Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear

In an interview about new nuclear power stations on the Today programme this morning, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said the coalition was fully behind the construction of new nuclear plants by 2018 and said “my views on nuclear power have always been much misunderstood.”

But Left Foot Forward remembers when Huhne attacked the last government, saying:

“When you are in a hole, stop digging. Every citizen is already paying over £1,500 to clean up the waste of the current generation of nuclear power stations…

“If we had known about the dangers and costs of nuclear energy 50 years ago, it is doubtful we would have ever committed to this expensive mistake.” (31st July 2006)

His then party leader, Sir Ming Campbell, also said:

“Nuclear power will impose a tax on the country, costing consumers billions of pounds, distorting the market and squeezing out competition.” (21st June 2006)

Indeed, only a few months ago – in March this year – then Lib Dem energy spokesman, now deputy leader of the party, Simon Hughes, said Conservative policy on nuclear power was “confused, incoherent and lacking in credibility”, adding “we’re no closer to finding out how to deal with highly toxic nuclear waste”; he also called plans for new nuclear “a reckless mistake”.

In that article for The Guardian, Hughes said:

“Both Labour and the Tories claim that they will not provide any public subsidy, but both know that this cannot be true when the nuclear industry that has never been able to survive without it.” (22nd March 2010)

However, just today energy secretary Chris Huhne seemed to say precisely the same thing as Labour and the Tories:

“We are on course to make sure that the first new nuclear power station opens on time in 2018.”

But he ruled out subsidies and said:

“I don’t think you can determine whether a government is serious about energy policy merely in terms of whether it is prepared to write very large cheques.”

There seems to be a similar muddle going on about the coalition’s planning policy. On Wednesday the Financial Times reported that an unlikely alliance of industry groups, property associations, engineering bodies and environmental campaigners had come together to attack the coalition’s policy on planning in a letter they addressed to communities secretary Eric Pickles.

The FT reported:

“Bodies ranging from Friends of the Earth and WWF to the Rail Freight Group and the Institution of Civil Engineers have formed an unaccustomed alliance to condemn the dismantling of Labour’s regional planning systems.”

Ann Skippers, president of the Royal Town Planning Institute – who organised the letter – told the FT that the new coalition policy could:

“Hinder solutions to the housing crisis, to tackling climate change, to expanding renewable energy infrastructure and to reversing biodiversity loss.”

In a separate article in today’s Financial Times, the CBI have piled in behind these other groups, warning that the chance of securing £150bn of private sector investment in low-carbon infrastructure is receding because of the coalition’s failure to provide clarity on planning policy.

The paper reports that the CBI is also complaining about delays in announcements on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and uncertainty on energy market reform.

10 Responses to “Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg

  2. LockPickerNet

    Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg via @leftfootfwd

  3. Trakgalvis

    Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg via @leftfootfwd

  4. Rachel Danae Stalker

    RT @leftfootfwd: Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg

  5. Hitchin England

    Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg via @leftfootfwd

  6. JoshC

    Is it just me or is Simon Hughes the only (recognisable) Lib-Dem left who says what he actually believes? All the others are doing their best to try and convince us that they really really agree with policies they publicly attacked just 4 months ago before they were given a few scraps of power and large ministerial wages and benefits.

  7. Trakgalvis

    Confusion over coalition planning policy and Lib Dem attitude to new nuclear: http://bit.ly/bzOJTg via @leftfootfwd

  8. mike

    Huhne’s Park Communications Confusion

    The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics has been sniffing around Chris Huhne’s election expenses and despite asking very nicely, they are not getting any reply from him. Now Guido knows the multi-millionaire gold-mining, horizontal jogging Secretary of State for Energy and the Environment has other things on his mind, but it appears there are some serious questions involving some interesting invoicing practices, possibly designed to hide the true cost of printing.

    You can read some of the background to the Sunlight Centre’s investigation here, but essentially the invoices for Huhne’s leaflets are from the “Itchen Valley Printing Society”, who mysteriously share his constituency office. The produced material however was in reality printed by Park Communications Limited. Park is an interesting organisation that is very, very close to the Liberal Democrats – their chief exec hosts events with the head of the LibDem campaigns department. Through various holding accounts, the money it makes from a host of LibDem candidates ends up offshore in Guernsey.

    Perhaps if Chris Huhne could find a moment over the weekend he might want to clear this little matter up. Or maybe he would like to go on Channel4 News and chat about it with Jon Snow…

  9. Chris Vernon

    Maybe what has changed is that Huhne now suspects that the private investment might actually turn up(!), where a couple of months ago he didn’t think it would. Sure he’s ideologically opposed to nuclear – but the coalition has pledged to support nuclear, as long as no public money is needed. He recent comments just reflect that.

    One critical point to remember, especially when referring to positions folk held in the past, is that the Lib Dems are not in power – they didn’t win the election. They are however a minority party in a coalition government. This is a very different thing. Both the Tory and Lib Dem manifestos were chucked out and replaced with the coalition agreement they inspired.

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