§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Tuesday last by Lord Holderness —namely, That a humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)
My Lords, this most welcome debate gives your Lordships, and incidentally me, the opportunity to examine the present situation and to look into the future of the environment, agriculture and food in this country. The fact that my noble friend Lord Layton has chosen this debate in which to make his maiden speech is an added bonus. I am greatly looking forward to listening to him. Your Lordships will be aware that the Second Reading of the Food Safety Bill will take place a week tomorrow, on 5th December. Rather than use today as a curtain raiser for that debate, your Lordships will understand if I merely touch on the food aspects of today's deliberations.
Having said that, I make no apology for inverting the order of topics listed for this debate. Food has always been a major part of my department's responsibilities. In particular, we take very seriously indeed our responsiblity for food safety and the integrity of the food chain. We are determined to discharge it not only as effectively but also as openly as possible.
To be really effective we need to take full account of changes in scientific and medical knowledge and in food processing technology. That is the background to our new Bill, on which we have worked very closely with the Department of Health. It will create a framework which will take us into the 1990s and beyond; a framework within which all those involved in the food chain, including the many small businesses throughout Great Britain, can continue to innovate and compete successfully. It will ensure that enforcement authorities have the resources and mechanisms they need to enforce the law effectively. Above all, the Bill will enhance protection for the consumer.
At the same time, we have taken other steps to ensure the effectiveness and openness of the new system. We are setting up a new consumer panel under the food Minister, the honourable Member for Penrith and the Border. It will keep under review, from the viewpoint of the consumer, the implementation of policies on food safety and consumer protection. For the first time, representatives of consumer organisations will have 246 a regular and effective forum for putting their views direct to the food Minister.
We have also created a food safety directorate within the Ministry. It will draw together all the many strands of work on food safety, giving a new sharper focus to everything we do in that area. It will have access to the best scientific advice and will have as a priority the need to keep the public informed on food safety matters.
The Government remain determined to carry forward the reform of the common agricultural policy. Considerable progress has already been made. There are now legal limits on the Community's expenditure on agriculture. Stabilisers designed to control costs and production have been introduced in all sectors, and prices have been held down for a number of years. But more needs to be done. In the current round of GATT negotiations, the Community, along with the major trading countries such as the United States, has accepted a commitment to reduce the level of agricultural support and protection.
The future for farmers may be a challenging one, but it is also full of opportunities. It is the Government's task to maximise those opportunities. As in other parts of the economy, we want to remove political interference from the market leaving farmers free to decide what to produce in order to fulfil the wishes of the consumer. The customer is always right and it is not the job of governments to restrict consumer choice. The job of government must be to do their best to ensure that what the consumer chooses is wholesome and safe —which is why we have introduced the Food Safety Bill.
What we are trying to encourage is already being done in some parts of the industry. Horticulture has only limited support under the CAP, and growers have to survive in a highly competitive market. Their success demonstrates that British farmers and growers do have the entrepreneurial skills needed to flourish in such an environment.
We should also look for a moment at organic farming in which a number of farmers are already responding to the demands of a rapidly growing market; indeed, demand is outstripping home production. It is clear that much of the organic foods now being sold by retailers could be produced in this country. The Government are doing their part. We have sponsored the United Kingdom. Register of Organic Food Standards and we are undertaking research into organic methods of production. But it is for farmers themselves to assess the opportunities provided by the demand for organic produce and to provide what some consumers clearly want.
The very need to restrain production of many agricultural commodities has itself created opportunities as well as problems for farmers. It was in recognition of that, and to help farmers adjust to the changing situation, that we decided in 1987 that there was a need for a new balance of government policies. In particular, we wanted to encourage farmers to develop alternative uses for their land and to respond to the needs of the environment.
Why did we believe that there was need to encourage alternative uses of land? We could see that 247 cutting back on production would make available for new uses some land which would no longer be needed for producing products such as cereals and milk. Your Lordships will have noticed that I did not say that we would have a surplus of land. I believe that that is not the right way of looking at the matter. Some land does of course go out of agriculture each year. On average 20,000 to 30,000 hectares a year are lost (if that is the right expression) to roads, houses, recreation and forestry. Our new policies are designed to help farmers put, as it were, new ingredients in their mix of enterprises.
As well as providing alternative land uses, these policies also offer new earnings and employment opportunities. That is an important point because it means that our policies will help people in the countryside. Your Lordships will be well aware of the kind of schemes I am talking about: the farm woodland scheme and farm diversification grant scheme, set-aside and environmentally sensitive areas provide examples.
The other objective of the new policies was to respond to the needs of the environment. In 1986, Parliament placed on agriculture Ministers the statutory obligation to seek a fair and workable balance between the needs of agriculture and the environment. I refer to Section 17 of the Agriculture Act 1986. We embraced that responsibility with enthusiasm and it plays a key part in our new policies. As Minister for the countryside, I attach great importance to this. None of us, not even farmers, are lords of the countryside. We are its stewards and we must make sure that this most valuable of national assets is handed on to the next generation in an even better state than it is now.
That said, it remains true that modern farming can cause environmental problems. The Government are determined to deal with those. Nitrates in our water supplies provide one example. Most recently we announced plans to reduce nitrate leaching into our water supplies. In the pilot areas farmers will be compensated for restrictions on their farming activities. If our voluntary approach does not work, then compulsion without compensation may become the only alternative.
However, if our efforts are to be understood and appreciated and if farmers are to get the credit they deserve, we cannot tolerate the irresponsible action of those producers who fail to show sufficient concern for their livestock or the countryside. Whether it is destroying wildlife habitats, killing badgers or butterflies, polluting our waterways, applying pesticides in windy conditions or careless burning of straw, it must stop. Not only do those actions give decent farmers a bad name; they also damage their image among the vast majority of the population.
Of course, farmers are not responsible for all, or even most, cases of pollution. When I recently pointed out to a farming audience that farmers caused 20 per cent. of pollution cases, the point was made in reply that that meant that farmers did not cause 80 per cent. of them. That, of course, does not excuse farmers; there is far too much farm pollution. 248 But it demonstrates the importance of tackling all sources of environmental pollution.
The Water Act has created a strong and independent National Rivers Authority as a watchdog for the water environment. It has also paved the way for privatising the 10 former water authorities of England and Wales so that they can have access to the private capital needed to do their job. They now plan to spend nearly £25 billion over the next 10 years cleaning up our rivers and beaches and purifying our drinking water.
Now our Environment Bill takes another major step forward. It will concentrate in particular on controlling damage to the environment from industry and from wastes. There will be three main flagships in the Bill. First, we are introducing in England and Wales a new system of integrated pollution control which will be as advanced as any in the world. For the first time, pollution from all major industrial and commercial processes will be controlled, taking account of the effect on the environment as a whole, so problems will not simply be moved from one area only to cause more damage somewhere else. There will be tough penalties if people break the terms of their authorisation.
The second flagship is a tough and comprehensive new system of waste regulation. There will be a new duty of care on the producer of waste all the way through from its production to its final disposal. Local waste authorities will have much greater powers of enforcement and will have to ensure that their own waste facilities are set at arm's length so that conflicts of interest are avoided. We are taking steps to ensure that local authorities recycle much more waste than they do at present. The Bill also provides sweeping powers to stop the import of waste where that is necessary to protect our environment.
The third flagship is a brand new system of controls over genetically modified organisms. GMOs are an emerging technology. They offer enormous potential for advance, but we must ensure that we have proper controls over any releases into the environment. The Bill will provide those controls and put us ahead of just about every other country in so doing.
The Bill will also include provisions for setting up strong, separate nature conservation bodies in England, Scotland and Wales. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced last week that those provisions will include proper arrangements for full co-operation on matters of concern common to all three country bodies. There will be a statutory joint committee, serviced by the three bodies, specifically to deal with GB-wide and international issues, and common scientific interest.
It was noticeable that, when the environment was debated in another place last week during the debate on the gracious Speech, hardly anyone commented on the many welcome proposals in the Bill. Silence, in that case, certainly meant approval. Much of what comment there was was directed at attacking our plans to restructure the conservation agencies. I wonder whether the critics can really have studied the arguments.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, perhaps the Minister will allow me to intervene. She criticises my colleagues in another place for not having commented in detail on the Bill. Neither they nor we have seen the Bill. It is not too surprising if we are silent about something that we have not seen.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, on the other hand comment was made on one of our plans. That is what I am talking about at the moment. We believe that our plans will genuinely benefit conservation. It is no coincidence that they were welcomed in Scotland and Wales, where for the first time we are creating independent national bodies to take a national view of national issues.
Before I turn from the Bill, I should mention a subject near and dear to my heart. I refer to the provisions on litter. The state of some of our city streets is a disgrace. There are two main reasons for that. The first is that a selfish minority of people persist in dropping litter. The Bill provides for a huge increase to £1,000 in the maximum fine for litter dropping. I hope that magistrates will use that new power widely. It also enables local authorities to introduce fixed penalty schemes for littering along the lines of the successful experiment in Westminster. That will be an important step in an area where some other countries have already met with great success in the fight against litter.
The second reason is that some local authorities simply do not put street cleaning high enough up their list of priorities. We do not have to suffer from the litter disease. I was for instance greatly struck by how clean and tidy the organisers of this summer's celebration of British Food and Farming Year kept Hyde Park during the great exhibition. But the Bill will give all local authorities the duty to keep their streets clean. A statutory code of conduct will set out what the public can reasonably expect from them. Individuals will be able to take their council to court if it falls down on the job. The duty will also apply to certain statutory undertakers and other owners of open space to which the public have access. In the long term a change in attitudes is essential, but the Bill will do a great deal to improve the present unsatisfactory situation.
The Bill is an important earnest of the Government's determination to protect the environment. It deserves—and I am sure that it will receive —a warm welcome in your Lordships' House, and then I shall have a chance to see it too.
Our record stands with the best. We are spending £2 billion on cleaning up pollution from our power stations. We have taken a lead in the Community in pressing for faster action on CFCs. We are making a major contribution to international efforts to improve our understanding of climate change. The coming Bill will make further substantial progress.
These actions are not sops to the wilder fringes of the environmental movement. They are proof that we take our responsibilities with great seriousness. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month, rightly spoke of the threat to the global environment as the challenge to the world 250 community which has grown clearer than any other in both urgency and importance. She pointed out that the scale of the problems facing us has no precedent. It calls for action both nationally and in co-operation with our international partners. It calls for proper scientific understanding and economic development which is both strong enough and wise enough to sustain us. The Government are meeting those calls. We are committed to ensuring that the environment we hold in trust for the future is handed on in good shape.
I am only too aware that I have barely touched on the fringes of a vast subject today. But I cannot end my part in these proceedings without paying my small tribute to all those whose efforts really do add up to our living in a green and pleasant land. I do not just mean the farmer whose work lies at the beginning of the chain; I mean the scientists, the voluntary and statutory bodies, ADAS. the doctors and the vets—so many people whose dedication and hard work add up to the whole. I look forward to listening to your Lordships.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I mean no disrespect to the noble Baroness or to the importance of the subjects with which she has dealt in her speech when I say straightaway that I shall be dealing with the matters of debate in the order in which they appear on the Order Paper; in other words, I shall concentrate on the environment rather than food and agriculture, which will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Gallacher.
We are grateful to the noble Baroness for finding time in her speech for an exposition—a trailer so to speak—of the environment protection Bill which we have not seen and which she candidly admits she herself has not seen. It was valuable to have that little exposition. We shall be very interested to see how it appears in practice. We also look forward very much to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Layton. We are glad that he has chosen this important debate in which to make his maiden speech.
I should like to spend as much time as possible in paying tribute to the Secretary of State for the Environment. In particular, I should like to commend the interview that he gave yesterday on BBC television. Unfortunately I did not learn about it in time to view it, but I read extensive press reports of it. It seems to me that the Secretary of State for the Environment—I presume on behalf of the Government—is now saying many of the things which we in the Opposition have been saying for a number of years. I am afraid that they have not always found a reflection in previous Government Statements or indeed in current statements of members of the Government other than the Secretary of State for the Environment.
He hit the headlines by speaking about the need for higher taxes on petrol in order to reduce the use of the internal combustion engine. That is a very significant move by government towards a better view of the balance between public and private transport. He said that he found the prediction made by the Department of Transport for 140 per cent. growth in vehicle numbers over the next 35 years to 251 be wholly unacceptable. He implies that that means a greater emphasis on public transport and, incidentally, a less favourable reception for the kind of out-of-town shopping malls which require all the shoppers who use them to travel there by private car.
We shall be very interested to see how those new policy statements are received by the Department of Transport. We shall also be interested in the next speech of the Secretary of State for Transport in which he will endorse those new policy statements. They are certainly policy statements which are new to this Conservative Government; they mark a very considerable advance and will have to be carried out in practice not only by the Department of the Environment but by other major departments of state.
The Secretary of State also made considerable advances in the Government's view of energy policy. In his television interview he said that the price of energy must rise to take account of its long-term environmental effect. Those who have paid any attention to the passage through your Lordships' House of the Electricity Bill will know that the price of electricity will rise very steeply not because of the environmental effect of energy but because of the dogmatic and blind privatisation proposals of this Government. Like the price of water, the price of electricity will rise in order to yield private profits and not because of any energy implications or environmental implications of energy policy.
However, the Secretary of State went on saying good things, all of which are very much to be welcomed. He described the environment as being a moral issue as well as an issue of economics. I believe that it was the first time that it had been said so clearly by a Secretary of State for the Environment. He went on to say something which this Government certainly never recognised before; namely, that being keen on the environment is not a cost-free option. We shall be very interested to see in the next Budget and the next Autumn Statement how the costs will be identified and where the money will be found for the new environment policy.
The difficulty is that the Secretary of State's conversion to green policy is not reflected by either the Prime Minister's statements or the statements or policies of any of his Cabinet colleagues. Not only in her statements last year but also in her speech to the United Nations earlier this month, to which the Minister referred, the Prime Minister continues to place reliance on market standards and indeed to make the most extraordinary claim that we can rely on the multinationals to protect our environment. Our experience of multinationals protecting the environment is somewhat thin on the ground. Indeed, as recently as last month the right honourable lady was at Kuala Lumpur for the Commonwealth Conference. So far from protecting the environment it was she and she alone who opposed the Commonwealth environmental fund.
The Prime Minister is very strong on litter. I know that that matter is very close to the right honourable lady's heart. Every year or so, in what I believe is 252 called a photo opportunity, she is photographed dealing with litter and by implication criticising local authorities for their failure to deal with it. But that is a long way from the real environmental issues that face this country which will cost money to deal with and require a very different attitude from that of reliance on market forces, which is the hallmark of the Prime Minister's approach to these problems.
Let me give some examples of the way in which the Government are now in total confusion about their environmental policy. The Secretary of State for the Environment suggests that higher prices for energy will force people to use electricity more efficiently. But the history of this Government's attitude toward energy efficiency has a long and sordid past. The budget of the Energy Efficiency Office is now being cut and has been cut for a number of years. I recall that when there was a Commission on Energy and the Environment set up by the last Labour Government it reported to the first Conservative Government in 1982. The response of the Government was very carefully held back until Parliament had been dissolved prior to the 1983 election.
What did the Government say in their response? They said that the Government had no intention of drawing up an energy blueprint. I suppose that "blueprint" is a dirty word for an energy policy. That is what they really mean. They said that the Government see the most important contribution as removing obstacles to the free operation of market forces. That is not the way in which we shall achieve conservation. It is not the way in which to pursue a rational energy policy. It is not the way in which our energy policies will contribute to the well being of our people or the protection of the environment.
