One of the main pieces of Parliamentary business in the Commons last week was the remaining stages of the Energy Bill; regrettably co-operative and community energy did not receive the support from the Government that was hoped for, reports Parliamentary Officer Joe Fortune.
The Energy Bill is a complex piece of legislation which purports to radically reform the energy market. The Bill has now left the House of Commons and has wound its way up to the House of Lords. The Shadow Secretary of State, Caroline Flint MP, and her team, Labour & Co-operative MPs Tom Greatrex and Luciana Berger deserve enormous credit for the scrutiny they have managed to bring to this piece of legislation. Luciana previously wrote about the inadequacies of the Bill for co-operatives.
Despite the complexity of the Bill, the Shadow team have successfully pressed a case for a range of important measures which would make a real difference to individuals and communities which were not included by the Government and its officials. These measures included the omission of a potentially hugely significant ‘decarbonisation target’ and new duties on energy companies in relation to the way consumers are treated.
Another area the opposition team deserve much credit for is their work during the Bill has been understanding the needs of the co-operative and community energy sector. The Shadow Team have pushed for changes to the Bill since its introduction. They have consistently raised the matter during 2nd reading, standing committee scrutiny sessions, the standing committee, report and 3rd reading. The opposition propose a raise in to the FiT from 5MW to a minimum of 10MW. This change has been backed by community energy campaigners, the Co-operative Group and 14 large NGO and sector specialists.
Many in the sector are in a quandary (a quandary the Labour Party cautioned the Government about). Many supposed that the Ministers currently gracing the DECC team – not least Lib Dem Secretary of State Ed Davey – are publicly supportive of co-operative and community energy but are then confused as to why they refuse to help by amending their own Bill when it comes to the crunch.
The Government have consistently said they would seek to facilitate the needs of this sector in the Bill but as yet have not been forthcoming with anything helpful. Last week Tom and Luciana pressed the minister again during the report stage; their views were passionately backed up by Andy Sawford (Lab & Co-op, Corby). The needed amendment was pushed to a vote; regrettably the Government used its inbuilt majority to ensure that the effort was thwarted and it was defeated by some 40 votes. It is disappointing to see those on the Government benches such as the Liberal Democrats and Conservative members such as Jesse Norman MP – a self-described supporter of co-operatives – march through the lobbies against such a practical measure for the co-operative sector.
There is still time for Jesse Norman’s Government to come round in the House of Lords. All hope to see the amendment return with Government support and many will be watching and waiting.