Green GB Week and Clean Growth

Part of EU Exit Negotiations – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 15th October 2018.

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Photo of Claire Perry Claire Perry The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) 5:21 pm, 15th October 2018

He has changed his policy now, but back then it was not at all obvious what it would be.

The hon. Lady knows that investment in this sector is very lumpy. We have brought forward some of the biggest offshore wind projects the world has ever seen. One would always expect that money to go up and down.

The hon. Lady talked about feed-in tariffs. We have spent nearly £5 billion in subsidising feed-in tariffs since 2010, and it has indeed worked. We are now seeing record levels of solar deployment. We signalled back in 2015 that we would be seeking to remove subsidy from the sector. We have had a call for evidence to see what we will replace that with, and I look forward to making some announcements on that shortly.

The hon. Lady is right that we all need to do more on energy efficiency. That is why we have set out the most challenging targets the country has ever seen in order to improve efficiency both in our homes and in our other buildings.

The hon. Lady talked about shale gas. I find it amazing that so many Labour Front Benchers will take the shilling of the GMB union but will not take its advice on shale gas extraction. They are claiming that this does not create jobs; the union fundamentally disagrees with them. They claim that it is not consistent with a low-carbon future. The Committee on Climate Change has said that it is entirely consistent with our measures. When they go home tonight to cook their tea, I ask them to think about what fuel they are going to use, because we know that 70% of the country relies on gas for cooking and heating. We have a choice. On current projections, we are going to move from importing about half our gas to importing almost 75% of it, even with usage falling, as it needs to going forward. I know that some Labour Members would love us to be spending more hard currency with Russia, but I am quite keen to soberly—[Interruption.] Perhaps if Labour Front Benchers would all like to stop mansplaining, I could actually make some progress. I would like to answer the hon. Lady’s questions without a whole load of chuntering as if I am the referee at Chelsea.

As I was saying, the challenge on shale is that we do use gas. We want to rapidly decarbonise gas as we will continue to do. This is entirely consistent with all our low-carbon pathways. It is even consistent with the hon. Lady’s proposals for the renewable economy, because she will need 40% of that to come from some sort of thermal generation. It seems crazy to me not to soberly explore the science of exploiting a resource beneath our feet that could create thousands of jobs rather than importing it from an extremely unstable nation. [Interruption.] Well, do not listen to me—go and listen to your union paymasters.

We signalled that we would at some point have to stop subsidising electric vehicles. We have spent half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money since 2011 on driving up the deployment of EV, and three things have happened. First, the number of these vehicles has ballooned, with up to 13% of new car sales being electric in August this year. Secondly, the price of those cars is now falling, to the point where the decision to buy electric is becoming less of a challenge. Thirdly, the Government are investing £1.5 billion in the charging infrastructure that this country so desperately needs.

The hon. Lady talked about the carbon budgets. I have said this before, and I will say it again. Budgets 3 and 5 end in 10 and 15 years respectively. If we achieve budget 5, we will have achieved a cut of almost 60% in our emissions since 2010. We are on track already, without costing many of the policies and proposals that we set out last year, to deliver 97% and 95% of what is needed for those budgets. That is a pretty reasonable approach, and, given that we have made clean growth such a fundamental part of our industrial strategy, those figures will only accelerate.

Lastly, the hon. Lady invited me to talk about Labour’s policy. Well, where to start? As always, there is no detail on how their targets would be met, whether they are technically feasible, how much they would cost, how much they would add to energy bills or whether the supply chain could deliver it. As always, it is a load of fantasy numbers designed to create a press release. Labour talks about getting 44% of homes to renewable heating within 12 years, but 80% of homes are on the gas grid. Is the hon. Lady going to add to people’s energy bills the cost of disconnection and reinstatement of gas? I think we should know.

One of Labour’s own MPs said that we do not need to

“talk about renationalising vast swathes of the economy or reopening the pits”,

as Jeremy Corbyn made such a virtue of doing in his leadership campaign. We will get on with delivering policies that are realistic and fully costed and deliver the most ambitious decarbonisation of the economy, and we will leave the Labour party to play fantasy economics with its energy policies.