Sir Alan Beith: energy emphasis needed change

Onshore wind farm subsidies have been cut.

Onshore wind farm subsidies have been cut.

At last the wind turbine developers are being told that there will not be as much money to be made from wind farms in rural Northumberland, and that there is more encouragement for offshore renewable energy.

That is a change I have been pressing for, and I welcome this decision from Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who knows Northumberland from the time when he used to work as my economics advisor.

It should influence not only developers but also the planning authority and, I hope, the inspectors who consider planning appeals; it is supported by recent changes in planning guidance to give more weight to the views of local communities.

There will probably still be some onshore wind turbine applications, but we needed to get away from a situation in which the dice seemed to be loaded in favour of the developer.

We still need energy from renewable and low carbon forms of generation, and there will still be a role for wind turbines, such as those which communities choose to install to provide power for local people and local businesses.

But there has not been enough investment in energy which can be generated at sea, by wind or wave, and it was time for the emphasis to change.


I never met Nelson Mandela, although I visited his cell on Robben Island and met men who had been imprisoned there with him.

Although I was a supporter of the anti-apartheid movement, it was friends and colleagues including David Steel and Peter Hain, as well as church leaders, who had been powerful voices in support of the movement in Britain when it took political courage to back rugby and cricket boycotts of racially-selected teams.

What made Mandela such an exceptional world figure was the way in which he used those long prison years. He developed authority and dignity. He supported fellow prisoners when their jailers abused them. Above all, drawing on deep spiritual roots from his Methodist faith background, he developed and put into practice a belief that it was possible to forgive the oppressor, and that forgiveness could transform the situation and disarm the oppressor.

It was this transforming and reconciling approach that enabled South Africa to move away from institutionalised racism to democracy without either a civil war or a collapse into an orgy of revenge.

By coincidence, Mandela’s death coincided with the first showings of the film about the late Eric Lomax, the Berwick resident who found his own difficult but rewarding path to the point where he could forgive the Japanese soldier who had helped to torture him.

I find it so difficult to imagine that I could cope with suffering and use it to transform a situation in the way that both of these men did, but I know they were both right.


Mandela’s death took the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement out of the newspaper headlines. But the Statement was significant in outlining that we are on a stable course to more growth, although we are still not over the problems which are hitting many families. Getting Britain’s economy back to health is a long job, and it is not over.

But as the Chancellor recognised in response to my question, having a coalition with two parties working together prevented what would have been chaos, and created the stability which enables us to take priority measures.

Cuts in tax on low pay, free school meals for all children in the first two years of school, no business rates for many of our struggling small shops, no national insurance for employers to pay if they give jobs to under 21 year-olds, decent pension increases - these are all part of trying to achieve a fairer society while maintaining a sound economy.


Last week in Westminster Berwick’s Shielfield stadium featured in a continuously streamed video shown at a reception for the all-party speedway group: it showed this year’s under-21 World Cup competition, which was held at the Berwick track.

Berwick Bandits Speedway brings quite a lot of visiting fans from clubs in the South of England who spend money locally, and the World Cup event particularly attracted fans from the Polish Community – motor cycle speedway is a very popular attraction in Poland, and Polish riders are among the many East Europeans who have made a name on Britain’s tracks.




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