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Vestas didn’t want ‘grants’

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During a statement in the House of Commons yesterday about the Government’s Low Carbon Transmission Plan the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Ed Milliband MP) publicly stated for the first time that Vestas had made it clear that government grants would not have persuaded them to retain manufacturing facilities on the Island. The remarks were made in response to criticism from the Liberal Democrat Spokesman on Climate Change who represents a London constituency. The closure of the Newport factory will lead to the loss of 600 jobs on the Island, which Andrew Turner the Island’s MP has described as a ‘bodyblow to the local economy’. Ed Milliband pointed out that Vesta’s decision to close the factory was due to their wish to produce turbine blades in the USA where they have a large market and the ability to expand their manufacturing facility. The Minister also highlighted the fact that it was difficult to get permission in the UK for on-shore wind turbines which is Vesta’s area of expertise.

Mr Turner said:
I have had a number of meetings with Government Ministers about the work they had undertaken with Vestas prior to the announcement that they planned to close the factory on the Island. It was very clear to me that they had explored every avenue in order to work with the company to keep the factory open. I attended a public meeting on Friday 3rd July in the Riverside Centre organised by Cowes Trades Council and Workers Climate Action and a number of people there expressed the view that simply pumping yet more public money into the factory would keep it open. I had planned to raise this issue in depth during a debate next Tuesday so that it would become clear to my constituents that this option had been properly explored at the highest levels.

I understand how important this is to the Island but to be fair to the Government I do think they have worked hard to try to keep the Vestas factory here on the Island. It is easy to simply knock the Government as the Liberal Democrat spokesman has done (although to be fair he couldn’t have known what has gone on behind the scenes) but when a hugely profitable multi-national company simply decides that it wants to close down a factory regardless of the consequences on it’s workforce or the local economy it seems that there is little that can be done. That is one of the reasons why it is important that public money is invested in businesses that are firmly rooted in local economies.”

END Contact : Andrew Turner’s office 01983 530808 or mobile 07799 866466
Hansard Link : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmhansrd/cm090715/debtext/90715-0005.htm
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State for his statement, and I congratulate him on his personal commitment to ensuring that we move to being a low-energy country. I welcome the announcement of carbon budgets throughout the sector as well as for the Government as a whole, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for announcing that the regulator will be given new requirements.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): You’re supposed to be asking a question.
Simon Hughes: I am going to ask the Secretary of State questions, not because I want to be confrontational but because his policy is lacking in certain areas. Will he confirm that the Government will wish to be judged at the next election not on words but on delivery? Will he therefore explain why, on the day that we have heard that the only company producing turbines in this country is going to close, the Government have done nothing specific to support the growth of UK-based industry in the sector? What is his estimate of the amount of new technology that will be produced in this country, as opposed to abroad, by the end either of next year or of the next five years?
Given that we are at the bottom of the European league table on renewables, with a contribution of 2 per cent. compared with more than 30 per cent. in Sweden and almost 10 per cent.

in Germany, is not the reality that, although the Chancellor announced incentives for the renewables sector in the Budget, he has subsequently failed, because the renewables industry has been waiting three months for the promised meeting to discuss how the European Investment Bank money can be accessed, and no meeting has taken place? Why have all the English regions bar one failed to reach their renewables target? What will change that situation over the next year, and the next five years? Will individual communities, including counties such as Cornwall and countries such as Wales, be able to get on with their own policies to deliver the green peninsula, in Cornwall, and the green country, in Wales, without the Government telling them what to do?

On fuel poverty, given the criticisms by the Secretary of State’s own advisory body and the fact that the number of people in fuel poverty has gone up from 1 million to 4 million, will he give a categorical promise that none of the policies that he has announced will adversely affect those on low incomes—not just the 800,000 whom he mentioned in his statement, but the millions of people on low incomes—and that they will not be forced to pay the bills for the policy that he has announced? Will the bills fall on the private sector, with its big profits, and on those of us who can afford to pay, so that in the end we have a fairer Britain, not just a greener Britain?
The Secretary of State knows that my party does not share the Labour-Tory love-in with the nuclear industry. Is it not true that no new UK nuclear power station has ever been built on time or to budget? Is it not also true that the more that he and his friends cosy up to the nuclear industry, the more likely it is that the renewables industry will not get the support and technological investment that it needs?

