Energy: Prices and Supply

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 14th July 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Certainly, we are well on the way to that commitment, and this spending review period allocated about £6.6 billion towards those targets. For example, we have spent £471 million to date on the social housing decarbonisation fund and £350 million on the sustainable warmth programme, and we are going out to bids later this year for another £800 million of spending under the social housing decarbonisation fund, so we are making considerable progress.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would make more sense to incentivise investment in the skills and technologies of the future, rather than in oil and gas companies, which are soon to become technologies of the past? Is there not a danger that investment in oil and gas could lead to stranded assets and stranded jobs?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness is partly correct. Of course, we need to invest in the technologies of the future, which is why we are developing our green finance policies and a green taxonomy to help direct investment in those technologies. However, we will also need oil and gas as transition fuels, so it makes sense to continue to exploit our own resources.

Energy Security Strategy

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 7th April 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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As we debated many times in this House, we need both. We need nuclear and are pleased to have the support of the Opposition in accepting that we need it for long-term baseload power supplies. We also need renewables, which is why we already have the second greatest amount of offshore wind power in the world. We are seeking to ramp up those facilities as well. We are also deploying additional solar and hydrogen production. As I said, on onshore wind, we will look to go forward in partnership with supportive local communities. It is not a question of picking one technology over another: we need a diverse mix of energy supplies. The noble Lord was wrong to say that there was a problem with the UK’s energy security. There is no difficulty with energy security; there is clearly a short-term difficulty with the price of energy—particularly relating to gas—and we totally understand the difficulties that consumers are going through. That is why the Chancellor announced the £9.1 billion-worth relief package.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, perhaps I can push the Minister a little further on his reply to the last question. While of course it is vitally important that every conceivable measure to deal with our energy problems should be addressed, there is a question about what should be given priority and where the urgency should be attached. While I strongly welcome the Government’s decision to expand our nuclear energy facilities, surely priority should be given to the relatively cheap and relatively popular policy of trying to expand faster our onshore windfarms. More than 80% of the population welcome this, only 4% are opposed to it, so public opinion is behind it. Would it not be helpful to establish priority for that, as well as providing more money—I know the Government have provided some, but not a great deal—for insulation programmes as a matter of urgency?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I understand the thrust of the noble Baroness’s question, but we can prioritise a number of different things at the same time. That is why this is a comprehensive strategy. We are rolling out new nuclear, as indeed we should; we are also rolling out additional offshore-wind capacity and additional hydrogen capacity. As I said, onshore wind is also a priority, but it is a priority that we need to act on in cognisance and recognition of the concerns of local communities. With regard to insulation schemes, we are spending something like £6.6 billion over the term of this Parliament on insulation schemes. It would have been good to have gone further, but the Treasury would not support it.

COP 26

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Asked by
Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made towards establishing the processes necessary to implement the ‘side deals’ made at COP26 on (1) coal, (2) methane, (3) forests, and (4) finance; and what discussions they have had with international partners about their implementation.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, we are implementing progress in a number of ways, including through, first, the Powering Past Coal Alliance, the COP26 Energy Transition Council and the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa; secondly, the global methane pledge, working closely with the US and the EU; thirdly, the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use; and, fourthly, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, whose work is being taken forward in dialogue with the Government, businesses and civil society organisations.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. A number of pledges for funding were made at COP 26 and, as I am sure he is fully aware, 141 countries signed up to the Glasgow declaration on forest and land use to halt land loss and deforestation by 2030. In these circumstances, are the Government taking steps to stop financial institutions operating in the UK funding businesses that are linked to deforestation? The due diligence processes proposed by the Government are of course very welcome, but could more be done to stop the flow of money going to harmful deforestation?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness for her question. I am sure there is always more that can be done but we have made considerable strides in terms of green finances, as I am sure she is aware. We are working closely with the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, now representing more than 450 financial firms with £130 trillion in assets, to make sure that private finance goes towards green policies.

Global Warming

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 3rd March 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The Government’s third climate change risk assessment sets out 61 risks and opportunities facing the UK from climate change, with eight priority risk areas identified as requiring action within the next two years. Action already taken includes £5.2 billion in 2021 for flood and coastal defences.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, following the IPCC report, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, on the damage to our ecosystem, can the Minister update the House on what further work is being done to engage the public on climate change and biodiversity issues? I think he agrees with me that evidence shows that, if these issues are understood, far more people are willing to change the way they live to reduce the impact of climate change.

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness; of course, we regularly undertake public information activities. The public are well aware of the risks presented by climate change and there is wide public support for action.

