May 21: What now for energy policy? Ferrybridge’s carbon tax folly

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AS A SHELLSHOCKED workforce come to terms with the imminent cessation of coal-fired electricity generation at Ferrybridge Power Station, it is clear that the 172 staff concerned are paying a heavy price for the carbon taxes that were levied by the coalition Government.

Without these penal charges, a legacy of Lib Dem ministers being left in charge of policy at the Department for Energy and Climate Change for five years, there is every likelihood that Ferrybridge’s owners SSE would not have brought forward the closure decision with devastating consequences for the immediate area.

All eyes will now be on the Queen’s Speech to see if the Conservatives uphold the party’s manifesto promises to scale back the carbon taxes that a succession of top Tories have derided – David Cameron cannot now blame the environmentally-minded Lib Dems for standing in the way.

Yet the iconic Ferrybridge cooling towers, so emblematic of Yorkshire’s industrial landscape, are also testament to the failure of successive governments to develop a long-term energy strategy for the future that leaves Britain less dependent on imports from countries like Russia.

For, even though the word “coal” was notable by its absence from the Conservative Party’s election manifesto, there is still an abundance of supplies and Mr Cameron’s first government has invested significant sums in the investment of clean-coal technology.

However SSE’s decision will make it even harder to justify further investment in new technology in order to help traditional manufacturing industries conform to EU criteria on pollution levels and carbon emissions. In short, this is a problem that has been fuelled by flawed thinking in Whitehall and it does not bode well for Amber Rudd, the new Energy Secretary. She has much to prove if Britain’s lights are to continue burning brightly.

Another insult: Thomas Cook’s belated apology over Corfu deaths

EVEN though under-fire Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser did finally utter the word “sorry” yesterday nearly nine years after young siblings Bobby and Christi Shepherd died from carbon monoxide poisoning during a family holiday to Corfu, his apology was a grudging one borne out of financial necessity. This is a firm now fighting for credibility after presiding over a heartless response to this tragedy, and in which senior executives were totally insensitive to the grief-stricken parents of the West Yorkshire siblings.

Not only have they had to fight for justice, culminating with the unlawful killing verdict returned by an inquest jury last week, but they had to do so without the support of the travel agent through which they booked their fateful holiday. It culminated with the extraordinary revelation that Thomas Cook had, in fact, received £3m in compensation from the hotel chain where the family were staying, and that the bulk of this money was used to prop up the firm’s finances. Even a donation of £1.5m to Unicef did not stem the backlash from from City investors about this corporate “car crash”.

Perhaps the biggest regret is that Mr Fankhauser chose to listen to his lawyers and PR executives. For, if he had actually thought about these two angelic children, and shown a shred of humility at the inquest, Thomas Cook might not now find its reputation in tatters as families vote with their consciences and choose to book their holidays with more reputable firms.

The Dunkirk Spirit: The true definition of heroism

AS a flotilla of small boats braves the English Channel to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk, it is hard for younger generations to comprehend the role that these vessels played in a 10-day operation to evacuate retreated Allied troops who had become trapped by the advancing German Army.

No less an authority than Winston Churchill feared that just 20,000 lives would be saved. He was wrong. In what Britain’s wartime leader would describe as the “miracle of deliverance”, 338,000 British and French troops were rescued by those who answered the call of Operation Dynamo and crew these ramshackle boats on their remarkable mission that saw the “Dunkirk Spirit” become part of British folklore.

Instead of returning home deflated and defeated, the survivors were treated as national heroes and this public response galvanised a defiant Churchill to declare: “We shall fight on the beaches...” Those who took part in Dunkirk changed the course of history and it is these daring deeds – rather than the exaggerated exploits of celebrities – which continue to exemplify heroism in its truest sense.