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November 14, 2012 7:24 pm
William Hague’s energy adviser has risked a diplomatic incident with Qatar – Britain’s biggest supplier of natural gas – by warning about the grave consequences of a potential terror attack on the Gulf state.
Lord Howell, who was a minister until last month and now advises the foreign secretary, was filmed by an undercover journalist saying that more than 80 per cent of Britain’s crucial liquefied natural gas supplies now come from Qatar.
“Now Qatar’s a great place, and it’s full of skyscrapers and rich people, but it’s also rather near to a lot of jihadists, and you know, if Qatar was just to – and it’s about the size of Guildford – if it was to go into chaos, we would be up s*** creek,” he said.
Britain’s dependence on Qatari liquefied natural gas has grown so stark that in 2011 it provided all but two cargoes of the product shipped to the UK.
His remarks were recorded as part of a series of undercover stings carried out on behalf of Greenpeace, the environmental group, which have exposed coalition wrangling over energy policy.
The peer, the father-in-law of George Osborne, was filmed saying that Britain had adopted “absurd targets” for climate change. He suggested Mr Osborne agreed, saying “the chancellor is onside” in terms of moving away from the green agenda, but claimed David Cameron, prime minister, “doesn’t understand” energy issues.
The Liberal Democrats, who are trying to maintain Britain’s commitment to aggressive carbon reduction targets, on Tuesday insisted they would not be deterred by Tory resistance. “This will only make us more determined,” said one aide.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, was angry last month when Tory anti-wind farm MP John Hayes was made energy minister. In a sign of the growing hostilities, Mr Davey has ordered that he must sign off any renewable energy policy from Mr Hayes.
The coalition’s powerful “quad” of senior ministers will try to thrash out a unified energy policy on Thursday amid fears the long-awaited energy bill may be delayed yet again by weeks.
The FT has learnt that the bill will be published on November 29 “at the very earliest” with some officials expecting it in December.
Mr Davey is holding out for a 2030 “decarbonisation target” in return for allowing Mr Cameron legislation to force energy companies to provide fewer, more straightforward tariffs for households.
However, Mr Osborne is determined to block the decarbonisation target because he believes it would damage UK industry.
The Greenpeace sting also caught out the Tory MP running Thursday’s by-election campaign in Corby, who appeared to admit he supported the campaign of a potential rival candidate. Chris Heaton-Harris said he had encouraged an anti-wind farm candidate, journalist James Delingpole, to enter the race against his own party.
One Tory official said Mr Heaton-Harris could face disciplinary action but he would not be deselected because Mr Delingpole never became a formal candidate.
In a separate undercover interview, Peter Lilley, a Tory MP on the energy select committee, said Mr Osborne privately regretted the coalition’s green commitments.
Referring to the promotion of perceived anti-green figures in the recent cabinet reshuffle, Mr Lilley said: “I think Osborne wanted to get people into key positions who could begin to get the government off the hook from the commitments it made very foolishly.”
John Sauven, Greenpeace executive director, said the investigation had revealed a government “in acrimonious conflict” over energy policy. “The prime minister needs to step in and take charge.”
A spokesman for Mr Osborne said: “The chancellor supports government policy which has helped secure record investment into the UK energy infrastructure.”
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