Rt Hon Lord Lilley

     Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I could not agree more with the Secretary of State when he says that we need to have confidence in the science. Does he therefore agree with the remarks of George Monbiot in The Guardian today? He says:

      “The emails extracted…from the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia could scarcely be more damaging…There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.


      Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

    He concludes:


      “I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.”

    Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on that?

    Edward Miliband:
    That is certainly an unusual alliance-George Monbiot and the right hon. Gentleman. In all seriousness, my view is that there should be maximum transparency about the data that exist. I know that in debate on related questions, one of my ministerial colleagues talked to the right hon. Gentleman about the way in which the Met Office was seeking permission for the release of the raw data; the right hon. Gentleman has been campaigning for that. Maximum transparency can only help the case of those who believe that climate change is real and man-made; that is important. I will not comment on the e-mails, because I have not seen the detail, but I clearly say to him that transparency is important.

    The only other point that I would make to the right hon. Gentleman is that we should be cautious about using leaked partial e-mails to cast doubt on the scientific consensus, because that is dangerous and irresponsible. The scientific consensus is clear. Although there must be transparency of data, we should be responsible in how we talk about the issues. Let us be clear: the more we cast doubt on such questions, the more we question the case for action. The case for action involves making difficult decisions-a point that I shall come on to.


    Mr. Lilley:
    Does the Secretary of State share the extraordinary complacency of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change about leaked documents from the Climate Research Unit which show that civil servants have been trying to avoid the Freedom of Information Act-which is potentially a criminal offence-have been conspiring to prevent publication of dissenting views, and have been modifying their own data? Would he allow such behaviour by officials on his Department’s payroll?

    Hilary Benn:
    I fundamentally disagree with the right hon. Gentleman’s accusation of complacency, because that is not what my right hon. Friend said. He said that he was in favour of maximum openness, and that is a view that I entirely share.