With this it will be convenient to consider the following:
“, which may include electrification investment that decarbonises upstream oil and gas activities”.
This amendment would put on the face of the bill that electrification investment which decarbonises upstream oil and gas activities is eligible for relief.
Clause 2 stand part.
Clauses 3 to 11 stand part.
Amendment 1, in clause 12, page 9, line 32, after “levy” insert
“and the amount of tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred that the responsible company is claiming under section 2 of this Bill.
(2A) The data submitted by responsible companies under subsection (2) of this section must be published in aggregate on a quarterly basis.”
This amendment requires companies making a payment of the levy to also provide information to HMRC about the amount of extra tax relief they are claiming under section 2 of the Bill, and requires the total amounts of levy received and tax reliefs claimed every quarter to be published.
Clause 12 stand part.
Clauses 13 to 19 stand part.
That schedule 1 be the First schedule to the Bill.
That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.
New clause 1—Assessment of revenue effects of a higher Energy Profits Levy—
(a) tax revenues, and
(b) oil and gas company profits of the Energy Profits Levy being charged at 45%.’
This new clause would require the Government to publish an assessment of the effect on tax revenues and on oil and gas company profits of charging the Energy Profits Levy at 45% rather than 25%.
New clause 2—Review of the impact of tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred—
‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, by
(a) net zero obligations;
(b) energy security;
(c) renewable energy supplies; and
This new clause requires an assessment, within three months of the end of the first year of the levy being in place, of what impact the Bill’s extra tax relief for investment expenditure by oil and gas companies would have on the UK’s net zero obligations and other aspects of the energy market.
New clause 3—Review of impact of earlier start date of the levy—
‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, publish an assessment of how much the levy would have raised between
This new clause requires an assessment, within three months of the Bill becoming law, of how much extra revenue would have been raised if the levy had been introduced on
New clause 4—Review of the amount of tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred—
‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, publish an assessment of—
(a) how much tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred under sections 2 to 7 of this Act will be claimed; and
(b) how much of the tax relief expected to be claimed is estimated to be in respect of investment that would have taken place if the tax relief had not been in place.’
This new clause would require the Government to assess the amount of tax relief for investment expenditure introduced by this Bill expected to be claimed by oil and gas companies, and to estimate how much of this is a deadweight cost.
New clause 5—Review of the impact of limiting the scope of the tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred—
‘The Chancellor of the Exchequer must, within three months of this Act receiving Royal Assent, publish an assessment of the impact of making ineligible for the tax relief on additional expenditure treated as incurred any investments that—
(a) do not align with the IEA’s net zero emission scenario for a 1.5 degree temperature increase;
(b) have been announced before
(c) are incurred by companies that have engaged in share buy-backs in the three previous financial years.’
This new clause would assess the impact of limiting the scope of the tax relief introduced by this Bill to exclude investments on the basis of their impact on climate change, whether they had already been announced, and whether the company making the investment had engaged in share buy-backs in the last three years.
New clause 6—Environmental impact of exploration activity on which levy relief is claimed—
‘The Government must undertake an environmental impact assessment in relation to any claim for relief in respect of exploration activity, which must include an assessment of whether the exploration activity is consistent with the Government’s net zero commitments.’
This new clause would require the Government to assess against its net zero commitments any investment in oil and gas exploration activity against which levy relief is claimed.
New clause 7—Regular reviews in relation to oil and gas market—
‘The Government must publish a review of the oil and gas market by
(a) whether there is a continued need for the levy, and
(b) whether the levy should be continued in order to promote further decarbonisation of upstream oil and gas activities.’
This new clause would require a six-monthly review by the Government of the oil and gas market to assess whether the levy is still needed and whether it should continue in order to promote decarbonisation of upstream oil and gas activities.
New clause 8—Assessment of revenue from a permanent levy rate of 30%—
‘The Government must within six months of Royal Assent lay before the House of Commons an assessment of the expected change in levy revenue if the levy is set at a permanent rate of 30% so that taxation on oil and gas company profits was permanently set at 70%.’
