Energy and climate change secretary
As energy and climate change secretary, the decisions taken by Liberal Democrat Chris Huhne over the next year will have more impact on the construction industry than any other individual.
The renewal of the UK’s energy production capability within a diversified lowcarbon framework provides the country’s greatest challenge. If the government gets energy policy wrong, the UK will not only suffer shortages that will drive away crucial industrial investment, but also expose the country to energy insecurity and higher than necessary costs for the consumer.
The next 12 months will be crucial. Energy is the core resource the UK must get right and it is already lagging behind other countries in not yet having a serious strategic policy statement. The position taken by the forthcoming energy market review and the policies it puts in place will determine whether an environment is created in which private investment is encouraged into a mixed lowcarbon economy, including the renewal of nuclear base load production.
Mr Huhne was a member of the fourstrong coalition negotiation team for his party; his views carry weight within the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives take him seriously. At the Liberal Democrat conference last month, he spoke of the “give and take” a coalition requires.
He expects Chancellor George Osborne to implement the LiberalDemocrat pledge to remove the lowest paid from income tax; in return he will implement the delivery of new nuclear stations as long as there is no public subsidy. “I’m fed up with the stando between renewable and nuclear which means we have neither we will have both. We will have low carbon energy and security of supply,” he told party members.
Mr Huhne has reportedly staved o attempts to locate DECC within the Treasury to save on cost. But in return for greeing a settlement for his department ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the former economist has been rewarded with a place on the “star chamber” the Public Spending Committee that will scrutinise the government’s costcutting measures.