29/11/2005

Blair CBI speech disrupted by Greenpeace protest

Greenpeace activists have disrupted Tony Blair’s speech on nuclear power at the Confederation of British Industry conference.

Two protestors scaled the ceiling above the speaker’s podium before the Prime Minister’s speech and unfurled banners saying ‘Nuclear – Wrong Answer’ and dropped confetti, to symbolise ash from radioactive fallout.

The protestors had demanded to be allowed to make a ten-minute speech to the conference, but CBI Director General Digby Jones refused this request. An offer by the conference organisers to let the two legitimate Greenpeace delegates, who had been allowed to attend the event, ask Mr Blair the first question after the speech was also refused by the protestors.

Mr Blair finally delivered his speech, almost an hour later than scheduled, in another room at the conference venue, the Business Design Centre in Islington.

Police arrested the two Greenpeace protestors.

During his speech, Mr Blair said that energy policy was “back on the agenda with a vengeance” and announced that the government had established an energy review, which is due to be published next summer. The review, headed by Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks will look at the possible development of a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Mr Blair said: “Round the world you can sense feverish re-thinking. Energy prices have risen. Energy supply is under threat. Climate change is producing a sense of urgency.

“By around 2020, the UK is likely to have seen decommissioning of coal and nuclear plants that together generate over 30% of today’s electricity supply. Some of this will be replaced by renewables, but not all of it can.”

However, Stephen Tindale, Director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change – it’s costly, dangerous and a terrorist target.

“Just three years ago Blair conducted the biggest energy review in 60 years – which concluded renewable energy and energy efficiency, not nuclear, is the way forward. Today’s new review is simply a smokescreen for pushing his newfound enthusiasm for nuclear power.

“The real solution to climate change and energy security is a mix of efficient, safe and clean energy technologies like wind, wave and solar. Plus we need to stop wasting energy by generating it closer to where it is consumed.”

Liberal Democrats environment spokesperson Norman Baker said: "The suspicion must be that Tony Blair has already decided to advocate an increase in the use of nuclear power. This review will serve little purpose if the Prime Minister has already made up his mind.

"What is needed is to rule out an extension of nuclear power now. This will provide the certainty that the industry so desperately needs, and will allow us to focus on cleaner renewable energy."

Conservatives. Shadow Trade and Industry Secretary David Willetts said: “To launch an energy review only now is testament to Labour's failure to tackle the problem a long time ago. A leak from the DTI in May showed that civil servants were calling on the Government to start an energy review, but it has taken them seven months and an energy crisis to get things rolling.”

(KMcA/SP)

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