October 14th 2010
Alan Whitehead yesterday organised a debate in the House of Commons on the future of a £60 million fund to regenerate UK port economies like Southampton to enable them to build offshore wind farms and generate low-carbon energy for the UK.
The fund, known as the Offshore Wind Infrastructure Competition, was promised by the previous government to help kick-start investment in ports which could service and help to build the large number of offshore wind farms due to be constructed in the UK by 2020, creating an estimated 50,000 jobs.
Alan has also signed a letter published today in The Times calling on the Government not to cut this fund in the Comprehensive Spending Review which is to take place on 20th October. The letter is co-signed by numerous politicians, industry leaders and trades unions including Conservative chair of the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Tim Yeo MP, the General Secretary of the TUC, the Chief Executive of Siemens, and the President of Vestas, previously a major employer in Southampton.
In his speech Dr Whitehead emphasised the opportunity this fund presents for creating an entirely new low carbon manufacturing economy in the UK, if private investment is properly encouraged. He said;
“We are on the cusp of a real revolution in our energy supplies.”
“The sites have been allocated, the companies developing them recruited, and the planning and finance is under way. We have the facilities – some two hundred ports around the coast of Britain. Most of the investment for this enterprise will come from the private sector, but it needs to be primed, giving the confidence to those manufacturers that there really is a future for them in the UK, and that the plans for getting the supply chain in the UK right for wind really are serious.”
Charles Hendry MP, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change responded on behalf of the Government. While the Minister expressed support for offshore wind and the need to regenerate British manufacturing and port economies, he dodged the question of whether the Government would support for the project, saying:
“I cannot give details of what will be in the Comprehensive Spending Review. We will be looking to provide clarity on that.”
Speaking after the debate Dr Whitehead commented:
“This is not money that the Government would be pouring down the drain; It is money that will come back to us with serious value added in terms of UK manufacturing, jobs and of course cheap, low carbon energy.”
Full text of letter to the Times on the green port fund:
The Coalition Government is committed to building a low-carbon economy. A significant part of this over the next ten years will be the replacement of our older power stations with new cleaner energy sources. The wind resource around our coasts will have an important role in providing that, and a new domestic large-scale wind turbine manufacturing industry has the potential to create up to 50,000 UK based green collar jobs.
To attract the private investment necessary to make this happen, it is vital that appropriate facilities are available to manufacturers who wish to build new factories here. The previous Government earmarked £60 million to upgrade
infrastructure in and around our ports, and the announcement of this funding led to several manufacturers expressing their intent to invest in the UK. This funding will be debated in Parliament today, which represents an ideal opportunity for the Government to clarify its position.
We therefore call on the Government to retain this funding following the Spending Review, in order that UK ports can do their part in creating a new green industry and the thousands of jobs that will follow. Cutting the funding would play into the hands of more far-sighted competitors and condemn the UK to become an importer of one the fastest growing low-carbon technologies.
Andrew Brown, Engineering Director, Milford Haven Port Authority
Steve Davies, Chief Executive, Portland Harbour Authority
Neil Etherington, Group Development Director, AbleUK
Jerry Hopkinson, Managing Director, PD Ports
John Paterson, Chief Executive, Montrose Port Authority
Mark Thompson, Commercial Executive, Port of Blyth
Brendan Barber, General Secretary, TUC
Roger Jeary, Director of Research, Unite
Rick Eggleston, Managing Director, REPowerUK
Mark Elborne, President & CEO GE UK, Ireland & Benelux
Andreas Goss, Chief Executive, Siemens plc and Cluster North West Europe
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive, RenewableUK
Stephen Radley, Director of Policy, EEF
Charles Kennedy MP
Alan Whitehead MP
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