Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary, has admitted that there was ‘arguing’ within the Government before ministers agreed to a compromise over subsidies for onshore wind farms.
Under the terms of collective cabinet responsibility, it is unusual for senior figures within government to admit to discord over individual policies, and although the particular circumstances of the Coalition mean that the convention has come under strain, Mr Davey has gone further than before in admitting to “arguing.”
He was speaking after the the Government announced that there would be a 10 per cent cut in the subsidy given to onshore wind farms, far less than the 25 per cent many Conservative backbenchers had sought.
It had become clear in recent weeks that Tory opponents to subsidies had the support of Mr Osborne.
The Chancellor had claimed that the country could not afford such a high level of financial support for green energy, but the reduced subsidy means that the Government is now at risk of missing its climate change targets, which had been championed by Mr Davey and the Lib Dems.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, the Energy Secretary admitted: “There needs to be a debate,” adding: “we are arguing.”
He said: “The case for investment in renewable energy and clean energy is so strong, and I think that’s why across government we’re backing this package.
“It’s based on the evidence, we’ve done a major consultation, talked to industry, talked to independent third parties, and the evidence shows that yes there should be a cut in subsidies, but it should be a modest 10 per cent cut, and that will bring forward investment between £20 billion and £25 billion, with probably hundreds of thousands of jobs coming forward on the back of that.
“The economy needs that investment, and our climate change challenge needs this green energy.
“What I think people have been discussing is whether there should be a separate new target for de-carbonising the power sector, sort of an intermediate target. “And there’s a debate to be had about that, and when we published our Energy Bill in May, and all the surrounding documentation, we said we wanted that debate, and that debate’s now going to happen.
“There needs to be a debate about the arguments for and against. The critical thing, though, is we need to reduce our carbon emissions.
There is cross-government agreement that we need to do that. What we’re arguing about is how we do that, and there’s a justified discussion.”
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