Chris Huhne – 2011 Speech to CentreForum


Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Huhne, the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, to CentreForum on 3 March 2011.

A blueprint for our energy future

In autumn 2000, more rain fell on England and Wales than at any time for 230 years. 10,000 homes and businesses were flooded.

In 2003, a heatwave gripped Europe. Drought and wildfires put health services and national infrastructure under huge pressure.

Thousands died. Forests were destroyed by fire, and crops by drought. Energy and transport were hit hard.

We can’t say for sure that climate change caused these extreme weather events. But the science tells us that as our climate changes, the likelihood of these events increases.

In 2004, research suggested human action had doubled the risk of a European heatwave.

And now, for the first time, scientists have been able to say what role global warming played in a major flood.

Using new methods, researchers found that human greenhouse gas emissions may have roughly doubled the chances of the autumn 2000 floods.

That is a significant step up the ladder.

We can now clearly link extreme events to the rise in man-made greenhouse gases. And we can put a number on how much more likely they are.

Costs of climate change

We can also see just how costly they will be.

The floods in 2000 cost the UK insurance industry £1.3 billion. Since then, the cost of flood damage has tripled compared with the previous decade.

In 2009, the Association of British Insurers said – and I quote – ‘our assessment of climate change convinces us that the threat is real and is with us now’.

If there’s one thing insurers know about, it’s risk. When they say it’s time to take action, we should sit up and take notice.

Global deal

Of course, the UK is responsible for fewer than 2% of the world’s carbon emissions. But this does not let us off the hook. The consequences of climate change will not respect our borders.

Food security, water shortages, environmental refugees; the potential knock-on effects are on a global scale.

That is why we must do everything we can to secure a global solution.

We are making good progress.

The UN climate change talks at Cancun were the most important since Kyoto.

For the first time, both developed and developing countries made a political commitment to cut emissions below their present path.

We made good on the bellwether issues:

– agreeing that the average global temperature increase should be kept below 2 degrees

– strengthening the reporting of emissions reductions with a genuine peer-review process

– establishing the Green Climate Fund to get resources to developing countries

– moving forward on forests and land use

The agreements at Cancun prepared the ground for a global deal on climate change. But we must be realistic: this will take time.

And after the mid-term elections in the US, Senate ratification of any climate change treaty will be difficult.

But a deal will happen.

Why am I so confident?

Because around the world, there is too much invested in tackling the problem.

It would be crazy not to prepare for a low-carbon future.

In fact, in many ways it is already here.

The future is here

In 2009, the world’s biggest energy consumer poured $34 billion into its low-carbon economy.

China now leads the world in solar photovoltaic production. Six of the biggest renewable energy companies in the world are based in China.

Last year, 1 million people sat the Chinese civil service exam. The most popular job was ‘Energy Conservation and Technology Equipment Officer’. 5,000 people applied.

China will build 24 nuclear power stations in the time it takes us to build one. By 2020, their nuclear capacity will have increased tenfold.

They will lay 16,000 kilometres of high-speed rail track in the time it takes us to go from London to Birmingham.

They have the highest installed hydro capacity and the most solar water heaters in the world. And they are forging ahead on wind power.

So China knows what’s coming.

And despite what the mid-term elections suggest, so does the US.

Last year, despite serious lobbying – and lots of money from special interests – the Californian public voted decisively to support the State’s ambitious climate change laws. The eighth-largest economy in the world is still committed to going green.

And the Northeastern States are leading the way on renewables, on emissions and on energy efficiency. They’re investing in renewable heat, trading carbon, and legislating for clean energy.

The US Navy will get half of its energy from non-fossil fuel sources by the end of this decade. They’ve already flown fighter planes powered by biofuels, and they’ve already launched their first hybrid power ship.

President Obama used his State of the Union speech to call for a reinvention of energy policy. He challenged the best minds in America to come up with clean energy ‘Apollo projects’. And he set a new goal: for 80% of America’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2035.

Conventional wisdom has it that China and the US are not signed up to the green agenda.

But if you look at what they do, not what they say, a different picture emerges.

Policymakers around the world understand that climate change is real, is happening, and is worth defending ourselves against.

Low-carbon future

The best thing we can do to help adapt to climate change is to stop it happening in the first place. An ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.

So although we must keep pushing for a global deal on climate change, we must also do everything we can at home. We can’t expect to convince other nations of the need for change if we can’t change ourselves.

That is why we have to move further and faster to a low-carbon economy.

This makes obvious environmental sense. Today, I will set out why it makes economic sense.

But first, let us understand our destination.

What does a low carbon economy look like?

Saving energy

First, it does not waste energy.

We have the oldest and least efficient housing stock in Europe. We use more energy heating our homes than Sweden, which is nearly 5 degrees colder on average.

Our homes may be our castles. But they shouldn’t cost a king’s ransom to run.

Across the country, boilers are firing up earlier than they need to. Burning more gas than they have to. Producing more emissions than they should do.

And all because our homes leak heat and waste carbon.

A quarter of the UK’s carbon emissions come from the home. Our housing stock is costing us the earth.

That’s why the Green Deal is our flagship programme. It’s a self-financing home improvement scheme to bring our houses into the 21st century.

Householders will pay nothing up front. Businesses will do that for them, getting their money back from the savings on energy bills not just from the present occupier but from the next tenant or owner as well. And the Green Deal will be targeted at trigger points – like when people move home and do lots of work anyway – to encourage uptake.

Right across the country, homeowners and tenants will get deep energy efficiency improvements without having to front up the cash.

From 2012 onwards, when the Green Deal begins in earnest, energy saving packages worth thousands will be installed in millions of homes.

And there will be a subsidy for hard to heat homes, and those in fuel poverty. No-one should fear winter – or winter energy bills. We are determined to tackle the root causes of fuel poverty, not just stick plasters on the symptoms.

And we are looking at how we can apply the Green Deal model to businesses, too – enabling them to cut carbon, and cut costs.

It is the most comprehensive energy saving plan in the world. There has never been anything quite like it.

Have no doubt: this can make a real difference. Heating is the second biggest driver of energy demand in Britain.

And British Gas research shows that householders who put in energy efficiency measures cut their gas consumption – and their bills – by 44%.

Better insulated buildings will do much of the work for us. But we must also look at renewable heat technology.

More electric air and ground-source heat pumps, drawing warmth from the outside world to heat the indoors. More biogas boilers, and more solar thermal.

Electric future

So the first principle of the low-carbon economy is that it saves energy.

The second is that it will be overwhelmingly electric.

A century ago, the streets of New York were served by a thousand electric taxis. Since then, cheap oil and technological change drove electric cars off the roads.

Now, the pendulum is swinging back.

Every month, new electric cars are coming to market. The shift from the petrol pump to the electric plug is already underway.

In the low-carbon economy, we will turn to the grid to heat our homes and charge our cars.

Meeting demand

That means a big increase in our demand for electricity. It could double by 2050.

And that demand must be met with secure, affordable low-carbon supply.

But our current energy system is not up to the job.

We will lose a fifth of our generating capacity over the next 10 years, as our ageing power plants shut down.

We cannot afford to replace them with more of the same.

By the end of this decade, the UK must cut our carbon emissions by 34% on 1990 levels.

We must generate 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020, up from 6.7% in 2009.

With long lead-in times and high capital costs, we must act now to secure a low-carbon supply.

Otherwise, we face an energy crunch.

Three pillars

Our plan for low-carbon electricity rests on three pillars.

The first pillar is renewable energy. Like onshore and offshore wind, biomass, energy from waste, solar, marine and micro hydro power.

The second is new nuclear – without public subsidy.

Half of my Department’s annual budget is spent cleaning up after past generations of nuclear and coal. Next year, it will reach two-thirds.

Never again. That is why we are passing the cost of nuclear liabilities on to developers, who will pay the full cost of waste disposal and decommissioning.

And the third pillar is clean coal and gas, delivered by carbon capture and storage. Giving us flexible and reliable energy – without the carbon consequences.

The portfolio approach

Together, these technologies will power Britain to 2050 and beyond.

So why haven’t we picked one or two?

Because the future is uncertain.

No-one knows what the most successful low carbon technology will be in thirty years time.

The only way to keep the lights on and the skies clean at the lowest possible cost is to build an energy portfolio.

It is exactly the same principle as a pension fund. When we’re planning for the future, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket.

It would be equally irresponsible for us to try and play god with the country’s energy future.

Prepared for the future

So instead, we must create a policy framework that lets us discover and then use the lowest cost options.

That means thinking about a range of scenarios.

At one end may be a world where fossil fuel prices are exceptionally high. In that scenario, we could rely more on renewables and nuclear.

At the other end of the spectrum, some argue that plentiful gas from unconventional sources will cause gas prices to tumble. Then we might need an energy mix with more clean gas, with carbon capture and storage.

Open options

Our policy is about keeping our options open between technologies, but ensuring that we are on the road to the low carbon economy. We have set a direction; we will let innovation get us there.

So we will put our money on the table.

Funding innovation and research, in DECC and in the business and transport departments.

Through the Green Investment Bank – a new institution to fund the scaling up and deployment of green technology and clean energy projects.


And through our consultation on electricity market reform, which sets out how we will encourage low carbon investment, guarantee security of supply, and provide British consumers with the most affordable electricity.

Under our proposals, all low carbon technologies will benefit from support by virtue of being low carbon. That is the compensation for what Nick Stern calls the greatest market failure of all time. A guaranteed feed-in tariff for all.

There must also be a premium payment for early stage technologies. Pioneer technologies will benefit from extra support in the prices that we pay for electricity, just as they do now through the Renewable Obligation. Those furthest away from full commercialisation will get the most.