In his television interview yesterday the Secretary of State said that we can and must use the benefit system to shield the poor from the effects of more expensive energy. That may well be so, but if we do not have a policy to start with, we shall find the benefit system quite inadequate for the protection of our environment and the needs of our people.
Let us consider the issue of nuclear power where the Government's policies have collapsed more spectacularly perhaps than on any other single issue. Mr. Patten now admits that past enthusiasm for nuclear power as a green salvation is waning. However, speaking in New York at the United Nations the Prime Minister still promotes nuclear power as the green alternative and still contradicts the views of all those who have studied the environmental risks of nuclear power, drawn the lessons from Chernobyl and looked at the risks involved in particular in the decommissioning of nuclear power stations. That is why, after all, nuclear power has been taken out of the electricity privatisation programme.
Let me turn to the issue of global warming. Like so many threats to the environment, it is not only becoming worse but every single forecast that is made, every single piece of research that is done, forces the rate of anticipated deterioration upwards. There have been no cheerful pieces of research about global warming or any of the other issues with which 253 we are concerned since the matter first attracted public attention. Indeed, it is very clear not only that the damage is increasing but that the damage is irreversible.
The Secretary of State for the Environment says that the Government are committed to stabilising emissions. But when Mr. Trippier went to Noordwijk, he did not do any such thing. He claims to have acted as an honest broker dealing with the problem of carbon dioxide emissions but it was Britain which was dragging its heels in this matter. That was the widespread conclusion drawn after the Noordwijk Conference. Indeed, the Department of Energy forecasts that there will be a 73 per cent. increase in the emissions from the internal combustion engine of CO2 by the year 2020. Which represents Government policy? Is it the Department of Energy or the Department of the Environment? Which part of Department of the Environment shall we believe? While the Government still retain subsidisation of company cars at the highest level in the world, it is difficult to believe that we take the control of CO2 emissions very seriously.
Let us turn to water privatisation. It is very much a matter for the Department of the Environment. Let us leave on one side the economic absurdity that we have to write off £6.5 billion to obtain £5.2 billion in return. In other words, far from water privatisation producing money for the taxpayer in relief of taxes, we are giving the water industry away and giving £1.3 billion with it. However, quite apart from its economic absurdity, the process of water privatisation has been directly to the damage of the environment. It is now revealed that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution has carried out no prosecutions of water authorities for the past two-and-a-half years. Why is that? It is because it was afraid that to carry out prosecutions to enforce the law as it stands, however inadequate that may be, would damage the privatisation programme: the inspectorate was therefore instructed not to pursue its prosecutions.
At the same time, at the last minute —as the Bill went through your Lordships' House last summer —we discovered that the Department of the Environment was sneaking into the Bill a measure which provides that there will be no effective prosecution of the new plcs on water quality because there will have to be 12 months' readings of water quality and those readings cannot start until privatisation has taken place. We therefore have a two-and-a-half year moratorium before privatisation and a 12-month moratorium after privatisation against the protection of the environment and the protection of water quality.
I hardly dare mention in your Lordships' House the sad and disgraceful story of the way in which we behave towards the European Community standards: the way in which, first, we deny that the standards exist; secondly, having recognised that they exist, we ignore the deadline for legislation; next, having met the deadline for legislation, we refuse to allow any deadline for compliance; and, when that is not acceptable to the European Commission, we fly across to Brussels and seek 254 hopelessly and vainly to escape the inevitable prosecutions.
The history of this Government in protecting water quality is not good and certainly does not deserve the very worthy sentiments of the Secretary of State in his television interview yesterday. In her introduction of the new Bill, the noble Baroness referred to the break-up of the Nature Conservancy Council, although she did not quite describe it in those terms. Noble Lords who were present a couple of weeks ago at the debate on the European Community's report on habitat and species will know that it is universally accepted that many of the pollution problems that face our country are on a European, if not a global, scale. Yet what is now being proposed is that the responsibility in the principal statutory body concerned is to be broken up between England, Scotland and Wales.
I appreciate the strong feelings that there may be in Scotland and Wales about that. I appreciate that there may be some in the Labour Party who support it. But I put it to the Government that to turn over the responsibility for our protection to seven statutory bodies responsible to no fewer than four Secretaries of State as part of an environmental protection Bill is not a rational way to proceed.
Let us look at local authorities' responsibilities for the environment. For the past 150 years local authorities have been the country's environmental protection agencies. They have had the inspectorate. They have had responsibility for monitoring and controlling the quality of our air, water, food, health and safety, street cleaning, refuse collection, for the operation of our sewerage system, for open space and leisure and for operating the planning controls which protect the natural environment against the built environment. They deal with such matters as derelict land.
When the noble Baroness summarised the Bill that we have not seen, she did not refer to the fact that one of the principal proposals in the control of waste disposal is that there will be, in effect, privatisation of the waste disposal operations. She described the operators as arm's length companies. That is a euphemism for privatisation, as we know. Given the history of privatisation and dealing with pollution, is there much doubt that the measure will also be deeply damaging to the quality of our environment and to our ability to deal with environmental pollution as it arises from waste? Certainly, if that is what the Bill states, we on these Benches will be fiercely opposing any further privatisation provisions.
The Secretary of State ended his speech in another place on 22nd November with what I can only describe as a rousing call to arms in dealing with environmental pollution. He stated:We want to put down guidelines for the development of an environmental policy for the decade ahead. I hope that we shall be able to discuss that approach when we hold our debate on the loyal Address next year". [Official Report, Commons; 22/11/89, col. 217.]There is a call to arms! There is a call for action. We can now see how much will be done and how concerned the Government are with environmental policy. I suggest to your Lordships' House that we 255 have not even started. The conversion of the Secretary of State before the television cameras is a long way from a coherent and effective environmental policy.
Oddly enough, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, from the Government Back Benches, has produced a Bill which goes some way towards answering the deficiencies of the Government's environmental policy. It is a fascinating Bill. It is concerned more with framework than with policies as legislation so often is. We shall be interested to see what response it has from the Government. The noble Earl is proposing an environmental protection commission to be controlled by the Secretary of State. He is proposing that there should be criminal penalties for pollution, with the onus on the defendant to prove that he was not polluting. He proposes quite interesting duties on employers to be enforced by regulation prepared by the Secretary of State. But, in addition to a framework which has clearly some advantages and some major disadvantages, the noble Earl is proposing two of the principles which are enshrined in the Labour Party policy document on the quality of life to which I shall turn next.
The first is that there shall be a presumption against pollution. The second is that we should look for a precautionary approach for prevention of pollution rather than waiting for pollution to take place and penalising it afterwards. I do not know what you do with a stalking horse —you cannot launch it —but the noble Earl has certainly begun the debate in a most constructive way. We look forward to seeing the progress that his Bill makes in your Lordships' House.
During the remainder of the time available to me I shall talk not about frameworks for environmental control but about the principles behind them. It is the principles behind environmental improvement and the quality of life which are at the heart of the Labour Party's policy approved by our conference in October.
As I said when referring to the Bill brought forward by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, the first is a presumption against pollution. In other words, our whole emphasis should be on pre-empting pollution rather than attempting to scatter it by the use of higher and higher chimneys and longer and longer sea outlets for refuse and sewage disposal or by using cleaning-up methods.
The second is the well-established but widely ignored principle that the polluter pays. Not only should we fix limits for acceptable pollution but we should enforce them. As I made clear when talking about the water industry, we are simply not doing so.
The third is the precautionary principle. An important element is that there should be effective scientific research which is not starved of funds, particularly that directed to the reduction of energy consumption. At present such research is being starved of funds by the Government.
The fourth principle is that there should be freedom of environmental information. I recall our debates on the Water Bill and the way in which we 256 had to squeeze out of the Government every piece of information about water quality. We did so comma by comma, sentence by sentence and paragraph by paragraph, yet still we did not achieve on the face of the Bill a simple explanation of water quality. I then realised how far we are from having freedom of environmental information in our society.
The quality of life is about the environment—our sea, air, water and land. It is also about many other aspects and it would be wrong not to refer to them at least in outline. It is about housing. Our housing policy is an essential part of our lives. Indeed, for many people it is the most essential part. Under this Government housing finance is a shambles. We are spending more on subsidising taxpayers who are also owner-occupiers—in particular they are the tenants' private landlords—in contrast to those most in need and council tenants whose rents are being forced to rise. I know that my noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick will refer to that matter and so I shall say no more about it. However, it is clear that cuts have been forced on public housing by the Government, and for many years they have departed from the principle that decent housing should be available at an affordable price to those who need it. The situation is becoming worse rather than better.
I have referred to the subject of transport in outline only. However, the policy of a government whose Prime Minister never travels by train and whose attitude towards the funding of public transport is that roads shall receive 100 per cent. but railways nil per cent. is clearly not acceptable in the 1990s and beyond. The Government have been shown up by Mr. Karel van Miert, the Transport Commissioner in Brussels—incidentally, he is a Socialist —because he has rightly called for a network of high speed trains throughout the European Community servicing all industrial regions which need access to their markets. The Labour Party proposes that the high speed traffic from the Channel Tunnel shall be the start of a necessary network of national high speed railways for goods and passengers.
There are many other aspects of our policies to which other of my noble friends will wish to refer. However, I conclude by reminding the House of the Reith lectures given in 1969 by Sir Frank Fraser Darling, as he became, who was a most distinguished biologist. At the beginning of his lectures he referred to the necessary connection between ecology and economics. Indeed, they derive from the same Greek word. Only last year the Prime Minister paid lip service to that connection in saying that we were inhabiting this planet not on a freehold but on a full repairing lease. Indeed, that is the origin of the connection between economics and the environment.
Sir Frank Fraser Darling went on to talk about environmental socialism. He talked about the impossibility of market forces on their own dealing with the environmental problems which face this country, this continent and the world. He said that, unless the polluters are prepared to forgo a portion of their profits and devote them to the rebuilding of landscape, our environmental conditions will 257 continue to become worse. All the experience of the past 20 years has shown that market forces have not been enough to deal with environmental problems.
The policy which the Government propose to take them—and, as it will be, us—into the 1990s is hopelessly flawed from the outset. I need remind the House only about the position of the third world, responsibility for which the present Secretary of State for the Environment once held. At present the third world is subsidising us rather than the other was round. In 1988 its members paid £43 billion in interest on debt. That is more than is now being spent on new aid to all third world countries.
If we believe that we can cut ourselves off from the less-developed world and, by exhortation, discourage its members from cutting down rain forests and causing other damage to the environment we have another think coming. We are more fortunate members of the world's society and as such we must take responsibility for all the ecological damage being caused by modern industry and agriculture. That will never be done by a government headed by someone who says, "There is no such thing as society".
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, I shall concentrate mainly on agriculture because, after hearing the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, I feel deeply depressed about the environment. However, I agree with practically everything that he said.
I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Layton. I hope that he will have something fresh to say to us. I shall not say anything particularly new but I wish to bring agriculture back into its proper place. It is an important and great industry in this country.
At the present, most people talk about agriculture as though it no longer matters and as though the farmers should become park keepers for visitors to the countryside instead of carrying out an important part of the economic structure of our country. It will do no harm to repeat the figures. There are almost 600,000 people working in agriculture on farms. There are 250,000 farm workers. When we talk about directing subsidies to the small farmer there is a strong case for realising that many people depend for their living on large farms as well as on small farms in the countryside.
The latest figure for total production which I have is nearly £12 billion worth of food—and that is farm gate and not to the customer. That is obviously of enormous importance in a country which this year will be £20 billion in the red on foreign trade.
I believe that we must look at this matter in a serious manner with regard to the actual industry and the farmers therein because one would think that there were no more problems. However, there are extraordinary problems in farming. People are going bust. Bank interest rates are higher and more people are going out of the industry gently, having lost money. To take 1977 as a starting date, farm income is less than 40 per cent. of what it was 12 258 years ago. That cannot indicate a very prosperous industry.
Because of farming efficiency, the rise in prices is lower than in any other sphere. Farm growing prices are again at about 150 per cent.—and this is in money and not real terms—food prices are at about 180 per cent. and retail prices are well over 200 per cent. of what they were in 1978. That appears to me to indicate a reasonably efficient industry. When the Minister spoke about the reform of the CAP—and the gracious Speech said that the Government would pursue the reform of the CAP—her main concern was to get the costs down. I wholly agree with her that the CAP is far too expensive but the bulk of the money does not go to the farming population. The bulk of the money goes on subsidies for exports, storage and administration costs. It does not go the farmer. The Minister did not say anything about reforming the CAP so that more money goes to the farmer, but I believe that that is something upon which she should concentrate.
It is all very well to advise farmers to look around, take in lodgers and go to town on other enterprises. However, all the farmers in Britain cannot diversify in any major part of their work and industry. They must rely on producing the very valuable amount of food that they produce and which saves a lot of imports. They must do that and need protection to do so. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the third world. The biggest damage is caused not by us charging interest which, happily, they often do not pay but by the drop in their prices occasioned by a free market. Millions and millions of primary producers cannot possibly protect their own market and that does infinitely more harm to the third world than any other single factor.
The reason that commodity agreements do not work and in many cases have not worked is that they do not pay any attention to market trends or try to control surpluses. The tin agreement broke up for that reason and many others have done so. However, that is no reason to abandon the idea, because without the commodity agreements the primary producer will inevitably be in real trouble. That has been the history of farming for a great many years—long before the present CAP—and especially between the wars when there was hunger, deprivation and misery right across this country and elsewhere.
We must look at what is happening in this country. We must see which portions are doing reasonably well. It is true that milk producers are getting a reasonable return and have reduced the surpluses. They have done that by means of quotas. That appears to me to be a system which is fair to the community and to the countryside. It is true that it is not possible to do that in every case. However, simply to reduce the price does not appear to me to fulfil the objective of giving agriculture a fair crack of the whip.
As regards the hills, the countryside and the environment which is enormously important to city dwellers—and I do not believe that farmers cause 20 per cent. of pollution; in fact, I am certain that they do not—we need people to live in the country. When we speak of the hills of Scotland (which are 259 particularly important to me), the hills of Wales, and the high country of England and protecting the small farmer there, we in this country must be certain that the industry as a whole can continue—the largest sheep farmers as well as the small farmer. Certainly on the Continent there is a different structure. However, the hills of Scotland would suffer severely if the hill land compensatory amount were reduced to the level spoken of and agreed at the latest round of talks in Brussels. That would do great harm because, for example a farmer in Sutherland with five hirsels of sheep employing five shepherds would suffer a drop in his income which would drive him out of sheep farming and drive the people off the land. Therefore, I hope that the Government are prepared to stand by the farmers in the hills and to take up the slack; that is, to keep up the present hill land compensatory payments to the farmers of Wales and Scotland. I believe that it is very important to do so.
As regards farming on the low ground, there are surpluses which of course we must deal with. However, I do not believe that set aside in its present form is the way to do that. Certainly it is a start, but to pay a farmer £80 per acre to take his land out of production without any rules as to how well it is to be kept and, in effect, to give him permission to grow weeds is not the best way to deal with the matter.
