In the short time I have, may I introduce a slight note of caution? I was impressed by the almost Tiggerish performance by the Minister—he is very persuasive on this Bill—but what concerns me is what is guiding Government policy and, dare I say it, the policy of many in this House. The Climate Change Act 2008, and the further legislation in 2019 when our Government increased the cut in carbon emissions to 100% by 2050, introduced targets that in my humble opinion were not really thought through. The practical consequences have not been thought through, and they are becoming more and more evident today as we discuss these difficult issues.
Do not let me mislead people in the House. I, like everyone here, want to break away from fossil fuel and have cleaner air. The green revolution is coming, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore) said, but we have to be careful not to bring it in so quickly that it is not available, it is not affordable and, when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow, it does not work. Strategically, we are an island nation and we have to keep the lights on. Our duty as MPs is to say to our constituents, “I can guarantee that when you go to your light switch or to make a cup of tea or cook a meal, the power will be there to do all that, and to drive your car from A to B.”
At the moment there is a great drive for electric cars, but they are expensive and the plug-in points and investment are nowhere near ready for that revolution. There are also many questions about where the batteries and the resources for them will come from. We have already heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns) about the slave labour that applies to many parts of the battery industry.
We are now on our fourth carbon budget—I do not know whether people know that—running from 2023 to 2027, and the Government are being guided by that. The Climate Change Committee advises on the carbon
budget, and the Government can be legally challenged once it is in place. The budget is set for five years, so the question now is: what about our democracy? In my humble opinion, we are debating these crucial issues for probably the first time. It was pushed through in 2008 and 2018, and we are now facing the consequences of those decisions. If we have to fall back on the courts to decide on the policies we make in this place, we can recall the anxiety and grief that that caused on the Brexit issue. In my view, that is completely unacceptable.
There are three consequences: in 18 months’ time, no new house will be fitted with a gas boiler; in seven years’ time, petrol cars will be illegal; and in 12 years’ time, people will not be able to replace their boiler like for like.
Is it not the case that, after car batteries expire, most of them end up in landfill? This is another significant problem we need to take stock of when these issues are considered.
It is. I have read many articles, not least by Mr Bean who, as we know, is a car expert. He wrote a very good article in The Guardian about why we are not quite ready for battery cars. If my wife or daughter is travelling from A to B, I want her to get there safely, as she can in a petrol or diesel car, without having to wait in a petrol section for some minutes to recharge her car, which then takes half an hour or so.
Our actions have consequences, and I urge the Government to think this through very carefully. We cannot impoverish our country to meet what I would call, in some cases, an almost cultish policy to turn this country into something we cannot afford. When we can afford it, and when it works, that is when we should adopt all these policies. I urge caution as the Government go forward.