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Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Chisholm, Malcolm

Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)

Connarty, Michael

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cox, Tom

Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)

Dixon, Don

Dowd, Jim

Etherington, Bill

Flynn, Paul

George, Bruce

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Gunnell, John

Home Robertson, John

Hood, Jimmy

Illsley, Eric

Lewis, Terry

Loyden, Eddie

McAvoy, Thomas

Macdonald, Calum

McMaster, Gordon

McWilliam, John

Mahon, Alice

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)

Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)

Meale, Alan

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Mudie, George

O'Hara, Edward

Olner, William

Parry, Robert

Patchett, Terry

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)

Spellar, John

Wise, Audrey

Tellers for the Noes :

Mr. Bob Cryer and

Mr. Dennis Skinner.

Question accordingly agreed to .

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London Cab Trade

9.58 pm

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West) : I wish to present a petition on behalf of my constituent, Mr. Alan Howes, and 35 other London licensed taxi drivers.

It concludes :

Wherefore your petitioner prays that your honourable house will consider the following remedy ; that minicab drivers register for "the knowledge" of the area where they at present work and that after acquiring the necessary standards they then be anchored to that area in order that other areas are not flooded with taxis. This process of integrating both factions into a one tier system would require that the Public Carriage Office take on additional (temporary) staff in order to cater with the additional workload. This process to cease midnight, 31st December 1999, at which stage we should have a fleet four times its present size but spread over the whole of the metropolis able to serve London's public not only as they would wish but as they both deserve and demand.

To lie upon the Table.

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Pennine Wind Farms

Motion made, and Question proposed , That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Andrew Mitchell.]

10 pm

Sir Donald Thompson (Calder Valley) : I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for calling me at the appropriate hour--dead on time. This is an important debate. As many hon. Members will know, my constituency is in a most beautiful part of the country, and the Haworth moors have strong Bronte connections. I will not rehearse with the House tonight the objections to the wind farms that my constituents are voicing to Calderdale council, as that is a matter for the local council and local people. I must thank my local parish councils for all the help that they are giving to this cause.

It is important that hon. Members declare their interests. My interests in the energy industry are wide. I am a member of the Council of Europe's scientific and technology committee. I was a member of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry. I am chairman of the Back-Bench sub-committee on industry and I am part of an all-party team which advises the industry sector of the nuclear energy industry--I met the unions only the other day.

However, the interest that is paramount is that of my constituents and their welfare. Their welfare is being threatened by wind farms. I say farms because we already have one at Ovenden moor. Two more are planned : one at Cock hill, known to the nation as Fleight hill, has 44 turbines and is a huge affair ; the other is in the shadow of Stoodley Pike across the Pennine way. A third is already built and lies on my boundaries at Cliviger. A further wedge of land marching along my boundary has been earmarked for wind farm development by Lancashire county council.

We will live on a porcupine's back. It is an environmental disaster based on what seemed to be a good idea at the time ; or, to use that well-known phrase, "it worked elsewhere". Wind farms are set to become the next great folly of the planet. They will be compared in future to that other folly-- high-rise flats. They will go into the annals of well-intentioned mistakes. Stop it now, Minister. I am glad to see my colleague from the Department of Trade and Industry here. He has been here before when I have had the Adjournment debate. Surely we should also have a Minister from the Department of the Environment. On cue, the Minister for the Environment and Countryside has arrived. My constituents would be happy, gentlemen, if the council and planners would take the Ministry's own guidance set out on 5 December 1991, which says that where a proposal would have a detrimental effect on the locality generally and on the amenities that ought in public interest be provided, those amenities should be protected. If that were to happen, there would be no more wind farms in Calder Valley.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Donald Thompson : No. Two of my hon. Friends wish to speak.

Mr. Cryer : On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the beginning of the debate, the hon. Gentleman made a number of declarations. Most of them

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were non-remunerated, but it should be made clear that the hon. Gentleman is in receipt of remuneration from the cross- party team of advisers to the British Nuclear Forum.

Sir Donald Thompson : That is why it is listed in the Register of Members' Interests. The book is designed to help those hon. Members who have outside interests.

According to a document produced by the Wind Energy Association, 30 per cent. of people in Cornwall, where construction has already taken place, still say that wind farms spoil the countryside.

