David Maclean, a one-time Home Office Minister and a former Conservative Chief Whip, used his contribution to the Queen's Speech Debate to raise the issue of climate change, and specifically to highlight the need to stop deforestation if it is to be combatted. He said:
"There is still some argument about the extent, nature and pace of climate change. I accept that climate change is happening, but no one knows the exact rate of that change. However, there is a massive change taking place in the world that is the prime contributor to climate change, and we can measure that to the hectare: day by day and week by week of the year, we burn 32,000 hectares of rain forest—9 million hectares every year, which is the size of England.
"Why should that matter? If climate change matters—and it does—the only way to stop it is by stopping deforestation. Saving the rain forest, and other forests, is the key. Forests are critical to regulating climate. Any real solution to climate change requires not only a reduction in fossil-fuel use, but protection of ecosystems like forests, which are critical to regulating carbon. The Amazon rain forest has been described as the “lungs” of our planet, because it provides the essential world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 per cent. of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon rain forest, which also releases 20 billion tonnes of moisture every day, much of it watering crops tens of thousands of miles away.
"Let us look at this another way round. I understand that the main thing we have to do to tackle climate change is to reduce carbon emissions, but the burning of the rain forest accounts for almost 20 per cent. of all such emissions in the world—that is far more than is accounted for by all the cars, lorries, buses, planes and ships in the world put together. Of course we in the western world have to do our bit to reduce transport carbon emissions, but if we do not halt the total destruction of our rain forests, we could close down all the transport in the world and we would still, eventually, die. Some say that the rain forests are very large and can easily take the loss of an area the size of England every year, but at the present rate of destruction, they will be totally destroyed in 40 years’ time. In just 20 years’ time, there will be only half of them left and they may then be too small to act as the lungs of the world to give us the oxygen we need.
"There is an infinitely greater reason for saving the rain forest than merely reducing carbon emissions, important though that is—the reason being that the rain forests are the “medicine cabinet” of the world, to steal another phrase from the Prince’s Rainforests Project. As rain forest species disappear, so, too, do many possible cures for life-threatening diseases. Currently, 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide are derived from plant sources and 25 per cent. of western pharmaceuticals are derived from rain forest ingredients, but less than 1 per cent. of tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists. So we have tested 1 per cent. and we are burning the other 99 per cent., yet we are getting 25 per cent. of our drugs from that 1 per cent.—that is a dangerous pyramid."
"The point of my speech is to say to the Government that the one deal that they must do in Copenhagen next month is on concerted action to save the world’s rain forests. I believe that a rain forest plan is on the agenda. We need not conventional overseas aid, but a new, verifiable and rapid system of carbon credits, properly and legitimately traded on the world market. Those countries with rain forests have a natural resource that the world needs—we need them, so we should pay for them and save them. Those of us who produce carbon should therefore pay those who have carbon sinks. That is not rocket science: we know that it can work—there have already been experiments—and we can easily police it with modern technology. What we now need is international action, led by the Prime Minister in Copenhagen, to make it work... If in the next few months the Government want to show that they are doing things to be on the side of the angels, they should come back from Copenhagen with a deal on saving the rain forests. We should forget about the rest of the measures in the Queen’s Speech and concentrate on the climate change agenda and the world’s rain forests."
A few days ago we reported that the special Speaker's Conference would, under the chairmanship of Speaker Michael Martin:
"Consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large".
We now have details of its membership:
Anne Begg (Vice-Chairman, Labour), Diane Abbott (Labour), John Bercow (Conservative), David Blunkett (Labour), Angela Browning (Conservative), Ronnie Campbell (Labour), Ann Cryer (Labour), Parmjit Dhanda (Labour), Andrew George (Liberal Democrat), Julie Kirkbride (Conservative), William McCrea (DUP), David Maclean (Conservative), Fiona Mactaggart (Labour), Anne Main (Conservative), Jo Swinson (Liberal Democrat) and Betty Williams (Labour).
