Opinion: Cut energy prices now

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George Osborne has a rare opportunity when he delivers his Budget in a fortnight’s time. He can demonstrate once and for all that the Government’s talk about the importance of manufacturing and the need to rebalance the economy is going to be translated into action.

He can prove that even politicians who have never worked in industry actually “get it,” and he can do it by acting on the calls of former Sheffield steel executives Martin Temple and Master Cutler Tony Pedder.

He can do it by acknowledging that it is, as Mr Temple, now chairman of the manufacturers organisation the EEF, says “insane economics,” not to mention ecologically bonkers for his Government’s green policies to shunt business abroad to countries that are less fastidious about where their energy comes from.

What’s more, he can act to end a massive market failure, which is threatening Britain’s future energy security – at a time when uncertainty in the Ukraine is exacerbating that threat.

Martin Temple’s call for the Government to reduce the impact of energy policies such as the Carbon Price Floor and the Renewables Obligation on high energy users and extend support for those industries.

The current policies do nothing to encourage energy efficiency at companies like our major steelmakers.

When your annual energy bill equates to almost half of your total costs and is six times your labour costs you are already moving heaven and earth to ensure you use as little energy as possible.

Why in heaven’s name should you have to suffer the additional cost of shutting your plant down during the day, losing money, forcing your staff to sit in the cold and dark and then making them work nights and weekends, when energy is cheaper.

If the market cannot get on with the job now, the Government must act and fund the construction from taxpayers’ money, if necessary.

If George Osborne fails to act, then the time really has come to switch off the lights – in the House of Inaction and Hot Air that Britain’s Parliament has become.