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Tim Hughes: We're very fortunate this morning to have a special guest speaker to come to join us. If you could introduce you to Rachel Reeves, who is a member of Parliament. She's also one of the select committee chairs, commissioned the Citizens' Assembly. So we're gonna hear from Rachel for about five minutes or so. Then we're gonna have an opportunity to ask her a few questions before lunch. So thank you very much for joining us Rachel and over to you.
Rachel Reeves MP: Thank you very much, Tim. So I'm Rachel Reeves. I'm the member of Parliament for Leeds West and I chair the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee in Parliament. As you all know, there are six select committees that have sponsored and advocated for this Citizens' assembly. And so it's a real privilege to be here today to see what you're getting up to, and to observe some of your sessions. I was the chair of the Select Committee in the last Parliament as well, and I was re-elected as chair in the last week or so. So I've been with this agenda and with these policy areas for a while now. And so it's great to have been re-elected, so I can see this process through.#
During the course of the last Parliament, my Select Committee commissions and did reports in a number of areas relating to some of the topics that you're discussing over these four weekends, including the use of electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage, title power and energy efficiency in our homes. I also presented my own bill to Parliament on net-zero. And of course now we've got the government's commitment and net-zero by 2050. And, I think the challenge one of the challenges is, is a missed all the other debates in politics and parliament and in elections about economic issues, about social issues, about Brexit about all these different areas. Sometimes this crucial issue of energy and climate change can fall down the list of political priorities. And perhaps climate change and achieving net-zero more than any other policy area is going to require not just the commitments of this government but governments into the future and Parliaments into the future. But also it requires changes in the behaviours of everybody, not just politicians. It requires changes in the way that we heat our homes in the way that we travel, how we shop, what we eat, how we generate the power that heats our homes and keeps the lights on. And so the chairs of the select committees and those select committees came up with this idea of the forming Citizens' assemblies based on some of the ones that have seen in other parts of the country and around the world on the local government to bring together people. To have an informed debate and deliberation to then inform Parliament and governments and each of the select committees that that's that sponsored this Citizens assembly have members from across the political spectrum. So our Select Committee includes members from all political parties.#
And so one of these I want to do today, really, is to assure you that what you're doing over these four weekends and we're all incredibly grateful for you giving up your time and your weekends to put it to this public service that it's not going to be in vain. It's really important the recommendations and reports, and the ideas that you come up with because it's going to inform the debate on our select committees in Parliament and in government as well. So I'm really excited about observing today, but also seeing in the weeks and months ahead the reports on the recommendations of this Citizens' assembly so that it could drive the work of my Select Committee, but most importantly, drive the policy agenda of this government. So thank you for giving up one weekend already halfway through the next one and two more ahead of this. It is a huge public service that you're committing to. And, I think that future generations as well will thank you for your endeavours. So thank you.
Tim Hughes: Thank you very much, Rachel. So we are going to take some questions now because we only have a short amount of time before lunch. We're gonna break with our normal way of doing questions and just do a kind of hands up in the air if you have a question. So Rachel isn't here to give formal evidence to you as an assembly. So that means that we'd ask for no questions around how to reach net-zero. So Rachel can't answer any questions about that. But she can answer any questions to do with which has just spoken about the work of her committees or anything else you may wish to ask her. And I'm gonna give this mic to Sarah to run around with. We'll use this one up the front. So any questions?
Sarah: I saw this gentleman first.
Member of the audience: All right. Under the recent opening of Parliament in the Queen's Speech, there's a commitment made that successive governments would ensure money was available irrespective of which party was in power. Is there any commitment for future governments to spend the same amount of money as what's intended to be spent at the moment? By law, that is.
