Clause 1

Climate Change Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee on 24th June 2008.

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Climate Change

Amendment proposed [this day]: No. 43, in clause 1, page 1, line 5, after ‘that’, insert ‘between 2008 and 2050 total’.—[Steve Webb.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook Labour, Stockton North

I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following:

Amendment No. 44, in clause 1, page 1, line 6, leave out ‘the level necessary to contribute to’ and insert

‘a proportionate share of total global emissions of greenhouse gases compatible with’.

Amendment No. 32, in clause 1, page 1, line 9, at end add—

‘(3) The target for the UK contribution to limiting global average temperatures shall be calculated with reference to—

(a) historic levels of emissions of greenhouse gases by the UK;

(b) projected levels of emissions growth among other countries; and

(c) such other factors as the Secretary of State considers relevant.

(4) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament within one year of the coming into force of this Act a report setting out the basis on which the target for the UK contribution has been calculated.’.

Clause stand part.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I was in mid-stream, having just returned from a 48-hour conference session in Korea, debating with the G8 and G5, and attempting to convince them of the virtues of our policy on a 2° C cap and the mid-term goals to achieve that, only to arrive back in our country to face criticism from the Opposition that I was not committed to that. The ironies of political life are great.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The significant breakthrough at the weekend was that the G5 countries tacitly accepted the need for a 50 per cent. cut by 2050. Some of the G8 countries were not happy with that, but as ever, the United Kingdom played a pivotal role. Mr. Cook, you are frowning, so I shall move on.

I was attempting to persuade the Committee, with the greatest integrity, I think, that clause 2, the 50 per cent. obligation, provides the surety that the Committee seeks, through the limit of a 2° C increase in temperature on pre-industrial revolution figures. Therefore, clause 1 is not only unnecessary, but unworkable. The Committee is looking for assurances, so having reflected during the break, I shall answer the questions that were asked of me, and then put my argument.

The hon. Member for Northavon described his amendment as being “as ever” intended to be helpful. I urge my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden to make a note of that, so that we can come back to it. The hon. Member for Northavon, displaying terrific research, referred to the purpose clauses that were included in the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 and the Environment Act 1995. It is no coincidence, of course, that I was the Minister during the passage of the former, and the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal was the Secretary of State during the passage of the latter. I congratulate the hon. Member for Northavon on his research.

At the time of the Sustainable Communities Bill, I was advised that it was better not to include a purpose clause. When I asked whether it did any harm to the legislation or whether it was just repetitive, I was advised that it did no harm, so I took the bold decision as a Minister to accept one.

On the 1995 Act, I think the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal will back me up—it was his Bill—when I say that the purpose clause was for the Environment Agency. It was not specifically a purpose clause for the legislation. The hon. Member for Northavon will press me and say that the Government have accepted purpose clauses in other Bills. He makes a reasonable point, but I would say in defence that, where legislation places an obligation on the Government of the day to act in a certain way, such as in the fuel poverty legislation, it places that legal obligation for as long as the Act is in existence. In that sense, a purpose clause is beneficial to the judiciary in defining the Act.

That is my explanation why a purpose clause is not appropriate in the Bill. The crucial point is that clause 2 places a legal requirement not just on Ministers, but on civil servants, who can advise on policy decisions only within the law. Given that clause 2(1) is based on a 2° temperature limit at 2050, I urge Opposition Members to consider my intention. My argument is that clause 2(1) does exactly what it says on the tin, exactly what they want to do in clause 1, without the disadvantages of clause 1, which I am trying to explain.

Let me say clearly that the Government and I agree with the points made by hon. Members on both sides about the trajectory—about the mid-term. The point about 60, 80 or 100 per cent.—whatever the long-term target—is that it is not important, compared to the mid-term target. Greenhouse gases accumulate in the air. How one gets to the target is more important than the target itself. With just a long-term target of 60, 80 or 100 per cent. reduction, one could increase emissions for the next period, through to 2049, then decrease them in the last year.

That would be analogous to my saying that I intend to give up alcohol by Christmas day. I will drink a bottle of wine each day until 24 December, but on Christmas day I pledge not to have a drink. I will have reached my  target of no alcohol on Christmas day, but I would probably have killed myself by then. Seriously, there is an analogy with greenhouse gases. What matters is not just the target, but what we say in the United Nations talks below the curve. What is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions below the curve? That is why, on clause 6, amendment No. 31, tabled by the hon. Member for Northavon, is important. It is about the mid-term target.

