LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – The Net Zero Scrutiny Group, which I chair, has prompted much speculation in Parliament about who we are, what we believe in and what we want to achieve. I’m very happy to set the record straight. We are a group of MPs who support the Government’s objective to get emissions down, but equally important for us is that decarbonisation shouldn’t leave the British people poorer and colder. It really is that simple, and I’m confident that most of my Parliamentary colleagues share this basic position.
Nevertheless, there are some people who would rather create divisions and have sought to portray a conflict between us and other groups in the Conservative Parliamentary party. It is quite amusing to me to read of a supposed battle for members between us and the Conservative Environment Network, when I know there are a number of MPs who are in both. Such as the brilliant Mark Jenkinson, who recently explained eloquently in The Times why he was a member of both groups; to support our environmental objectives while ensuring that the policies themselves are properly scrutinised. This is the kind of constructive mentality that we need to see.
The rapidly rising cost of energy, made worse by the tragic events in Ukraine, means that we must work together to develop realistic and effective solutions to get bills down. One really significant one could be shale gas. This is a technology that has the potential to bring tens of thousands of high-skilled well-paid jobs to the North of England and billions of pounds of investment. All the while, improving our balance of payments and lowering the price of gas.
While we don’t know the true extent of the impact it could have, it seems wrong to me that we are banned from finding out because of an arbitrary and political moratorium, and I welcome the Government’s decision to review this matter.
Parliament also needs to properly recognise the seriousness and scope of the changes it is asking people to make on the road to Net Zero. Whether that’s the prospective petrol and diesel car ban, the prospective ban on gas boilers or the kind of lifestyle changes that might be required.
These policies all have the potential to be extremely disruptive, damaging and costly if we get them wrong. Far better, in my view, to examine whether the same environmental progress could be achieved as quickly, perhaps quicker, using a market-friendly approach that is based on consumer choice. Recent polling has revealed that affordability and national security both rank more highly than meeting Net Zero in the public’s list of priorities, so it is important that Parliament reflects those priorities.
I had no doubt when I set up this group that it would be controversial. This is unfortunately a sad reflection of how polarised the debate has become, with anyone deemed as getting in the way of progress deemed as a ‘climate change denier’. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it is this intolerance which has led to a Westminster groupthink and not enough scrutiny of Net Zero. I hope that my colleagues will give the Net Zero Scrutiny Group the benefit of the doubt as it tries to rectify this unfortunate state of affairs.
About the Author:
Craig is the Conservative MP South Thanet, and has been an MP continuously since 2015. He is also a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, Public Accounts Committee and Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission.