Onshore Wind Generating Stations in England and Wales

Part of Energy Bill [Lords] – in the House of Commons at 7:30 pm on 9th May 2016.

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Photo of Callum McCaig Callum McCaig Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Energy and Climate Change) 7:30 pm, 9th May 2016

It is with an unfortunate sense of déjà vu that we return to debate an issue we should have put to bed months ago, if not longer. I struggle to recall when the Wood review reported, but it was well in excess of 18 months ago, and as has been said many times, including by me, it was a completely different time in the oil industry’s lifespan. Up to a point, the Government have taken the action expected, but they did so at the time of the Wood review, when things were very different. Further delay should not have happened.

The Bill should have been on the statute books months ago and should not have conflated the OGA with onshore wind. It might have seemed like a neat parliamentary ruse at the time, but it is causing potentially significant damage. The last time we dealt with this—a week or so ago—the Minister told Opposition Members that we should be ashamed of ourselves. The most unedifying aspect of all this is that we are now talking only about projects in Scotland—four Scottish wind farms—and the OGA, which will largely deal with the oil industry in Scotland, and yet this House and that House cannot get their act together to protect two vital Scottish industries. That, for me, is utterly shameful and unacceptable.

Not content with decimating the wind industry in Scotland, the Tory party, supposedly in the name of public opinion, is twisting the knife in the face of public opinion. The four projects affected by the Bill all got planning permission from the local council. That is the definition of public support, which is what this should be about. There is public support for wind farms that would have significant community benefit. We have talked about the £7 million cost. I wonder how much we would have saved had we not delayed in establishing the OGA and provided it with the teeth it should have had months ago. We are squabbling over a relatively small figure, in the grand scheme of things, compared to the colossal amounts of money the Government will waste on the white elephant at Hinkley Point C. That sticks in my craw and that of folks in Scotland.

The Lords have compromised—good on them—because they want to get a deal done. I am no expert in parliamentary procedure, but the Minister talks about wanting to pass the Bill. It could be done very simply by accepting the amendment. We run the risk, before we prorogue for the Queen’s Speech, of the Bill falling. If that happens, it will be a shameful betrayal of the entire cross-party process over the establishment of the OGA, the development of its agenda and the provision of the tools it requires to help our oil industry. That cannot be allowed to happen. The risk is that we sacrifice the OGA on the altar of Tory party dogma on onshore wind. That is utterly unforgiveable.

What is the solution? It is surely a simple one. It is to recognise that, although the manifesto contained a commitment not to have any more onshore wind and to end new subsidies, it did not have an arbitrary date, cast in stone, that no more should happen after that. These schemes all have public support and all got planning permission within six months—I believe—of the election, which is a pretty reasonable timescale to allow for sensible interaction between Government and business. But no. These schemes are to be sacrificed, regardless of the consequences.

I do not know what will happen after this. No doubt we will lose the vote. I do not know if the Lords will continue to fight—they would have every right to—but we need to bring our minds back to the bigger picture. Tens of thousands of jobs are at stake if we do not get the oil and gas support correct.