This new clause would require the Government to produce an assessment of the amount of revenue which would be generated if the level of taxation on oil and gas company profits was permanently raised to the global average of 70%.
New clause 9—Assessment of levy revenue if investment relief not permitted—
‘The Government must within six months of Royal Assent lay before the House of Commons an assessment of the revenue that the levy would yield if no relief was permitted in respect of investment expenditure.’
This new clause would require the Government to produce an assessment of how much revenue would be generated by the Energy Profits Levy if the investment allowance were removed.
New clause 10—Assessment of investment allowance on compliance with climate change targets—
‘The Government must within six months of Royal Assent lay before the House of Commons an assessment of the impact of the levy investment allowance on compliance with the requirements of the Climate Change Act and the global agreement to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees.’
This new clause would require the Government to produce an assessment of the impact of the investment allowance on achieving Net Zero by 2050 and limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees.
Just to remind everyone: as I am sitting down here, I am the Chair of the Committee and not Mr Deputy Speaker, so it is “Mr Evans”, “Chair” or “Chairman”. Anything like that will do.
Thank you very much, Mr Chair. I open this debate by reminding the Committee of the purpose of the energy profits levy. The levy is a temporary 25% surcharge on extraordinary profits being made by the oil and gas sector as a result of the substantial rise in energy prices precipitated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It will help to fund the cost of living package for UK families that we announced in May. It will raise around £5 billion over the next year and will apply to companies within the ringfenced corporation tax regime. Specifically, these are companies involved in the exploration for and extraction of oil and gas in the UK and on the UK continental shelf.
The Government have been clear that they want the oil and gas sector to reinvest its profits to support the economy, jobs and UK energy security. That is why the Bill includes the 80% investment allowance. This new super deduction-style relief is being introduced to encourage firms to invest in oil and gas extraction in the UK. In future years, if oil and gas prices return to historically more normal levels, the Government will phase out the levy. However, the first clause in the Bill specifies that the levy will automatically cease to apply after
Clause 1 gives the Government the ability to collect the energy profits levy. It sets the 25% rate and the levy’s main scope. The clause sets out that the levy applies to accounting periods for when the measure is in effect. It also sets the adjustments to ringfence profits for the purposes of calculating taxable profits for the levy. The levy is a tax on profits that companies are realising from oil and gas activities during what is an exceptional period. It is only fair that the measure of profit on which the EPL is charged should not be reduced by the amount of decommissioning expenditure or losses incurred from previous years. Therefore, those adjustments, which include finance costs, decommissioning costs and historic losses, are left out of account. However, the repayment of petroleum levy revenue tax arising from decommissioning is also left out of accounts. As I mentioned on Second Reading, the Government have responded to feedback from the industry in making this change. Although such repayments remain taxed under the ringfenced corporation tax and supplementary charge, they are not taxed under the levy. Another adjustment to profits is the new 80% investment allowance, which is deductible against profits.
Clause 2 defines the investment allowance, which applies to capital expenditure incurred on oil-related activities. It also includes certain operating and leasing expenditure. The allowance will be calculated in the same way as the investment allowance for the existing supplementary charge. However, it is both more immediate and more generous, as it will be available to companies at the point of investment. It is also worth emphasising that qualifying expenditure can be used on the decarbonisation of upstream activities, including electrification.
This is important to the industry, and members of the industry—and, indeed, Members of this House, including my hon. Friend David Duguid—have raised it with us. Any capital expenditure on electrification, as long as it relates to specific oil-related activities within the ringfence, will therefore qualify for the allowance. This will include, for example, expenditure on plant and machinery such as generators—including wind turbines—transformers and wiring.
Clauses 3 and 4 set out the types of operating and leasing expenditure that are eligible for the investment allowance, and they are modelled on the provisions for the supplementary charge investment allowance. For operating expenditure, the expenditure must have been incurred for one of the listed purposes, such as increasing oil extraction rates or oil reserves, and must be incurred in relation to a qualifying facility or oil well. However, the allowance is not available for routine repair and maintenance. Leasing expenditure must be for leases of at least five years, and must be for mobile production or storage assets such as floating production storage and offloading ships.
