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A ‘whole house’ (Commons and Lords) collaborative approach

A matter of weeks ago predictions were of a large Conservative majority following the election. This, it was claimed, would give Theresa May a mandate to negotiate a successful BREXIT deal. It is something of an understatement to say things have changed!

The Conservatives have now secured the support of the DUP allowing them to form a majority Government and the Queen’s speech has been passed meaning the Government now has the arithmetical capacity to legislate. However, we are a long way from the anticipated large Conservative majority. Theresa May’s style and approach have been criticised by her own party, her advisors have resigned and we should now see input and authority spread more widely among the cabinet. Parliament will now have a greater voice.  Emboldened opposition parties will challenge in parliament and it will take only a few Conservative backbenchers to rebel for the Government to be in trouble.

Another important consideration in this new political landscape is the House of Lords. When the Government has a large majority in the Commons, the unelected House of Lords cannot be seen to be vetoing the will of the people. But in the current situation that is not the case and with BREXIT dominating parliamentary time in the Commons, the Lords can play an important role in scrutinising and challenging legislation. The makeup of the Lords is very different to the Commons. The Liberal Democrats have 12 seats in the Commons (Conservatives 318), however in the Lords, they have 102 (Conservatives 255). This may make for a testing time for the Government in the Lords.

So how does all this impact sustainability? Well the Conservatives may not have achieved a majority in the House of Commons but sustainability did. The UK may lack a clear vision on issues such as BREXIT and public spending, but the main parties were united on the need to tackle fuel poverty, climate change and energy efficiency. UKIP, did not agree but lost their only seat and now that the DUP deal has been done worries over their climate change scepticism have diminished as they look unlikely to influence environmental policy.

Following the lessons of the election parliamentarians are in listening mode – giving organisations like ours an opportunity to provide robust, evidence-based briefings and be heard. The Sustainable Energy Association takes a whole house, technology-agnostic approach. We are solution focused, advocating the right solution for the right circumstance and we work across political parties and collaborate with other organisations that share our goals.

The Government will now need to take a similar collaborative, cross-party approach and given the support for issues important to the sustainable energy sector in other parties this should help our cause. Perhaps ‘whole house’ can mean the whole Houses of parliament and ‘technology agnostic’ can become party agnostic. If the Government is collaborative across parliament and solution focused, we could reach consensus on significant issues.

Early indications are that the new administration may be prepared to take a whole house, collaborative approach. New Climate Minister Claire Perry commenting on the proposed Clean Growth Plan, said she “looked forward to cross-party discussion and, hopefully, consensus on a document that is hugely important both for Britain’s domestic future and for our international leadership.”

With a majority within both houses united in the need to tackle fuel poverty, climate change and energy efficiency, this collaborative, whole house approach could be the way for all parties to unite around a common cause on climate change and the environment.

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Association

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Friday, June 30th, 2017