HC Deb 18 December 2003 vol 415 cc1714-5
12. Mr. Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab)

What his assessment is of the effectiveness of the climate change levy. [144727]

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey)

The climate change levy was designed as an environmental tax, and is achieving important environmental gains. UK carbon emissions fell by 3.5 percent. in 2002, and although there are always a number of factors affecting emission levels, it is clear that the levy system will have played an important part in that reduction.

Mr. Challen

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, because it shows that a bold and decisive policy gets bold and decisive results. Will he assure me that the hard won gains in reduced carbon emissions will not be sacrificed owing to the exponential growth in aviation, and that the Government will take a similarly bold and decisive policy approach to reducing emissions from aircraft?

John Healey

My hon. Friend is something of an expert on the subject; he serves with distinguished commitment on the Environmental Audit Committee. He is right that aviation is responsible for about 10 percent. of the UK climate change problem, but the projections that I think he has in mind overstate the potential problem, and fail to take into account a couple of important points, as he may recognise. First, the projections assume no improvements in technology, although over the past 30 years there has been a 50 percent. cut in fuel consumption. Secondly, they assume that no new measures will he put in place. My hon. Friend will know, because his Committee has studied the matter, that with the publication of this week's air transport White Paper, it is clear that we are putting in place what I hope he will acknowledge to be bold and decisive measures to deal with emissions that contribute to climate change, noise levels that affect local residents, and local air pollution. The air transport White Paper makes it clear that the additional capacity that we need in this country will be balanced by broad-ranging environmental measures to tackle the environmental consequences of aviation, which we need, too.

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend recognise that although the policy has obviously achieved the environmental impact that he mentioned, the Government changed it considerably to meet the requirements of heavy energy users from the industrial sector? Will he confirm that discussions on that subject are ongoing, because as well as wanting environmental benefits, the Government recognise the importance of ensuring that our manufacturing jobs are secure, and that we keep those jobs?

John Healey

I can indeed confirm that. My hon. Friend follows these issues closely, so he will know that the climate change agreements that we put in place, which give the heavy energy-using sectors that he has in mind a discount of up to 80 per cent., have delivered three times the anticipated savings in carbon dioxide emissions. He will have noticed that last week my right hon. Friend the Chancellor confirmed that we are prepared to extend the eligibility for those negotiated agreements to equally intensive energy-using sectors that face international competition. I am sure that my hon. Friend will welcome that move, as will many parts of industry.