Net-zero Test for New Policies

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Tuesday 11th January 2022

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The answer I gave my noble friend then was that tidal power is included in the latest contracts for difference round; I think the figure is £20 million that we propose to expend on it. My noble friend makes a good point that there are some very feasible tidal power projects, but we need to be realistic—tidal power will not contribute more than a small percentage of our power needs.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the current levels of spending on climate-positive measures are far below what the Climate Change Committee has recommended to achieve net zero? If so, what plans do the Government have to increase expenditure so that we have a greater chance of achieving their net-zero target?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes an important point but it is not just government spending that contributes to net zero. Regulatory policies also have an impact. We are spending considerable sums; certainly, within my department we could always do with spending more, but the difficult job that the Treasury and Chancellor have is balancing tax income with net expenditure. Many government departments would, I am sure, prefer to be spending more money at the moment.

Oil and Gas Authority: Remit

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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It remains the case that the petroleum sector is a net payer of taxes to the UK Exchequer. I frankly do not understand the argument that we should stop all production in the North Sea and instead import those materials that we will continue to need in every scenario. We would be declining to give ourselves the revenue and spending extra to import those same products.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, a global poll of energy workers showed that more than half want to leave the fossil fuel industry. What are the Government doing to support these workers in the UK to ensure that there is a fair and just transition both for them and for their communities?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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That is a very good question, and this is why we have our world-leading oil and gas sector transition deal, the North Sea Transition Deal. We are committed to it, with the support of all the oil and gas companies, to precisely bring about that happy state of affairs so that workers can transition to working in the clean economy.

Onshore Wind Bill [HL]

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
2nd reading
Friday 19th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, for introducing this important Bill. Countless reports have strongly recommended much greater investment in renewable energy. Without such investment, the UK is extremely unlikely to reach its net-zero carbon target by 2050. One such report, which UCL and Vivid Economics submitted to the Climate Change Committee, recommended:

“Significant new renewable generation capacity is needed to accommodate rapid uptake of electric vehicles and hybrid heat pumps”.


Without it, those changes will not really be able to take place. The report goes on to say:

“Over the period to 2035, up to 35 GW onshore wind … could be needed.”


Moreover, the Net Zero Strategy recognises the need for more onshore wind, stating that carbon budget 6

“also requires a sustained increase to the deployment of land-based renewables such as locally supported onshore wind and solar in the 2020s and beyond.”

The problem is that it fails to set out how this is to be achieved. I would be grateful, therefore, if the Minister could tell the House what assessment the Government have made of the recommendation of 35 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2035.

As has been said by both the previous speakers, one great advantage of onshore wind is that its cost is relatively low. Indeed, it is the lowest-cost form of new electricity generation, so much so that the cost of electricity from onshore wind projects is currently lower than the wholesale electricity price. Forecasts suggest that it will become even cheaper, providing considerable benefit to consumers—and we must think about the consumers in this area. It has been calculated that 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2030 would create approximately £16.3 billion of consumer payback, cutting energy bills by £25 per year.

The fact that the Government have included onshore wind in the next auction round for contracts for difference is therefore very welcome. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said, more clarity on this with respect to the longer term would lead to greater certainty for investors as well as cheaper electricity for consumers. At present, auctions are approximately every two years. Renewable UK recommends annual auctions. More frequent auctions would reduce the risk for investors by increasing the availability of finance and bringing down costs even further, allowing investment to happen at lower capital cost. So would the Government be prepared to commit to annual CfD auctions for onshore wind as part of a long-term plan? It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm this.

I very much welcome the Government’s commitment to updating the energy national policy statements so that there can be even greater clarity on the need and urgency for low-carbon infrastructure. Can the Minister tell the House what the progress of the review in respect of nationally significant infrastructure projects has been? Since 2008, onshore projects have not been included following changes to the Planning Act 2008; nor was this rectified in 2015, which was disappointing. Will they now be mentioned?

I end by supporting everything that the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, said about the planning process. I hope that the Minister accepts the polling evidence about public opinion on this issue, which is very positive, and that when he responds to the debate he will be able to give the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, the answers she sought on planning, so that the bids for onshore projects may get consent in greater numbers in the future.

Net-zero Emissions Target: Fossil Fuel Extraction Projects

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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The problem with the noble Baroness’s argument is that we currently get three-quarters of our energy from oil and gas. It is a declining percentage as we decarbonise, but we currently get three-quarters of our energy in that way. Would the Liberal Democrats prefer that energy to come from Saudi Arabia or Russia, or from British workers paying British taxes in the UK, paying contributions to the UK Exchequer? That is the choice that faces us.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, we have pledged to reduce methane by 30% by 2030, along with 103 other countries. Have the Government carried out an assessment of whether that is possible while they simultaneously allow new fossil fuel extraction projects to go ahead, and, if they have not, will the Minister commit to doing that as a due diligence exercise?

Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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Of course we keep all these matters under review, and it is important that we meet our target. We are on a projection for net zero in 2050; we have a legal obligation to do that. Oil and gas projects will play a small and declining role as the years proceed, but in the short term we will need new projects.

Emissions Trading Scheme: Transport

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Monday 11th October 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Callanan Portrait Lord Callanan (Con)
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I recognise the points the noble Lord makes and he will be aware that, in the transport decarbonisation plan, there is a commitment to assess how economic instruments could be used to accelerate decarbonisation measures alongside all the other aspirations of the plan.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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How do the Government intend to respond to the report from the Climate Crisis Advisory Group on carbon pricing, which says that emissions reductions from the advanced economies fall far short of what has been promised? I quote:

“Much stronger policy action across all sectors is needed”.


In particular, can he indicate the Government’s intention on a carbon border adjustment mechanism, and whether such a mechanism could raise nearly €10 billion a year as the Financial Times has claimed?

Net-zero Carbon Emissions: Behaviour Change

Baroness Blackstone Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Moved by
Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone
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That this House takes note of the role of behaviour change in helping the United Kingdom to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, as set out in the report by the Climate Change Committee Reducing emissions: 2021 Progress Report to Parliament, published on 26 June; and of the case for a public engagement strategy to facilitate this.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I applaud the Government’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050 and appreciate that they are working to try to achieve a successful outcome to COP 26 in November. However, I am not confident that they have done enough yet to engage the public in order to facilitate the behaviour change necessary to reduce emissions. I want to set out the case for doing so, following the valuable report to Parliament of the Climate Change Committee at the end of June.

I begin by briefly summarising what the CCC said. It argued that 62% of measures needed to reach net zero required changes to public behaviour. However, there is currently no centrally led strategy. Although there is high public support for action on climate change, research suggests that there is a lack of understanding about the actions that need to be taken and the urgency required. I understand that the Government’s net-zero strategy is to be published imminently to precede COP 26. My first question to the Minister is whether it will definitely include a public engagement strategy, and, if so, whether it will be genuinely cross-departmental. People will need to change their lives in relation to transport, heating their homes, diet and more general problems of consumption.

There also needs to be a higher level of public understanding and involvement in shaping decision-making, without which success in reaching net zero is unlikely. There is, of course, a role for employers, and business in particular, as well as for local government, the print—and especially the broadcast—media, and the education system. However, the Government need to take the lead. They must also take on those who irresponsibly are purveying false information and scare stories about the negative impact of climate change measures on people’s lives.

It is often helpful to learn from what other countries are doing. For example, can the Minister tell the House whether the Government have assessed work on climate change assemblies undertaken in Scotland, as well as France and Denmark, which have involved their citizens in climate policy-making. What other international initiatives can he tell us about that we might draw on? Clearly the fight against global warming is international and no country is exempt from the challenges it poses.

Concern about climate change is higher in the UK than in many other countries, with 80% of the population recording such concern. However, at the same time, when asked about net zero in March this year in a BEIS survey, only 14% indicated that they knew a lot or a fair amount about it. It is worrying, too, that only 51% of the UK public think that climate change is either entirely or mainly caused by human activity. Moreover, they tend to pass the buck and seem to think that responsibility belongs to others rather than themselves.

Only 26% of those asked had made any change in their behaviour. Even when people want to act, there are worrying misconceptions about the most effective ways to do so. While around 50% of those surveyed were aware that saving on energy consumption at home was a step that they can take, far fewer were aware of the value of eating less meat and fewer dairy products—15% and 6%, respectively—nor of the size of the impact that this could have. Changing our diets is urgent in order to free up land to sequester carbon.

A recent report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change reinforced the importance of focusing on a relatively limited number of changes in behaviour that have the most impact. One of the three measures that it cited was eating less meat. The others were reducing our car travel and our flying. A common misunderstanding, not just in the UK but many other counties, is that recycling is very effective. Though there are of course good reasons why we should recycle, it comes some way down the list for reaching net zero.

If far too few of our citizens are well informed about the actions needed to counter climate change, what must the Government do? Above all, they must engage the population, including those who are hard to reach. They should find ways to bring people together to discuss the challenge that we face and how to address it. One small example, close to home, is the citizens’ assembly that was run last year by six House of Commons Select Committees. It showed that, when problems and solution are discussed with members of the public, for the most part they support making changes.

Starting with pupils at school, only this week research on young people’s attitudes showed how concerned they are about climate change and how anxious they are about the survival of the planet. Three-quarters said that they are frightened about their survival and their future. It is noteworthy that 80% of those participating in the parliamentary assembly that I just mentioned thought that climate should be a compulsory subject in all schools. Can the Minister tell us what the current position is on the national curriculum regarding coverage of climate?