Our consultation also proposes a capacity payment, to make sure we can meet peaks in demand – like the infamous ad break in Coronation Street, when everyone gets up to put the kettle on. This will support all four ways of keeping the lights on: Water pumped up hills off peak and released on peak, interconnection with European partners which have different peaks, demand management from companies arranging short-term switch-offs of freezers or fridges, and cheap gas and coal plant – with carbon capture and storage.

We will also send out a clear signal with an emissions performance standard, to keep our power plants clean.

And the Treasury is consulting on a carbon price floor, to underpin our signal to the marketplace – and to encourage low-carbon use of existing plants.

Cost horizons

Getting those signals right will be critical.

It is difficult to overstate the scale of the investment challenge. Ofgem estimates we need £200 billion of new investment over the next decade to secure our supply as our ageing nuclear and coal power plants shut down.

We need to make sure as much of that investment is low-carbon as possible. It will be a historic missed chance if we lock in a new generation of high carbon electricity plant.

If we get the market framework right and give energy companies certainty, they will provide that low-carbon investment. But they are not the Salvation army. They will need to convince big investors – like pension funds – that the UK energy market IS not just stable, but also offers a good return.

We must be clear about this: there will be a cost to the consumer.

But it will still be cheaper than the alternatives.

And in the long term, the fundamentals of the low carbon economy are not going to be expensive.

Nick Stern estimated that the overall costs of avoiding dangerous climate change at no more than 2% of GDP by 2050. So if our economy doubles in forty years, that means a 98% increase instead of a 100% increase. It would barely be noticeable.

Even that calculation depends on other factors.

If we relied on oil and gas, and their prices were around $80 a barrel and its equivalent for gas, then consumers would pay more under our policies – about an extra 1% on their bills by 2020.

But the oil price reached $100 a barrel in January, which just happens to be the point at which our economists calculate the British consumer breaks even. And the oil price, as we see, could well be higher.

In the medium term, the US Department of Energy forecasts $108 a barrel by 2020.

If oil prices continue on this trend, and gas prices rise to meet them, then our consumers will be winning hands down.

Paying less through low carbon policies than they would pay for fossil fuel policies.

Green economy

There’s another economic advantage, one that makes a powerful case for the low-carbon revolution: insulation from oil and gas price shocks.

I asked economists at DECC to look at how a 1970s-style oil price shock would play out today. They found that if the oil price doubled, as from $80 last year to $160 this year, it could lead to a cumulative loss of GDP of around £45 billion over two years.

This is not just far-off speculation: it is a threat here and now. And the faster we move to a low carbon economy, the more secure and stable our economy will be.

Opportunities too

This transition to the low carbon economy does not just protect against the threats. It opens up a world of opportunity.

The global low-carbon market is worth more than £3 trillion. It is projected to reach £4 trillion by 2015. The UK share of that market is currently worth more than £112 billion. It could be much larger.

At home and abroad, the opportunities are huge. For jobs, exports, and growth, the future is green.

We are already feeling the benefits.

In the Humber, where Siemens have taken the first steps towards building wind turbines on British shores, with 700 jobs.

And nationwide. Last year, British Gas announced its plan to ‘go early’ on the Green Deal, investing £30 million and creating 3,700 new jobs.

As the Green Deal kicks in, it will bring a significant economic boost, driving growth in manufacturing and supply chains across the country.

The number of people employed in insulation alone could soar; from 27,000 now, to 100,000 by 2015 – eventually rising to a peak of 250,000.

Recovery from a deep recession is not a respooling of the same old movie. The old industries do not just bounce back. It’s about new industries leading the way – just as it was in the 1930s, when manufacturing of cars and electrical goods helped us fight our way out of recession.

Britain can lead the way. Our scientific, research and engineering strengths will stand us in good stead.

Look at our record on Carbon Capture and Storage, where British scientists top the tables when it comes to research.

We can turn that laboratory lead into an economic lead.

The International Energy Agency predicts the world will need 3,400 new coal and gas plants by 2050 if we are to keep global warming below 2 degrees.

That’s why we must lead the way in demonstrating that CCS works on a commercial scale. It will be a major new export opportunity

Low-carbon leaders

And green growth is why we are pressing for greater EU ambition on emissions.

The carbon price set out by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is not high enough to drive the change we need. It must be higher.

We want to see a much stronger emissions target. Instead of a 20% cut in emissions by 2020, we should aim for a 30% cut.

Two years ago, we had already made it to 17%. Going to 30% will add just 11 billion euros to the costs that were originally estimated of going to 20%. In an economy the size of Europe’s, that’s small change.

This is not to send some global signal. It is not negotiating by putting a new concession on the table. It is in our own economic interest.

The faster we move, the bigger and better our low-carbon industries will be, and the greater the share of that expanding world market. Clear green signals will spark more green investment.

A recent report from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that more demanding greenhouse gas targets could increase Europe’s GDP by more than €600 billion, creating six million jobs. Why? Because there is spare capacity and unemployed people. Green growth will fuel the recovery.

Growth is going ex-carbon.


We must be realistic: rebuilding our energy infrastructure and rebalancing our economy will take time.

Because the capital investments are so huge, and the replacement cycle so long, change will sometimes seem glacial.

But it will come. And in the long term, getting off the oil hook will make our economy more independent, more secure and more stable.

Because the cost of investing in low-carbon energy and security of supply pales in comparison to the costs of dangerous climate change and energy dependency. And there are real economic opportunities up for grabs.

Already, we are making progress.

Carbon emissions are down. The international negotiations are back on track. The Green Deal is on the way. We are rebuilding our electricity market. Green growth is here to stay.

The transition to the low-carbon economy is underway.

It is up to us to see it through.

Chris Huhne – 2012 Speech to the Royal Society


Below is the speech made by the then Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, to the Royal Society on 1st January 2012.

Thank you. I’m delighted to be here today.

It’s a great honour to address the world’s foremost scientific institution.

John Dalton, Ernest Rutherford, James Chadwick.

Without these distinguished Fellows of the Royal Society, the secrets of nuclear energy would have remained hidden for longer.

So today’s subject is fitting. And I want to thank everyone involved with producing the Society’s report on fuel cycle stewardship.

One of the clearest lessons from the history of nuclear energy is that government, industry and science work best when they work together.

A scientific adviser must speak truth to democratic power without fear. In my view, it makes sense if democratic power then listens.

It is in that spirit that I want to take an open and honest look at the history of nuclear power in Britain.

If we are to retain public support for nuclear as a key part of our future energy mix, as I believe we should, then we have to show that we have learned the lessons from our past mistakes.

And some of those mistakes were not small. Nuclear policy is a runner to be the most expensive failure of post-war British policy-making, and I am aware that this is a crowded and highly-contested field.

We currently have around 6,900 cubic metres of high-level nuclear waste. That’s about enough to fill three Olympic swimming pools. We have enough intermediate-level waste to fill a supertanker, and a lot more low-level waste.

We manage the world’s largest plutonium stocks – more than a hundred tonnes – and they will need guarding for as long as it takes us to convert it and build long-term deep storage. And if we don’t, we will have to guard it for tens of thousands of years.

Half of my department’s budget goes in cleaning up this mess, and it will rise to two thirds next year. That is £2 billion a year, year in and year out, that we are continuing to pay for electricity that was consumed in the fifties, sixties and seventies on a false prospectus.

Yet the total nuclear liabilities that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority now deal with are estimated to be £49 billion, and I cannot be confident that the figure will not rise again as we discover yet more problems.

Just look at the history of rose-tinted spectacles: the provisions for nuclear decommissioning costs in total were £2 million in 1970. £472 million in 1980. £9.5 billion in 1990. £22.5 billion in 2000. And now £53.7 billion.

It seems to me essential reassurance to tax-payers and energy consumers that I and my successors can honestly say “This will never happen again”.

Despite this history, I believe that nuclear electricity can and should play a part in our energy future provided that new nuclear is built without public subsidy. And it is precisely because of that post-dated bill from past nuclear mistakes that I reiterate with exceptional feeling “without public subsidy”.

The reason is the same as so many other environmentally-minded people now give. Nuclear energy has risks, but we face the greater risk of accelerating climate change if we do not embark on another generation of nuclear power. Time is running out. Nuclear can be a vital and affordable means of providing low carbon electricity.

In tough times, I am acutely aware of the stresses and strains on household budgets, and I want British electricity consumers to have the best possible deal.

Of the three large scale low carbon technologies, the costs estimated by Arup are as follows. Offshore wind is assessed at £130 per megawatt hour, gas with carbon capture at £95 per megawatt hour, and nuclear at £66 per megawatt hour. These figures take account of waste and decommissioning costs, so nuclear should still be the cheapest low carbon source of electricity.

And costs matter when a quarter of our power plants will close by the end of the decade.

By 2023, all but one of our current fleet of reactors are scheduled to close, taking with them nearly 18 per cent of our electricity supply. We have to find 20 gigawatts of generating capacity and £110 billion of investment in the electricity market. That replacement cycle is double the normal level of energy investment.

Gas is an option, even for the long term, with carbon capture and storage. But fossil fuel price volatility has increased, and world gas prices have risen by a 29 per cent in a year. It is surely not in our national interest to rely even more heavily than necessary on fossil fuels from volatile parts of the world.

Renewables are a family of technologies which will last forever, with less environmental impact. They should be a growing part of our supply, as they are in other countries. But thanks to decades of under-investment by previous governments, the technologies are still relatively young. Uncertainties on some really promising technologies like wave and tidal stream are still considerable, and costs remain high.

Nuclear too has uncertainties, as the cancellation of new programmes in Japan and Italy and the phase out of existing reactors in Germany all show.

Our examination of the lessons of Fukushima from Dr Mike Weightman is reassuring about our regulatory regime and about safety, but the economics of new nuclear are still untested. The industry still has to prove that it can build these enormous investments on time and to budget.

