[John Robertson in the Chair] — Energy Intensive Industries

– in Westminster Hall at 12:00 am on 4th December 2013.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Evennett.)

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme 9:30 am, 4th December 2013

I thank Members and the Minister for attending this early-morning debate, which appears on the Order Paper with the catchiest of titles: “Cumulative electricity tax burden for energy intensive industries”—truly a headline writer’s dream. Their presence speaks volumes for the importance industry gives this issue. I have been approached in the corridors this morning and in the past two days by people who cannot be here, but who are closely following the issue because they have had representations from their local manufacturers, too.

I and other colleagues applied for the debate at the urging of the British Ceramic Confederation, which represents tableware firms and brick and tile makers in my area— north Staffordshire—and across the country. Indeed, on Friday, I am visiting one of them—Ibstock Brick, in Chesterton, in Newcastle-under-Lyme—to view first hand its £20 million investment in brand-new kilns, which use the Etruria marl in the company quarries just a couple of miles away in Knutton and Silverdale, in my constituency. The fact that we are having this debate is also due in no small part to the urging of my hon. Friend Angela Smith, who has been cracking the whip for not only her local industry, but the sector.

The debate is very timely. It comes not only as energy prices for domestic customers have taken centre stage following the price-freeze initiative introduced by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but just a day before the autumn statement. The ceramics industry has lobbied the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister hard for measures to tackle rising energy costs. It is not only the ceramics industry that has done that, but the glass, steel and chemicals industries—all sectors that describe themselves as highly energy intensive industries. In short, they are the cream of the UK’s manufacturing industry. We will no doubt learn tomorrow whether their pleas have fallen on deaf or, hopefully, receptive ears.

When it comes to my local ceramics industry and the potteries, I am more used to hearing cries of anguish over gas than electricity, because gas mostly fires the kilns. Only last week, 13 Members with ceramics interests, from across the parties and across the country, signed a joint letter to the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change ahead of its session last Thursday on gas storage. A delegation of us also recently met the Minister to raise issues along the same lines on behalf of the industry. In our representations, we questioned the Government’s recent decision not to involve themselves in actively encouraging more storage to tackle gas price volatility and future security of supply. We were pleased that the Committee’s members took those concerns on board in their questioning of key representatives of the gas industry last week.

The debate is about the cost of that other staple and crucial energy source: electricity. On average, the ceramics industry uses more gas, but quite a number of our manufacturers employ some of the most electro-intensive processes in the UK and, indeed, Europe.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Three of the five biggest users of energy are located in Scotland, so he will understand my interest in this subject and, in particular, in the effect of Government policy. These industries are not able to get the grants available to their competitors in mainland Europe, which is leading to the possibility of job losses. Does he accept that the Government need to do more in those circumstances?

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I totally agree. Without a level playing field, the issue is not just the possibility, but the reality of job losses, not least in Scotland, and I will come to that shortly.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

Before my hon. Friend comes on to Scotland, may I congratulate him on securing the debate? He is very knowledgeable on this matter. Is he aware that the INEOS ChlorVinyls plant in Runcorn uses electrolysis to manufacture chlorine? As a consequence, about 70% of the production costs on the site are accounted for by electricity. Some 1,800 people are employed on the site, so it is important that this matter be resolved. Is it not important that the Government look at the carbon floor price?

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. I know the INEOS plant on Merseyside—it is an ex-ICI plant—very well, because two of my cousins from the extended Irish side of my family work there. Like all Members, I have had representations from INEOS, which is a major employer in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The company made exactly the same point—that 70% of its costs go on energy, so if we are substantially out of line with our competitors in Europe and the world beyond, it suffers a considerable disadvantage.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate. Germany has methods of subsidising high energy use-based steel, because it has high green taxes. The trouble is that the unforeseen consequences of our green taxes—they were, in all fairness, started by the previous Government—are mounting for industry. If we are to carry on with green taxes on bills, we must find a way to help these highly energy intensive industries; otherwise, we will export our business abroad.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I thank the hon. Gentleman for what is the third intervention. I will come to the comparative prices in Germany, which has long had a strong green movement. In the past, it has also had the benefit of wide-ranging, simple schemes, not least in respect of coal, something that affected my constituency years ago. One of the things I want to come to later is the complexity under which our industry has to suffer.

Photo of David Simpson David Simpson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way—he is a very popular individual this morning. One of the issues I have received the most lobbying on in my constituency is green taxes. We have the second-largest manufacturing base outside Belfast. The Government have promised to make business easier and more competitive and to remove bureaucracy, but we need to do something about this issue, because our manufacturing industry is not competitive out there, and we need to keep our jobs in the UK.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I am grateful to be so popular for the first time in many a month. I do not want to make this party political, but one of the lessons the Government seem to have learned from the Labour party’s initiative on energy prices is that we need to have simplicity and to reduce prices for domestic customers. However, the same message needs to be learned in respect of industry across these islands.

As I was saying, the ceramics industry, along with other industries represented here by Members, uses some of the most electro-intensive processes in the UK and Europe. The advanced refractory and technical ceramics manufacturers, which make products that must withstand high temperatures, operate electric arc and indication furnaces at well over 2,000° C, which is getting on for half the surface temperature of the sun.

That brings me to one of the key points I want to make. Several of our major manufacturers in these highly competitive industries have already moved overseas, relocating inside and outside Europe, including in Germany and France—our major European competitors—and they have cited electricity costs as a key reason for doing so. That is happening in not just the ceramics, but other sectors, such as chemicals and steel. We have heard about INEOS, and Members will no doubt want to refer to the steel industry and the experience of Tata.

To take one further example, the German multinational chemical company BASF, which is a major employer near Manchester, just north of my constituency, wrote to me to underline that electricity and other energy costs have been responsible for rendering uncompetitive its 60-year-old Scottish pigments plant at Paisley—the group’s second most energy intensive plant. As a result, that plant will close in 2015, with the loss of another 150 jobs. That is the stark message from the industry about UK competitiveness. Manufacturers now typically pay between £80 and £100 per megawatt-hour in the UK. Some of their German competitors pay nearer to €40—not even £40—per megawatt-hour, which is less than half that price. In France they pay €50. If nothing is done, and if UK electricity costs rise further, more businesses, investment and jobs here will be put at risk.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I congratulate my hon. Friend on obtaining the debate. Must not we make sure that we can maintain manufacturing jobs in the UK, including in the ceramics industry, and support energy intensive industries, while enabling them to decarbonise? A key difference between the UK and Germany is the fact that in Germany the power sector has been transformed with a move towards clean energy. We must not lose sight of the necessary innovation and the transformation of the energy sector.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. I ask hon. Members to keep interventions a bit shorter.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

That was one of my hon. Friend’s shorter interventions, Mr Robertson. Her constituency, Stoke-on-Trent North, includes Burslem, the mother town of the potteries. She is the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee and will be sadly missed when, as she has recently decided, she retires at the end of this Parliament. I totally agree with her; what we need is a balance. What I want to show today, in the light of the pleas from industry, is that we have not got it quite right yet.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I see the hon. Gentleman is straining at the leash.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I shall be as quick as I can—and I too congratulate the hon. Gentleman on obtaining the debate. The topic of Germany has been raised, and we should all understand that its emissions are higher than the UK’s per capita and per unit of GDP—by about 30%. Germany has more renewables than we do, but burns far more coal and will not go along the route that we have taken so unilaterally and quickly.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

The hon. Gentleman makes the point very simply; we must look at things in the round when we consider reform of the system. I want to explain that industry wants reform to be simple and far-reaching, to permit competition with big companies that enjoy great support in Germany.

