Huhne slams coalition’s deregulation agenda

By staff

Chris Huhne's attack on Conservative "deregulation zealots" has opened up a new area of tension within the coalition.

The energy and climate change secretary's comments were sparked by attempts to abolish red tape affecting conservation.

Ministers face pressure to cut regulation wherever possible. Attempts to cut environmental rules have not been welcomed by Mr Huhne, however. Even laws like the Climate Change Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act are facing scrutiny.

"Whatever the good intent, we have mistakenly given the impression that an exercise designed to scrap unnecessary minor bureaucratic hurdles is now placing the cornerstone of climate protection under threat," Mr Huhne told a conference of social democrats in his party at the weekend.

"Of course this is nonsense. Let me assure you: there is a very good case for our key regulations protecting the environment to stay."

His efforts are believed to have attracted the support of fellow Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, the business secretary.

"Between the obsession with micro-management and target-setting displayed by the Labour party, and the fixation with deregulation and scrapping rules just because they are rules on offer from some rightwing ideologues, we Liberal Democrats have a real chance to define an evidence-based, intelligent and distinctive approach," Mr Huhne added.

He said the Montreal protocol, which phased out the production and consumption of CFCs in 1987, was in addition to pre-existing legislation – and pointed out under the coalition's 'one in, one out' principle it would not have been allowed.

"The belief that regulation always implies costs is equally fatuous – something that's obvious to Liberal Democrats, who have never taken the view that the market is always right," Mr Huhne said.