I take the point made by the hon. Member for Northavon about historic greenhouse gas emissions. The firm policy of the United Kingdom is to accept the responsibility that comes with that. I repeat that in this important Public Bill Committee. We accept that we are one of the countries with that historical moral responsibility. There is no question about that.

I also accept the hon. Gentleman’s point about the progress of developing countries in increasing their prosperity. It would not be tenable politically, economically or morally to say that developing countries cannot develop because we have discovered that greenhouse gases are damaging. My argument is that, in the long term, developing countries will increase prosperity through a low-carbon economy, which is in our mutual interest. It follows that the amount of overseas offsetting of carbon emissions must take into account not only the benefits that accrue to our country, but the benefits that can accrue to developing countries. However, we will come to that debate on other clauses and amendments.

The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal placed me in a difficult position. He has enormous experience. When I saw his name on the Committee, I admit that I worried. Not only does the right hon. Gentleman have great experience—he had more experience in Cabinet than virtually anyone else—but he is an environmentalist. Therefore, the charge he makes against the Government has to be taken very seriously indeed. He said that we cannot adopt an “After you, Claude” policy, and he is right—we cannot do that.

Of course, we are ahead of other countries, and the Bill, particularly clause 2, underlines that. Basing our target for a reduction in carbon emissions on the premise of a 2o increase and making that obligatory on the Secretary of State—which means the Government—further enhances the policy in legislation and means that we are not in an “After you, Claude” situation.

I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman’s point that not accepting clause 1 puts me into that category. I can see that, presentationally, it will do so, and I have to find an answer to that, but I hope he accepts that the United Kingdom is not in an “After you, Claude” scenario.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I totally accept that the Minister and the Government have produced a Bill that is designed to put us ahead of other countries, not behind them. There is no question about that. However, there is a difficulty if we start by removing from the Bill something that people see as adding to it, even though the Minister explained that there are those who believe that it involves a legal obligation. I still find that difficult to accept. I do not believe it to be the case, but that is the advice that he was given. I am not a lawyer and I do not want to be one.

The Minister said that there is nothing of substance in the clause to which the Government do not accede. What is wrong is the legality of the way it is expressed.  In those circumstances, would it not be reasonable to ask him for an undertaking that he will genuinely—I know that he will do it genuinely—look at whether there is a way of putting into the Bill, in some other form, somewhere, something that does what we all want done, without causing difficulty? We genuinely do not want disagreements between us on legal matters. Lawyers are the curse of the intellectual classes, and we should not allow them to destroy the proposal.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I hope that Labour Members support my saying that the right hon. Gentleman has just shown that his motive is not party political—I am grateful to him.

Before I go through the answers to the questions, with your permission, Mr. Cook, I would like to enter a cul-de-sac and read out the advice that I was given on a preamble, because it is worth reading:

“Preambles are a rarity in modern Acts of Parliament. We are not aware of any for many decades, although they were more common back in the 19th Century. I understand the desire of politicians to make clear statements of principle, but I must remind the Committee that Bills are about making laws”.

That is good advice. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has seen it before—he will have seen it during his 17 years in ministerial office—but I am teasing him. Let me return to the argument.

I emphasise that European Union policy, to which the UK is a signatory, does not put clause 1 into European law, although it is well known around the world that the EU is the strongest advocate of the 2° increase. It does not put it into law for the same reason that I have advocated that we should not put it into law. That does not deny the objective of capping at 2°, but it does deny that clause 1 is the best way to do it.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Opposition Whip (Commons)

Is not the underlying problem that the European Union objective of 2°, strongly stated by all leaders, has been around since 1996? I believe that that was when it was first adopted. The problem is that we are not making any progress towards it, yet each year it costs us a great deal. Is not the underlying problem the lack of political accountability for the goal? It is easy to talk about it, but there is no accountability on delivering it.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:15 pm, 24th June 2008

I do not accept that point entirely. The EU is well placed internationally, because a number of EU countries, including the UK, are on course to meet the Kyoto targets. Indeed, it is interesting that in the international debate the objection to 2° C is sometimes that some European countries are on course to do better in their contribution. The EU policy is a 20 per cent. reduction in the medium term. A 30 per cent. reduction is on offer to the international community, if we can achieve an international agreement premised on 50 per cent. by 2050, which is the 2° C target we are talking about. As one of the few countries within the EU—bearing in mind that we have one of the biggest economies and are therefore one of the biggest emitters—the UK is committed to the point that hon. Members from both sides have urged the Government to put in the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman has teased me about resisting “better not” advice. He is right, and I am a signatory to  that policy. However, the statutory obligation that clause 2 puts upon the Secretary of State, the Government and future Governments meets his point. My problem with clause 1 is not the principle, the goal or the 2° C target, to which we in the international community are wedded night and day, but that it could jeopardise what the Committee seeks to do.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the London Eye, a comment which is, of course, within our remit because the south bank is part of the defence against floods, and is therefore part of adaptation to climate change. I understand that it is also British Airways’ only profitable cost centre.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

