Boris Johnson and Liz Truss have joined a growing Tory backbench rebellion against Rishi Sunak’s refusal to allow new onshore wind projects in England in another challenge to the leveling bill.
The former prime ministers are among about 20 Conservative MPs who signed an amendment tabled by Simon Clarke, who was minister under Johnson and Truss, that would end the de facto ban on new wind on land that has been in place since 2014 is.
While Truss supported the resumption of onshore winds, Johnson’s decision to support the amendment is striking, as he did not seek to reverse longstanding policies when he was prime minister.
Clarke’s amendment would require the government to change planning rules within six months to allow for new projects.
It is the second major challenge for the bill. Earlier this week, No. 10 drew a scheduled vote on the bill after an uproar over planning policies. An amendment spearheaded by former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers and supported by more than 50 Tory MPs seeks to scrap mandatory local housing targets and make them advisory only.
The addition of Johnson and Truss to the ranks of the rebels increases the pressure on Sunak over the wind farm issue, and the wider sense that he has no authority as the third prime minister since the election, and someone who was appointed without a Tory vote -members. .
Since 2014, planning rules have effectively blocked all new onshore wind farms in England under a tightening of restrictions imposed by David Cameron’s government following pressure from Tory activists.
The push for more energy independence since the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to calls for an end to this. Truss had promised to change the rules, but was dropped before she was able to.
During the Tory summer leadership campaign, which Truss won, Sunak presented what he called an “energy sovereignty strategy” that enforced the ban on new onshore wind, leading Labor to accuse him of “economic illiteracy”.
While the latest public list of signatories to Clarke’s amendment only shows two other Tory MPs, Virginia Crosbie and Katherine Fletcher, plus Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, Clarke told The Guardian about 20 have now pledged their support.
In addition to Johnson and Truss, these included other former ministers such as Stephen Crabb and Robin Walker.
Clarke, who was chief finance secretary under Johnson and secretary in Truss’s seven-week premiership, said: “This really is an issue that unites the views of all wings of the Conservative Party. We should let local communities decide whether or not they want onshore wind, perhaps coupled with sensible incentives from energy companies, and not apply a blanket ban.
“Onshore wind can lower our constituents’ bills, increase our energy independence and protect our environment, and I am delighted that so many colleagues support this important amendment.”