The right hon. and learned Lady sent a letter to MPs saying that electrification will be covered in the offsetting, but does she agree that it should really be in the Bill? Ministers and Prime Ministers come and go, as we have seen, so the only way the industry can have full certainty and clarity is to have something in the Bill about electrification, which is the purpose of SNP amendment 9.
I have read amendment 9 and will address it in due course. In response to the hon. Gentleman’s point, that will be included in guidance. I said it at the Dispatch Box last week, and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has also said it at the Dispatch Box, so I think that point is quite clear.
Clause 5, on the meaning of “disqualifying purposes,” is an anti-avoidance provision to ensure that expenditure is not eligible for the investment allowance if it arises because of any tax avoidance arrangements. Clause 6 ensures that additional expenditure for the investment allowance is available only for new assets, including the acquisition of an interest in an oilfield. It prevents the allowance from being generated on assets that have already been taken into account for the purposes of the levy or that would have been had the levy been in force.
Clause 7 determines when investment expenditure is incurred. For capital expenditure, it is as per the rules set out in the existing capital allowances legislation; for operating and leasing expenditure, it is the date on which it is paid. The clause also makes it clear that expenditure incurred before
Clauses 8 and 9 define financing and decommissioning costs and are modelled on existing legislation. Clause 10 and schedule 1 set out the loss regime within the levy. This includes group relief and the losses that companies carry back or forward under the levy, such as carrying forward losses to a future qualifying period. Clause 11 applies general corporation tax principles to the levy, which is treated for administrative purposes as an amount of corporation tax. It also prescribes the framework within which the levy will operate.
Clause 12 introduces a requirement for companies making a levy repayment to provide information about that payment to HMRC, so that receipts from the levy can be monitored. Clause 13 provides for necessary adjustments to be made if alterations are made to a company’s ringfenced profits or losses. Clause 14 introduces schedule 2, which makes consequential amendments to enactments in the light of this Bill.
Clauses 15 to 17 set out the rules for apportioning profits for accounting periods that straddle the levy’s start or sunset dates. These rules identify which profits are chargeable to the levy by treating the periods before and after the start or end date as separate accounting periods. In particular, this requires companies to apportion their receipts, expenses, assets and liabilities on a just and reasonable basis. Clauses 18 and 19 simply set out the Bill’s legal interpretation and short title in the usual manner.
This Bill delivers the energy profits levy, a 25% surcharge on the oil and gas sector’s extraordinary profits. The levy will raise around £5 billion over the next year, and it will go towards supporting people via the cost of living measures we announced in May. The Bill also provides for the new 80% investment allowance, which means that businesses will overall get a 91p tax saving for every £1 they invest. Finally, the Bill provides certainty through a sunset provision. It will therefore give businesses further reassurance that the levy is indeed temporary.
I will now address the detail of the Bill’s key clauses, as well as the amendments and new clauses tabled in my name and those of my hon. and right hon. Friends.
As I set out on Second Reading, this Bill is long overdue. The Government have finally agreed to introduce a windfall tax many months after they should have done. As I noted earlier, Ministers still cannot bring themselves to say “windfall tax” in relation to these measures, so we offer them amendment 8, which would rename the Bill, as one last chance to call this new tax what it is.
It has been six months since, on
Clause 1 makes it clear that the windfall tax will apply from
Those extra months would raise an extra £1.9 billion for the public finances, which we would then urge the Government to put toward removing VAT on domestic energy bills for the rest of this year. We have been urging the Government to scrap VAT on this year’s domestic energy bills since last autumn. We know that a VAT cut would provide immediate help to families now. Furthermore, taking VAT off energy bills would help to push inflation downwards from its current 40-year high. Funding for this should come from applying the windfall tax from January this year, when Labour first called for it, rather than only from May, when the Government finally came round.