We need to do something about extensification or organic farming. There is a programme of research under way in Scotland with funding of about £0.5 million or something of that nature; that is a start. However, organic or extensive farming—call them what you will or ally the two together—is a very complex process which needs much research and help. It can work but our most distinguished farming economist, Mr. Murphy of Cambridge, said:Green farming at 1989 rent levels would be economic suicide".In other words, the cost has risen so much that in the present climate organic or extensive farming may or may not be profitable and according to Mr. Murphy's thesis, it will be a loss leader.
However, we can make nothing of extensive or organic farming without research. It is true that in farming as a whole the search for higher yields together with the application of foods and chemicals to stop diseases have led to an extraordinary rise in costs. That has been a negative factor in that people are producing far more than they were 10 years ago but are making smaller profits because of the savage rise in costs. One problem at which the Minister and the Government must look, although according to their theory they cannot do anything about it, is the enormous rise in interest rates which hits the industry very hard. With an income of less than half, borrowing in Scotland is four times the level it was when the income was double. This cannot make for efficient or profitable agriculture.
What do the Government intend to do about land use? Instead of setting land aside or suggesting the growing of more and more, using chemicals which cost more and more, they should be using the land correctly. There should be proper research into 260 varieties which will grow under organic conditions and there should be breeding for that purpose. We should look to get rid of pests biologically.
There was an interesting article in the Economist this week about muscovy ducks being infinitely more effective at getting rid of flies in dairies than chemicals. Using them is also very much cheaper. Their diet of flies produces excellent duck flesh and they get rid of more flies than do the chemicals. The smell of duck is also very much nicer than the smell of chemicals. That is the kind of research which needs to be done before what I would regard as more sensible farming can be profitable in this country.
The Government intend well—at least I hope they intend well—but they are being pulled along. They should recognise that agriculture is a great industry. They should also recognise that the farming population is valuable for more than simply keeping the countryside in order. Farmers contribute more in that respect than anyone else. However, they cannot keep the countryside in order and make it look well unless they make a profit. When I was making profit from farming I would plant daffodils along the roadside. In bad years no daffodils were planted. If we carry on as we are now, with high interest rates and a steady drop in prices, the environment in the countryside will suffer as well as the farmer.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Lord Layton
My Lords, apart from a deep personal and political concern, I must also declare a commercial interest in the subject of the environment, or rather in waste management and pollution control. I beg your Lordships' indulgence for changing the direction of the debate again. I am a director of a small company currently involved in the research and development of a safe container for the transport and storage of hazardous products, but most particularly of all types of non-nuclear toxic waste. I make this declaration not so much as evidence of self-interest but as evidence of credentials.
It has often been said that the answer to those environmental problems of which we are all too well aware is simply a matter of increased financial resources. We have some very expensive problems; so there is a great deal of truth in this. But it is not a simple truth. The complexity in spending arises when one analyses how the financial resources should be applied, why they will be of any use and from where those resources are to come. This is of course true of everything, not just the environment. Every area has its experts but we seem to have a good deal of difficulty sorting out the appropriate candidates to make, or advise on, the decisions that are fundamental to a concerted effort to save the planet from decline.
There is much talk about the short term and the long term in environmental policy. In reality there is only the long term. Short-term problems can be suitably dealt with only in the context of sustainable long-term solutions, or at the least with the concept of sustainable long-term solutions in mind. I apply this both to current practice and to remedial problem 261 solving. Environmental policy must direct itself to the preservation and improvement of the quality of life that we have, or hope to have, and will pass on to future generations. We all know that our environment has suffered not from our complacency but from the sheer incomprehension of the consequences of the type of civilisation we have created. We must not add insult to injury by allowing ourselves to be either complacent or over-cautious in reacting to our new-found awareness. We no longer have the excuse of ignorance.
The public are certainly not complacent in their attitudes to environmental problems. As a consequence there is a massive swell of grassroots opinion that governments everywhere must address. Public awareness is now at such a pitch that there are dire political implications for those failing to implement a strong environmental policy that not only lies within, but is part of, the framework of economic reality. In the preface of what is often referred to as the Pearce Report, but is actually called Blueprint for a Green Economy, the authors quote a survey carried out for Eurobarometer in December 1988 on the political importance within the European Community of various current problems. The environment, with 93 per cent., ranks second in importance only to unemployment, with 98 per cent., and is way above the much publicised single European market, with 67 per cent. Governments and their expert advisers of the highest calibre must not shy away from positive and, where necessary, stringent measures to fight what is not a battle but a global war against a common enemy. As Briand said to Lloyd George:War is far too serious to be left to the military".I want now to be more specific about one problem area which we share to a greater or lesser extent with all other industrialised nations. I want to deal with standards and their implementation within the particular area of pollution control known as hazardous waste management. I make it quite clear that what I am going to say about this subject applies in a general way across the board in all areas of pollution control.
There have been several highly commendable if little publicised reports produced by committees of both Houses. There were two reports on hazardous waste in 1981 and 1989 from the Science and Technology Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Gregson, and one this year on toxic waste from the Environment Committee of another place chaired by Sir Hugh Rossi. The reports have two factors in common. The first is the recommendation that the import of waste to direct landfill should be discontinued. This initiative has been taken up by the Government and has been an important influence on international negotiations, although direct landfill is still permitted if there has been prior treatment.
Secondly, all the reports indicated most strongly the immediate necessity for an increase in the technical and overseeing standards of operation of hazardous waste management in the United Kingdom, the first and most obvious reason being that we need to ensure that environmental quality is as high as can possibly, or perhaps I should say 262 reasonably, be attained, given current knowledge. The second reason is more complicated. It is so that we can develop an indigenous pollution control equipment industry alongside recycling and minimisation rather than having to rely on the import of expensive technology to meet those higher performance standards of pollution control that we aspire to. In order to encourage investment in this industry—the environment is the growth industry of the 1990s —we must ensure that the technical standards required in waste management and the technical options chosen are on a par with the highest standards of those of our European neighbours.
In the Environment Protection Bill to be put before Parliament during the course of this Session, the Government intend to strengthen regulation of pollution control. The traditional piecemeal control of pollution in all its many forms will be abandoned. In future pollution will be controlled in relation to the environment as a whole under a new system called integrated pollution control. Streamlining is an obvious and important first step. An increase in inspectorate personnel with statutory powers to implement this integrated pollution control is also part of the Bill. But if we do not tighten regulation with enough severity and also give those who implement it enough power, we will continue to store up a legacy of pollution and contaminated land and water for future generations. Furthermore, we will miss out on a major current and future export market for more advanced and more complete and environmentally sound treatment of hazardous waste.
A country's environmental policy must also be such that it can be integrated at an international level. The only way in which this worldwide problem can be dealt with is to have compatibility of policies that enable international agreements to go forward. Controls are being tightened at the international level in the movements of hazardous waste products but international agreements are only the enabling mechanism which facilitates certain actions to be taken if the member countries so wish. A particular instance of this is the Basle Convention, worked on so assiduously and well by my noble friend Lord Caithness and his staff. This has been signed by 36 countries and the EC as a whole, but as yet only one has ratified, namely Jordan. Until enacted within 20 signatory countries it is only a notice of intent. I assume that the Bill will cover the matter; I hope that it will bring forward total ratification of the Basle Convention.
However, it should be noted that there are significant absences from the list of countries that have so far signed the convention, including the USA, the USSR and Japan. I am sure that constant pressure is being brought on them to join with the rest of us in regulating this very emotive business. At the end of the day, those international standards that are wanted by all can only be the result of the strong environmental policies of individual states.
Alongside the Basle Convention the Department of the Environment also wants to introduce the concept of self-sufficiency of individual states, only allowing them to export when they do not have either the capacity or the capability of disposing of 263 their own waste. The potential stumbling block of this policy is that those countries with the most stringent regulations are those that would prefer to export their hazardous waste rather than increase their capacity even though they have the capability. And where will the frontiers be in 1992? The European Community regulations can deal with this in respect of imports from, for example, the United States. But what of movements of hazardous waste from West Germany to the United Kingdom? The answer is surely that we must have equally stringent regulations to be operated within our newly-integrated pollution control framework.
If these problems can be dealt with, measures such as the ones I have mentioned will place a burden of responsibility on all sides of the trade in hazardous waste. With higher standards imposed in this way within membership countries we will see tremendous improvements in technological capability when market forces come into operation. In the United Kingdom, with our investment potential and research and development capability, we should be the front runners in the pollution control industries. We must not let the opportunity slip as we did with the servicing of the North Sea oil industry.
However, it is not only in terms of technological standards that the United Kingdom has to raise its sights. In a modern society the quality of any environmental policy will be measured largely in terms of the resources and, in particular, the personnel dedicated to the implementation, monitoring and enforcement of the policies which are extant. Notwithstanding the creation of some 35 new posts the current haemorrhage—I do not believe that to be too strong a word—of senior personnel from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution and the almost total reluctance of new recruits to enter this service at a senior level indicate a disparity of salaries in the public and private sectors for this highly technical and demanding work and in most instances a disillusionment that the nature of the policies and the resources available do not match what these highly qualified and competent staff realise is necessary to operate the standard of policy which is expected in Great Britain today.
What I know of the Environment Protection Bill seems to indicate that the Government are prepared to confront these problems. Let us hope that we in this country end up with an anti-pollution inspectorate that is not only satisfying to its employees but fulfils the task that the public demands; an inspectorate that can implement adherence to the highest possible standards and punish anyone that seeks to circumvent those standards.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Lord Shackleton
My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to congratulate the noble Lord on a first-class maiden speech. It is customary for whoever follows to say something about the speaker but I had difficulty in finding out about him. I asked the Government Whips and, helpful as ever, they gave me a brief which unfortunately related to his 264 father. I have suffered—I shall not say with being identified with my father—but we are individuals and not our fathers. Luckily we have been told by the noble Lord a great deal about himself in a splendid speech and one which is entirely relevant to the subject we are discussing today. He gave some very good advice to the Government and we are grateful to him.
I know that the noble Lord's particular business involves some fairly advanced technology and we need all the technical skills that we can bring to bear on this complex issue. I was grateful that he referred to my noble friend Lord Gregson, who has been ill. I believe that he is recovering well. The noble Lord developed a theme that I was going to take up in my speech but he has covered the issue so fully. In particular he has dealt with a problem which I hope the noble Baroness will note; namely, the shortage of resources on the inspection side. What is happening is a tragedy.
Unless the Government provide the resources, all their fine words and proposals which seem admirable will not produce the results. I particularly have in mind the problem of the various local authorities, some of which are simply not strong enough to sustain the role that is rightly given them. I hope that this is a matter that will be taken into account. The Select Committee has put strong emphasis on this issue and it welcomes the action that the Government have taken by way of the new Bill. The Government must provide the sinews to make it possible.
I am speaking still as chairman of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is a post that I shall hold for another couple of days. Therefore this is not my maiden speech but my last speech as chairman. I wish to speak about some of the issues that we have raised in the past and on which we hope for further action. One concerns a problem that was not dealt with by the committee and that is the commons. There was an omission in the gracious Speech; there was no reference to commons. It is three years since the Government promised legislation on this subject. The role of the commons is vital and they are a major contribution to the environment. I happen to live in the New Forest and we fight battles there.
There are several hundred thousand acres of commonland and we need the Bill. All the people concerned are in general agreement and the Government should have no difficulty in getting a Bill through. I ask the noble Baroness to take note of that.
We are very interested in the Government's proposals for the Nature Conservancy Council. As the noble Baroness will know, the Select Committee is anxious to look at the scientific provisions for that council's work. This matter is quite fundamental. I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to the history of the Nature Conservancy Council. Noble Lords will recall that when the Trend proposals for the research councils were put into effect there was a split in the Nature Conservancy, as it was then known, and institutes like Monks Wood were transferred into the new Natural Environment 265 Research Council. That seemed a perfectly logical and sensible arrangement.
We soon found that it was extremely damaging to the rump, which consisted of the Nature Conservancy Council, because very able scientists had no opportunity to do research. It was very largely as the result of debates in your Lordships' House that the government of the day amended the arrangements to make provision for some of that research to be done by the Nature Conservancy Council and its staff. I do not know how this will work in the future.
There are no fewer than seven new institutions being created. There is considerable anxiety about how the individual members, whether in Scotland or in Wales, will have access and the ability to take part in their own research. However, I do not intend to pass judgment because this is a matter that the Select Committee would wish to look at. I hope that we will have evidence on this subject.
That is a very important area and one that I do not think that they have thought out. I wish that they would look at the history behind nature conservancy. It is a difficult area in which to find the right kind of institutions. It looks as though it could be a bureaucratic mess. Much as one admires the keenness of the Scots to have their own activity, nonetheless it needs very careful working out.
Another area with which the Select Committee is concerned, and in respect of which we welcome action by the Government, is food and protection of the consumer of food. That action will not be effective without a strong research base. I am not sure whether that exists in this country to the extent that is necessary. Furthermore, there is the problem of near market research, from which the Government have withdrawn funds. It sounds a very sensible move, but there are certain things which still need to be backed up by government finance. I urge the Government to look at that matter. The noble Baroness understands these issues very well and I ask her to say that this is something that is very important. It is no good having fine words unless the money and resources are there. They need to be directed very skilfully.
My noble friend in his opening speech from the Opposition Front Bench referred to the Prime Minister's speech at the United Nations. I do not disagree with some of the aspects of the noble Lord's speech, but I believe that the Prime Minister's speech was an outstanding speech. It was a very good speech indeed. We would all do well, whatever our party, to read it. It covered a very wide range of subjects, to some of which I shall refer. It was a very impressive speech. Unfortunately, some of the Ministers do not seem able to carry out some of the things that the Prime Minister would like carried out, and I should like to refer to some of those. Indeed it is as good a speech as one can find on the subject of the environment.
The Prime Minister is relying a great deal on industry to do the job. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, said, there is also a need for government finance. That is one of the areas of difficulty.
266 I have covered most of the topics, including hazardous waste disposal, within the British scene. I should like to turn to the overseas world. It is quite true that the British, like those in other countries, must play their part in the developing world. I should like to draw attention to one area of great success. The world leaders on rain forest research are British. I wish that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, were here. He is a great biologist, like his father, and is one of the leaders in this field. The recent Royal Geographical Society expedition to the Maraca area of Brazil was led by John Hemming, the Director of the Royal Geographical Society. It was one of the biggest and most successful projects of its kind in history. For example, they discovered 200 new species. It was a useful lead-up to the visit by the Secretary of State for the Environment who seized the initiative and has now signed an agreement with the Brazilian Government.
Some of our skills, confined in this small island, were learnt in the early days of the Empire, to places like Borneo. I was surveyor to an expedition nearly 60 years ago to an area where the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook is now working. There is an interest and an ability in this country, which I hope that the Government will encourage. I hope that Ministers are aware of what is going on and that the initiatives of the Royal Geographical Society and the Natural Environment Research Council are taken into account in Government thinking.
I should like to refer to another area in the global field. There are noble Lords in this House who know that the Government's record on space has been quite deplorable. One Minister—I shall not mention his name, although noble Lords will know to whom I refer—did a great job for the European Space Agency. I was told by a very senior man in the European Space Agency that he was so rude to his fellow Europeans that they all united and came to an agreement. That is not the kind of thing that one likes to hear.