We are all familiar with the concept of fuel poverty—elderly people or less well off families spending significant parts of their income on keeping warm. That concept could, strange as it may seem, equally be applied to some of our major manufacturers. Energy can account for up to a third of all costs in the ceramics industry, and up to 70% of costs for major chemicals manufacturers, as we have heard. Big international price discrepancies matter, and will matter more if prices continue their inexorable rise. Like the household bills that we have put under the microscope in recent weeks, the price that industry pays for electricity also breaks down into three main components. One is the wholesale cost, which is rising. Another is climate-related charges. Hon. Members will have to bear with me while I go through a short list of what they include: the carbon price floor, the EU emissions trading system charges, the climate change levy, the renewables obligation, small-scale feed-in tariffs and, to be added to that bevy of burdens in the future, contracts for difference under electricity market reform. The third component is transmission charges, which are also increasing ahead of inflation, and which also include climate-related costs in the form of subsidies for offshore wind and other intermittent renewables.

I do not want to torture hon. Members and the Minister into torpor and total submission, but I shall give a couple of examples, provided by the British Ceramic Confederation, of the present and future impacts on industrial electricity prices of some of the carbon taxes and climate levies. Today, without climate change policies, the baseline electricity price that is being paid is about £70 to £71 per megawatt-hour. The climate change policies add £4 to £14 to that, so the cost rises to between £75 and £85. It is reckoned that, in 2020, which is not so far off, on top of a forecast base of £79 per megawatt-hour, the policies in question will add £15 to £35 or so; and in 2030, with the same forecast base, the cumulative effect of carbon tax and levies will, it is estimated, add £25 to £55, taking the price of electricity beyond £100 per megawatt-hour, to a top-of-the-range £130.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

My hon. Friend referred to the bevy of burdens on energy intensive industries. When I talk to the likes of INEOS and GrowHow, in my constituency, they say they want certainty and simplification, which is surely the way forward, and a long-term policy, so that they know what is coming in five and 10 years.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

My hon. Friend anticipates the final paragraph of my speech—which is not too far off—with a plea for simplicity and predictability.

Industry’s message about comparative prices and prospective increases is simple. With non-baseload charges rising so rapidly, on top of wholesale price increases, the UK’s energy intensive industries will be at a growing disadvantage, not only compared with international competitors, but because of lower-cost countries internationally that are hungry for their investment. Of course, the fact that the playing field is so far from being level harms UK industry but it will also do nothing to help with climate change or to reduce carbon emissions, if it means that manufacturing ends up in less energy efficient factories in countries with a laxer view of their environmental obligations. I know that my hon. Friend Joan Walley is concerned about such prospects for carbon leakage.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

I refer my hon. Friend and the Minister to the report of the Environmental Audit Committee on the energy intensive industries compensation scheme and the issue of carbon leakage. There is a need for proper research on which to base future policy, to provide the necessary certainty.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I hope that everyone will put the report on their Christmas reading list, and that the Government will take note of the evidence base and the recommendations.

What is to be done? Industry, although deeply concerned, is not totally ungrateful to have had the Government’s ear in recent years. There has been a welcome for the announcement in the Budget that ceramics and other industries would be exempted from the full cost of the climate change levy. I recall that in giving that news the Chancellor paid tribute to his Tea Room discussions with my hon. Friend Tristram Hunt, who chairs the all-party group on energy intensive industries. Of course Opposition Members thought that that compliment meant that his political career was done for, but changes since then have happily proved us wrong. The reality is that the tax exemption is hardly what the British Ceramic Confederation calls a game-changer. Welcome though that gesture was, it will save only an estimated 2% of energy costs for ceramics, mineral and metallurgical companies. Similar things can be said about the £250 million package to compensate energy intensive industries in the 2011 autumn statement—relief that was extended in the recent Budget—and about the sentiments behind the exemption, which the industry argues is too limited, from the UK’s new contract for difference charges.

What further things would those vital industries like from the Minister today and from the Chancellor, if not tomorrow, then in the future? One thing is further news on practical implementation, without state aid complications, of the climate change levy exemption. Looking further ahead, they would like the compensation package that has already been announced to be linked to the carbon price floor, so that it remains for the duration of the policy, and so that its value will reflect the trajectory of the price floor, if that continues. The industries would also like a widening of the contract for difference exemptions, so that there will be help for more companies than the estimated 10% of the ceramics industry that it is thought will be helped. They would certainly like a bigger helping hand in relation to Brussels. There was dismay, a fortnight ago, in the ceramics, glass and cement industries at the discovery that they would be excluded from compensation under the EU emissions trading system, even though highly electro-intensive processes are employed in the sector.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe Labour, Central Ayrshire

I am grateful again to my hon. Friend for giving way. I have had many representations from the glass industry about its being excluded. There is a highly successful glass factory in my constituency, but its concerns are so great that it is bound to lose jobs as a consequence of being excluded from compensation. Does he agree?

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I certainly do. As I move to the final page of my remarks, I have some brief comments on the glass industry that reflect my hon. Friend’s concerns.

What the industry wants most of all, however, is a radical change of approach to stop our international competitiveness from being eroded further and even faster. The carbon price floor has inflicted pain on the industry for no discernible benefit, and its dream scenario would have the Chancellor abolish it entirely tomorrow. As with the measures affecting household bills, energy intensive industries would also like to see new climate-related charges, such as contracts for difference, paid from general taxation, because the nature of their businesses are such that they cannot protect themselves against such charges.

Other hon. Members will no doubt want to talk about industries other than ceramics, but before I let them, I will just say a few words about glass, which is another staple industry that is crying out for help. British Glass tells me that, since the UK climate change agreements took effect at the turn of the millennium, half of UK glass manufacturing sites have closed, with some 3,500 jobs lost. Despite the difficulties, it is still a £1.7 billion a year industry, employing 7,000 in the UK, but because it faces rising costs through rising green taxes and being ineligible for the EU help that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire referred to, it fears that yet more jobs will go. We will then simply import more glass, which is bad for our balance of payments.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Energy intensive industries form a large part of our manufacturing base. All parties have said that they want to protect and, naturally, improve manufacturing. Otherwise, we will end up importing many more goods.

