Renewable/Other Energy

Ministers warn peers on ‘thin ice’ in row over windfarm subsidies

Ben Brack Wind Farm gets go-ahead.

Ministers have escalated a fierce row with the House of Lords over plans to scrap subsidies for new onshore wind farms as Tory MPs warned peers they are on “thin ice”.

The upper chamber successfully deleted proposals from the Energy Bill last year which would scrap the subsidies a year earlier than originally planned, only for the Government to successfully re-insert them when the legislation returned to the Commons.

Earlier this month the Government was handed another defeat by peers as they narrowly voted to extend exceptions to the measures to allow some projects to be completed where they had been given initial planning permission.

But Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom today insisted the Government will not back down and that the cut-off date for subsidies will remain the same, as MPs voted to reject the Lords’ amendment by 293 votes to 224, a majority of 69.

That means the Energy Bill will return again to the House of Lords for a further round of parliamentary “ping pong”.

Ms Leadsom said: “The 18th of June (2015) was set out as a clear bright line and we have continued to maintain the importance of this as a clear cut off and statement of intent to industry.
“To tamper with such an integral part of the early closure policy at such a late stage in its development simply will not do.”

Ending the renewables obligation (RO) early is likely to save the Government an estimated £20 million a year and Ms Leadsom said allowing the extension would cost £10 million annually.

Scrapping the subsidies was a key Tory election pledge.

Intervening, Simon Hoare, the Tory MP for North Dorset, said: “In the list of pre-warnings that you have set out, my recollection tells me, and we discussed this in committee you will remember, the proposals were contained within our manifesto and that commanded the support of the British people.

“Do you agree with me that we are on that thin ice again of the other place trying to interfere with the Government’s agenda which has already been voted upon by the British people?”

Ms Leadsom said: “You are exactly right. This is a manifesto commitment and in the other House peers should listen to the manifesto commitment of this Government and should respect it as is normally the practice as I understand it.”

But shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead accused the Government of “movement of the goalposts” in seeking to end the subsidies earlier than planned, while the SNP’s Callum McCaig accused ministers of “dogmatism” in pursuing ping pong with the Lords.

“We could finish this Bill just now with a minor acceptance of the Lords’ amendments and be done,” he said.

Ms Leadsom said Labour should be “ashamed” for delaying the Bill and the recovery of the oil and gas industry.

She said: “We cannot and must not accept any delay in completing this Bill so we can give the oil and gas authority the powers it needs to maximise the economic recovery of the UK’s remaining oil and gas reserves.

“Industry and Government share the same ambitions and are working very closely together.”

She added: “I do find it very disappointing that members opposite who should know better are somehow suggesting that by adding a mere £10 million extra per year to consumer bills this afternoon we can somehow achieve our aim of setting up the oil and gas authority early.

“They should be ashamed of themselves. They should be supporting the speedy conclusion of this Bill to Royal Assent for the sake of the oil and gas industry which they all profess to support so enormously.”

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