Thursday, December 22, 2022

Rishi Sunak ready to reverse onshore wind ban amid Tory revolt, signals Grant Shapps

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Mr Shapps, the business secretary, downplays talk of a “squabble” with rebels, but it comes after the prime minister vowed to stick to the moratorium on onshore wind power.

Rishi Sunak is poised to reverse his pledge to ban onshore wind power amid a growing rebellion by Conservative MPs, a cabinet minister has suggested.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps signaled the Prime Minister was ready to bow to Tory rebels, insisting there was no “massive gulf” between their position and the government’s.

Former Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Liz Truss are among some 30 Tories supporting ex-Leveling Up Secretary Simon Clarke’s amendment that would allow wind farms in rural areas with local approval of the Leveling Up Act.

Mr Shapps tried to downplay talk of a U-turn by insisting there was no “quarrel” with the rebels.

But it comes after Mr Sunak promised in the Tory leadership’s summer campaign to scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind.

It also comes after Mr Sunak pulled scheduled votes on the bill last week amid a major Tory rebellion over the separate issue of housing targets.

Mr Shapps told Times Radio that the effect of Mr Clarke’s change was “actually exactly what Rishi said when he last spoke about it and actually what I’ve said about it in the past”.

“We’re all basically saying the same thing,” he said.

“You need local approval if you want to have onshore wind power because it can be a pretty big imposition on the local environment.”

The relegation comes after Labor decided to back Mr Clarke’s amendment, raising the prospect of Mr Sunak being defeated in a vote in the House of Commons.

Reports over the weekend suggested a cabinet had split over the issue, with Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove, who is responsible for the bill, also backing an end to the onshore wind moratorium.

Former Conservative Party leader Sir Jake Berry and Alok Sharma, who was President of the Cop26 climate summit, meanwhile, were among the latest senior MPs to support Mr Clarke’s amendment and put pressure on the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson made no attempt during his time at Number 10 to lift the effective moratorium on new onshore wind projects that has been in place since 2015.

Calls for the lifting of the ban on new onshore wind farms have risen amid efforts to secure the UK’s energy independence as the Russian invasion of Ukraine has squeezed supplies.

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