For all these reasons, our approach is to bring forward a broad portfolio of low carbon technologies: renewables, carbon capture and nuclear. It is the only sensible way to handle risk, as we all know when we run our own pension funds.

However attractive one share may look today, it is rash to put all your money into just one stock. Governments should not bet the farm.

The past

So with my eyes open, and with a nervous look at the past, I say that we need nuclear to be a part of our energy mix in the future.

But it is essential to learn from that past. As George J. Stigler said, history is a good teacher but there are inattentive pupils.

So today, I want to look at Britain’s nuclear past to draw out those lessons.

In many ways, Britain is the birthplace of nuclear energy. Like many first-time parents, we tried everything and we did so with enthusiasm.

The world’s first commercial nuclear power station, Calder Hall in Cumbria, closed in 2003. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen nearly half a century earlier.

Life was very different in 1956, when Calder Hall was switched on.

Rationing had only just ended. There were no motorways. Sputnik was but a sketch on a drawing board. Lasers and cash machines were still years away.

The industry was in its formative years. Our attitudes to risk were different. The environment was not yet a subject of public concern.

When Calder Hall opened, a Health Minister rejected calls for a government campaign against smoking. Seat belts were optional extras on a few imported cars.

And our attitudes to spending were different, too. Britain was still effectively on a wartime footing: and when it came to strategic national decisions, the relationship between government, parliament and the people was still conducted on wartime terms. Secrecy. We know best. Don’t tell those who don’t need to know.

Following the great smog in London, and the Suez crisis, an independent nuclear programme was held to be important for the nation’s security and prosperity.

This was the setting in which Britain’s nuclear policy was designed. It was a different time. And decisions taken in the 1950s directly affected the liabilities that we are paying for today.

Of course, we have been granted the gift of hindsight, and the benefit of reflection.

As we give the green light to the next generation of nuclear power stations, we must use those precious insights. So let me turn to the lessons we have learned.

First lesson, simple and clear objectives matter. In the early days, we could not decide between guns and butter.

Nuclear technology was given the task of delivering two national priorities – energy for the masses, and plutonium for the military – without proper economic or democratic scrutiny. The reactor used at Calder Hall was chosen firstly for plutonium production; electricity generation was a side effect.

Born out of military requirements but serving civilian needs, the new industry was torn in two directions. Confused objectives led to confused design decisions – and a high legacy cost.

In the United States, by contrast, there was a competition for the most efficient and safe reactor design to produce electricity. A simple objective with a cost-effective result. The pressurised water reactor.

The second lesson is avoid conflicts of interest.

For the first two decades of nuclear energy, the UK Atomic Energy Authority was responsible for both promoting and researching nuclear energy.

The Government’s official adviser on nuclear policy was an organisation solely devoted to nuclear energy. Gardeners like gardening, researchers want more research, and the UKAEA wanted more nuclear energy using their own designs.

That meant advice to Ministers was not always impartial. Designs were chosen and delivered without proper oversight. There was no sceptical, commercial eye for either operating or decommissioning costs.

The third lesson is keep it simple. Such is the extraordinary inventiveness of the British scientific community – to which I pay fulsome tribute here – that all eleven Magnox power stations were built to different specifications. Even their fuel elements were different sizes.

From an energy policy point of view, we needed several good workaday Marks and Spencer suits. Instead, every reactor was bespoke from Savile Row.

The second fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors were built to a design that almost no-one else used. They did not deliver on budget or on time.

The fourth lesson is that we forgot about our children. About their future.

The regulatory systems were simply not geared toward long-term protection. In the early days, we didn’t plan for decommissioning or managing radioactive waste. Short-term political or financial decisions were taken, with long-term consequences.

In other countries, a levy on nuclear power went into special funds to deal with decommissioning. Both France and the United States handled the problems much better than us.

In the UK, the money was more free-range than ring-fenced. It was tipped into new projects, in the belief that it would be clawed back from asset sales. Too often, we played double or nothing with public cash.

Which brings me to the fifth issue: we took our eye off the money. The nuclear industry was like a expense account dinner: everybody ordering the most expensive items on the menu, because someone else was paying the bill.

In the early days of nuclear power, cost-effectiveness was not an issue. Decommissioning estimates were often approximate and greatly understated. We bought in to technological promise without exercising due diligence. When the arguments for technology changed, as they did for reprocessing, we did not subject them to proper scrutiny.

Only in the late 1980s did reform bring about the end of a centrally directed energy policy. When nuclear power was held up to the cold hard light of the market, it proved to be uneconomic.

Hidden subsidies and uncertainty over liabilities do not make for an attractive investment environment. Attempted privatisation of existing nuclear plants failed, partly because the true costs of cleaning up were becoming slowly apparent.

And when waste started piling up, we effectively crossed our fingers and hoped that it would all go away. We did not act decisively, while our spent fuel and waste stocks grew.

The future

Never again. Never again. This government is determined not to pay for the present by mortgaging the future. We are determined to do the right thing for the long term.

On governance, regulation and financing, we must show that we have learned the lessons of the past. We will make provision for future costs now, and pay down our decommissioning debt.

We will tackle our nuclear legacy. The work on ponds and silos at Sellafield is proceeding as fast as the space and engineering allows: despite our financial situation, there is no financial constraint on dealing with urgent tasks.

Thanks to the foresight of Patricia Hewitt, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is managing radioactive waste at 19 sites across the UK. And my Department has just finished consulting on the long-term management of our plutonium stockpiles, and will publish the results shortly.

Looking to the future, we will prevent a new legacy from building up.

Operators of new nuclear power stations must have secure financing arrangements in place to meet the full costs of decommissioning, and their full share of waste management and disposal costs.

They must submit their plans for approval by the Secretary of State, who will receive advice on the financing from an independent Assurance Board. No more Robert Maxwell style plundering of the public piggybank.

Nor will we fall into the trap of secretly choosing reactor designs. Open competition for the best is our watchword, letting industry and investors assure value for money.

Competition will make the utilities drive a hard bargain with suppliers. No more cost-plus monopolists who just pass on any increase regardless of the effect on consumers.

Regulators are currently carrying out a Generic Design Assessment of new nuclear reactor designs.

A generic assessment means the safety, security and environmental aspects of new reactor designs can be assessed once before applications are made for a whole series of sites. Unlike the old days, when every planning inquiry started from scratch as if another reactor had never been built.

The National Policy Statements on energy also establish that energy infrastructure is needed, so that too does not have to detain a planning application. The Nuclear policy statement identified eight sites which are suitable for new nuclear power stations by the end of 2025.

We will also ensure regulation of the industry is transparent, accountable, proportional and consistent. The industry has acquired a terrible reputation for secrecy, fed by unfortunate incidents like the falsification of MOX data. No more unnecessary secrecy. No more cloak and dagger nonsense. The competent need have no fear of openness, and in my experience the new nuclear industry know that this is the only way to win public trust.

That is why we created the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which is intended to become a new independent statutory body.

It brings together civil nuclear and radioactive transport safety and security regulation in one place. It will house internationally recognised expertise, and will respond quickly and flexibly to current and future regulatory challenges.

And finally, we will continue to encourage investment, research and development – and to help build the skills base needed to support nuclear technology here in Britain. On current plans, total investment in new nuclear will reach some £50 billion.

Each of the reactors planned for the next fleet will deliver investment equivalent to that for the 2012 Olympics. Each plant could create 5,000 construction jobs at peak, and employ a thousand people in operation.

And by the way, there is even some consolation in our unhappy nuclear history. We are developing some world-beating businesses – with expertise in cleaning up old messes.


Nuclear power can play an important future role in our energy security provided there is no public subsidy. We have done everything we can to make sure it is safe, regulated, secure and affordable. Now our partners in the private sector must rise to the challenge and deliver it.

Yes, that means investing. And it means committing to a culture of openness and public trust. Because although we must keep the lights on and the skies clear, there is a higher responsibility here, too.

The decisions made in the early days rubbed against the grain of democracy. They left long-term impacts and heaped costs on future generations.

The decisions we make about energy today will also leave a legacy. Our challenge is to make ensure it is a positive one. No more post-dated bills.

Let me end like this. Sir Winston Churchill, who was half American, once said that the Americans can always be counted upon to do the right thing, when they have exhausted all the other possibilities.

I approach a new generation of nuclear energy in the same spirit. On nuclear policy, we have exhausted the possibilities. We have made pretty much every mistake human ingenuity could devise. And boy, are we British inventive.

We will now do the right thing.

Chris Huhne – 2011 Speech to the Liberal Democrat Conference


Below is the speech made by the then Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, at the 2011 Liberal Democrat Party Conference on 20th September 2011.

One abiding set of values that all Liberal Democrats share is a respect for our environment, natural systems and sustainability.

With this conference’s backing, we will hold course to be the greenest government ever.

No more, no less.

But are we still on course?

Well, I can hardly pick up a Tory paper these days without a whinge about energy and climate change policies.

It’s been nip and tuck between Vince and me in recent months to win an unpopularity poll – that’s on Conservativehome among Tory activists.

So as we assert Lib Dem values within government, we must be doing something right – or is it Left?

Personally, I have no doubt that climate change is one of the greatest challenges we face.

But if you are facing a pay squeeze or even worse a lost job, if your pay packet no longer buys what you need, people understandably put other priorities higher up the scale.

As always during hard times, every other issue pales into insignificance besides the big issues of earning your living.

Keeping your job.

Making ends meet.

But cutting carbon is not a luxury to be ditched when the going gets tough.

It is essential to the survival of mankind as a species.

The science is ever more clear.

Cutting carbon is also a vital part of our recovery from the deepest recession since 1929.

Then we had David Lloyd George’s Yellow Book: now we have Green Growth.

