Onshore wind turbines: Have I got news for you

July 16, 2009

As part of the media campaign behind the launch of the Government’s latest plan to reduce carbon emissions and lead greener lives, Ed Miliband, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change announced to the country that “the biggest threat to the countryside is not wind turbines but climate change”. This is simplistic nonsense – propaganda.

Hidden within a raft of well-intentioned proposals to increase our reliance upon renewable energy sources, was a commitment to more onshore wind turbines and support for the “political persuasion” that was required to convince everyone of what a good idea these are. I think he’s clearly trying to soften us up for something, but is it really the lazy option of covering our precious countryside with wind farms or is there more to this than meets the eye?

I support an expansion of our renewable energy sector, in fact last year I berated the Government for being so slow to increase it, however I do not support all forms of renewable energy in all circumstances. Microgeneration, solar, CCS, nuclear power and feed-in tariffs are all options I support to reduce our carbon emissions and fight climate change. I even support wind turbines built way out at sea where they can best take advantage of the wind’s natural power, but I draw the line at onshore wind turbines unless they are sited very sensitively.

So I’ve got news for Mr Miliband. The precious countryside we still have left in Hertfordshire is constantly threatened by development proposals on all sides and we fight hard to protect our local environment. We are the most densely populated county. We have already done our bit. If we pave over our fields and clutter up the horizon with monstrous industrial turbines there won’t be a countryside worth saving.

Big onshore wind turbines only work roughly 35% of the time, are expensive and they damage local bird and bat populations (a 2002 study estimated 11,200 birds of prey (many of them endangered), 350,000 bats and 3,000,000 small birds are killed every year by turbines in Spain). They can be painfully noisy for local residents and it has been compared to the throbbing bass of a night club. On-shore wind farms are controversial and inefficient. Why is the Government pushing so hard for them, rather than solar power or the other options.

I think they are softening us up for a lot more nuclear power – on the basis that if we won’t have on-shore wind, there is no alternative….

Young Voters – a blog by Shantel Simms

July 10, 2009
Today previous intern, Shantel Simms, has returned to my office after finishing her exams to write a quick blog for me, take it away Shantel!
Shantel Simms and Big Ben

Shantel Simms and Big Ben

An issue that I am most passionate about is the involvement of young people in politics and the voting process. I believe that it is vital that the young generation are more involved in politics, especially in voting as this ensures that a fair representation of the population is considered in future political activity.

Many young people between the ages of 18-24, that I have spoken to about the subject claim that they do not believe that voting will benefit them as they feel disengaged from politics today. I believe that this idea may have arisen from the fact that in North East Hertfordshire there are not many opportunities to study politics in secondary schools or colleges, therefore there is not enough knowledge about the subject to motivate young people to want to vote.

From personal experience, it was not until I had finished both school and college and started university in London, that studying politics was an option for me. I feel that if there is the option of studying politics as an A-Level in secondary schools and colleges there will be a higher level of interest in the subject and in the voting process.

On another occasion in which I have discussed the issue of voting with young people, it was suggested that voting would be more appealing to them if it could be carried out online. With the internet largely popular with most 18-24 year olds, this seems like a refreshing idea that could make voting seem more ‘trendy’, less time consuming and more attractive to young people.

Serving on the Law Commission Bill Committee

July 8, 2009

Today I served on the Committee looking into the Law Commission Bill. The Law Commission was set up in the 1960s under Labour to come up with improvements and consolidations of the law with the idea that it would be better for citizens if the law on a particular subject was all in one place and set out simply. Over the past 45 years, the Law Commission has come up with many ideas and proposed improvements, but all too often the government has not allowed these the necessary time to become law.

The Bill is an attempt by Emily Thornberry MP to improve matters by making the Government report each year on progress with Law Commission changes and to set ground rules for the Government to help the Commission.

The backgound is that the Chairman of the Commission Sir Terence Etherton made a strong speech to the Bar Law Reform Committee recently explaining why there were problems with Government. My summary of what he said is:

*tiny budget
*administratively hidden away in the Court Service
*their proposals sidelined in favour of less worthy eye-catching political initiatives
*Ministers failing to attend the Ministerial Committee with them

I put these points to Justice Minister Michael Wills MP and there has been some progress with the Ministerial Committee upgraded to Cabinet level and a commitment to try to get more proposals through. So, maybe the 1960s’ vision for the Law Commission will be less abused over coming years. Let’s hope so. Well drafted laws which are accessible is a fine ambition.

Parliament Welcomes Royal Marines Commando Back From Afghanistan

July 1, 2009
Parliament welcomes the Marines

Parliament welcomes the Marines

Yesterday the Royal Marines 45 Commando marched through Parliament’s carriage gates in the glorious sunshine of June and were received by MPs  including Secretary of State for Defence Bob Ainsworth MP  after their return from Afghanistan. They were accompanied by a regimental band and I’m sure everyone remarked how smart they looked. It was an honour to receive these brave men and women and I was pleased to be able to ensure their visit was recorded on the Official Report of the House of Commons later on. Congratulations on their safe return is order!

National Prayer Breakfast

July 1, 2009

Today was the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Westminster Hall. It was good to meet up with our local Prayer Group who support my work with prayers. Over 1000 came from all over Britain to share breakfast with their parliamentarians. Proceedings were opened with a welcome from new Speaker Bercow, who spoke well.

 Peter Lilley read Psalm 146 “Shout praises to the LORD” and there was an interview with colourful Kids’ Company founder Camilla Batmanghelidj. She explained how many of the disruptive youngsters she helps have their root problems in parental neglect.

 The main speaker was Dr Ravi Zacharias, who gave a moving address about the meaning of a soul. It was an uplifting start to the day before my Select Committee on Work and Pensions’ meeting, where we were talking about some of this week’s developments in employment and skills’ training.