Rachel Reeves MP: What's in law is the commitment to net-zero by 2050. But you can't bind future parliament to legislation that is passed today. But if you're going to renege on that commitment to net-zero by 2050 you would have to change the law. You would have to get the consent of the parliamentarians in the future. I think if you look at the manifestos of all the political parties that the last election back in December, the issue of climate change and achieving net-zero had a greater prominence than any election in the past. I think that shows that this is an issue that is moving up the political agenda as it absolutely should, because I think that this is the issue that my generation of politicians is going to be judged on by future generations. So a Parliament can't bind a future Parliament to spend a certain amount of money. But I would expect, with the current sort of direction of travel for future governments and future Parliaments, to put more not less focus on this area, than Parliaments and governments in the past.
Member of the audience: Hi. So you were just speaking about how there was a greater prominence in the political debates regarding climate change and climate policy. But what I wanted to pick up on this is the word debate. You keep referencing it. Do you think that there's a possibility that there can be any sort of cross-party consensus and it not be a point for debate and a kind of political tool within debates and in fact, be something that all of the parties can come to a consensus on the conclusion of the change they want to create and that be applicable throughout, and it not just be used as a tool to gain votes and actually just be something tangible that everyone agrees they want to change?
Rachel Reeves MP: Well, I think there is a degree of consensus and the bill to commit net-zero by 2050 was passed without any dissent. I don't think you would have got that five or 10 years ago when I first entered Parliament in 2010. So I think there has been politicians and the country really has gone on a journey and this issue has increased in prominence. I don't think debate is a bad thing, and I don't use that in a negative -that word in a negative way. It is debates, debates in rooms like this, debates in town halls, debates in Parliament that actually moved things on. And it's by challenging people's views. And coming up with new ideas that you take things forward. And whilst there is consensus on getting to net-zero, there will, of course, be a debate about how you achieve that, and that's one of the things that you're doing. And that's a positive thing, not a negative thing. And actually, as new technologies and new ideas come to the fore, we will debate those as well, and then through Parliament, we will vote and we will pass legislation to commit, whether it's money or resources or regulation to doing, I hope, what is needed to meet the commitments that we've made. But I think debate is a positive thing and not a negative thing. And in terms of (indecipherable) achieve consensus, I think there is consensus up to a point, this consensus that we need to take action. But there's always going to be debate about how far we should go, whether we should go further and faster. To what extent? Who bears the costs? How do you achieve the targets? And debate's healthy in a positive way, as long as it's conducted in the right way of getting there and moving forward.
Sarah: Any other questions? Take one here and then I'll come that way.
Member of the audience: Hi, I believe your committee issued a report to government last year stating that the private vehicle ownership was not sustainable as part of our target of reaching net-zero by 2050. Mass public ownership of private vehicles I mean. So how do you expect people to get around?
Rachel Reeves MP: What we said in our report was that the date for banning the sale of new of petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward from 2040 to 2032. The government said last week that day should be brought forward to 2035. So I think there is a growing consensus that the date should be brought forward. Although there's still a debate about what that date is. There's already seeing changes in the way in which people travel and I think we'll see more of that in the future. More people, particularly in cities, don't own their own cars, but we'll hire them and we'll use car-sharing schemes to be able to use a car when they need to, rather than having a car sitting in front of their house or their flat as has been more of the tradition in the past. So I think you're already seeing changes in this area but certainly there are Select Committee fails that we needed to go faster in phasing out the sale of petrol and diesel cars because even when you stop selling petrol and diesel cars you're still gonna have petrol diesel cars on the road for a decade, two decades into the future until those old cars are consigned to the scrap heap. So that was recommendation of our committee. But those recommendations were made before the government made its further commitments and zero by 2050. So I think that all of the commitments that government have made need to be looked at again now that we have got a stronger commitment in terms of carbon emissions than we had just a few months ago. So all of these areas and that's one of the things we're doing over this these weekend is to think about well, we've got a set of policies on the table at the moment around electric vehicles, about energy generation in a whole range of areas. But actually they weren't sufficient for meeting our current targets. What more do we need to do in all of those areas in power generation, in travel, in heating, etcetera, to meet these new, more ambitious targets that now Parliament and government have signed up to?