I am encouraged by the Prime Minister's speech which promised to provide extra funds, particularly in the remote sensing area. Without more money for remote sensing and without the British playing their part, we shall not be able to cope with some of the issues of global warming. There will be a report from the Select Committee published tomorrow or the next day concerning the need for more scientific support, particularly the support of the European Research Satellite No. 2 and the polar platforms. We very nearly missed out on those and lost a lot of business. I am surprised that the French relented after we insulted them and let us in again, but we are in. I hope that there will be some real interest in this matter. I am encouraged by the attitude of Ministers, which I think has changed. This is an area of the greatest importance. It is fundamental to the whole question of global warming and what will happen.
With regard to oceanography, the Prime Minister referred to the significance of plankton and the need for oceanographers to do a great deal of work. However, the new oceanographic centre at Southampton in which the university has to participate, will have great difficulty in getting the 267 necessary funding to do the job. I hope that Mr. Patten will be able to look outside the immediate responsibility of his own department at the wider aspects of government and co-ordinate those matters. It is a difficult area. Other countries have stronger institutions. However, I am encouraged by what is happening.
The noble Lord, Lord Young, did a good job while he was there. I spoke to him some while after I complained bitterly of what had happened. He said to me: "It is a pity I have left the Government just when you have converted me." I hope that that conversion is continuing.
I should like to conclude by quoting something that was said to me the other day. I thought that it was a valid point and I wrote it down. It concerned global warming and the environment.The one cardinal point is to monitor carefully and over a long term the temperature and other characteristics of the atmosphere and the oceans. There are large random fluctuations, but we know that there are within these fluctuations some made-made effects. They can only be detected and understood by long-term measurements, using remote sensing.That was said by the Astronomer Royal who is the physical secretary of the Royal Society. I think that that was the theme of the Prime Minister's speech. We should like to see actions to give effect to what the right honourable lady said.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Elliot of Harwood
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Layton, for his maiden speech. I had the privilege to know his very distinguished father and I am delighted that he is with us now. I hope that he takes the opportunity to address us on many occasions.
I should like to congratulate the Government on a number of proposals in the Queen's Speech with which I entirely agree. Today we are concerned with agriculture, food safety and the environment.
With regard to agriculture, I should like to make an appeal to the Government which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hesketh, will pass on to the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, since it is almost intrinsically about Scottish agriculture. However, first, I should like to say how much I welcome the proposals for food safety. I have been amazed by the amount of problems which have arisen in recent years and which must obviously be dealt with. I think that the Government's proposals are extremely good, although I do not think that they will be very easy to administer.
Firstly, I think that the registration of food premises and their need for improvement are of great importance. If necessary improvements are not carried out, there will be an order to close the premises. It is an exceedingly strong proposal and one which I entirely support. Secondly, there is a proposal to give local authorities more power to see that food safety laws are truly carried out. I worked for many years in local government and I cannot remember ever being asked whether or knowing whether anyone was doing anything about food 268 safety. Therefore I very much hope that this proposal will be carried out.
Thirdly, there is the proposal to increase the control of food contaminants and dangerous residues which will allow the Minister and local authorities to make inquiries and impose control orders, if necessary. I think that that proposal is most valuable and also a very good one. Fourthly, with the change in food technology there is the proposal to bring up to date the legislation needed when conditions change.
All those factors are of interest to the consumer and to the producer. I hope enormously that this will help to prevent illness. It will also be very valuable for the public. The guidelines which are to be issued to help members of local authorities, who will be the principal people to carry out the instructions, are also excellent, and local authorities will be compensated for the work that they have to do, which will of course be very expensive. However, it is vital, and I congratulate the Government on putting all those aspects into their programmes.
Perhaps I may now say a word about Scottish agriculture. In doing so I speak as one who has been a farmer for something like 50 years in Scotland and in the area where the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, lives. Therefore he knows all about this subject. The phrase "less favoured areas" is a technical description of hill land. However, to me the land is not less favoured: I love it and I live there; but it is a vast area which is technically designated as being less favoured.
In Scotland 90 per cent. of the total land is within this less favoured area; 85 per cent. is designated in that way. Moreover, 84 per cent. of beef cow herds and 92 per cent. of the sheep breeding flocks are located in such areas. That is an enormous amount of agricultural production. It shows that livestock production is by far the biggest economic activity and one of the biggest sources of employment. It is also a stabiliser for the population in those vast areas.
I agree very much with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, about the importance of keeping people in the countryside. If you have beautiful countryside and tidy areas which people love to visit, you must have people living in them. In my view if we do not encourage people to stay in such areas we shall see very devastating results.
No other industry compares with this one. The beef sector is worth £366 million a year and sheep production amounts to £159 million. All this produce is needed: it is sold, it is exported and it is consumed. It is estimated that the export of beef and lamb outside the United Kingdom is now running at a level of £100 million annually. That figure shows how vital this industry is to Scotland and to the rest of the United Kingdom.
The hill livestock compensatory allowance, known by the initials HLCA, has made this possible. I should like to suggest that a reduction in the HLCA grants would have a desperate effect. The suggestion which comes from Brussels of a limitation in the numbers of sheep and cattle would leave many farmers reduced to a very small income. In fact a 269 great many of them, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, has already said, would probably give up.
Hill land is ideal for producing store lambs and store cattle. It also helps the farmers on the better land, as very often they buy our store lambs and our store cattle. They fatten them up on their good land and then sell them direct to the abattoirs for human consumption. That process has been going on for years and it is highly successful.
I know that the Minister of Agriculture has fought a strong battle in Brussels for the agriculture of the United Kingdom. There has been an increase in the numbers which were first proposed by the EC for the less favoured areas. If these restrictions and reductions are not altered the effect on the Highlands and on the hill land —and this is not only in Scotland; areas in the North of England and in the greater part of Wales are in the same category—would be devastating. The reduction in income if sheep farmers in the less favoured areas were to suffer a fall in their income would be at least £3,000 a year for a normal farmer and of course much more for a large farmer.
There is one other aspect which should be considered. We are being urged every day to conserve the beauties of our countryside. Indeed, this was spoken about in today's debate by many noble Lords. If the hills are left derelict, the effect would be a wilderness of weeds, scrub and useless areas which were previously kept down by live animals. This hill farming enables holidaymakers, hikers and so on to walk over the hills in many areas. Farmers would again be attacked by the "green" enthusiasts, when we are the last people to want to spoil the hill land. Indeed, we wish to keep it. We want it to be fertile, we want to do all we can with it and we want to use it in the proper way. The last thing we want is to see it going derelict.
It seems to me that one of the difficulties connected with the EC is that many proposals are directed to small farms and intensive production. Of course such farms exist, but often the owners earn their living from other work and farming is only a secondary occupation to them, rather like the crofting industry in the Highlands of Scotland where fishing and farming go together. One cannot make one's income entirely out of crofting, but one can survive if one adds on something else. I think that such a system is tremendously successful in Europe, but in the area about which I am speaking it is not possible. In the vast areas of England, Scotland and Wales, hill farming is the sole occupation and therefore must be looked upon with great concern. Up until now—and this is another advantage—there has been no overproduction. We have been able to supply that which has been demanded of us and the grants have made it possible to sell at ordinary prices.
I trust that the agricultural Ministers will do all they can to help in the matter. This is one of the most important industries in the United Kingdom. I also hope that they will continue to fight against such restrictions. That is vital. I know the industry; I live among it and I see the people. It is essential that we should be able to continue. The Government have admirable policies in many ways. However, in 270 this particular way they will still have to fight for the interests of the farming community.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, in rising to speak, I too should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on his maiden speech. He was obviously master of his brief and understood very well the particular facet of the subject to which he spoke. I look forward to hearing from him on future occasions, as the subject of the environment has started to take pride of place in our national discussions right across the political spectrum.
It is perhaps difficult to rise and speak on a subject such as housing when we have just put to bed the Local Government and Housing Act. However, I think I have spent almost every Session of Parliament since I have been a Member of another place and of your Lordships' House on a housing Bill in one form or another. Without being accused of sour grapes, I have to say that the housing situation has become progressively worse overall. The only success that the Government can claim, in my opinion, is the forced sale of council houses. That has been debated, it is a fact and it is the only success story that the Government have. It has been mainly achieved because, every time sales have petered out, discounts have been raised to an extent where the Government are now almost giving away much needed public property.
During the debate on amendments to the housing Bill some facts were given which indicate the scale on which the Government have played down the housing position in terms of priorities. The problem began back in 1979 when a man sat on a white charger waiting in the wings —the right honourable Michael Heseltine was the Secretary of State for the Environment. He introduced massive cuts in the public housing sector which have been repeated annually ever since.
During the passage of the Housing Bill I quoted figures which showed that had the level of spending which the Government inherited in 1979—upgraded for the inflation factor—merely continued the public sector alone would have had an extra half million houses under its control to let to people who needed them. Nevertheless, I received no answer when I asked about this. I do not believe an answer exists. It is an undeniable fact.
In addition, the Government behaved in a most disreputable way. I am not talking about this present Government, but when in another place they were dealing with the sale of council houses, successive Secretaries of State underlined clearly that the main reason for the policy was to fund another building programme of local authority houses. The funds that were gathered by the local authorities in capital receipts would be made available and possibly the sale of two houses would produce sufficient to build one new council house. The cost of building houses has now escalated so much that I calculate that it would take the sale of two or three houses had the Government continued that policy.
The Government have behaved disgracefully in the matter. They allowed the local authorities to use 271 only a minor part of the funds over that period. I think that I am right in saying that the legislation which has just gone on to the statute book further restricts the availability of those funds for repairs.
Let us examine briefly what would have happened if the money which the local authorities were allowed in 1979 could have been used as well as their own capital receipts. I shall not deal with London because it is a special case, but I know the big five cities outside London like the back of my hand—Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Newcastle. Most of those local authorities have a waiting list of approximately 20,000 to 30,000. Had they been allowed access to finance—they would not have been given the money, they would have had to ask to be allowed to use it—they would have expected to fund building over a 60-year low rate repayment period. Had they been allowed finance, I predict, and I think I am not far short of being right, that each of those authorities would have had between 10,000 and 15,000 extra local authority properties in their stock available to let in order to rehouse people.
We wonder why we have a situation of mounting homelessness. It is not unknown to link the words of a popular song to a political thought. About three weeks ago, I went with some friends from your Lordships' House to a dinner in the Aldwych area. Taxis were pretty infrequent so we decided to walk back. We thought, "Let's all go down the Strand", and we did. I saw a new phenomenon in the Strand which was not there when I used to stay in the area. In almost every doorway in the Strand there was somebody living in a cardboard box. What an advertisement for a government who have helped—I am not saying that they are solely responsible—by their housing policy to bring about such a situation! Quite recently I myself wondered, when I spoke in your Lordships' House, what that would be like with the onset of winter. We all know that for the last couple of nights we have had the first signs of a severe winter. I wonder what those people felt like, lying in boxes in the Strand. They go right across the age spectrum, they are not just old drop-outs, some are younger people. I think it is a national scandal that such a thing should take place.
There have been debates in your Lordships' House—sponsored not by one political party alone but supported across the political spectrum—involving non-political bodies. There was Faith in the City, a report produced by the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission. There was the Duke of Edinburgh's commission; the Audit Commission. There is now a body called the National Housing Forum, membership of which includes the RIBA, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, the AMA, Shelter, the Association of District Councils —which of course is Conservative controlled —and the Institute of Housing. Those bodies reveal in their latest report that a housing crisis has been caused by the lack of affordable housing. The report—not the Government nor political parties—states that the Government have underestimated by 1 million units the number of extra homes that will be needed by the end of the 272 century. That is the conclusion of the alliance of local authorities and other bodies which I have mentioned.
It all comes in the wake of the Autumn Statement and the Government's promise of extra funds with which to tackle homelessness. The expected allocation by the Chancellor of £100 million for the renovation of run down council house properties will not be enough to prevent a housing catastrophe. Those bodies say that the total money to go to the public sector housing that was announced in the Autumn Statement would build 1,500 council houses.
The Government themselves have forecast the need for 2 million more homes by the year 2000. But the forum argues that under-investment in the 1980s means that 1 million more has to be added to the figure. That means that it believes the situation is twice as bad as I suggested. So I cannot be accused of making an overstatement of the position.
If we are to deal with homelessness, poor housing, bad housing, one of the worst aspects of the deterioration of the present stock is that elderly people who are owner-occupiers can no longer afford to keep their houses in good condition. That may be something which is covered by the Act which has just been passed. However, unless the Government are prepared to deal with the housing programme on the basis of what organisations like the National Housing Forum say, we are totally wasting our time.
The figures I have quoted from charitable housing associations and religious groups which deal with this show that if things do not alter London will have a homeless situation of New York dimensions. There will be 30,000 people sleeping in the streets—not in hostels—like the people in boxes in the Strand. I do not know whether there is a registration system for the Strand, but it looks so unbelievably organised that they appear to do it that way.
Unless the Government are prepared to dig their hands down and deal with this situation, that is what we can look forward to. The sooner they stop having a go at local authorities on every issue and allow them resources to start a building programme—there is not one in existence now of any dimension—the sooner we will start to eat into the dreadful figures that are being quoted. It is no good the Government saying, as has recently been said by the Minister in your Lordships' House, that they no longer see local authorities building houses in large numbers and that it must be done by other agencies. There is no other agency in the land which can do it. The housing association movement would help and would act as a supplementary bonus towards it; but it cannot be the private sector. There is no way that the private sector developers will be able to build low-cost housing, which is so desirable, because they are not charitable institutions.
On that basis I end by saying that I want the Government to take this issue seriously. If they are serious about dealing with the housing problem they will have to talk in terms of multiples of billions of pounds and stop trying to kid us that giving £250 million will solve the housing problem. That will only slightly scratch the surface.
273 Reference has been made in the debate to nuclear energy. This must be put into its proper perspective and I hope your Lordships will bear with me for a couple of minutes, speaking as an engineer. I do not demur one iota from the fact that the financial returns in this country would almost prohibit us from continuing with nuclear energy as a marketable source, but there are as yet no statistics which show that it is the threat to the environment that people such as Mr. Arthur Scargill were making it out to be at the Labour Party conference a few weeks ago. I have the statistics and the figures that he quoted are over 1,000 per cent. out, upwards.
We have a bonus in this country. We can be self-sufficient in coal and the use of oil, but there are huge areas in the third world which have no recourse to any such resources. If those countries are to emerge, the only way it will be achieved is by nuclear energy. It has been said in the past, and it will be said again, that no man is an island and no country is an island. What worries me, on the basis of what has been taking place at the CEGB regarding nuclear energy, is that if we say that we are finished completely, for time immemorial, with nuclear power—the rest of the world will not stop and certainly France will not stop—then some of the very successful markets in which we have been able to operate will go with the wind.
I also have this to say. While we are self-sufficient at present in coal and in oil to a great degree, there may come a time in the future when those resources prove finite. Nobody who has proposed alternatives has yet produced one that will in any way create anything like even a reasonable percentage to replace that which would be eventually lost or would be necessary if those resources proved finite.
