Energy Coalition Row: Clegg Slams 'Own Goal'
Nick Clegg has threatened to block Tory plans to slash green taxes on energy bills, warning the move would be an "own goal".
The Deputy Prime Minister said he did not "fully agree" with David Cameron, who vowed on Wednesday to "roll back" the levies from next year.
Mr Clegg hinted there was some room for negotiation within the coalition over the charges but made clear he would not sign up to a move to scrap the entire system.
His comments came hours before ScottishPower became the latest energy giant to unveil price rises, with gas due to rise 8.5% and electricity 9% in December.
The Lib Dem leader is said to have only been given around 30 minutes' notice of Mr Cameron's surprise announcement, which came during angry exchanges at PMQs.
It prompted furious briefing from party sources, who branded the declaration a "panicky U-turn" as they restated the Lib Dems' commitment to the environment.
Mr Clegg admitted on Thursday: "It wasn't something that I was fully expecting and it's not something that I fully agree with."
"I'm not frankly entirely sure what rolling back green levies [means]," he added.
"If removing all green levies which help two million people on very low incomes, which help support thousands of jobs in our renewable energy sector, if that is what is meant, I think that would be an own goal."
Asked if he could block Tory plans, he said: "Of course. I'm certainly not going to accept simply scrapping a whole system of levies which for instance help two million of the poorest households in this country."
He rejected the idea that green levies were the main reason for recent gas and electricity price hikes, blaming wholesale energy costs.
But he did promise to agree a way forward with Mr Cameron, suggesting the levies could all be tested and some moved to be paid for through general taxation.
Mr Clegg also called Labour's pledge to freeze energy prices "economically illiterate" and warned it would push up prices while hitting jobs and investment.
Downing Street says green taxes are currently responsible for £112 of a typical household bill, which will rise to £194 by 2020 if there is no policy change.
Mr Cameron's official spokesman restated his policy to "roll back some of the green levies" on Thursday and said talks would be held with the Lib Dems.
More details of the plans are due to be included in Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement in December.
Asked whether Britons could end up paying green charges via taxes instead of their bills, the No10 spokesman said: "The specifics of how this will go forward are going to be worked out in time for the autumn statement, and I'm not going to prejudge that.
"Clearly, there's a lot of work going on to help hard-pressed families with the issue of energy bills.
"What's going to be going on between now and the Autumn Statement is looking at how those components of the bills can be rolled back from the bills."
He also insisted the coalition was "in tact" despite the energy row, which comes after Mr Clegg attacked the Government's flagship free school policy.
Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg continue to work "highly effectively" together, the spokesman said.
The Tories are struggling to get back on the front foot on energy after Labour's price freeze plan was unveiled during party conference season.
The issue has become even more of a major political issue as the so-called "Big Six" energy suppliers started announcing price rises ahead of the winter.
Mr Miliband sought to capitalise on the coalition row in a speech on Thursday morning, claiming Mr Cameron is "losing control" of energy policy.
He said: "Yesterday in weakness and panic, the Government made up a new policy on energy. Today, Nick Clegg has revealed their true intentions: to shift the burden from ordinary bill payers like you to ordinary taxpayers like you.
"Governments have always looked at this balance but this Government wants you to pick up the tab for its failure to stand up to the energy companies. That won't offer the real help that business and families need.
"They propose a panicked wheeze paid for by taxpayers. We offer a real freeze paid for by the big energy companies."
Labour has been boosted by Sir John Major's shock intervention on Tuesday, when the former Tory PM called for a windfall tax on energy firms.
On a vist to Barnsley, Mr Cameron claimed switching suppliers could save up to £250 but refused to say whether he had taken his own advice and swapped firms.
He added: "We've also got to look at the taxes and charges and things that are added to people's bills to see if we can reduce the cost of those because I want not only to help people pay their bills as we do but also help get those bills down.
"We want to do that sustainably for the future - that's what our aim is and we'll be making announcements at the Autumn Statement."