My hon. Friend makes a good point about the image of engineering. As west midlands MPs, we both know the importance of engineering. As a father of children who have recently gone through school, I recognise that the case for going into industry and getting involved in manufacturing has not been put sufficiently strongly by the career service. We want to change that attitude in the hope that some of those bright young people who are coming from the technical colleges will find their way into the packaging industry, whether through design and innovation or through their input into the manufacturing process.
Let me turn now to the challenge of competing in world markets and energy costs. The production of packaging— the process by which paper, board, glass and metals are manufactured—is energy intensive, and the energy agenda affects the packaging industry and packaging manufacturers disproportionately. The packaging industry produces large volumes of low-value items. The cost of a box, can or bottle is measured in pence per item and the cost of a bag measured in points of a penny per item. A significant increase in energy costs will have an impact on those items.
The Government aim to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 50% of the 1990 level by 2027. The packaging industry fears that that objective, together with other plans, will put UK manufacturers at a greater disadvantage than those located elsewhere in the world. It feels that the UK expects too large a carbon reduction in too short a space of time.
The think-tank, Civitas, recently prepared a report on the effect of energy prices on the chemical industry; the effect on packaging would be pretty much the same. Civitas states:
“Britain is making the deepest emission reductions of any industrialised nation. The 2020 34% target is 14% higher than that of any other EU nation. The latest carbon budget now commits the UK to emission targets beyond 2020, the first country in the world to do so. To meet these over-ambitious targets, high unilateral costs are being imposed, such as the new carbon price floor. Taking all green levies into account, the average energy-intensive company’s energy bill is set to rise to £17.5 million by 2020 from the current £3 million.”