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Coalition clashes on wind farm policy

Tensions in the UK's coalition government resurfaced on Wednesday, this time over green energy policy as the Liberal Democrat energy secretary quashed a suggestion by his Conservative deputy that there could be a ban on new onshore wind farms.

A source close to Ed Davey said the remarks by John Hayes, newly appointed Tory energy minister, did not represent government policy and vetoed a speech in which Mr Hayes had planned to attack wind power. He hit out at Mr Hayes by stressing that the Tories were not in "single party government".

"We support renewables and we are not talking about a moratorium on onshore wind at the moment. We are going to continue to hold Conservative feet to the fire," the source said.

Mr Hayes told the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail newspapers that "enough is enough" for onshore wind farms, saying it was "extraordinary" that so many wind turbines had been "peppered" around the country without due regard to local communities.

He said he wanted to base future policy on fresh analysis of the case for onshore wind power, rather than on what he called "a bourgeois left article of faith based on some academic perspective".

Mr Hayes' comments will please Tory backbenchers, 100 of whom signed a letter calling for cuts in wind subsidies earlier this year.

The promotion of Mr Hayes and another Conservative, Owen Paterson, who became environment secretary in September's reshuffle, was seen as a sign that David Cameron was less committed to the green agenda he promoted before he took office. Mr Paterson opposes onshore wind farms and supports the exploitation of shale gas.

But the Lib Dems have continued to prioritise green energy and Ed Davey saw off a Treasury threat to reduce onshore wind subsidies by up to a quarter earlier in the year. He settled with a cut of 10 per cent.

Labour described the disagreement as a "shambles". Caroline Flint, Labour's shadow energy and climate change secretary, said: "Britain needs a clean, diverse and secure energy supply - but this government appears clueless when it comes to delivering clean energy and fair bills."

Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group, accused Mr Hayes of a "petulant outburst" which deepened the divide in government over energy policy. "Here is a new minister veering off brief and publicly contradicting his bosses. His comments threaten jobs and his approach will drive up energy bills," said Leila Deen, a Greenpeace campaigner.