Mr Redwood’s contribution to the debate on the Energy Bill, 4 Dec 2013

Mr John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister (Michael Fallon) that the House would be wise to reject amendment 105. I will not rehearse the arguments that he or my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms) eloquently put, but I would take issue with one thing that my hon. Friend said. He gave the impression that although he thought that the late Baroness Thatcher’s energy reforms, which were very radical, were broadly good, they created a problem in not leading to substantial investment. As the person who advised her on those reforms and worked with the very good energy Ministers at that time, I assure him that that system not only transformed our energy mix in a way that cut CO2 on a scale that even the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) might approve of, but it drove prices down by encouraging huge investment in the so-called “dash for gas”. It has been the most successful policy that any party or Government have ever followed both to give us cheaper energy and to drive down CO2. It also gave us a much better capacity margin than we have today.

In the few minutes available to me, I wish to stress that a big crisis is brewing, thanks to the dear energy and scarce energy policies of the European Union, egged on by the Green party. I do not think they care about the difficulty people are already finding with their power bills. The main reason those bills are surging is that we are deliberately changing over from relatively cheap energy generation to dear energy generation—that is the whole point of the policy. The policy is cruelly deciding that it wishes to decarbonise at the expense of the poor and of our industry. The deindustrialisation facing Britain and wider Europe is now intense. We are losing our aluminium industry, our petrochemical industry and many of the high-energy-burning industries, which, of course, are going to the United States of America or to Asia, because those places do not have the same artificial constraints on them that the European Union and the previous Government’s energy policies have imposed on us.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Redwood: I am afraid that I do not have time to do so, as the hon. Lady spoke for some time and the debate is very limited.

We need to deal with both price and capacity. Price is the most immediate issue. Although things can be done on green levies, and I welcome that, the main driver of higher prices, which will continue over the years ahead, particularly if the amendment is passed, is the forced closure of cheaper stations and their substitution with much dearer, interruptible renewable sources of energy, which will be with us for some time to come, whatever policies are now followed.

Even worse is the way in which we are jeopardising capacity. Not only are we closing many stations without building new ones, but we are replacing base load stations with stations that produce interruptible energy only when the wind blows, so we are doubly vulnerable. Our stated capacity often is not genuine capacity because there is no wind, and the margin is far smaller. I do not wish to live in a country like that. I do not want to live in a country where every winter we fear that the lights might go out in places, and where, at times when people most need heating, there is not enough power left. It is a grave folly of the European Union and the former Government—I hope our Government are not going to perpetuate this—that we close the plants before anybody has built replacement plants. What kind of person would sensibly recommend doing that? We have heard from the Minister that six plants are already being closed, and we know that several others are at risk of closure under European directives. Please can we not close plants until we have the replacement capacity.

The investment incentive problem did not lie with the late Baroness Thatcher’s policy, which provided plenty of incentive, cheaper energy and big investment; the problem of incentive lies today with the muddle, confusion, high cost and deliberate obfuscation of the European-driven system, which means that our country, along with many others in the European Union, faces deindustrialisation on a big scale, cold winters without a guarantee that enough power is available and ever higher energy prices, thanks to these ridiculous policies.

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One Comment

  1. Fairweather
    Posted December 5, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I watched the debate on the parliament Chanel yesterday
    What was the amendment?

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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