On the grid, I welcome what the Secretary of State has said as far as it goes, but how soon will there be flexible access, which has been denied for years, so that people can start to contribute as they have been waiting to do? Are we as a country now committed to the European super-grid? If so, what are we going to do about it?
Two last things, if I may. First, are we going to—
Mr. Speaker: Order. May I say to the hon. Gentleman that if there are two last things, they need to be two very brief last things, because he is already over time?
Simon Hughes: Mr. Speaker, I am grateful.
Are we committed to decarbonising the power sector fully by 2030? And, what will the Government do to help the biofuels industry? Many small businesses have supported it but now believe that it is being regulated out of existence. For example, it has produced fuel from used chip fat and wants to contribute to a new renewables industry, but it has been told that it cannot do that in the future.
Edward Miliband: The Liberal spokesman asks serious questions that deserve answers. Let me try to answer them as best as I can.
We had discussions with Vestas, but I want to make it clear that it never wanted grants or money to persuade it to stay in this country. The option was obviously considered with the company, but there were two factors in its decision.

The first aspect is that it was making turbines for America, where it had a factory. The second aspect is related to the hon. Gentleman’s point about renewables, and is a big issue for everyone in the House. It is about planning—not so much the planning rules, because we are changing them, although unfortunately the Opposition want to reverse that change, but the question of whether one can get onshore wind turbines built. Vestas’ speciality is onshore wind, and that requires political persuasion—a hard job for all parts of the House. The job is to persuade people that although onshore wind turbines may be unsightly to some, the bigger threat to the countryside is not wind turbines but climate change. Of course there are areas where wind turbines would be inappropriate, and we have proposals today in our renewable energy strategy about how we can work with local people to site the turbines more sensitively, but they have to go somewhere, and we all need to focus on that necessity.

We are proceeding with the investments via the European Investment Bank, the money will be going out of the door soon—in the autumn, I think—and we are going as fast as we can. If there is an issue about meetings with representatives, I am happy to address it.
On fuel poverty, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we face a massive challenge. It will be an even bigger challenge in the future. I am happy to work together on the issue, but we need to find all the ways to tackle fuel poverty that we can. Reforming social tariffs is a good start, but if there are other ways we should definitely use them, because given the upward pressures on prices, fuel poverty will be a big challenge over the next decade—and, frankly, beyond that.
The hon. Gentleman and I disagree about nuclear energy. I am not engaged in a love-in with the nuclear industry, but I do think that nuclear energy has an important role to play. On grid access, I said that the new plans would be in place within a year, and that that is how we will speed up the connections, because I did not want the stand-off between the industry and Ofgem to continue.
The super-grid is an interesting idea, but it is expensive. None the less, we are happy to explore it, and we are doing so. I would be happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman separately about some of the other questions that he raised.

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Broadlands jobs safe

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Island MP Andrew Turner has received confirmation that the future of jobs and services at Broadlands House are secure following press reports that previously announced new jobs would not now be coming to the Island. Mr Turner said that yesterday’s press reports were completely at odds with assurances he had received both from the Minister last summer and the regional manager as recently as November last year. On hearing the reports that plans had changed he contacted the senior management of JobCentre Plus to seek clarification of the position.

Mr Turner said

“I have now received definite confirmation that the plans of Jobcentre Plus have not changed and that they will be keeping a benefit processing centre on the Island as well as establishing one of only two national insurance number processing centres here. I have been told that the additional jobs will arise as their plans are implemented over the coming months.”

Mr Turner went on to say

“During our meeting last November Guy Tompkins Jobcentre Plus’s regional manager was very complimentary about their workforce on the Island and told me that the positive approach of the staff was one of the reasons why they planned to expand on the Island. I am very glad that they see the sense of bringing work to the Island rather than taking it to the mainland and I will continue to press Government to follow their example.

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School Reorganization – Where will £70m come from?

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Government have denied promising the IW Council £70 million to pay for reorganizing Island schools from a three- to a two-tier system. And the Island’s MP has criticized the ‘optimistic noises’ on funding given at consultation meetings.