In the thirties, we did not create new jobs by bringing back the textiles, coal and iron jobs that were lost.

We created new jobs in new industries.

And the same is happening today.

Every month, more than 300,000 people leave the unemployment register to find new jobs.

Thousands of those jobs are now in the low carbon economy. It is our route to recovery. Green business is good business.

There are now a million jobs in low carbon goods and services in Britain, and they are growing rapidly.

New jobs in cars, where Nissan will produce the all-electric Leaf at Sunderland with a £5,000 premium for each car from our government.

New jobs in energy saving, where our Green Deal, launched next October, is set to create 250,000 jobs across the nation, up from 27,000 now.

With the Green Deal, we are stopping the scandal where we use more energy to heat our homes than in Sweden, despite their icy winters.

Saving money that can be spent at home on British jobs, not foreign gas.

And I am proud to announce that our party is putting our principles into practice.

Every single Liberal Democrat council has now signed up to pioneer the Green Deal.

New jobs too in renewable energy, where we are determined to be the fastest improving pupil in class – having started from being 25th out of the 27 EU member states.

Onshore wind farms that are now the cheapest form of renewable electricity.

Offshore wind farms that are setting the standard for the world.

New jobs in heating, where our Renewable Heat Incentive is a world-beating first.

Saving power by drawing heat from the air and the ground.

And from our woodland, where we use only a tenth of the sustainable timber we could produce.

New jobs in nuclear too, without a penny of public subsidy.

And providing that we stick to the strictest safety standards in the world, and learn the lessons of Fukushima.

And new jobs in coal and gas plants, as we provide them with a long-term future through capturing and storing their carbon.

All told, energy investment will be £200 billion in the next ten years, double the normal amount as we replace Britain’s ageing power stations.

Our Electricity Market Reforms will mean three quarters of our electricity comes from low carbon sources by 2030.

Funded in part by the world’s first Green Investment Bank.

When people ask where is the demand coming from to power the economic recovery, tell them its clean energy.

It’s energy saving.

It’s low carbon transport.

It’s the new green industrial revolution.

Now, some people argue that we should not be pushing low carbon business, because no-one else is.


Look at China, with six of the biggest renewable companies in the world.

Installing wind turbines across the South China Sea.

Building 28 nuclear power stations in the time it will take us to build one.

Building 10,000 miles of high speed rail in the time we will take to go from London to Birmingham.

Covering 40 per cent of the Chinese population with low carbon economy zones.

If that’s doing nothing, then climate sceptics have a weird idea of zero.

The real risk is not doing too much.

It is doing too little.

And getting left behind.

Other people argue that we cannot afford to boost the low carbon economy.

It would be cheaper, they say, to rely only on oil and gas.

To say it is to laugh at it.

World gas – and hence electricity – prices have leapt by a third thanks to Libya and far eastern growth.

Global factors.

So we should surely try to limit our dependence on oil and gas, not increase it.

Particularly as our own North Sea resources are running down.

In the storm-tossed seas we have to sail, low carbon energy gives us security.



British energy consumers will on average be better off in 2020 thanks to our low carbon policies. Yes, I said better off.

Getting off the oil and gas price hook and onto clean, green energy makes sense.

And with energy saving, we can offset the effects of higher prices and end up with lower bills.

In one generation, we will go from fossil fuel smokestack to low carbon cash back.

But there is hardship now, and we are determined to help.

Higher energy bills hurt.

None of us should have to save on warmth in a cold winter.

Some of the most vulnerable and elderly will shiver – and worse- if we do not help.

That is why this Government is boosting by two-thirds the discounts to help people in fuel poverty.

Why our Warm Homes Discount is a statutory scheme, not a grace and favour handout relying on energy companies’ good will.

That is also why this Government will make those in fuel poverty a top priority for the Green Deal, helped by our ECO subsidy.

Improving people’s homes cuts fuel poverty forever, while a discount only cuts fuel poverty for a year.

Year after year, fuel poverty rose under Labour.

Now we are helping the poor where Labour flannelled.

We are acting where Labour talked.

We are delivering where Labour failed.

But it is not just the fuel poor who need help.

Today I can announce a new package to help the hard-pressed consumer this winter and every winter.

We are determined to get tough with the big six energy companies to ensure that the consumer gets the best possible deal.

We want simpler tariffs.

Requiring energy companies to tell you whether you could buy more cheaply on another tariff.

And you can save real money.

Ofgem, the independent regulator, calculates that the average household could save £200 by switching to the lowest cost supplier – but fewer than one in seven households do so.

Britain privatised the energy companies, but most consumers never noticed.

Contrary to the Times’ report, I neither said nor meant that this was laziness.

It is just that consumers still think that they face the same bill whoever they go to.

So I want to help households save money.

With simpler charging.

Clearer bills.

Quicker switching.

I also want more consumer-friendly firms – co-ops, partnerships, consumer charities – dedicated to doing the shopping around for consumers to make sure that you are always on the best deal, even if you do not have time to check yourself.

Ofgem should also have new powers to secure redress for consumers – money back for bad behaviour.

Ofgem is already stamping out bad doorstep practices that lead to energy mis-selling, with the guilty companies suffering swingeing fines.

And we will stop the energy companies from blocking action by Ofgem, which can delay matters by a year.

I remember when I was on the board of Which? the Consumers’ Association that the best guarantee of a good deal is more competition for your pound.

We want to encourage new small companies to come into the market.

Cutting red tape so they can grow bigger.

Making it easier for them to buy and sell electricity in the wholesale market.

And with Ofgem, we are cracking down on any bad practice that could smack of being anti-competitive.

It’s not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers – who do not switch – while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market.

That looks to me like predatory pricing.

It must and will stop.

Labour and Ed Miliband had thirteen years to get this market right, and all they can do now is call for another inquiry by the Competition Commission.

Another delay of two years.

Another chance to sit on the fence .

How feeble!

We know what’s wrong.

And with Ofgem, we are getting tough to put it right.

John Donne once said that no man is an island entire unto himself, and no government in this complex and interdependent world is entire unto itself.

National sovereignty’s historic writ does not run over so many issues that matter to every family in this country.

National frontiers do not bar toxic waste, sulphur or carbon.

That is why we must always work with our partners in Europe – and more widely – to secure our objectives, nowhere more clearly than on environmental issues.

The European Union is also key to our prosperity.

The Eurozone takes nearly half our exports.

We export more to Ireland alone than to China, India and Brazil put together.

Being part of Europe is not a political choice. It is a geographical reality

It always was. And until the tectonic plates break up, it always will be

We will not, as Liberal Democrats in government, weaken the ties that deliver our national interest through Europe.

Let me make another point about our Coalition.

Whatever we think of the Conservative campaign in the alternative vote referendum, and I for one thought that the vilification of Nick was appalling, for Liberal Democrats compromise is not and cannot be a dirty word.

Finding common ground.

Uniting in joint purpose.

Partnership politics.

That is what we had to do – Conservatives and Liberal Democrats – to get this country out of the economic danger zone.

Many countries that have suffered from the debt crisis since then – Portugal, Spain, Italy – had smaller budget deficits than us.

Yet we can borrow money at lower rates than at any time in three hundred years.

This coalition government saved Britain’s credit standing by compromise.

The danger if you don’t compromise is now clear from America.

There the markets looked over the brink when the mad-cap Republican right in Congress would not compromise with the President.

Let that be a warning to the Conservative right here: we need no Tea Party Tendency in Britain.

If you fail to compromise, if you fail to seek the common ground that unites us, if you insist that only you have the answers, if you keep beating the anti-European drum, if you slaver over tax cuts for the rich, then you will put in peril the most crucial achievement of this Government.

You will wreck the nation’s economy and common purpose.

We are all in this together and we can’t get out of it alone.

Chris Huhne – 2011 Speech to the Renewable UK Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Huhne to the Renewable UK Conference on 26th October 2011.

I’m delighted to be here today, at Renewable UK’s annual conference.

Our location is rather appropriate. Manchester was the thumping heart of the industrial revolution. This was the world’s first industrial city. It is home to the first industrial canal, and the world’s oldest railway station.

The foundations for our prosperity were laid here. The engines which drove Britain’s extraordinary economic growth were built here – from the spinning mule to the steam engine.

We could not have picked a better place to discuss their modern equivalents.


Renewable energy technologies will deliver a third industrial revolution. Its impact will be every bit as profound as the first two. My argument today is a simple one: the revolution has already begun.

From the Western Isles to the Isle of Wight – across the length and breadth of Britain. New companies are creating new jobs, delivering the technologies that will power our future.

As we look to pull ourselves out of recovery and back to prosperity, renewable energy can light the way.

Today, I want to look at the contribution renewable energy is making to our economy right now. The investment it is sparking, the jobs it is delivering, the growth it is creating.

And I will look at what we can to do encourage that growth – and sustain those jobs.

But first, I want to take aim at the faultfinders and curmudgeons who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables – the unholy alliance of climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.

“Renewables are too expensive”, they cry. “They cannot deliver energy at scale.

“They are uneconomic, unreliable and unwanted.”

It is time to retire these myths.


Let us start with the most egregious: that renewables are too expensive; that they could not exist without public subsidy; that they are held up by government cash alone.

Last year, global investment in renewable energy rose by 32% to $211 billion. And $142 billion of that was new financial investment, which excludes government and corporate R&D.

Renewables are grabbing a large and growing share of new energy investment.

Yes, some of that investment is attracted by public subsidy. But globally, subsidies for fossil fuels outstrip subsidies for renewables by a factor of five.

We subsidise renewables to bring on deployment and reduce costs. And we’ve seen some remarkable successes: the cost of solar energy just keeps on tumbling.

Right now, support for renewable energy costs the average household less than sixpence a day. But decades of underinvestment in energy efficiency and reliance on fossil fuels costs us much, much more.

