HC Deb 25 June 1990 vol 175 cc5-6
5. Dr. Kim Howells

To ask the Secretary of State for Energy when he last discussed with his colleagues in the European Community the implications of global warming for energy policy.

Mr. Wakeham

I last discussed with Community colleagues the implications of global warming for energy policy at the Energy Council on 21 May.

Dr. Howells

Does the Secretary of State agree with the statements made last week by Mr. Jim Smith, chairman of Eastern Electricity, the largest of the distribution companies soon to be privatised, that the industry should concentrate less on cutting back and conserving and far more on winning markets from British Gas? Is that any way to contribute to attempts to reduce global warming? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that statement as an example of the initiative that is needed in modern Britain?

Mr. Wakeham

I am in favour of the chairman of Eastern Electricity looking after the interests of his employees, his customers and his shareholders—

Mr. Dobson

You are the only shareholder.

Mr. Wakeham

At the moment it happens to be me, as the hon. Gentleman points out, although shortly there will be a lot of shareholders. I approve of the chairman—he is a first-class person.

Sir Ian Lloyd

My right hon. Friend will doubtless be aware that a fortnight ago the House was well represented at a conference in Ottawa of 23 Council of Europe countries, the Soviet Union and Poland, about global warming. However, he is probably not aware that that conference took the decision that the subject is so important and it is so essential to reach a global solution, that every Parliament represented there should, if possible, hold a two-day debate on the papers discussed at the conference with a view to reporting back to a further conference to be organised by the Council of Europe. Will my right hon. Friend lend his considerable influence to support such a request when he receives it?

Mr. Wakeham

For a long time I had some responsibility for organising debates in the House. I no longer have it, but I shall pass on my hon. Friend's request to those who do. I agree with my hon. Friend this far—the conference in Ottawa and the conferences that seem to be taking place regularly in all sorts of places around the world at the moment are important if we are to deal with global warming. He is also right to say that it is necessary for us to have international agreement if we are to deal effectively with those problems. That is why the Prime Minister announced on 25 May that, in the context of international agreements, the United Kingdom is prepared to stabilise CO2 emissions at the present level by the year 2005. That target depends on other countries being able to play a full part in an international response.

Mr. Simon Hughes

Is the Secretary of State embarrassed when he meets his European colleagues that we are so half-hearted about our commitment to dealing with the problems of global warming? Why do our Government always say that we shall act if others act first? Is not the reality that we have a problem that we share with the world, which is so urgent that the target of doing a little by 2005 is too little far too late? Is not he embarrassed, and does not he want to be more effective as our Energy Minister?

Mr. Wakeham

I am very far from being embarrassed. The Prime Minister has taken the lead, with a demanding target. It is easy for those without responsibility here or in other countries with different problems to make forecasts and targets that they probably will not be able to meet. Our target is realistic, and if we can get international agreement on that level, we shall have done well.

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