The details of my constituents' objections have been set out to the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs by the chairman of the Fleight hill wind farm opposition group, Mr. Michael Denton. He has argued that the time scale for determining the application on the 600-acre site, which will have a profound effect on the ecology of the area, has been no longer than that provided for considering an extension to a semi-detached house. He has also said that there has been no proper prior consultation, no account taken of recent experiences, and no court of reinstatement, and that the guidance issued has been out of date. His document will be available to the House when the Select Committee reports.

To disregard the historical connections, scale and outstanding location of Fleight hill would be a mistake. Bramwell Bronte worked at the local railway station and his sisters made the moors around the town world famous. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Waller), who represents Haworth, is sitting in front of me. Many local people and national organisations have objected to the plan. The list of objectors includes Ted Hughes, the poet laureate, Lord Savile, Lord Houghton, David Bellamy, Bernard Ingham, English Nature, the Countryside Commission, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the Ramblers Association, the Pennine Way Co-ordinated Project, the Open Spaces Society, the Civic Trust, the National Trust, the South Pennine Pack Horse Trail, the Agro-Gen Resistance Organisation of Wales and many more.

Lord Houghton has reminded us that some time ago people for ever wanted to dam streams, but now they want to spoil our mountains with wind farms.

I have with me a letter from a constituent of mine, Mrs. Barker, signed by more than 60 of the country's leading literary figures--a staggering number. That letter is against the despoliation, the rape, of the Bronte moors. It will be published in full in The Times Literary Supplement on Friday.

You will tell me, Minister, that all those groups will have their objections considered when the application is the subject of a public inquiry. You will tell us--

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has forgotten that he should be addressing the Chair, not the Minister.

Sir Donald Thompson : The Minister will remind me that he is acting in a quasi-judicial role. I know how much his boss, the President of the Board of Trade, and the Secretary of State for the Environment like to be proactive. I know that they are listening tonight. Surely they could reappraise their policy in the light of the reversal of public, environmental and scientific opinion about wind farms. They are objected to because, among other things, they cause noise, tourist blight and damage to water courses.

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If the application is persisted with, it will surely be called in to the Department of the Environment for consideration. Ministers should change their policy before the application reaches them. I should like an early meeting to be held between the Department of the Environment and the Department of Trade and Industry to instruct the planning officers and their inspectors that wind farms in areas such as Calder Valley should be considered obtrusive. They should also rework the premium on unbuilt wind farms.

The planning guidance policy for renewable energy is now out of date. The mood of the country has changed. A document issued by Department of the Environment, written in 1991 at the height of the era of embellishment, when every directive from Europe or elsewhere became a Christmas tree to hang things on, stated :

"The United Kingdom Government's policy is being pursued through : a continuing programme of research, development and demonstration in collaboration with industry ; ensuring the establishment of a legal and administrative framework which allows renewable energy promoters to compete equitably in the market with conventional sources of energy."

Some of my constituents do not consider a profit of £600,000 a month for one small wind farm at Ovenden moor to be equitable competition.

The guidance published in 1991 set the premium for landfill gas at 5.7p, for sewage gas at 5.9p, for municipal gas at 6.5p, for hydro-electricity at 6p, and for other waste at 5.9p as opposed to the wind premium of 11p. The producers should use a proportion of renewable energy, but the premium of 11p per kWh has seduced them into spoiling our countryside.

Landfill gas, sewage gas and waste could and should supersede the easy option of ruining green field sites, moorlands, hills and mountains. If the premium were lowered and redistributed amongst the less easy options, the advantages would apply to other renewable energy sources which would properly come into play.

On 26 January this year, there was an interesting exchange of ideas in the Trade and Industry Select Committee, when the Minister for Energy said :

"Clearly there is a level of controversy about wind farms We have, as you know, got at the moment a bidding round out for renewables that includes wind farms. I think we have had something between 10 and 20 times the amount of bids for the renewable subsidy in terms of capacity which we are actually going to be able to subsidise or the consumers will be able to subsidise and clearly one of the issues is going to be how we allocate that capacity to different renewable sources and I have to say that I will be taking into account the concern about environmental aspects of wind farms when we come to make those allocation decisions".

That is a step in the right direction. My right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Sir C. Onslow) said :

"do you not think it might be a good idea to avert the subsidy away from wind farming?" ;

and the Minister replied :

"It is interesting how the environmental argument has shifted with regard to wind farms. It was not very long ago that people were arguing that this was the best possible way of generating electricity".

