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Lord Renton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that somewhat disappointing reply. Is he aware that the Motorail service has proved to be a great advantage to many people, and has the further advantage that it keeps cars off the road over long distances? Will he point that out to the franchising director?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that the service has provided a valuable facility to many people, but it is extremely expensive to operate. It is used to carry very few vehicles.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, does the Minister recall undertaking after undertaking given by Ministers during the passage of the Railways Bill that there would be full consultation whenever controversial issues of this kind arose? Is he aware that there has been no consultation with the Central Rail Users Consultative Committeea matter of complaint registered by Major-General Lennox Napier? Is he aware that there has been no consultation with the tourist industry which is bound to be vitally affected by these decisions? What would be the use of consultation now that the franchising director has made up his mind and pre-empted any alternatives?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the franchising director has taken fully into account the factors mentioned by the noble Lord. No final decisions on ScotRail's PSR have yet been made. There will be formal consultations with the rail users consultative committees, the bodies set up under the Railways Act 1993. Consultations in respect of ScotRail's PSR will be held later this year.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, in order to end speculation about the service the franchising director made an earlier announcement. It is clear that the service is extremely expensive to operate, uses specialised machinery that is not used elsewhere and the benefit is limited to the small number of people who use the service.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, my noble friend described the situation perfectly. Motorail represents a valuable service to the few people who use it. However, in context with the number of cars travelling to and from Scotland it is insignificant.
Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his answers to the supplementary questions that have been asked from all parts of the House indicate that the privatisation programme is a lot of nonsense and that most members of the public disagree with it? It is only the Government's dogma which persists in going through the formalities of getting the Bill through the House. Why do they not ditch the whole idea?
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, I do not agree with a word that the noble Lord said. Franchising will bring considerable benefits and economies to consumers and will involve the use of private finance. We firmly believe that the franchising business will be a great success. Similar remarks were made by other noble Lords in advance of privatisations which have proved to be great successes.
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, the service caters for few people and costs a great deal of money. The franchising director is under an obligation to spend the limited amount of subsidy that is at his disposal on the services which are most necessary.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, the Government are committed to fulfilling their obligations under the Climate Change Convention which was signed at Rio. We are currently considering whether further measures are needed in the light of recent developments,
Lord Carver: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. But does he agree that, as VAT on domestic fuel is not going up to 17.5 per cent., as the report on transport and the environment by the Royal Commission on pollution showed that the proposed periodic increases in the price of petrol and diesel would not bring about the expected reduction in CO 2 emissions and as the economy is likely to grow at more than 3 per cent., the assumptions behind the Government's 1993 climate change paper have been undermined? Is it not therefore essential that they at least give Nuclear Electric the go-ahead to build Sizewell C? Like Sizewell B, which opens today, it will produce a great deal of power but with no greenhouse gas emissions.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, we are reviewing the impact of the measures in the climate change programme, including the VAT position, as part of the monitoring process. We shall take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that we remain on course. Our monitoring shows that we are currently on course to meet our commitments under the Climate Change Convention. Obviously, carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector have fallen by about 20 per cent. since 1990. That is due in part to increased output from gas-fired and nuclear power stations.
Lord Ennals: My Lords, there appears to be a degree of uncertainty in the Minister's Answer. Will he give an absolute assurance that the commitment entered into at Rio will be kept and, I hope, improved upon?
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, the Government are fully committed to fulfilling their obligations under the Climate Change Convention. We played a leading role in the international negotiations on the convention and remain committed to active participation in the process. The UK climate change programme, which was published in January last year, sets out in full the measures aimed at returning CO 2 emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, although opinions differ as to the extent and effects of climate change and global warming, it is in any case prudent to restrict emissions of carbon dioxide in order to avoid upsetting the balance in the atmosphere, especially when the natural cycle is being affected by the disappearance of forests and other green areas of the world?
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, yes. My noble friend has raised an issue which needs to be taken forward on a global scale. From an environmental point of view, the Government, and I am sure the whole House, would regret the disappearance of many forest areas around the world.
Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, the budget for the home energy efficiency scheme, for instance, has been increased to more than £100 million in 1995-96. The scheme provides advice and grants as regards insulation and draft-proofing for low income households. The energy efficiency best practice programme aims to generate additional energy savings of £800 million. By 1994 it achieved savings of some £300 million per year, or a 2 million-tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. I believe that the stimulus that those schemes have produced makes a great contribution towards the 10 million tonnes by which we have agreed to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the Minister aware that reducing carbon dioxide emissions by building nuclear reactors is jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire? Much more attractive alternatives are open to the Government.
Lord Clifford of Chudleigh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that as regards nuclear energy, if Sizewell C and the proposed Hinkley C power station were built we could reduce the amount of nuclear powered fuel that we are importing from France and at the same time create an enormous amount of employment, certainly in the south west, which is in need of a great deal of employment?
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