That is why it is vital that we take radical action to ensure that our manufacturing industry is promoted and protected.

Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I entirely agree. From my 12 years as a Member of Parliament, my experience is that—I hope the Minister can change this mindset—the UK’s generally laissez-faire approach to industry, as well as its studious approach to implementing directives, means that we, in effect, give less support to our manufacturers than France, Germany, Italy and other leading nations give theirs.

I want to end with a plea to the Minister, which I am sure will fall on receptive ears as I know him to be intensely practical. If the Government are not minded to be as radical as the industry wants, the industry would certainly like more simplicity, which is a particular plea from BASF and the chemicals industry. End the plethora of levies by merging them into a single carbon tax, with the existing rebate scheme under the climate change agreements, to cut costs and bureaucracy and to reduce the mind-boggling complexity around green taxes and levies that often reduces Members of Parliament to complete confusion.

Thank you for listening, Mr Robertson. I look forward to contributions from colleagues and to the Minister’s response.

Several hon. Members:

rose—

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. We have five speakers and a limited amount of time. If hon. Members stick to around eight or nine minutes, everybody will get their fair share. Keep interventions as short as possible.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 9:54 am, 4th December 2013

It is privilege to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Farrelly on his lucid explanation of the case for more Government support for energy intensive industries.

My constituency plays host to Tata Speciality Steels, Naylor Industries plc, which is a ceramics manufacturer specialising in clay pipes, and Wavin, which also manufactures clay pipes and lies a bit further to the west of the constituency. We are home to a paper mill at Oughtibridge, which is unfortunately due to close in 2015, ending a 140-year history of paper making on that site. My constituency is also home to British Glass, and I am very proud about that.

Manufacturing represented 12% of national output in 2011 and 8% of employment. In my constituency, 14% of output was generated by manufacturing, which accounted for 11.8% of local employment. Manufacturing therefore still matters in my constituency and in south Yorkshire. The big manufacturing employers in my constituency, in steel and ceramics, are also high energy users, and it is estimated that about a third of their production costs relate to energy use. My work as an MP is about not only talking up manufacturing and everything that is needed to support it, but making the case to Government on how they can help to secure cost-competitiveness in a global context. For many such industries, energy costs are a key factor.

What are the facts on energy costs for high-end users? Tata Steel stated on 2 December that wholesale electricity year-ahead prices are 70% and 45% higher than in Germany and France respectively. Policy-driven taxes and levies for the most intensive users were 2.5 and 6.5 times higher than in Germany and France respectively in 2011. The scale of difference is clearly large enough to turn profit to loss, and to send out negative signals to potential investors.

Photo of Gregory Campbell Gregory Campbell DUP, East Londonderry

On that point, there is a large company in my constituency whose parent company, which is overseas, is constantly reviewing its overheads and the bottom line, which, for many, is the cost structure. Where such companies see the opportunity for reduced costs overseas, there is the serious possibility of them relocating.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman. BASF pointed out only a couple of weeks ago that there is a real risk of losing at least 10% of European manufacturing capacity to the US, because of the much cheaper energy costs, but we will not go into that debate this morning.

On taxes and levies, the British Ceramics Confederation has pointed out that the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s analysis shows climate-related charges are already 19% of the base load price, and that will rise to 47% in 2020. The Engineering Employers Federation states that the Government’s estimates indicate that industrial electricity prices will have increased by 70% by 2030. Moreover, Tata Steel is clear that the green levy with the greatest impact today is the renewables obligation, which, along with small-scale feed-in tariffs, will cost £10.50 per megawatt-hour in the year from April 2014, which is an increase of more than 100% in three years. Tata also points out that many steel makers in Europe will either be completely exempt from the charge or have their charge capped at €0.50 per megawatt-hour. There is clearly a serious problem here for such industries in the UK; spiralling energy costs, compounded with myriad taxes and levies, are threatening our ability to compete, even within the EU.

The British Ceramic Confederation points out that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said, some of its manufacturers operate some of the most energy-intensive processes in the UK, and that several companies have already relocated to Germany and France, with electricity costs cited as a key reason. Even more worrying is the real risk that the current tax regime will do nothing to lower emissions globally if, as the confederation suggests, manufacturing focus is encouraged by costs to emerge in less regulated and less energy-efficient factories abroad. Carbon leakage is therefore a real threat. There is a great irony here, because energy intensive industries are making a huge effort to improve energy efficiency and thereby cut their costs. Tata uses 40% less energy today to produce the same amount of steel as it did in 1975. That is a 40% cut in energy costs as a result of its energy efficiency measures. Ceramics industries have been heavily involved in trying to improve their processes. Naylor Industries in my constituency continually strives to reduce costs by improving energy efficiency.

In summary, it is clear that we need reform of the current system of green taxes and levies, because of the risk of losing capacity, either to the EU or elsewhere, with the linked risk of carbon leakage. However, let me be absolutely clear: I have not, as yet, come across one industrialist who disagrees with the principle of green taxation. Everyone understands that a well-designed taxation system has a role to play in stimulating growth of the low-carbon economy, but that process has to be balanced with the critical need to avoid damaging the cost-effectiveness of the industrial base.

Our energy intensive manufacturers are important in their own right; I know that because I come from a family who have been involved in steel making for at least four generations. Such manufacturers are even more important given that the industries that we are talking about have a key role to play in providing components for the low-carbon economy—a point often overlooked by critics of the industries. Technical ceramics are used for nuclear, wind and solar generation. Clay pipes are 100% recyclable and have an incredibly long life. It takes 1,000 tonnes of steel of six different grades to produce each offshore wind turbine. The steel exterior for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle was developed and produced in the UK by Tata Steel. Last but not least, the polyurethane foam insulation developed by BASF saves 233 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime for every tonne used in its production.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme asked, how should the Government act to remedy the problem? It is worth listing the array of schemes in play, or due to come into play soon: the climate change levy; small-scale feed-in tariffs; the emissions trading scheme; the renewables obligation; the carbon floor price; the energy company obligation; the carbon reduction commitment; and contracts for difference. We also have the aggregates levy and the landfill tax, but both are well embedded, and nobody would touch them. I might not even have included all the schemes on that list, but the point is made.

For industry, the green tax landscape is burdensome in two key ways: there is the cost, and the bureaucratic tangle involved in ensuring compliance. For example, one business in my constituency employs a full-time, highly skilled individual simply to ensure that it meets all its obligations on green tax. The Government have committed to the red tape challenge; this is a clear red tape challenge that needs to be dealt with. That individual could be employed to improve energy efficiency in the plant instead.

