George Osborne is the driving force behind an apparent policy shift against onshore wind farms, according to the Chancellor’s father-in-law Lord Howell of Guildford.
The peer, a Government minister until September’s reshuffle, was secretly videoed by green campaigners suggesting that Mr Osborne was behind the about-turn.
Eco-campaigners have been alarmed by an apparent policy shift, with sceptic Tory ministers like Environment secretary Owen Paterson and energy minister John Hayes appointed to key positions in the Government.
In a seven-minute long video posted by Greenpeace on the internet on Wednesday, Lord Howell said that it was Mr Osborne, not Prime Minister David Cameron, who was behind the changes.
He said: “The Prime Minister is not familiar with these issues, does not understand them. Osborne is of course getting this message and is putting pressure on.”
Lord Howell, the father of Mr Osborne’s wife Frances, was a foreign office minister until September’s reshuffle and is an adviser to foreign secretary William Hague.
The peer also was recorded suggesting that Britain was relying too heavily on Qatar in the Middle East for liquid gas supplies.
He said: “Qatar is a great place and it’s full of skyscrapers and rich people. But it’s also rather near to a lot of Jihadists … If Qatar was just to – it’s about the size of Guildford – go into chaos, we would be up s— creek we really would.”
The comments were allegedly backed up by senior Tory MP Peter Lilley who told the campaigners: “Basically I think Osborne wanted to get people into key positions who could begin to get the Government off the hook of the commitments it made very foolishly.”
Mr Lilley suggested that the Government would try to reverse out of its commitments on renewable energy by amending the Climate Change Act.
In other recorded comments, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, a leading wind farm sceptic, suggested that Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change secretary Ed Davey had tried to take away the windfarm brief from Mr Hayes after the reshuffle.
He said: “At the moment it is looking a lot better with Owen Paterson and John Hayes. I’ve still got Ed Davey to dump on from a height from somewhere.
“So Number 10 helped John Hayes, so actually Ed Davey’s got the ‘strategic stuff, so he can go and talk b——- around the world, where[as] John Hayes is in charge of deployment.”
Mr Heaton-Harris also claimed in the recording that Mr Cameron had specifically asked Mr Hayes to cause some trouble over policy on wind farms. In an interview on Tuesday night he announced that no more onshore wind farms beyond those already planned were needed.
He told the campaigners: “When he got his job, David Cameron said to him – and I’ve chatted with John about this – he said ‘what’s the purpose of my role?’
“And he [the PM] said ‘I want you to give a win to the [anti-] wind lobby’.” At this point Mr Heaton-Harris pointed to himself.
Sources close to Mr Davey stressed that he was not in favour of siting onshore wind farms near to community groups against their wishes, but was in favour of a renewable energy industry and was concerned that the rhetoric was scaring off investors.
There were reports yesterday that a peace deal was reached by Mr Cameron in which Mr Davey is given a joint sign off on every decision taken by Mr Hayes.
A spokesman for Mr Osborne said: “The Chancellor supports Government policy which has helped secure record investment into the UK energy infrastructure.”
Mr Lilley said he was merely repeating to the undercover film-maker what he had read in the newspapers. He added: “I have never discussed the Climate Change Act or windfarms with George Osborne or any of his advisers.”
Last night Lord Howell told The Daily Telegraph: “I do not discuss these issues, and have not discussed them,with the Chancellor – whose views are also well known and publicly stated.
“Why do Greenpeace have to do secret filming. Why can’t they discuss these important public issues openly?”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Foreign Secretary appreciates Lord Howell’s frank advice and his free-thinking, and welcomes a wide range of views about energy issues even when he does not agree with them all. Government policy in this area is clear and has not changed.”
Mr Heaton-Harris did not return calls.