I want to bring the Minister back to a possible way through. He has said that there is nothing here with which he disagrees in principle, but I commend to him a discussion that I had with lawyers in the Department of the Environment when I arrived there. I brought them in and said that while I was Secretary of State I did not expect them to find reasons why I could not do what I wanted to do; their job was to find out how I could do what I wanted to do, but do it legally. Will he undertake to ask the lawyers, “In this Bill, how can I express it so that in removing clause 1 I do not give any quarter to those who would suggest that I am in some way undermining the Bill?”? If he were prepared to do so, I for one would be happy to support him, because I know he would do it honestly, and the Committee would be perfectly happy with that—even those who do not feel too unhappy about leaving out clause 1.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The right hon. Gentleman has made a fair point. My considerations are partly domestic, in that I need to show the Opposition, Labour Members and other interests that the Government’s opposition to clause 1 is not in any way based on an opposition to its objective. As the right hon. Members for Suffolk, Coastal and for Penrith and The Border know, it is very important that as our deliberations are followed in the international forum we do not signal a lack of commitment to that objective. I will come on to what I intend to do about that in a moment.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister has said that the Government are committed to not more than 2° C above pre-industrial levels. What benchmark are they going to use to ensure that they and the rest of Europe do not go above it? That is the purpose of clause 1—we are not at cross purposes; we are all on the same side. The Minister is trying to make out that the two targets are mutually exclusive, but I believe that they are not.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The answer is the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North made: the Government’s target concerns carbon emissions in the UK, which is commensurate with our contribution to an international effort to cap at 2° C—or to hope to cap at 2° C. There is agreement about that, but my point is that it is within the power of the Secretary of State—I should say “Secretaries of State”, collectively, because that is the legal meaning of “Secretary of State”—to do what, within our carbon account, we have the power to do. My only difficulty with clause 1, as I have said three times, concerns subsection (2), which states:

“The functions under this Act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act.”

I am trying to avoid a problem for a future Government not for the existing Government, as I hope I have explained. If I can finish my argument, I shall be able to satisfy the hon. Lady.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will the Minister indulge a slightly cynical lawyer? He has discussed the 60 per cent. reduction target being sufficient, but clause 3 gives Ministers the power to amend it up or down. It may be amended upwards, but it could be amended downwards, and the impact assessment mentions changes, such as significant increases

“in the price of gas on international markets, or the pace of development in a new technology”,

so there are ways in which Ministers will be able amend the target. Is there not an argument for maintaining clause 1 because it provides for the principal aim of the 2° C reduction, irrespective of what happens to the target?

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on an ingenious argument, but the answer is the same—in my view, it would be folly for the British legislature to pretend that it can legislate on something that it cannot control. That is my simple point. The proponents of the clause say that the Bill does not do that, but the advice that I have received indicates that it does. I cannot envisage circumstances in which the emissions target would be reduced, but the point of clause 2 is to set the carbon budgets to provide a target and trajectories, which we will come on to.

The hon. Member for Cheltenham asked about the contraction and convergence policy. I was interested to note that the hon. Member for Vale of York, on behalf of the Opposition, accepted it as their policy. In Delhi and Beijing, they will be very interested to read that. To be fair, there is a different interpretation of contraction and convergence. It is normally taken to mean the coming together of per capita emissions, and in Delhi the Prime Minister made it clear that in international negotiations, the Government would be open to arguments that lead to such a policy. However, it would be pre-emptive to accept it now. The hon. Member for Cheltenham is right in the sense that we accept the historical responsibility of industrialised countries such as our own. The hon. Gentleman also discussed the cumulative impact, on which he was absolutely right. It is important that we understand and explain to the public that the most important factor is not the end target but the trajectory to get there. He also asked about the amendments on carrier bags, and they will be available tomorrow. I am sorry that they will not have been available before.

