I had begun to fear I was not going to get any more leaked letters from the senior civil service, when across my desk in a brown envelope the following turned up. It is one of Dame Lucy’s latest to her deputy, Dr Roy Spendlove.
I am writing to reassure you. The government may be saying it no longer takes green policies seriously, but the requirements of the climate change agenda have been built in strongly at the EU level as well as into domestic laws and regulations. The same is true of the open borders policy which the previous government embraced with enthusiasm. Our Treaty obligations and the twin constraints of the European Court of Human Rights and of the European Court of Justice will require Ministers to stay true to the policy of the free movement of people throughout the EU.
In a long pre election period we should expect political statements about the wish to cut the price of energy and the wish to control numbers arriving in the UK from one of the governing parties. We should always question Ministers to make sure it is the Coalition speaking and not just a wish by one party within the coalition. We should also of course seek to do as Ministers wish, but our first necessity is to ensure they and we remain within the rule of law.
Knowing of your concerns, I would like to make you responsible for ensuring all colleagues dealing with Ministers understand the need to have a good understanding of EU law. We must avoid infraction proceedings against the government we serve, and help the government to avoid statements or policy demands which could annoy our European partners. I know consultancy and related budgets are tight, but I do have a contingency fund which we can use should need arise to ensure we have enough good legal advice on hand. I do not wish to see years of patient and careful diplomacy undermined by rash words and promises from Ministers not entirely in sympathy with our European approach.
I am pleased to see colleagues in DECC are well aware of the need to stay within the requirements of the Large Plants Directive to retire older generating plant, and within the ambitious targets of the Renewables policy to provide enough new windfarms. I would like you to help keep the Treasury and Business Department on board. There is no likelihood of any change to the fundamental EU law on this important matter. Ministers seeking some relief to electricity bills may be able to find a temporary subsidy from elsewhere in their budgets, but in the end it is Ministers’ duties to explain to the public that the EU anti global warming policy is important and does require rationing of energy use by price.
I am more concerned by the recent spate of comments, speeches and polls on the topic of the free movement of peoples. Free movement rests at the heart of the European project which the British people chose in a referendum in 1975 and have endorsed in all subsequent General Elections by their votes. It is true now that one of the Coalition parties wants a renegotiation and a new relationship, but we must be clear. This is not Coalition policy and so the civil service must in no way assist with it. It will be debated in future elections in 2014 and 2015. Until and unless a government is elected pledged to do this we must continue with the EU policies that have been ably implemented in recent years with substantial Treaty increases in EU powers.
In the meantime, if the Coalition as a whole is now asking for a revised approach to open borders within the EU, we need to offer them the strongest possible advice that the previous government signed us up to free movement. There is little sign that the rest of the EU wishes to alter these fundamental requirements of the amalgamated Treaties.