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Onshore Wind Industry

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 19 September 2023

The Government recently announced changes to national planning policy, giving greater flexibility to local authorities to respond to suitable opportunities for onshore wind. The Government also want communities to benefit from hosting onshore wind and have consulted on improving the current system of community benefits for England.

The truth is that the Government have failed to properly lift the ban on onshore wind, while bending over backwards to support expensive new oilfields and even giving billions in tax breaks for those polluting projects. That ban has already added hundreds of pounds to people’s bills, undermining the investment we need in the cheapest form of energy, and cost thousands of good green jobs. Will the Minister not admit that the Government’s failure to properly lift the ban on onshore wind will continue to keep bills higher and makes us less energy-secure?

More than 15 GW of onshore wind are deployed in the UK. In our allocation round 5 just the other day, we secured 1.7 GW of onshore wind capacity; allocation round 4 secured 1.5 GW. It is extraordinary: an industry—domestic UK oil and gas—has lower emissions than the alternative from abroad and employs 200,000 people, every one of whose jobs is at risk if the Labour party ever gets into power. Labour Members are suggesting that there is a negative fiscal impact, when that industry is expected to contribute £50 billion over the next five years. The Labour party is an enemy of the transition to net zero and of British jobs and prosperity.

If the Minister will not accept the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) , will he at least listen to industry, which described the recent announcement on onshore wind as a “missed opportunity” to end the ban? RenewableUK said:

“The proposed changes don’t go far enough”

and would not make up for

“eight years of lost progress.”

When will the Minister listen to industry and lift the ban properly so that we can cut bills?

On 5 September, the Government announced changes to national planning policy for onshore wind in England, giving greater flexibility to allocate suitable areas and to address the planning impact of onshore wind. I agree with the hon. Lady; I am an enthusiast for more onshore wind where it goes with the grain of communities, and we will continue to pursue that to make sure that we can realise the benefits that come from it.

The Minister will know, although he unaccountably did not tell us, that there was precisely no new onshore wind in England in the recent AR5. The Minister claims that the latest compromised wording, which he alluded to, will lift the ban on onshore wind, but he knows really that that is not so and he knows what the industry has been saying about it and why it will not invest for the future. The result is no new onshore wind getting built in the medium-term, higher bills for families and less energy security for the country. Why will his Department not just face down his luddite Back Benchers, introduce fair planning regulations for onshore wind and get the industry restarted across England?

As I have just said, we announced changes as recently as 5 September. Like the hon. Gentleman, I look forward to a positive future for onshore wind in England, as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom.