Opposition Day — 16th Allotted Day
Eric Illsley (Barnsley Central, Labour)
I do not disagree. The question is why we have been left with a liberalised energy market. We have been banging on about Europe liberalising its energy market to level the playing field and so on, but it is simply not happening. Our European partners are not playing ball, but if they look across the channel at what happened to us, they can see the problems that we face. They might therefore think that if they do that to their energy industry, they will go down the same route and be in the same predicament, so their reluctance is understandable.
I remember in 2006 being in the Czech Republic when that country took over the presidency of the European Union. The presidency statement made a commitment to energy liberalisation, mainly because gas prices had gone up that winter, but two years later, nothing seems to be happening. Mr. Blunt, who is not in his place, made the point that we had an energy White Paper as far back as 2003. Since then, we have had another White Paper and a review of nuclear power and, last week, we had the £100 billion renewables review, but we are not doing anything. We are not making the decisions, and nothing is happening; we are simply talking about the same energy gap that we talked about in 2003. We are nowhere nearer bridging it, so we must address the question of why the energy problem affects our industries but not those in the rest of Europe.
In my constituency, there is a glass-producing company that is part of a Europe-wide chain. Compared with the chain's plants in western Europe, the plant in my constituency is the most unprofitable, because of the energy crisis that it faces. The other day I saw some figures for the projected energy costs of another energy-intensive user. Its costs in 2002 were about £3 million per annum, by 2006 they had increased to £8 million, and its projected figure for next year is £21 million. It cannot continue in business with such energy costs. Unless the situation changes, we are staring down the barrel of major job losses and factory closures, because we are simply uncompetitive.