Conservative leadership hopefuls have been talking a lot over the weekend about how keen they are on tax cuts, although they and their supporters have all failed to explain how any of those would be paid for. Today, we offer them a fully funded tax cut that will help people immediately with the cost of living. Today, we are asking them to follow our plan to cut VAT on home energy bills by applying the windfall tax on oil producers from the start of the year, as should always have been the case. The principle of backdating a windfall tax is not only well established—given that the very principle of windfall taxes is to tax unexpected profits that have occurred—but is included in this Bill, which backdates the levy in its first clause.
We know that oil producers such as BP and Shell reported bumper profits in the first quarter of 2022. As drafted, however, the Government’s Bill ignores those profits entirely, as their levy will not apply until well into the second quarter of this calendar year. I realise that the Financial Secretary has said that she will not support our new clause and that the current Chancellor, a former oil industry executive, is unlikely to change his mind after coming out so firmly against a windfall tax on oil and gas producers back in January, on the grounds that those producers were “already struggling.” But given the situation in the Conservative party, I wonder whether colleagues of the Minister may feel able to think more openly about how to vote. I wonder whether any of the other Conservative leadership candidates may like to support our plan for an immediate, fully funded tax cut to help people with the cost of living and tackle inflation. Later this evening, when we vote on new clause 3, we will find out what judgment they have made.
We would also like to know what judgment those people have made about the Government’s decision to undermine the levy by shamefully giving a third or more of any money raised straight back to the oil producers through the new tax break introduced by clauses 2 to 7. This new tax break offers oil and gas producers an unprecedented subsidy for their spending on oil-related activities. As we made clear on Second Reading, for every £100 an oil and gas producer invests in the North sea, they will receive £91.25 from the taxpayer. That is an astonishing 20 times the £4.50 that companies investing in renewable energy will receive from April next year.
Any argument by Ministers that this tax break is necessary to support investment in oil-related activities has been challenged by the bosses of the oil producers themselves. BP’s chief executive told shareholders just two months ago that the company’s £18 billion investment plans were
“not somehow contingent on whether or not there is a windfall tax”.
Yet despite even oil executives questioning its worth, the Government are pushing ahead with this tax break. Our analysis has shown that that means a third or more of any revenue from the new levy could be handed straight back to oil and gas producers. That money will subsidise projects that almost certainly would have happened anyway, as there is no requirement in the Bill for investment to be additional to what was already planned, and this move stands totally at odds with the paramount need to invest in renewable energy sources.
It is critically important and urgent for us to invest in renewable energy to strengthen our energy security while bringing down people’s bills and tackling the climate crisis. We have set out Labour’s plan to do just that. Alongside insulating 19 million homes over 10 years to cut people’s bills, we would strengthen our energy security and reduce our carbon emissions by doubling our onshore wind capacity, tripling solar power, backing tidal power and nuclear power, and further investing in hydrogen. Yet the Government are today introducing a tax break that seems to fly in the face of tackling the climate crisis.
That is why we have tabled new clause 2, which would force the Government to come clean about the impact of their unnecessary tax giveaway to oil producers on our country’s net zero obligations, energy security and renewable energy supplies. This new clause also asks the Government to spell out what impact their tax break will have on fracking, given the deeply concerning reports in the media that legal advice provided to the campaigning group Uplift suggests that fracking companies would also be eligible for this tax break, based on the way the Bill has been written. I urge the Government to accept new clause 2, to make it clear what impact the tax break in the Bill will have on fracking. If the Minister refuses to do that, will she at least come clean today and confirm or deny whether this tax break could lead to public money being channelled toward dangerous, unpopular and expensive fracking projects?
