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New Generating Capacity (Investment)

Volume 560: debated on Thursday 14 March 2013

16. What steps he is taking to increase the confidence of the energy sector to invest in new generating capacity. (147694)

The UK is one of the most attractive places in the world to invest in energy infrastructure, and still more so since we published the Energy Bill. The certainty this provides is backed by complete cross-Government support unmatched by any other country in Europe.

The Minister seems to be living in a parallel universe. I have a declared interest: I am on the environmental scrutiny board of Veolia, the environmental company. When I meet people who are being asked to make a long-term investment in the production of energy, they are very cautious of making any commitment at this time. What will he do about that? An energy gap, which is totally frightening for the people of this country, is emerging.

Just last week the Secretary of State, the Minister of State and I were in Downing street with the Prime Minister, making exactly the case to the investment community for which the hon. Gentleman is calling. I want him to join me in my universe. That universe is the universe of optimism, the universe of growth, the universe of success.

There was not much good news for bill payers in the answer to my last question, so let me try one about businesses. I am glad to hear about the summit in No. 10. Ministers say that investment in energy infrastructure is at a record high, but four out of five of the projects that they claim credit for either received planning permission or started construction under Labour. My hon. Friend the Member for Corby (Andy Sawford) earlier quoted independent sources saying that under this Government investment in clean energy has fallen by half. Businesses are saying that what they need now to invest is a target in law to decarbonise the power sector by 2030. Why will the Government not listen to them?

I have all sorts of prepared notes but I am not going to use them because the answer to this question is as plain as this: it is fine to have targets; targets matter because they signal direction. However, one must have weapons to hit those targets. What the Government have done that the previous Government did not—I do not want to be excessively critical—is put measures in the Energy Bill that will allow us to develop the weapons to hit targets. That is what investment is about: meeting targets, not setting them.