I am trying to draw my arguments to a conclusion, because time is running on and my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden is frowning at me. The simple point is that there is a difference between UK emissions being the responsibility of the United Kingdom and the temperature in the UK being the responsibility of not just the United Kingdom. That is the main point.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will try not to labour the point yet again but the action mandated in clause 1 is still a reduction in UK emissions, and not in  global temperatures, which would clearly be implausible. Will the Minister not take up the invitation of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal and return to the lawyers to see whether there is a way through this problem, especially as we seem to be more or less united in what we are trying to express? In particular, we should consider whether the principle of convergence should be reflected in clause 1, because that seems to be a get-out in the sense that we can only converge if other people are doing likewise, which means that we would not be unilaterally bound to international targets.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Given the stage that we are at, and in answer to the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal, I undertake—I have already started—to find a way to achieve what we all want to achieve, which is to make the 2° target our target.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Opposition Whip (Commons)

On that point, I wonder whether the Minister and his advisers will turn to clause 33 and the Committee on Climate Change for a possible way in which to make the link with 2°, the importance of which everyone agrees on. The Committee will be required to advise the Government on the adequacy of the target in December. I do not know whether the terms of reference are public, but I assume that they will be. The Committee on Climate Change could be required to make some form of judgment on the compatibility of the target with the 2° goal, which could be made explicit in clause 33.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman has made a very interesting point. My hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test made the suggestion, which was backed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North, that we could include the 2° in the long title of the Bill, but other hon. Members have urged another solution. My answer to the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal is that I undertake to try to find a way to meet the objective for reasons not only of domestic politics but of helping the UK’s standing in international negotiations. As I understand it, the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood has suggested placing a cap on the remit of the independent Committee on Climate Change.

Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd Opposition Whip (Commons)

My understanding is that the Committee on Climate Change will be required to give some form of judgment or advice on the adequacy of the targets and the carbon budgets. All I am suggesting is that part of its terms of reference for that public advice should be a judgment on the compatibility of the target and the budget with the 2° goal.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am more than happy—the hon. Gentleman knows me well enough to understand that when I say that I mean it—to consider a way in which we can satisfy the demands of my hon. Friends and the Opposition to achieve the point about the 2°. I repeat my simple point that clause 2 enshrines 2° but does not express it. I know that people both domestically and internationally will be looking for that.

As ever, our policy is based on science. That is why I wish to achieve a satisfactory way forward. The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about the policy of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory  Reform, but I do not accept her point. The Department has looked at how we can make the targets real, and I believe that we have shown good leadership on that. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North, to whom I owe a great debt for my education in life and politics—he was my tutor in geography and other matters, and I have listened to him ever since—is absolutely right on this point and has made a very powerful argument.

Indeed, I was worried that my hon. Friend would not support my point of view, because if he had not supported it, he would have destroyed my arguments, so I was very grateful that he accepted my point. He said, and he is right, that we cannot legislate on the temperature. We can pass a law to control emissions, but we cannot pass a law to control the temperature—I wish that we could. He made the point that the Bill legally obliges the Government to act towards meeting a target on emissions that is commensurate with the 2° C policy that hon. Members have asked for.

My hon. Friend also pointed out that we could not pass a law that obliged us to protect polar bears, and he is right. Let me use an analogy—I see that the hon. Member for Cheltenham is scratching his head; I had to listen to him, so he has to listen to me now. We could pass a law that said that we must protect polar bears. However, it is possible that in the future the Governments of the United States of America, of Canada and of Russia could decide to kill polar bears, perhaps on the grounds of protecting other species or for another reason that we cannot predict. Because the Bill places a legal obligation on the Government and on future Governments to act in accordance with the target in clause 2, under any circumstances it would be illegal for the Government of the day not to act in protection of polar bears. Therefore, if the United States of America, Russia and Canada were to decide to cull all polar bears, the legal obligation on the Government of the day would be to declare war on Russia, Canada and the United States of America.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The analogy is sound. The right hon. Gentleman teases me, and I know that my analogy is extreme, but I think that statutorily my point is valid.

Photo of Michael Weir Michael Weir Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Will the Minister accept that his analogy is not only extreme but wrong? The obligation would be to look after the interests of polar bears within the UK, in other words within zoos and breeding programmes, and not in the wild, just as this obligation to look after 2° C relates to the UK and not the world.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is my point. Clearly, we could not do so. I will stop the analogy there, Mr. Cook, because you are getting fed up. However, my point is that the implication of clause 1, which is unintended but nevertheless real, is that it would do exactly what I said it would do.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister has said that he does not believe that the Government can legislate against temperature rising. However, this experiment with laptops in Committee might contribute to rising temperature, and the Government could change people’s behaviour by legislating to stop such experiments, if we were to reach that conclusion. So there are mechanisms that the Government can use to achieve the Minister’s aim of a temperature rise no higher than 2° C, and I am not convinced by the Minister’s argument.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I will not be drawn into laptops, Mr. Cook, because you will not let me. I have been advised that the total carbon footprint of UK personal computers is greater than the total UK carbon footprint of aviation—I just note that for a later debate.

