A TORY former energy secretary says the Hinkley C nuclear project is “one of the worst deals ever” for British consumers and industry.

Speaking in the House of Lords during the second reading of the Energy Bill, Lord Howell of Guildford said he would “shed no tears” if the development was abandoned.

He said: “I’m very pro-nuclear. I’m pro its low carbon contribution, but this must be one of the worst deals ever for British households and British industry.

“When you add to this that the component suppliers to EDF are in trouble, costs keep rising, no reactor of this kind has ever been completed successfully – those that have been built are years behind – workers at the site have been laid off, personally I would shed no tears at all if the elephantine Hinkley C project was abandoned in favour of smaller, possibly cheaper, nuclear plants a bit later on. Our far better hope lies with Japanese nuclear plans at Wylfa and Moorside.

“They can build quicker with more tested and reliable reactor designs, and because of cheap gas for years to come we will not need them so soon anyway. And I’d very much like to hear the minister’s assessment of what is happening on this front.”

The father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne welcomed changes in the Bill connected to onshore wind support and measures designed to help North Sea oil and gas.

He said he hoped the proposed legislation was the “harbinger of more changes” to come, adding the Government’s energy policy is one of the “less happy legacies” of the coalition with “major alterations” required.

But the peer said energy policy-makers had failed to resolve the need to combine affordability, reliability and decarbonisation. Lord Howell warned energy prices are “through the roof”, adding: “It is ridiculous that in an advanced society energy and fuel banks have to be opened to help vulnerable people avoid freezing, or that Tata Steel has to lay off hundreds of workers because of high electricity costs. He said: “This is self-harm on a grand scale.”