Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. In a sense, I have been involved in shuttle diplomacy on this subject for 10 months now, and two things have happened during that time. First, my journey has taken me from thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, was on to something to becoming convinced that he is more than on to something and is absolutely correct. Secondly, during those 10 months I had an opportunity to talk to a great number of people with a great deal more expertise in this area than I will ever have, and 100 per cent of them have, in one form or another, confirmed that the amendment is correct.
On the other hand, all I have heard from the Government is something I can only sum up as “not invented here”. I have not heard a single cogent argument
31 Mar 2008 : Column 750
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Crickhowell most warmly on the assiduousness with which he has pursued this issue over, I dare say, the 10 months to which the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, referred a moment ago, but certainly through all the proceedings in the House.
I am not a veteran of the pre-legislative scrutiny but, as I said on Report, I was the only parliamentarian from this Parliament who sat through the entire CPA conference on global warming which took place in the last week of November last year. In the context of the claim which the Government properly and reasonably make that we are setting an example and are the first Government to legislate—an issue to which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell referred—exactly that claim was made by the government spokesman early in the conference. Its global universality is one of the virtues of the Commonwealth and, after he had left, some of us smiled as a series of Ministers from what I will call the smaller island territories said that the situation was so threatening and so imminent for them that they had already carried through such legislation as was required, and at least 10 had full-scale plans at a much higher state of advancement than anything we can claim. It is therefore important that the example the Government set out to give should be as good as possible. If my noble friend’s amendment improves it still further, that is all to the good.
I do not propose—I said I would not do it on Report and I shall not do it now—to go through the British Library experience to which I alluded in Committee. However, it still remains with me. The test of any Secretary of State during the 20 years that the British Library was being constructed was that he or she would be held responsible for the exact state of the business. However, in view of the fact that the Government’s insistence on the wording which is currently in the Bill prior to my noble friend’s amendment has so concentrated Whitehall’s mind, I will say—I did not say this in Committee—that when the construction had been going on for 15 years and book cases were being installed in the cellar of the British Library, the book cases developed a habit of ejecting the books and putting them on the floor, which in the concept of a flagship library is not a wholly satisfactory development. I was sent into battle armed with a happy Q & A: Question: “Secretary of State, why is it that the shelves are throwing the books on the floor?” Answer: “Shelves, being inanimate objects, cannot throw anything”.
Anything that can be done to reinforce the Government’s position is good. I am a warm supporter of my noble friend’s amendment.
Lord Woolmer of Leeds: My Lords, I support the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, will know, he and I voted together in this direction during the Joint Committee pre-scrutiny process.
I speak on this issue for the opposite reason from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The Bill enables the
31 Mar 2008 : Column 751
The target can be amended. If a duty were placed on the Secretary of State to ensure that a figure was met, he or she simply could not guarantee to meet it. The other reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, gave on the process issues are equally strong and are another reason to accept the amendment. As in the Joint Committee, I find that on this occasion I agree with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, as has been made clear, the basic intentions and the philosophy behind the amendments have already been debated in your Lordships’ House. However, along with other noble Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for his persistence in tabling these amendments. In addition, the amendments in their present incarnation, as my noble friend has said, are an improvement based on the debates we have had, and he has indicated the joint effort that lies behind them. I am pleased to see this set of amendments tabled at this stage. We have heard from across the House noble Lords’ support for them.
As has been said, the amendments seek to address some problems with the Bill’s most important duty: that of the Secretary of State to ensure emission reductions. We want to stress as ardently as possible that our intention is to strengthen that duty, not to weaken it. Despite first appearances, the amendments strengthen the Bill. The Minister claimed that the Bill, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to ensure that emissions are reduced by 2050, is the stronger. However, the Government still have not adequately responded to the argument that the link between the Secretary of State and the final objective for 2050 is an indirect one.
