Sunak faces Tory rebellion for keeping ban on onshore wind farms

Pressure mounting: Sunak speaking at the House of Commons in London. He is facing a difficult time managing an unruly Conservative Party. — Reuters

LONDON: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing pushback from his ruling Conservatives as they try to force the government to drop a ban on new onshore wind farms.

More than 20 Tories, including Sunak’s predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, are backing a pro-wind energy amendment to the Levelling-up and regeneration Bill, which is expected to be debated before Parliament breaks for its vacation on Dec 20.

It’s the second rebellion on the same legislation in less than a week, after Sunak pulled a vote on his housebuilding plans as dozens of Tories threatened to defy him.

Sunak is facing a difficult time managing an unruly Conservative Party, which has become defined by rebellions on a wide range of policy issues that have hamstrung successive governments.

Former party chairman Jake Berry told the BBC on Sunday that soaring energy bills have made him change his mind to now back onshore wind farms. He said he would vote alongside the rebels on the amendment.

“Boris Johnson famously used to call wind turbines the white, satanic mills of the north of England when they were building them all over my constituency,” said Berry, who represents a district in Lancashire, northern England.

“He’s changed his mind on them. I, to a large extent, have changed my mind.”

Even the Cabinet minister in charge of the Levelling-up Bill, Michael Gove, expressed support in March for more onshore wind power.

While backing onshore wind isn’t yet the government’s official position, pressure is growing on Sunak to alter course.

A spokesman for Sunak declined to comment. Tory MP Alok Sharma, who was the president of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, has also backed the legislative change.

“Onshore wind is the cheapest, cleanest energy we have,” the opposition Labour Party’s climate change spokesman Ed Miliband said in an email.

“The Tories’ ban has kept bills high and damaged our energy security. Rishi Sunak’s weakness means he’s having to be dragged to scrap it by his backbenches. He should swallow his pride and U-turn now.”

Seeking to tackle rising energy bills, business secretary Grant Shapps will announce a new £1bil (US$1.2bil or RM5.4bil) ECO+ plan to better insulate thousands of homes, saving consumers around £310 (RM1,676.09) a year.

A new £18mil (RM97.3mil) public information campaign will also offer ways for people to cut their energy use and stay warm as temperatures drop. — Bloomberg

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