I have spent two or three minutes on this argument only because if nuclear energy is to go, based on the financial argument, I accept that; but I do not accept at present—nor do many people inside and outside that industry—that any case has been made on the basis of contamination or damage to the environment. That case has yet to be proved. When it is I will accept it, but it has not yet been proved.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, does he agree with me that the great advantage of nuclear energy is that you can get more energy per pound out of uranium than you can get out of any other available fuel? However desirable the alternatives such as wind and wave energy—and they are desirable—they are not immediately available in a way which he and I would desire.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, my noble friend makes the case on that point far more eloquently than I could. However, I do not wish to turn this into a debate on nuclear energy because I have no doubt that your Lordships will come back to a debate on energy in the near future. That will be the time to expand on the case and go into detail on the views that I believe we all hold quite sincerely.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Hampton
My Lords, I rise to speak briefly on transport and its effect on the environment in this country. On 15th November last the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington, said that the Government,are intellectually incapable of applying themselves to the whole question of a co-ordinated transport policy"—[Official Report, 15/11/89; col. 1334.]—strong meat, but at present seemingly true though Mr. Patten of the Department of the Environment looks like bringing good influence to bear on Mr. Parkinson at the Department of Transport.
What is the problem regarding roads? It is that by the Government's own forecast there will be—note the certainty; no suggestion of might be—between 83 per cent. and 142 per cent. more traffic than today in the foreseeable future; they suggest by about the year 2025. It is estimated by an independent source that just parking all the new cars that are forecast would need an area larger than Berkshire, and if they all moved at once they would fill a road from London to Edinburgh 257 lanes wide.
In preparing a speech on Saturday I wrote: "I should have thought that such a forecast would have made the Government realise that our whole way of life could be at risk". Today I am a little relieved to read in The Times that at least Mr. Patten considers this increase in cars an unacceptable option. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to this and I agree with him, but I was a little sad that the noble Baroness put environment well after food in the order of her speech.
Ten years ago I watched a TV programme on Japan. Pictures were shown of traffic jams and fumes which it was said often led to illness. Also shown were scenes of the Tokyo Underground where passengers were packed in as no self-respecting sardine would tolerate. In the same programme we were told that the Japanese had the highest standard of living in the world. I would argue that quality of life is quite a different matter and much more important.
In a letter to The Times of 12th September this year Mr. Peter Talbot Wilcox said:Ultimately a choice has to be made by each voter between ever higher incomes and material consumption in a deteriorating environment (both in the workplace and at home) and lower income in a less pressurised one. At present neither of the main political parties has shown the courage to present this choice to the electorate".He spoke well, and it is relevant to the search for a realistic transport policy to tackle problems that may face us in the decades to come.
Let us look at what is proposed at present. The illustration on the Government's White Paper Roads for Prosperity for me graphically demonstrates the dangers. It shows the Lofthouse interchange in Yorkshire between the M.1 and M.62. It is an impressive engineering feat, a massive road structure, designed, as the picture suggests, very adequately to cope with the flow of traffic. But it is clearly imposed on the surrounding countryside and not part of it. Significantly, in the top left-hand corner of the illustration are the only signs of local life, tolerated but not encouraged, and not even with easy access to the motorway itself.
275 I understand that the Government have announced a major new road-building programme of £12 billion to be spent over the next 10 years in widening many existing motorways and trunk roads and building new ones. I am not convinced that that will improve our quality of life. The M.25 orbital road round London seems to have created as many problems as it has solved.
In a thought-provoking speech in the debate on transport investment in London on 3rd May 1989 my noble friend Lord McNair said (at col. 228 of Hansard)—and I cannot resist quoting him:One feels that poor George Orwell might just as well not have bothered writing 1984 if bureaucrats can still coin such egregious euphemisms as 'western environmental improvement route'. If it is ever built, which God forbid, what will it actually do? For a short time it will enable motorists to drive flat out from a traffic jam near Olympia to another one on the Embankment. After a short time, of course, like the M25, it will become a traffic jam in its own right".Tragically, John McNair, who believed that we were under threat from too many cars, was killed in a car crash in early August.
Roads for Prosperity proudly declares in another euphemism that:Protecting and enhancing the environment will continue to be a major feature of the Government's road building plans".I submit that while by-passes keep traffic out of towns and villages, neither they nor any road widening projects protect or enhance their environment.
Likewise, I fear that I have no great confidence in the proud statement in the Queen's Speech that the Government:will continue to attach very great importance to protecting the national and international environment".Roads to Ruin, a response to the White Paper by nine organisations concerned with protecting our environment, comes nearer to the truth. It states that:These new roads—and the extra traffic they are supposed to cater for—will cause serious environmental damage … New approaches are needed to Britain's transport problems".It has been said that some necessary action could be politically highly inexpedient. Perhaps I may put forward some possibilities, some more questioning that determinant. The first concerns public transport—and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, also touched on this matter. Most of our European partners spend much more in this field than we do in Britain. Surely it makes sense, in order to protect our environment and to conserve our resources, to encourage the greater use of buses and trains. With park-and-ride schemes into towns and cities parking problems could be much relieved. Some loss of convenience would have to be accepted but less fraught travel should result. The arguments are well known and I shall not repeat them here beyond saying that 50 drivers in one bus rather than 50 cars makes sense to me.
The second possibility concerns phasing out company car subsidies. I am told that 80 per cent. of traffic coming into London constitutes company cars. Following up what I have just said, surely that is a mistaken tax concession.
276 The third possibility involves introducing a differential road fund licence according to the size of car. That could help, not least from the parking point of view. The fourth concerns paying a substantial tax credit to the no-car family and introducing a progressively higher rate of road fund tax for a family's second, third and subsequent cars. Lastly here, and somewhat drastically, it was suggested to me only the other day that if prosperity is not, in time, to lead to chaos we may have to put some restrictions on private travel by road and also by air.
We can leave the situation to deteriorate so far that many people will just opt out of travelling, or we can accept that a better solution may be to exercise some personal restraint for the common good. I note that Mr. Patten has suggested putting up petrol tax. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, again referred to that point, but too simple a policy of pricing people off the road might be highly unpopular.
Perhaps I may draw to a close on an emotive note. I have long been a supporter of the Council for the Protection of Rural England (the CPRE). It hurts me that every mile of motorway absorbs 25 acres of land and that every year up to 4,000 acres of rural land is lost to roads. The noble Baroness mentioned a rather higher figure but I believe that she included forestry. Otherwise I am not certain how she reached the higher figure. The Government's proposed road-building programme will have a devastating effect on the countryside. In towns and cities it is widely accepted that car parks are often the ugliest buildings. The CPRE used regularly to use those magnificent words from Shakespeare's King Richard the Second when old John of Gaunt speaks of:This other Eden, demi-paradise",and:This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England".Today, alas, the CPRE uses those words much less frequently, I suppose because it is difficult to accept the spreading of a concrete jungle as enhancing a demi-paradise. I may be accused of cowardice, but I am not sorry that I shall not be alive halfway through the next century. We need to consider carefully what sort of land we shall be leaving to future generations.
I noted that the noble Baroness ended with words about a green and pleasant land. I was rather shaken the other day when I drove for the first time on the M.42 south of Birmingham to be told that it went right through a green belt and that that was the obvious place to site it.
I shall say no more here except to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on a very impressive maiden speech.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, in September I was in the Caribbean—in Jamaica—looking at the tragic results of Hurricane Gilbert last year. Hurricane Gilbert reached a speed of 200 miles an hour, which was believed to be the optimum speed for a hurricane. While I was in the Caribbean we 277 were dodging Hurricane Hugo, which travelled all the way down the Carolina coast. I do not know what speed that hurricane reached but I know that it is virtually certain that in the future hurricanes will reach much greater speeds and cause much greater devastation.
I say that because hurricanes are caused by the warming of the sea, both on the surface and in the depths, and we now know that the sea is becoming warmer. We know also that during the 1980s we have had seven of the hottest summers on record. They have brought droughts not just to Ethiopia but also, last year, to the grain belt of the United States so that stocks of grain fell to only 15 per cent. above the basic level. In the same decade we have seen a vast increase in the frequency of floods. In the 1960s the number of floods was under 15; in the 1970s it was just under 25; in the 1980s it has risen above 28. In other words, floods are increasing.
There is a long history of warnings about the natural phenomena of which I am speaking. It goes back to the early 19th century, to a Frenchman in 1827. Again, in 1884 at Uppsala in Sweden, there was a specific warning of the warming of the earth. More recently, in the 1950s, the Scripps Institute set up a special monitoring service because of the evidence that it had collected of the danger of global warming. Today all reputable scientists agree that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising. Those of us who warned about that —and some of us have been doing so for 20 years now —have been treated with scorn. Today it is received scientific opinion, even by the scientist who is the Prime Minister.
The process has taken a long time and has consequences. The university with which I am proud to be associated—the University of East Anglia—has been studying climatology as far back as the 1880s. It has found that, since the 1880s, the deviation in temperature has been three times the normal and that over the century the average global temperature has risen by one degree Fahrenheit. Giving evidence to a congressional hearing last year, James Hansen from NASA said:It is time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here".When talking in scientific terms, one never talks in absolutes or in absolute truth. We can talk only in probabilities. When a scientist of that distinction uses the term,the evidence is pretty strong",it is time to act, not to say that we shall wait for further scientific evidence.
It is now widely known that the warming of the earth is caused by the emission of carbon dioxide from cars and from the burning of fossil fuels and forests, deforestation and the expanding deserts. But it is also caused by the emission of methane, which is 20 times as potent as carbon dioxide, of nitrous oxide and of the CFCs of which we have spoken here many times before. In fact, 50 per cent. of the greenhouse effect results from those gases. If one adds those gases to the carbon dioxide, one can see what in our society causes the pollution of the atmosphere and the warming of the globe.
278 It is estimated that, if the intensity of carbon dioxide and the other gases doubles from the era before the industrial revolution, the average temperature of the globe will increase by between 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius or by 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Is that happening? When the Scripps Institute set up its monitoring service in 1958, it found that carbon dioxide was increasing by one seventh part per million. That seems very little. In the early 1980s it found that that increase had risen from one seventh to 1½ parts. More recently it has been estimated that it is now 2½ parts. That is the speed of the increase in the emission of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
Of course, industrial production has grown 50-fold during the last 100 years. Four fifths of that growth has been since 1950, mostly as a result of the use of fossil fuels. The world's population has trebled during this century, but it will double again in the next 30 years with all the consequences for energy use and all the dangers from the use and the burning of fossil fuels. As my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey pointed out, the Department of Energy itself has estimated that, if present trends continue, unless something is done, the emission of carbon dioxide in this country alone will increase by 73 per cent. in the next 30 years.
We should consider adding to that the tremendous growth of population in the third world and the growth in its use of energy. Those people need it a great deal more than we do in the Western world. They need fridges and heating. We should add all that to what is happening at present, and has been happening over the past hundred years in the developed world, and then imagine the prospect for the next 20 to 30 years. In China alone the aim is to double coal consumption by the year 2000. We are talking about a very small period; it is only ten years ahead.
It is more than time, in our own interests as well as those of the third world, that we devised policies for exporting benign technologies from this country and from the developed countries as a whole. They are perhaps more expensive but they will help the development of the third world and will increase its desperately low standard of living without imitating what we have done and polluting the atmosphere at the same time.
As a result of that heating, the rising of the seas, the increasing storms, the extra floods and droughts and the effect on crops and animals, this planet will be drastically changed over the next 10 to 20 years. There is no way that we can stop it. The most that we can do is retard its development. We cannot stop it because what has been done over the past 100 years and what is being done now cannot be reversed. We know what will happen to the climate. We do not know all the effects. We are aware however that they will be drastic and that life will be changed drastically.
In those circumstances, what is the Government's reaction to what in fact is a global crisis? First they say, "We cannot do anything. Only international action can be taken". That is an alibi. It is the job, the task and the responsibility of our Government 279 so to frame their policies that they play a leading role. International action is essential, but if international action is not being taken it is no excuse for us to do nothing.
The Prime Minister's speech to the United Nations has been quoted. Her remedy was to go for the nuclear option. Unlike some of my noble friends on these Benches I do not believe that the nuclear option is an option at all. In the first place it is impossibly expensive and will divert resources from realistic remedies. It will also leave mountains of toxic waste. In any case, it would only affect 1 per cent. of today's carbon emissions and would require a constant—indeed a daily—building of nuclear reactors.
The second response from the Government has been that market forces will be the solution. Market forces? Market forces have produced this crisis. The Government have only to look at the mess they made over electricity privatisation to see what market forces will do. Market forces reject the nuclear cost when it comes to spending money and investment—no, that must be done by the Government. In fact it is the consumerism, the greed and the Mammon of materialism preached throughout this decade that have brought about the crisis that we now face. Of course it goes back beyond this decade but it has the same roots: consumerism, greed and materialism.
As mentioned by several speakers, we have seen the Government put massive amounts of investment into roads. Roads for what? Roads to produce more emission of carbon dioxide—is that the aim? How can the Government claim to be concerned about the environment when they are building roads that will be occupied by more and more vehicles emitting carbon dioxide?
Again, as my noble friend Lord McIntosh pointed out and as has been mentioned several times from this side of the House—and I do not wish to embarrass the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, who sits opposite and answers on these questions but he has never answered this one—the budget of the Government's Energy Efficiency Office was cut last year from £24.5 million to £15 million this year. There will be no increase in it during the lifetime of this Parliament, which means that from now on there will be a cut in real terms. The noble Viscount could tell me only that this shows that the programme has been successful. Does he mean successful in promoting energy efficiency? Where is the energy efficiency to be seen in this country when in every electricity generator 65 per cent. of the heat is lost.
The Prime Minister went to Kuala Lumpur and vetoed the proposed environmental fund. She sent her Minister to Narvik where the British Government vetoed the targets to be aimed at for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Is that the concern felt by the Government for what is now universally known to be a global crisis?
I said that what has been done is irrevocable. The most that we can do is look for amelioration and retardation of the processes that are now in train. It 280 has been suggested by the honourable Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, Sir Hugh Rossi, the chairman of the Environmental Committee in another place that an environmental commission should be set up. That suggestion was echoed by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, in the Private Member's Bill introduced in this House which I very much welcome. I welcome an environmental commission provided that that commission has the power to go through the budgets and actions of every department of state and examine them for their environmental impact.
What are the Government doing to alert local authorities and provide resources particularly in those areas along the coastlines which will suffer from the rise in the sea level? What are they doing to alert them to the dangers what will come within the next 10 years? What preparations are they making to provide them with the resources to build up their defences? What are the Government doing so far as concerns the conservation of energy?
According to the Government's own figures an investment of £3.8 billion could cut primary energy use in this country by nearly 20 per cent. That would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 per cent. and would save consumers 12 billion a year. That should be compared with the cost of a nuclear power station—£2 billion—reflecting less than 1 per cent. of the United Kingdom's energy use.
What are the Government doing about the renewable sources of energy: wind, water, sun and thermal energy? How does it happen that the Government will not provide the same degree of resources for research and building up renewable sources of energy that they have done for nuclear energy?
In the last resort we come down to ourselves. Eighty-five per cent. of all carbon dioxide emissions come from the industrialised world; that is, from us. Unless the way of life of the people in the industrialised countries over the past half century—which has been altering every inch of the planet every hour —are changed, it may well be that the human race itself is doomed on this planet. Unless we change our attitude to the use of cars, the building and operation of factories, forest clearing (done so much by the multinationals), air conditioners, the herding of cattle that give off methane, central heating, fridges and washing-machines and unless we radically and traumatically alter our ways of using these things, we face global disaster.
These are dramatic and traumatic changes in lifestyle which are imperative if life is to survive. It has been said that man's tenure of the planet is as a minute to the earth's day. Fifty-nine seconds of that minute have now passed. It is our repsonsibility in public life to warn all citizens of the real crisis facing them, their children and their grandchildren. It is our task to propose and to implement those actions which may retard, though they will not stop, the processes which now inevitably are leading to disaster for the whole human race.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, my first pleasant task is to congratulate my noble friend Lord Layton on his memorable maiden speech. Like others, I look forward to hearing him again in the future. Perhaps I may also congratulate my noble friends Lord Holderness and Lady Blatch on the two extremely good speeches that we heard almost a week ago.
