Coalition rift over green policies
The coalition spat over green levies has escalated after a senior Liberal Democrat accused Tories who want to axe them of being "full of crap".
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander delivered the jibe as Downing Street played down reports that David Cameron has been privately expressing his determination to strip out charges that push up energy bills.
A senior Conservative source was quoted in newspapers describing how the Prime Minister is " going round Number 10 saying 'we have got to get rid of all this green crap'".
"We used to say 'Vote Blue, Go Green', now it's 'Vote Blue, Get Real'," the source added.
Downing Street said it "did not recognise" the phrase. And meeting supporters of the HS2 high-speed rail project outside Number 10 this morning, Mr Cameron stressed his commitment to the environmental agenda.
"This is a part of it," he said. " We have got the world's first green investment bank, we have got great support for our green technology industries. We have got the first nuclear power station since 1995. This is a Government investing in important green technologies."
Mr Alexander insisted the environmental measures were helping to insulate homes for the poor, invest in clean energy, and creating thousands of jobs. "Anyone who thinks we should get rid of that is full of crap," he told Sky News.
On his weekly LBC 97.3 phone-in, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he did not believe the reported comments were a "fair reflection" of M r Cameron's views.
"We both want to see policies, where we are control of them in government, made as cost-effective as possible without cutting our commitment to reducing carbon commitments and looking after the environment," the Lib Dem leader said.
Defending green levies, he stressed "it isn't all crap".
"I t is worth remembering that a lot of the policies that we have got support tens of thousands of people who work in the booming green energy sector, actually keep bills down in the long run because if you don't insulate people's homes today they are going to be spending more on their gas and electricity bills in the future heating their homes," Mr Clegg said.
Ahead of the 2010 general election, Mr Cameron highlighted his commitment to the environment with a trip to the Arctic Circle to view the impact of global warming, and told voters they could "Vote Blue, Go Green".
He has regularly stated his determination to lead the "greenest government ever".
But he dismayed some environmentalists by telling the House of Commons last month that he wanted to "roll back" the green levies which add an average £112 a year to households' energy bills to fund renewable power subsidies and programmes to insulate homes.
Downing Street said this did not mean the PM had abandoned his commitment to the environment.
A Number 10 source said: "Mr Cameron has been quite clear about rolling back the impact of levies on energy bills, but only last week in Sri Lanka he was talking about the importance of tackling climate change."
During that visit Mr Cameron had responded to speculation that man-made climate change may be to blame for the devastating typhoon in the Philippines, saying: "I'll leave the scientists to speak for themselves about the link between severe weather events and climate change.
"But the evidence seems to me to be growing. As a practical politician, I think the sensible thing is to say let's take preventative and mitigating steps given the chances this might be the case."
Friends of the Earth's policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett said: "It would come as little surprise if David Cameron did tell aides to ditch the 'green crap' - his Government has been attacking environmental policies for years.
"If the Prime Minister wants to stop the drift back towards the toxic Tory party of the past he must take urgent and decisive action to rebuild his eco-credentials.
"The reality is that protecting the planet and building a strong economy are two sides of the same coin.
"The best way to protect cash-strapped households from soaring fuel bills is to end the nation's dependency on increasingly costly gas by investing in energy efficiency and home-grown renewable power."