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New Clause 8 — Parliamentary requirements

Part of Orders of the Day – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 2nd June 2008.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud 8:30 pm, 2nd June 2008

I agree with that, and I shall deal with amendment No. 1 in a bit more detail in a moment. My hon. Friend is at the crux of subsection (2) of the new clause. Obviously, one change is consequent on the other, but they could have been dealt with as we have debated the changes to the Bill.

I want to pose a particular dilemma. I like the terminology "sustainable development". I was partly responsible for the private Member's Bill that Mr. Hurd introduced, and we had a lot of debates on what we mean by sustainable development. We might think that the term must include climate change, but there is a danger if climate change is not categorically referred to in the Bill. There is always some clever lawyer somewhere who can define "sustainable development" as not necessarily having to take due account of climate change. That is why some of us feel strongly that such wording should be in the Bill, that there should be a duty placed on the Secretary of State, and subsequently, that the IPC should pay absolute regard to it. That is why we have tabled this new clause and the amendment.

Subsection (2) of the new clause relates to the IPC. In a sense, the matter is consequent on the duty placed on the Secretary of State, because it is sensible that an organisation that is subsidiary to the Secretary of State would also have such a duty placed on it. It is important that we set the context in which that body operates. The IPC may have a degree of scrutiny and accountability to this place through the Secretary of State, but the people chosen to work for it should be independent individuals. If they were all hired guns, who can pretend that the process will be anything other than the Government pushing through whatever they want? There will have to be a system of checks and balances with regard to who serves on the IPC and who deals with particular inquiries. If the body is independent, we must consider the extent to which it is accountable with regard to the way in which climate change is handled. In order to make that process easier, we must make climate change one of its key responsibilities when it carries out its duties, which would help rather than hinder it.

I understand what my hon. Friend the Minister was arguing earlier—at least I think I understand what he was arguing. However, I am not sure that he completely answered the point by categorically stating that there should be duty on the Secretary of State and the IPC to give legitimacy to the process. We want to ensure not only that climate change is writ large in the national policy statements, but that anything worked through as a result of those statements, particularly if it involves the IPC, should be entirely subject to climate change.

That would draw together those three great pieces of legislation, which are historic and which the Government should be proud of passing. However, it seems somewhat strange that the mechanism for pushing through those changes, which could change all our lifestyles, is not quite there. That mechanism is not mentioned categorically, but is entirely dependent upon Ministers, albeit to some extent working with this place and the other place. However, we all know that that is subject to all manner of vagaries. If such a mechanism is not mentioned categorically, some of us fear that the climate change agenda will be diluted and perhaps even forgotten.

That is why I have tabled new clause 1 and the amendments standing in my name. I heard what the hon. Member for Beckenham has said. The Opposition must make their mind up. They have tabled their amendments—we thought that ours were slightly better—but we do not believe that we have a monopoly on wisdom. There has been, I hope, a meeting of minds, because we are trying to get the Bill right. Some of us have been working extensively with non-governmental organisations, which are completely nonplussed by the Government, who, in other ways, have moved extensively and been helpful. Something that could be in place for a decade or longer must be got right.

On the aspect that we are discussing, there is, dare I say, not only no meeting of minds, but questions about why the Government are not prepared to do what we think is the right thing—to state categorically that there should be a duty on the Secretary of State and the IPC to have regard to climate change.

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