Page last updated at 10:23 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 11:23 UK

Energy security 'vital' - Hutton

Business Secretary John Hutton
Ministers need to create the "right climate" for investment, Mr Hutton said

Guaranteeing the security of energy supplies has become a "defining" issue for the country, John Hutton has told the Labour Party conference.

Attracting money to build new coal and nuclear plants was vital, the business secretary said, as he attacked the Tories for "posturing" on the issue.

More than 80 Labour MPs and union leaders have called for a windfall tax on the profits of leading energy firms.

But Mr Hutton has argued this could hit vital investment in new power plants.

'Energy leadership'

Mr Hutton said the UK was facing a "tough fight" to secure the billions needed to meet the country's energy needs and had to ensure the "right climate" for investment.

More broadly, he urged the government to be decisive in its response to the "monumental upheaval" in the global financial system.

"Our ambition must be more than weathering the economic storm," he said. "We should make changes now so Britain emerges is stronger and fitter for the future."

The battle for energy security is going to define the fight for Britain's future
John Hutton, Business Secretary

On energy issues, he acknowledged the UK's gas supplies were dwindling and the country had to prepare itself for a potential scenario in which it had to import 80% of its gas from overseas, much of it from potentially "unstable" regions.

"The battle for energy security is going to define the fight for Britain's future," he argued.

Given these threats, Mr Hutton said the UK could not afford to turn its back on any potential source of energy, including renewable, coal and nuclear.

"No coal and no nuclear equals no lights, no power, no future," he said.

The Conservatives were guilty of sending "mixed messages" on their support for a new generation of nuclear power stations, he said.

This contrasted with Labour's "leadership" and willingness to confront the "long-term challenges" facing the country.

On employment issues, Mr Hutton said Labour could be "proud" of its record of boosting workers' rights in government.

Ministers would continue to "strike a balance" between extending workplace rights and ensuring business conditions remained competitive, he added.




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