By Angela Haggerty
UK Business secretary Vince Cable has been criticised for displaying a “lack of clear green direction” following his speech at the Liberal Democrats’ annual conference.
Friends of the Earth’s economics campaigner David Powell welcomed Mr Cable’s comments on “ludicrous” environmental policies from the Conservatives but said his support of green objectives were undermined by inconsistent government attitudes.
“Vince Cable is right to slam assaults on renewable energy as ‘ludicrous’ – the CBI have been crystal clear that the UK’s economic recovery must hinge on low-carbon power,” said Mr Powell.
“But the Business Secretary’s support for a low carbon economy is undermined by a Green Investment Bank that can’t borrow and a set of industrial strategies that confusingly support both fossil fuels and wind power.
“Mr Cable’s policies suffer from the same lack of clear green direction as those of his party.”
The government was criticised in a National Audit Office report in July, which said its industrial strategies lacked an “overarching commitment to ensure that the industrial strategy promotes green growth”.
Meanwhile, the Lib Dems faced criticism from green campaigners on Sunday after backing nuclear power at the annual conference and a report published on Friday by environmental charities found that the Liberal Democrats had “failed to make the environment central to their governing project” and were “losing their identity as a ‘green party’.”
However, Mr Cable launched a stinging attack on the “tea party Tories” during his speech and said that his party must challenge the Conservatives.
“They have become the tea party Tories,” said Mr Cable. “They want to throw overboard any tax or regulation that gets in the way of their blinkered, small-state ideology.
“Deep down they believe there is no alternative to unhindered individual self-interest. Some regulation is essential. That’s why I work with Ed Davey [the energy secretary] to resist Tory pressure to emasculate environmental regulations as in their ludicrous war on windmills.”
Mr Cable went on to warn of the possible consequences of the government’s short-term boom economic policies and said there was a risk of repeating the mistakes of the recent financial crisis.
“It has taken five years to start to dig our way out,” Mr Cable continued. “We mustn’t now settle for a short term spurt of growth, fuelled by old-fashioned property boom and bankers rediscovering their mojo.
“We have seen it all before and there are already amber lights flashing to warn us of history repeating itself.”
On immigration, Mr Cable added that he’d hoped the Liberal Democrats would find common ground with the Conservatives in promoting and “open, outward looking country” but said that the message had “sadly” changed.