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Growth Strategy

Volume 543: debated on Tuesday 24 April 2012

9. What assessment he has made of the effect of energy costs on the Government’s growth strategy. (104798)

Energy costs have an impact on the economy. The plan for growth in the autumn statement and the national infrastructure plan announced a programme of more than 250 economic reforms and investment in infrastructure, with action in the energy sector, including electricity market reform. The Government are focused on ensuring that the UK can deliver the investment it needs to provide a secure, affordable and decarbonised energy sector.

The Minister will be aware that gas is an important feedstock in many industrial processes. As of this morning, the price of gas in the US was four times less than it was in the UK and Europe, which is driving GDP and reducing fuel poverty. Is she willing to speak with her colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change to ensure that we can emulate the US by driving GDP and also reduce carbon emissions?

Gas prices in Europe and Asia are higher than those in the US, which commentators have attributed mainly to the impact of the large-scale development of shale gas in the US. The Government are examining the potential barriers to investment in gas-fired electricity generation in the UK and the role gas can play in delivering a secure and affordable low-carbon electricity supply. That would include examining the potential role of shale gas in the UK. The Government, including the Treasury, DECC and other Departments, are working together and will shortly issue a call for evidence to inform our strategy for gas generation, which we will publish in the autumn.

Energy prices and uncertainty surrounding the support for low-carbon energy, alongside uncertainty about electricity market reform, are causing some companies to reassess their business plans in this country. Can the Minister assure us that the Chancellor and the Treasury will support market reform in the next Session of this Parliament and ensure that the subsidies are in place to get the jobs and prosperity that the country needs?

The Treasury supports electricity market reform, as I think the hon. Gentleman knows. He will also know that we have also laid out our support for energy-intensive industries. I have no doubt that he will be able to direct questions about programming to the Leader of the House.