Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:01 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party 11:01 pm, 28th October 2008

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. However, that is one of the reasons I suggested that if we go ahead and set up this Committee, the existing Committees—not only their members but their expert personnel—can continue to do their good work. That might allow time for parliamentary channels to review what the new Committee needs in the way of support personnel as it begins its work. Setting up the new Committee need not necessarily bring to an abrupt end the existing work of other Committees. That can continue into the new year and sensible handovers can then take place. Surely we can be practical and realistic about that.

This Department has been formed in a new context and is working on several significant challenges right across the policy range—social policy on fuel poverty and economic and enterprise policy in relation to the significance of energy policy to business and to the broader economy. There are also international and diplomatic dimensions to the quest for international standards in respect of environmental regulation and climate change. The new Department has a big task, and it may do no harm to make the Committee a bit bigger rather than a bit smaller. That would allow for a broader spread across the parties and, as suggested by Simon Hughes, for a broader geographic spread. Whether parties are big or small, the issues under discussion present different challenges in different regions. We have to take account not only of the interests of all the various Whitehall Departments but the many and varied Departments at a devolved level, as well as local government interests throughout the UK.

At this stage of the Parliament, it would perhaps be more appropriate to form a Committee of 14 rather than 11. If people say that that would involve an over-commitment of Members to Committees, then there might be a case for looking at the size of the Committee but not its role. It has been set up with a very distinct purpose that should range across environmental practices and targets in relation to all Government responsibilities and Departments. That needs to be respected and protected in the context of this debate and beyond it.