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Wednesday 14th November 2012 | 10:10
Has David Cameron put the 'win' into windfarms for the Tory party? Or is it more bluster than reality?
Chris Heaton-Harris is in a spot of bother in the Guardian today for apparently encouraging James Delingpole to stand in the Corby by-election (albeit only ever as a paper candidate rather than an actual one).
But what's more interesting than the Corby stuff is what Chris H-H told the undercover Greenpeace activists about John Hayes and wider Government policy on energy.
The Speccie's James Forsyth revealed a lovely nugget back in September about Hayes:
It is the word that David Cameron told John Hayes, the new Tory minister of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, that ‘I want you to deliver a win for our people on wind farms.’
I've now got hold of previously unreleased sections of the Greenpeace transcript and Heaton-Harris confirms the idea that the PM gave Hayes very specific orders to kick up rough on windpower:
"When he got his job, David Cameron said to him, and I’ve chatted with John about this..he said “what’s the purpose of my role?” and he [the PM] said 'I want you to give a win to the [anti-] wind lobby' [Chris H-H pointed to himself at this point]."
Of course, there is the small matter of the Coalition Agreement on renewable energy to overcome before anyone tries to change policy significantly.
But it's clear that the PM, with George Osborne at his shoulder, wants to at least send a message to the Tory grassroots that onshore windfarms may have had their day.
Moreover, it seems No.10 actively stopped Ed Davey from taking the renewable energy brief out of the Energy Minister's portfolio.
In Greenpeace's full-length video (see it HERE), Chris H-H says:
"I’ve still got Ed Davey to dump on from a height from somewhere. Ed Davey tried to take the whole of the renewable energy portfolio away from the Energy Minister...
"So Number 10 helped John Hayes, so actually Ed Davey’s got the 'strategic' stuff, so he can go and talk bollocks around the world, wherea[as] John Hayes is in charge of deployment."
That line about talking 'bollocks' will make many Tories smile.
[UPDATE: It sounds like Chris Heaton-Harris wasn't making it up about Ed Davey's reaction to the reshuffle. I understand that the Lib Dem Energy Secretary was so furious when he discovered Hayes was being appointed that he insisted that he be allowed to take over the renewables brief personally.
The Prime Minister said he couldn't allow that. Instead, Davey took the decision to have joint sign-off on EVERY decision on renewables taken by his new Energy Minister. As a result Hayes cannot act unilaterally on any aspect of the policy, unlike his predecessor Charles Hendry, who was so trusted with a degree of operational autonomy.
This is enforced on a daily basis. There isn't a piece of paper commissioned by or signed by Hayes without Davey's joint authorisation, I'm told. This was put in place even before Hayes crossed the threshold at DECC. So although he's a pain to Davey, it's possible he's boxed in by his superior.
It's a highly unusual move in Whitehall terms and there are few other Cabinet ministers who have this joint sign-off with their Minister of State. When Hendry was minister only major decisions required the Secretary of State's authorisation but now Hayes can't do anything without Davey's direct involvement, I understand.
So, far from Davey 'talking bollocks', maybe that's what Hayes is now allowed to do, if you're a Liberal Democrat.
Either way, it all sounds very much like The Thick of It's 'double stamp' system..]
Chris H-H is also (not surprisingly, given his take on windfarms) dismissive of Greg Barker, describing him as "away with the fairies".
This kind of ridicule of Barker is common among Tory backbenchers. Peter Lilley was also secretly filmed by Greenpeace.
And in an unreleased bit of footage, the former Cabinet Minister and climate change sceptic is filmed saying of Barker:
"He's barking! He's a complete nutter.."
Lilley also suggests that the Cabinet reshuffle was designed in part by George Osborne* to ensure green sceptics like Owen Paterson and Hayes were put in the right slots:
"Basically I think Osborne wanted to get people into key positions who could begin to get the Government off the hook from the commitments it made very foolishly...'greenest Government ever'.."
"Ed Davey... he’s much more sensible than Chris Huhne, more open to reason, but he’s not been subjected to it yet… he’s being subjected to a bit from inside by John Hayes, who’s prepared to duff him up."
It sounds like that 'duffing up' is authorised from the top.
No wonder Hayes yet again went off piste on Channel 4 News last night to declare 'job done' and 'end of story' for onshore wind...
*FOOTNOTE: Osborne's father-in-law Lord Howell was also secretly taped by Greenpeace. He also suggested the Chancellor was the one driving the issue:
"The Prime Minister is not familiar with these issues, does not understand them. Osborne is of course getting this message and is putting pressure on..."
He also admits that Qatar (which produces the gas that some see as an alternative to renewables) is a risk and uses some un-Lordly language to make the point:
"Qatar is a great place and it's full of skyscrapers and rich people. But it's also rather near to a lot of jihadists... If Qatar was just to - it's about the size of Guildford - go into chaos, we would be up shit creek we really would."
UPDATE: It sounds like Chris Heaton-Harris wasn't making it up about Ed Davey's reaction to the reshuffle. See my update above in the body of the text.
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