Lots of MPs wanted to speak in yesterday's debate on the Energy Bill. Speaker cut us back to 5 minutes just before I was called to speak. Could have done with 10 mins, but managed to make thepoints I wanted to. Had to tidy up one ot two typos but here it is;
"There are two reasons why it is a huge pleasure for me to be called to speak in today’s debate. Firstly, it is a very important Bill. Secondly, today is a significant personal milestone. Precisely 10 years ago, at this time in the afternoon, I was at the Nuffield hospital in Shrewsbury in the throes of a six-hour operation to remove a cancerous tumour from my body. For those who are medically minded, the operation was a lower bowel perineal resection. One would have got very long odds indeed on my speaking in this Chamber 10 years later and representing my constituency of Montgomeryshire, particularly since at the time, it was one of the safest Liberal Democrat seats in the country.
I welcome the Bill and its commitment to energy market reform. Its purpose is to keep the lights on at an affordable cost to the nation, and to control the amounts of harmful gases which, it is said, are leading to global warming. Although I understand that we have not actually had any global warming for 15 years, is remains a laudable aim. It is a complex and wide-ranging Bill, and we can come at it from a variety of angles. I do not want to repeat what other Members have already said, which often happens in the later stages of a debate; I want to put forward considerations that Ministers might take into account when they deal with the implementation of ‘Contracts for Difference’.
I have spoken in this Chamber several times before about my antipathy to onshore wind projects in my constituency. It has been difficult for me to do so without becoming very angry because of the sheer unreasonableness of the situation. My constituency has been very supportive of renewable energy for as long as I can remember. It probably has more wind turbines than any other constituency in England and Wales, and near Machynlleth is the Centre for Alternative Technology. It had general support for renewable energy until two Governments—here in Westminster and in Cardiff—came together to attempt to impose on the constituency the appalling Mid Wales Connection. This project involves between 500 and 700 extra turbines, on top of what we have now, and almost 100 miles of cable, 35 miles of which is to be carried on 150 foot-high steel towers. It has transformed the attitudes of the people of mid-Wales towards renewable energy in general because of its unreasonableness.
It is not just me, as the Member for Montgomeryshire, who feels this way. I would point out to my Rt. Hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the other two MPs representing mid-Wales constituencies, both of them Liberal Democrats, members of his party share my view absolutely. There is a cross-party realisation of the unreasonableness of what is proposed for mid-Wales.
The impact on local democracy is also important. Governments in London and Cardiff may feel that mid-Wales can be sacrificed in what they might term ‘the national interest’. But it is not surprising that the people who live in these constituencies take an entirely different view and feel that we have a duty want to defend mid Wales. The applications by the development companies make no reference whatsoever to principles such as ‘cumulative impact’, to the importance of wild spaces and wild land in Britain, or to the visual impact that their project will have. All these aspects are devastating to my constituency.
A few days ago Powys County Council—the local planning authority—announced that it had set aside £2.8 million to defend its decisions to refuse 5 wind farm planning applications at appeal. Powys county council does not have £2.8 million to spare. It is a small rural council, and this would be devastating for local services. The council therefore asked the Welsh Government if they would help it to defend its planning judgments. The spokesman for the Welsh Government said that the council knew the costs involved when it turned the applications down. Clearly, the Welsh Government view is that the council should take the costs into account and approve inappropriate applications because it could not meet the costs of appeal. That is an affront to democracy.
Another constituency issue I want to raise relates to anaerobic digestion, of which I am a great supporter. Mr Clive Pugh of Mellington in my constituency is a pioneer in this field, into which he invested before the feed-in tariff legislation was enacted. He is currently paid 7p or 8p per unit for the electricity he produces, while all new developments in the field and of the same size are paid 14p per unit. He is a pioneer who put himself on the line, and it well be that he will be driven out of business. We need to ensure that any new system under ‘Contracts for Difference’ takes into account the impact on the pioneers—those who came before."