Brown endorses Blair's plans for more nuclear power stations

Gordon Brown is to throw his weight behind Tony Blair's controversial plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in a setback to opponents of the move. The Chancellor believes that giving nuclear power a new lease of life is part of the solution to Britain's energy problems.

But he admits privately that the public, parliament and environmental groups will need to be convinced about the cost and benefits of the nuclear option. Allies of Mr Brown said yesterday there was "no real difference" between him and the Prime Minister on the issue, and that he is personally convinced a new nuclear programme is the right way forward.

His backing is a boost for Mr Blair and, following their agreement on pensions, will be seen as a sign that they can still work together on difficult policy issues despite tension between them over when the Prime Minister should stand down.

Opponents of nuclear power had hoped Mr Brown, the overwhelming front-runner to succeed Mr Blair, would block the Prime Minister's plans, to be formally recommended in the Government's energy review in July.

Public opinion is sharply divided. A Populus survey for the Stockholm Network group of think tanks found that 46 per cent of people agreed that "if Britain is to lessen its dependence on foreign energy imports and meet its target for reducing carbon emissions, we may have to build new nuclear power stations in this country." However, 42% would rather Britain failed to meet its carbon emissions targets and continued to import energy from abroad.

Mr Blair faced further criticism yesterday for pre-empting the review by saying in a speech on Tuesday that its first draft had put the nuclear option back on the agenda "with a vengeance."

Friends of the Earth will file a request under the Freedom of Information Act for the draft to be published in full so that there can be a public debate about the "stark facts" on which Mr Blair said he based his judgement.

Tony Juniper, the group's director, said: "He must publish details of the briefing he received from the Department of Trade and Industry, which he has now made so public, so that we can have a transparent and open debate on this issue."

Mr Blair may not need legislation to authorise more nuclear power stations but more than 50 MPs have signed a Commons motion calling for a debate and vote in parliament.

It was tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott, who accused Mr Blair of showing "blatant disregard for the views of the people". She added: "The future of our energy supply is one of the biggest decisions we face in Britain today, and the Prime Minister is trying to force it through without proper parliamentary debate."

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said a new generation of nuclear power stations would be an expensive and dangerous mistake. "It will be the great misjudgement of our generation to go back down the nuclear road, which would saddle our children and grandchildren with the consequences," he said.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman denied the review had been pre-empted. "This is now a situation in which Mr Micawber is going to work. You cannot just hope something turns up, you have to make decisions and you have to make decisions now because in this field there is a long lead time," he said.

Reviewing the evidence

* When Tony Blair announced the Government's energy review last November, he signalled his intent by putting the pro-nuclear Department of Trade and Industry in the driving seat. It is chaired by the Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks, rather than by a neutral referee such as John Prescott or an independent figure from outside government.

Mr Wicks has insisted he is "nuclear neutral", but it came as no surprise when Mr Blair said on Tuesday that the review's first draft showed the nuclear option was needed to prevent Britain becoming dependent on foreign gas imports, and to hit its targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Other inquiries have not reached the same conclusion. The Sustainable Development Commission, chaired by Jonathon Porritt, which advises the Government, said nuclear power was not the answer to climate change and there was "no justification" for a new nuclear programme.

The all-party Commons Environmental Audit Committee said in a report last month the nuclear option would not plug Britain's energy gap. With almost a quarter of the country's electricity-generating capacity to be decommissioned by 2016, the committee said there was not time to wait for a new generation of nuclear reactors. It said Britain could face electricity blackouts within a decade unless there was urgent investment in new gas-fired power stations.

However, a study by the International Energy Agency is expected to conclude nuclear power offers the best hope of tackling global energy insecurity and meeting emissions targets.

Andrew Grice

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

£17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone