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Feed-in Tariffs (Consultation)

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 1 December 2011

7. What representations he has received on the length of time allocated to his consultation on feed-in tariffs for solar PV; and if he will make a statement. (83968)

The Department has received a number of representations in response to our proposals to reduce feed-in tariffs for solar PV, including the length of time allocated to our consultation. The consultation closes on Friday 23 December. Detailed information on the representations will be provided in the Government’s response to the consultation in January.

Is the Minister aware that many people who have given up their jobs or borrowed money from banks to invest in this area stand to lose out? What does he intend to do about that?

We intend to put the industry back on a sustainable path to growth, far more in line with the projections that were made by the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change who is now the Leader of the Opposition. We need a scheme that supports the industry but does not impose burdens unnecessarily on hard-pressed consumers.

Will my hon. Friend explain why the cut-off date of 12 December for new projects to be accepted at the current feed-in tariff is different from the consultation end date of 23 December? Why the two-week gap?

The reference date of 12 December is what we are consulting on, but the changes that we are proposing would not actually kick in until the beginning of April. We had to choose a date that we thought fair to allow people who had contracts in the pipeline to complete those contracts, but without allowing sufficient time for people to enter the market who were not already engaged in the process, and we chose April.

We all know that the Government’s consultation, which will last half the normal length of time and close after the cuts have already come into effect, is a sham. Because of the Government’s rushed changes to the feed-in tariff, which go too far, too fast, thousands of jobs are at risk. Last night, 4,500 staff at Carillion were warned that their jobs could go, but this morning the Secretary of State told the “Today” programme that he did not recognise that estimate, and that the cuts and job losses that he will cause were just a “sensible course correction”. Does the Minister believe that causing unemployment on that scale is a price worth paying?

It is so interesting how the right hon. Lady comes to the House with such inconsistent messages. One moment she wants to protect the consumer, the next she wants to push high costs on to consumer bills without a thought for the fuel-poor. The fact is that we are doing our best to contain a bubble caused by the ineffective scheme that her Government set up. We will put the industry back on a sustainable footing and do the right thing by the consumers whom she has conveniently forgotten.

Sorry excuses for a disastrous policy. I think it is 60p on an annual bill—in fact, in answer to a parliamentary question last week we were told that it was only 21p on the annual bill from 2010 to 2011. The fact is that the Minister’s cuts will hit families trying to protect themselves from soaring energy bills, put thousands of jobs and businesses in jeopardy and give the lie to the Government’s promise to be the greenest Government ever.

Last week, we read reports in the press about a meeting in the Minister’s Department between officials and the solar industry, in which officials said that the cuts to feed-in tariffs were part of a deliberate policy to kill off the solar industry. Will he come clean today and say that that is not his policy? If not, even at the eleventh hour and despite the damage that has been done, will he change course to enable solar to be put on a real sustainable footing for the future?

I think this ridiculous scaremongering is quite disgraceful. The right hon. Lady wants to talk up the problem and talk down the industry, and this pathetic attempt to smear my officials is frankly repugnant. It is her scheme that we are trying to fix—it was put in place by the last Labour Government. We will fix it and put the industry on a sustainable footing, but we should not take any lessons on budgetary control from the party that left us with a catastrophic deficit and drove this country to the brink of ruin. Shame on you!