Ministers keen to see EDF deal sealed to kick-start nuclear building programme

Talks over the sale of British Energy to EDF remain deadlocked after the French company refused to significantly improve its £12bn offer.

According to reports in the Daily Telegraph, the EDF board agreed a slight “tweak” to its earlier offer of 765p a share, but did not reach the figure wanted by some shareholders.

Negotiations are expected to continue into next week, disappointing UK business and enterprise secretary John Hutton's hopes of an agreement in time for the Labour Party conference.

The minister wants the sale of British Energy, which owns most of the viable sites for new nuclear development, to go ahead in order to kick-start the UK's ambitious construction programme.

Hutton is due to speak at the first meeting of the government's new nuclear development forum today, where he will urge industry bosses to boost the supply chain needed to build new power stations.

He is expected to say: “I'm determined to press all the buttons to get nuclear built in this country at the earliest opportunity - not only because it's a no-brainer for our energy security, but also because it's good for jobs and our economy.

“But we're facing stiff competition for this investment and for the equipment we'll need to build these power stations, which is why I'm determined to ensure Britain remains a competitive environment for nuclear investment.”

His words have been welcomed by the Nuclear Industry Association. Chief executive Keith Parker said: “We welcome Mr Hutton's lead in this area. Nuclear must be at the centre of any robust, low-carbon energy mix.”