Criminalising Net Zero Disobedience
House of Commons passes measures to criminalise Net Zero disobedience
Today, the House of Commons debated the Energy Bill that is passing through Parliament. I watched some of the debate and thought that overall quality was poor, with many MPs anxious to signal their Net Zero virtue at the same time they were demonstrating they had no clue about energy or commodity markets. My favourites were Green MP Caroline Lucas and Lib Dem MP Wera Hobhouse. Lucas demanded an end to new oil and gas developments to free us from Putin’s influence while acknowledging we would need hydrocarbons well beyond 2050. She wants to cut off our own supplies of oil and gas to somehow save us from global despots. This is insanity. Hobhouse wanted to ban new coal mines and permanently ban fracking while bemoaning expensive gas prices. She does not seem to understand that restricting supply increases price.
The Energy Bill contains some very disturbing clauses that a small number of Conservative MPs, led by Craig Mackinlay and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, vigorously opposed.
Sinister Clauses in the Energy Bill
What were Mackinlay, Rees-Mogg and the others getting upset about? Let us go into some detail on the clauses that troubled them and me. In this discussion, I will refer to the third reading version of the Energy Bill and the table of amendments in today’s debate. The Hansard debate can be found here.
Criminalising Non-Compliance with Energy Performance Regulations
Part 10 of the Bill, paragraphs 246 gives powers to the Secretary of State to make regulations “enabling or requiring energy usage or energy efficiency of premises to be assessed, certified or publicised”; “enabling or requiring improvements to energy usage or energy efficiency to be identified and recommended” and “restricting or prohibiting the marketing and disposal [including leasing or letting] of premises” on the basis of whether their energy usage or efficiency has been assessed, certified or publicised.” The proposals then go on to giving the power to the Secretary of State to confer functions and impose requirements on any person.
Para 248 then goes on to describe the sanctions available for non-compliance with the regulations. These include fines of up to £15,000 and imprisonment up to 12 months (see Figure 1).
In effect, if the Bill is passed into law, the Secretary of State would have the powers to create new criminal offences that would for instance make a criminal of someone letting or selling their house if it did not comply with the energy performance regulations. It also appears that not complying with “recommendations” to improve the energy performance of your home may well result in civil or criminal penalties. This is the jackboot of the eco-zealots on the neck of the poorest who can least afford to make the changes required to comply with the rules. Effectively, they could be fined or imprisoned for being too poor to afford to modify their homes to comply with regulations. Rees-Mogg argued that creating new criminal offences should be a matter for Parliament and not be at the whim of the Secretary of State.
Centralised Control of “Smart” Appliances
Part 9, Chapter 2 deals with Energy Smart Appliances and Load Control. Paragraph 235 defines energy smart appliances to include fridges, dishwashers, washers, heaters (presumably heat pumps and immersion heaters), air conditioners and electric vehicle charge points. Effectively this is most of the high consumption devices in any home, other than a cooker.
The same paragraph stipulates that the smart function is “capable of operating in response to load control signals from any person carrying out load control.” In other words, the control of domestic appliances will be handed to anyone the Government sees fit to carry out load control, see Figure 2.
They even give “powers of entry, including by reasonable force.” Centralised control and policing of our domestic appliances, heating and car chargers. What could possibly go wrong? This is a power grab of epic proportions. The Government is inadvertently making the case against smart meters and smart appliances without even realising it.
Powers to Enter Premises Without Warrant
Paragraph 152 of the Bill gives powers to enter premises taking part in the hydrogen grid conversion trial to enter premises to inspect anything on the premises or carry out tests on anything. Mackinlay et al tabled amendment 50 so that exercise of this power would require a warrant issued by a judge.
New Sanctions for Heat Zones
Part 8, Chapter 2 of the Bill creates new regulations about network heat zones, or more colloquially, district heat networks. Paragraphs 230 and 231 determine how these zones will be enforce and provide for the penalties for non-compliance. The specific penalties are not identified but give broad powers to specify the maximum penalty amount and how it would be recovered.
Where is the Resistance?
In the debate, important speeches were made by Craig Mackinlay, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir John Redwood and Richard Drax. They all raised concerns about what is being proposed and urged caution upon the Government. Mackinlay tabled a series of amendments to remove or water down all the proposals above. Sadly, as far as I can tell, no vote took place on these amendments, so the Bill passed third reading with these sinister provisions in place. The last line of defence is the House of Lords, so we can only hope that Lords Frost and Lilley fillet the Bill when it goes to that place.
Craig Mackinlay also tabled an amendment to introduce a clause (NC41) that would put a duty on Government to ensure the lowest possible cost of energy to businesses and households. Unfortunately, this amendment was not put to the vote.
In the end only 19 MPs voted against the Energy Bill.
Small Mercy: No Need to Decarbonise by 2030
Some proposed amendments were put to a vote and thankfully were voted down. New clause 59 was tabled by Ed Miliband that for the grid to be fully decarbonised by 2030. In effect, it would enshrine Labour’s energy policy in law. This is even madder than Government policy and thankfully was voted down by 310 votes to 223. I am drafting an article on Labour’s energy policy that will be published soon.
As I was watching some of the debate, I was struck by how many MPs were opining on energy policy and commodity markets but really they have no expertise in the area at all. Despite claiming the bill is about energy production and security, we can see that many of the provisions are about restricting energy use and forcing people to comply with Net Zero dogma.
I fear that this is going to end in catastrophe. It seems politicians are gripped by a collective insanity. As I have discussed before, UK emissions are ~1% of the global total. Whatever we do will make no difference to global climate. Yet, both Government and Opposition seem hell bent on policies that will impoverish us all.
Energy is the fundamental lifeblood of the economy. Current policies have already led to the closure of energy intensive industries, leading to job losses and damaged productivity growth. If this Bill is enacted, we are on a very steep and slippery slope towards a totalitarian state, where decisions on whether you can heat your home or wash the dishes are taken by a state authorised body.
It is clear to anyone who understands what western values are supposed to stand for that we are on the wrong path. We need urgent action to change course before we end up with the riots and protests we have seen in France, Holland and Ireland.
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