Chancellor George Osborne

Science investment and details of green bank announced in Budget

Investment in science and technology, funding for apprentices, and details about green bank, announced in Budget today.

In addition to the £1 billion of funding already announced last year for the bank, which will start operations a year early in 2012, £2 billion would be made available from asset sales. And £15 billion of private sector investment would be raised during the life of this Parliament, Osborne said.

But, as feared by campaigners who have been calling for the Green Investment Bank, the institution will not be allowed to borrow until 2015, subject to overall financial targets being met.

It is hoped the bank will leverage billions of pounds in private finance to fund clean energy and low-carbon projects.

But the setting up of the Government-backed institution has been dogged by disagreement within Whitehall about whether or not it should be a bank able to raise its own capital, amid concerns its borrowing could undermine efforts to cut the deficit.

Today, the Chancellor said the Green Investment Bank would support low-carbon development where the returns were too long-term or too risky for the market to invest.

Osborne also announced he was introducing the world's first carbon floor price to support investment in green energy.

Campaigners welcomed confirmation of the Green Investment Bank's establishment but Ingrid Holmes, a low-carbon finance expert from sustainable development campaigners E3G warned that preventing it from borrowing for four years was like “buying a powerful car but being forced to drive it around with the hand brake on”.

“If the Government is really serious about delivering growth then they must take the handbrake off and let the Green Investment Bank borrow from the word go,” she said.

Meanwhile, Osborne also announced £100 million extra to be invested in new science centres and a £180 million package to fund 50,000 new apprenticeships over the next three years.

Bankers would fund the £100 million boost to British science to pay for new facilities, maintenance and equipment, he said. The extra capital investment outlined in the Budget will come out of the levy on the profits made by the banks. It would be used to equip and maintain cutting-edge science at key centres in Daresbury, Norwich, Cambridge and Harwell, as well as space technology.

Osborne also said in his Budget speech that manufacturing was “crucial to the rebalancing of our economy”.  Manufacturing was growing at a record rate – and 14,000 more jobs had been created in the sector in the last three months, he said.

To help this continue, the Government planned to make export promotion more entrepreneurial and create new export credits to help smaller businesses, launch Britain’s first Technology and Innovation Centre for high-value manufacturing, and fund a further nine new university centres for innovative manufacturing.

The introduction of a Fair Fuel Stabiliser was also announced in the Budget. The stabiliser would help keep costs down in the future, and would be funded by increasing the supplementary charge on North Sea oil and gas production from 20 per cent to 30 per cent from tomorrow, he said.

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