In the past five years energy costs per unit of output have fallen by almost 40 per cent. in real terms both in the paper manufacturing industry and across manufacturing as a whole.
My right hon. Friend will be aware of the importance of the paper industry to Radcliffe in my constituency. Will he bear in mind the need for the industry to have cheaper energy supplies, because it faces fierce competition from abroad? Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to ensure that the industry is aware of that need, so that it can compete successfully and provide much-needed jobs for all my constituents?
Last year, on the BBC television programme "Taming the Dragon", the chairman of the CEGB said that nuclear energy was more expensive than energy from coal and that it was a matter of jam tomorrow. In view of that comment and the costs of the nuclear industry, does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it would be far better to secure electricity prices for all industries and that the CEGB should sign contracts with British Coal so that British Coal supplies our energy producers?
I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has to say. I suspect that some of his hon. Friends on the Labour Back Benches would not agree with him in terms of the contracts that they hope will be placed in their constituencies. Yet again, there seems to be a division in the Labour party.
Does levying VAT on energy help to contain costs? Has my right hon. Friend had any representations from industry and commerce, especially from insurance and small firms that will not be able to pay those costs? Is there nothing that Parliament can do about the instruction from the European Court to levy VAT?
My hon. Friend is anticipating question No. 14, which he has tabled. I have had no representations, but I keep closely in touch with the gas and electricity industries.