Monday, 23 July 2012

Morning briefing..

Green ordeal

The Coalition squabbling over wind farm subsidies gets serious today as the Energy and Climate Change Committee releases its report on the draft Energy Bill (it’s covered on the front pages of the Telegraph, Guardian and FT). The report says that Coalition in-fighting has made the Bill “unworkable” and the botched proposals will end up costing the consumer.

And there’s trouble brewing since - in a letter to the FT , and a letter directly to Ed Davey - George Osborne has faced up to Mr Davey, offering a deal: he’ll drop his demands for tougher cuts to onshore wind subsidies, if the Lib Dems back down over “inflexible” targets for Britain’s shift away from fossil fuels. (In particular, dropping targets to largely decarbonise the electricity sector by 2030.) He wants Mr Davey to commit to this by making a “clear, strong signal” in a statement that he would support “unabated gas” up to 2030 and beyond, including a promise that consumers would benefit if gas prices fell.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee Chairman, Tim Yeo, won’t stay silent though. He thinks excluding the targets will mean that “the UK may miss one of the biggest opportunities it has to create a low-carbon economy in the most cost effective way”. He was on the Today programme this morning, making it clear the Treasury has been playing politics. George refused to send a minister to appear before the Committee to discuss the Bill. Mr Yeo also said:

"I think the Treasury are keen to see more gas-fire generation and, indeed, my committee believes there does need to be significant new investment in gas, but we can’t rely on gas alone to achieve our energy goals... I think what the public want to see is secure electricity at an affordable price and clean electricity.”

It’s quite a challenge since it’s politically potent stuff. The cost to the consumer means there are votes in the fight, but equally the environmental lobby is ready to take shots at the Lib Dems’ green credentials. Greenpeace has already said: “The 2030 goal is the most significant test of the Lib Dems’ energy and environment credentials."


Meanwhile, the government’s new policy on tax avoidance is name and shame. Treasury Minister David Gauke is announcing plans to crackdown on tax avoiders at 9.30am at a Policy Exchange event. He’s written the  Thunderer column in today’s Times, saying he’s “coming after cowboy advisers”. The Times  has splashed on it, saying that Mr Gauke is considering forcing tax firms to name and shame the celebrities and businessmen who use aggressive tax avoidance schemes.

It’s interesting timing since  the Mail’s splashed on claims that the BBC tells its stars to dodge tax. This is bound to tempt a few Right-wingers out of holiday hibernation. Surely they won't be able to resist a dig at the BBC?

And today’s government clampdowns don’t end there. We’ve splashed on Pension Minister Steve Webb’s plans bring an end to excessive pension fees. He’s told the Telegraph that high charges have “torn the heart” out of savers’ retirements.


The border shambles rumbles on. Today the Home Affairs Select Committee reports that the Border agency has 275,000 outstanding cases (the equivalent of Newcastle’s population) and that tackling it will take years. This includes at least 150,000 migrants who have been refused permission to stay, 21,000 asylum cases and 3,900 foreign offenders.

Chairman Keith Vaz says the agency appeared to have "acquired its own Bermuda Triangle". Let’s hope Damian Green isn’t lying on a beach somewhere – he might get called back to address this one. You can read more here.


And following on from Boris Johnson’s call for Dave to do more to stimulate economic growth yesterday on Marr (you can catch up  here), his Telegraph column today makes for amusing reading. He says:

“Yes, of course the Olympics is about legacy, sustainability, diversity, inclusivity, posterity and multiculturality. But it is really about competition between human beings; the glory of winning, the pathos of losing, and the toil that can make the difference. That is the grand moral of the Games, and a very good one, too.”

Competition? The glory of winning? Has Boris got his eye on Dave's job again?


Nick Clegg’s revelation that he’d happily work with the Labour Party after the next election has already backfired. In an interview with  the Independent, Ed Miliband said he’d "find it difficult to work with him" and that he’s a Tory “accomplice”.

And Vince Cable seems to be using the saga to make a move on Nick’s job (Ed Balls once indicated he’d work with Vince, but not Nick). On the World this Weekend, he  sparked speculation by saying he wouldn’t “‘exclude” running for leadership because “Who knows what might happen in future?”. He also told the FT: “The worship of youth has diminished – perhaps generally – in recent years. There is a certain respect for people who have some insight into what is going on.” (NB: Vince is turning 70 next year and Nick is just 45).

Interesting stuff, but potentially a pointless discussion. If the Lib Dem polling continues as it does, they won’t have many MPs to form a Coalition with.


Conor Burns MP ‏

“@Conor_BurnsMP: Is abolishment a proper word?”

You’d use abolition, surely?


Latest YouGov/Sunday Times results: Conservatives 34%, Labour 43%, Lib Dems 11%, UKIP 7%

Overall government approval rating:  -33


In The Telegraph

Boris Johnson: True athletes like Bradley Wiggins can inspire us to a brighter future 

Charles Moore: Britain unleashed: it’s not money that matters - it’s markets 

Caroline Spelman: How to stop our milk industry turning sour 

Leader: Free enterprise should be cheered, not scorned

Best of the rest

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent:  The Games are here, but they don't belong to us

David Gauke in the Times:  We’re coming after cowboy advisers on tax avoidance

Melanie Phillips in the Mail:  Being governed by callow and posturing politicians is the price we pay for society's fixation with youth

John Harris in the Guardian:  Politics must respond to this pile-up of corporate disgrace


Starting today: Tony Blair, Jamie Oliver, Sir Paddy Ashdown among others address an international sport policy forum looking at ways of improving underprivileged children's lives through sporting initiatives. Grange St. Paul's Hotel and other venues

9.30am: Treasury minister David Gauke gives a speech on tax avoidance. Policy Exchange, 10 Storey's Gate

9.30am: The Government-commissioned Kay Review of equity markets and long-term decision making is released

10.30am: The House of Lords science and technology committee hosts an embargoed briefing on universities. Science Media Centre, Gibbs Building, 215 Euston Road, London