Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey has called for a £9 billion “windfall” from the auction of offshore wind farm rights to finance an “emergency” programme to insulate every home in the country.
In his address to the party’s virtual spring conference, Sir Ed said the proceeds of sale – which came in “far, far higher” than expected – could be used to invest in a new “sovereign green wealth fund” to finance further infrastructure investment.
He said it could also pay for a 10-year programme home insulation programme bringing an end to fuel poverty while cutting damaging carbon emissions.
“By investing in the green technologies and industries of the future – tidal power, hydrogen, green flight – Britain can not only recover but become the world’s first green powerhouse,” he said.
“With our new green wealth fund, we can also invest in an emergency ten-year programme to insulate every single home.
“Lower heating bills for everyone – and an end to fuel poverty. Warmer homes for everyone – and green jobs in every village, town and city across the UK.”
Sir Ed also used his speech to call for a “bold” £5.5 billion-a-year tax break for small businesses as he urged the Government to put them at the heart of a post-Covid recovery.
He urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to “slash” national insurance contributions (NICs) for small firms by quadrupling the employment allowance from £4,000 to £16,000, ensuring no small business would have to pay any NICs on their first five employees.
“We know how tough the past year has been, for almost every small business. And for so many, the support from the Treasury hasn’t been nearly enough,” he said.
“Let’s work with local small businesses to help their recovery and so help our communities recover too.”
He attacked the “failures” of the Conservative government in tackling the pandemic and called for a “proper” pay rise for NHS staff after ministers proposed an increase of just 1%.
“Poorly prepared. Slow to act. Ignoring expert advice. Boris Johnson’s indecision and incompetence has failed our nation,” he said.
“How can he find billions for contracts for his Tory cronies, but not for the amazing people who have put their lives on the line for us?”
Following the murder of Sarah Everard, he said the country must do better at tackling the problem of violence against women.
“We have to do better as men. Listening to women. Calling out other men. Never turning a blind eye,” he said.