Heavyweight coalition lobby government over £60m port plan

Business and union leaders, MPs and environmental campaigners have signed an open letterto Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander calling on the government to protect £60m of funding for UK ports. […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Business and union leaders, MPs and environmental campaigners have signed an open letterto Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander calling on the government to protect £60m of funding for UK ports.

The move comes in the wake of reports last week that the money – earmarked for ports in the north east of England to help them improve facilities to handle the transport to the UK of wind turbine machinery – could be cut as part of next week’s Spending Review.

On Monday Energy Minister Charles Hendry told ELN that the UK must lead a “renewables revolution”, but a day later he refused to reveal what the final decision on the ports’ programme would be.

The letter is signed by a coalition of 15 groups and three MPs, including the European chief executives of General Electric and Siemens. Both companies plan to open factories in the UK on the back of the funding. Also putting their names to the letter are the bosses of several UK ports and the heads of the TUC, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace.

The MPs are Conservative Commons Energy Select Committee ChairmanTim Yeo, former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and chairman oftheParliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group Alan Whitehead.

The letter states: “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 £60m 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 the undersigned 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.

The full list of signatories is Andy Atkins, executive director, Friends of the Earth; Brendan Barber, general secretary, TUC; Andrew Brown, engineering director, Milford Haven Port Authority; Steve Davies, chief executive, Portland Harbour Authority; Rick Eggleston, managing director, REpowerUK; Mark Elborne, president GE UK, Ireland & Benelux; Andreas Goss, chief executive, Siemens and Cluster North West Europe; Jerry Hopkinson, managing director, PD Ports; Roger Jeary, director of research, Unite; Charles Kennedy MP; Maria McCaffery, chief executive, RenewableUK; John Paterson, chief executive, Montrose Port Authority; Stephen Radley, director of policy, EEF; Peter Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace; Anders Søe-Jensen, president, Vestas Offshore; Peter Stephenson, executive chairman, Able UK; and Mark Thompson, commercial executive, Port of Blyth.