Lib Dems may be set to relax trademark anti-nuclear stance

Opposition to building a new generation of nuclear power stations has been one of the Liberal Democrats’ most distinctive policy positions

Deputy Political Editor

Liberal Democrats could ditch their long-standing antipathy to nuclear energy next month in a conference debate that will cause deep divisions within the party.

Opposition to building a new generation of nuclear power stations has been one of the Liberal Democrats’ most distinctive policy positions although they have watered it down in the Coalition Government.

At their conference in Glasgow, delegates will be asked whether they want to adopt a new policy of accepting that nuclear energy has its place in electricity generation.

The move is understood to have the backing of Nick Clegg, the party leader, and Ed Davey, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, although they are unlikely to speak directly on the issue.

The vote at the party’s Glasgow conference will be seen by some Clegg allies as a test of its ability to face up to the tough decisions facing a governing party.

The Liberal Democrats pledged opposition in their last election manifesto to new nuclear power stations because of concerns over their expense and safety and the Coalition agreement allowed them to abstain in votes on the issue.

However, Chris Huhne, the former Liberal Democrat Energy and Climate Change Secretary, announced moves to build eight new power stations – as long as the state did not have to subside them. Mr Davey, who replaced him, has adopted the same position.

In next month’s vote, delegates will be asked to choose between opposing the construction of new nuclear plants or accepting they could play a “limited role” in electricity supply providing worries about safety, cost and the disposal of radioactive waste could be addressed. The conference has the final say in setting party policy.

Passions aroused within Liberal Democrat ranks by the subject were highlighted when 22 MPs – well over one-third of the parliamentary party – signed a Commons motion warning that the Fukushima disaster in Japan underlined “the extreme dangers inherent in nuclear power”.

A Lib Dem spokesman told The Independent: “Nuclear power has always been a hotly-debated issue within the party.

“Unlike Labour and the Conservatives, our policy-making is democratic and it is right the arguments for and against new nuclear are thrashed out on the conference floor.”

The conference will also be asked to endorse a strategy to “set the UK on the path to a carbon-neutral future”, including plans to reduce council tax for families who make their homes more energy-efficient and to support ambitious EU carbon emissions targets.

Senior Liberal Democrats believe its stance will be a key point of difference with their Conservative coalition partners at the next general election. Mr Clegg last week accused the Tories of abandoning their pre-election pro-Green language after 2010.

The party, which publishes its conference agenda on Monday, will attempt to use next month’s gathering as the effective launch of its 2015 election campaign. But it comes as the Liberal Democrats continue to languish in the polls, often finding themselves relegated to fourth place behind the UK Independence Party.

As revealed by the Independent last month, party chiefs are braced for a backlash from members to a proposal to stick to the Coalition’s controversial decision to raise university tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 a year. They are opposing calls by some activists for fees to be cut to a maximum £6,000 a year or replaced by a graduate tax.

Another flash-point will come over calls for the party to commit itself to bringing back the 50p rate of income tax on earnings over £150,000 a year. Mr Clegg wants to retain the current 45p rate.

The Glasgow conference will be asked to choose between keeping 45p or returning to 50p if an independent review found this would raise more revenue than it would cost.

Other tensions are expected over the issue of whether to support the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn