The Con-Dem coalition has been prompt to announce some fundamental reforms touching on the key issues of EU Regionalisation and also on the democratic process as it applies to planning decisions.
As you will know the EU has used the policy of government through the regions as a means of by-passing elected national parliaments and administrations and extending dependence on the EU politburo. It has done this through the Committee of the Regions and by the use of the so called Cohesion Fund and also the Regional Development Fund. I understand that we get £100 for every £260 of our money under this system. This is intended by the Commission to extend EU competence and to deepen ‘integration’ by depleting national governments of authority in key areas particularly in over planning since control over land use confers economic power. Through the Regional Policy Commissioner, the EU Economic and Social Committee, the UK Regional Spatial Strategy and UK Regional Development Authorities the EU is able to guide UK policies on housing and infrastructure projects to ensure that they are in line with EU Commission objectives. These have increasingly been imposed on local planning authorities without any democratic oversight or enquiry.
It is therefore welcome news that the coalition is to ‘restore to neighbourhoods power to determine the shape of places in which their inhabitants live’ by abolishing the entire bureaucratic and undemocratic tier of regional planning, including the Regional Spatial Strategy and all regional building targets. The coalition has announced that it will end all Regional Planning Guidance and abolish the Regional Development Agencies. The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) is to be abolished and replaced by a unit in the Planning Inspectorate. All major infrastructure project decisions now have to involve full consultation with local communities. To give momentum to these policies a Minister for Decentralisation has been appointed.
However, whilst all this is most heartening there remains the crucial and urgent question of how we are to provide for our national energy needs and in particular how we are to generate sufficient power to serve the needs of industry and of consumers. Before its abolition the IPC had 15 wind turbine and 4 nuclear power generation projects to consider – it did not in fact deal with any project during its existence.
Decisions are urgently needed on these but must not be made other than in the service of an energy policy based on scientific reality and the overwhelming need to provide politically secure long term energy generation with consistent affordable and stable pricing.
The greatest threat to our long term prosperity and economic stability is now the withering ineptitude of the former Labour government to provide a secure and stable supply of power for the country’s needs. The essential issues as to energy policy have been skewed and obscured by an irrational obsession with the question of CO2 emissions and their supposed impact on global temperature. The consequences of this obsession are very grave. They involve the crippling of manufacturing industry and a colossal burden of what is in truth additional taxation of our industrial base and of the consumer.
The cost of complying with the EU and UK climate change legislation, levies, targets, subsidies and emission restrictions is truly fantastic. The appalling financial predicament into which industry and the consumer have been placed by this obsession has now been analysed in a recent publication British Energy Policy and the Threat to Manufacturing Industry (Ruth Lea and Jeremy Nicholson: Civitas). The Department of Energy and Climate Change itself computes that by 2020 the aggregate cost to industry of these financial burdens will be an additional 70% minimum of the current of energy cost (disregarding inflation).
No manufacturing concern can bear these costs and remain competitive. Industry requires stable and consistent energy prices since for major manufacturing entities (particularly in chemicals, steel, glass, paper, industrial gases, aluminium and cement production) energy costs are the most critical potential variable. I should add that for the consumer the DECC puts the aggregate increase in energy costs at a minimum of 33%. Such figures are almost certainly underestimates.
The consequence of all this is that such industries will migrate to other jurisdictions where they can effectively compete in global markets. Indeed this is already happening. There is also no doubt that foreign inward investment will fall significantly and that unemployment will become an endemic and insoluble problem to an extent that will further accelerate our economic decline.
Nor is the cost of energy the only tsunami that is going to overwhelm us unless we act immediately. If we do not invest immediately in new generation nuclear power stations and/or coal or fired power stations there is no possibility of our providing from our own resources for the energy shortfall that will occur when the present generation of nuclear and coal powered power stations become decommissioned. All but one of our nuclear power stations were built over 30 years ago and will need to be closed within the next 10 years. Our existing larger coal and oil fired powers stations are due to close in the next 5 years under the EU’s ‘Large Combustion Plants’ directive. The sombre fact is that, as John Hutton, the then energy minister, stated to the Labour Party conference in August 2008 – in a rare moment of objective honesty – “no coal and no nuclear means no power, no future”. 2 weeks later he was removed from office.
It must be understood that the shortfall in energy supplies with be far greater than in any other period of modern history – it will be of the order of 40% at times of peak demand. Severe cuts in power are certain to occur unless an immediate decision is made to go forward with new hydrocarbon and/or nuclear fuelled power station construction. Any decision to commit us further to oil or gas exposes us to the risk of geopolitical constraints not least those that may be imposed by Russia and the Middle East.
There is no possibility whatsoever of the energy shortfall being met by wind or tidal power and I will deal with this more fully in the next newsletter. May I just conclude this contribution to the newsletter by stating what must be obvious to any detached observer – namely that our country has been led into a wholly unreal and fantasy world in which language is drained of all meaning and where rational enquiry and decision has been paralysed by the curse of wishful thinking. Unless those by whom we are governed have the courage to see and act on the true realities we will all pay a terrible price to an extent that exceeds by far the constraints that the appalling mismanagement of our affairs by Blair/Brown are now beginning to impose on us.