It is nearly a week since Her Majesty outlined the Government's programme for this Session. The underlying theme is one of quality of life. It is very appropriate that the subjects today are food, agriculture, and —the subject on which I shall concentrate in the few words I wish to say this evening —the environment.
I believe that the environment is all about the quality of life in the air that we breathe, the cleanliness of our streets and our rivers and the method of travel that we choose to take whether it be public transport or a car. I welcome the inclusion in the gracious Speech of the proposed new green Bill and in particular the litter section of that Bill. Over the past few years our air has become cleaner, as have our buildings and our rivers, but our streets, parks and countryside are a disgrace. As a Londoner I am appalled at what I see in my capital city. People drop litter where they stand when just a few feet away is a receptacle for them to use. A few months ago I had some friends staying from America. They said how clean London was. I looked at them in wonder. I suppose that London may be cleaner than some American cities but not many.
I welcome all that is in the gracious Speech, including the announcement of what will be spent on our roads and transport over the next few years. There are of course those people who argue that improvements in roads will lead only to a further deterioration of the environment. They might well have argued the same way before we had any motorways, in which case the country would long since have come to a complete stop. There really can be no argument about the fact that reducing traffic delays and reducing journey time, with engines running less, will have a most positive and beneficial effect on the quality of the atmosphere. It must also be obvious to everyone who drives on our road network that to wait 10 or 12 years for a major project to be completed is far too long. Already some of our motorways such as the M.1 and M.25 are becoming the biggest parking lots in Europe, if not the world, if they are not so already.
The subject of roads leads me to talk of safety, not only on our roads but also our streets and pavements. I listened with great care to the Queen's Speech for any hint that the Government intended to introduce proposals put before them in the Home Report and by Dr. North and his colleagues in their review of the road traffic law. Sadly, apart from the phrase, "Other measures will be laid before you", I did not hear anything which gives me any confidence that we shall see such Bills in this Session.
The North Report has been welcomed on all sides and by everyone working in the field of traffic safety. I have not yet heard any serious criticisms of its 282 proposals. Indeed, most commentators see it as a major step forward in the war against crimes on our roads which we glibly call accidents. We cannot much longer continue to condone the death of 14 people every day on our roads. I acknowledge the considerable amount of good work that is already taking place. It is quite clear to me that it is possible significantly to reduce the annual number of road casualties but it requires the will and a commitment on the part of central government, of Parliament, of local government, of British management, of drivers and of all of us who use the roads.
I am sure that there are many Members of your Lordships' House who share with me the frustration and disappointment that we shall not see a road traffic Bill this Session or a public utilities street works Bill. I remember sitting next to Desmond Fennell, QC, at a RoSPA presentation at the Guildhall not long ago when he said that these investigations and reports were all well and good provided that they were acted on and were not put on the shelf to collect dust. I urge Her Majesty's Government to act swiftly on both the reports that I have mentioned before the dust becomes too thick.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Parry
My Lords, my warm congratulations go to the noble Lord, Lord Layton, who in his hirsute glory and confident speech looked less like a maiden than anyone I have ever seen. It is a pleasure to welcome him to the House.
Under the Addison Rules it is necessary for me to declare an interest. I am President of the British Institute of Cleaning Science, was the charter Chairman of the British Cleaning Council, and for seven years was Chairman of the Council for Wales of the Keep Britain Tidy organisation. Currently I am pleased to be national chairman of the now re-organised Tidy Britain Group which used to be the Keep Britain Tidy organisation. These are all honorary positions but, since I am non-executive chairman of a cleaning and catering company from which I do profit, I draw the attention of the House to the fact. What I say in the debate, however, will reflect my views and not necessarily those of the organisations listed.
The whole House will have been pleased that the gracious Speech committed Her Majesty's Government to introducing a Bill "to provide new powers to control pollution and waste". The assurances also given on the very great importance attaching to "protecting the national and international environment" have been equally welcome, as has the reassurance that the Government,will work with business, local government, the voluntary sector and local people to regenerate our cities".I was as pleased as other noble Lords to hear from the Minister the stern words warning all those responsible for generation of waste and litter that they would be held responsible; and her very personalised rebuff for litterers with her promise of effective and properly enforced legislation to bring them to book.
For a moment I should like to focus on the final sentence of the paragraph on the environment in the 283 Speech from the Throne. Inner city regeneration is vital. The need to co-operate in renewal programmes with business, local government, the voluntary sector and local people in regeneration programmes is clear. In the course of the next few minutes I hope to say something about the help that some of these sectors are already giving and plan to give in the next decade to such programmes.
Perhaps I may register a specific disappointment. It is not only in the inner cities that such programmes of community co-operation in reviving and restructuring social living and working conditions are necessary. The Speech from the Throne should have said that also. Over the past 50 years, and for a syndrome of reasons, almost every town and village in Britain has suffered from its local and small-scale form of the debilitation that in metropolitan areas is diagnosed as being inner city blight. Rural, urban and suburban communities have endured a form of creeping paralysis in social services, social institutions and supportive functions from once powerful and inspiring voluntary organisations.
The result has been a nation-wide degradation of the quality of life in the towns, villages and inner cities of this land. Because great cities are what they are, their problems are more immediately obvious and most loudly protested. Because society is as it is, the effect of the decay at the heart of our smaller communities is not uniformly experienced by the British population. It is perfectly possible to live a full and contented life within the freedoms afforded by our democratic constitutional monarchy. I suspect that that is what most people of my generation have done throughout most of our lives. We have not noticed the community blight and the deterioration of the services and institutions which 50 or 60 years ago played a part in shaping us for the comfortable standards of our present living.
I have tabled a request for a discussion on the subject and I hope that in time it will arise in your Lordships' House. Therefore, I shall detain you no longer today on the issue. However, later the Minister may wish to tell the House whether the Government have plans to extend the benefits of inner city resuscitation programmes to the rural, urban and suburban communities.
The Tidy Britain Group is one of the basically voluntary organisations with which the Government will be working throughout Britain in order to protect the national environment and to control pollution and the fouling and littering of the communal nest. Like previous Labour and Conservative administrations, the Government have worked closely with Keep Britain Tidy, and during the last decade with the renamed and reconstituted Tidy Britain Group and its associated Beautiful Britain in Bloom Campaign. They have nominated the reformed Tidy Britain Group as the principal agency on which to focus national attention for cleaning, tidying and beautifying Britain and the setting up of programmes for doing so.
For its part, the group has been happy to accept greater responsibility in all those directions. It has already undertaken research projects that have been 284 welcomed by the Department of the Environment as being basic in the evolution and evaluation of the policies that one hopes will emerge in the Bill shortly to come before Parliament.
The House will know that the Keep Britain Tidy organisation was created 35 years ago in 1954 as a result of a resolution of the annual conference of the Women's Institute. In those not very green years—that is, politically speaking—the ladies were appalled by the increasing levels of litter, rubbish dumping and bad community hygiene in England's green and pleasant land. They demanded that something should be done about it on a national scale. I ask the House to read "Britain" into the hymn, the quotation and the policy.
Relying on the goodwill of the Women's Institute, related national organisations and eventually local government, well-disposed companies, business organisations, the voluntary sector generally and local people, an organisation began its work. Education was seen to be fundamental to that work. Securing legislation to effect an improvement was a longer-term aim. There was existing legislation and I underline the fact that too often it was ignored. Bad habits in the management of collection, transportation, disposal and treatment of waste materials appeared to go unnoticed, unreported and inevitably unpunished and unresolved. In the communal scale, corporate bad habits reflected as well as encouraged individual bad habits in the disposal of family waste and personal litter. Private space—that is, the home and the car—was usually clean and tidy. However, corporate space—that is, the street and the car park—was fouled.
The slightly post-imperial organisation which was structured on the Women's Institute resolution was initially effective in focusing nation-wide attention on the problems. Its education programmes, particularly at junior school level, and its increasing involvement in bigger cleaning schemes with local authorities can be counted as successful. Under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen Mother it co-ordinated award encouragement schemes which gave an impetus to communities and companies to become involved in anti-litter campaigns. Indeed, perhaps it helped to generate some of the concerns expressed in your Lordships' House today.
Yet despite the successes and all the effort, Britain became more and more untidy and scruffy, and often filthy and offensive to residents and visitors. As chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board from 1976 onwards, I was glad to accept simultaneous chairmanships of the Council for Wales and the Keep Britain Tidy organisation. Wales was anything but tidy, so even the organisation's title was a misnomer and a euphemism that disguised the huge problems which the group sought and worked to solve.
As our nation realigned its economy to a shrinking heavy industrial base, the attraction of new industry and more visitors became more vital. Neither industry nor tourists are attracted by bad communal housekeeping. Tidying Britain was no longer a matter of responding to the altruism of the Women's Institute and others. It was essential to put our house in order. Tidying, beautifying and cleansing Britain had become an economic imperative for the nation.
285 As the problems were itemised and analysed it became clear that the resources traditionally available for cleansing Britain were extremely limited. For far too long and under successive governments Britain had expected far too much for far too little expenditure on its cleaning services. While you do not clear problems by throwing money at them, you aggravate them by underfunding the systems and agencies, whether public or private, which are competent and equipped to ameliorate them.
Cleaning Britain depends on the funding of effective services, on monitoring the work contracted on behalf of the community and on enforcing with strong and effective legislation compliance with the terms of appointment and with the law. That must apply whether the contractors are from the private or the public sector.
In the decaying national sewerage system, along national transport routes, in mining operations and in the general maintenance of the fabric of our community resources, for far too long we have expected too much, spent too little and been reluctant to give real power to enforcing legislation. The anti-grime squads have little cash and enforcement law has no teeth. While there is a general welcome for the principles of the Government's proposed environmental protection Bill, including the provisions for cleansing standards within a set code of practice, there are serious questions yet to be asked about the funding.
However, the Tidy Britain Group has nominated 1990 as its year of special national effort. It is an apt timing for a number of reasons. The year happens to be the 90th year in the life of the group's patron, Her Majesty the Queen Mother. It begins the last decade of this century and ends with the beginning of the next century. For those reasons the Tidy Britain Group is mounting a "Clean Nineties" programme designed to bring about marked and measured improvements in the standards of cleanliness in our nation as we move towards the year 2000. It coincides with the national year of emphasis on tourism, from which Britain now earns more of its income than it does from its offshore oil fields.
The Tidy Britain Group is now far better structured than it has ever been to take on the additional challenges of such a series of concentrated problems. The nation is alert to the need for it. Having recruited as its director-general one of Europe's leading authorities on the environment, Professor Graham Ashworth, who was until 1987 Professor of Environmental Studies at Salford University, and having charged him with the task of completely reorganising the structure, constitution, research facilities, funding and programmes of the group, we have evidence that it is more competent than ever before to cope with the problems and to recruit general support.
Part of the evidence for that contention is found in the increasing enthusiasm of major companies to associate with the group and to contribute major sponsorship in support of its activities. I am sure that the group would wish to draw attention to its debt to those who created and sustained the Keep 286 Britain Tidy organisation from its inception, as well as to acknowledge the great and continuing support of the department and its officers and the various, and sometimes bewilderingly various, Secretaries of State and Ministers who have held responsibility for environmental matters.
In all of its activities the group aims to stimulate the creation or recreation of a beautiful Britain in both urban and rural situations. In order even to begin to do so, it knows that it must change public attitudes in association with government and other bodies towards litter, untidiness and ugliness and then maintain those attitudes, using them to will, fund and pressure change so that Britain again becomes a green and pleasant land.
The redefined strategy for achieving that involves campaigning, education and action programmes which are already well under way in England, Wales and Scotland and could shortly be incorporated also in Northern Ireland. The House will not wish me to detail any of those areas of operation here and now but any of your Lordships or members of the public can be given full information on application to the group's national headquarters at Wigan Pier.
Before I return to funding perhaps I may say a few words about enforcement. The Tidy Britain Group believes that perhaps the most vexed question in the business of litter management is in what is perceived to be a failure to use the law. It is committed to encouraging an enforcement policy for existing and new litter legislation and calls for a review of local by-laws to secure more efficient anti-litter enforcement.
The group is in discussion with the Home Office, the Magistrates Association and the associations of local authorities and police forces to produce more consistency of action on prosecutions. The House will recognise a dilemma there. On a crowded court list, where major and even lifetaking crimes are listed for trial, offences of littering and untidying the community might seem trivial in association. There are those who suggest the setting up of special community offence courts to deal specifically with offences of the littering kind. The House, with its ranks of learned lawyers, might enjoy debating that proposition.
My view is that unless existing and new legislation against litter louts is enforced, it is useless. Even the proposed increase in the maximum fine is irrelevant if the courts continue to impose the minimum. The group believes, as I do, that in our democracy we must educate, educate, educate even if and while we legislate, legislate, legislate.
I return to a contention which I made at the beginning of my remarks and to one or two inescapable issues relating to the funding of the cleansing and tidying up of this nation. I have here the basic proposals of the White Paper. I have no intention of reading them but I draw to your Lordships' attention the fact that there are some nine, mostly new, responsibilities imposed on local authorities. While we have been carrying out our talks with the local authorities to find out how we can best work together on this business of cleaning Britain, one of the biggest criticisms which they have 287 levelled at the Government when asked for their comments on the proposals is the lack of resources given to them to carry out the necessary improvements in street cleansing.
The Sunday Times recently hinted that the Government may be prepared to increase the revenue support grant to prevent local authorities having to increase the poll tax in their areas. At present we are waiting to hear from the DoE to confirm whether that is the case. If the Government are willing to increase grants in some cases, that is obviously of great importance to local authorities. Therefore, I ask the Minister to say today whether additional funding might be forthcoming for cleansing schemes from the revenue support grant.
While welcoming many of the proposals, councils and councillors warn against hasty legislation which would leave systems underfunded for their increased responsibilities in the future. My noble friend Lord Dean of Beswick was also concerned about local authorities. Having served for some years in local government remote from Westminster, I believe that the essential issue is the rebuilding of contact and respect between Whitehall and town hall. The cold war of attrition between them is an astonishing feature of this decade. They should respond to peace elsewhere. A little local glasnost would be welcome from the centre. We all need to be seen to be working together in our concern for this lovely land of ours and preventing the unconcerned from fouling it.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ The Earl of Selborne
My Lords, throughout this debate we have quite rightly been reminded time and time again of man's great ability to pollute his environment and to pollute his world. Again we are correctly told that much of the global pollution is irreversible.
We need to identify new technologies which will if not reverse then at least ameliorate those inexorable tendencies. I believe that within the Environment Protection Bill, as we heard from my noble friend the Minister, there is one measure which needs to be looked at very carefully and which may make a very significant contribution in global terms; I refer to the Bill which will control the use of genetically manipulated organisms. That will clearly be an issue of great controversy.
Naturally, there is much public concern when we talk about genetically manipulated organisms and people wonder what on earth that entails. Equally one can quickly see that provided there are controls—which I am sure will be provided in the Bill—the opportunity to contribute both to pollution control and food safety could be very wide reaching.
