Claire Coutinho: Labour’s energy policy will be ‘triple whammy on UK’

The Conservatives have claimed Labour’s energy policy will be a “triple whammy” for the UK, as they renewed their tax attack on their rivals.

Labour has said oil and gas production in the North Sea will be “with us for decades to come” but it would not issue new licences to explore new fields because they “will not take a penny off bills, cannot make us energy secure, and will only accelerate the worsening climate crisis”.

The Conservatives said its analysis of such a ban suggested it could lead to an estimated £4.5 billion in lost tax revenues over the next 10 years and risk tens of thousands of jobs.

Sir Keir Starmer’s party dismissed the claims as “more desperate nonsense” from the Tories.

Labour’s manifesto says the party would not revoke existing licences and that the North Sea would be managed in a way that does not jeopardise jobs.

Greenpeace protest at Rishi Sunak house
Rishi Sunak’s house in Richmond, North Yorkshire, was covered in black fabric by environmental protesters (Danny Lawson/PA)

The party also pledged to close loopholes in the windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help finance its clean green energy plans.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho said: “Labour’s energy policy will be a triple whammy on the UK; jobs lost, higher taxes and investment destroyed.

“While Labour’s energy policy is light on detail, the one thing we know for sure is that it risks turning out the lights and hiking your taxes to pay for it.

“The Conservatives are the only party with a clear plan to protect our nation’s energy security and drive down energy bills for you and your family.”

In the last Parliament, the Tory Government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill cleared the House of Commons but failed to become law due as it had not cleared all the necessary stages before the General Election was called.

The Bill would have required the industry regulator to run annual rounds for new oil and gas licences, subject to stringent new emissions and imports tests.

It was viewed by the Government as a way to maximise North Sea oil and gas production, although critics suggested it would make little difference and promoted the perception that the UK was rowing back from climate action.

The Conservative manifesto pledged to revive the legislation, to treble offshore wind capacity, build the first two carbon capture and storage clusters for technology that catches and permanently stores carbon emissions, and invest £1.1 billion in helping green industries grow.

Responding to the Tory claims, a Labour spokesperson said: “This is yet more desperate nonsense from a Conservative Party that has lied throughout this campaign.

“Labour will bring in a proper windfall tax on the oil and gas companies making record profits, and raise billions more in tax revenue which we would use to invest in homegrown clean energy through Great British Energy.

“The Conservatives oppose this plan because they are too weak to tax the oil and gas giants fairly. Every family has paid the price of 14 years of failed Conservative energy policy in higher bills, and remain exposed to future energy shocks which could cost households over £900 on their bills.

“All this latest desperate attack reveals is that the Conservatives’ plan will actually leave the country twice as exposed in 2035 than it already is now, whereas independent analysis shows Labour’s plans will lower imports, lower bills, and increase our energy security.”

Jess Ralston, head of energy at think tank the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “North Sea oil and gas output has been falling for years and any new licences for exploration won’t stop that decline continuing and would at best make a marginal difference to production.

“North Sea wind farms, and renewables in general, on the other hand could make a really big difference to our energy security.

“Given the inexorable decline of the industry, North Sea workers need to see a proper plan to transfer out. Some experts suggest 90% of current oil and gas jobs could be found a new home in offshore renewables.

“Either way, the point is you need to accelerate renewables deployment to secure jobs and the UK’s energy independence.”