Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160-165)


24 APRIL 2006

  Q160  Chairman: Alan, can you give us some idea of a timescale for that?

  Alan Johnson: David, you know timescales better than I do, I think we are talking about the autumn.

  Professor Sir David King: If I can answer it a bit more fully. The Energy Research Partnership, which I co-chair with Paul Golby, who is the Chief Executive of E.ON UK, is the body that began this notion of setting up a research laboratory for energy technologies, pulling together public and private finance so that we could cover the full spectrum from research through development through demonstration right out to the actual implementation. The Research Council end, of course, funding the first part of that and industry tending to pick up as it goes out to deployment. The National Institute for Energy Technology is very much in an early phase. We had the first meeting today, pulling together the four private sector partners with the government partners involved, Sir Keith was there as well, and we are fleshing out what this body will look like. I would very much hope that before the summer recess we will be moving forward with a much clearer idea of how this partnership will work. I think all of us believe that this is a major step forward for the UK in terms of energy research and technology and that it will give us an edge in Europe over all of our competitors. The potential is enormous and we therefore have to work hard to see that we realise the potential.

  Q161  Chairman: Have you got a budget for that?

  Professor Sir David King: The budget is what was referred to by the Chancellor in his Statement. I think we would hope to be talking about sums in the region of £50-100 million a year.

  Q162  Bob Spink: It is well recognised that energy is a subject of growing importance and public awareness from the cost, the security of supply, particularly from the climate change angles. Do any of you think that it is now high time that the House of Commons had its own dedicated energy minister?

  Alan Johnson: It is back to the machinery of government. I do not think that, Mr Spink. Once again, we have been here before.

  Q163  Chairman: Just a yes or no answer will do us.

  Alan Johnson: No, I do not, Mr Spink.

  Q164  Bob Spink: Sir David has had a lot to say on energy recently, very exciting announcements. What do you think?

  Professor Sir David King: For once I am not going to make an exciting announcement. We are in the middle of the Energy Review, the Stern Review and we will have the Quorum Report shortly, and I would not want to prejudge this. I would want to say that energy is a critically important problem for government to face up to. I understand fully where your question is coming from.

  Q165  Bob Spink: I am delighted with that answer, Chairman.

  Sir Brian Bender: Personally, I would deeply regret it if a Department of Energy was set up, which I guess underlies the question, which separated responsibilities for energy from responsibilities of business. This last winter showed the crucial importance of the link between the supply of energy, the cost of energy and the cost to business. I would be disappointed if that link was broken.

  Professor Sir David King: If you were looking for a re-alignment, you would want to be looking at energy, environment and transport. In a way, unless you took a much more radical step than the one you are suggesting, I would not tinker with energy and the DTI.

  Alan Johnson: We are quite willing to take the environment—

  Chairman: The final comment is, "Chief Scientist adviser urges Government to include transport and environment". On that note, can I thank you very much indeed, Secretary of State, and thank you very much indeed gentleman for a very interesting and entertaining one and a half hours.

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