3 March 2020
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions

Nadhim Zahawi answers MPs’ questions to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Oral Answers to Questions

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Secretary of State was asked—

Aerospace Sector: Innovation

Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)

3. What plans he has to support innovation in the aerospace sector. [901043]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)

The hon. Gentleman, as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on aerospace, will know that aerospace is a high-value growth sector driven by innovation, which is why the Government and the industry are co-investing £3.9 billion up to 2026 in aerospace research and development, and a further £300 million in the future flight challenge.

Christian Matheson

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. The UK leads the world in aerospace technology, but it faces the same pressures as other sectors with regard to environmental sustainability, so may I urge him to increase long-term funding for the industry so that we can retain our global lead while meeting the challenge of net zero?

Nadhim Zahawi

The hon. Gentleman raises an important question. The Prince of Wales and I co-chaired a deep dive at the Whittle laboratory, with the whole industry around the table, to consider how we can deliver on net zero for the industry. We were targeting a fully electric aircraft that, at 500 miles, could cover most of Europe and take 180 passengers, and of course we are looking at other technologies for longer haul flights. We are also creating the innovators of the future with 500 additional master’s level postgraduate places for aerospace.



Energy-Intensive Industries: Decarbonisation

Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)

5. What support his Department is providing to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. [901045]

Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)

19. What support his Department is providing to help energy-intensive industries decarbonise. [901060]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)

We have schemes worth nearly £2 billion operating, or in development, to support our vital energy-intensive industries to decarbonise. We will also invest in building the UK’s first fully deployed carbon capture, usage and storage cluster, and we are progressing carbon capture and hydrogen business models, both of which are crucial technologies in decarbonising our industry.

Jonathan Gullis

Achieving net zero is a considerable challenge for energy-intensive industries like ceramics, given the twin requirements of decarbonising without reducing international competitiveness. However, it is a challenge the sector can and will rise to, provided the UK puts supportive policies in place. Are the Government prepared to work actively with the ceramics industry, like Churchill China and Steelite, to help incentivise decarbonisation without, critically, undermining its international competitiveness?

Nadhim Zahawi

We must work together with industry to help our vital manufacturing regions benefit from clean growth opportunities. Stoke-on-Trent North is lucky to have such a Member championing its cause. We have a number of schemes in place, such as the transforming foundation industries challenge fund, the industrial heat recovery scheme and climate change agreements, to support industries like ceramics to cut bills and save carbon. In addition, we will be opening the industrial energy transformation fund to applications for phase 1 this spring.

Jack Brereton

Manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent rely on energy-intensive processes to create their world-class products. What assistance can the Government give to help innovation in reducing the amount of carbon emissions generated in those processes?

Nadhim Zahawi

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and, of course, the south is as lucky as the north to have such a fantastic champion in this House.

We have a number of schemes, as I have already mentioned, particularly the transforming foundation industries challenge fund, which will support energy-intensive industries to work with each other to innovate in reducing carbon emissions. This is a joint Government and industry fund. The first competition for projects closed at the beginning of February, and applicants are due to find out later this month whether they have been successful.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)

Teesside is a major centre for high-carbon, energy-intensive industries, which are nervous about high energy costs, the future of the REACH regulations and carbon costs. It is good to have my near neighbour, the hon. Member for Stockton South (Matt Vickers), also supporting the CCUS campaign, but how can the Minister reassure the industry that the Government will address the high cost issues and, in particular, the REACH regulations that he is about to ditch?

Nadhim Zahawi

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. We engaged with industry constantly throughout this process: when I took this job on last year, we engaged with industry over REACH, and we are looking at a UK REACH. Most importantly, we are looking at the energy-intensive industries and how we can innovate, for example, in steel and in the steel cluster. We have had good news today for British Steel, and we can use the investment that the Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth is making in carbon capture, usage and storage to turn the industry into the greenest steel industry in Europe.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)

Will the Government help to decarbonise the Rhondda? I ask because following the flooding we have seen significant landslides on former coal sites. I do not want to overstate this, but there is some anxiety about what that might mean for the future and stability of some of these tips. Will the Minister make sure that the Secretary of State meets me and other MPs in affected areas to make sure that the Coal Authority is doing everything in its power to make sure everybody is safe?

Nadhim Zahawi

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. The Secretary of State will certainly meet him and other concerned MPs, and make sure that the Coal Authority is doing everything it can. I would also like to visit to see for myself what is happening, so that we can work together on this. Getting to net zero by 2050 is a joint effort by the whole of this House, not just this Government.


Topical Questions

Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)

T5. Lithium is set to become one of the most sought after minerals in the world. Recent confirmation of significant deposits means that Cornwall is well placed to enable the UK to have its own secure domestic and sustainable supply of this vital mineral. Not only will that help to level up the Cornish economy, but it will put the UK at a global competitive advantage. Will the Minister ensure that the Government do everything possible to enable us to make the most of this opportunity, and would he like to come to Cornwall to see the work that is going on? [901071]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Nadhim Zahawi)

I had the pleasure, with my hon. Friend, of meeting Cornish Lithium recently, and it was made clear that lithium extraction provides an excellent opportunity to contribute to our efforts to level up Cornwall, as well as securing our net zero objectives. I thank him for the invitation. I would be delighted to visit Cornwall.



Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

I welcome the Secretary of State to his role. I enjoyed working with him in his previous job, and I am sure he will do a very good job in this Department. Is he aware of the dire situation of businesses in my constituency because the workshop of the world—China—has closed for business? There is no supply chain, and manufacturing companies up and down the country are in a dire situation. This is a crisis caused by coronavirus, and we have not stepped up to the plate yet to face the measure of this terrible disaster.

Nadhim Zahawi

I thank the hon. Member for his question, but he is wrong. We have stood up a very important group within the Department that is working with the automotive sector, the retail sector and others that are impacted by China’s supply chain problems. We continue to monitor the situation closely, as well as the critical infrastructure that keeps the UK’s lights on and the UK economy powering ahead.


Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)

In 2016, the United States became a net exporter of liquefied natural gas. In 2019, the United States became a net exporter of all oil products: both crude and refined. In order to diversify the UK’s energy risk, is it not time that the Government started to interact with the United States, perhaps as part of a trade deal, to import both gas and oil from the United States?

Nadhim Zahawi

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I met the newly appointed US Energy Secretary a couple of weeks ago and we work very closely with the United States. Of course, this week we published our terms for our negotiation for a free trade agreement with that great country.