The Department for Energy and Climate Change has dismissed speculation it could be abolished or merged with another department as part of a wider governmental spending review.
This week DECC has faced a number of question marks and public speculation over its future, something which has been debated in the public domain twice this week alone.
On Tuesday Committee on Climate Change chairman Lord Deben was asked by energy and climate change select committee chair Angus MacNeil to comment on speculation that DECC could be abolished as part of an ongoing spending review. He responded by expressing he had no prior knowledge of the rumours, and had not heard anything tallying with those suggestions.
Then this morning Conservative MP Peter Bone – a long standing critic of DECC - asked energy secretary Amber Rudd to comment on “rumours emerging from number 10 [Downing Street]” that the department could be merged with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. Rudd attempted to deflect the suggestion by commenting on the future of Bone’s constituency of Wellingborough before side-stepping the question, asserting that DECC is an “incredibly important department that delivers secure, affordable energy”.
However a spokesman for the department informed Solar Power Portal that any speculation over DECC’s future budget was “purely that, speculation”.
“Our budget will be set out in the spending review this autumn,” the spokesman added.
But it is not the first time this year it has been suggested that DECC could find itself on the chopping board. Prior to May’s general election there had been suggestions that the Conservative Party could appease hard-right backbenchers by either abolishing the department or merging it with Defra.
While it quickly became apparent DECC would live on – at least for the time being – with Amber Rudd, Andrea Leadsom and Lord Bourne’s ministerial appointments, DECC now has fewer ministers than it did under the coalition and was ordered to find £70 million of savings by Chancellor George Osborne two months later.
And DECC – already said to be one of the trimmest departments at Whitehall – has been asked to draw up plans for further budget cuts of up to 40% before an Osborne-ordered spending review early next year.
If the government was to take any action over DECC it is highly unlikely it would do so prior to this year’s COP 21 summit in Paris, which takes place in December, due to the likelihood that it would be seen as a significant political own goal and weaken the country’s stance within the negotiations.