In a Parliamentary Answer to Island MP Andrew Turner it was revealed that there have been absolutely no promises from the Government to provide the estimated £70 million needed for the changes being proposed by council officials. In answering Mr Turner, Stephen Twigg MP, the Minister responsible for school funding, made it clear that the Isle of Wight council has received no assurances that extra money will be made available for the proposed changeover. Mr Turner has criticized the impression given to parents and teachers that obtaining the money needed from central government would not present a problem.

Andrew Turner said,

“During the meeting I attended at Sandown High School it was clearly stated that ‘we can get’ the £70 million needed to change the system. I was surprised to hear that because that simply isn’t the way that Government works. I have asked the Government what promises they have given and they have clearly told me that they have given none. I have now asked the Council what led them to give such a misleading impression to those who went to the trouble of attending the meeting. I have been told that there have been informal meetings with government officials who support these proposals – I am afraid that does not represent government spending commitments. Frankly I am shocked that optimistic noises were made which misled people.”

Exam results and education standards on the Island are far below the national average and the recent report costing £100,000 by 4S recommended changing the system but did not provide any evidence that this alone would improve standards. Mr Turner went on to say:

“There may well be arguments for changing the system – but changing the system does not guarantee improving standards; the issues should not be mixed up. Even the advocates of change admit it would cost a fortune. If that money does not come from central government it will have to come from existing council budgets and be topped up by Island council taxpayers.

“It is at very least disingenuous to suggest that finding the money to achieve change is not an important issue that needs to be discussed as part of these proposals. I am worried that the Council seems to believe that informal discussions with civil servants translates into promises of many millions of pounds – sadly that is not the case.

“We need to raise standards but that is best done by the Council accepting that some schools are better than others, publishing that information to parents, governors, teachers and the wider public, and tackling the problems on a school-by-school basis. It is not as glamorous as being the architect of a whole new system, but it is much more likely to give our children the quality schooling they deserve.”

END

Contact : Andrew Turner 01983 530808

School Building (Isle of Wight)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what (a) commitments and (b) undertakings she has made to the Isle of Wight Council regarding future capital allocations provided (i) through the Building Schools for the Future programme or (ii) otherwise, whether (A) contingent on or (B) not contingent on school reorganisation. [216280]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: A letter has been sent to all council leaders stating that, for authorities not prioritised in the first three waves of Building Schools for the Future (BSF), including the Isle of Wight, we are determined to make a start on BSF plans between 2005–06 and 2010–11. Our ambition is that in the next full Parliament, subject to future spending decisions, 60 per cent. of all authorities will have started in the BSF programme, or else be given resources to renew at least one secondary school with the greatest need as a school for the future, or as an academy. Each BSF scheme will be judged on its merits, and is not necessarily contingent on school reorganisation. Other capital allocations to the council and its schools were announced on 30 November, and are set out in the following table:

£000
2006–07 14,853
2007–08 15,446

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Can we become a Fairtrade Island?

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As World Fair Trade Fortnight draws to a close this Sunday the Island’s MP Andrew Turner has praised the work of the IW Fairtrade Forum. The Forum is working towards the accolade of Fairtrade Island by building on existing users and suppliers of Fairtrade products to spread the word about the products and the good they do for their producers in the developing world. There are now more than 250 products bearing the distinctive green and blue logo which guarantees a fair deal to producers of such items as coffee, tea, sugar and bananas.

Andrew Turner said,

“The Fairtrade product range has expanded over recent years and whilst once they were seen as an expensive alternative they now offer good value and quality. In order to become a Fairtrade Island we need more suppliers of the products so everybody really can make a difference by asking their local coffee shop or convenience store to stock a few items from the range. As the largest constituency in the country the Island gaining this accolade really would make a difference and give a boost to the national campaign. Fairtrade really makes a difference to those communities that need a helping hand – and I know that on the Island we have a really caring and compassionate community”.

Jim Curtis the co-ordinator of the IW Fairtrade Forum said

“I very much value Andrew’s support for this campaign. In order for the Island to be recognised in this way we need the active support of the Isle of Wight council as well as that of suppliers across the Island. I urge everyone to let their local councillors know that they would be proud to see us become a Fairtrade Island helping less fortunate people to take control of their own lives and build themselves a better future.

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