Let me put on the record an argument based on an understanding of the law and what clause 1 is trying to do. I urge hon. Members to look at clause 1(2), which concerns “functions under this Act”:

“The functions under this Act must be exercised with the objective of achieving the principal aim of this Act.”

That aim is expressed in clause 1(1). That means in law that all functions of the Act must be subservient to that principal purpose. For instance, because of part 5 of the Bill, a local authority would need to consider the impact on global temperatures when deciding to introduce a waste scheme.

More importantly, let me look at the role of the Secretary of State and their decisions on carbon budgets. Under part 5 of the Bill, in 2016 the Secretary of State will need to set the carbon budget for 2028 to 2032. Let us suppose that in eight years’ time, between now and 2016, the UK has made good progress in reducing our emissions by setting and meeting ambitious carbon budgets. However, suppose that over the same eight years emissions in the rest of the world have increased significantly. Let us suppose for the sake of argument—I believe that this is a realistic assessment—that the science has got more pessimistic, which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test has referred to. In such a situation, because of the point eloquently made by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal that this is an epoch-making piece of legislation that sets a new paradigm, we would be responsible for the future. Even with the addition of the amendments, which were tabled with the good intent of trying to meet some of the points, clause 1 would still require us to set that 2028 to 2032 carbon budget with the aim of achieving a 2° C cap, because—this is the crucial point—it is an ongoing duty.

That duty must be met every time a function is exercised under the Bill, no matter what the rest of the world has done, which is a fundamental point. Either one has a target for the Bill that is within one’s control—an emissions reduction based on a 2° C objective—or one has a target that is dependent on others in the world and on science.

I hope that I have convinced the Committee that clause 1 is an intention that we wholeheartedly support—indeed, the UK’s investment in the international community and the European Union is based on it. The European Union itself has a policy based on that, but not a policy that is enshrined in EU law for the same reasons.

I accept the invitation from hon. Members to find a way to enshrine 2° C within the Bill, if I can. Suggestions have been made, and I am grateful for the positive way in which they have been put. My argument is that clause 1, as Lord Rooker said in the other place, would serve to undermine that intent in practice, because it would create difficulty for future Governments—I am talking about some time in the future—in meeting the exact point that people are trying to reach.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I welcome what the Minister is saying, if that is an olive branch that he is holding out. That is a very sensible way forward. I am mindful of the precedents for a purpose clause in the Legal Aid Act 1988 and the Family Law Act 1996. Even though I have not been in Parliament for nearly as long as other Committee members, I have enough experience in Committee to know that blandishments offered in the spirit of consensus somehow melt like spring snow by the time we get to Report or Third Reading. I press the Minister to be more specific on how he anticipates solving the problem, which we have been wrestling with all day.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The hon. Gentleman has asked a fair question. I reject the implication that Ministers make statements in Public Bill Committee that are not followed through—it may be that the Opposition fail to push such issues in the future months and years—and I am not aware that I have ever done that. In any event, the Third Reading and Report stages of this Bill will be scrutinised, I suspect, over and above other Bills passed in this place.

The advice that I have received states that there are potential problems in incorporating 2° C in the long title, but it is one suggestion that I am going to take away and look at. Another suggestion is that we have a preamble. I have to tell the Committee that David Renton MP looked at the question of preambles in his influential report on legislation in 1975, so I am not coming up with this off the top of my head and there are precedents. The bottom line is that as much as politicians like to put manifesto commitments and so on in Bills, we make law in Committee. Although I do not rule out the first two suggestions, other suggestions have been made. It is clearly in the interest of the Bill that we find a way of stating clearly that a limit at 2° C is our objective. I just remind the Committee that not everybody in the world is content with that and that there are those who say that that goes too far.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

The Minister has mentioned the preamble and the long title, but he has made no reference to the precedent of a purpose clause, as I mentioned with reference to the Legal Aid Act 1988 and the Family Law Act 1996. Is he therefore ruling out the possibility of returning with a reworded, reworked purpose clause?

