James Forsyth James Forsyth

The Amber express

The climate change minister wants a more practical focus on future bills – while admitting renewables will push them up

Amber Rudd isn’t a flashy politician; her office at the Department for Energy and Climate Change has almost no personal touches. She has a poster on the wall for the new Edinburgh tram (she was a student there). Her one concession to vanity is a framed ‘Minister of the Year’ award from this magazine: awarded for uprooting the legacy of the Liberal Democrat energy policy and being (in the words of the commendation) the ‘slayer of windmills’.

It was, perhaps, an exaggeration: she hasn’t brought down any of Britain’s 5,215 onshore wind turbines. But she has been busy pruning back the green subsidies that her department had become used to doling out. She is driven, she says, by anger at the green racket — or, as she puts it, ‘people making huge returns on bill-payers’ money’. She tells me that when she was first appointed she asked the department how much it was spending in subsidies, and the figure ‘came in about 20 per cent over what had been agreed with the Treasury in the last parliament’. The green agenda was running out of control, so she acted.

The problem, Rudd says, was that under Labour and then Lib Dem control, the Department of Energy had not been run much like a department of energy. ‘It had been run a bit like a green think tank or a green NGO; very pure of heart, very noble. But not enough focus on bills, on the future, on planning, trying to look 20 or even ten years ahead.’ British energy policy had been set by a succession of zealots. ‘You had Ed Miliband, Chris Huhne, Ed Davey — there hadn’t been a Conservative one for nearly 20 years.’ Her predecessors, she says, had prided themselves on ‘their approach to climate change rather than their approach to delivering cheaper bills’.

Rudd believes that global warming is man-made, and says that most people in her party agree with her.

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