The Energy Bill in the Commons, factchecked

15 March 2016

Full Fact has been factchecking claims related to the Energy Bill as it passes through Parliament, thanks to a reader who started an independent crowdfunding campaign, and everyone who donated to it. Find out more.

The Bill will return to the House of Lords after passing its third reading in the Houses of Commons. We followed the Commons debate ahead of the voting—here’s a selection of some of the claims we checked.

“I want to see manufacturing re-established much more strongly in the north, but it cannot be re-established on the basis of differentially higher electricity prices.”—David Mowat MP

“…a far more acute problem for the Government is the problem of Chinese dumping.”—Tom Blenkinsop MP

“I agree that Chinese dumping is an issue. I also agree that business rates are an issue. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman is wrong if he is suggesting that energy prices are not an issue as well.”—David Mowat MP

Higher energy prices and the ‘dumping’ of steel by China are both problems faced by the UK’s declining steel industry, according to industry bodies.

Electricity prices for the heaviest users in the UK are some of the highest in the EU. That’s been the case for a few years.

More recent problems in the steel industry, including the closure of several plants in the last year, have been attributed partly to new developments in the world steel market. In particular, slowing economic growth has meant China has produced more steel than it needs, and then exported it very cheaply.

When companies sell products overseas at a lower price than in their home country, it’s known as ‘dumping’.

At the start of this year Tata Steel announced the loss of 1,050 jobs spread over a range of sites. It said this followed “continued falls in the European steel price caused by a flood of cheap imports, particularly from China.” It said it welcomed “progress” on UK energy costs but called on the Government to do more to help the competitiveness of steel.

“Between 2010 and 2014, our policies have secured an estimated £42 billion of investment in low-carbon electricity, including £40 billion in renewables.” —Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

That’s right according to DECC’s official estimates.

Of the £40 billion it thinks companies and others invested in renewables—so not including nuclear plants—about £8 billion went into onshore wind, £10 billion to offshore wind, £11 billion to solar, and £9 billion to biomass and bioenergy.

Money invested in nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage brings the total to £42 billion.

How much of this is directly due to government policies since 2010 is hard to judge, because projects are initiated some time before they come online.

There’s some controversy over just how renewable biomass plants are, especially those which burn wood or a combination of wood and coal. Wood can be regrown, so it’s renewable in that sense, but factors like which trees are used and how the wood is transported might affect how much carbon is released by the process as a whole.

“This was a clear Government commitment, and I am pleased to see those provisions put back. Let me be explicit: this Bill enacts a manifesto commitment.”—Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

What did the Conservative Party’s 2015 manifesto promise to do about onshore wind subsidies? It’s ambiguous.

In its manifesto the Party said; “we will halt the spread of onshore windfarms” and "we will end any new public subsidy for them" (as well as changing the planning system).

The word "new" introduces an ambiguity. To "end" a "new" subsidy could mean halting plans to introduce subsidy schemes that didn't exist at the time; to close off recently introduced schemes; or to prevent existing subsidy schemes from benefitting new wind farms.

The measures passed yesterday in the Energy Bill are in line with the latter interpretation. But the pledge could have been read differently.

“The North Sea oil and gas industry is facing significant challenges. There have been 75,000 job losses in the past 15 months and there is a risk that whole communities along the North Sea coast could be very badly affected.”—Peter Aldous MP

An estimated 375,000 jobs were supported by the oil and gas industry in 2015, according to an industry body, down from 440,000 since the start of 2014. That’s a drop of 65,000. Mr Aldous told us that the "informal feedback" he's received from the industry is that the number has since risen to 75,000. 

These figures aren’t the number of people directly employed by the industry. They include people whose jobs are in the wider supply chain for the industry, or jobs which exist because of oil and gas employees spending their pay elsewhere.

There are "inherent uncertainties" to these figures, according to Oil & Gas UK, which came up with them

It has also assumed that the 15% fall in employment for people who are directly employed in Oil and Gas will mean a similar level of jobs losses for those whose employment indirectly depends on the industry. It’s hard to know how far that is the case.

Update 27 May 2016

We updated the piece to include the response from Mr Aldous of his source for the 75,000 figure. 

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