About half of the average household bill goes on wholesale gas and electricity costs. These costs are highly volatile, and as Ofgem make clear, the higher gas price is the real reason bills have been going up over the past eight years.

That is why we need a flexible energy portfolio.

And that’s where the counter-argument of the climate sceptics falls down. “Forget wind farms”, they say. “Shale gas will be our saviour. We should abandon everything else.”

I don’t believe government should pick winners. And if you do, I refer you to a Department of Trade and Industry white paper from 2004 that estimated oil would reach $23 per barrel by 2010. Even last year my own Department forecast oil at $80 per barrel. Brent crude is currently trading at $110 per barrel.

Lashing our economy to a single energy source is a risky business.

We don’t yet know the full extent of shale gas here; how economically or environmentally viable it will be to extract, or by when. At best, it is years away.

Unconventional gas has not yet lit a single room nor cooked a single roast dinner in the UK.

Yet those who clamour loudest for “realistic” energy policies would have us hitch our wagon to shale alone. Shale gas may be significant. It is exciting. But we do not yet know enough to bet the farm on it. Faced with such uncertainty we do what any rational investor does with their own pension fund – we spread our risks, we have a portfolio.


The second fallacy is that renewables cannot deliver energy reliably or at scale.

But today, more than 10 gigawatts of our electricity capacity is renewable. That’s enough to power six million homes.

And with every passing year, renewable energy takes over another percentage point of global electricity capacity.

In 2007, 5% of the world’s electricity was renewable. In 2008, it was 6%. In 2009, 7%. And last year, 8%. And it’s still growing. More than a third of the new capacity added last year – some 60GW – was from non-hydro renewables. The message is clear: when we build new power plants, increasingly we choose renewables.

In fact, renewable energy can make our system more secure – not less. According to the International Energy Agency, renewables increase the diversity of electricity sources, making energy systems more flexible – and more resistant to shocks.

Yes, some renewable technologies are intermittent. But the Committee on Climate Change estimates that even with 65% of our energy provided by renewables in 2030, intermittency may cost just 1p per kilowatt hour.

After all, biomass is instantly dispatchable. And providing back-up for intermittent renewables is just not that expensive. We already swing from a low of demand of 40GW to a high of 80GW every day. Peaking plant has long been part of our mix. Without such backup the nation’s kettles would be cold in the Coronation St ad breaks.

Every year, renewable energy is attracting more investment and delivering more capacity. It is also gathering more support. One hundred and nineteen countries have renewable energy targets or policies – up from an estimated 55 just six years ago.


That brings me to the third great misconception about renewable energy: that it is unwanted.

Earlier this year, Ipsos MORI polled a thousand UK adults on which energy source they preferred. By a clear margin, people favoured renewables.

Eighty-eight per cent of those polled viewed solar power favourably; 82% for wind, 76% for hydroelectric, 57% for biomass.

The highest placed traditional energy source for electricity was gas, at 56%.

Seventy-three per cent of people would support a new wind farm in their area, as opposed to just 21% for a new coal plant.

When you get behind the headlines, you find that support for renewable energy is strong – and growing.

And so is its contribution to our economy.


Across the United Kingdom, renewables are providing jobs, investment and growth.

And the numbers are really starting to add up.

Over the last financial year, nearly 4,500 new jobs were created in the low-carbon sector, which grew by 4.3%.

Fifty-one thousand and six hundred companies in Britain provide low-carbon and environmental goods and services. Exports are now £11.3 billion, up 3.9%.

By Christmas we will have 3GW of biomass installed, and by Easter 5GW of onshore wind. In the past seven months alone, plans for £1.69 billion of investment and 9,500 jobs have been announced.

Here in the North West, more than 950 jobs: 340 at the Siemens Renewable Energy Engineering Centre, just a few miles down the road; up to 600 over the next decade at Cammell Laird; three new Farmgen developments planned in Cumbria, with hundreds of jobs.

This is the sharp reality of green growth. At a time when closures and cuts dominate the news cycle, next-generation industries are providing jobs just as in the recovery after the last deep depression in 1929 to 1931. It is new and innovative industries that grow fastest.

Renewable energy is surging out across the United Kingdom, blazing a trail of start-ups and jobs.

Across the Pennines, in Yorkshire, 2,250 jobs – £130 million in Real Ventures’ biomass plant, employing up to 285 people.

And in the North East, more than 1,400 jobs – TAG Energy Solutions, delivering up to 400 jobs in the Billingham turbine factory.

North of the border, one of the jewels in our renewable energy crown – £160 million of new investment and more than 420 Scottish jobs.

Across the Irish Sea, 450 jobs in Belfast Harbour thanks to DONG Energy’s Duddon Sands offshore wind farm; 1,400 jobs in Wales.

In the heart of England, 100 jobs in the East Midlands – and 50 in the West; 120 in East Anglia.

Two thousand and two hundred jobs in the South East, supported by £172m – from Vestas, the Green Home Company, and more. And at Tilbury, the first UK coal plant to convert completely to biomass, safeguarding livelihoods.

Across Britain, from the industrial heartlands to the northernmost extremities, new energy technologies are delivering jobs and growth just when we need them most.

Capitalising on our geographical, physical and human advantages; Scotland’s research and natural resources. The Solent’s marine expertise. Manufacturing in the North East. Technology development in the M4 corridor.

Renewable energy doesn’t just have the potential to bring Britain’s economy back to life – it has already started.

Our job now is to allow it to really flourish. How? By setting clear and coherent objectives. And using regulation and closely targeted support to hit them.


By the end of this decade, we must cut our carbon emissions by 34% on 1990 levels. By the end of the next decade, they must be halved.

To hit our EU renewable energy target, we must generate 30% of our electricity from renewables by 2020. That means a fourfold increase in deployment – turning our back on an inheritance that ranked us as the dunce in class, 25th out of 27 EU countries for renewables.

Growth on that kind of scale will not be easy. It will require tough decisions, clear thinking, and tightly focused support.

And everyone has a part to play.

Industry must carry on making the case for renewables. Engaging with communities – and answering its critics by delivering renewable schemes that save money and save carbon.

Government must break through the barriers that are stopping new schemes being built, overcoming the financial, planning and delivery hurdles that can hold up progress on renewables.

And together we must do a better job of communicating. That means engaging with the communities who stand to benefit, and the investors who don’t yet see the promise that renewable energy holds.

We must ensure the silent majority aren’t drowned out by the vocal minority – those opposed to renewable energy in all its forms.

That means making sure communities that host renewables benefit more directly. That’s what our proposals on business rate retention are for. And that’s why we were pleased to endorse Renewable UK’s Protocol on Community Benefits.

My challenge to you today is this: keep it up. Continue to develop and publicise new ways of rewarding those communities most affected by development.


Because, as the report you are publishing today shows, the opportunities are simply too great to ignore.

Globally, around half a trillion dollars has been earmarked for green stimulus spending. We will need to spend a hundred times that by 2050 to hit our climate targets.

We must be realistic. The pressure on the public finances means we cannot support everything at the level we otherwise would.

So we must ensure we send clear market signals: deploying public finance intelligently, and breaking through barriers to growth.

Our starting point is simple. We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to get the most carbon and cost-effective electricity generation online.


That is why the Renewables Obligation Banding Review has studied carefully how much subsidy different technologies need.

The Renewables Obligation reinforces our commitment to renewables, and it provides what developers most need: a stable framework as we look ahead to the Electricity Market Reform.

Where new technologies desperately need help to reach the market – where they can be scaled up significantly while bringing down costs over time – we are raising support.

Where investors are on the cusp, we will give them the short-term impetus they need. So marine energy projects up to 30 megawatts will receive five ROCs under our plans.

Where market costs are coming down – in onshore wind, for example – we’re consulting on reducing the subsidy.

On offshore wind, we set our ambition high in our recent Renewable Energy Roadmap. And because we want to see a huge increase in deployment by 2020, we must see costs come down.

So we’re working to help to bring investors and developers together, for example through the offshore wind investor conference.

And our host today, Andrew Jamieson, is also lending his talents to the Offshore Wind Cost-Cutting Task Force, which met for the first time last week.

On biomass, our support will focus more strongly on cheaper transitional technologies. Conversion from coal to biomass, for example, exploits existing assets and helps build the supply chain.

Overall the new arrangements will mean a lower impact on consumer bills than staying with the current bandings.

In total, our low-carbon and energy-saving policies will reduce household enegy bills compared with a ‘do nothing policy’.

Of course, this is a consultation. We want to hear views from industry and beyond. I am sure you will not be backwards in coming forward.


Our approach to renewable energy must encourage investment and deliver value for money for consumers.

We are doing three things to help.

First, we are using policy to create new markets that will stimulate new investment – like the Green Deal, our unprecedented energy efficiency programme. It will bring jobs, growth and opportunities right across the country.

Or the world’s first Renewable Heat Incentive. It will create a whole new market in renewable heat. Not just big industrial and commercial installations, but also homes and businesses, too.

We expect green capital investment in heat to rise by £7.5 billion by 2020, supporting 150,000 manufacturing, supply chain and installer jobs.

So the first thing we’re doing is to create new markets; the second is to make existing markets work better.

This is why we published in the summer our plans for the reform of the electricity market, which will deliver secure, low-carbon and affordable electricity.

We’ve listened to the renewables industry in drawing up the reforms. That’s why we support a contract for difference model tailored to renewables and not auctioning in the near future.

We’ll publish a technical update on the institutional framework and the capacity mechanism around the turn of the year, and we’re planning to provide more information on the CfD too.

We’ll also build in a phased transition from the Renewables Obligation to the new arrangements.

By offering certainty and clarity, we can secure the scale of investment we need. And by attracting in new investors, we will also increase competition in the UK energy market.


