,
Under the present arrangements that Secretary of State is presumably the Defra Secretary of State. This is a matter for the Westminster Parliament; it is not a matter for the devolved Administrations. At later points in the Billmy noble friend the Duke of Montrose and I have tabled an amendment to thatthe devolved bodies are specifically given duties. But this is simply a matter of the Secretary of State responding on behalf of the United Kingdom.
In this case, it seems to me that the difference between what the committee is recommending and what the Secretary of State says might well affect a great many matters devolved to, say, the Scots Parliament; for example, matters of planning and transportdifferent matters through which the change might be implemented. How will the Secretary of State ensure that he is carrying the whole country with him when many of the functions that will be affected are devolved? I may be asking a legitimate question; perhaps I should know this. In trying to picture how this will work I see that there could be problems in Scotland. The Scots Parliament disagrees on a lot of environmental issues and other matters with the United Kingdom Government. There could be problems. Will the Minister explain how it will work?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is a little while since the noble Baroness and I have exchanged points across the Chamber. As she knows, I always quake when she rises, as she always makes a pertinent point and often one difficult to respond to. The noble Baroness will appreciate, and I want to emphasise,
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The noble Lord said: My Lords, our amendments in the group set up a mechanism for yearly milestones, which addresses a serious gap in the Bill. The Government have obviously recognised the gap but, in our view, have made an unsatisfactory attempt to address it. The rolling annual target mechanism provides for both flexibility and accountability in the budget process. The problem with the budgets as they are in the Bill is that there is no way of ensuring that the first few years of the budget period will see serious attempts and efforts on the part of Government to meet their targets. We would like to think that any Secretary of State will busy himself with reducing emissions from day one of a budget period, but that will be difficult. There is the obvious problem that if there is no accountability within the five-year period, it will be very easy for a Government to blame missing a target on the previous Government, or to have decreased motivation for achieving a target if it seemed likely that the next Government would take the heat. If we are to ensure that reductions happen, there needs to be steady pressure and constant accountability.
Objections were raised about the variations that can occur from year to year that may make numerical targets difficult to meet annually or give the wrong impression about the success or failure of an Administrations efforts. The rolling factor takes care of that. Each year, the following six years would have their annual targets adjusted, to take into account things such as cold winters, to ensure that the budgets
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One of the main objections was that it was difficult to set a single figure for a year because of too many contingent factors that would influence emissions. All targets are like that. We have no interest in setting off alarm bells unnecessarily, but the annual report gives the Secretary of State or, we hope, the Prime Minister a chance to explain. All government targets are contingent; the public realise that and we are kidding ourselves to think that there is not a widespread realisation that the nature of a target in general is a goal to be worked towards and one that will be met if appropriate actions are taken. There is not an extraordinary circumstance that derails it. The rolling feature of our proposed targets will provide the most realistic and robust goals and thus accountability.
Consider applying the same argument to taxation and the PBR. Just because the fiscal budget is on a five-year period, it does not stop an annual report from being a useful tool for scrutinising a process. Like the rise and fall of emissions due to temperature, the Governments fiscal budget has to account for any number of extraordinary circumstances. Would we accept the argument that we should not have an annual budget presented by the Chancellor because it is difficult to pin down where we should be for any given year?
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