I repeat: what is to be done? Industry has a few ideas and key demands. First, it wants a level playing field for European and non-European competitors on climate-related taxes and levies, to ensure that world-class companies in the UK can remain internationally competitive. EEF pointed out that an assessment of that could take place within the context of the fourth carbon budget review.

Secondly, industries need to see detail of the promised exemption of ceramics and other industries from the full cost of the climate change levy from next year. The autumn statement would be a good opportunity to provide that detail, as well as detail about how the Government will negotiate a way through without falling foul of state aid rules. In addition, the expected change in guidelines means that the Government have an opportunity to exempt such industries from the renewables obligation and small-scale feed-in tariffs. EEF and the British Ceramic Confederation make reference to the impact of those two taxes on their members. Industries also want the £250 million package moulded around the ETS and the CFP to be in place for the duration of the latter policy, until 2030, and they want the value of that compensation linked to the upwards trajectory, as my hon. Friend pointed out. The contract for difference worries energy-intensive industries, too. They look for comprehensive exemption for industries, so that they can remain competitive.

Finally, both the steel and ceramic sectors point out that the Government could do a great deal for their members if capital allowances were increased for a wider range of energy-efficient technologies, so that a much higher proportion of the green taxes raised went back into such investments. I could also make the point about including a wider range of industries in the state aid guidelines. It is incumbent on the Government to ensure that they make that case to the EU.

The Government face a bewildering range of choices. They ought to consider two more radical proposals before making up their mind. Perhaps we need a consolidation of all the taxes and levies, or to simplify the system in order to reduce the bureaucratic burden on our manufacturing companies and make it easier to work out what the cost burden should be and how best to compensate industries that are at risk of losing that competitive edge. Transparency and good environmental tax design could be achieved simply by revising and reforming the complexity of the current regime. I would like to hear the Minister’s comments on that.

Perhaps we could scrap the carbon floor price altogether—let us just get rid of it. It is a unilateral tax that is projected to pull in more than £2 billion for the Treasury by 2020, but it threatens to undermine the competitiveness of our key industries.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. I ask the hon. Lady to bring her remarks to a close.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Of course; thank you, Mr Robertson. The Minister needs to be clear today about the choices that the Government are prepared to make in response to the demands that I have just outlined. Indeed, the Chancellor needs to be clear in his autumn statement tomorrow that the political will to protect our energy intensive industries is there. We need to hear that. Our manufacturing base demands that. Industries deserve that. More than anything else, our country desperately needs to hear the Chancellor give us that message tomorrow, and the concrete proposals that will deliver a level playing field for energy intensive industries in the UK.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time with the previous speaker. I now impose a limit of seven minutes. That may go down, depending on interventions. I ask Government Members not to look at the clock opposite them for guidance, as it is not working.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South 10:07 am, 4th December 2013

Thank you, Mr Robertson. I will look at the clock behind my shoulder, or perhaps you will tell me when I am getting close to my limit.

I congratulate Paul Farrelly on securing the debate. I have been an MP for three years, and I have taken part in many debates on green jobs and how we were not moving fast enough on green subsidies. It is good to have a debate today on the 900,000 jobs in our economy in the chemicals, steel, cement and ceramics industries. I will mention one more industry, which is represented in my constituency: the aluminium industry. It, too, is affected by high energy prices. Furthermore, although intensive industry is affected most by high energy prices, all industry is affected. We are trying to rebalance the economy back towards manufacturing, and gross domestic product growth correlates to energy use, so it is nonsense to say that only intensive industry is affected.

We are not talking principally about industries moving abroad, although that does happen; we are talking about marginal decisions about investments that do not come to our country, but go somewhere else. That is much less obvious. When an investment goes to Wilmington in the United States, instead of Teesside, or to Germany, instead of this country, nothing necessarily closes, but we do not get the expansion that we might have.

Let us look at our competitive position vis-à-vis Asia, the United States and Europe. Historically, perhaps because of cheap labour costs, we have been used to some manufacturing moving to Asia, but we are now finding manufacturing moving to the United States and to Europe. That is far more worrying.

Turning to the US briefly, it is worth noting that US gas prices have fallen from $9 per million cubic feet to $3 per million cubic feet. That is utterly transformational. It is not the Government’s fault—it has nothing to do with taxes—but when something like that happens to an economy, there is a stark transformation. It affects feedstock prices for the chemicals industry and energy prices right across the piece. It has had a massive impact on the US’s competitiveness, relative to ours. Luckily, the US is a couple of thousand miles away, so the impact will not be felt quite so much as it would have been had it happened in Europe; but the shale gas revolution in the US is one of the most important events to have happened in global politics in the past decade. Members of this House who are tardy or reluctant to endorse us taking action on shale gas need to reflect on that fact.

A bigger and more worrying issue is the EU. Our big competitors are France and Germany, and we have already heard about the differential that is arising. The issue is not so much the differential today—some may disagree with me—as the direction of travel for all of us. We have talked a great deal about carbon targets since the Climate Change Act 2008. We are the only country that has carbon targets—no other country in Europe has the same degree of statutory enshrinement of carbon targets. That fact drives behaviour. We have seen that in the dismantling of the emissions trading system in Europe. To all intents and purposes, the carbon price in Europe is now €2 or €3 per tonne, but in the UK, due to the carbon price floor introduced in April, it is about €20 per tonne. That will be absolutely devastating. At the margin, power stations will go to Holland, which is now building coal stations, and supply us through interconnectors. I do not see where that gets us.

This is an issue for all industry, not just intensive industries. The Government have assigned £250 million to help intensive industries, but that will not be enough if we are going to give ourselves differentially high energy prices into the medium term. All of us in this place need to reflect on that. I do not want to cause discord between the two sides of the House, but we have a vote this afternoon on energy prices. Some of the Members asking today that we keep prices down—something I desperately want to do, both because of fuel poverty and for the reasons we have heard about industrial competiveness—have the chance to vote on an amendment brought forward by the Labour party in the House of Lords that asks that we accelerate the closure of coal-fired power stations in this country. In my opinion, that will have the direct impact of raising energy prices by between 3% and 5%. I see the Opposition Front Benchers are whispering to each other, so I may well be about to be told that the Labour party has decided not to support that amendment.

Photo of Tom Greatrex Tom Greatrex Shadow Minister (Energy)

On a point of fact, the amendment was from the Liberal Democrats. It will be interesting to see how they vote this afternoon.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information; whichever party brought the amendment forward, I am clean. I will not be supporting it, and I suspect that many of the people in the room are sympathetic to my petition. All I would say is that it is the official position of the Labour party that the remaining coal-fired stations in our country should be decommissioned on an accelerated basis, with all the costs that will incur for the industries we have been talking about. We should reflect on our debate this morning with regard to the debate this afternoon.

