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It is perfectly consistent with strong support for the principle of emissions trading to force debates on the detail of any regulations or measures that are needed to give effect to that principle. We remain unequivocal in our support for the principle of emissions trading as the most effective way of allocating resources in pursuit of the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions. On the second point, my criticism is that the Government were not ready. We have known about the start date for emissions trading for years. It should not have been difficult for the Government to work out what our national allocations plan should set out in the interests of a proper balance between environmental gain and the needs of business. Indeed, I am interested that the Secretary of State seems to suggest that it was pressure from the Opposition that caused the Government to withdraw the original plan. Many of my hon. Friends will be flattered to think that the Government pay so much attention to our views. In fact, the Government, as they so often do, caved in to the demands of big business. Big business, not small business, goes round to Downing street and has a word with the Prime Minister, so the plan was ripped up.
It is the result of that chaos that I particularly criticise. It is not the detail of plan A or B, but the fact that, after several years in which to prepare, we have reached the starting date and Britain has joined the Czech Republic, Poland, Greece and Italy as the only countries in the EU that have been unable to get their act together. I think that that shows how inadequate the Government's approach to this very important international issue so often is.
It is hard to see quite how the Prime Minister can reconcile the actions of his Government in that respect with his speech on
"the world's greatest environmental challenge" and that
"our efforts to stabilise the climate will need, over time, to become far more ambitious than the Kyoto Protocol."
On this issue, it appears that, while the Prime Minister is on the surface all talk, behind the scenes his Government are working in precisely the opposite direction from that which is needed if his fine words are to be put into practice. As Bryony Worthington of Friends of the Earth put it:
"The trading scheme is potentially a huge step forward in the race to tackle climate change, but it has been undermined by the lack of ambition countries have shown in bringing it into action. The UK has provided a classic example of how not to do it."