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are always such arguments in Standing Committee. I remember the then Member for Kensington and Chelsea, Michael Portillo, a former Transport Minister with many years’ experience, being appointed to the Transport Bill Committee and pointing out, rather like the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal did, that where civil servants say “better not”, one should be brave and stand up to it. The important point is that the preamble to a Bill must not diminish its legislative coherence.

Martin Horwoodrose—

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am going to satisfy the hon. Gentleman, so he does not need to intervene. If I can find a way of meeting the objective without damaging the coherence of the Bill in its legal terms, of course I will do so.

Photo of Martin Horwood Martin Horwood Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Given that his argument is that it is impossible in British legislation to have even the aim of contributing to objectives that are influenced by events outside this country, may I refer him, using my trusty computer—a welcome innovation, in my view—to the International Development Act 2002, which includes statutory duties in part 1, section 9 to carry out agreements for

“improving the welfare of the population of” countries outside the UK.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am beginning to wonder why we ever set up the Modernisation Committee, because what has happened is what you warned against, Mr Cook.

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not think the hon. Member for Cheltenham has made a fair comparison—his example relates to what this country does to influence another country. What I am arguing here is that it is irresponsible to legislate on things over which one does not have control.

I have given a commitment to the Committee, and I must draw my remarks to a close. Amendments Nos. 33, 43 and 44 would not add to the Bill, and I believe, as my right hon. Friend Lord Rooker argued in the other place, that they would create problems.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I want to help the Minister, because I want us to coalesce around a form of words and a way forward. The long title of a Bill has legal status and is legally binding, although that is possibly not the case with the preamble. Is he therefore minded to change the long title rather than the preamble?

Photo of Phil Woolas Phil Woolas Minister of State (Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

A long title of a Bill is a descriptive title as to what the Bill is. It is not there to set out the Bill’s purpose, but I am happy to investigate whether we could do that. One could argue that limiting global temperature increases to 2° is, in common-sense terms, the purpose of the Bill. Common sense is not a bad policy, so I shall continue to consider that.

The arguments of my hon. Friends the Members for Bury, North, for Southampton, Test and for Regent’s Park and Kensington, North, are very powerful, and none of us wants to do something that would jeopardise the UK’s ability to implement the Bill. My advice is that clause 1, even if it were amended—I accept the intention behind the amendments—would do that, and I therefore urge the Committee to reject it.

Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:45 pm, 24th June 2008

I shall not detain the Committee long. We listened carefully to the Minister and we do not accept that there cannot be a principal aim or a purpose clause in the Bill. We think there is room for that, but we are open-minded about working with the Government to improve the clause further and ensure  that it complies with the best legal advice. If there is another way in which the intention in the principal aim can be incorporated, in a preamble or otherwise, we shall consider it constructively. We therefore do not intend to obstruct the Minister.

We shall work constructively with the Government, but we will hold them to their word. They must return with a workable solution that does not water down the intention behind the principal aim. If they cannot, we shall bring forward our own solution on Report. I hope that we will be able to work with the Minister to achieve broad consensus.

Photo of Steve Webb Steve Webb Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All that talk about bears has been slightly polarising, so I shall try to identify common ground. [Interruption.] Perhaps I should stop there. I think I have lost them.

On a serious note, there is far more agreement in the Committee than one might have imagined from listening to the debate for the past three or four hours. In logical sequence, we accept that there is scientific evidence that there is a global figure for emissions consistent with a 2° change; we accept that the UK needs to play its part; and we accept, as the Minister has confirmed that the Government accept, that the UK’s part needs to be more than the global average because of our history, as amendment No. 32 states, and because of the desire for other economies to grow. The debate is therefore about whether the clause helps to establish how we can move from a global to a national figure.

The debate has been constructive. I shall not go through the contributions, but we have benefited hugely from those of two former senior Ministers. I have not heard the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood speak on the subject before, but he made a well informed and well considered contribution. The hon. Members for Bury, North, and for Southampton, Test, raised the matter of whether there is a better way to meet our goal than is provided for in the clause. We appreciate the Minister’s willingness to consider that, whether through the long title of the Bill or another mechanism.

We would like to keep the clause, in case the Minister makes a lot of promises and, shall we say, does not have time to fulfil all of them. However, if there is a better way to achieve what is largely a common goal, we will be happy to work with him to that end. We shall not divide the Committee on the amendments, but we will do so on clause stand part. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question put, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 3, Noes 11.

Division number 1 Nimrod Review — Statement — Clause 1

Aye: 3 MPs

No: 12 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 1 disagreed to.