Ceramic and Brick Industries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:29 pm on 15th June 2016.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 4:29 pm, 15th June 2016

Absolutely. The hon. Gentleman makes a very valuable point. In any discussion about business, it is always worth reminding ourselves that it is not only the one business that matters but all the other businesses that feed into it, be it businesses that work with kilns, businesses that provide paint brushes or businesses that do a whole host of other things. Also, there are all the other businesses, which are often family businesses, around the area, which perhaps provide sandwiches or other things for the people working in all these companies.

However, the ceramics industry is approaching a worrying period of uncertainty. The European Commission published its legislative proposals for the emissions trading system phase 4 in July 2015. These proposals cover the period from 2021 to 2030 and propose a target of achieving at least a 40% reduction in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. The key issue for ceramics within the EU ETS proposals is carbon leakage, notably the evaluation of industries so that they are deemed either at risk or not at risk of it. Some sectors are likely to meet the proposed carbon leakage quantitative threshold, but the situation for other sectors, mainly the heavy clay industries and particularly those that produce bricks, clay roof tiles and clay pipes, is less clearcut, which is why I felt there was a need for this debate.

The UK Government recently announced their position on the EU ETS phase 4 and suggested that free allowances should be focused on only a handful of sectors, with other sectors receiving a lower-tiered proportion. The ceramics industry is extremely concerned by this tiering proposal, as ceramic manufacturing sites would need to purchase significantly more allowances. Indeed, it is predicted that heavy clay producers such as those in my constituency would have to buy all their carbon allowance after 2027. A number of ceramic manufacturers have said that that charge alone is likely to exceed their profits.

As part of its Ceramic EARTH campaign, the British Ceramic Confederation has used figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change to estimate that UK heavy clay construction product manufacturers will pay more than £40 million by 2030 under this proposal, which equates to almost £1 million per year per factory on average.

Clearly this situation concerns me and many other people, because businesses, jobs and investment are at stake. Therefore, I ask the Minister to continue to look at this proposal, which is for a system that supports only a few energy-intensive industries at the expense of many others. I genuinely fear that the UK proposal will burden businesses with very high extra costs. In fact, energy costs and climate-related taxes already make up around 30% of a brick maker’s production costs, and I fear that this proposal will only add to the issues that they face.

I am sure that others in Westminster Hall today are aware that there is a growing demand for housing in this country—we often discuss and debate it in the Chamber. Construction of houses is at an eight-year high and therefore the demand for materials is growing too. Brick is the most popular cladding material for building walls, with over 80% of new homes using bricks. Brick is unmatched for its durability, low maintenance costs, aesthetics and lifetime sustainability.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting one of the brick factories in my constituency and it was an inspiration to follow the production of bricks, from the clay pit behind the factory all the way through to the finished product at the end. It was only when I stood on top of the huge kiln that I really appreciated just how much energy goes into such large kilns to produce bricks for us.