Astonishingly, despite offering such a generous, unnecessary, and counterproductive tax break in this Bill, the Government still do not seem able to say how much it will cost. I note that the tax information and impact note, published just a few hours ago, gave no figures on that at all. To make sure the Government are open about the impact of this tax break, we have tabled amendment 1, which requires them to be transparent on the details of this tax relief once the levy is in place, by collecting and publishing the figures on how much it will cost. We have also tabled new clause 4, which forces the Government to do what they really should do without our needing to ask, which is coming clean now on how much they estimate this Bill’s new tax relief will cost. New clause 4 also forces them to come clean on the simple question of how much of the tax relief is estimated to be claimed in respect of investment that would have taken place anyway. As I highlighted on Second Reading, the Financial Secretary seemed clear in this Chamber on
“The investment relief should not be available for investments that are deadweight. It should be for new investments.”—[Official Report,
Yet there is nothing in the Bill to make sure the tax relief it introduces goes toward investments that are new. We are therefore left unclear how she could have been so confident that the relief will not be available for investments that are deadweight, and our new clause seeks clarity on that point. If she will not accept our amendment, perhaps she can at least confirm whether she may have unintentionally misled the House on
Let us take a step back from the details. We simply do not believe this tax break is right; it undermines the windfall tax, it does not even work on its own terms and it flies in the face of the urgent need to respond to the climate crisis. That is why we have tabled amendments 2 to 7. When we conclude this debate, we intend to vote against clause 2 to remove this tax relief in its entirety. For months, we have opposed the Government’s tax rises on working people. In the past few days, we have heard Conservative leadership candidates talking a lot about tax cuts. If potential Tory leaders refuse to back us tonight, one of the very first votes they cast since launching their campaigns will be to cut taxes for oil producers. If they keep refusing to back us tonight, they will be opposing our fully funded plan to cut VAT on home energy bills. That will simply confirm what we all already know to be true: that changing the person at the top of the Conservative party is not going to change anything at all. We need a change of Government, and that means we need a Labour Government.
I was asked on
“Whichever way you look at it, a 65% tax rate applied to an industry that we need to encourage to help us through our energy policy mess seems topsy-turvy.
Higher taxes can never mean lower prices.”
And this was the statement that caused some alarm and was widely reported:
“All in all, I’m disappointed, embarrassed and appalled that a Conservative Chancellor could come up with this tripe.”
With the change of Chancellor, I had hoped that we would have quietly disposed of the Bill and not progressed to Second Reading. It should sensibly have been scrapped, but although the former Chancellor has gone, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend Mr Clarke, is still here and presented the Bill this afternoon. I fully understand public disquiet about the supranormal profits that have been earned by the oil and gas industry over the period. James Murray, who speaks from the Labour Front Bench, has made those points, which form the backbone of some of Labour’s new clauses.
The comments of various chief executives of the oil and gas industry—calling their profits “cash machines” and all that—were particularly unhelpful; they did not do themselves too many favours. Such companies lost similar amounts of money during covid, when, as we all recall, the gas and oil price completely collapsed. Owing to storage issues, there were a few days when oil was trading at a negative rate, which was rather bizarre; I wish I had had a few barrels to fill at the time.
We already did some rather strange things in years past. Under the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017, we restricted the carry-forward of losses. There is an allowance of £5 million, but the amount of profit that can be relieved with carried-forward losses is restricted to 50% on the rest. We have created a tax regime whereby we are happy to take the profits and tax them, but we are not willing appropriately to relieve the losses, and I am not sure that any of Labour’s new clauses would address that.
I have had discussions with various Front Benchers prior to today. Labour has objected to many parts of the Bill, because in its analysis of life—shadow Ministers have given quite a lot away— anything less than taking 100% of everything is a loss of tax. I am not sure that it was quite what the hon. Member for Ealing North intended to say, but he clearly suggested that that is Labour’s view of tax: it is necessary to take the lot, as anything less is a sort of tax give-back.
The hon. Member may know that over the last few decades, the five biggest oil companies have made $2 trillion of profit, and the profit that they have been making is over the normal operational costs. What we have now, thanks to Putin’s war, is a massive price hike. That windfall profit is literally that—the companies have done nothing to earn it; they have simply stolen money from the pockets of people using transport and filling their cars. Is the hon. Member saying that that theft should simply be kept by the oil companies, which have done nothing other than exploit an illegal war? What sort of statement is that?
