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Greg Clark supports new nuclear power stations to combat the "national emergency" on energy

CLARK GREG 2 As being reported by Sky News and others this morning, the Government is today going to give the green light to a set of new nuclear power stations, with planning laws to be changed in order to allow the Infrastructure Planning Commission to speed up the projects.

The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, is making a statement to the Commons on the issue this afternoon, yet - as ever - the contents of his statement have been widely briefed to the media and Mr Miliband himself has already been touring the TV and radio studios to talk about it.

His opposite number in the shadow cabinet, Greg Clark, appeared on Radio 4's Today programme to put the Conservative line on the matter, which was supportive of the new nuclear power stations being proposed:

"We have little alternative. This is a national emergency. We've got power cuts forecast for 2017 and I think it's right to clear away a fast track so that if we are going to have nuclear power stations they're not embroiled in the kind of multi-year planning applications we have see in the past."

Whether to have nuclear power was rightly a national decision, he said, but there should still be the possibility of local consultations on the sitings and appearance of the power stations.

He also voiced concern that a mere announcement by a minister did not give the decision any democratic legitimacy and called for MPs to be able to vote on the issue:

"We think that actually it should be voted on by MPs so that would give it a democratic legitimacy that would also help investors have a degree of certainty when it comes to judicial review... It does need to have democratic legitimacy, otherwise people I think will find this as an imposition they will rail against."

He also criticised the Government for being slow on the uptake on the issue:

"It is a national emergency and it's been left far too late. We've known for the last  ten years that most of our nuclear power fleet would come to the end of its planned life before it's possible to replace them so whatever happens with these statements, we've got a black hole."

I suspect party members will be strongly supportive of Greg Clark in backing the Government on this. The ConHome Grassroots Manifesto poll of members in the run-up to party conference showed 86% agreeing that "within the next few years the average voter will be much more worried about the cost and availability of energy than they'll be worried about climate change."

Jonathan Isaby

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