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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:17 pm, 8th February 2005

My hon. Friend is entirely right in drawing attention both to the value of much of the work of the Environment Agency and to Government funding and the dangers of the James review proposals. The Conservatives propose to take £47 million from the Environment Agency through 1,286 job cuts among those whom they dismiss as operational staff. They are the very people who clean up after disasters, whether in the circumstances that my hon. Friend has identified or those involving the Sea Empress, which caused a massive oil spill off the Welsh coast in 1996.

The Conservatives also gloss over the role of those whom they intend to sack in enforcing the rules on, for example, fly-tipping—abandoned cars, beds and other rubbish—which blights so many landscapes and brings great misery to many ordinary families and communities. Again, that is consistent at least with the voting pattern that the Tory Opposition have displayed. That is why they opposed the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill on Second Reading on 10 January, when they said that such matters were "urban issues" and not rural concerns. This Government disagree, and think that our proposals will improve the local environment for all in urban and rural areas.

Let us consider the Tory approach to climate change. Claiming to recognise the dangers while rejecting potential solutions is not merely backward-looking but typically short-sighted. The motion correctly stresses that it is possible to grow our economy and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2003, our gross domestic product went up by 32 per cent., while our greenhouse gas emissions went down by about 14 per cent.