Alan Sugar: give British companies a wind-turbine boost

Speaking in the House of Lords, Alan Sugar tonight urged the Government to boost manufacturing by forcing foreign suppliers to use British subcontractors in the multi-billion pound wind-turbine market.

The Labour peer claimed British industry had fallen behind "time and time again" and he feared it would do so in the emerging low carbon technology industries as well.

In the next 20 years £100 billion could be spent on wind turbines, and UK suppliers had to be supported to provide the technology and eventually export it, he claimed.

And in his typically blunt style the star of the hit television show The Apprentice told those who were against wind turbines: "This technology is needed to secure our future ... so I say to those objectors - 'Get over it'."

In a Lords debate on encouraging low carbon technology, the multi-millionaire peer said ministers held the "ace card" as they granted licences to companies that generated renewable electricity.

He said: "These companies need to generate renewable power in order to comply with the Government's renewable obligation certification scheme.

"No licences should be granted unless there is an undertaking that an agreed percentage of UK content and labour is used on the contract."

This would "force the hand" of foreign suppliers to set up in the UK, buy from UK subcontractors, build plants and pay for modification to British ports, he claimed.

"To be reasonable the percentage can be phased in a stepped manner as an example starting at say 25% in the first year rising to 70% by the fifth year," he added.

Lord Sugar, who was the previous government's enterprise champion, bemoaned the loss of steel-making and shipbuilding in the North East.

He said: "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to work out that given the opportunity there is a work force and facilities there that can take on and make the lion share of this stuff, they could do it with their eyes closed."

It was "not rocket science" but "large-scale engineering, metal bashing and construction" he claimed.

Lord Sugar conceded his "simple suggestion" could conflict with EU competition laws but said ministers had "clever people" working for them who could find a way round such difficulties. He urged them to "take a leaf out of our French cousin's book" who he claimed used domestic firms for all their major projects.

He added: "The coalition has said that 500,000 people from the public sector will be put out of work, however they go on to say the good news is the private sector will employ two million.

"Well if that's true here is way to start to employ some of those two million. Britain needs to put a stake in the ground now to become a major player in this technology."

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