Battle for a tough Climate Change Bill (3)
the Commons Committee debates the 80% reduction target

From Anthony Rae of Calderdale Friends of the Earth

Read the two previous articles here and here.  The detail of the Bill is now being fought over in a parliamentary committee. 

Martyn Williams, the FOE parliamentary lobbyist describes the operation being mounted in support a tougher Bill: 

”We are not expecting to win the 2 demands – an 80% target and inclusion of aviation and shipping emissions - in the Committee; that is basically impossible because the Government does not select MPs to sit on the Committee who are likely to stick their necks out and vote against them.  But they do see this stage as a "temperature take" of MPs’ views before deciding how to respond at the next the Report Stage.

“So, we had to use the Committee stage to show there was massive support for our two demands, and we only had two weeks to do this after the Second Reading debate.  And we did it.  The Committee arrived on Tuesday to be faced with two amendments with more than 80 Labour MPs names attached to them.  To put that in perspective, 34 rebels is enough to reverse the Government's majority. 

”We have done what we set out to achieve, and put ourselves in a very good position for the next (and likely decisive) stage.  At least one MP’s office told us this was the best lobbying operation they have ever seen.”

So what actually happened in the Committee debates on Tuesday and Thursday when they debated the 80% target amendment?; you can read the proceedings here and here  The positions adopted were:

  • the Labour Government won’t accept the increased 80% target, or give an undertaking that they will automatically accept a subsequent ruling from the independent Climate Change Committee (CCC) that it should be raised to 80%.

  • the Labour ‘rebels’, and the Liberal Democrats, want the target in the Bill changed to 80%.

  • the Conservatives are not at the moment supporting the changed target – even though they do accept the need for an 80% emissions reduction - because they want this to be recommended by the independent Committee instead, whose ruling they are pledging to accept.  But they are now disconcerted by the Government’s refusal to automatically accept the independent Committee ruling.

In terms of the Parliamentary arithmetic therefore, the position is as Steve Webb MP (LD) observed: “… with 80 Labour Members, every single Liberal Democrat MP and all the nationalists … that coalition alone, plus the Conservative Party, would guarantee 80%.  So the only thing that stands between this country having a scientifically up-to-date 80% target is the Conservative Party.”

But when they came to vote on the amendment, this is what happened.  David Chaytor MP (and previous Calderdale councillor), who had moved it, said:

“The current position is that the Climate Change Committee is charged with producing its first report [on ‘60% or 80%?’] on 1st December. The Report stage for our parliamentary Committee is unlikely to take place before the recess, so the Bill will be on Report in October or November. In one sense, that highlights the absurdity of having a target in the Bill that could become obsolete within a matter of weeks or even days. … so it would not be unreasonable to bring forward the date of the first CCC report from 1st December to 1st November …  for publication before our Report stage. In view of the fact that that perhaps provides a way forward and a consensus, I withdraw the amendment.”

So apparently this issue is deferred to the autumn; more debates this coming week.


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