We must build on the positive mindset of young people, giving them the tools to take the action needed to stop further rises in temperature. Little progress can be made unless teachers feel confident about their own competence and knowledge in this area. There is evidence that many of them want more training. In a survey this year of 7,500 teachers, 70% said that they had received none. Knowledge alone is not enough. They must learn about best practice in learning approaches and how to convey to young people a sense of their own potential to be part of the solutions, as well as how to be ambitious and resilient in responding to the challenges. What resources are being put into initial and in-service training to help teachers rise to this task?

The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill is an excellent opportunity to address behaviour change among college students. The same issues apply to them as to their parents, such as the forms of transport that they use in their daily travel, where there are choices available to them. In addition, there is a need for FE to provide courses that will create the skills needed in a green economy and to make their students aware of the job opportunities available to them if they acquire these skills. More attention must also be given to phasing out qualifications that make no contribution to the net- zero economy. Just as schoolteachers need improvements in their preparation for curriculum initiatives on climate issues, so too do college lecturers, especially in specific areas such as decarbonising heat in homes. Please can we have a skills strategy from the Government to power the transition to green technologies?

The work needed to put in place targeted public engagement costs money, especially to reach those groups who feel socially and economically excluded, who do not typically take part in discussions about public policy and indeed are rarely invited to do so. Back in June, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, asked the Minister about spending and when figures would be released. The reply was, “in due course”. Has due course been reached, and can the Minister tell the House what the budget is for public engagement? It is all very well accepting the Government’s words that

“Public engagement can help build awareness, acceptability, and uptake of sustainable technologies … over the long term and can also help improve the effectiveness of policies”,


but they must will the means to do this as well as aspiring to it. Would it be too much to ask the Government to create a national debate on the contribution that each and every one of us can make to countering climate change and reaching net zero? In every city, town and village, invitations might go out to join community discussions around a short paper setting out what the options are.

I hope that the Minister will respond positively and be willing to set in motion an approach of this kind, which might be announced at COP 26 in November. At the last global conference, the Paris Agreement stipulated that measures should be taken

“to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information”.

Having done far too little since then, we now have the opportunity to take the lead at COP and, in doing so, particular emphasis should be placed on public participation. This can be done in the context of the UN’s action for climate empowerment, which commits all nations to engaging their citizens on climate change. At present, Governments are not measured on their commitments and there is a lack of infrastructure and no monitoring or reporting process, according to the charity Climate Outreach. If the Government could take the lead by announcing a comprehensive and radical approach, and in doing so get public engagement with climate change much higher on the international agenda, that would be a triumph. Let us try to be a world leader in this area.

Within the UK, we must evaluate and monitor our progress in getting the public participation that the Climate Change Committee espouse. Can the Minister say what the Government propose to do in this respect? It is vital to understand the barriers that may emerge, to know what forms of communication work best, who the best people to promote public dialogue are and how to get people debating together about what they as individuals can do, avoiding the feeling that they are being talked at or just bombarded with information.

My last point is the value of trust. Increasingly, there is an absence of trust in Government and a denigration of politicians. There is a need to build trust in the messages that are sent. To do so, the messengers must be perceived to have integrity and must demonstrate that they themselves are committed to individual action on climate change. The upside of any debate on tackling climate change is that it is not largely about party politics. We can and should put political differences aside and unite to meet the expectations and hopes of young people, to save the planet and to engage the hearts and minds of our citizens in doing so. I beg to move.

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Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
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My Lords, I begin by thanking the Minister very much for his reply to this debate. He has indeed answered many of the questions put to him. He did not answer one question—of course, there are always some you do not have the time or the information for. I would be grateful if he could write to me and to others who have participated in this debate on what the budget for public engagement in order to change behaviour is—and, if there is not one, when there will be. I asked about this some months ago and was told that in due course we would be given the figures, but we have not been. I would be really grateful for that.

Secondly, I thank everybody who has participated in this debate. I am very grateful to all the speakers, many of whom made excellent contributions to what I think we have agreed is an important subject. There has been consensus around the House for much more effort to be put into changing public behaviour through genuine public engagement. A number of important points were made about the importance of the UK leading the way, which the Minister said we will do. It has also been quite correctly stated by several speakers that time is not on our side and that there is a danger of promising a lot and then delivering too little.

I was particularly glad to hear the Minister state quite categorically that we will monitor and evaluate the contribution the Government are making to developing public engagement and changing public behaviour. I have no doubt that we will want to come back to what the results of such monitoring and evaluation are and will return to this important subject in the coming months.

Motion agreed.