The hon. Gentleman has merely clarified what I have been trying to say; yes, of course there were supranormal profits on the back of Ukraine war and coming out of covid, when the entire planet was getting its factories back up and running and life was returning to normal. I had hoped I was making the clear point that there were substantial losses by similar companies in years past. Given the hon. Gentleman’s analysis, I assume that grain wholesalers would face a similar tax from Labour. Semiconductor manufacturers supplying their goods from South Korea would similarly, through artificial means, have earnt good profits at this time. It seems that the Labour party would definitely want to tax everybody on anything that it considered to be an inappropriate amount of profit, whatever that might be.
I have a number of objections to the levy. Labour’s new clauses 7 and 8 go some way to clarifying a little of what I am saying, although I will not support them tonight. Let me turn to the relevant North sea businesses that will be caught by the levy. Since
We had a 62% tax during that period, but immediately prior to this legislation the supplementary charge had been down to 10%. We were bobbling along with massive profits and were taking 40% of the total to the Treasury. Whichever way I look at it, I see that as a goodly rate of tax. However, under clause 1, which has just been outlined by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer, this new energy profits levy is 25%.
Let me be very clear about my objections: a 65% tax rate is excessive in any tax regime. We are asking the self-same companies to go all out—“Please go all out!”—for more oil and gas in the North sea at this time of energy crisis, energy insecurity and very high prices. Why have they not, thus far, explored those parts of the North sea that we are now asking them to explore? It is because they are more complicated, deeper and more hostile environments. The profits derived from those tougher locations—the higher hanging fruit, rather than the lower hanging fruits—will be less, as the costs are higher.
I am aware of what I perceive as the tax nudge, but I am afraid that it is a little bit like Baldrick’s cunning plan. We are trying to nudge companies—this is about the only good thing about the Bill—by saying, “You make the right investments to get more oil and gas out of the North sea that we desperately need, and we will give you a very substantial tax relief.” And that tax relief is substantial, at 91.25%. I am afraid that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has let the cat out of the bag; if that is the Baldrick cunning plan, which I can see the benefit of, how can we have estimated £5 billion as the amount of tax to be raised? That cunning plan is not going to work fully; many companies will not take the option of relieving the variety of taxes that are now before them, they will not invest, and we will be taking £5 billion out of the industry.
We are not only asking the companies to undertake new investment in the North sea. We are asking them to undertake some rather fresh thinking and research, with unknown outcomes, on the net zero pathway. I know for a fact that BP is doing a lot of work in this field—its people have been in one of the dining rooms of this House—and good luck to it, but as has been highlighted by the Labour Front Benchers, there is nothing in the Bill that nudges such investment in the net zero field.
“Profit” is not a dirty word. Profits pay our salaries, every salary of every civil servant, and every single pension in this country; they are all on the back of profits. “Profit” is a good word—a word that makes the world turn. Another objection I have to the levy is that the self-same companies, which are earning good profits, are the backbone of many blue chip investments that can be found in practically every pension fund in the land, because they are good dividend payers. Millions of pensioners rely on those dividends—a long and usual flow that can be relied on year in, year out. By the Government taking the extra 25%, those dividend flows will have to be lessened. We cannot take another 25% out of a profit and expect the dividends to flow at the same rate.
Most importantly—and I really do wish that this Bill had been smothered—what does a tax rate of 65% say about doing business in the UK? Does it say, “Do well, and we may change the tax rate rather quickly on future profits, because you are doing rather too nicely”? My hon. Friend Peter Aldous made the point on Second Reading that these companies are fleet of foot. They can invest wherever they like. There is plenty of oil and gas around this world that they can go to, but where their investments may not be carried out and administered in such an environmentally positive way as in the UK. There might be very little monitoring of how much methane is being vented off and of the actual working conditions of people working off the coast of Brazil or the coast of Africa. I would rather that that was done in the UK, but that is a wider argument about energy security and why we should be doing things for ourselves.
