I am delighted to announce that, in response to my request, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has called in the planning application for the wind turbine at Moor Lane in Caistor.
Readers are doubtless already aware of my fight against these unsightly blades which threaten our local landscapes.
The proposal for Caistor called for a giant wind turbine stretching over 330 feet into the sky, which the planning committee of West Lindsey District Council very wisely concluded would result in an unacceptable level of harm to the setting of the Caistor Conservation Area. It also would have a hugely detrimental impact upon the views and setting of the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The application was quite sensibly rejected, but the applicant appealed against this decision. Normally that means the affair goes to the bureaucrats at the Planning Inspectorate, who might be less inclined to uphold the district council’s verdict. Now, however, the decision will now be taken by Greg Clark MP, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and given Greg’s track record to date, I’m cautiously optimistic that we will see a good result that backs up the local decision made in the light of the views of local residents.
English Votes for English Laws is another matter which is occupying our time as Members of Parliament.
I am entirely in favour of the principle behind this. Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish people have devolved legislatures that the English quite rightly have no say in. And yet Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish MPs can vote on English bills and English laws that determine the same issues which are no longer determined by Westminster for the devolved parts of the United Kingdom.
The Government is trying to get around this situation by requiring any Bill that solely affects England to require a majority of English MPs behind it, while still allowing other MPs to vote on it at other stages.
The proposal does involve a certain amount of legislative complexity that I worry might make law-making in this country less transparent and more time-consuming. My primary concern, however, is the Union.
Currently, Scottish spending is determined via the complicated Barnett formula based on the levels of public spending in England. This means, more or less, that if we in England decide we’d like to spend less on something, the level of funding for it is automatically reduced in Scotland as well. But Scots might vote for parties that want to spend more on something.
The current arrangements will only lead to more grievance-making, thus threatening the Union.
Scotland should have the power to spend what Scotland raises in taxation, rather than be granted back a certain portion of the UK-wide exchequer. We need to have an overall concept of how the United Kingdom will work that is democratically accountable and allows all parts of the union a flexibility to do their own thing.
That is what I will be working towards.
Sir Edward Leigh MP