HC Deb 18 June 1998 vol 314 cc489-90
1. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South)

When she expects her Department's review of energy policy to be completed. [45049]

The President of the Board of Trade and Secretary of State for Trade and Industry(Mrs. Margaret Beckett)

The review of energy sources for power generation is expected to reach conclusions soon, and we shall announce those conclusions in due course.

Mr. Cunningham

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her approach to the whole question of energy. This Government are looking for a long-term policy for energy, whereas the previous Government were very much about the short term. As my right hon. Friend carries out her review, will she bear in mind the fact that the mining industry needs a fair and level playing field? When is the review due to be completed?

Mrs. Beckett

I hope that it will be very soon indeed. I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He is entirely right to say that the mining industry, and indeed energy policy as a whole, needs a level playing field in which there is fair competition so that the consumer gets the maximum benefit. Of course, that is not what we inherited from the Conservative party.

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Will the Secretary of State assure my constituents in Shoreham, where a development for a gas-fired power station in Shoreham harbour is blocked by the Government's refusal to issue a section 14 consent, that that consent will be issued as soon as possible, because the development is in any case on the site of the previous power station and will bring much-needed jobs and investment to the area?

Mrs. Beckett

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I cannot prejudge the outcome of the review which, as soon as it is possible to do so, will be put before the House. I have heard his comments about the position in his locality, and he will know that the Government have always said that they will consider every circumstance carefully.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

Will the President of the Board of Trade ensure that there is an early announcement, because the current coal contracts run out on 30 June? Despite reports to the contrary, will she ensure that the coal industry gets fairness, not favours, and has the ability to compete over the long term with other industrial sectors?

Mrs. Beckett

I know of my hon. Friend's long track record of work in this area. I share his view that it is vital for Britain's long-term future that we have a fair and level playing field and that we take a long-term strategic view of energy sources and resources. I assure my hon. Friend that that has motivated the Government throughout the review.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

In this climate, in which Ministers have to deliver at least one leak a day, can the President of the Board of Trade help us a bit with her conclusions? Will she tell the House whether, in an effort to save up to 5,000 mining jobs, she is prepared to put at risk many billions of pounds of investment, and the construction jobs that go with them, and to risk the effect that it would have on energy prices for the consumer? If she does decide after all to go for the pro-mining option, does she feel confident that the Government can meet their Kyoto obligations and their even more stringent domestic emissions targets?

Mrs. Beckett

I am sure that you would be the first to object, Madam Speaker, if I were to take the step urged on me by the hon. Gentleman—which, of course, is not a course that I ever follow—of leaking things in advance, and especially leaking things before a statement is made to the House. I strongly advise the hon. Gentleman not to take too seriously many of the things that he reads. I have seen entirely contradictory as well as quite extraordinary suggestions about the conclusions that might be in the Government's review. Certainly the Government are mindful of employment considerations in respect of energy and of the environmental considerations that lie behind the Kyoto targets. All these will be taken into account. The Conservatives left such a mess that it is taking time and proving even more difficult than we had feared to clear the situation up and come to conclusions in our review.

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