Bill Carmichael: More mean than green

OH the squeals of outrage this month when the Government announced a modest reform to one of the biggest green rip-offs this country has ever seen.

You may not have heard of Feed-in Tariffs (Fits), but if you are lucky enough to live in one of the posher parts of town, you’ve no doubt noticed your more well-heeled neighbours covering their roofs with solar panels.

The reason for the mad proliferation of solar panels, and to a lesser extent mini windmills, is that householders are being paid enormous subsidies to generate their own electricity.

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The Fit scheme works a bit like Robin Hood – but in reverse. It effectively takes around £8bn from the poorest consumers in the country over the next 20 years and transfers the cash to well off people who can afford the capital costs of installing mini solar and wind power schemes.

The racket – for that is what it is – works like this; once householders have installed the solar panels, the power companies have to pay for the electricity they produce at a price more than six times the market rate, for a guaranteed period of 25 years.

The returns are so fantastic as to be far beyond the dreams of avarice.

Some solar panel installers were recently boasting that a £12,000 solar panel system would pay for itself in little more than ten years and produce total returns over the life of the scheme of £25,000.

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Certainly, as an investment it promises to produce profits far in excess of anything the banks, building societies or stock market could offer – all entirely risk free, tax free and index linked against inflation.

Great if you can afford it. But what if you can’t? Well, tough!

Consumers, including the very poorest, are expected to pay for this outrageous handout to the wealthy by way of a hidden “green” tax on their fuel bills – about £13 a year on the average electricity bill.

Not surprisingly since the subsidy bonanza started in April last year, those lucky enough to have substantial sums in the bank have been climbing over each other to get their snouts in the trough.

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Around 80,000 householders have taken advantage of the subsidies including Jude Law, Gary Neville and Mick Jagger, who have all installed solar panels on their multi-million pound homes.

Alarmed at the escalating cost, the Government has now announced the Fit subsidies are to be cut by half – hence the bleats of complaint from everyone from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to solar panel installation companies and the CBI. But if solar power is as cheap and efficient as the environmental groups pretend it is, then it shouldn’t need any subsidy at all.

But this isn’t just poor politics and stupid economics – it is morally wrong, too.

For a government to take money from a freezing pensioner in order to give it to someone as rich as Mick Jagger, is nothing short of wicked.

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Until the subsidy is scrapped entirely having solar panels on your roof should be seen as a badge of shame.

These people aren’t “green” – just greedy.

Coming up trumps

YOU can do nothing worse to a lady of a certain vintage than make an ungallant and unnecessary reference to her advancing years.

And so it proved during a hilarious exchange in the House of Lords last week when former defence secretary Tom King mentioned the great age of Second World War veterans, for example, he said, his colleague, Lady Trumpington.

The good lady’s reaction was priceless. She glared at him and then delivered what can only be described as a subtle variation of Churchill’s Victory salute.

King should realise that the generation that defeated Hitler – Lady Trumpington was a code breaker at Bletchley Park – is not to be trifled with.