Mum's the word

The energy ministers play a careful hand on the fringe

Douglas McIlroy watches the DECC ministers tour the fringes at Conservative conference

Silence was the golden rule when both the Energy and Climate Secretary and the Energy Minister took to the fringes at Conservative conference today. With consultations in train and the spending review up ahead, detailed questions about the future of energy policy had to be parked.

At a Conservativehome event, Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert suggested to Amber Rudd that the level of cuts to residential solar would kill the industry. Rudd responded by explaining the analysis that informed the Government’s move was done by a third party and that the decision was subject to consultation.

Andrea Leadsom was much more bullish than her Secretary of State in some of her responses at a Respublica fringe, questioning why renewable companies had not seen things coming. In outlining her skepticism about some claims that had been made, she pointed out parts of the sector had indicated their ability to accommodate cuts in subsidies. In terms of concrete announcements, she was only able to reveal a decision on renewable subsidies would be made before the end of the year.

The Respublica event became a bit feisty when arguments moved on to oil and gas subsidies. The citation of an IMF report which claimed the sector had received millions of pounds did not hold much weight with Leadsom, who asked the questioner raising it if they could name one subsidy. Leadsom was quick to defend the oil and gas fiscal regime in part due to her own interests and experience of fiscal policy.

Overall, the DECC ministers proved a little on the defensive. But both have been disciplined in their limited public outings, using a focus on the consumer or the forthcoming spending review as armour against the toughest questions.

Photograph: DECC

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