For a man who boasted about ditching tick-box regulation for business, Matthew Hancock’s Tory conference speech was very much a tick-box exercise when it came to energy.
The Business and Energy Minister proudly promoted the 3,000 regulations which “have been reversed or reformed by this Government”. (Let’s not forget some of these were as dated as coal-pit ponies…)
His conference comedy gold was a story about blue cheese banned for containing mould and age restrictions on chocolate liqueurs.
What Hancock didn’t say is the regulatory quagmire for energy has deepened under the Coalition. (And this is a party political NEUTRAL broadcast folks, Labour aren’t guilt-free either.)
You just have to glance at the sprawling Energy Act and Electricity Market Reform to induce a Drax-sized headache.
Elsewhere on energy, Hancock was uncontroversially uncontroversial.
Tick-boxing the party line, he parroted George Osborne’s shale gas salute, declaring we must “unlock the shale wealth beneath our feet.” Tick!
“We must invest in new nuclear.” Tick!
And there was an obligatory kick in the teeth for the infant green energy: “we must ensure that the renewables we support are the best value for billpayers and taxpayers alike”. Triple Tory Tick!
But for onlookers, there was ONE hint of something subtly different, gleaming through the many layers of vote-winning spin.
Straight on the heels of Hancock’s sole renewable energy reference (another similarity with Osborne’s. Tick!), came this:
“We must always be restless on the side of the challenger, even as free enterprise disrupts old ways of working.”
Could this be read as a covert thumbs-up for new energy sources?
But there was no detail. No mention of nimble new suppliers or wired up, super efficient kit makers.
To challenge the status quo, you have to have a few new ideas up your sleeve. So far the Energy-cum-Enterprise Minister’s sleeve is empty.