For example, let us take pest control. The use of pesticides, herbicides and growth regulators of one kind or another on our crops is a matter of considerable concern. For many years it has been promised, although admittedly not yet achieved in many crops, that with genetically manipulated crops there would be a resistance bred into the plant by that means which would reduce the need for agrochemicals or even remove the need on some 288 crops. It is therefore no wonder that the agrochemical companies are buying into the genetically based sciences. Resistance to weeds could be very important in reducing those herbicides.
More importantly on the global scene, we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, and other noble Lords how the deforestation and encroachment of desert is making an enormous contribution to the greenhouse effect. If we can breed and produce novel crops which will grow in saline or drought conditions to a great extent, that will do much to stabilise desert and help reafforest.
That is not quite so far reaching as it may sound. For example, resistance to salt is a perfectly common characteristic of a number of organisms. It is not so common to have resistance to salt in crops of commercial significance. Therefore, I recommend that aspect of the Bill to your Lordships. I know that in this forum of all forums it will receive a particularly fair hearing and careful consideration where others may not be quite so dispassionate.
The gracious Speech refers also to the Food Safety Bill. Although this point may alarm some noble Lords, it may be that genetically engineered bacteria could be used to control the bacteria which we recognise as pollutants. New technologies must be seen to make a contribution. The noble Lord, Lord Hatch, referred to the enormously greater effect of methane over carbon dioxide in contributing to the greenhouse effect. Any new technologies which can help to reduce the impact of methane—for example, methane digesters on a world scale—will be technologies well worth looking at.
My noble friend the Minister referred to the successful event in Hyde Park in May. It was an enormous agricultural show held in the middle of London over three days. She referred to it in the context of litter. Those were three extremely hot days in May. From the middle of Hyde Park one could have imagined that one was anywhere in the countryside until one looked across to Park Lane and saw in the hazy atmospheric conditions the astonishing pollution from the interminable traffic jam of cars. If it did nothing else it demonstrated the contrast between the relatively free atmospheric conditions in which many farmers live and those that Londoners have to put up with. It is clearly unacceptable that such conditions should obtain. I am sure that measures to increase the use of catalytic converters would produce an improvement. The Government deserve credit for the relatively quick uptake of lead free petrol. That was induced by tax incentives. I have no doubt that tax incentives could be equally effective with regard to catalytic converters. That is by no means the whole solution. Many more drastic measures will no doubt be required in the long run.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, was absolutely right to remind us that if agriculture is depressed we are unlikely to see much conservation in the countryside. It is inevitable that farmers will spend money on conservation when they have some to spend. The noble Lord spent it on daffodils. I though that he came from Scotland, not from Wales. Nevertheless we spend a little extra only when we have it.
289 Neither set aside nor the drive for increased yields on arable land have much to offer in terms of conservation. They usually lead to larger fields and higher inputs. Agriculture is tending to polarise. As prices go down, two measures can be taken. One can either go for diversification, extensification and set aside or one can try ever harder to increase yields. That is still going on. Cereal yields are increasing with possibly little benefit to conservation. Diversification and organic farming has no more than limited value. I suspect that the Minister would agree with me. It has already been pointed out that diversification has a fairly limited application on many farms. By whatever projection one uses—even the most optimistic—organic farming has only a minor role to play. There can be extremely undesirable side effects, especially in regard to the use of organic fertilisers.
As I move on to the next part of my remarks I declare an interest as chairman of the Agricultural and Food Research Council. If it follows that we have to try to retain against pressures which will not go away—no one expects further support through the CAP—a viable agricultural industry, there must be agricultural systems which are seen to be effective and which will keep farming viable. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, pointed out, the near market cuts, which many of us understand, are damaging to agricultural systems research.
As my noble friend the Minister has explained many times in the House, it has been the Government's intention to pass the burden of near market research on to industry while the Government pick up the bill for basic and strategic research, a concept with which I have every sympathy. However, farmers and others in agriculture now recognise that they depend on grassland and arable research if they are to compete over the next 10 or 20 years.
The cuts were made on an unrealistic timescale. The first announcements on near market cuts were made only two years ago. It was only a year or so ago that individual projects were identified. Now farmers are saying that they need a little more time. The Government are likely to be cynical. They will say that as farmers, the agrochemical industry and others did not pick up the bill before, what reason do they have to suppose that they will in the future. It is too late now because the die is cast, but I suspect that in 10 years' time we shall deeply regret the loss of the infrastructure as a result of the closure of a number of sites both at the AFRC and at the ministry.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, my noble friend mentioned two of the three parts of research and development for which the Government are not only continuing to pay but paying for with larger amounts. He omitted the public good side of the research, which includes animal health and the environment. It would be wrong to leave that side out.
The Earl of Selbourne
My Lords, my noble friend will remember that I referred specifically to grassland and arable research. That research is clearly production oriented. Some of it, but not all, will 290 come into the category to which my noble friend refers. It is the work in the infrastructure, for which farmers and industry should be paying to a much greater extent, that is to be lost. That will be needed if farming systems which must compete in the next 10 or 20 years are to be viable. When farmers come to try to fund research and development for themselves there simply will not be the infrastructure that has been there in the past.
We shall have an opportunity next week to talk about the Food Safety Bill. I welcome enormously the assurance the customer will now be afforded that throughout the food chain proper checks and proper information will be available so that he can determine what is safe. The problem at the moment, as is so often the case in these public and rather spirited debates, is that the main issue of microbiological contamination is overlooked for the more fashionable concerns of pesticide residues, preservatives and the like. The advice which the Ministry of Agriculture has been given and has accepted time and again has been that, while there are such problems, by far the largest is microbiological contamination. It is to that problem particularly that we should be addressing ourselves.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Gallacher
My Lords, we have had a useful coverage of the subject. Quite remarkably having regard to the number of speakers, few aspects of the environment, agriculture and food have not at least been mentioned during the course of the debate. I propose not to say very much about the proposal in the gracious Speech to strengthen the law on food safety. As the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, has already pointed out, the Second Reading of that Bill takes place in this House on 5th December. The gracious Speech also said that the Government will carry forward reform of the common agricultural policy. That is a subject which I know has been discussed many times in your Lordships' House; it is one of very considerable importance. Introducing the debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, had a great deal to say about the common agricultural policy. I wish to say something about it but in a context that has not been discussed so far this afternoon.
Reforming the CAP is basically about money. But it is also about the mechanics of reform with the completion of the internal market by 1992, the Single European Act and framework directives all playing a considerable part. The effect has been to speed up decision-making in Brussels as regards reforming the common agricultural policy and Community legislation in general. One consequence is that member states wishing to influence common agricultural policy affairs must be able to comment before Council of Ministers' meetings.
Your Lordships' Select Committee on the European Community has a reputation for investigation and reporting on Community proposals. But the pace of events in Brussels is tending to reduce the influence of such reports. For example, one recalls the proposed directive on the irradiation of foodstuffs. The European Parliament has already turned down the Commission's 291 proposals in this regard except for the irradiation of herbs and spices. The Commission must now consider its proposals in the light of the Parliament's decision. The report by your Lordships' Select Committee on this question has been overtaken by events. By the time the committee reports other documents will have been prepared as regards the draft it is now considering. I suggest that this is an indication of the fact that there is now a great necessity for more speed in the way in which both Houses of Parliament are able to examine Community proposals.
The other place is well aware of this problem and has already called for more parliamentary prime time for the consideration of European Community affairs. A call for more prime time in this Chamber brings up the question which my noble friend Lord Cledwyn raised concerning the whole volume of legislation in the Queen's Speech. But if we are to have any significant influence as regards the common agricultural policy in the next few years we need to find time in your Lordships' House to discuss matters of significance so that Ministers going to Brussels are well aware of the feelings of Parliament and do not, as at present, simply come back and report what has been decided; what has been agreed; what they have succeeded in doing and where they have not so succeeded but how they fought and lost the occasion.
Concerning food safety, on the basis of the half-loaf philosophy we are grateful for the establishment of the new food safety directorate which I understand has been operational since 20th November. The first query is: why is there no Department of Health representation on the food safety directorate? I am aware that the directorate will be advised on questions of public health by the chief medical officer. But during the many difficult days that we have had concerning public health problems in recent years, I have repeatedly asked for a sharing of responsibility in fact as well as in theory between the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Those of us who have personal experience of this problem are well aware that in a crisis the major responsibility tends to become that of the Department of Health because in such situations the medical view prevails. I believe that an opportunity has been lost here by the Ministry of Agriculture keeping it so heavily in the family and not bringing in responsible civil servants from the Department of Health to become in their own right full members of the food safety directorate. I do not believe that the appointment of a junior Minister from the department as chairman of this body is necessarily the right appointment. Junior Ministers in the Ministry of Agriculture, as in other ministries, tend to come and go. I believe that an independent and highly qualified scientist would have made a better permanent chairman for a body of this importance.
We welcome the consumer panel so far as it goes. In recent years there has been much prodding for this body and at last we can report a measure of success. However, I understand that nominations 292 are to be invited from three organisations only; namely, the National Consumer Council, the Consumers' Association and the Consumers in the European Community group. Two of these bodies are wholly funded by the Department of Trade and Industry. I believe that to limit consultation regarding appointments to three organisations is unduly restrictive. I hope that the Minister will feel it possible to widen the scope and, if not, at least to ask the three bodies to suggest names outside their own immediate circle so that the consumer panel is as broadly representative of all consumer interests as is humanly possible.
In that regard, will the consumer panel be allowed to report to Parliament on its work and will other organisations be invited to submit items for consideration by the consumer panel?
I now turn to the subject of food which has not been touched on to any great degree in this debate. I noted from the Food Facts brochure published by the Ministry of Agriculture that in the second quarter of 1989 there was an increase in food prices of 7.2 per cent. The document also states the average family expenditure on food was higher in real terms than in 1988 and now amounts to £11.86 per person. Milk and bread are staple items in the diet. Yet prices for these two commodities are rising and consumption is decreasing. For example, the price of bread has been increased by two pence on the standard loaf, the farmers blaming the millers, and the millers, who are also the bakers, blaming the farmers. But, as consumers have noted, this year has seen a relatively good harvest for cereals.
The effect of increases in basic food prices on pensioners and low-income groups and on collective bargaining generally is much more significant than most people realise. One is entitled to ask the Ministry of Agriculture, in its new consumer guise, whether it concerns itself about prices beyond the mere recording of them in documents such as Food Facts. The Monopolies and Mergers Commission, in a report published some years ago on quantity discounts to retailers unrelated to volume, found no detriment at that time to either consumers or processors in the growing concentration of retail power as a result of the development of large stores by a few groups and their success in gaining planning consent for these large stores. The situation has changed markedly since the MMC reported and with the continued decline of the small food shops there is now in this country a very serious situation of market dominance.
What consultations take place between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry regarding possible reference of the takeovers of food trades to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission? Recent major takeovers have not resulted in any reference at all. In the most recent case the battle was fought on the basis that the successful bidder would sell to existing retailers large shops in the chain he was seeking to acquire to finance his purchase price, thus adding to the dominance by back-door methods of food retailing in this country. There is not a hypermarket on every street corner; so there is potential for undue dominance without the normal forces of 293 competition. Has the Ministry of Agriculture considered the effect of this on producers, processors and consumers?
Fish is a commodity of considerable importance under the common fisheries policy. As a result of the reductions in total allowable catches on scientific advice, we are now finding a situation in which in certain parts of the country, particularly Scotland, fishers, processors and services are seriously affected. We have all seen the effect of this in the price of haddock, for example. Reference by the EC to the European Court of Justice of sections of the Merchant Shipping Act 1987 designed to frustrate quota-hopping is unhelpful to Britain. Even if the status quo ante is allowed until the court rules on the matter uncertainty prevails in an area where decisive action was needed anyhow. I believe it is essential that the European Court should make its decision known on this at the earliest possible opportunity. If it finds against the United Kingdom, then it will be necessary to renegotiate the common fisheries policy to establish national quotas. What measures are contemplated by the European Commission and Her Majesty's Government to alleviate present and pending distress among fishers and communities in Britain which are wholly or mainly dependent on fishing?
I should like to say a word about the environment. Here I join in the hymn of praise to the noble Lord, Lord Layton, on his maiden speech. He raised two very important questions. I repeat them in the hope that an answer may be given by the Minister this evening. He raised the important question of whether the environment protection Bill now promised will include ratification of the Basle Convention on Hazardous Wastes. Can the Government give an undertaking along those lines? The noble Lord also asked whether the Government will protect and improve Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution.
Turning to the outlook for agriculture, I should like to echo a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie; a 15 per cent. minimum lending rate is impossible from the point of view of the farming community. Farmers are necessarily substantial borrowers of money and a minimum lending rate at that level would undoubtedly have a devastating effect on their ability not merely to borrow money but, more importantly, to service the interest charges arising on the borrowing. This arises at a time when, flowing from changes in the common agricultural policy, we can see that the farming community is not in the healthy state that it was a few years ago. For bad measure, changes in the beef and sheepmeat regimes in the Community are potentially serious for the United Kingdom because they tend to take away the privileges. The design of the existing regimes were especially suitable for British conditions and placed us on a common level with other member states whose farming in so far as beef and sheepmeat are concerned is in no way comparable with that in the United Kingdom. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, spoke seriously on the question of sheepmeat.
The laying flock of hens has decreased and consumption has been seriously reduced by the 294 recent egg scare. We learn with regret that a new disease, gumboro disease, threatens other poultry. I wonder whether this situation is as serious as was made out the other day on a farming programme on television. We have seen a raft of orders entitled "Animal Feed (Lead Contamination)" affecting milk and meat in certain parts of England, which are still indicative of the risks attaching to imports in this country. Despite the decisive action by the Ministry of Agriculture when the damage was discovered, the fact is that it happened. Consequently we are still vulnerable and will be even more vulnerable from 1992 onwards when the internal market is completed and when the process of checking food at ports is necessarily speeded up because of the reduction in documentation and the like.
I should like to mention the effect of the present decline in agriculture on the labour force. The decline is running at 2 per cent. annually and it is likely to fall further. Set aside will be taken up more heavily and dairy herds will be reduced as a result of the introduction of milk quotas. The sale of dairy quotas can mean job losses, although they are welcome, I admit, in other ways. Milk quotas are due to end in March 1992. The Commission is due to report by March 1991. In view of the success which has attended the introduction of quotas throughout the Community, I think that this matter should be given attention by the Ministry. In particular the views of farmers and dairy farmers should be canvassed so that we know exactly where we stand with regard to the future of dairy quotas throughout the Community.
There is an urgent need for alternative employment in rural areas as a result of the decreasing agricultural employment to which I have referred. The Development Commission is doing good work in this regard, but I think that more is needed to help ease the problems which arise from a declining agricultural industry.
Planning decisions for change of use in the country, particularly buildings, are of considerable importance to farmers. One hopes that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment will adopt a jointly sympathetic approach to this important aspect.
The Ministry of Agriculture and other agricultural departments in the United Kingdom are still doing useful work. It would be unfair not to pay tribute to that fact. However, there is a need for them to expand and diversify their roles with a greater regard to the social consequences of the current economic policies of Her Majesty's Government.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Lord Hesketh)
My Lords, I felt rather embarrassed when I thought back to my own maiden speech while listening to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Layton this afternoon. It was excellent. Indeed it was more than excellent: it was in the great traditions of maiden speeches in your Lordships' House. I can only say that of the points that I have to answer later, many of them have his name attached to them. That is as 295 good an indication as I can imagine of why it was such a good speech.