Our third priority is to capture the benefits of the low-carbon revolution. That means ensuring more clean technologies are designed and manufactured here.

We have a blossoming low-carbon goods and services sector, which seems to be thriving even in tough times.

But China leads the world in solar photovoltaic panel production; Germany on energy efficient housing design.

We’re missing a trick unless we start supporting low-carbon manufacturing here in Britain – and grow the green supply chain: locking in profits and expertise, and creating the exports that will keep Britain competitive.

Yes, climate change is a manmade disaster. Yes, the UK is only 2% of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than 2% of the solution.

We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy.

This has been at the heart of Liberal Democrat policy for decades and it is something the Deputy Prime Minister, the Business Secretary, and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury instinctively understand.

But this goes beyond any one party. I know the Prime Minister agrees, which is why he is putting so much effort in to securing offshore wind manufacturing in the UK. And it is something I know my predecessor Ed Miliband understands.

It is this three-party consensus that makes the UK such a good place to invest.

It wasn’t always like that. It is nothing short of a national disgrace that in the 1980s the UK lost our leading wind research position to Denmark, because government refused to support the industry.

It is a mistake I am determined that this Coalition Government will not make again. That is why in the recent ROC banding consultation I have sent a clear signal to the tidal stream and wave industry – we want the UK to be the best place in the world to invest, deploy and commercialise these technologies.

So I can today assure you that this Government has resolved that we will be the largest market in Europe for offshore wind.

We already have more installed offshore wind than anywhere else in the world and we are determined to remain at the forefront.

That’s why we set aside £200 million for the development of low-carbon technologies, including £60m for supporting major new manufacturing projects on the English coast.

We will be the best place to invest in marine power, and we will be the fastest growing country in the EU when it comes to renewable deployment.

That’s why the Green Investment Bank has been capitalised with three billion pounds, to help unlock private sector investment at scale. For the first time ever, Britain will join every other leading developed economy in having a public development bank focused on key economic goals.


And that’s why we’ll keep funding research and innovation – not just through DECC, but through the business and transport departments too.

We’re also funding the Offshore Wind Accelerator, a partnership between the Carbon Trust and leading developers to demonstrate a new generation of full-scale, low cost energy. I’m pleased to announce today that a project funded through the Accelerator has been has been successfully installed with a met mast by the SMart Wind consortium, with funding support from DONG Energy.

This kind of innovation will bring down the cost of offshore wind faster.

That’s why we’ve allocated up to £30 million over the next four years to fund innovation to reduce offshore wind costs. And as part of this work, our first call for proposals will focus on components of emerging offshore wind systems, with budget of up to £5m. I expect it to be launched shortly.

We’ve also allocated up to £20 million to support the world’s first commercial-scale marine energy arrays.

And we’re working closely with organisations such as the Energy Technologies Institute, which just announced plans to invest up to £25m in an offshore wind floating system demonstration project. Opening up new areas off the coast of the UK, and helping to bring generation costs down.


So from the structure of the electricity market to research funding, we’re breaking through the economic barriers. But we’re also focusing on non-financial obstacles.

We’re reforming the planning system, to ensure it’s no longer a brake on sustainable development.

The energy National Policy Statements set out the national need for new renewable energy infrastructure. We have introduced a fast-track process for consents. And we will close the Infrastructure Planning Commission and return decisions on major energy infrastructure to democratically elected ministers.

Over 1,000 pages of local planning policy for England are being replaced by clearer and more streamlined National Planning Policy Framework. And the Government will consult on measures for a ‘planning guarantee’.

We’re also working to improve grid connections. The connect and manage regime is now up and running. Network companies are now looking much further ahead in their planning and engaging more effectively with stakeholders. Together, this will help the network acts as a facilitator rather than an obstacle to renewable generation.

And a few months ago, we published the Renewables Roadmap – setting out for the first time how we will overcome barriers to deployment.

It’s a comprehensive action plan to accelerate the UK’s deployment and use of renewable energy.


In many ways, Britain can lay claim to be the home of renewable energy.

It is thought that the oldest tidal mill in the world once stood across the river Fleet, in London. The white cliffs of Dover looked over a tide mill that was recorded in the Domesday Book.

And 130 years ago, we connected the world’s first public electricity supply, in Godalming, Surrey.

It did not burn coal, or gas.

No, the power plant in question was a Siemens generator driven by 100% clean, renewable power: a watermill on the River Wey.

When Britain began its journey towards electrification, renewable energy was the future.

But we ended up choosing another path. This time, things will be different.

We will not heed the naysayers or the green economy deniers.

With over £200 billion worth of energy infrastructure needed by the end of the decade, this is our golden chance to deliver a greener future.

Chris Huhne – 2011 Speech to the Durban Climate Conference


The below speech was made by the then Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, at the Durban Climate Conference on 8th December 2011.

Thank you, Mr President.

One year ago, we brought these negotiations back from the brink. As the global economic crisis deepened, we turned away from low ambition.

This year, we must back high ambition. Economic uncertainty may be dominating the headlines, but emissions are rising fast. Against dark skies, we must summon the strength to commit to a brighter future.

Nowhere is this more essential than here in Africa, the continent most vulnerable to climate change. For millions of Africans, climate change is not a matter of negotiating texts, informal informals or square brackets. It is a matter – literally – of life and death.

So here in Durban, we must signal that our objective remains a legally binding global deal.

Nothing else will provide certainty for the businesses and investors who are building the next generation of homes, vehicles and power plants. Nothing else will close the emissions gap, delivering the carbon cuts we need to keep global warming within 2 degrees. Nothing else will show our determination to meet the climate challenge as fairly and as fully as possible.

That is why the UK, with our EU partners, remains a firm advocate of a global legally binding agreement within the UNFCCC. We want all countries to commit now to a comprehensive global legal framework, and to complete negotiations on it by 2015 at the latest.

The UK remains fully committed to the Kyoto Protocol. We are proud of the Protocol and the part we have played in it; it is driving the low-carbon transformation in Europe. Together with the EU, we have clearly stated that we are willing to move to a second Kyoto commitment period, maintaining ambition and environmental integrity.

But to do that in isolation makes no sense. A second commitment period covering only the EU and two or three other developed countries would control less than 15 per cent of global emissions; some 85 per cent of global emissions would remain uncontrolled.

That would not provide the certainty that investors need; it would not close the emissions gap; it would not meet the hopes of Cancun; it would not help the poor and the vulnerable.

We need a clear roadmap to a wider agreement. If that roadmap cannot be agreed here in Durban, we will not agree a second commitment period of Kyoto.

Let me be absolutely clear about this. The roadmap and the second commitment period are part of the same package, the same route towards a legally binding global deal. They cannot be separated from one another, and we will not let them be. We recognise and are encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of countries here, developed and developing, share this view.

The UK’s commitment to tackling climate change is clear. We have adopted strict domestic targets for reducing emissions: a 50 per cent cut by the mid 2020s. We are meeting our fast start finance obligations: we have allocated more than £1 billion to date.

On Tuesday, I announced our package for Africa:

– £38 million for climate-resilient agriculture in Eastern and Southern Africa, helping 250,000 small-scale farmers

– £27 million for the Energy and Environment Partnership in southern Africa

– £15 million to support Ethiopia’s new national climate strategy

– £7 million for an adaptation and resilience programme in Kenya support through the Clean Technology Fund for low-carbon projects in Nigeria

– £30 million for the Least Developed Country Fund

– £10 million for the Adaptation Fund

– £85 million for the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience

By the end of 2012 we will have met in full our pledge of £1.5 billion in fast start finance. And we already have committed financial support beyond the end of the fast start period.

We are determined to make the Green Climate Fund a reality and to develop long-term sources of finance. We must make progress on technology, adaptation, forests and MRV. We must move towards a common understanding of the size of the emissions gap, and how we can close it.

These are all steps on the road to a comprehensive global agreement. And this goal is not beyond our reach. Last year’s conference in Cancun showed what we can achieve when we display flexibility and the will to compromise.

If we continue to choose co-operation over conflict, we can show that all nations are indeed united by a common ambition: to protect our planet and our people from the dangers of climate change.

Thank you.

Chris Huhne – 2010 Speech on the Green Deal


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, on the Green Deal on 2nd November 2010.

Thanks very much.

Three years ago, the credit crunch hit home.

Three years ago, the economy suffered its most profound shock since the 1930s.

Three years ago, customers queued around the block in the first run on a British bank for a century and a half.

From Iceland to Greece, the financial crisis changed the fortunes of countries, their people, and their governments. It framed political debate then as it does now.

The UK was hit hard.

Our overdependence on the financial sector left us critically exposed.

Our banks trembled. Our credit rating faltered.

And our gross domestic product fell by 5% in a single year – the sharpest drop since 1921.

UK Response

Coming after a decade of government overspending, the result was a budget deficit unmatched in peacetime.

A fiscal stimulus package without precedent.

And a ballooning credibility gap, as it became clear there was no real plan to lift us out of a deep recession.

Tackling our chronic structural deficit – and rebuilding confidence in our economy – demanded difficult decisions.

The coalition’s response was decisive.

The Emergency Budget steered us away from a sovereign debt crisis. And the Spending Review set out a clear and credible path back to national prosperity.

The latest indications are good: GDP is growing faster than expected. Our national credit rating is back where it belongs. Investors feel confident that the UK’s course is true.

We have weathered the storm.

But now we are in the open ocean, and a question still remains:

Where is the growth coming from?

Future Prosperity

It is no longer enough to decry the excesses of the last Government. Yes, the cupboard is bare. Now it is up to us fill it.

Over the past week, you have heard our plan to bring back growth.

A tougher competition regime. Funding for scientific research. The national infrastructure programme. The local growth strategy.

