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Energy Minister: Helping banks isn't hypocrisy
THE Government minister in charge of deciding Coryton’s fate says he won’t be supporting a Russian’s bid to keep Coryton open and save hundreds of jobs.
Charles Hendry, the Energy Minister, ruled out backing a bid by Igor Yusufov, his former Russian counterpart, which would have seen the plant kept as a refinery.
But Mr Hendry confirmed the Government had no intention of subsidising Yusufov’s bid and said Coryton’s demise was down to “overcapacity” in the refining industry.
In an exclusive interview with the Gazette, he said: “Anybody looking to buy this as a refinery, on top of the purchase price, would have had to pay well in excess of a hundred million, probably approaching two hundred million, to carry out the improvement work which was still necessary.
“There has been significant investment at Coryton over recent years but it’s still only in the middle league of European refineries in terms of efficiency. If they wanted to go on building on that, they needed to have that extra investment. The companies that have looked at that have said they couldn’t justify the expenditure. This isn’t Government saying “don’t do it”, the administrator hasn’t been able to find companies prepared to take forward that level of investment.”
Mr Hendry also insisted that there is a big difference between last week’s decision to pump £100billion into the banking sector and saving the country’s refineries after Unite had accused the Government of “hypocracy”.
He said: “It’s not the Government giving money to the banks, its giving money for the banks to lend and getting the economy moving.
“This is a key issue for economic growth. It isn’t hypocracy, it’s an attempt to get the economy moving. It’s not a question of doing one thing to save banks and one thing to save refineries.”
He added, too, that the Government did not believe that there was a case to take to the European Commission regarding state aid, saying that the arrangement the French government struck with a refinery there was a temporary fix, with the ultimate future of that plant to be decided in July.
Mr Hendry said a lack of demand for petrol had led to overcapacity in the marketplace with eight refineries closing across Europe.
He said there had been a 35 per cent drop in demand for petrol since 2000, due to the rise of diesel vehicles.
Mr Hendry blamed Petroplus management for the mess Coryton is in. He said: “At the end of the day, people have suffered because of decisions made in the past by the Petroplus management, which brought the whole group down.
“We’ll now put Government resources into the taskforce. We realise this is a worrying time for those who work at the refinery and their families. We’ll be doing what we can to support them at this time.”