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This speech was given in the chamber of the House of Commons as part of a debate on Biofuels on 15 October 2003

Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk): I join other hon. Members in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) on securing a debate on this very important subject which, as the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) said, has all-party support.

I very much agree with the points that have been made about the need for any coherent transport strategy to take account of biofuels and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) said, for joined-up government on this important issue. I am particularly persuaded by the environmental arguments. We would all like to hear the Minister try to justify why liquefied petroleum gas, which is a fossil fuel, has a higher tax break than biofuels. No sensible person believes that that is justifiable. I am also powerfully impressed by the economic case. Such a strategy would be a huge benefit to farmers in my constituency, which has significant rural economic deprivation.

I want to expand slightly on the subject of fuel security, which has been touched on, and to ask the Minister some questions. Our notion of energy security presupposes more than one source, even for one type of energy supply. For example, we should not be dependent on imported oil only from the middle east and countries such as Iraq, Iran or Saudi Arabia. We should also be able to depend on imports from Latin America, Russia, Alaska and so on.

Energy security also requires diversity of types of supply, not just oil or natural gas, but sources such as wind and solar power. Why would anyone not want to add biofuels to that list? Does the Minister believe that a biofuels industry is necessary, not just desirable, in the United Kingdom? If the answer is yes, do the Government recognise that they have a responsibility to introduce policies to help to start such an industry, either by fiscal means, such as the escalator suggested by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. Whitehead) or through other tax breaks? Which would be better?

Are the Government satisfied with the rather bizarre situation described by my right hon. Friend in which rape seed produced in Norfolk and elsewhere is exported to Germany to be turned into biofuels, only to be imported back into this country with the concomitant extra CO2 emissions that that causes, never mind the lack of benefit that could be accruing to an industry in this country and, as the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) said, the extra jobs that would go with it, including in my constituency? If the Government are not satisfied with that bizarre situation and believe that a biofuels industry in the United Kingdom is necessary rather than just desirable, and that they have a responsibility to promote such an industry, will the Minister stand up and tell us what they intend to do about it?

 


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