Together, they will help restore prosperity and promote growth.

But there is something else.

Something that can deliver a boost of macroeconomic significance.

It is essential to the recovery.

It is vital for our future competitiveness.

And as the Prime Minister made clear last week, it is a critical part of the Government’s strategy for growth.

To change our national economic story from one of financial speculation to one of future growth, we need a third industrial revolution: a green revolution.

It will transform our economy as surely as the shift from iron to steel, from steam to oil.

It will lead us toward a low-carbon future, with cleaner energy and greener growth. With an economy that is built to last – on more sustainable, more stable foundations.

It is an enticing prospect.

But what does green growth mean?

It means jobs. It means investment pouring into the UK, and exports pouring out.

Technologies that can be licensed and spun off to lock-in profits.

A more skilled workforce. Able to compete in the global marketplace, furthering our reputation for innovation, boosting British enterprise.

And at home, a more sustainable economy. One less prone to the fits and starts of a fragile energy market, and more resilient in the face of global uncertainty.

These are the long-term rewards that await us if we have the courage to build our economy anew.

We cannot risk falling behind. Other countries are not waiting for international agreements before engaging with the next global growth sector.

Instead, they are nurturing new industries focused on the defining challenges of our age: the development of clean energy.

Today, I will set out the case for green growth.

The industries it will nurture. The investment it will spark. The jobs it will create.

And the security it will bring, as we gain greater energy independence and build a more sustainable economy.

A Global Market

We are at the brink of a new industrial era.

From electric vehicles to energy management, the global low-carbon and environmental goods and services sector is a £3.2 trillion market. It is forecast to reach £4 trillion before this Parliament dissolves.

Last year, our share of that market was worth £112 billion. 900,000 people are employed in the low-carbon sector and its supply chain; by 2015, there will be at least a million. That’s a workforce – and a budget – to rival the NHS.

As global efforts to cut carbon gather pace, the market will grow. Those countries which take the lead will be uniquely positioned.

Think of Germany’s expertise in wind turbine manufacturing, or China’s growing share of solar photovoltaic production.

We must secure a bigger slice of the pie. In offshore wind, in carbon capture and storage, Britain can establish itself as a market leader.

Our job is to ensure British firms can take full advantage of the opportunities. Converting our technical successes into commercial opportunities.

That means removing barriers to innovation and investment at home.

Exporting the best of British overseas. And securing international buy-in for the low-carbon transition.

The best way to achieve that consensus is to lead from the front. On energy supply and energy demand, we can set an example which boosts growth at home and competitiveness abroad.

New Generation

As with previous industrial revolutions, our primary energy source will define our economy.

Victorian fortunes were built on coal and steam. 20th century dynasties were founded on oil and gas.

The next generation’s prosperity will come from clean energy. It must be affordable. It must be secure. And it must be low-carbon.

Many of the technologies that will power our future are still emerging. Wave and tidal stream tech are improving quickly. Solar photovoltaic is becoming ever more affordable. And in Britain, onshore wind is expected to be cost competitive with nuclear power.

This rapid expansion in new technology coincides with an explosion in demand for new generation.

Demand for electricity could double as we plug in to the national grid to power our cars and heat our homes.

Yet the UK’s power plants are ageing fast. 20 Gigawatts of capacity will be lost by 2023 as old power stations close.

Ofgem estimates that we need £200 billion of investment by 2020 to upgrade our outdated energy assets.

The replacement cycle means energy investment will ramp up significantly – between 0.5 and 1% of GDP.

Have no doubt: this is a step change. And the opportunities are breathtaking.

As the next generation of power plants come online, so new industries will spring up around them – from manufacturing to maintenance. Each new plant must be designed, built, operated and connected to the grid.

To take full advantage of the shift to low-carbon generation, we must allow these developing industries to flourish within our borders.

Our policy is built on four pillars: energy saving, carbon capture and storage, renewables and – as the coalition agreement made clear – new nuclear without public subsidy.

When saving for your retirement, it would be irresponsible to put all your eggs in one basket. It would also be irresponsible to tie the nation’s energy security to just one technology. We cannot be certain of future costs or liabilities.

To keep the lights on and the public finances in the black, we need a solution delivered by the market.

So we are determined to make it easier to invest across the energy portfolio.

We want to remove the planning obstacles that have held up new nuclear. Investors looking at the next generation of nuclear power need clarity and certainty, and this Government will provide it.

Later this year, we will consult on a new market framework for electricity; one that encourages low-carbon investment and gives consumers a fair deal.

Our work on electricity market reform will look at how we can deliver a secure, affordable, low-carbon electricity mix. It is a fundamental change in the market structure that underpins our national supply.

By the second half of the decade, annual investment in the UK energy system is expected to reach £25 billion.

Key engineering companies are already planning for opportunities in power generation at a national scale.

The world’s biggest offshore windfarm, at Thanet, is an impressive feat of engineering. Yet most of the value went to companies outside the UK. This has to change.

The funds for ports infrastructure announced last week is a statement of intent. We want to make sure turbine manufacturers can build what they need on our shores, instead of importing expensive finished products that could be made here.

The sector could create 70,000 jobs, cementing our position as leaders of the offshore wind pack.

We also need to clean up our existing fossil fuel plants.

The Spending Review underlined the Government’s commitment to carbon capture and storage; a project worth up to a billion pounds, to tackle our fossil fuel legacy and prepare us for a future of clean coal.

This will build the first ever commercial scale CCS plant, delivering on a technology that the IEA says will be essential for the future.

Globally, it estimates 3,400 CCS plants will be needed by 2050 if we are to meet our critical 2 degree target.

And the demonstration project puts the UK at the forefront of this emerging market.

Saving Energy

Greening the supply of energy in the UK will be critical. But action on new generation alone will not be enough. We must also do something about demand.

A snapshot of the UK’s domestic power consumption reveals chronic inefficiency.

A quarter of UK carbon emissions come from housing. We use more energy heating our homes than Sweden.

Our homes may be our castles. But they shouldn’t cost a king’s ransom to run.

In houses across the country, boilers are firing up earlier than they need to. Burning more gas than they have to. Producing more emissions than they should do.

And all because our outdated housing stock leaks heat and wastes carbon.

Our response is the Green Deal, a radical programme to bring our houses out of the dark ages.

Over the next two years we expect to insulate 3.5 million homes, with a renewed focus on those in fuel poverty – and those who need it most.

Then, from 2012 onwards, energy saving packages worth thousands will be installed in millions of homes, with the capital and interest costs covered by savings on energy bills.

And we will look at how we can apply the Green Deal model to businesses, too – enabling them to cut carbon, and cut costs.

The potential benefits are vast.

From assessment to installation, from manufacturing to supply, the Green Deal means opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour alike.

Opportunities that will last for decades – and span the length and breadth of Britain.

Nothing on this scale has ever been attempted before. It is one of the single biggest interventions in British domestic history: a nationwide, once-in-generation refit to future-proof our homes.

Over the last two years steady progress has been made, with two million loft and cavity wall insulations installed.

But Labour failed to improve the private rented sector, which benefited from less than 2 per cent of these installations.

Privately rented homes have far too many leaky lofts and icy drafts. Over half a million have the lowest energy rating.

The Green Deal will change this. We should no longer condemn those who rent privately.

Landlords will face no upfront cost, and will benefit from an improved property. By 2015 every tenant should be able to be as warm as toast in their home.

This is a win, win, win situation – for the landlord, the tenant, and the climate.

I hope and expect that landlords will respond positively to the Green Deal. But this Government will not put up with tenants needlessly living in chilly conditions.

If a review into energy efficiency in the sector finds that landlords aren’t taking up this once-in-a-generation opportunity, we will respond.

If necessary, we will look to take powers to ensure that from 2015, any tenant who asks for energy efficiency improvements cannot be refused.

And we will give local authorities the power to insist that landlords improve the worst performing homes.

We estimate that every household could benefit from energy improvements under the Green Deal, with implications for manufacturing and supply chains across the country.

The number of people employed in insulation alone could soar from 27,000 to 100,000 by 2015. That could eventually rise to a peak of 250,000.

This is no idle ambition. In September, British Gas announced its plan to ‘go early’ on the Green Deal, investing £30 million and creating 3,700 jobs.

Earlier today, I visited their Energy Academy, where they’ve just recruited their thousandth green-collar worker. From school leavers to highly-qualified engineers, this is real green growth.

Within our borders. With a long timeframe. And with no regional bias, because our homes are everywhere.

The Green Deal will also reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels.

The most inefficient households could save £550 a year on their fuel bills; if every household took up the Green Deal, spending on gas would fall by £2.5 billion per year.

With over a third of our gas currently imported and UK gas production on a downward trend, the net result is a saving on a national level.

That bigger picture is important.

The link between the micro and the macro illustrates a curious truth: double-glazing your windows really can improve the UK’s energy security.

Security and Stability

And energy security matters.

Not just security of supply, but security of price.

For it is becoming increasingly clear that the age of cheap energy is over.

Dwindling fossil fuel resources and soaring demand suggest we are headed towards an energy crunch.

The Gulf of Mexico merely underlined the point: extracting fossil fuels is becoming more risky and more costly.

Yet one of the clearest lessons of the financial crisis is that growth is nothing without stability.

Greater energy independence – with more renewable and nuclear power – is the best way to protect our consumers and our country from the uncertainty of the energy markets.

Our policies are not free. There will be a significant price impact, and there will be costs to the consumer.

But not only are they offset by energy efficiency savings; they are also an insurance policy against rising prices.

Consider oil. At $80 a barrel, energy bills will only rise by 1% in 2020.

Yet the IAE predict a $90 barrel by 2020. And the US administration forecasts $108 per barrel.

If the US administration right, our consumers will be saving money as a result of our policies.

