Andy Burnham says Tory rebels ‘are right to take stance’
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During the summer Conservative leadership election, Rishi Sunak promised to block onshore wind farms. He said: “Wind energy will be an important part of our strategy, but I want to reassure communities that as prime minister I would scrap plans to relax the ban on onshore wind in England, instead focusing on building more turbines offshore.”
Now a group of Tories, led by former Levelling Up Secretary Simon Clarke, are backing an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which will allow windfarms in rural areas with a community’s consent.
Mr Clarke told The Times: “It’s been a terrific weekend in terms of colleagues coming behind something which people widely acknowledge would be the sensible thing to do.
“I really hope that in the next few days the government will find a way to allow this to happen so that we can get on with our collective task of lowering energy bills, looking after the environment and boosting growth.”
A Downing Street source told the Guardian that Rishi Sunak is “very unlikely” to accept the amendment over fears he could look weak if he is forced to concede.
This weekend, the Labour Party also announced they would be backing the amendment, meaning only five more Conservative MPs are needed to overpower the Government’s majority.
MPs within the group supporting the amendment believe they will hit their target number in the next two days.
Ed Miliband, the Shadow Environment Secretary, said: “Onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest energy. The Tories’ ban has kept bills high and damaged our energy security.
“Sunak’s weakness means he’s having to be dragged to scrap it by his back benches. He should swallow his pride and U-turn now.
“Labour will support the Simon Clarke amendment, but even that swaps the ban for what is still a highly restrictive planning regime on onshore wind — risking blocking developments and keeping bills high.
“Under this government, we’re forced to move only at the pace of the slowest Tory backbencher.”
The Tory rebellion gained momentum this weekend when senior Conservative Jake Berry became the latest MP to urge the Prime Minister to amend the windfarm bill.
Mr Berry, the former Conservative Party chairman who was sacked from the position by Mr Sunak, spoke to Laura Kuenssberg on BBC about changing his mind on the reform.
He said: “Boris Johnson famously used to call wind turbines the white satanic mills of the north of England when they were building them all over my constituency,
“He’s changed his mind on them; I, to a large extent have changed my mind, and I’m going to be supporting Simon Clarke.”
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COP26 President Alok Sharma also urged the Prime Minister to amend the bill.
He said: “Onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of renewable power and will help to bolster the UK’s energy security.”
However, other members of the Conservative Party have promised a backlash if Mr Sunak gives into the amendment.
Former energy minister Sir John Hayes, who originally called for the ban of offshore windfarms in 2015, wants Mr Sunak to hold firm against Tory rebels.
Sir Johnson said he will be “mounting a major campaign” against lifting the windfarm ban.
He added: “If they don’t hold their nerve there’ll be backlash from me and many others.”
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