David Cameron’s planning minister has been stripped of his responsibility for wind farm policy because his brother works for a major turbine manufacturer.
Nick Boles, the Tory MP for Grantham and Stamford, was put in charge of guidance on where wind farms should be located when the Prime Minister promoted him last September.
However, he was removed from the role in April because his brother, Jonathan Boles, has a senior job at Siemens, one of the world’s biggest green energy companies.
Jonathan Boles has been chief financial officer of the European division of Siemens Wind Power since January 2011, according to his profile on the website LinkedIn. Civil servants took the decision to remove Nick Boles’s wind farm brief four months ago, when he informed them that his brother was moving from Germany to work in Britain.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said the decision had been taken “to avoid the perception of any potential conflict of interest”. The minister’s spokesmen told The Telegraph twice this week that Mr Boles had signed off guidance that would ban councils from setting up wind farm-free zones. However, the department has now said that Mr Boles “played no role in the planning guidance”.
Responsibility for wind farm planning was handed without announcement to Mark Prisk, a housing minister, who signed off on the guidance.
The disclosure did not come to light in the Government register of ministers’ interests because this has not been updated for more than 18 months, despite a Coalition commitment to publish a new version twice a year.
Friends of Mr Boles stressed that while he was in control of wind farm planning between September and April, the minister had been a repeated critic of onshore wind farms being sited too near to communities.
In January, The Telegraph disclosed how Mr Boles and John Hayes, at the time an energy minister, were building an “informal alliance” against more onshore wind developments. Both have now lost control over the policy area, after Mr Hayes, a strident opponent of onshore wind, was moved to become an adviser to the Prime Minister. A friend of Mr Boles said: “Until then [when Mr Boles was removed in April] he had been pushing hard for much tighter planning guidance that would give communities much greater ability to refuse onshore wind applications.”
The friend said the change should have been clear when Mr Prisk answered a question on wind farms in the Commons on Thursday of last week.
A spokesman for the Department of Communities and Local Government said: “Responsibility for planning policy and casework in relation to wind farms transferred from Nick Boles in April 2013 to avoid the perception of any potential conflict of interest.
“This was in the light of his brother’s employment with Siemens and his planned return to the UK from Germany. Siemens is involved in the construction of wind turbines but does not operate onshore or offshore wind farms. The permanent secretary reviewed and approved the arrangements. For the avoidance of doubt, Nick Boles played no role in the planning practice guidance on wind farms announced to Parliament in June 2013 and published this week.”
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