Then take the macroeconomics. I asked DECC economists to look at the impact of a late 1970s-style oil price shock on our economy.

They found that if the oil price doubled, it could lead to a cumulative loss of GDP of around £45 billion over 2 years. That’s the equivalent of the entire Ministry of Defence budget in 2008/09.

That’s bad for business, profits and jobs.

Even a more moderate rise in oil and gas prices would leave us critically exposed.

Thanks to a decade of missed opportunities on renewables, our energy import dependence could double by 2020.

As demand grows and the global recovery picks up, it is increasingly clear that an economy dependent on fossil fuels is neither sustainable nor stable.

The solution is to get ourselves off the oil hook – and on to clean green growth.

We estimate the low-carbon transition will safeguard  growth by cutting UK demand for oil, and boosting our defences against oil price shocks.

If we do not create the conditions for sustainable growth, we will be more exposed to rising energy costs. More dependent on finite fossil fuels.

And more vulnerable to resource risk.

A New Kind of Economy

Instead, we have a chance to build a new kind of economy. A more balanced, more sustainable economy. Where climate stabilisation and financial recovery are not mutually exclusive but mutually beneficial.

Delivering jobs, creating exports, and securing investment.

Tackling the deficit without sacrificing the environment.

Protecting us from the economic and environmental risks of runaway climate change.

And all while maintaining energy security in an increasingly volatile global market.

This is the promise of the green revolution.

And this is the government that will lead the way.

Thank you very much.

Chris Huhne – 2008 Speech to Liberal Democrat Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Chris Huhne on 16th September 2008 to the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth.

Conference, there is a Tory and Labour conspiracy on crime.

Both are guilty of putting forward measures to tackle crime that are ineffective or even counter-productive.

These parties are not tough on crime. They are soft on hard thinking and tough choices. Just as our party has changed the public debate on climate change, we need to change the debate on crime and punishment.

We need a new consensus on what works, not what titillates the tabloids.

We need common sense not sensationalism. That’s why we proposed on Sunday a National Crime Reduction Agency to report on the evidence of what works in justice and policing as thoroughly as we assess medicines in the health service.

Instead, we now have a crime debate totally removed from reality.

Take an example in July. A Labour Home Secretary announced she would march young offenders into hospital to see the consequences of violence. She ignored the evidence from the United States that such programmes do not cut crime, but put it up. Four days later, she ditched the idea.

Or take David Cameron. He knows that you can get four years in jail for just carrying a knife, but he thinks that judges tiptoe around knife crime. So he wants to send every knife carrier to prison automatically.

Just a small problem. If he did, the prison population would nearly quadruple. The basic rate of income tax would go up by a penny in the pound.

Oh, and another problem. The evidence shows it wouldn’t work.

What works is visible policing to reassure people they do not need to carry a knife. Intelligence led stop and search of hot spots to catch knife carriers. Working with the local community to gather leads and encourage witnesses. Telling it how it is in schools and colleges. Taking back control of the streets.

But Labour and the Tories are addicted to punishment posturing, and that means legislative diarrhoea as a substitute for enforcing the law that we have. In their first decade in government, Labour’s new legislation takes the same amount of shelf space as 200 copies of War and Peace.

And it is twice as heavy as John Prescott. Labour has introduced 3,600 new criminal offences since 1997 even though nearly every offence that people care about has been illegal for years.

My favourite is a new offence which shows ministers getting really tough. You will be relieved to hear that it is now against the law to set off nuclear explosions.

Labour and the Tories have pretended that prison is the most effective way of deterring crime. They say that if someone is locked up, they cannot offend. But that ignores the fact that prisoners leave when they serve their time.

The whole point of prison ought to be to stop people reoffending. But if you put a young man into prison for the first time, there is a 92 per cent chance he will offend again. Our prisons are colleges of crime.

If prison works so well, why has crime gone down in Denmark while the number of prisoners has gone down? Why has crime fallen in Canada when the prison population is the same? The Government’s own top-notch research found no evidence that tougher penalties deterred crime.

Let’s be clear. We need prison for serious offenders and for serial offences. But we need reformed prisons that educate, occupy and prepare prisoners for life outside.

There’s another reason why prison does not work well. It is because so few people are caught. For every hundred crimes committed in Britain today, just one criminal will end up with a conviction in a court of law. That’s a 99 per cent chance of getting away with it. And if you don’t catch offenders, no amount of threatening punishments will work.

So if we want to cut crime, we should stop posturing about penalties because they are tough enough. The answer’s simple. Catch criminals to cut crime.

Yet Labour, like the Tories, has done the opposite of what works. The average prison sentence has gone up – that the ineffective bit that does not work. Meanwhile, the key factor that does work – the detection rate for crime – has fallen by nearly a fifth since the end of the eighties.

If the prison population was still the same as when crime peaked in 1996, there would be enough cash for 25,000 extra police officers. If the ID card scheme were scrapped, we could hire a further 10,000 police. That’s 35,000 extra police officers – a quarter extra – on the streets catching criminals and cutting crime.

Of course, more does not always mean better. Year after year, Labour and the Tories have ducked the tough choices on police reform. Sheehy, Flanagan, HM Inspectors’ reports. All have come and gone.

We need more police, but better policing too. Detection rates even for serious offences vary widely. For violent crime, just a third of recorded offences are detected in London compared with two thirds in North Yorkshire.

Spreading best practice would mean more detection. And more detection would mean less crime. Detection works.

That is why police performance matters. Poor performance is not tackled strongly enough. A senior police officer who has lost motivation is usually left alone. That’s not good for morale. It is not good for ambitious young officers to see deadwood prosper. The force needs to be able properly to reward not just time served, but effort, talent and skills.

Worst of all, police pay has become a political football. Police officers cannot by law strike. They suffer the same squeeze on pay and costs as the rest of us, but they cannot get a second job without their Chief Constable’s permission. In exchange for those restrictions, ministers must accept the recommendations of the independent police pay tribunal. Police need a pay system which is fair, independent and respected.

And we need local policing. The Tories and Labour have set central targets that meddle, but do not deliver. They have distorted local priorities. By awarding the same points for minor and serious crimes, they have sucked thousands unnecessarily into the criminal justice system.

Central targets mean wasted effort and resources chasing the wrong priorities, which is why they must go. We need local accountability to local people with the powers to set local priorities. If local people do not like the results, they can get rid of the decision-makers.

If the Liberal Democrats did not exist, all there would be on crime and justice from the Tories and Labour would be show-boating and grand-standing.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for civil liberties? Not the so-called liberal Conservatives, who just this summer have called for tougher bail conditions, automatic sentences for knife-carrying, more prisons, and the removal of checks on police surveillance. I just hope the Conservatives can still be relied upon to vote against more detention without trial or ID cards. Goodbye David Davis, it was nice knowing you.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would rebuild our fading democracy? Not David Cameron, who has gone strangely quiet on constitutional change. I’ve got a challenge for you David, Do you even stand by your commitment in your leadership campaign to fixed term parliaments?

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for our children’s future in a time of climate change? Not the green Tories. The first thing Boris Johnson did when he became London’s mayor was ditch green taxes on the biggest cars. As for George Osborne, he has already ditched green taxes in favour of cutting petrol taxes. Not the planet’s champion, but the gas guzzler’s friend.

And if the Liberal Democrats did not exist, who would stand up for fairness? Not Labour, who thought it was a good idea to increase income tax on the worst off to give better-off taxpayers a cut. And not the Conservatives either, whatever they now pretend. David Cameron and George Osborne both abstained on Labour’s budget. Remember their first tax cut promise? Abolishing stamp duty on share dealing for their friends in the City. And their second was a cut in inheritance tax for households with £2 million.

We are now told that David Cameron and George Osborne were idealistic young people who cared about fairness. Perhaps they agonised over their options as they adjusted their fancy tailcoats – mirror, mirror on the wall, which party is the fairest of them all? Tory, Lib Dem or Labour?

Well, when young David and young George were wondering which party to join, we had a Conservative government. For eighteen years. And during that period the poor got poorer and the rich got richer, and the gap got wider. And the reason was not some force of nature, but Tory policy decisions that were hard-nosed, sharp-eyed and mean-minded.

A Tory decision to scrap the link between pensions and earnings. Result? More pensioner poverty.

A Tory decision to scrap the uprating of out of work and in work benefits. Result? More working poverty.

A Tory decision to scrap the uprating of child benefit. Result? More child poverty.

These chaps are not stupid, so why do they think we were born yesterday?

George Osborne will go fair when George Bush goes green. Fairness will be a Tory value when hell freezes over, Notting Hill becomes a workers’ republic, and the Bullingdon club affiliates to the Socialist International.

I’ve got news for David Cameron. You don’t make society fairer by hoping for it, or by talking about it. You can only make society fairer by helping the poor and the powerless, and that means giving them more money and more power over their own lives.

And I’ve got a challenge for David Cameron. Name a single period of Conservative government when Britain has become more equal. Name a single Conservative measure which even helped.

David Cameron, like Tony Blair, wants to be all things to all people. Tories would have us believe they are the party of the environment, and of owners of big cars. Of  traditional values, and of change. Of equality, and of lower taxes on the best off. Of liberty, and of removing checks on police surveillance. Of European membership for Georgia, and of pulling out of Europe’s social chapter for us. If politics is about making tough choices, the Tory party is about ducking hard decisions. A party which has every priority is a party that has none. A party with no heart, no core values and no direction.

There’s only one party committed to the environment, and always has been. Only one party committed to civil liberties, and always was. Only one party committed to fairness. Only one party committed to handing power back to the people. And only one party for building a world based on the rule of law not the law of the jungle.

Conference, Labour can’t deliver the change that our nation needs. The Conservatives won’t. Only the Liberal Democrats will.