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Peter Ainsworth: Improving the quality of life for all

Addressing the Party Conference, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Peter Ainsworth said:

"We've had a great discussion.

Thanks to all who took part.

Thank you to the panel.

And the rest of the Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs team. Bill Wiggin, Anne McIntosh and John Taylor.

We've been debating the quality of life.

It's a huge and complex agenda;

But a profoundly Conservative one.

Improving the quality of life for all.

It's the whole point of all this, isn't it?

Some seem to think that the Green Agenda is a departure from our "core values".

They obviously don't understand that respect for the countryside and natural world; cutting waste; encouraging innovation, enterprise, and investment in new technologies are, of course, core Conservative values.

They always have been and always will be.

Conservatives have always stressed the importance of living within our means.

Today that means respecting the Earth's natural limits as we work to build a vibrant economy.

I know the Quality of Life Report got mixed reviews.

Radical thinking usually does.

But I believe that it is a groundbreaking piece of work and I pay tribute to its authors.

It is absolutely not, as some commentators suggested, all about increasing bureaucracy and taxation.

Far from it.

Bureaucracy and taxation are the last things we need in the fight to improve Quality of Life.

The Report represents a vision of a better world we can offer our children.

But to make that vision a reality requires real change.

Business as usual is not an option.

Nor is politics as usual.

It really is time for change.

As I said this time last year, the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment.

Everything we value is dependent on having a habitable place to live.

We stand no chance of making poverty history in Bangladesh or Blackpool if we continue to trash the Earth's life support structures.

Continuing to damage the marine environment, not only spells ecological disaster but threatens the very existence of our fishing industry.

That is why we are proposing changes to the way that fisheries are managed to give more local control over national waters.

And why we are supporting the introduction of a Marine Bill which will provide protection for vital coastal habitats.

This summer, we were given a harsh reminder of the awesome power of nature. The widespread flooding brought misery to hundreds of thousands of people.

Many are still struggling to get their lives back together. We will not forget them.

The extraordinary rainfall was consistent with the impact of Climate Change.

As a nation, we face some big issues:

- Given that fossil fuels are a finite resource, is it really wise to base our economic thinking on the notion that they will last forever?

- Do we really want to become increasingly dependent on Russia, the Middle East, for our supply of power?

- As energy security soars up the political agenda do we really want to go on wasting it?

Going green will make us safer and more self reliant.

- Shouldn't we, anyway, be encouraging far more energy efficiency in our homes and businesses? Saving energy and saving the planet and saving money at the same time.

- Are you happy that 2/3 of all power generated by conventional, distant power stations is wasted before it even hits a light bulb?

The Labour Government is tinkering at the edges of these issues. A myriad of confusing, stop, start initiatives.

We need to move on.

I can announce that the next Conservative Government will begin a revolution in the way that our energy is generated and supplied.

We will take forward the recommendations of our Quality of Life Review to:

- Introduce a Power Station Waste Heat Levy that will encourage the capture and use of heat which today is just thrown up into the sky.

Our aim is to create real incentives to drive the market.

Gordon Brown has announced Zero Stamp Duty on zero carbon homes.

Sounds great.

Until you read the small print.

Guess how many Zero Carbon Homes will benefit from Zero Stamp Duty?

That's right: just about zero.

That's just bogus.

And it's typical of the Lib Dems to promise a Zero Carbon Britain. Lib Dems can make all the promises they want because they know they will never be asked to keep them in Government.

And I can also announce that, as we develop our new approach we will adjust distorting subsidies for on-shore wind farms and ensure proper competitive tariffs for emerging renewable technologies.

We want to reward households which switch to renewable energy by introducing a system of feed-in tariffs which will dramatically boost the market for local energy.

"Feed-in tariffs", that's a terrible bit of jargon.

Allow me to explain. It means that individuals who go to the trouble of installing renewable energy in their homes will be rewarded with a real opportunity to sell any excess energy they generate back into the grid.

It really is giving power to the people.

It has had a dramatic positive effect in Germany helping to create a quarter of a million jobs. But under Labour, Britain is trailing behind.

And we want to reform the way we pay for vital services like energy and water to ensure a fairer system for poorer households.

The Quality of Life Group and John Redwood's Competitiveness Group are united in agreeing that it's time to stop tinkering.

It's time to put behind us Brown's bogus promises.

It's time for real change.

We need to change to a smarter approach to waste.

Everywhere I go, I meet people who are fed up with excessive packaging.

Food and toys are the worst offenders.

Of course we will not charge people for using supermarkets, but any business which produces waste should be made responsible for it; and that includes supermarkets.

Unlike Labour, we will not punish households for putting stuff in the bin that they never wanted in the first place.

But we will encourage those that recycle more.

Encouragement, not punishment.

Helping people to do the right thing.

Creating opportunities for enterprise and ensuring that the polluter pays.

As the Quality of Life Report makes clear, going green represents a huge economic opportunity.

New jobs. New technology. New thinking. I want Britain to be a leader, not a laggard. Staying Brown will be expensive, irresponsible and not environmentally, socially or economically sustainable.

Speaking of Brown -

He loves a crisis doesn't he?

I sometimes think Gordon Brown only goes on holiday in order to come back.

Sometimes things happen that are beyond the Government's control.

The weather.

Bluetongue disease.

But Foot and Mouth was different.

We all know now that it was faulty drains at the Pirbright Laboratories that allowed FMD to escape into the environment.

Do you remember how the Government to tried to blame a private company for the outbreak?

But it was the Government who were responsible for licensing and regulating the laboratories at Pirbright.

They were repeatedly warned about the risk they were running. But they too no notice, and then it was too late.

The cost to the farming community of this shameful negligence now runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. And have they said sorry?

Of course not. But if the Foot and Mouth virus is not safe in their hands, nothing is safe in their hands and if this is what happens when Gordon Brown take personal charge of a crisis, he's better off out of it.

Our farmers are having a terrible year.

But I never cease to be moved by the courage and determination they show in the face of adversity.

And I want a clear message to come out from this conference to the farming community.

We value your work; we admire your resilience; we love your produce and the beautiful landscape you have created over the centuries and we will trust and support you, not get in the way.

Backing people to do the right thing; supporting families; strengthening society and communities; cutting waste and bureaucracy; respecting the environment. Taking responsibility, but sharing it too.

These are core Conservative values. They are values shared by millions of people who are longing for the changes that only a Conservative Government will deliver."

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