Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:18 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde 11:18 pm, 28th October 2008

Mr. Chaytor made excellent and perceptive comments, and touched on some of the central issues of the debate. I am delighted that the Secretary of State for the new Department of Energy and Climate Change is back in his place because the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee recommended on several occasions that a Cabinet Minister should have more focus on a portfolio that dealt with climate change. It is so important and, by definition, cuts across Government. Intriguingly, in providing that additional focus, the Government have married with it the other side of the equation—namely, that part of Government activity that deals with the emission of carbon dioxide. My hon. Friend Mr. Yeo made a point about his Committee being transmuted into the new Committee. Marrying energy and climate change under one departmental roof means that he could bring with him the critical faculty of a Committee that dealt with emissions and also take on a critical appraisal of issues connected with generating energy. I thought that that was a good way of counterbalancing the sometimes irreconcilable sides of the Secretary of State's new Department, which concern generating energy on the one hand and seeking to reduce CO2 on the other.

Part A of the motion before the House invites us to amend the resolution of the House of 13 July 2005 dealing with the Liaison Committee. Dr. Wright, in his as always helpful interventions on the process of government, raised the fact that the Leader and Deputy Leader of the House had effectively ridden roughshod over a mechanism of the House designed to deal with the types of issue that we have been discussing.

We are talking, first, about what the right composition of a Select Committee to shadow the new Department should be. I support that, but my hon. Friends have asked questions about the new Committee's composition by number, its starting date, existing workflows, the cross-cutting nature of its work and the avoidance of conflict when dealing with environmental issues. Would it not have been a good idea if, once the new Department had been formed, the Leader of the House had sought the view of the Liaison Committee, so that it could carry out, as it were, a review of how environmental scrutiny was conducted, so as to resolve any conflict and to present a solution that would have given best effect to the House's wishes to scrutinise the new Department? However, that option has been ignored and the only option is the one before the House this evening.

As a result, a lot of good work, including the inquiry that my Committee, the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was going to undertake into fuel poverty, will have to be postponed. Our Committee discussed the matter and wrote to the Leader of the House. I am sorry that the Deputy Leader of the House, who appears to be unaware of the debate going on around him, was also unaware of the letter that our Committee wrote in support of the view that the Environmental Audit Committee should take on the responsibility of monitoring the new Department, using its existing expertise, without necessarily creating a brand new Select Committee at this stage in the Parliament, for all the reasons that other right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned.

It would be nice if the Deputy Leader of the House, in the conciliatory mode in which he introduced the debate, were to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that he had listened to what had been said and that the Government would not press the matter this evening, but would take it to the Liaison Committee for a proper discussion, so that all the issues could be resolved. We could thereby move forward in a spirit of harmony and excellence of scrutiny, and on the basis of proper discussion, not the imposition of the solution before the House this evening.