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Low-carbon Technologies

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 31 March 2011

2. What steps he is taking to promote expenditure on the manufacture of low-carbon technologies in each region. (49965)

The Government are supporting a range of projects across the country including offshore wind, nuclear manufacturing, low-carbon vehicles and marine energy.

It is self-evident that if every part of this country is to take advantage of the strong future in low-carbon technologies, we need investment in skills and research and, of course, access to finance. We heard some platitudes in answer to the first set of questions from the Minister’s colleague, but will the Minister tell us in hard terms what will be done to ensure that young people get those skills, that we have the research and that we have access to a finance system that knows that technologies north of Watford are worth investing in?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to what the Budget set out very clearly last week, but let me give him the tangible example he requests. The technology innovation centre for advanced manufacturing is designed specifically to ensure that clusters where we have excellence can be enabled. It will help Rotherham, Coventry, Sedgefield, Bristol, Strathclyde and Redcar. I hope he welcomes that support.

Given the consultation on changes to feed-in tariffs and the effect it might have had on decisions about solar investment, will the Minister work with his colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change to examine what might be done to consider alternative ways of stimulating the manufacturing and assembly of solar equipment in this country?

Solar power is important and I am well aware that it is of paramount importance in Cornwall. We are working with our ministerial colleagues, but I would welcome any contribution from my hon. Friend.

We are about to enter a new financial year, so will the Minister take the opportunity to reconsider the Government’s denial of the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters that the Labour Government planned to boost our position in civil nuclear trade? More broadly, will he confirm that the Government are still committed to a new generation of nuclear power stations, given the awful unfolding tragedy in Japan and the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister to journalists?

Our commitment is clear and the right hon. Gentleman knows exactly where the Government stand. We have debated the question of affordability and Sheffield Forgemasters before, but I would say to the right hon. Gentleman and to Labour Members that we have the regional growth fund and we have worked with a range of businesses, including the business to which he refers, and we are happy to ensure that they have the chance to bid for that money as that part of the fund develops.