The decarbonisation target has a cost impact, as well. Nothing in the world is free. We have heard about PV tariffs; I went through the Division Lobby when the Government were reducing the subsidy for solar from six times grid parity to four times grid parity—a reasonable measure, but again, the Labour party divided on that. It is important to understand the impact of what we are voting for on fuel poverty and on the 900,000 jobs in these industries that we all care so much about.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

We have been sleepwalking into this situation for several years now. We have been driving energy prices up and up, and not only industry but domestic customers are paying for that. It is time we got overall energy prices down, not just for high users, but for everyone.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. To wrap up, in terms of our position on Europe, I believe we need to cut carbon. It is important, and I am not a sceptic on that stuff. My difficulty is with the idea that we have to cut carbon unilaterally. We are responsible for 1.5% of the world’s carbon emissions. We produce two thirds as much carbon as Germany per capita, and per unit of GDP. That is similar to Holland and lower than the average in the EU, yet we are pushing ahead with unilateral actions that come with a severe price. We need to think hard about that when we negotiate our way through this maze.

The points that have been made about complexity are absolutely spot on. The myriad complexities that have built up in the attempt to keep a diverse set of technologies available is really mindboggling.

I have put points to Labour Members about solar, about their party’s position on the decarbonisation target and about the opportunity this afternoon to vote according to their feelings on an amendment that would increase electricity prices further in the UK. I will also make a few points to the Minister, which he may wish to address. We should look at our tendency to act unilaterally, hemmed in as we are by the Climate Change Act and the fourth carbon budget and all that goes with it. I ask that we get away from EU directives on renewables and the rest. Yes, Germany is big on renewables, but it has far higher carbon emission levels than we do because it burns so much coal, and because it is building 10 more unabated coal-fired stations.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Is it not the case that Germany is having to rely on a greater amount of coal now, in the short term, in order—

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. We will move on to the next speaker.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:17 am, 4th December 2013

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Farrelly on securing this timely and important debate. The contributions so far have shown that this issue is important outside this place, for the communities that we serve and the future of our nation.

There has been a kind of renaissance in the cross-party consensus on the importance of manufacturing over the past few years. The current Government should share some of the congratulations on that renaissance, as should all politicians. However, when we look at the issue of how our energy intensive industries are being treated, it is ironic, because their treatment undermines that consensus. David Mowat has drawn attention to many of the dichotomies that we need to act on in that regard.

Foundational industries such as steel, glass and chemicals are crucial to a modern, balanced economy, and very much dominate the industrial scene in the part of the world that I represent. In Scunthorpe, Tata Steel, the UK’s largest steel maker, has just announced 500 more job losses, after announcing 1,800 in May 2011, so the issue of jobs is a live one. What Tata has said is exactly what my hon. Friend Angela Smith reported earlier: a comparison shows that UK energy costs are 70% higher than in Germany, and 45% higher than in France.

For someone sat in Mumbai making decisions about where to place investments, those figures are going to have an impact. It is crucial to take urgent action to ensure that that impact is not negative for the UK. Furthermore, as Member after Member has said, if we displace industry from the UK to places that are less energy efficient and less carbon friendly, we will increase the global carbon impact. That would be negative not just for the UK, but for the globe.

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Opposition Whip (Commons)

David Mowat spoke about the explosion of fracking in America leading to an increase in manufacturing there. My great fear is that the traditional gas markets in the middle east, particularly Qatar, will start making overtures to industry to move to the middle east to produce there, rather than wait for the west to import their gas.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

My hon. Friend makes an important point, which reminds us that we live in a global world with global decision makers and global impact. Tom Crotty, a director of INEOS, said:

“We are at a crisis point. We will not have an energy-intensive sector in this country in 20 years’ time” if action is not taken. Karl Koehler, chief executive of Tata Steel’s European operations said:

“Our…manufacturing plants face electricity costs that are… 50 per cent higher than our key competitors in France and Germany…If the chancellor wants an industrial recovery and to rebalance the economy he must show real commitment to fair energy costs for foundation industries such as steel.”

The carbon floor tax is an interesting case study. It is a unilateral tax on manufacturing introduced by the coalition Government. They announced in 2010 that it would be introduced in 2013, and in 2011 gave a commitment to a package of support for energy intensive industries. In October 2012, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills consulted on it, and it has now come into effect, but there is still no time scale for when compensation or mitigation will be in place because the carbon floor tax mitigation proposals are stuck in Europe. One would have thought that that would be checked out before we went down that route. Industry needs to be confident about when that mitigation will come into effect.

I have the highest regard for the Energy Secretary because he is on the side of manufacturing and wants the foundation industries to succeed, but in a written answer the Minister said that

“£16 million has been paid to 17 companies.”—[Hansard, 5 November 2013; Vol. 570, c. 142W.]

However, in a later written answer, he said that applications were still being considered, implying that nothing had been paid out. Last week, he said in answer to a question that 20 companies had had monies paid out. There is still a bit of confusion about what exactly is happening. He is brandishing sheets of paper, which are probably complex but clarify the matter.

That demonstrates the fact that the landscape is confusing and complex. The carbon floor tax has been unilaterally imposed. There is no sign yet of any mitigation there. The mitigation of the European trading scheme seems to be trickling out. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge said, the issue of most concern to steel makers involves the renewables obligation and we need to ensure that that is addressed. The danger is that, if mitigation is not put in place, the current renewables obligation will be catastrophic to foundational industries in the UK.

What needs to happen next? We must maximise efforts to achieve state aid clearance on the carbon floor tax, to move to compensation or to implement quickly interim measures to give confidence to investors and our manufacturing base. We must extend the time horizon of the package, which is currently three years. Investment horizons in industries such as steel extend for decades. The principle of long-term certainty is accepted by the

Government and Opposition for support schemes for low carbon generation. We need the same sort of long-term certainty for these investments.

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour Paul Farrelly for securing this debate. In terms of the long-term vision, energy issues are important, but it was not that long ago that jobs, particularly in the ceramics industry in north Staffordshire, were being lost abroad not because of energy costs, but because of labour costs. Should we not look at the issue in the round and take all aspects into account?

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

Absolutely. I am aware, Mr Robertson, that other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate, so I will close by reinforcing the need for urgent action now. The autumn statement tomorrow provides a real opportunity for the Chancellor to deliver support for our foundational industries so that they are here today, here tomorrow and can be a confident part of our future.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. I am sorry that I must reduce the time for the last two speakers to six minutes each. I call Neil Parish.

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. I called the wrong speaker. Did you stand up, Mr Parish?

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Conservative, Tiverton and Honiton

Yes. As you called me, Mr Robertson, I thought I would hold forth.

Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 10:26 am, 4th December 2013

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his quick-witted response to your invitation to speak, Mr Robertson. May I add my congratulations to Paul Farrelly on securing this important debate? He made a strong case in support of energy intensive ceramic industries in his constituency. I want to speak about an energy intensive industry in my constituency and to refer to the packaging industry.