Tim Hughes: So we just have a couple of minutes left for questions. So perhaps if we try and squeeze two questions now, and then quite quick answers.
Sarah: A question here is from an assembly member, but they've asked one of our facilitators to read out for them.
Facilitator: How can we be reassured that the government will follow on our recommendations?
Sarah: Was there another one? Hands up then for another question
Member of the audience: It is pretty much the same, but a bit flowery if you like. We see councils, companies, individuals doing a lot towards climate change already and they're taking, they're not really taking the lead from the government. The government in 2016 attached climate change to one of the other departments and then pretty soon after took it off. And from what I've seen, there's no department assigned to climate change. But I think is, my personal opinion is that should be a department for climate change. It's like we hadn't started the Industrial Revolution in Britain and this is another industrial revolution and it is industrial because this is a huge thing. So why isn't the government taking the lead? We need a head. We need a government to take the lead and control and make sure only government can make subsidies and the planning and the laws. Thank you.
Rachel Reeves MP: Well, I'm not here to speak for the government. I'm a parliamentarian, I'm a backbench MP and I'm from the Labour Party. So I'm not here to speak on behalf of the government. But what I would say is that the six select committees that have commissioned this Citizens' assembly and sponsored this Citizens' assembly are chaired by MPs from different parties from the - when the Citizens' assembly was established, it was supported by Labour, Conservative, and a Liberal Democrat chair. And the select committees are made up of members that reflect the political -the numbers in Parliament. So the select committees have majority Conservative membership. So it was Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, SNP MPs who commissioned the Citizens' assembly. So there is cross-party support for the Citizens' assembly and also the former Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy Secretary of State Greg Clark and the current Secretary of State Andrea Leadsom have given their support for the Citizens' assembly and have so said supportive things about it. So I think we can have a degree of reassurance that the government are going to listen and take on board the views of the Citizens' assembly and certainly in Parliament across those six select committees, but also more widely, we're going to use what you come up with to inform our future work programme, and what we look at, and the evidence that we take in our select committees.#
I think that governments, both the former Labour government and this Conservative government have taken actions to reduce our carbon emissions. And we can discuss and I'm sure you will, whether they have done enough. But for example, in 2008 at the UK was the first government to pass binding commitments to reducing carbon emissions. And just last year we were the first government to legislate to achieve net-zero. So I think we can take some comfort in that. We've already reduced by about 40% of our carbon emissions from 1990 levels. Yes, we've got further to go and that's why we've got the commitment now to net-zero by 2050. But our power generation is totally different to what it was a generation ago when we relied heavily on coal in the burning of fossil fuels within a two or three years, I expect that no coal will be burnt in the UK. And increasingly, our electricity generation comes from wind power. So there are lots of positives I think we can point to. But of course, we know because the science tells us we've got to do much more than we already have. And that's why the involvement of citizens, of all of you, in leading that debate and informing parliamentarians and government, I think is really important. So I want to give you assurance that Parliament, and I believe government, will take on board your recommendations and want to hear from you as a cross-section of the country who have had an informed and deliberative debate over four weekends who have heard the evidence but also have come together as a group of people from a whole range of backgrounds with different experiences and coming in with different views and ideas. If you can form a consensus and a plan for taking us forward, then I think that it would be very foolish of parliamentarians and government not to heed your advice and your recommendations when we're forming policy for the future.#
So I hope that gives you some assurance and I think over the course of the coming weekends that you get together as a Citizens' assembly, you will hopefully hear from other members of Parliament, from other political parties to give you that further assurance that what you're doing is both incredibly important. And is vital in forming the policy debate going forward.
Tim Hughes: I'm afraid we have run out of time for any more questions. We don't want to hold up your lunch, but I'm sure you'll need it after the morning you've had.
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