Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 10:36 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Business and Enterprise Committee, Chair, Business and Enterprise Committee 10:36 pm, 28th October 2008

First, I wish to recognise the courtesy that the Secretary of State is extending by attending this debate. It is greatly appreciated by all of us, and it is characteristic of him, if I may say so. His shadow is also in his place.

Those of us who have the privilege of being Select Committee Chairmen attach great importance to effective scrutiny of Departments. It would be helpful if the Executive tended to consult the Chairmen rather more about how that scrutiny should be conducted, instead of presenting the House with a fait accompli. I certainly made suggestions to the Leader's office about the structure of the Select Committees after the creation of the new Department. The Government are, of course, at liberty to disagree with me—I have no monopoly on wisdom—but it would have been good to find out that they disagreed with me, instead of having to rely on a motion appearing on the Order Paper.

The lack of consultation is disappointing. I approach this debate in a spirit of co-operation because I wish to achieve effective scrutiny, and I was disappointed that, having spoken to the Leader's office, I received no communication that the Government took a contrary view. It is also for the House to determine how it should scrutinise the Executive, not for the Executive to determine how it should be scrutinised. The motion therefore raises important issues of principle, but as I wish this to be a good-natured debate I shall put that to one side. It is just a shame that the approaches that I made to the Leader's office were not dealt with effectively.

I also wish to record my support for the new Department. Energy policy is one of the most important issues this nation faces, and the objectives of the Department are some of the most important objectives with which any Secretary of State has to contend. It is true that I personally regret the loss of energy from the responsibilities of my Select Committee—I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for his comments—because I find energy policy fascinating intellectually and politically, and it is of great importance. However, it is right that we should have a separate Department for energy in the testing times that we face, especially in the context of climate change and worries about global warming.

I have concerns about how the Government have approached the setting up of the new Committee, and the lack of discussion with the Chairmen of the existing Committees, but I agree—with some reluctance—about the need for a new Department. It follows that we need a new Select Committee. This is a discussion of mechanisms, not principles.

On a question of principle, may I repeat what I said in an intervention in the speech by the Deputy Leader of the House about how much I value the contribution made by the Scottish Nationalist member of my Committee, Mr. Weir? He is an outstanding member of the Committee: he is diligent, hard-working, thoughtful and conciliatory, as well as bringing a great deal of knowledge to bear on the subjects discussed. I appreciate his contribution greatly. I see no reason why, with good will on both sides of the House, Committees of 11 could not accommodate the nationalists' aspirations to be properly represented on Committees of concern to them. The idea that we need a Committee of 14 to meet those aspirations is misguided and misplaced. I greatly value the contribution that the nationalists make to my Committee and I wish to maintain that—certainly on the Business and Enterprise Committee.

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