Last week was a week of endings and new beginnings. It saw the end of the summer term, for many schools and Parliament, the end of Theresa May’s time as our Prime Minister and the end of my and many other colleagues’ time as Government Ministers. It has been an honour to serve this wonderful country under the dignified and committed leadership of Theresa May.
However, as these chapters come to an end, we move straight to the next chapter – with summer holidays getting off to a gloriously sunny start, a new Prime Minister launching straight into action and a new job for me. When I met with the new Prime Minister on Wednesday evening, I decided to relinquish my role as Minister for Energy and Clean Growth so that I could accept the honour of being appointed President of COP26 – the UN Climate Change conference which the UK is hosting with Italy in 2020. It has been such a privilege to work with so many amazing civil servants in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, where we have delivered the Clean Growth Strategy, the Offshore Wind Sector Deal, the Powering Past Coal Alliance and of course our COP26 bid.
I am very excited to get stuck into my new role. It is a huge task and important opportunity to demonstrate our global leadership in tackling climate change, and our commitment to end our contribution to emissions by 2050 through the innovation and determination of UK businesses and people, which has seen us lead the world in reducing our emissions while continuing to grow our economy.
Of course, I am not the only one starting a new job, and I would like to offer my congratulations our new Prime Minister who has already got off to a very energised start to his premiership. He will of course, however, face enormous challenges: a country still divided over the issue of Brexit, a very narrow majority in Parliament and a looming deadline to find a way through the current Brexit impasse. It is a tall ask, but I am confident that our new Prime Minister can succeed, so long as he works constructively with colleagues across the House, with businesses and industry, and with our friends in Europe.
I know that there has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks of the October deadline, and whether we should leave then, ‘do or die’, even if that means leaving without a deal. I have always maintained that leaving the EU without a deal would be damaging to our national and local economy, and unnecessary given that we should be able to negotiate an arrangement that works for all. That is what it said in the Manifesto which I and other conservative MPs stood on in 2017, and that is why I and others, including the new Prime Minister, voted to leave the EU with a negotiated deal.
However, I have also been clear that I will not engage in Parliamentary manoeuvres to try and block No Deal, as I think this dilutes our negotiating efforts and also risks not being able to deliver Brexit at all – which would be a serious departure of duty given the Referendum result. I look forward to continuing to support the Government achieve a sensible Brexit deal from the backbenches.
But while Brexit carries on, there are many other exciting policy developments taking place. In my former role as Minister for Energy and Clean Growth I continued to champion policies to support rural areas such as ours. One of my last acts as Minister, for example, was to organise the re-opening of the Rural Community Energy Fund. This £10 million programme will support rural communities in England to develop community-based renewable energy projects by providing communities with grants for feasibility studies to test out their clean energy ideas and, if viable, a grant to assist with project development. The Fund has already helped over 150 rural communities plan projects which will support them to become cleaner and more sustainable, and I would urge our local councils and other organisations to bring forward some good Wiltshire-based projects to bid into the fund.
I wish you all a peaceful and restful summer!
The Rt Hon Claire Perry
MP for the Devizes Constituency