Ceramic and Brick Industries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 15th June 2016.

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Photo of Margaret Ferrier Margaret Ferrier Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Scotland Office) 5:05 pm, 15th June 2016

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope. I congratulate Wendy Morton on bringing forward this very important debate. She spoke of the 20,000 people employed in these heavy industries, which generate £2 billion-worth of sales and exports worldwide. Interestingly, she said that ceramics, clay and coal mining have been in her constituency since the 19th century.

I, too, have a ceramics business based in my constituency. Having visited to Raeburn Brick and listened to its concerns, I feel obliged to speak up for it in this place. It is Scotland’s only remaining clay brick company, and makes 15% of the bricks used in Scotland. When I was doing some research earlier, I noted some of the names of the bricks, including Jacobite, Livingstone, MacKintosh Smooth, Holyrood Buff and Orkney Buff—very interesting. It uses clays won locally in west central Scotland.

I am familiar with many of the issues that the industry faces. As a member of the Scottish steel taskforce, I have listened to a wealth of evidence from many different sources about the problems that our energy-intensive industries face. We all recognise that the road ahead is not easy, and the industries acknowledge that there are serious and significant challenges. The ceramics and brickmaking industry is an important part of Scotland’s manufacturing heritage.

Ruth Smeeth raised the issue of EU support and funding during Prime Minister’s questions, and it is important that we recognise the vital role that the European Union plays.

Throughout the steel crisis, the Scottish National party consistently called on the UK business sector to bring forward a comprehensive and revised industrial strategy for heavy industry in the UK. That is more crucial than ever if we are to guarantee the long-term sustainability of the ceramics industry and other heavy industries in the UK.

Although the SNP Government in Scotland support energy-intensive industries, they recognise that energy efficiency and clean energy are the key to meeting our ambitious climate change targets and contributing to long-term and sustainable economic growth. We are well on our way. In fact, this week it was announced that Scotland has exceeded our 2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 42% six years early. The transition to a lower-carbon economy is not easy. The challenge is that the payback on such investments is often achieved in the long term, so we need strong leadership, technical expertise and access to appropriate finance. We also need to support manufacturers that are taking a lead by adopting and investing in energy-saving measures, as Raeburn Brick is doing. We need a proactive response that engages constructively with the industry. Ceramics cannot be allowed to slump into crisis before the Government are willing to respond.

Many Members made very interesting points. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills said that we have to achieve a 40% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. That means companies in her constituency will have to purchase more allowances, at a cost of £40 million between now and 2027, which equates to £1 million per year per factory, she said.

It is important to support all heavy industry. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough spoke up for clay pipe making in her constituency—