George Osborne yesterday reaffirmed his support for the Government’s energy policy after activists secretly filmed his father-in-law claiming the Chancellor was privately pushing for the watering down of green promises.
An undercover Greenpeace activist recorded Lord Howell of Guildford claiming Mr Osborne was “putting pressure on” to relax what the peer said were “absurd” targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.
The environmentalist group also filmed former minister Peter Lilley, a prominent Conservative climate change sceptic, claiming that Mr Osborne “regrets” the commitments the Government has made on renewable energy and was putting like-minded people into ministerial positions where they can influence policy.
The footage, obtained by the Independent, emerged a day after it was revealed that Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris admitted encouraging a friend to run against the Tory candidate in yesterday’s Corby by-election on an anti-wind farms ticket.
Lord Howell – the father of Mr Osborne’s wife Frances – was secretly recorded speaking to a Greenpeace activist posing as a representative of a pressure group opposed to onshore wind farms.
The peer said: “The Prime Minister isn’t familiar with these issues, doesn’t understand them. Osborne is getting this message and is putting pressure on.”
Mr Lilley told the undercover activist: “The Chancellor is onside privately. He regrets all the commitments that have been made.”
Asked whether the Chancellor might “need persuading” that it was necessary to water down the Climate Change Act commitments to cut UK carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, Mr Lilley said: “No, I can assure you.”
Mr Lilley indicated that the recent appointments of Owen Paterson as Environment Secretary and John Hayes as Energy Minister would ensure that the case against onshore wind farms was heard within Government.
He added: “I think Osborne wanted to get people into key positions where they could begin to get the Government off the hook.”
A spokesman for Mr Osborne yesterday said: “The Chancellor supports Government energy policy which has helped secure record investment into the UK energy infrastructure.”
Mr Lilley accused Greenpeace of “deceit” in obtaining the interview by claiming to be from an anti-wind farm group
“I would happily gave given an interview making the same points if they had approached me honestly,” said the Conservative MP. “My remarks about the Chancellor were based on press reports, so the Independent is recycling press articles and journalists’ views from other papers. I have never discussed climate policy with the Chancellor or anyone speaking for him.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said that until the Energy Bill is published, likely to be next week or the week after, it is not clear exactly what Government energy policy is.