Today's proceedings are further proof of the continuing great interest shown by this House in the subject of the debate. Speeches from all sides of the Chamber have covered everything from the M.25 to outer space. This traditional interest of the House is echoed in many other quarters: the land we till, the food we eat, the water we drink and the air that we breathe. All are subjects of huge popular interest. I welcome the sea change in public perception of these matters over the past months. The call for action thus becomes clearer. At the same time our scientific understanding improves.
This Government are taking that action. I should like to make plain that we are also helping to create the prosperity that allows us to take it. We cannot turn our backs on the plain fact that environmental protection does not come cost free. Higher standards cost money. We are all more aware than ever before that there is only one environment, the global environment. Global issues have figured clearly in the debate. The World Commission of Environment and Development clearly showed interrelations between the twin essentials of environmental protection and economic development. We have warmly welcomed the commission's findings. The solutions are as complex as the problems and they do not lie in the gift of any single country. This country is playing its part fully and energetically.
At the beginning of the debate my noble friend the Minister of State referred to the notable speech of the Prime Minister to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month. I quote her words:We know more clearly than ever before that we carry common burdens, face common problems and must respond with common action".At the same time action continues to be needed by national governments to deal with national issues. The environmental protection Bill announced in the gracious Speech last week is evidence that Britain is also taking this action. My noble friend has mentioned the main provisions of the Bill. We are introducing a brand new integrated system of controls over industrial pollution which is as up to date as any in the world.
We are radically overhauling our system of dealing with land wastes, introducing tough new duties and controls and making sure that those responsible do the job that the public has the right to expect of them. We are ensuring that at last local authorities take their role in recycling waste more seriously than they have done in the past. We want this country to be recycling half of its domestic waste by the end of the next decade.
We are taking tough new steps against litter louts and against those who fail in the task of keeping our public places clean. We are bringing in innovatory new powers to control the release of genetically modified organisms. We are creating separate major conservation agencies for England, Scotland and Wales to make sure that national conservation issues are dealt with, as they should be, by national bodies. As my right honourable friend announced last week, 296 we are ensuring suitable arrangements for co-operation among the three agencies on science and on Great Britain-wide and international issues. I am confident that these measures will be warmly welcomed when we come to debate them in detail.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, has the Minister, unlike his noble friend who opened the debate, seen this Bill? None of the rest of us has. Where is it?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I am giving the noble Lord a flavour which I hope that he will find useful. Until the Bill is printed and presented it would be very incautious of me to say that I had seen it in its complete and final form.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
My Lords, could the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, given a previous example of a Bill that has been produced at the same time as the Queen's Speech announcements?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I am not aware of one. However, many noble Lords have today mentioned the Food and Safety Bill. As my noble friend stressed in her opening speech, this Bill should not be seen as an isolated measure; it is introduced against the background of sustained and vigorous activity to maintain the safety of our food supply, despite what the scaremongers would have us believe.
This Government have a track record of which they can be proud. However, I have time this evening to cite just one or two examples of the action which we have taken. On salmonella we have introduced a whole range of measures, 19 to be precise, designed to tackle the problem at all the important points in the chain, from the poultry feed manufacturer to the breeding flock and hatcher, to the laying flock and on into the home. We now have in place a comprehensive package unsurpassed by any country in the world and we are pressing for similar standards throughout the Community.
Similarly, as regards BSE, we acted swiftly and decisively to ensure that there could be no danger to public health. Again, we have a wide range of measures in place, implementing without delay every single recommendation of the independent expert committee. Indeed, on one point we have taken steps in addition to those recommended by the committee.
Finally, the recent incident of lead contamination of feeding stuffs provides another example of the lengths to which we will go to protect the consumer. As soon as we were alerted to the problem we took steps to tackle it on every front. No effort was spared, no unpalatable measure was avoided and as a result there was no hazard whatever to the consumer. The new Bill is not the action of a Government ashamed of their past; it is a further significant contribution to the cause to which we have always been firmly committed.
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I start by dealing with agriculture, as did my noble friend the Minister of State. I feel that as an Under-Secretary it would be impolite of me to follow any other order than the one established by her. 297 Therefore I shall commence with agriculture not for any reason of primacy but purely for reasons of keeping all the matters in order.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and my noble friend Lady Elliott of Harwood drew your Lordships' attention to the difficulties with regard to the hill farms in this country. I entirely agree that there are vast differences between farms in our upland areas and those elsewhere in the Community. In our uplands the poor soil, a short growing season and difficult weather conditions limit the carrying capacity of the land. Moreover, as was pointed out, lambs and cattle cannot be fattened and therefore have to be sold as stores, thus limiting the margins per animal. In such conditions farms have to be large in area and to carry relatively large flocks in order to be economic.
My noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood can rest assured that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture went to great lengths to draw the attention of other EC agriculture Ministers to those facts. He also pointed out that a reduction in the profitability of hill farming would affect rural employment, contrary to the Commission's objectives as set out in its recent document on the rural world. I am sure that it was my right honourable friend's arguments that convinced the Council that the limits on HLCAs proposed by the Commission should be substantially improved, even if he was not able to secure their complete rejection.
The noble Lords, Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Gallacher, drew attention to the matter of interest rates.
§ Lord Mackie of Benshie
My Lords, perhaps I may ask the noble Lord whether the Government will consider sympathetically making up the shortfall caused by the decision of the EC on HLCAs.
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I cannot make a commitment on such a financial matter at present. However, I can assure the noble Lord that I will inquire into the matter to ascertain what the position is.
As regards interest rates and agriculture, we fully recognise that increases in interest rates are unwelcome to the farming community. The Government's primary objective remains to reduce inflation. The only effective way of achieving this is through interest rates. Farmers cannot be immune from the action needed for the benefit of the economy as a whole.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, also drew your Lordships' attention to set aside. Set aside is not intended as a primary means of reform of surpluses. However, I should remind the noble Lord that, although 2.3 per cent. of the eligible area in the United Kingdom is not a very large percentage in itself, it becomes a rather larger percentage when put against the actual problem, which is the surplus production, which as he rightly pointed out is part of the reason for the money going through a level of great expenditure but not finding its way into the sporrans of the farmers.
298 The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, also referred to quotas. Quotas have control over production in the milk and in the sugar sectors. However, they are not our preferred approach, which is to reduce price levels. We do not believe that there is a justification for extending quotas or other supply side controls to other sectors in agriculture.
The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, drew your Lordships' attention to prices and takeovers. As we have repeatedly made clear, we want farming to be more market oriented. We do not think that this fits in with control over prices. We believe that takeovers in the food industry, as I am sure the noble Lord is aware, should be a matter for the Department of Trade and Industry, rather than for me to answer from the Dispatch Box.
The noble Lord also felt that there was a need for a close involvement of Department of Health officials with regard to the food safety directorate. As he pointed out, the directorate will have access to the advice of the chief medical officer. However, it is not the intention to include Department of Health officials within the food safety directorate. To do so would risk unnecessary duplication. It must be remembered that Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Health officials co-operate very closely at a working level all the time.
My noble friend Lord Selborne drew your Lordships' attention to genetically modified organisms. The provisions on genetically modified organisms in the proposed environment protection Bill will mesh fully with existing GMO legislation on human safety and on product control to provide a single framework control. This will meet the requirements so far as concerns industry and the scientific community without compromising in any way the overriding need for environmental and public safety. My noble friend also clearly pointed out the enormous potential that the science has as well as the hope it holds for the future. Moreover, if I may say so, he gave the opposite to the rather Malthusian predictions of the noble Lord, Lord Hatch. Finally, he pointed out, as did the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, that like a free lunch there is no such thing as a free daffodil.
The noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord McIntosh, and other noble Lords drew attention to the Nature Conservancy Council. The Government are not breaking up the council in the negative way; we are building on its strength gathered over some 40 years to modernise the conservation machinery for the 1990s. Country-based agencies will ensure that Ministers are kept clearly in touch with local conditions and problems and thus avoid the dangers of adopting blanket solutions. However, the Government fully recognise that the new machinery must be able to deliver the advice based on sound scientific research on issues which cover the entire country or which have an international dimension. That is why our proposals will include a joint statutory committee for the three agencies to deal with such important issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Layton, asked when the United Kingdom would ratify the Basle Convention, pointing out that only Jordan had so far done so. 299 We cannot predict when the Community is likely to be ready, because it is a complex issue and it is dependent upon changing the EC directive. However, I can state here that the United Kingdom is trying very hard to ensure rapid progress in the matter.
My noble friend Lord Layton and the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, drew your Lordships' attention to the shortage of staff at the HMIP. I am pleased to be able to inform them that the HMIP is undertaking a recruitment drive at present where exceptional salary increases of some 28.5 per cent. are being offered as against the last recruitment round in June.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, again attacked the Government on the issue of water. I felt that I was on familiar ground; in fact, being here was rather like being back in the family after the length of the summer which has just passed. It is important to remember that because of the privatisation of water we now have the only fully funded programme in Europe to ensure that our bathing waters, our drinking water and our sewage will be properly and correctly dealt with and also improved. Further, we are now to have a regulatory body in the form of the National Rivers Authority to ensure that there is a gamekeeper to look after the poachers, if poachers there be.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to the privatisation of local authority waste disposal. We do not propose to privatise it. In a way what we propose is very similar to the NRA. We wish to have regulators and operators. We are not in any way attached to some form of dogma.
The noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Layton, referred to the local authority resources with regard to the local authority air pollution controls. We proposed the sum of £0.5 million a year for all local authorities. That is the sum suggested by the department. A consultation paper published in April 1989 proposed a system of cost recovery, or charging for local authority costs in implementing the new controls. Local authorities have been reacting to the proposed new system in a positive way, through their contribution to the committee already set up to co-ordinate the enforcement of the new controls.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred to the television interview in which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State took part yesterday. It seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, implied that there had been a conversion on the road to Damascus. The fact of the matter is that we as a government are united on this issue. I have to remind the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, of two facts which I think may have passed him by. The first is that I remember well in the summer my right honourable friend's predecessor referring to and causing somewhat of a stir by discussing the possibility of a tax on carbon. I would also point out to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy recently addressed the World Energy Conference in Montreal. He said there that we should price fuels to reflect their full costs, including their environmental costs. We are not talking here about divisions, more of a seamless robe.
300 The noble Lord, Lord Hatch of Lusby, referred to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Government did not obstruct the creation of a new planet protection fund. What we did—rightly—was to argue strongly that to create such a new institution would be costly, bureaucratic and time-consuming, with no guarantee of better results than the existing bilateral and multilateral institutions can already guarantee. The final communiqué agreed by all the countries there reflects that.
The noble Lord, Lord Parry, drew your Lordships' attention to urban regeneration and urban blight as well as what he described as rural blight. In the Autumn Statement a substantial increase in expenditure is planned for the Department of the Environment's urban regeneration programmes of some £420 million over the next two years. That is an increase of 37 per cent. on the previous plans.
The noble Lord, Lord Parry, again—and this was no surprise, knowing his long connection with the industry and his great interest in litter—drew your Lordships' attention to this important matter. We are determined to act vigorously and unrelentingly to arrest and reverse the rising tide of litter which is threatening to engulf our streets and public places. I can assure noble Lords—and I am sure that all noble Lords will agree with me—that the only long term solution to the problem of litter lies, as the noble Lord, Lord Parry, pointed out, in educating people not to drop it in the first place. To that end, we are continuing to make substantial grants to the Tidy Britain Group, to enable it to carry out its most important work in this area.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, drew our attention to public transport. We are investing in roads, but our investment in public transport is also running at record levels. British Rail is planning to invest some £3.7 billion over the next three years, which is the biggest investment programme since the conversion from steam to diesel and electric. London Regional Transport is to invest £1.7 billion over the next three years and two weeks ago the Secretary of State for Transport announced the first major extension of London Underground for 25 years, to extend the Jubilee Line from Green Park to the Docklands.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made much of what he believes to be the Prime Minister's lack of interest in travelling on a train. The important fact to remember is that under this Government—apparently so opposed to public transport—at this moment, after nearly centuries of indecision, a great tunnel is being dug under the Channel itself. That will operate with railway trains which are public transport, and not with cars. This came about under a Conservative Government whom the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, tends to feel are not interested, when at the same time some of the great undertakings of this century in the public transport infrastructure are taking place.
Do we need more roads? This is a question which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I will answer with a reply to my noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux. The fact of the matter is that 301 it is all very well for the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to say that the Department of Transport is clearly not keen on the environment because it says that there may be a 142 per cent. increase in traffic by the year 2025. It would be remiss for any department of any government to pretend that a problem will go away if the department does not say that it is there in the first place. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Brougham and Vaux is well aware that further congestion must raise the risk of accidents. We cannot just dis-invent the car.
It should be remembered that car ownership is higher in France, Germany and Italy than in the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, drew your Lordships' attention to the fact that he believes that a greater sum of money was spent on public transport infrastructure in those countries. The disappointing fact that I have to give to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton—and I draw it not from any of the government departments but from the Guardian newspaper last Friday—is that the use of those facilities is dropping.
The matter of company cars was drawn to your Lordships' attention by many speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. I remind him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has in the past two years increased the tax rate benefit scales by 160 per cent.
Perhaps I may say in closing that, as with many other noble Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, said that the motor car was in some ways an object of hate and derision today. He referred to the unattractive sight of multi-storey car parks. The car is guilty of many things, but one thing I can assure the noble Lord of is that if he goes to Chesterfield he will see two multi-storey car parks. One is an example of a true eyesore and the other is, I think, a fine building. It is interesting that they both do the same job and store roughly the same number of cars.
The last example I will give to the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, is that as I went into Milton Keynes this morning to catch a train, as the modern British man does coming from Milton Keynes, I saw there also a very fine contemporary multi-storey car park that fits in with the buildings.
I very much hope that, directly or indirectly, I have been able to answer the wide range of important points that have been raised by your Lordships this afternoon. I shall read the debate in the Official 302 Report very carefully and if I have omitted to respond to any point today I shall certainly put that right by writing to the noble Lord concerned.
My aim has been to demonstrate to your Lordships that, complicated and wide-ranging as the subjects of today's debate are, the Government are taking whatever action is needed to answer the questions that are raised. The programme of legislation announced in the gracious Speech, with major Bills on both food and the environment, is one further instance of that. Contrary to what it is so convenient for some critics to have us believe, the Government's commitment is absolute. Their record, both at home and abroad, is one of which this country can be proud. The progress over the past years has been dramatic and heartening. This Government are pledged to ensure that it will continue at a fast pace.
§ Lord Hatch of Lusby
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am sorry to interrupt his speech, but he referred directly to me and to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kuala Lumpur. At that meeting the British Prime Minister vetoed the setting up of an environmental fund in order to assist the third world countries to develop without creating the kind of pollution that we have seen in the West. Now he says that she was right to do so because this would have been a bureaucratic body. Is the noble Lord happy to repeat the Prime Minister's words that if she is the only one of the 49 who believes this, then she is sorry for the 48? Is he happy that she was right and the 48 who believed in setting up the fund were wrong?
§ Lord Hesketh
My Lords, I feel I have fairly comprehensively answered the noble Lord, but I am always happy to repeat what the Prime Minister says.
§ The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Caithness I beg to move that this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.
§ Moved, That this debate be now adjourned until tomorrow.—(The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.
§ House adjourned at ten minutes before seven o'clock.