David Miliband MP: You Ask The Questions

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Why won't you stand for Labour leader? Are you scared, or just biding your time? STEPHEN STUBBS, Norwich

Yes, it would have its scary moments and, no, I'm not biding my time. But those aren't the reasons. Gordon Brown is very well qualified for the job.

I am aghast when I see cauliflowers wrapped in plastic "footballs" with flip-down lids. Which item of packaging outrages you most? MARTINE DICKINSON, Bristol

Kids' toys seem to have layer upon layer.

Are you going to do anything to force retailers such as Marks and Spencer to stop over-packaging? TAMSIN GOLDSMITH, Bristol

They are required to conform to the EU packaging directive, which we helped design, and are implementing, and there is a voluntary commitment to cut packaging by some companies by 80 per cent.

The two issues I care about most are global warming and Third World poverty, so should I buy vegetables from Africa in my local supermarket? BEN SMITH, Cheltenham

It depends. If the alternative to beans flown in from Kenya is greens grown with high (environmental) cost greenhousing in the UK then you can do the right thing for both aims.

Should anybody with a conscience shop at Tesco? ANGELA ELLIOTT, Welton le Marsh

I do, as well as at farmers' markets and elsewhere.

Why are you apparently denigrating organic foods? Do you follow a non-organic regime at home? JAMES MARSHALL, By e-mail

I am not and I am glad to have the chance to put the record straight. There is good evidence of biodiversity benefits from organic. Much organic food tastes really good. We buy it at home. But in answer to the question, "is it better for you?", I gave the truthful answer, namely that the independent scientific advice is that there is no proof it is better.

It has been suggested that you are either a vegetarian, or a "semi-veggie" (ie only eat chicken and fish). So, is it true? And when did you last eat a nice juicy British steak? TIM SAVILLE, Lincolnshire

No. Not true. Never has been. I last had steak the week before last.

I have a 20-month-old son and climate change keeps me awake at night. What will you say to the next generation when the planet has become uninhabitable and you were in a position of relative power and you failed them? INEZ APONTE, Bristol

If we fail, we will have no answer. The scientists say climate change is here, but we have 10 to 15 years to change the way we live and work to prevent catastrophic change. That is what we have to do.

Are you cutting down on your flights, both personally and professionally? KATY McFADDEN, Glasgow

I'm trying. I take the train to my constituency, the Eurostar to Brussels, but I'm not a saint.

If the leader of the country, who has had more information on climate change placed on his desk than anyone else, does not spend holidays closer to home, why should others do so? ESTHER PHILLIPS-CONSTANS, Leatherhead, Surrey

It is the overall footprint that counts - travel plus heat plus electricity.

What have you personally done to reduce your carbon footprint? KATHLEEN RYAN, Bath

I switched to a renewable electricity supplier. We recycle, take the train where possible, and offset our flights when we go abroad. But frankly, I will not be doing my job if I don't make much more difference through policy decisions. For example, when we applied the toughest cap to high-emitting industries under the Europe-wide emissions reduction plan, we secured eight million tonnes of emissions reduction per year.

How much do you cycle? and why is this Government not doing more to provide better and safer cycling facilities? AHMAD SYAL, Hackney

Not much - but when Arsenal are playing at home during the day (ie when I am not coming from work), I cycle to the match.

What would you do to discourage gas-guzzling SUVs and 4x4s in cities? KIKI BERMAN, Ashford

The congestion charge in London is one example. Government is now promoting road pricing so that we reduce congestion (itself good for the environment) and recognise the environmental cost of car journeys.

Is it any wonder politicians are seen as hypocrites when you preach global warming but have a fleet of government cars. Surely Blair could walk 300 yards from Downing Street to the Houses of Parliament? KENNETH JUDD, Kensington

My ministerial car is a hybrid and so are many others. But you are right that the sight of government buildings with lights on in the middle of the night is a bad advertisement.

In Sweden, non-recyclable batteries have been taxed since 1991. Germany recycles much more of its waste than the UK. Why are we lagging behind other European countries on our environmental performance? CHRIS WEYELL, Blandford

Historically, we have sent waste to landfill without a thought. But that is changing. Recycling has quadrupled in eight years. We have got to do more and we will, starting with the waste strategy in the next couple of months, which emphasises that we need to prevent and recycle waste (and reuse items) as well as doing more recycling.

Will you challenge Gordon Brown's mantra of "endless" economic growth, or will you buckle at the altar of the corporate community? DANBERT NOBACON, Leeds

Since 1997 the economy has grown by 26 per cent and greenhouse-gas emissions have been reduced by 8 per cent. Gordon himself has set out an aspiration for the economy - stable growth plus high employment plus environmental sustainability. Now we have to live up to it. Government drives, like zero-carbon new homes and incentives for renewable energy (£1bn a year by 2010), are a big part of the answer.

Are you proud to have served under the "pretty straight guy"? JAMES MILLER, By e-mail

Yes.

Do you feel that you have missed out by being one of the few senior figures in the Labour Party that the police have not questioned over the sale of peerages? H CONNOR, Muswell Hill

No. (And what happened to the presumption of innocence?)

Do you ever wake in the night feeling sick about what is happening in Iraq? Are you ashamed about supporting the war? HANNAH LLOYD, By e-mail

I don't wake up at night but I do think/worry/read about the situation in Iraq. I don't think the goals were shameful but it is obvious that key decisions have not gone right since the invasion.

What did Gordon Brown say to you privately after slapping down your leaked memo on green taxes? FRANCIS FISHER, Guildford

Who did it? (not me)

Are you dismayed by the failure of the Bush administration to confront climate change, let alone offer a lead to the world? FIONA PICKLES, Sheffield

Short answer? Yes. But 320 American cities, eight states and a new coalition of American businesses are on board. So it is a matter of when not if - and the sooner the better.

Please could we legislate that all items must have a "power off" switch? VANESSA OWEN, Orpington, Kent

The European Union is leading the way on this - one reason you cannot protect the environment if you are a Eurosceptic.

Do you believe in carbon offsetting, or do you think it is a substitute for changing our lifestyles? ANDY FARRELL, Leicester

I believe that reducing emissions is the best option, but for those emissions that cannot be reduced, offsetting is worthwhile.

How can the Government meet even its most conservative targets for reducing carbon emissions while expanding Britain's airports at such a massive rate? STEVE HARRINGTON, London

Aviation is 5 per cent of emissions and all future proposals for airport expansion will face an emissions test.

Why not tax ordinary lightbulbs and non-rechargable batteries? and why does Ireland have a tax on carrier bags and the UK can't be bothered? MARK YATES, Bracknell

The position on carrier bags is more complex than it first appears (check www.reusablebags.com for details). reusable bags are the best option, and we are working with retailers to reduce the environmental impact of their bags.

I can't wait to get my individual carbon allowance. when are we going to have rationing? MATTHEW DELAHUNT, Dundee

The idea is that we would figure out from the science the total level of emissions from the country in any one year, and then the household sector would be allocated a portion. Within that, everyone would have a carbon allowance. The thrifty would make a financial gain, the spendthrift have to pay. We have studies under way at the moment and the RSA (www.thersa.org) has a pilot. I think it is right for government to take forward ideas like this, even if they aren't ready for introduction tomorrow.

You recommend not flushing the toilet as one way of helping the environment, but shouldn't we be manipulating the structure of all toilets so as to use less water? THEO ROWLEY, Stafford

Only when you pee. We should certainly be looking at product regulations, but there is also the important issue of whether water for the toilet needs to be treated to such high quality. It is the water treatment that delivers the big carbon dioxide emissions.

What aspect of the Government's record most embarrasses or disappoints you? MARK O'NEILL, Manchester

Why aren't I ever asked what I am most proud of? There are obvious ones starting with the Dome, but for the long term, I wish we had made more progress in creating vibrant city government around the country. I am a great believer that if we could develop 100 cities then the country would really be flying. Good local government is fantastic for the country.

What was your nickname at Haverstock school? GRAHAM ADAMS, London

I have blocked it out. Don't ask what they called me at university.

Have you ever taken illegal drugs? CHARLIE SANDALL, London

No.

Are you ever mistaken for Brains from Thunderbirds? you look uncannily like him. TILLY EMMET, By e-mail

Are you Alastair Campbell in disguise? He used to call me that.

Are you cleverer than Ed Balls? JASPER TASCHEN, By e-mail

Of course not.

Do you ever worry that you appear arrogant? RACHEL MOLLOY, Bath

I worry that in the "gotcha" culture it is tempting for politicians (including me) to be nervous of showing doubt. There's a premium on certainty when, in fact, the issues are very complex. The best answer is sometimes "I don't know", but you can't use it too often.

You are from a very left-wing family, more Marxist than Labour, but you follow a political path considerably, perhaps embarrassingly, to the right of that background. In your case, has it caused problems? SIMON BARRY, London

Better ask whether it is embarrassing for my Mum. I was lucky to grow up in a household of strong views but where I was encouraged to think for myself.

What are the differences between you and your brother, Ed Miliband? DAVID MAY, Bromley

He has the talent.

I was interested to read that you adopted a foreign baby. Has it been difficult? DONNA McCARTHY, Newcastle

The hurdles for foreign adoption are the same as for domestic. Fatherhood via adoption has been the most wonderful revelation and joy. One day I will talk about it, but I try to keep my family out of the public eye.

You Ask The Questions: Next week, Sir David King, Chief Scientist

Send your questions to: myquestion@independent.co.uk

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