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Written Statements

Volume 704: debated on Monday 22 November 2021

Written Statements

Monday 22 November 2021

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Innovation Loans

Innovation is central to tackling the largest challenges the world faces, from climate change to global pandemics. The UK must be in the vanguard of the response to these challenges. That is why the Government have placed innovation at the heart of our Plan for Growth including through our Innovation Strategy.

The UK has a long and illustrious history of world-leading innovation, from the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year. Now we have left the EU, we can move even more quickly to respond to emerging challenges and global opportunities, and cement the UK’s position as a world leader in science, research and innovation. That is why the Government committed to public R&D spending reaching £22 billion in 2026-27. This represents the fastest ever sustained uplift in R&D funding, increasing R&D funding to £20 billion per annum by the end of the SR period, £5 billion more than 2021-22.

Following a successful extended pilot with businesses including those in clean growth tech, Innovate UK will deliver a new programme of £150 million in flexible, affordable and patient innovation loans over the next three years. Innovation loans will help SMEs to take their late-stage R&D, including in support of net zero, to commercial success so that they can grow and scale through innovation.

[HCWS408]

Whitelee Hydrogen Project

I wish to update the House: today my Department has announced funding of £9.4 million for a first-of-a-kind new hydrogen project at the Whitelee onshore windfarm—the UK’s largest—in Glasgow.

The project will look to produce hydrogen for storing energy and providing zero-carbon fuel as the country shifts to a clean energy future, and support Glasgow’s ambition to become net zero by 2030.

Developed by ITM Power and BOC, in conjunction with ScottishPower’s hydrogen division, the state-of-the-art facility will be able to produce enough green hydrogen per day—2.5 tonnes to 4 tonnes—which, once stored, could provide the equivalent of enough zero carbon fuel for 225 buses travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh each day. A 10MW electrolyser, to be developed and manufactured at ITM Power’s Sheffield factory, will be co-located at the Whitelee windfarm. The electrolyser is expected to be the largest deployed to date.

This project is subject to planning permission, and final investment decisions from the organisations involved, expected by summer 2022 with start of construction.

In addition, my Department is also supporting the development of hydrogen skills and standards for heating, with an additional £2.25 million in new Government funding. This funding, under the net zero innovation portfolio, will see the British Standards Institution (BSI) develop technical standards, and a consortium comprising Energy and Utility Skills and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers will establish new standards and training specifications to facilitate the training of hydrogen gas installers.

As part of the UK Government’s plans to decarbonise the UK’s power system by 2035, they are accelerating the transition to clean, renewable energy—however, the unpredictable nature of renewables like wind power means that energy can be produced when it is not needed by the grid. Hydrogen energy can be stored for long periods of time and in large quantities, making it a vital part of the green energy future, as it provides the opportunity to convert excess renewable energy into a fuel for use across the economy. This means that hydrogen storage will play a key role in the shift towards a fully decarbonised energy system, which is crucial to the UK reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

[HCWS409]

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Notification of Contingent Liability: British Virgin Islands Inquiry

It is normal practice, when a Government Department proposes to undertake a contingent liability in excess of £300,000 for which there is no statutory authority, for the Minister concerned to present a departmental minute to Parliament, giving particulars of the liability created and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from incurring the liability until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the statement, except in cases of special emergency.

I have today laid a departmental minute proposing to provide an indemnity that is necessary in respect of a Governor-established independent inquiry in the British Virgin Islands, tasked with establishing whether there is information that corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty in relation to officials, whether statutory, elected or public, may have taken place in recent years. The then and current Governors take any such allegations extremely seriously, and the inquiry reflects their commitment to a full and independent investigation into any wrongdoing. The Governors have the full backing of the UK Government.

Earlier this year (2021), the previous Foreign Secretary announced that the then Governor had established the Commission of Inquiry [Official Report, 18 January 2021; Vol. 687, c. 32WS] to be led by the right hon. Sir Gary Hickinbottom as Commissioner. On the 14 July 2021 the current Governor announced that he had granted the Commissioner a six-month extension, taking the deadline for the Commissioner to report to the Governor to January 2022.

The indemnity will cover the Commissioner and his team against any liability for any act done or omission made honestly and in good faith in the execution of his or her duty as such, or in the purported execution of his duty as such. The indemnity will only apply to acts done or omissions made during the course of or in connection with the Inquiry. If the liability is called, provision for any payment will be sought through the normal supply procedure.

The Treasury has approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before Parliament, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or by otherwise raising the matter in Parliament, final approval to proceed with incurring the liability will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

[HCWS407]