It was the week before Christmas and good cheer was flowing freely between the appropriately elven green leather seats in the House of Commons at the second reading of the Energy Bill… er, sort of.
As MPs from both the Coalition and the Opposition gathered just days before our break for turkey and pud, it was clear some were getting as restless – even petulant – as a toddler on Christmas Eve.
At least one helping of seasonal civility was served up by Shadow Energy Minister Tom Greatrex earlier in the week, with this less than pithy metaphor about energy investment and the birth of Jesus.
The Labour MP recounted: “As one industry chief executive remarked to me just last week, targets help investors see the direction of travel, like the star shining over Bethlehem that showed the direction of travel for the three wise men. As I look at the ministerial Bench this evening, I indeed see three men; given the charitable time of year, I will wait until Third Reading to judge their wisdom.”
Of course, he was referring to Energy Secretary Ed Davey and Energy Ministers Greg Barker and John Hayes. Sadly, none of them were bearing gifts for the last pre-Christmas debate of the year in Parliament.
Greatrex ended his speech by “genuinely wishing Ministers a happy Christmas” – presumably in the hope DECC’s three wise men find their way to a satisfactory answer to his party’s demand for a 2030 decarbonisation target.
Sadly the charity was not so forthcoming from other honourable members: step forth, Peter Lilley, Conservative MP and newest member of the Energy Select Committee, with the parliamentary equivalent of a ‘Bah: Humbug!’
When the Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint rather uncharitably suggested there may be a few “not honourable” members working towards reforming the energy market, Lilley simply had to butt in.
In a parliamentary etiquette no-no, he said from his seat: “Is she allowed to say we are not honourable?”
At which point, many fellow MPs piped up, “She?”, because as everyone knows, there are neither men nor women in the Chamber – only politicians.
The Deputy Speaker admonished: “When he says “she”, that is not acceptable language either. It is Christmas; we ought to give a little more humble time to each other and certainly we do not want the debate to deteriorate. I hope we will have no further interventions from either side in that manner.”
It was clearly way past this MP’s bedtime. If only threatening politicians with a lump of coal for being naughty worked all year round – although for the honourable Mr Lilley, a self-titled “global lukewarmist” who is reportedly being paid $300 per hour to advise an Indian company building a coal-fired power station, that might not be such a disappointment. Merry Christmas, as they say!