In Parliament >> The blueing of the greens

13th September 2012


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  • Local government ,
  • Central government ,
  • Renewable

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IEMA

Cameron's reshuffle of the cabinet does not bode well for the green agenda, warns Alan Whitehead MP

What, if anything, can we tell from reshuffles? There has been a hubbub of speculation during and following the recent government reshuffle about what it all signifies.

Much of the process of deciding who goes where, particularly in junior posts, can seem random, metaphorically done by moving Post-its around a table in time for the afternoon news.

So perhaps divining too many qualities in individuals is inadvisable, but looking at trends is even less so. I think we can divine a very clear intent in this reshuffle: “green” ministers have almost wholly lost out, and have been replaced by those who may surprise us but at first sight look to be far less signed up to the green and low-carbon agenda than their predecessors.

Caroline Spelman at Defra, who most recently gave great personal endorsement to plans for sustainability indicators, has been replaced by Owen Paterson, known in environmental terms only for his very jaundiced pronouncements on planning and low-carbon energy.

The committed and knowledgeable Charles Hendry at DECC has been replaced by John Hayes, who apparently thinks that “renewable energy needs to pass the twin tests of environmental and economic sustainability and wind power fails on both counts.”

In short, most ministers who might have reasonably been expected to “bat green” in their departments have gone, been demoted or have moved.

Whether these moves are fuelled by the Treasury’s increasing antipathy towards all things low carbon, or by the prime minister cooling his enthusiasm for a green agenda is a matter for pure speculation.

But one thing is clear: it doesn’t bode well for a good outcome for electricity market reform, or for green investment, or the better embedding of sustainability across the government.

In fact, I would say that it marks pretty much the end of the government’s flirtation with green policy.

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