Friday, 12 November 2010

Sheffield Labour MPs demand an investigation into the Proposed AugustaWestland Loan

Sheffield Labour MPs have today (12th Nov 2010) called on the Business Select Committee to investigate the proposed loan to AugustaWestland.  Repeatedly, the MPs have been told the loan to Forgemasters was cancelled because it was unaffordable, now they have found out the department has found £32million for a loan to Augusta Westland

They are calling on the committee to include this loan in the investigation it is currently carrrying out into the cancelled loan to Forgemasters.
Clive Betts MP for Sheffield South East said,

“The whole issue of the loan for Sheffield Forgemasters has been beset by constantly changing explanations from Government for the reason for withdrawal, it is now time for the Government to come clean. If lack of affordability was the final explanation for terminating the Forgemasters loan how can the money suddenly be found for assistance to another company only a few weeks later”

Commenting , Angela Smith MP for Penistone & Stocksbridge said,

While I welcome this investment in the UK’s manufacturing base, serious questions need to be asked as to how the government has now managed to find £32million when they have repeatedly claimed that the investment in Forgemasters is unaffordable. 
The rationale behind this loan to Augusta Westland needs to be examined and the investigation the select committee is already carrying out into the cancelled Forgemasters loan is the place that should be done.  BIS cannot say the Forgemasters loan is unaffordable and then authorise a loan to another company. There is either money available or there isn’t.

David Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, said:

“There may be absolutely nothing untoward about the way in which the Augusta Wetland application was handled, but the contrast with the clear politicisation and confusion from senior government ministers of the refusal of the Forgemasters loan requires true transparency if we are to be able to trust coalition ministers with any major industrial investment decisions for the future.”

Even more worrying is the fact that the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, is the MP for Yeovil, which is where the Augusta Westland factory is located. It is known from parliamentary questions he lobbied for the loan; it is unclear however how much influence he had over the approval of the loan during his time as Chief Secretary.
The MPs have now written to both the BIS select committee to ask for an investigation and also to the Secretary of State for BIS asking why this loan has been approved when he cancelled the loan to Forgemasters on affordability grounds.

They are also seeking clarification of the first point at which Augusta Westland applied for a loan, whether they approached their local Member of Parliament at that time (and if not when such an approach was made), and what due diligence was undertaken by the Department before approving the loan.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Free electricity …. a good deal?

If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

That aphorism needs to be at the forefront of our minds whenever we’re offered what looks like a really good deal. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a good deal to be done. It does mean that we need to ensure we’ve asked all the important questions and satisfied ourselves about the answers before we sign on the dotted line.

Have you been offered free electricity?

Last week, I attended a really useful session about micro-generation organised by Consumer Focus. They’ve done a very good piece of work in recent months on npower who overcharged customers for gas supplies, which is why many residents who bought their gas from npower have been receiving cheques for rebates in the last few days. It’s probably because Consumer Focus has done such a good job that the government is closing it down!

But, back to micro-generation. Since April this year, electricity suppliers have had to pay a feed-in tariff (also known as ‘clean energy cash-back’) to people who generate their own renewable electricity.

There aren’t many of those, you might think. And you’d be correct. However, a number of organisations are now offering free solar panels to some households and businesses, including in our area. The deal is that the home-owner or business gets free electricity and the organisation takes the income for the surplus electricity produced and fed into the national grid.

Well, free electricity sounds like a really good deal, doesn’t it? And it could be.

But, just think about these questions:
• What are the guarantees about electricity production?
• What happens if the kit stops working?
• Will it affect my mortgage?
• Do I need planning permission or building regulations approval?
• What happens if I want to sell my house but the buyer doesn’t want the kit?
• Who is responsible for any damage to neighbouring properties during installation?
• What happens if the organising company goes out of business?

And there are many, many more.

So, before you sign up to the free electricity deal, make sure you do your homework.

I’m putting some advice on my website. You can also get advice from the Energy Saving Trust.

Clive Betts MP