I accept entirely what the Minister says. However, my point is that it would have been possible for the Deputy Prime Minister to arrange to be in the Chamber at least for part of the debate. I, for one, regret his absence today.
However, I wish to remind the House of something else that happened yesterday, apart from the Deputy Prime Minister's statement about the Hatfield crash. For the first time in three and half years, the Prime Minister made a major speech on the environment, in which he acknowledged the explicit link between car use and climate change. He talked about the need for co-operation and leadership to press forward the green agenda, and he made it clear that time was not on our side.
The Prime Minister's speech shows that he has undergone a major conversion and demonstrates a radical shift in his thinking. If the House is not convinced, we need only look back to what was going on at the time of the fuel crisis. On 22 September, all other European countries took part in the European car-free day. Every European Government bar our own formally supported that major European initiative to draw attention to the environmental consequences of our over-reliance on the car.
The fuel crisis was a further example of the Prime Minister's welcome change of heart. Not for a minute do I wish to demean or criticise the Minister for the Environment's environmental credentials, but I wish to point out to the House that he was remarkably absent from our television screens during that crisis. Neither the Prime Minister nor any of the other Ministers who spoke during the fuel crisis at any time mentioned environmental issues in their comments.