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Energy-intensive Industries

Volume 533: debated on Thursday 20 October 2011

14. What information Ministers in his Department gathered on the policies of other countries on maintaining the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries during recent visits to Europe. (75597)

My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), visited Germany last month to see at first hand how German policy on the competitiveness of energy-intensive industries is put into practice. My officials are also working with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Treasury to prepare a package of measures for the most affected energy-intensive businesses, which we plan to announce before the end of the year.

Does the Minister agree that the German experience shows that it is possible to adopt both a strong commitment to moving towards a low-carbon economy and a comprehensive range of measures that protect the competitiveness of energy-intensive sectors? Will he take steps to ensure that the mitigating strategies that the Government will announce this autumn benefit not just the larger companies, but smaller energy-intensive companies such as those in the ceramics sector, which can help to rebalance the economy?

Let me begin by thanking the hon. Gentleman for the work that he is doing in the all-party group that he leads. It is extremely valuable to the whole sector. There must be a balance between moving in a low-carbon direction and ensuring that successful businesses are not driven abroad, and the measures on which we are working with BIS and the Treasury are intended to strike that balance. If those companies simply moved overseas, we lost the jobs and they continued to emit carbon in the same way, there would be no net gain for the world climate—or, indeed, the UK economy.

I am pleased that the Minister recognises the concerns of energy-intensive industries such as those involved in packaging manufacture and CEMEX, in my constituency, which manufactures cement. CEMEX faces a £20 million bill for complying with carbon legislation, which is causing concern about the viability of its UK plant. Will the Minister do all he can to ensure that UK manufacturing industry is not placed at a competitive disadvantage?

Let me reassure my hon. Friend that we regularly meet representatives of industry and industry groups to ensure that we understand the full range of concerns. The work currently being done across Government is designed to ensure that we first understand where the challenges and threats are coming from, and then introduce sensible measures to protect companies of important national and strategic interest. I think that that strikes the right balance, but we are always keen to receive representations from Members on both sides of the House about specific constituency issues.