Yes, the Secretary of State should be at the helm of policy, the responsibility of reducing emissions should be driven across all departments and it is of vital importance that the targets are reached. Those issues are not under dispute. What is being debated is the best way of ensuring that those things happen. Yet the first duty placed on the Secretary of State has little to do with the way that they happen—it is merely to guarantee results. I understand that the Bill then breaks down the individual duties of the Secretary of State and outlines, to a degree, the path to be taken, with the aim of achieving the 2050 target.
What, then, does a duty to ensure outcomes add to the Bill? Does it imply that after the Secretary of State has prepared proposals and policies to meet 2050
31 Mar 2008 : Column 752
The amendments tidy up the language of duties and obligate the Secretary of State to do his job in a way that will ensure results. It places a duty on the Secretary of State to do what Secretaries of State do: to make proposals and to implement policy. It would strengthen the duty placed on him because he would have to justify how each policy fitted into the overall framework of reducing emissions. If that is what is going to happen in practice as the Bill stands, why are the Government reluctant to accept it and put it in the Bill? Why are they willing to risk setting the threshold for compliance too high, thereby negating it? Do they think that the Secretary of State will do anything other than make proposals and policies under the Bill as it stands? Is this not the way in which he will go about ensuring a reduction?
Essentially, we support the amendment because it scores a direct hit on something with which any legislator should be uncomfortable; namely, legislating for the result and not the process.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, I hesitate to rise because I am eight-to-one down. I thought that I might be nine-to-one down by way of repetition. Although I fear that my answers will be very much the same as previously, I take on board the points that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, made and I agree with many of his sentiments.
I shall go through a little of the chronology of this part of the Bill, with which the amendments deal in isolation. It is as though nothing else is in the Bill. We have just heard that no legal requirement is placed on the Secretary of State other than the 2050 target but that is not true. The 2020 target is a legal duty; it is set out in Clause 5. All I ask is that noble Lords look at the facts of the Bill as it stands, rather than what it might have been or some of the early rhetoric of our debates. There is even a duty to publish a compliance action plan if one of the five-yearly budgets is missed. The idea that we have legislated for 2050 and ignored everything else is just not true. It is there in the Bill. If we are getting such inaccuracies the fourth time we debate the Bill following Second Reading, all I can say is that I am at a disadvantage.
I have responded to the letter of the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, but fully accept that one cannot always be sure where the post goes. A load of letters went into the internal system earlier today. However, part of my speech is based on the letter, and the letter is based on the speech. In other words, the message is exactly the same.
The noble Lords’ amendment addresses the strength and enforceability of the Secretary of State’s existing duty in what is now Clause 2 and used to be Clause 1, and the need for that duty to place the Government under continuous pressure. In some ways we welcome that, as I hope I have made clear throughout the Bill’s passage. We welcome scrutiny in both Houses and from outside bodies. We want to be as transparent and accountable as possible.
Clause 2 provides the Bill’s overarching purpose and requires a specific outcome, and that should be maintained in the Bill. If we removed that duty it would place the focus on the process rather than on a clear outcome. The amendment’s effect would be that the Government could fail to meet the 2050 target but still comply with their duty so long as they had developed what they thought at the time were the right policies. Without the clause, the Government would still be held to account on whether they had taken forward the right processes, but there would be no legally binding long-term target which placed pressure on the Secretary of State to achieve the final outcome as opposed to just going through the process. One has to separate those two functions. We genuinely believe that doing it that way would dilute the Bill rather than strengthen it.
On the other hand, as I hope I made clear in several of our debates, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, about the importance of placing continuous pressure on Governments. Although we are debating amendments to this clause, it is worth putting the issue in the context of what happens in other parts of the Bill, including Clause 13. Clause 2 is only part of the picture outlined in Part 1. I have just referred to Clause 5, which places a duty on the Secretary of State to meet the 2050 target. It requires the Secretary of State to set the carbon budgets and,
Under Clause 18, the Secretary of State must publish a compliance plan if the budget is missed. Clause 9 requires that budgets be set with a view to meeting the 2050 target as well as the 2020 target and any post-2050 target. Clause 5—which I will come back to—also requires the Secretary of State to ensure that carbon budgets are met. The Bill therefore provides an ongoing duty on the Secretary of State to reduce the net UK carbon account. My point is that those are all in addition to Clause 2. Clause 13, which the Government added to the Bill after debate and scrutiny in this House, places a duty on the Secretary of State to,
the 2050 target.
