Government would walk away from talks on nuclear if costs too high says energy minister

Energy Minister John Hayes has warned that the UK Government is prepared to walk away from talks with French energy company EDF over the building of nuclear power stations in the UK if the cost to consumers is too high.

Hayes told the House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Committee that the Government has a bottom line that it will not cross during negotiations with the utility company, which wants to build a further reactor at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Asked if he was prepared to say if a price was “too much for the consumer”, Hayes replied: “Absolutely. There’s absolutely no doubt – and, as I looked into the eyes of [EDF Energy chief executive] Vincent de Rivaz yesterday, I told him that the Government will always put the national interest first.

“And where the national interest coincides with commercial interests – and I think it generally does – that is great for both of us. But of course in any commercial arrangement … both sides need to be able to walk away from the deal. As soon as that is not the case, it becomes a rather unhealthy arrangement.”

Hayes will become ‘enthusiastic advocate of wind farms’, says Cable

Hayes’ comments to the committee came just days after he attracted condemnation from environmental groups after suggesting that there were too many wind farms in the UK.

Asked in the House of Commons by Labour MP Wayne David if Hayes’ comments showed a difference of opinion between Conservative and Liberal Democrats ministers in the coalition government, Business Secretary Vince Cable replied: “We very much speak with one voice on this subject.

“I am sure that when he [Hayes] has settled into his new job, he will be an enthusiastic advocate of wind farms.”

> Watch John Hayes addressing the committee