I visited Leicester on Wednesday 21 January. The CHP consortium is to be complimented on producing a very professional report. The key to further development lies in attracting private sector finance, which I know the Leicester consortium is very much aware of, and I hope that it will achieve the potential to take this important project forward.
Having accompanied my hon. Friend to view the combined heat and power consortium at Leicester, may I reinforce what he probably already knows namely, that it is ready and willing to get on with reducing the cost of heating in Leicester, but desperately needs additional help to meet the particularly high cost of rates of this project and any to cope with legislative burden? Not only are 400 jobs guaranteed if the construction goes ahead but there will be substantial savings for all my constituents and those of other hon. Members in Leicester.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the fact that Leicester is in the lead. I congratulate him and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Spencer) on the strong support that they have given to the consortium. Following my meeting, I am urgently examining with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment the obstacles that the consortium has identified.
Does the Minister accept that the plans of the consortium have the full support of the council, irrespective of party, and that the council is to be congratulated on the efforts that it has made to back it? Meanwhile, as this will take much time to reach fruition, will the Minister press for help for the people who are in need and suffering from cold, especially during the recent spell, such as the elderly, the pensioners, the disabled, the ill, all of whom are not being looked after by the Government and who will suffer until this plan comes into operation?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right to pay tribute to those who support the consortium, such as my hon. Friends the hon. Member for Leicester, East, (Mr. Bruinvels) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, South, and the local authority. So far as Government help is concerned, it is a fact that this Government have provided record levels of support for the very target groups that the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned.
Is my hon. Friend aware that in my constituency we welcome a new source of energy which would lead to a reduction in heating costs and further sharpen the keen competitive edge of Leicester's industry? Will he see that any scheme remains firmly in the sector of private enterprise?