We have tried wind farms and surely reached the conclusion that they are viable at sea or along a harbour wall. "Harnessing the Wind" by the energy technology support unit states that current estimates suggest that, in Britain, offshore wind turbulence could ultimately produce more than three times as much electricity as onshore machines. Wind speeds are good off shore and such sites might be environmentally more acceptable than those on land.

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My constituents agree wholeheartedly with that. But the wind farm industry will not, because it would rather use the 11p subsidy to build wind farms near the collecting points and take the profit. That is not what the 11p subsidy was for ; it was for wind farms to be environmentally friendly.

New players are now moving into the game. Defence companies seeking to diversify will try anything for tuppence--or in this case 11p. According to an editorial in "Windfarm Monthly" in December 1993, they will not necessarily succeed. It stated that the Government would welcome big names but warned that a whole list of big companies

"have left Europe and America littered with the corpses of their failed endeavours".

That is from their own magazine. He even makes the point that one of the companies in the Hebden Bridge project is only arguably acceptable.

Wind farming is now based on an over-generous premium which is drawing companies nearer towns. It is based on opportunist environmental policy. It is based on the idea of some people that they should wear a hair shirt to remind them of their environmental credentials and piety. My constituents are being asked to don the green hair shirt of wind farms, and they will not wear it. Now is the time for reappraisal, consultation, cessation. This is not a case of "not in my backyard"; it is a case of "not in my front garden".

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) : Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency Dickinson's dairy has had one windmill on its site for some time and, as far as I know, there has been no local opposition? It is seen as something of a novelty. Is he further aware, however, that a wind farm comprising 13 windmills has recently been sited at Ingbirchworth, near Penistone, and that it is noisy, unsightly and unpopular with the locals? Is it not clear that in areas of natural beauty wind farms are becoming blots on the landscape and should not be encouraged?

Sir Donald Thompson : I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. His constituency is next to mine, as is that of the hon. Gentleman I see sitting opposite, the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike). The constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley are bitterly opposed to 13 turbines. I already have one wind farm, 41 more planned, another seven in the offing and those at Cliviger. My constituents do not want those wind farms, which can be seen from all over the country.

10.16 pm

Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : I am glad to have the opportunity of supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Sir D. Thompson) in the concern that he has expressed about the development of wind farms and wind turbines. As my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) said in his intervention, some turbine developments are popular while others are much less so. There is, in my view, a place for wind-powered energy, but turbines need to be sited extremely sensitively, and I am afraid that many of the developments that have taken place at an increasing pace in recent months are not in the right position.

In February last year, the Department of the Environment, together with the Welsh Office, published a planning policy guidance note on renewable energy. On visual intrusion and other matters about which people are concerned, reference was made to the introduction of

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environmental assessments. It was made clear that wind generators would "shortly"--I emphasise the word "shortly"- -be added to the categories of projects for which applications must be accompanied by an environmental statement

"if the particular development proposed is likely to have significant environmental effects."

Although the word "shortly" was used, a great deal of time has gone by, a very large number of further applications have been submitted and we still await a statement. Apparently, the responses are still being considered. I believe that far too much time has gone by.

I would also say to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Technology (Mr. McLoughlin) that an environmental statement should be published in much broader categories of applications than those that the Government had in mind. For instance, it referred to developments within a national park or areas of outstanding natural beauty, those including more than 10 wind generators or where the total installed capacity was more than 5 MW. One generator or turbine badly placed can be extremely distracting and irritating to many people and particularly to visitors in an area like Haworth, the Bronte country and the Pennines, which are a great attraction for visitors to the north of England.

I would like to see many of these applications called in, because local authorities have a duty to notify the Secretary of State of any development which, by reason of its scale or the nature of the location of the land, would significantly prejudice the implementation of the development plan's policies and proposals. It is clear that, in any development plan for a local authority in our area, the attraction of tourists will be extremely important. I believe that any development involving wind turbines would prejudice that objective.

When he opened a wind farm recently, my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy said that the Government did not have a specific target for wind energy, and that its success would depend on developers finding sites that were acceptable to the public and to planning authorities. Piecemeal development of that kind, however, is simply not acceptable to many of my constituents. We need a strategy : we need to ensure that wind farms and wind turbines are put in the right places. The more time goes by before we develop such a strategy, the more we shall regret the bad mistakes that blight the lives of many of our constituents.

10.20 pm

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