"I refer to page 17 of volume 2 of the original Senior Salaries Review Body report, which Sir John Baker chaired. He compared our salary to that of a head teacher. Our salary was £60,000 and the head teacher was on £71,000. The police superintendent was on £68,000. The senior civil servant, grade 1, was on £69,000. The county council second tier person was on £72,000. The colonel was on £69,000, as was the health human resources director and similar. The comparators in the SSRB report put those people way ahead of us. There is therefore no doubt that we have fallen considerably behind those whom the SSRB considered our comparators. And, of course, none of those people—except a colonel in Afghanistan—is working long hours. Most of them are not doing 70 or 80 hours a week. Apart from those on the very front-line who are making tactical decisions involving life or death, most of them do not have the responsibility that we have of voting on issues that do include life or death, whether it be embryos, abortion, 42 days or whatever. We have a responsibility to make mega-decisions. For that, we get the pay of a second tier officer in a district council. I look forward to replacing my district planning officer, if the motion is not passed today."
THERESA MAY MP, Shadow Leader of the House: "I want to comment on why the issue of whether MPs vote on their pay has resonated so much with the public, and sadly, it is because many voters no longer trust politicians. They have a jaundiced view of politicians and are consistently given the view by the media that all MPs have their snouts in the trough. That is a disappointing representation on the part of the media because it damages this House, politics and our parliamentary democracy if people feel that they are not able to trust politicians. There are, of course, other ways in which trust in politicians is damaged, such as Governments not delivering on their promises, and other factors, but we should be concerned about the image of MPs portrayed by the media... The way in which MPs pay is reported in the press is an important issue. We consistently see the misreporting of the amounts of money that MPs “earn” in this House by the addition to our basic salaries of the budgets that we have to pay for our staff and in order to run our offices. Indeed, only last week The Daily Telegraph set out a table that included average staff salaries and average expenditure on offices alongside average travel expenses and the average additional costs allowance, under the heading “MPs’ Gravy Train”."
NICHOLAS WINTERTON MP: "Including time spent travelling to and from my constituency, I estimate that I spend an average of 85 hours per week on parliamentary and constituency work when the House is sitting. That is more than twice the normal working week in this country."
MARK FIELD MP: "Even if one of those independent mechanisms were properly implemented and all the concerns raised in this debate were addressed, the issue would still become a media hue and cry. Therefore, it is for us, as Members of Parliament, simply to bite the bullet and to drive forward the right sort of pay package, given that we believe in the idea of a sovereign Parliament."
DAVID MACLEAN MP: "Our work load is increasing all the time, but our hours have stayed fairly static, at 60, 70 or 80 a week. I could reduce my work load. I could, on Armistice Sunday, refuse to go to the service in Carlisle in the morning and the one in Penrith in the afternoon. I could refuse to do Saturday surgeries, and could refuse to go to council meetings on a Friday night. We could reduce our time commitment to 40 hours a week, but would that be the responsible, sensible thing to do? Would it be serving our constituents if we refused to do all the things that we have to do that take us 80 hours a week when the House is sitting and 60 hours a week when it is not?"
JOHN MAPLES MP: "A fair amount of remarks have been made about the erosion in our pay, and I do not need to reiterate those. Had the mechanism that we had agreed been followed, however, we would now be paid between £65,000 and £66,000 a year. Were we to continue to allow the erosion of our pay relative to other people, or to the public sector, that problem would sooner or later get so bad that it would have an effect on the sort of people who get into this place. If we want to fill it with people who are either fanatics or rich, that is the way to go, but it is not sensible. There are people who would do the job for nothing—I would be happy to present “Newsnight” for nothing—but whether they are the right people is a different question. It is not the right way of qualifying for a job. We certainly do not want to fill the place up, as we did until about 100 years ago, with people who have significant other sources of income."
and... "If we let the editorial writers of the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph set our pay, we are done for."
The decision over pay did not even go to a formal vote in the end with MPs agreeing to a sub-inflation pay rise (BBC).