Standing Orders Etc. (Energy and Climate Change)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 11:22 pm on 28th October 2008.

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Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 11:22 pm, 28th October 2008

The Deputy Leader of the House was mistaken in suggesting that I was leading him into a trap by trying to discuss the issue. I was in fact making a perfectly helpful comment, which I hope he listened to carefully.

We are tonight changing our ability to handle the difficult, long-term and extremely pressing issues of climate change. Far from denigrating the new Department and its Secretary of State, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the structure. However, as Mr. Chaytor said, the new Department will, by its very nature, have to have its fingers in all sorts of different pies. Indeed, the new Select Committee on climate change will, by its various decisions, recommendations and advice, help the Secretary of State to do just that. He will therefore be rather different from other Secretaries of State.

I was merely suggesting that a number of unfinished discussions still need to take place before setting up such a Select Committee to deal with the situation, some of which have admirably been mentioned by my right hon. Friend Mr. Jack, but there are others, too. For example, many of us would have liked the opportunity to discuss issues such as the fact that adaptation to climate change is dealt with by a Department other than this new Department, and that any Select Committee dealing with the new Department might want to talk about those issues.

There are many concerns about how all this has been put together. I do not mind that too much, as long as it works. I am suggesting that this is the one opportunity that the House will have to signal to the Government how much we support the new Ministry, but how difficult we perceive its new role to be and how widespread will be the responsibility of the Secretary of State. If we are not careful, we shall have a situation in which the Daily Mail runs a story every day about how the Secretary of State has disagreed with some other Secretary of State, because that is the almost inevitable result of the role that he will have to play. I personally do not want him to be in that position, because I want him to win these very important battles.

Will the Deputy Leader of the House take seriously my suggestion that this is rather more complicated than just setting up a Select Committee in this way? It would serve the needs of the House a great deal better if he felt able to say, "We will not press this matter tonight. We will talk to the Liaison Committee, and we will talk more widely than that, too." I wonder whether we need to rethink how the Committee structure might be made to suit and to sort this rather special Department. That is partly as a result of the Government's innovative decision—supported by a huge majority in the House—to set up a Climate Change Committee, whose effect on the House will be different from that of any other Committee that we have set up before.

The Government have an opportunity to be very imaginative on this matter. It is not that we do not want proper scrutiny of the new Department, but that we want that scrutiny to be carried out in a way that ensures we can help the Secretary of State to do a very tricky job. Perhaps it might therefore be better to think about this for a little longer, and to talk a little more widely before coming to a conclusion. Most of us believe that setting up the Committee before January would be difficult, given that a number of other Committees have not yet completed their work. May I request that the Minister take account of the fact that this is a special occasion, and suggest that he might not wish to rush into it in the way that he appears to have done so far?