Global Warming

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Transport and the Regions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 2001.

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Photo of Dr Alan Williams Dr Alan Williams Labour, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr 12:00 am, 13th February 2001

If he will make a statement on discussions between his Department and the new US Administration on global warming. [148446]

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

The Government are keen to encourage the new United States Administration to engage constructively on climate change. We have supported the deferral of the next round of talks by a few weeks to give them more time to prepare. I shall be taking every opportunity to raise the issue with the United States, including at the G8 Environment Ministers meeting in Italy next month. I have also asked colleagues to do the same and, indeed, the Foreign Secretary raised the matter with Colin Powell when he met him last week. However, this is not just about the United States; we will, of course, continue to discuss the way forward with other countries.

Photo of Dr Alan Williams Dr Alan Williams Labour, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister for that informative reply. The United States Administration asked for the resumption of the talks in Bonn to be postponed. What can we read into that? Are they dragging their feet, or does Colin Powell, the new Secretary of State, need more time to prepare the new Bush Administration's case on global warming?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

My interpretation of the events is that the United States could have attended the conference in May and refused to co-operate with its objectives. The fact that the Administration have asked for more time, are seriously considering the issue and are appointing new officials to negotiate on their behalf is a hopeful sign, and I am forever optimistic in such matters.

Photo of Mr David Prior Mr David Prior Chief Executive & Deputy Chair, Conservative Party

In the Secretary of State's discussions on global warming, will he do his best to maintain the fuel duty differential between liquified petroleum gas and other fuels?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Anything that encourages people to make a better environmental contribution, including the greater use of environmentally friendly fuels, is to be encouraged. Tax arrangements which are dealt with by the Chancellor, are also important. We are making headway in such matters.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

Will my right hon. Friend consider early-day motion 232 on climate change, which has been signed by 122 Members and which welcomes the e-campaign T.5.20? Does he agree that a country with 5 per cent. of the world's population that produces 20 per cent. of the world's greenhouse emissions has a particular responsibility to get its policy right? Giving it a little more time is probably appropriate in this case.

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

It is right to give everyone an opportunity to meet the objectives to which they signed up as part of the Kyoto agreement. Indeed, the recent UN conference in China on climate change revealed new and stronger evidence to show that global warming is continuing to increase and to have an effect on the environment, and that it is created by manmade activities. We are all beholden to take steps to reduce such activities.

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It is instructive that Labour Back Benchers wish to express their suspicions of a new American Administration who have been in office for fewer than three weeks, rather than performing the role of the House in holding our Government—in this case, the Deputy Prime Minister—to account. The right hon. Gentleman led the European negotiators at The Hague with such diplomatic finesse that, when the talks failed, he characteristically blamed everyone else and his colleague, the French Minister, said that he lost his nerve, he lost his cool", and, for good measure, that he was "a male chauvinist pig." Can he assure the House that, in the interests of the country's reputation and the future of such vital negotiations, he will play no further personal role in those talks?

Photo of John Prescott John Prescott Deputy Prime Minister, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

A typical Opposition question. The hon. Gentleman has the facts wrong. I did participate in leading the negotiations at Kyoto because, at that time, Britain was one of the three parties involved in the presidency, and I therefore played a part. That was not the case at The Hague because the meeting was controlled by France, not Britain. However, I hope that I played a positive role by suggesting a way in which we could reach an agreement. I am grateful that the terms of the negotiations are still on the table for discussion. That is a step forward and I shall not be put off by silly, stupid remarks by the Opposition.