Just a brief note on the passing of John Hayes, to the estimable job of calming down Tory backbenchers from within the Cabinet Office, instead of calming down jittery energy investors from within DECC. It has to be a brief note in order to befit the brevity of Hayes’ reign as energy minister. Damian Carrington (here) recounts a litany of conflicts in DECC that may have been contributory to Hayes’ departure: I’m not sure it is as thought out as that. It stands, frankly in the tradition of the dispensability of Energy Ministers over a period of years, when other concerns, or the collateral damage of reshuffles meant that either Ministers disappeared after a few months, or had their portfolios elided with others. Think Peter Hain’s few months, think the late and lamented Malcolm Wick’s initial incarnation as Minister for Energy and the Post Office.
Whether the new Energy Minister, who will be the third Energy Minister to have to bite into the indigestible pie of the Energy Bill as it lumbers its way through Parliament, will last any longer is a matter for conjecture. But it does make one wonder about what it is about energy that successive prime ministers can think that replacing ministers every few months is OK, because somehow coherent and well-founded energy policy is not important, and that , in this instance placating some querulous backbenchers is of a higher order than getting to grips with a low carbon energy future in a coherent way.
The new Minister, Michael Fallon does have some ‘form’in this area. He did, after all pilot an admirable Private Members Bill through to law in 2008, which regularised the efforts of Local Authorities to apply rules for energy efficiency in new buildings at the planning application stage. I recall that I had something of a hand in the bill, including helping to broker Government support for its latter stages. I hope in his new post Michael will remember the Bill and what it did. An early word with that nice Mr Pickles in DCLG that he intends to pursue rigorous energy efficiency policies and head off DCLG’s continuing harassment of all things energy efficient in local government and planning would make a good early mark on the Department. Whether it would secure a long stay in the post is another matter.