[Mr. David Amess in the Chair] — Biofuels

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:29 pm on 5th June 2008.

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Photo of Tim Yeo Tim Yeo Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 4:29 pm, 5th June 2008

Belatedly, Mr. Amess, I wish to say how delighted I am to serve under your chairmanship, as you and I entered the House almost 25 years ago on the same day.

This has been a useful debate. I am grateful to all hon. Members who have expressed their opinions about the Committee's report and congratulated the Committee on producing it. I am glad that a variety of opinions have been voiced; it makes for a proper debate. I am particularly grateful for the support of my colleagues from the Committee, two of whom are still here. I was a little disappointed by the rather ambivalent attitude of Liberal Democrat Front Benchers, who were less than wholehearted in their commitment to the report's conclusions, but many years of experience have taught me not to be too surprised by that.

I welcome warmly the official Opposition's support for the report's conclusions, and I thank the Minister in particular for his response. He may recall that in a previous incarnation, he very courteously received a deputation of constituents of mine who wished to save an extremely small village post office. I am glad to tell him that, whether it was with his help and intervention or not, that post office has survived the chop. If he does nothing else for South Suffolk, he has achieved something for the village of Stoke-by-Nayland, through which I drive every week of my life.

I thank the Minister for explaining the position in relation to the Gallagher review. It is useful to have that information, and we look forward to seeing the review's conclusions shortly. I am glad that they will be available before the summer recess. They will no doubt feed further discussion and debate. He confirmed that the UK target is likely to be met through contributions from imports. Of course, the lack of sustainability in some methods of production of imports was a matter with which the Committee was particularly concerned. We recognise that at home, the issues are rather better understood. The risk of environmental damage and of a negative impact on greenhouse gas emissions arises almost entirely from what may happen—indeed, we think that it is happening—in some developing countries. That will remain a concern.

The Minister teased Jo Swinson slightly about the fact that the Government were attacked some years ago for going too slowly and are now being attacked for going too fast, but I think that she said—I agree with this—that when the facts change, it is right to change the policy. We know a lot more than we did three years ago, and the state of knowledge is advancing all the time. That is why the need for an immediate change in Government policy, as called for by the Committee, is still justified. I emphasise that the Committee reached its conclusions on the basis of the evidence that it studied, and we will continue to do so. It was a balanced conclusion. We recognise and welcome the fact that biofuels could contribute significantly and positively towards cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transport. Our concerns involve the first generation and the issues that I mentioned.

I shall not detain you from your well-deserved weekend any longer, Mr. Amess. I am grateful to you for your chairmanship and to all who have taken part in this debate. I am sure that the issues will continue to feature prominently in discussions about the nation's and Europe's response to climate change.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-seven minutes to Five o'clock.