The Bill’s existing structure already provides a series of complementary duties. There is a clear outcome-focused duty to meet the 2050 target complemented by duties to make emission reductions on an ongoing five-yearly basis, and there are ongoing duties to develop policies.
31 Mar 2008 : Column 754
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, originally made the point about the duty covering the 2050 target and not the intervening budgets, but it is not correct. The intervening budgets are just the same, as I set out on Clause 5. The noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said that the Secretary of State had no ability to influence the UK net carbon account, but we do not think that that is correct. The Secretary of State does not have direct control over emissions levels, in the sense that he does not have his finger on the switch, but he can employ many methods to reduce the UK's emissions through regulation, incentives, encouragement and persuasion. The Bill also allows the purchase of credits from overseas, a subject we have debated and will return to, including government purchases if necessary and for those to be counted towards meeting our targets. So in a sense the Government do have an ability directly to influence the UK's net carbon account—which is made up of both emissions and the credits purchased overseas.
As I said, the ratio among noble Lords who have spoken is about eight to one, but that does not mean that I stand alone. It does not mean that I am wrong or necessarily that I have got it right. However, I will not do as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, suggested. I will not make extravagant claims that I cannot back up when questioned. I have not done that on this Bill. On the first occasion when these claims were adduced, perhaps on Second Reading, I pointed out that Australia had legislated on some aspects of this matter. I am therefore not saying that we are the only ones doing this, that we are the world leader and No. 1 and that no one else has ever done anything remotely like this. I am talking about what is in the Bill, not what people think should be in it or thought was in it.
With our changes, Part 1 taken as a whole—I am not looking just at the narrow aspect of Clause 2, or Clause 1 as it was originally—constitutes a package that meets the objective that everyone is concerned about while not diluting it. We strongly believe that to approve these amendments would dilute the package in Part 1, as I have sought to explain. I therefore hope that, contrary to what he said, the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, will not press the amendment.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, one of the great advantages I have in responding to the Minister at this stage is that he has said absolutely nothing that he has not said in all the earlier debates. In almost every case those points have been addressed this afternoon by me or by the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull. It is always rather bad luck on a Minister to be given all these helpful papers from his civil servants before the debate as he feels that he has to do justice to them. However, we are so fond of the Minister partly
31 Mar 2008 : Column 755
I must challenge two of his observations. He said that I had removed the focus from the 2050 objective. That is a curious remark when the very opening sentence of my amendment sets the Secretary of State to,
If that does not direct the Secretary of State to focus on something, I do not know what does.
The Minister also asserted that I had claimed that the Secretary of State had no power to influence. However, the whole of my argument was that, by the preparation of policies, the five-year budget process and so on, he does have the ability to influence. What he does not have is the ability to ensure.
The Minister kept calling in aid Clause 5, which apparently is going to bail him out of the mess that his department has put him in. However, Clause 5 states:
We are back to that word “ensure”, which is exactly the word we are criticising in what is now Clause 2.
We have gone over this many times. All I would like to do at this stage, before the crucial final words I should utter, is to thank all those who have supported my amendments at this and earlier stages, particularly those who helped to draft this amendment and who supported it today. As this is the last occasion on which I will speak on the Bill in this House until it is sent back to us from another place, as I suppose it will be, I thank the Ministers for the courteous way in which they dealt with all the points we made. As I say, I also thank the Minister for those wonderful revelatory moments with which he has endeared himself to the House. If only his colleagues at the other end of the House really understood how this House works and how to influence it, they would not get into the mess in which they have got themselves on this occasion. I ask the House to vote for the amendment. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?
Their Lordships divided: Contents, 130; Not-Contents, 132.