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Green Investment

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 9 June 2011

9. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on economic growth of green investment; and if he will make a statement. (57785)

The green economy will make a major contribution in the longer term to economic growth, because of the stimulus it provides to demand in green activities. However, energy-intensive industries are also an important part of our economy.

The Secretary of State referred in his answer to the contribution that traditional heavy industries such as the Clydebridge steelworks in my constituency, which manufactures significant components of offshore wind turbines, can make to green investment. However, given his comments, what reassurances can he give to the House that the introduction of measures such as the carbon floor price will not disadvantage energy-intensive industries, which could have a significant effect on green growth in the economy?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to that problem. I have had extensive discussions with the steel industry, and also with the ceramics and chemicals industries, which can be affected by precisely that problem. My colleague the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made it clear in his recent statement that we are looking at a package of measures, in consultation with industry, that will hopefully help it to deal with the higher costs of electricity.

The Secretary of State recently announced the green investment bank, but obviously the capitalisation amounts are very small. Will he assure the House that small companies in Thirsk, Malton and elsewhere will qualify for capital loans from the green investment bank?

I would not regard £3 billion as a small capitalisation—it is very substantial, and hopefully it will mobilise an additional £15 billion in this Parliament from the private sector. There is a question over how we develop the capacity of that bank, but the hon. Lady is right that we must take account of the ability of small companies to participate in the supply chains of the big bids that will undoubtedly be made under the GIB proposals.

Our embryonic solar power industry has huge concerns about the Government’s current policy on feed-in tariffs. If the Minister cannot assure me that he has consulted industry representatives, will he consult them?

I have had consultations with the industry, although of course the primary responsibility rests with my colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change. There is a particular problem with the large-scale solar power suppliers because of the subsidy element and the ability of Government to continue to support it, but certainly small-scale solar providers are helped under the feed-in tariff arrangements and we are looking at the wider implications for the industry.

Does the Secretary of State share my concern that the large-scale bioethanol plant in my constituency has been taken offline for a number of months, and will he do everything that he can to support the anti-dumping action being taken by the bioethanol industry? Will he also ensure that the Department for Transport does not repeat the mistakes of the previous Government in dragging its feet on implementing renewable fuel obligations?

My colleague has been assiduous in supporting this important activity in his constituency. I am well aware of the problem, which is low-cost ethanol coming from the United States and apparent dumping practices—although that remains to be established. I have made representations to the European Union, which of course deals with trade policy matters, to ensure that this is properly dealt with under our trade policy instruments.