Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:14 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of David Chaytor David Chaytor Labour, Bury North 11:14 pm, 28th October 2008

The representatives of the smaller parties have made several valid points and I support the comments that the Chairmen of the two Select Committees made. I especially want to reiterate the argument presented by the Chairman of the Environmental Audit Committee, of which I am a member.

In his opening remarks, the Deputy Leader of the House recognised the Environmental Audit Committee's contribution to the scrutiny of climate change in recent years. Indeed, in the current Parliament, we have made it the main focus of our activities. It is generally agreed that the overwhelming majority of Select Committee reports about climate change that the House has produced in recent years came from the Environmental Audit Committee. The Committee has not only a track record but a forward programme of inquiries on the theme of climate change. I therefore believe that there is a strong case for deferring the new arrangements and granting some time to assess how the proposal will work.

The debate has another dimension, which has not yet been mentioned. We have at best an anomaly and at worst a conflict of interest between the role of the Environmental Audit Committee and that of the new Energy and Climate Change Committee. We have so far examined the problem from the perspective of the Environmental Audit Committee's cross-departmental scrutiny role, but I want to examine the problem from a different perspective.

The new Department will have a new, cross-departmental role, which the Department that has been subsumed did not perform. That is precisely because of the Climate Change Bill, which we passed this evening. The work of the Department of Energy and Climate Change will be cross-departmental in a way that we have not previously experienced. Its impact and reach will affect the Treasury, the Department for Transport, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. I therefore believe that there will be an extra complication because the new departmental Select Committee will, if it tracks and scrutinises the work of its Department, take on a cross-departmental role, which will bring it into conflict with the work of the Environmental Audit Committee.