Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:29 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 10:29 pm, 28th October 2008

It is intriguing to come to this debate from outside, where it is snowing, which signifies that something is happening to the climate. Some of us believe that it is right to respond to that legislatively—indeed, most of us agreed to do so just a few minutes ago. I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for the way in which he introduced the debate, which is about the logical proposition that we should set up the appropriate Select Committee.

My Liberal colleagues and I have always said that debates such as this should take place one step earlier, before a new Department is set up, so that this place can scrutinise whether it should happen. That picks up the point made by Mr. Gummer. It is a Government tradition that the Prime Minister can decide, either after long thought or little thought, to create a new Department. Departments come and go and their names change, but the reality is that they may not be justified. We have argued for a long time that, if a Government, either at the beginning of their term or at some other stage, wish to set up a new Department, it would be far better if the case for such a proposal had to be made and if this House could scrutinise whether it was made well. It is possible that, on examination, such a proposal would be found not to work well. There is a debate to be had—we have not had it today—as on how the new Department, headed by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whom we welcome to his post, will work with existing Departments. One of those Departments has "environment" in its title and will continue to have environmental responsibilities, as will others.

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