My constituency has a company that has manufactured cement for more than 150 years. It was originally called Rugby Cement, but is now operated by CEMEX. It is one of the largest plants of its kind and the most recently erected in the UK, involving total investment of around £200 million. It is operated by one the world’s largest producers of cement.

Energy costs for cement manufacturers takes up to 40% of gross value added, of which electricity is a significant part, but not in this instance the primary source of heat. In contrast with steel, aluminium and ceramics, the primary heat source in cement manufacture has traditionally been coal, but it is now increasingly alternative fuel, often derived from waste, ensuring that waste is put to good use instead of going to landfill. In that way, it contributes a significant environmental benefit.

The electricity is used in the process of grinding the clinker to create cement powder, in the movement of various materials in the plant and the blending process to create different varieties of cement products, and finally in the bagging of the finished product for transportation and sale. Therefore, significant amounts of electricity are used.

Before coming to this place, I spent 30 years in the packaging industry and I find myself chair of the all-party group on the packaging and manufacturing industry. It represents companies involved in the manufacture of paper, board, aluminium, plastics and particularly glass packaging. We have heard from hon. Members about the impact of electricity prices on the manufacture of glass and I will refer particularly to that used for bottles and jars. Manufacturers of cement and packaging have seen significant increases in the cost of energy. The British Glass Manufacturing Confederation has referred to a 14% increase in the past 12 months.

That increase has arisen partly as a consequence of the Government’s objectives on climate change and carbon dioxide emissions. Hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber today have recognised that the present and previous Administrations have gone too far and imposed an excessive burden on those manufacturers. The present Government have recognised that in their action to exempt the most energy intensive industries from that burden. The announcement by the Energy Minister in July this year was welcomed by many energy intensive industries as a start and a move in the right direction. I am sure, across the Chamber, that we hope the Minister will tell us that the Government will be able to go further. However, there are significant concerns that some industries have not benefited—cement and packaging fall into this category—because they are not eligible for the compensation that has been announced.

Both sectors have made representations that electricity costs in the UK are significantly higher than in other countries, and increasingly, manufacturers are multinational, with plant across the world. CEMEX, for instance, is a multinational producer, and it knows exactly what it costs to produce a kilo of cement at any location in the world. It is able to calculate where the most cost-efficient location is and a concern, which has again been expressed across the Chamber, is that if we are not able to provide additional forms of support in terms of energy costs, manufacturing will migrate to overseas plants rather than taking place in the UK. It will be an absolute tragedy if, as our economy recovers and turns the corner, our manufacturers are not able to take advantage of the growth in the economy and of the additional effect that that will have on UK employment.

That is particularly important in respect of the cement industry, because construction has been in a difficult place over the past five years. I am told that the supply chain is starting to see a renaissance and increased levels of activity, and I very much hope that our UK-based manufacturers will benefit from that resurgence. I hope that the Minister will be able to provide reassurance today to Members across the Chamber about the work that the Government will do to support our energy intensive industries.

Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Minister (Wales) 10:31 am, 4th December 2013

I rise to speak as the secretary of the all-party parliamentary group for the steel and metal related industry and because steel is an extremely important industry in my constituency, which has 19% of its employment in manufacturing—considerably higher than the UK average. Steel and a lot of related metal industries and the automotive industry are extremely important to me.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Paul Farrelly on securing the debate, and I would particularly like to congratulate my hon. Friend Angela Smith on her contribution. I shall try not to repeat her comments, given the shortage of time, but I would like to endorse everything she said.

Although huge efforts have been made over the years to improve energy efficiency, with steel production now being 40% more efficient than it was in 1975, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find additional savings. It becomes harder and harder, and one thing I have asked the Government before—and ask them again—is to take another look at such things as enhanced capital allowances and renewable heat incentives in order to try to recognise and incentivise increased efficiency measures and better use of resources. In the long term, I think we also need to raise that issue as part of the EU emissions trading scheme, because when companies have really made a huge effort to make massive improvements, which is obviously helping us all globally to get emissions down, we need to try to recognise that.

Tata and many other steel manufacturers already recycle waste products in their factories and reuse a lot of the heat that they produce. Of course, metals are highly recyclable substances, and, again, those are the sorts of things that we should be supporting. However, it is a highly competitive world and we know that if we want to see UK-produced steel products and other products used in UK infrastructure, we have to get the price right.

On the use of UK products, I really would like the Government to move forward with the idea of targets for percentages of local content in big infrastructure projects, and to look again at developing criteria on local economic benefits in assessing tenders for major projects. That has been done elsewhere in Europe, so it is not impossible to do it and still keep within European regulations. This is very important, and we could report how much local content was used, which would really flag up how much we think it matters that UK products are used in UK infrastructure. However, none of that can happen unless we get a competitive price. We must have a competitive price or we cannot even get out of the starting blocks on tendering for any UK infrastructure projects.

Energy is a major component cost, costing Tata Steel some £300 million last year. That is a huge bill. If we take a conservative estimate and say that energy costs are 60% more than in Germany—some colleagues have quoted 70%—the difference even then can amount to more than 10% of the product price. That is the difference between people being able to sell their product and not being able to. It makes a massive difference to competitiveness, and it is virtually impossible to offset that type of competitive disadvantage.

As we know, the carbon price floor is a unilateral tax. It was introduced in the UK and now we are in a muddle, trying to sort out the state aid rules in order to give help, whereas if it had not been imposed in the first place, we would not have to try and get the mitigation measure. The carbon price floor is a major disadvantage, putting us at a considerable competitive disadvantage as compared with places like Germany and the Netherlands—we are not talking about cheap labour countries, but comparable countries in Europe.

Having said that, even if the state aid rules are sorted out, the rebate will only be 80%, so there is still an outstanding 20% that we will not be able to get. In addition, the renewables obligation is double what the Government’s mitigation measures will give back, so there is a real need to have a complete review of the whole green tax issue—of the complexity, as has been mentioned, and of the fact that the renewables obligation is what seems to be causing the most difficulty. I ask the Government to have a real look at the cost differential between the UK and elsewhere in Europe, which arises from the renewables obligation. As has been mentioned, the costs in other countries are something like 50 euro cents per megawatt-hour, whereas here we are looking at £10.50 per megawatt-hour. That sort of difference is creating a huge problem for our manufacturing industry.

I ask the Government to look at the whole issue—at the interplay of all these taxes. What we are saying today is that it is about the cumulative impact. It is about looking at the whole picture of all the different elements of the green taxes, not because the industries are against them but because the industries want a level playing field and for the system to work for everyone across Europe equally.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 10:37 am, 4th December 2013

As ever, it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend Paul Farrelly on securing this very important debate.

