Humber Westminster Reception: Political will for Energy Estuary success

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 1 Feb 2017

BUSINESS leaders and politicians rubbed shoulders at the Westminster reception for the Humber, in a strong show of unity that created a real buzz of engagement. 

North East Lincolnshire Council leader Ray Oxby was delighted to see the emphasis put on the Energy Estuary, with Grimsby having been at the forefront of the UK’s emergence as a world leader in offshore wind.

He was committed to underlining the tole the region has in defining the Northern Powerhouse as part of the Westminster reception.

Mr Oxby said: “Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds all big cities with massive population bases and huge economies, and we are the future for renewable, sustainable energy. 

“We have developed a multi-faceted offer, with biofuel, the refineries and wind, and we are hopeful we can continue further with this, with education at a further and a higher level in the Humber.

“We have the biggest port complex by tonnage at Immingham, Siemens in Hull and the operations and maintenance cluster in Grimsby. With Dong, in Brent Cheshire (UK country chairman), we see the commitment to Grimsby personally and professionally. There is belief in what we are doing in terms of the place, and long may it continue.”

Turning his attention to the event, he said: “At this level, in Westminster, it is not just a showcase of what we are doing, bit how we get Government support to link in to the Northern Powerhouse, how we build on the transportation links, west to east and north to south. It is very important to enhance the potential even further.”

MP for East Hull, Karl Turner, also joined the reception, arriving with Grimsby MP Melanie Onn, with Scunthorpe’s Nic Dakin also in attendance. 

Mr Dakin said: “I think it is absolutely crucial to hold events like this and raise the profile, We are very lucky to have a Local Enterprise Partnership run by Lord Chris Haskins and supported by big hitters on both sides of the river. We have to come together on issues like this to make sure we are heard. Ministers are sympathetic to what is happening and we need to talk up the area.”

Past and present leaders put on a show of strength for North Lincolnshire, where British Steel’s resurgence was included in the Humber’s story.

Baroness Liz Redfern, who was recently succeeded by Councillor Rob Waltham, said: “I think it is phenomenal, I am really so very pleased.  There is no doubt that in 2017 the Humber is on the map. People don’t ask now ‘where is the Humber?’ It is being promoted, businesses are supportive and both banks are working to make the Humber Estuary really work. 

“The unemployment figures are really good, everyone needs a job, and we have got to keep talking it up and just say what opportunities there are. There are an enormous amount of opportunities and I am really pleased to be part of such a great delegation.  It is pleasing to see the UTC here, working really hard, as it is really important to show young people the opportunities there are in engineering. It isn’t dirty, it is a really cool job.”

Of the steel transformation, she added: “I was there last month with Nic Dakin and I am delighted. They have put a lot of investment in, the workforce are really up for it and talking to the management and the unions they are full of confidence. I think we produced the best deal, it is great for the town and the area.  We now need to make sure everyone uses British Steel!”        

The reception followed host Cleethorpes and Immingham MP Martin Vickers asking formal business questions in the House of Commons chamber. 

He asked: “What assessment he has made of the effect of the offshore energy sector on the Humber region?”

Mr Hurd, responding, said: “The UK is the world’s largest market for offshore wind, and the Humber energy estuary, in my hon. friend’s own words, is “ideally positioned” to serve that sector. The Secretary of State and I saw that when we visited the new £310 million Siemens turbine blade factory, which has created more than 1,000 very valuable new jobs in the area.”

Mr Vickers responded, with the invitation, taken up in style: “This afternoon the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and Humber MPs are staging a showcase event to highlight the assets of the Energy Estuary. 

“Can the Minister assure business leaders that the Government will continue to support the offshore centre, which is based in northern Lincolnshire, and the wider Humber region? Will he or one of his colleagues find time to visit the event this afternoon?

Returning to his feet, Mr Hurd said: “Yes to the event, and yes to the assurance that my hon. friend seeks about continued support. On top of the growth deal, the city deal and the enterprise zone programme, he will be well aware of the very significant Government commitment to future contract for difference auctions worth £730 million for less mature renewable technologies, including offshore wind. I hope he welcomes that.”

Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin then asked “What steps are the Government taking to ensure the highest possible UK content in the steel used to build the energy infrastructure in the Humber?”

Mr Hurd said: “That is an extremely important point, and it is part of our calculation of the return on the investment made by the British taxpayer. Good progress is being made, and analysis shows that aggregated lifetime UK content in operating wind farms is 43 per cent, against a track target of around 50 per cent, and the proportion is higher for the value of operations and maintenance contracts (for which Grimsby is a recognised cluster), which run at about 70 per cent of value at the moment. This will be a key area of our focus as we go forward with the industrial strategy.”

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