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20 September 2011

Lib Dem conference lookahead | Tuesday 20 September

The who, when and where of the Lib Dem conference.

By Jenny Greenwell

Look out for:

Chris Huhne’s speech, scheduled for 12:20. The Energy Secretary is set to announce a crack down on “predatory pricing” from the six big energy companies- British Gas, Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern, Npower, E.On and EDF. Mr Huhne will lay out plans to help smaller companies get in to the market, reducing cut-throat competition from the ‘big six.’

Following the release of UK Energy Sector figures stating that household energy bills will continue to rise, it looks likely that the speech will also focus on plans to lower costs. Talking to the BBC on Sunday, Huhne defended the coalition’s energy policy, and instead blamed the rise in UK energy bills on the 27 per cent rise in world gas prices.

In last year’s speech, the energy secretary promised to cut the carbon emissions of every British household, as part of his “Green Deal Revolution.” “It could also create a whole new industry that will help offset the drag anchor of the budget squeeze. Not just the 26,000 people working in insulation now, but up to 250,000 jobs in every part of the country, working on 26m homes.” There may be calls for Huhne to address this point, and to explain why his predictions have failed to materialise.

Also look out for mention of growing division within the coalition. As one of the Tories least favourite Lib Dems, Huhne is set to condemn the right wing faction of David Cameron’s party as having a ‘Tea Party tendency’, criticising those MP’s who want to exploit the crisis in Europe by snatching some power back from Brussels. Huhne is also in favour of keeping the 50p tax rate, and has warned of a possible Lib Dem rebellion if the Tories try and force its abolition.

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Signs of trouble:

The Q &A on NHS reforms, due to start at 11.35. The controversial health and social care bill has threatened to cause division within the coalition ever since it was first proposed by Andrew Lansley. The strongest opposition will probably come from 80-year-old MP Shirley Williams, who said the bill was a ‘stealth privatisation’ of the NHS, and called on Lib Dems to stand up to the Tories. Nick Clegg maintains that the bill won’t alter the foundation of the health service.

On the fringe

The disappearance of state education: What will our schools look like in 2016?
Children’s minister Sarah Teather joins the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), Mary Bousted, as well as journalist Melissa Benn, Professor of Education, Richard Hatcher, and editor of the Times Educational Supplement (TES), Gerard Kelly, to discuss the future of British schools and education at a New Statesman fringe event. The debate will take place for an hour from 1pm. More details.

Conference timetable

9:00: Party business: standing order amendment – emergency motions and constitutional amendment – federal appeals panel
9.40: Debate on blood donations by gay men
10.20: Debate on care for the elderly 11.15: Speech by pensions minister Steve Webb
11.35: Q&A on NHS reforms
12.20: Speech by Energy Secretary Chris Huhne

14.30: Debate on green jobs and recovery
15.30: Speech by communities minister Andrew Stunell
15.50: Debate on quality of life agenda