After a particularly hectic time in Westminster, I was delighted to be able to enjoy a few days rest with the family at home. Our beautiful constituency is even more wonderful in the sunshine we enjoyed over the Easter period. However, as glorious as the weather has been, the climate change protests that have been going on across London reinforce the stark warnings that our actions are contributing to global warming which is harming our planet. As well as MPs returning to Parliament on Tuesday, we also had a visit from Greta Thunberg, the remarkable 16-year old who has been a key figurehead in inspiring so many young people to take up this important cause.
As Minister for Energy and Clean Growth I answered an Urgent Question on the protests and also made a statement to the House of Commons on our progress in decarbonising our economy. Here’s a short clip of the debate. You can also read my statement here and watch the full debate here.
Whilst I’m with everybody who is passionate about solving the crisis of climate change, what I am really interested in, is solutions, and not tactics that are incredibly disruptive. What I say to the protesters is that we hear you loud and clear, there is no need to create mayhem for millions of people to get your message across. We need to focus our efforts on the solutions that we need to deliver.
That is why I was delighted that last year saw another record year for renewables, which generated 53% of our electricity, whilst coal generation continued to fall to just 5%. Our ‘Powering Past Coal’ commitment, which I launched along with the Canadian Climate Minister, means that our power mix will be completely free from coal by 2024. In addition, we have said that by 2030 up to 70% of our electricity generation will be from clean renewable sources, as we continue to decarbonise our economy.
However, we also know that we have to do more. That is why we have commissioned advice from the Committee on Climate Change on our long-term targets, including on the setting of a net zero target. I look forward to receiving a response from the Committee later this year.
Seven years ago not long after I was first elected as your MP I led a cross party group of MPs supported by academics and children's charities to publish the Independent Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection, which you can read here. Our recommendations helped shape the progress the UK has made in internet safety, and I was very happy to see our efforts culminating in the Online Harms White Paper published shortly before Easter - proof that if you care, you can make a real difference in Politics.
The White Paper unveils tough new measures to ensure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online and kick-starts a 12-week consultation period. Voluntary actions from industry to tackle online harms have not been applied consistently or gone far enough, which is why a new independent regulator will be introduced to ensure that companies meet their responsibilities, in the first of their kind online safety laws with tough penalties if they do not comply. Watch my video here.
As well as my Ministerial role, I am first and foremost the MP for the Devizes Constituency, and securing improvements to our essential local train services continues to be one of my local priorities. Regular rail passengers at Pewsey will know that many services are now provided by the new bi-modal Intercity Express Trains (IETs) and that the 1970s High Speed Trains will soon be phased out. These IETs were secured as a result of my campaigning to enable our direct train services to London to continue following the completion of the electrification programme to Newbury. I was also pleased to receive an update from GWR that the testing of the new IETs for the Driver Only Operated stopping services to Bedwyn is progressing well, and that the new trains are planned to be introduced on the Bedwyn service in mid May.
There was more good news from GWR last week too - I have been concerned for some time about the safety of pedestrians at Pewsey Station using Station Approach to take the Marlborough Road into the village, especially in the dark. I met with Pewsey Parish Council and GWR and we agreed to progress improvements to the existing footpath directly from the Station Car Park to the Wilcot Road. I was delighted that Pewsey’s application to the GWR Customer and Communities Improvement Fund was approved and that the Parish Council has been awarded £3,000 to make improvements to the signage and lighting to enable pedestrians to safely access the station.
It’s always fabulous when local campaigns are successful and I would like to pass on my huge thanks to Cllr David Smith and Pewsey Parish Council for all their hard work – I am very much looking forward to seeing the improvements in place.
The Rt Hon Claire Perry
MP for the Devizes Constituency