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Govt urged to cut energy prices

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PRODUCT manufacturers have called on the Government to ease their financial burden by ensuring UK energy prices do not soar out of control.

They are claiming that unless the Government takes action to bring down rising energy prices the UK will lose manufacturing business to competitor countries.

Speaking at the Construction Products Association's autumn lunch, president Roy Harrison called on Alun Michael, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, to help lobby for lower prices.

He cited a doubling of prices for gas and electricity contracts and called for the Government to take action.

Mr Harrison said: 'If companies are going to continue to invest in the UK, the Government must set a clear framework for ensur ing that industry has a secure supply of energy at prices that compare favourably with those they have to pay in countries with which they have to compete.' Delegates at the meeting complained that UK manufacturers were being hit in the pocket by rocketing energy costs and were facing an increased threat from producers manufacturing in countries where energy is cheaper.

Mr Harrison also urged chancellor Gordon Brown to drop the climate change levy for companies tied up in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme.

He said: 'It is bizarre at a time like this that the Government continues to insist that companies engaged in the Emissions Trading Scheme should be required to pay the climate change levy.' In response, Mr Michael accepted that manufacturers in the UK were facing energy price increases but urged producers to keep them in perspective.

He claimed that energy costs in most European Union competitor countries had risen at the same rate as those in the UK.

Mr Michael said: 'I acknowledge that there has been an increase in price but we must keep them in propor t ion.

'Officially the price of gas and electricity has stayed within the range of other European countries.' And he claimed that part of the reason behind the spiralling energy costs was a surge in demand and loss of fossil fuel production following the catastrophic hurricanes in the United States and Central America.

But Mr Michael said he remained open to discussion on the issue and encouraged industry representatives to keep in touch.

He said: 'I am happy to hear of details from the industry where the effects are being felt.' He called on the industry to maintain a 'close dialogue' with the Government and said he would ensure that there were 'factors in place to make sure the industry's point of view was heard'.