On the Politics Show, Sunday 09 December 2007, Jon Sopel interviewed Alan Duncan, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
JON SOPEL: Well the opposition have had an energy policy of their own to unveil this week and I'm joined by Mr Hutton's Conservative opposite number, Alan Duncan. Alan Duncan, welcome to you and thank you for joining us on the Politics Show. I just want to pick up with - not where we left off on party funding, that's too big an issue. Let's just go on to the energy issue here. Do you support what John Hutton has said about the development of off-shore wind farms?
ALAN DUNCAN: I think broadly, I can agree with much if not most of what John Hutton has just said. We're an island nation, there's a lot of wind around, we should use that off-shore capacity for generating electricity which is clean and secure. So yes, I think it's inevitable and a good thing that there will be more off-shore wind.
JON SOPEL: So this is a bi-partisan approach then.
ALAN DUNCAN: A lot of the energy policy actually is and I don't think it does anyone any good to pretend that there's a great ding-dong battle here. I mean there's a lot of over-lap and a lot of stuff. I mean I, I think David Cameron as we saw this week has been pioneering a lot of it. Certainly we've been emphasizing the renewable side of energy generation, earlier, and I would say more assertively than the Labour government, but there's a massive overlap which is good and I think in as much as people can invest, knowing that things are going to continue when I would say, there's a change in government, then that's the better.
JON SOPEL: We heard Mr Hutton conceding that there was going - inevitably it was going to mean that electricity prices were going to go up a bit. You're happy to go to the electorate and say, vote Tory, for higher electricity prices.
ALAN DUNCAN: Well I think that some of the renewable options at the moment, certainly at the front end, are quite expensive but then they're there for a very long time and who knows what's going to happen to global energy markets. We've got nearly a hundred dollar oil and when we have a carbon price of course, what really matters is the differential between those generating methods, which are carbon free or very low carbon, and those that are not. So if we have a, in the future a more sophisticated and effective regime for penalizing carbon, that's good and one thing I am critical of the government of, is at the moment they penalize nuclear as if it produced carbon, which of course it doesn't.
JON SOPEL: Just - is there a difference in energy policy. I mean I know you said that there's a lot, that there's no great big ding dong, but I mean we had David Cameron this week talking about micro-generation; people putting a little turbine on their own property and it seemed to be sort of a very bottom up sort of approach to energy policy, left to individuals, here we have the government saying well, actually, we've got a rather different approach, we want to build this huge infrastructure.
ALAN DUNCAN: Well I think we've got to do both and we really have to push for every conceivable renewable option that exists and what David was saying this week in our decentralized energy paper was you know, if we can change all of human behavior, by making people think about not only what they use but what they can create and stick in to the system, then we can change the whole nature of electricity generation. So you know little things like photovoltaics, a hospital perhaps having a turbine, bore holes which can perhaps do half of our houses energy needs, you know, things like that are really going to make a difference.
JON SOPEL: And on nuclear, the government says that obviously has to be part of the mix. Are you on that page as well.
ALAN DUNCAN: Our policy is absolutely clear and it's again, very similar, we want approval for sites and designs. We want a proper carbon price, we want honesty about costs, with no subsidy. Get on with the decision to do something with the waste, again, David Cameron said that this week, and I think the government has been a bit slow on working out what to do with nuclear waste. So then people can invest and I think probably they will.
JON SOPEL: You were rather more skeptical the last time I spoke to you when you were on this programme - we can just have a listen to what you said the last time.
'we think that the nuclear power sector, should be there as a last resort in many respects. We want to explore every conceivable method of generating electricity before we go to nuclear'
ALAN DUNCAN: so fluent.
JON SOPEL: Yes. But you were completely different, you were very skeptical there. It has to be the last option, now you're saying, we're on the same page as the government and yes, let's get on with it.
ALAN DUNCAN: I think what's important with nuclear is to explain the policy. I think it's unhelpful to get hooked on two words and I think the policy as it always has been is exactly as I've just explained.
JON SOPEL: So, you're fine about nuclear. The other thing that John Hutton said which was quite interesting, was we can't be at the mercy, energy security was vital, we can't be at the mercy of another country that might cut off our supplies. Haven't you been off meeting the head of Gazprom recently.
ALAN DUNCAN: Er, ah. Er, yes. Since you ask, I, yes I went to Moscow a couple of weeks ago, a personal initiative really, I used to be in the energy sector myself. For one very good reason, which is that when there is a company in the world which is likely to provide a massive percentage of the world's gas, on which we are likely to become increasingly dependent, I think it's important that politicians at a senior level, know the people and can look them in the eye and can actually understand what they're trying to do with their company.
JON SOPEL: And do you trust what he's doing. Trust what Gazprom are doing.
ALAN DUNCAN: They are very entangled with the Kremlin, so the structure is not a sort of private structure in the way that all of us I think would prefer, but I think it's important to understand that Gazprom does need to export gas in order to earn the currency to subsidize all the prices in the domestic economy of Russia, so there is a, there's a mutual interest there, for their exporting and selling outside Russia.
JON SOPEL: Okay, Alan Duncan thank you very much for being with us.
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The Politics Show Sunday 9 December 2007 at 12:00 GMT on BBC One.
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