UK Politics

Nick Clegg 'disagrees' with David Cameron on 'rolling back' green levies

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Media captionMr Clegg said a balance must be struck between "getting bills down" and "keeping the lights on"

David Cameron announcement that he wanted to "roll back" green levies pushing up energy bills was unexpected, Nick Clegg has said.

"It's not something that I fully agree with," the deputy prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But the Lib Dem leader confirmed that the government was to look into whether its environmental policies could be delivered more cost-effectively.

They may be funded in future from taxes rather than green levies, he suggested.

He insisted that the coalition's environmental objectives "remain clear and stable".

And Downing Street later said work was under way to examine how green levies "can be rolled back from the bills" and paid for by alternative funding.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband accused the government of coming up with a "panicked wheeze paid for by taxpayers".

'Big argument'

During his Today interview Mr Clegg said in the weeks ahead he and Mr Cameron would "stress-test all these different levies".

"If we can deliver those objectives of keeping the lights on, insulating people's homes helping the fuel-poor, supporting the green economy for less, of course I don't want to see an extra penny go on people's bills that is absolutely necessary."

But funding for "looking after the environment, securing thousands of jobs in the renewable green sector, and... giving deductions on people's fuel bills for two million of the poorest households in our country" should not end, he argued.

This was not the biggest factor driving up energy bills, Mr Clegg added: "In fact, 60% of the increase in energy bills since 2010 have come from wholesale prices."

There was, he said, a "big argument" on energy policy, especially since Labour's announcement that it plans to freeze energy bills for 20 months if it wins the next general election.

"You've got an argument from Ed Miliband, and it is a con, by the way: his freeze would see prices go up, jobs go down, investment go down.

"And then you appear to have a new kind of theory emerging from the right of British politics, which says it is all the fault of us caring about the environment.

"I don't accept either of those propositions."

Mr Clegg also stressed that he was confident he and the prime minister could "resolve" their differences on the policy.

'Panicky U-turn'

On Wednesday at his weekly Commons question session, Mr Cameron told MPs: "We need to help people pay their bills and we need to help to get bills down.

"We need to roll back some of the green regulations and charges that are putting up bills."

The Liberal Democrats subsequently accused the PM of making a "panicky U-turn".

A senior Lib Dem source said Mr Cameron had got "cold feet" on environmental policy promises.

In a speech, Mr Miliband argued the prime minister had "lost control" of his government amid differences between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on energy policy.

He accused Mr Cameron of "weakness" and offering no solution to rising household costs, adding: "Governments have always looked at this balance but this government wants you to pick up the tab for its failure to stand up to the energy companies. That won't offer the real help that business and families need.

"They propose a panicked wheeze paid for by taxpayers. We offer a real freeze paid for by the big energy companies."

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