The Minister has been asked a number of questions, and a number of comments have been made to him by Members on both sides. Many have been from those who represent constituencies where these issues are very important, so I shall limit my contribution in order to give the Minister enough time to reply. There is no point in repeating all the arguments that have been made very well. Many key concerns are coming through regarding the tax system for energy intensive industries. I want to highlight one of the comments made by my hon. Friend Angela Smith: she called for clarity and pointed out that energy intensive industries support a well designed system of taxation and understand the need to decarbonise. I do not think the two things are contradictory, but one issue that most speakers have mentioned is the complex nature of the tax system and related issues. I would be very pleased if the Minister commented on those things.

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

I want to make a very brief point—I am sure you would pull me up if I did otherwise, Mr Robertson. Are we not missing some of the wider implications? Germany has been mentioned time and again, but the way in which Germany is operating its system, getting rid of the monopolies and concentrating on local, not-for-profit providers, is completely different. That is the issue, really. It is about a fundamental root-and-branch review of how we do things, so that we do not have the six monopolies, but actually have a different way of doing things.

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

We can always learn from how other countries do things, although one of the things about Germany that is not publicised much is that it imports much of its nuclear energy from the Czech Republic, which is what sometimes leads to its cheaper prices.

I would like to comment on some of the things that have been said about the importance of our manufacturing industry, because manufacturing is a key part of our coming out of recession and moving into economic growth. It is not only something that this country should be very proud of historically as, moving forward, we are at the cutting edge of some of the best manufacturing in the world. I personally feel very strongly about that and I am pleased that a number of hon. Members have talked about its importance to our economy.

There are concerns that the carbon floor price, which was introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, imposes an additional burden on energy intensive industries and hampers our competitiveness. It is also on an upward trajectory: it is going up year on year. It was increased again in last year’s Finance Bill. Neil Parish is no longer present, but he talked about the carbon floor price being a green tax. It is important to state on the record that the carbon floor price tax is entirely a revenue-raising tax; it goes to the Chancellor.

We cannot afford to end up in a situation in which the carbon floor price damages energy intensive industries while at the same time achieves a weak carbon-abatement effect. It is important to take a sector-by-sector approach. The issues inherent in and the support required by the ceramics industry, for example, may not be quite the same as those in the steel industry.

I am particularly pleased that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Michael Fallon, will provide the response on behalf of the Government, because I am sure that he will be able to provide some clarity on where he stands on the carbon floor price. Earlier this year, before he became an Energy Minister, he called the carbon floor price

“a fairly absurd waste of your money”, before going on incidentally to announce that it had been introduced by Labour, although as I have said, it was introduced by the present Government in 2011. I would be interested to know where the Minister stands now on that statement. How can he square it with his support for the carbon floor price?

It is vital that we keep British industry competitive while decarbonising its activity. Much more work is needed, in conjunction with energy intensive industries, to develop a plan for how to achieve that.

Photo of Tom Blenkinsop Tom Blenkinsop Opposition Whip (Commons)

I want to raise an important point in relation to the need for a plan. Today we have heard that Lotte at Wilton has announced that it is to close a plant, with the loss of 70 jobs, in the area next to my constituency. I remember when that plant went into administration in 2009 and NEPIC, the North East of England Process Industry Cluster, under the regional development agency, got Lotte, a South Korean company, in to purchase the plant and it got going again in April 2010. What we want, as my hon. Friend Robert Flello said, is a rounded—all-round—plan in relation to how regions function, what type of regional investment we have and what—

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I thank my hon. Friend Tom Blenkinsop for his comments. He gives another example of how missed the regional development agency is in the north-east—in our region.

It is right that the Government are taking steps to help energy intensive industries that must adapt to the EU emissions trading system and the carbon floor price. We do not want to see the UK’s carbon emissions just shifted overseas. However, if we are to meet our emissions targets and avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to reduce those industries’ carbon emissions.

Energy intensive industries are an important part of our economy, accounting for 4% of gross value added, and 125,000 people are employed by them directly or in their supply chains. Many energy intensive industries are at the forefront of the low-carbon economy, producing the mechanisms that we need to develop our low-carbon industries. That was set out in great detail by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge. However, like all sectors of our economy, this one must decarbonise if we are to meet our crucial emissions targets. The transition to low-carbon power generation will keep energy prices down in the long run. The alternative is to remain at the whim of unpredictable yet ever rising gas and electricity prices.

As the EEF, which was formerly the Engineering Employers Federation, has pointed out, if the Government were serious about the transition to a low-carbon economy, with innovation and green jobs at the centre of that transition, they would be supporting research and development. We question why research and development on energy as a percentage of Government R and D spending is comfortably less than the OECD average. However, the bigger problem is the Government’s counter-productive, counter-science and counter-business decision not to adopt a 2030 power sector decarbonisation target, which was supported by the EEF, which represents many companies in this area. That decision, or rather non-decision, is scaring away investment, costing green jobs and jeopardising our future energy security.

Photo of David Mowat David Mowat Conservative, Warrington South

The hon. Lady mentions that the 2030 decarbonisation target was supported by many companies in this sector. Could she name the energy intensive companies in this sector that support that target?

Photo of Julie Elliott Julie Elliott Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Actually, I did not say that; I said that the target was supported by the EEF, which represents many companies in this sector.

The Government need to be clearer on how they will provide support for energy intensive industries. In his autumn statement, in November 2011, the Chancellor announced that measures would be introduced to reduce the impact of the Government’s electricity market reform policies on energy intensive industries. My hon. Friend Nic Dakin set out many of the issues in this area. That announcement was made almost two years ago, yet energy intensive industries still have very little detail on how that will work in practice. Perhaps the Minister can enlighten us on that today.

I understand that the Government concluded their consultation on the exemption eligibility for contracts for difference costs in August. What progress has been made since that time? Exemption costs for contracts for difference will be collected through the “supplier obligation”. Can the Minister provide some more detail on that obligation?

I would not dream of asking the Minister to pre-empt what might be revealed in the autumn statement, but if it is the Government’s intention to introduce further compensation, could he provide an update on the Government’s negotiations with the European Commission, when he or his officials last met representatives of the Commission to discuss this matter, when he expects to receive a final decision, and whether there is a plan B in the event that state aid is not granted?

To conclude, I hope that the Minister understands the difficulties that many energy intensive industries are facing with the current tax regime and that he will listen to the concerns raised by hon. Members. I am sure that he will be acting to make changes in the near future. I also hope that he would agree with me that the single best way to reduce energy costs for intensive users is to give further support to low-carbon technologies, which provide the best solution to keeping costs down in the long run.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills , Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change 10:47 am, 4th December 2013

I am very grateful to Julie Elliott for giving me a little extra time to enable me to try to respond to some of the very good points made in the debate. I hope that, if I do not respond to them all, hon. Members will allow me to write to them on the points that I have missed out.

