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Government, Opposition wrangle over energy

Published:Saturday | April 3, 2010 | 4:00 AM

STANDING FINANCE Committee of Parliament's examination of the 2010-2011 Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure in Gordon House on Thursday almost ended prematurely after the Opposition called for a divide vote during a squabble over Government's energy policy.

Challenged by the government side to vote on the entire Supplementary Estimates, the Opposition later retreated.

The drama unfolded after Opposition Spokesman on Energy Phillip Paulwell questioned portfolio minister James Robertson on Government's policy in relation to the distribution and transmission of electricity.

Moving to break monopoly

Paulwell quoted the minister in his presentation to the Sectoral Debate last year as saying the Government would be moving to break the monopoly in the distribution and transmission of electricity.

Quizzed about the Government's plans this year, Robertson first indicated that the administration was no longer pursuing the previous policy.

Not satisfied with that response, Paulwell argued that the minister's pronouncement ran counter to what was set out in the Estimates this year.

Policy review requested

Robertson later told Parliament that his ministry had asked the Office of Utilities Regulation to review the proposed policy on distribution and transmission of electricity and submit a report to the Government.

However, during the stand-off, members on the government side insisted that the chairman should take the vote on the entire Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure, which would have resulted in the exclusion of at least four ministries from the rigorous examination process.

With the intervention of Manchester South Member of Parliament Michael Peart, the row was pacified and the divide vote averted.