Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action
Examination of the Third Report of the Citizens' Assembly (Resumed)
I was a Member of Parliament for nearly 40 years, so I am conscious of the democratic concept. I think it is dangerous to take it like that. We need to distinguish between the two elements. I am referring to parliamentary decision-making on what we should do and setting the targets against which we will be judged. In the end, what happens if the UK Government does not meet its targets? They are statutory targets and the UK Government could be taken to court and forced to meet them. I would not take the UK Government to court, but if someone did so, I would be the first witness for the prosecution. I hope the UK Government will do its job. Otherwise I would be rather embarrassed. That is what we have to do. The system works in that sense.
It is difficult for people to say there is no proper democratic control. It is really up to the specialist committee. If we give enough power to the equivalent of the Joint Committee on Climate Change, then we enable ourselves to pressurise the matter. I have used the example with the UK Department for Transport. So that he knows it is happening, I am about to start the same campaign with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government because he is the housing Minister and at the moment we are building crap houses. In other words, we are building houses that we will have to re-kit rapidly. Those responsible are doing it in Ireland too. One of the areas where the Parliament could make a major difference – I am trying to get the devolved parliaments to do the same – is to refuse to allow those houses to be built and to insist that a given standard must be met. It is so dishonest. Those responsible are selling houses at a given price and people then have to pay significant sums to keep them warm when that is not counted in the price. We have to build houses where people do not spend that sort of money. At the same time, we are reducing the impact on the environment, pollution and, therefore, on climate change.