Ministers have been accused of rowing back on their green investment promises after announcing an initial investment in the offshore wind industry which is less than half the amount originally pledged.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) has published details of a proposed contract to build a manufacturing facility for offshore wind power at a cost of up to Â£70m. It comes weeks after Boris Johnson unveiled his â€œ10-point plan for a green industrial revolutionâ€ which included a promise to spend Â£160m â€œmodern ports and manufacturing infrastructureâ€.
The Government says that the full funding pledge still applies and will be detailed in due course. But officials are currently unable to say when further details will be announced and Labour accused ministers of â€œsmoke and mirrorsâ€.
The Prime Minister promised fresh support for wind farms in his party conference speech this year, poking fun at himself for previously claiming the turbines â€œcouldnâ€™t pull the skin off a rice puddingâ€. Last month he made an announcement designed to reset his premiership after the departure of close aide Dominic Cummings, in which he set out 10 ideas to boost the UKâ€™s green credentials.
â€˜At the forefrontâ€™
The Government said at the time: â€œWe will put ourselves at the forefront of manufacturing as we see wind turbines grow in size. To support this enlarging industry, we will invest Â£160m into modern ports and manufacturing infrastructure, providing high quality employment in coastal regions.â€ It named Scotland, Wales, Teesside and the Humber as areas of the UK that could benefit from the investment.
Beis has now published the formal appeal for contractors to work on the Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme, constructing a single site in a coastal region. The department told applicants: â€œAlthough the award amount is not fixed (and an award of a greater amount may be made), we expect that this award will be up to a sum of around Â£70m.â€
The project â€œmust have a realistic chance of commencing manufacturing activities by the end of 2023â€, the Government said â€“ meaning that tangible progress would have been made in time for the next general election.
Labour claimed the announcement represented a downgrade of the original commitment. Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead told i: â€œAs with so many of Boris Johnsonâ€™s grand promises, the pledge on offshore wind was announced with much fanfare but now seems to have been built on smoke and mirrors.
â€œItâ€™s incredibly disappointing, but itâ€™s what weâ€™ve come to expect from this Government. More broken promises when we need ambition, investment, and detailed policy proposals. Labour called for a Â£30bn green economic recovery that would create jobs in sectors like offshore wind and ensure the low-carbon infrastructure we need is built in Britain.â€
Beis insists that further details of the process will be announced â€œin due courseâ€ but has refused to set a timeline for the next steps.