C.Booker: The 'unknown cabinet minister' - Owen Paterson

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C.Booker: The 'unknown cabinet minister' - Owen Paterson
« on: September 10, 2012, 10:10:00 AM »

C.Booker: The 'unknown cabinet minister' - Owen Paterson

Sunday, 9 September 2012, 19:18

C.Booker, Sun. Te. 9.9.12

The 'unknown Cabinet minister' will soon have a fight on his hands

Congratulations to all those green campaigners who were quick to spot
what could turn out to be the most significant of all the new
appointments in last week's ministerial reshuffle. While media
attention was largely focused elsewhere, all the usual suspects, from
the BBC to The Guardian, were seething with indignation over David
Cameron's surprising choice of Owen Paterson, the "unknown Cabinet
minister", to head the Department for Environment, Food and Rural
Affairs. As the greenies noted that Paterson had been outspokenly
critical of wind farms and renewable energy subsidies, and equally
keen to speak up for shale gas, GM crops and badger culling, The
Guardian's George Monbiot, at his moombattiest, decreed that his
promotion was "a declaration of war on the environment.

As usual, however, the greenies missed the wider picture. The reason
why, for years, Paterson has been off the political radar is that he
was tucked away in Northern Ireland, where, as a trenchant
Eurosceptic, he was kept quiet with a brief as unconnected with the EU
as possible. But his new ministry is at the opposite extreme. In
almost all it does, from agriculture and fisheries to waste management
and water, Defra has long been little more than a front office for

The point about Paterson is that he is in fact uniquely qualified for
his new post. Not only is he a countryman heavily involved in the
rural scene, he is also one of the few senior politicians with
experience of the real world outside the Westminster bubble (he was
formerly a leading figure in the European leather trade). If he is
sceptical, he is a pragmatic sceptic. He looks carefully at how
something works in practice, and if he concludes that it doesn't
justify the fashionable claims being made by those blinded by ideology
into promoting it, he does not hesitate to say so.

Years ago, Mr Paterson featured regularly in this column because he
was the most diligently effective shadow spokesman on farming and
fisheries the Tory party had had for decades. When he broke a
parliamentary record by putting down 600 carefully researched
questions on the link between badgers and the bovine TB that was
decimating our dairy industry, it was because he wanted to establish
the scientific facts being obscured by the spin of a Government in
thrall to the sentimental animal rights lobby. When he produced a
paper on what might practically be done to rescue fishermen and fish
stocks from the ecological disaster being created by the Common
Fisheries Policy, even environmentalists hailed it as the most
sensible study of the subject ever written.

It is the same attention to hard evidence that has led him to be
sceptical about almost every aspect of the Brussels-led policies which
for years have emasculated Defra into dutiful compliance with measures
that make no sense, from the damage they have done to British
agriculture and the obsession with "renewable energy" to the absurd
way we mismanage our waste and water resources. It was his predecessor
Caroline Spelman who meekly went along with the EU's urging that we
should meet the prospect of climate change-induced droughts by not
building any more reservoirs.

The brief Mr Paterson has been given, according to Downing Street, is
to revive Britain's hard-pressed rural economy. What he is determined
to do is push for a wholesale return to policies that make practical
common sense, in light of the facts rather than misguided ideology. If
he tries to do that in all the directions his pragmatic instincts lead
him to, he will inevitably find himself up against opposition and
constraints on all sides - not just from the EU and its house-trained
acolytes in his own department but also from other ministers, notably
those in the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Nowhere is this battle likely to be fiercer than over those useless
wind farms and the vast reserves of cheap shale gas, which could offer
Britain an even brighter future than that promised in the 1970s by the
North Sea, as Paterson has been well-briefed to grasp, not least by
his brother-in-law Matt Ridley. Thanks to the fact that regulation of
shale gas was given to the Environment Agency, answering to Defra, he
can now call the shots in a way that those who hoped it could be
parked on the back burner never imagined.

Mr Paterson has got a fight on his hands. If he fails in his drive to
bring about the most radical shake-up in Defra's orientation for
decades, he will at least have demonstrated where those problems lie,
which are in so many ways constraining the fives of all those affected
by its vast range of activities. He - and the rest of us - are in for
what promises to be an exhilarating, if unnerving, ride.

Rev Philip Foster MA



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Re: C.Booker: The 'unknown cabinet minister' - Owen Paterson
« Reply #1 on: September 10, 2012, 10:23:20 PM »
I'm not too sure about the current 'promotion' of fracking and shale gas!  :-\ I understand that fracking involves the use of high-powered, water- pressure being employed to force open underground sources of shale gas; and that this carries the risk of poisoning underground water tables!  :o
Does anyone agree or disagree with this criticique of mine?

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