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David Cameron to argue in favour of green jobs in new year

David Cameron

David Cameron wants every conversation about green to be about growth, green tech and green jobs, says one senior Tory. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images


Powered by article titled “David Cameron to argue in favour of green jobs in new year” was written by Nicholas Watt and Rowena Mason, for The Guardian on Friday 29th November 2013 22.27 UTC

David Cameron has reached out to modernising Tories by saying in private that he will argue in favour of the economic benefits of renewable energy in the New Year after George Osborne has “cauterised” public angst over green levies in his autumn statement.

As the chancellor prepares to announce on Thursday that he will fund some of the green charges through general taxation, allowing for cuts to energy bills, the prime minister has told Tory modernisers that he will happily talk about green jobs once “public angst” has been addressed.

One senior Tory told the Guardian: “Come the New Year the prime minister wants every conversation about green to be about growth, green tech and green jobs. But before you do that you have got to cauterise the public angst there is about green levies.”

The changes on green energy charges, which will be one of the main measures in the autumn statement, have been the subject of intense wrangling between the government and the big six energy companies. Government officials have been pushing energy companies not to raise prices until after the next election in return for taking £50 of green levies off gas and electricity bills, several industry sources have told the Guardian.

The sources confirmed a BBC report that firms are under the impression that they have been asked to keep down gas and electricity prices for an extended period, unless there were changes in international fuel prices – a claim that was dismissed by Downing Street yesterday as “utterly misleading”.

One source at an energy company said between £20 and £25 could be saved by making changes to the energy company obligation (Eco) – a programme to cut energy usage for the most vulnerable households. Another £12 could be saved by shifting the warm home discount, giving poorer households money off their electricity bills, into general taxation. Network companies are also being asked to find some modest savings.

Last night, the BBC also reported that targets on cutting energy usage under the Eco scheme will be cut by 30%. It said it had seen a letter also revealing a plan to spread the programme over four years rather than two.

The autumn statement will be Osborne’s first financial statement of the parliament to be delivered amid a backdrop of encouraging economic news. In addition to his announcement on energy bills the chancellor will explain how he will pay for the introduction of a transferable marriage tax allowance. He will also announce how he will fund the provision of universal free school meals for infants – a concession demanded by the Nick Clegg as the price for not causing trouble on the marriage tax allowance.

Tory modernisers confronted Cameron in private last week after a minister told the Daily Mail and the Sun that the prime minister wanted to “get rid of all this green crap”. It is understood that the minister has been told that his remarks were unhelpul because they “made the prime minister look like a hypocrite”, in the words of one Cameron ally.

Cameron has told the modernisers that he regards the autumn statement as a key moment in clearing the air. One Tory said: “Downing Street doesn’t want to be talking about green crap, they don’t want to be talking about green luvvies. They just want to focus on the cost of living.”

The prime minister made clear that he wants to avoid a public confrontation between the “vote-blue-go-green” modernisers and climate-change sceptics just before a general election. One Tory said: “The [modernising] agenda is not being junked. It just feels unnourished. You don’t want to have a war about what it means to be a Conservative just at the point when we are reaching escape velocity in the economy.”

In his autumn statement the chancellor will please the prime minister and delight the Tory right in the autumn statement as he announces through clenched teeth how he will fund a transferable marriage tax allowance. As one of the most socially liberal MPs Osborne is no fan of the idea.

Osborne is prepared to have a dig at Clegg when he explains how he will fund the provision of universal free school meals for infant school children announced by Nick Clegg at the Lib Dem conference. The chancellor is understood to be tempted to out that the free school meals idea was proposed in a report written by the Leon restaurant founders, Henry Dimbleby and John Vincent, which was commissioned by Michael Gove in consultation with Osborne.


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