Well the Energy Bill has finished its committee stages with ‘no wrecks and nobody drownded’. I wouldn’t say that there was ‘nothing to laugh at all’*, though: Labour won one amendment by the simple ruse of shouting ‘aye’ at a moment of great confusion, when the Government side was not sure of what the next piece of business was. When the dust settled, it turned out that a clause introducing ‘’Green deal’ apprentices had been passed. I am not sure, though, how long the embryonic apprenticeships will last.
More deliberately, the government withdrew Clause 102 of the bill, described in one energy commentary as ‘an arcane clause’: true, except the effect of the clause as it stood at the time was to remove the Secretary of State’s ability to impose any new conditions on a nuclear decommissioning programme once it had been agreed at the time of first licensing the plant.
Not a good idea, suggested a cross party group of committee members (Conservative, Labour, Green and Lib Dem to be precise.) This has been portrayed in some quarters as the thin end of an anti-nuclear wedge. Not exactly. In an already overused phrase, you don’t really need to be anti-nuclear to conclude that throwing away the right of the Secretary of State to deal with unforeseen circumstances in – say – sixty years time is not good public policy, which is why the not-exactly anti-nuclear Labour side came in behind the amendment to the clause, resulting in a commendably graceful withdrawal of the clause by Energy minister Charles Hendry on the penultimate day of committee consideration. And, what’s more, there are indications that an amended clause, which retains the ability of the Secretary of State to intervene, will be introduced at report stage. So well done all round, really. Some scrutiny in committees does work after all.
* All those under 50 will have to look up Stanley Holloway’s immortal monologue “Albert and the Lion” to get this.