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Climate Change and the Environment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:52 pm on 8th February 2005.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:52 pm, 8th February 2005

I warmly congratulate the Liberal Democrats on choosing the subject of today's debate, and I welcome the Secretary of State to her place. Although I am not sure who wrote her speech, I strongly advise her to sack them. I profoundly deplore the fact that, in relation to such an important subject on which there is so much consensus across the House, she has continued in this debate to display the bad habits that she recently displayed on Radio 4 by making assertions that have no basis in fact. I shall deal with her Radio 4 remarks later in my speech, but on the specific matter of emissions trading, let me point out that everyone knows that the Conservative party has always, without reservation, supported the principle. It is both ignorant and outrageous of her to suggest otherwise, and she does herself and the Government no good in the eyes of those who take an interest in the subject, including many distinguished non-governmental organisations, by making wholly unfounded allegations about the Conservative party, its record and its policy.

This is an unusual Opposition day. No Government amendment to the motion has been tabled, because the Liberal Democrats' motion does not criticise the Government at all but merely attacks the Conservatives. That might give a clue to the Liberal Democrats' intentions, but I have to say, in a spirit of co-operation, that given the last Conservative Government's excellent record on climate change, it is regrettable that the motion only attacks the Conservative party, especially as all the progress made by Britain in cutting carbon dioxide emissions was achieved when the Conservative Government were in power, and since Labour came to office no further progress has been made. I therefore find it rather extraordinary that the Liberal Democrats have included the section in question in their motion, although, to be fair to Norman Baker, he scarcely referred to it in his speech. Perhaps he realised that it did not fit well with the general tone of his speech, with much of which I agree.

Let me deal briefly with the rather silly attack on the Conservative party in the motion by making it clear that when the next Conservative Government have reached the happy stage of being able to abolish the climate change levy—a clumsy and crude tax, which has not achieved most of the benefits claimed for it and whose main purpose, as my hon. Friend Mr. Paice pointed out, is removed once an emissions trading scheme is operating effectively—we shall continue to fund the Carbon Trust, the national insurance contributions concessions, the enhanced capital allowances and the other measures that the levy has paid for out of general taxation.