This has been a good debate. It has not just been a good-natured debate. I think that it has been a reasonably constructive debate and it is certainly a very important debate. I congratulate Paul Farrelly on instigating the debate and attracting such a good attendance on both sides of the House. He raised a number of points. He asked about our engagement with the industry. He will know that last month I met Staffordshire Members with the British Ceramic Confederation. I have also met representatives of BASF, which he specifically mentioned, to hear their particular concerns. We are always ready in the Department to continue to meet representatives of those industries that are most affected.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of gas storage. I know that he disagrees with our decision not to subsidise large-scale storage reservoirs, but there are fast-cycle gas storage plants being completed. Two have been completed already. Two more are due to be completed next year. That will double our gas deliverability. I do not accept that the decision not to subsidise gas storage makes any major contribution to that particular debate.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the position of refractory ceramics. My officials have visited some of those electricity intensive sites, and we are considering the case for including them within the carbon price floor compensation. He tempted me to speculate, in advance of the autumn statement, on the carbon price floor. I simply cannot do that. The carbon price floor is a matter for the Treasury, as he knows. What I can say is that, obviously, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is very much aware of concerns across industry about the level and the trajectory of the carbon price floor, and we certainly ensure that our views are known in the Treasury.

Angela Smith made several points. She compared prices with those in France, but I ask her to reflect on the fact that France enjoys a huge amount of base load nuclear power. I hope that she will welcome the decision to replace our nuclear fleet and to invest in such base load nuclear power, a decision that was too long delayed. She also made some important points about simplifying the schemes. I am completely with her on that, and I will refer in a moment to what we have done in that regard.

My hon. Friend David Mowat reminded us of the need to be competitive, and he spoke of the success of shale in the United States. I reassure him that we are encouraging the search for shale in the United Kingdom. A dozen companies are prospecting, and more applications to drill are coming in. I expect the search for shale to accelerate over the next few months. He usefully reminded us that we all bear responsibility for the way in which we vote in this House, and several of us have voted in favour of climate change objectives. Indeed, we have the opportunity this afternoon to vote down an amendment that would increase energy prices for industry and business.

Nic Dakin asked me about the working of the ETS compensation scheme, which has paid out some £18 million to 29 companies, including Tata Steel, in respect of several plants in the constituencies of hon. Members who are present: the hon. Members for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Tom Blenkinsop), for Scunthorpe, for Central Ayrshire (Mr Donohoe), for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Tom Greatrex), for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) and for Penistone and Stocksbridge, and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South. Those payments are flowing. They are backdated to January, and they will be made quarterly from now on. I will say a little more about the working of the scheme in a moment.

My hon. Friend Mark Pawsey championed the cement industry in his constituency, as I would expect him to. We recognise the pressures that that industry faces, which is why we have announced the exemption for mineralogical and metallurgical processes from the climate change levy. We are examining the case for the inclusion of cement and some ceramics—those that have come forward with evidence—in carbon floor price compensation.

The hon. Member for Llanelli spoke about energy efficiency, which is extremely important, and she also made an important point about local content. It is our intention to require, under contracts for difference, supply chain plans in respect of major contracts. Not only will that make those involved examine how they can drive up local content, but it will enable us to see more clearly where the local content is. I hope that she will welcome that measure.

The hon. Member for Sunderland Central suggested that the failure to set a decarbonisation target was somehow delaying investment. The House voted down the setting of a decarbonisation target in June, since when we have seen a wave of investment: not only the signing of the first new nuclear station in a generation but the introduction of a series of projects under our intermediate FID-enabling regime. She asked me what we were doing in respect of the Commission. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with the Commissioner. My right hon. Friend and I regularly go to Brussels to pursue cases such as CPF compensation, and we try to build support among other member states.

The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge made one of the most important points of all, namely, that there is a balance to be struck between green taxes, which the House has generally supported under successive Governments and which some of us have voted for, and ensuring the competitiveness of our industries. That can be a difficult balance to strike, and we are tackling it in two principal ways. We are helping to incentivise energy efficiency in industry and households, which several hon. Members described as important, and we are helping to relieve some of the short-term pressures on industry.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee

Does the Minister agree that climate change agreements are an important way to incentivise clean power and meet decarbonisation targets?

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills , Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

I agree with that, and I will come on to climate change agreements later. The Government cannot control the volatility of global fossil fuel prices, but we can help industry to exploit energy efficiency potential, which will reduce the impact of rising prices. Some of our incentives are financial ones. The climate change levy is a tax on business energy use, and the EU emissions trading system is a cap-and-trade mechanism based on the level of emissions of energy intensive industries. The scheme is forecast to save the equivalent of 3,100 megatonnes of CO2 by 2020. To complement the EU ETS, we have a domestic scheme, the carbon reduction commitment energy efficiency scheme, which targets large non-energy intensive organisations. That is predicted to save the equivalent of 4,800 gigawatt-hours per year, which is greater than the annual energy use of all households in Manchester.

In addition to those financial incentives, we are working to incentivise industry through several other mechanisms. Climate change agreements, which Joan Walley referred to, are aimed specifically at energy intensive industries. They provide a discount on the climate change levy of 90% for electricity and 65% for gas, in exchange for commitments to achieve energy efficiency. She is right to remind us that they are a good example of an area in which Government and industry can work together to agree achievable objectives. More than 50 energy intensive sectors have negotiated agreements under the latest phase of the scheme, which are expected to result in an 11% energy efficiency improvement across participating sectors by 2020. Looking ahead, we have recently consulted on the new energy savings opportunity scheme, which will help larger businesses to identify energy efficiency measures that will result in average bill savings of £50,000 to £60,000 per year. Subject to legislation, the first audits under the scheme will be undertaken by December 2015.

The second leg of our reforms is the recognition of the competitiveness problems faced by some industries as a result of their energy costs, which lies at the heart of today’s debate. Rising electricity prices are a real concern for many businesses, which see them as a barrier to growth. The commitments to tackling climate change that the House has voted through have contributed to increases in those bills. That is why we have set aside up to £400 million to offset some of the costs of energy and climate change policies for the most energy intensive industries.

As we move to a low carbon economy, it is vital to ensure that the more energy intensive industries are not placed at a competitive disadvantage in Europe or across the world, and they are not forced to consider relocating to other countries. Not only would that have a negative impact on our economy, but it might result in our exporting emissions to countries that are not strongly committed to cutting carbon emissions. Many energy intensive businesses are located in areas that have been hit hard by the economic downturn, so we have to ensure that we give them the best support available.

I have spoken about the energy contingency scheme. We continue to engage closely with the Commission on the carbon floor price in order to obtain the necessary state clearance. Both packages are aimed specifically at the electro-intensive industries. It is important to highlight—

Photo of John Robertson John Robertson Labour, Glasgow North West

Order. We must move on to the next debate.