PM's choice of anti-green Tories leaves Liberal Democrats in a fury


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The Independent Online

A new Coalition fault line opened last night as the Liberal Democrats reacted with dismay to the appointment of "anti-green" Tory ministers to key environmental posts in the Government.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg will today stage a show of unity as they attempt to give new impetus to economic growth by streamlining planning and encouraging building, setting out plans to make it easier for homeowners to build extensions to their properties, for businesses to expand their premises and for first-time buyers to get a foot on the housing ladder.

But internal tensions are soaring over promotions to the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The Liberal Democrats claim the appointments have exposed Mr Cameron's green credentials to be "skin deep" and vowed to ensure the Coalition delivers on its promises to tackle climate change and boost renewable energy. Owen Paterson, the new Environment Secretary, is sceptical about global warming and is a strong critic of wind farms. Nick Boles, the new Planning Minister, has previously advocated building on the green belt and John Hayes, who was appointed Energy Minister, has opposed siting wind turbines in his constituency.

Charles Hendry, who was regarded as a keen advocate of renewable energy and has been replaced by Mr Hayes, was sacked from the Government. A senior Liberal Democrat source said: "The reshuffle won't change policy, which is set out in black and white.

"The Tory commitment to tackling climate change increasingly seems skin-deep, but we will make sure the Government sticks to its promises in the Coalition agreement."

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat Climate Change Secretary, is taking direct responsibility for promoting renewable energy – a policy area that was previously left to Mr Hendry.

The first meeting of the reshaped Cabinet yesterday was dominated by the need to achieve economic growth. Mr Cameron told his new team: "This is a huge effort for right across Government and it absolutely has got to have as much pace and effort and energy as we can possibly muster.

"It is the biggest challenge that we face in our country, dealing with these twin threats of deficit and growth."

The Government will today announce help for 16,500 aspiring homebuyers by expanding the FirstBuy scheme, which offers equity loans of up to 20 per cent of the property value that can be used as a deposit.