Is the hon. Member seriously saying that the companies that currently work in the North sea—companies that are environmentally responsible, take workers’ rights very seriously and look after their workers—might just move somewhere else in the world and give up on workers’ rights and the environment? That does not sound like responsible companies, yet that is what he seems to be saying they would do.
I am saying very clearly that big companies can make investments anywhere they please in the world, perhaps with tax regimes that are more suitable to them and where they are not being taxed at 65%. I would rather that they were investing here and staying here than going abroad to invest, with all the potential consequential impacts on the environment and employment. It seems that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me.
I rise in response to Alan Brown. I declare an interest: I used to work for BP. I worked in the oil and gas industry for 25 years. I worked for BP in the North sea in this country, and in Angola, Venezuela and a range of different places. I worked for other companies in other countries as well. It is true that these companies have made their bread and butter in this country, and cut their teeth in the North sea, particularly from a safety point of view. Stephen Flynn mentioned Piper Alpha, which led to our having one of the highest regulatory regimes on the planet. It is not true to say that companies abandon that when they work elsewhere; it does make it a lot more difficult for them to work in those environments, but it does not stop them.
May I take the opportunity to totally agree with what my hon. Friend was saying before? This legislation, for all its flaws, compared with what Labour is proposing—
Order. David Duguid will resume his seat. We are getting interventions on interventions, because the interventions are perhaps a little long, and people are mistaking them for speeches. Please remember that interventions are supposed to be quite short.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way—I am intervening on a previous point on which he was intervened on. Is he aware that the 65% tax that the Government are proposing is still below the global average? The figure in Angola is actually higher at 70%, so there is not any real logic to what he is saying. These oil companies are already operating in places where the tax is higher.
Let me take a couple of those points. The hon. Lady makes the point that tax rates on the oil and gas industry are higher elsewhere in the world. Well, that may be the case. I know that some will be fundamentally opposed to the whole concept of being energy secure in the UK. Gas, in my view, is part of an interim solution as we get on the path to net zero, but it is a fact of life. I do not have an awful lot of time for the output of the Climate Change Committee, but even it is saying very clearly that we will be using gas and oil up to 2050 and probably beyond. My view is that that gas and oil should be sourced in the UK. Hence my support for the nudge part of this legislation, which may encourage businesses to stay here and invest here.
I did not address properly the point from my hon. Friend David Duguid. He makes the point that we have the most fantastic environmental standards not just in oil and gas technology, but in practically everything that we do in the manufacturing space in the UK. There will be very few regimes around this world that have such high standards. On the issue of methane venting, which we have not really addressed, I can be absolutely sure that, with a very robust and advanced regulatory regime, the advanced oil and gas companies of this country will be telling the truth and doing the right thing rather more than may be the case elsewhere, and I think we have to accept that as a fact of life.
First, the hon. Member seems to think that just because gas is exploited in the UK, it will get used in the UK, yet he must know that it gets sold on global markets and therefore might get used anywhere. Secondly, he talks about our environmental standards being higher than others. He will know that we get most of our gas from Norway, where, actually, its carbon footprint is significantly less than it is here in the UK. His argument just does not stand up.
I am so delighted that the hon. Lady has expanded this debate. This is not somewhere that I wanted to go, Dame Rosie, but I think it is my duty to respond to the intervention. Surely it is obvious, no matter where on the spectrum on net zero we are—I am obviously on the rather more critical part of that spectrum—that we will be having gas in this country. We have a choice: do we import it halfway across the world on a liquefied natural gas ship, with the CO2 cost of chilling it, transporting it and regasifying it, or do we try to do that domestically?
If I may, Dame Rosie, I will address the hon. Lady’s questions. On international markets, I do not know any more about economics than this: if we add more capacity to any system, the price should drop. Even if her view of economics holds water and the price does not drop, which I think is the basis of what she is saying, would I prefer the pounds of gas revenue to be at least retained and spent in the UK, or do I want to export those pounds to Qatar? I do not think there is much choice, and the answer is obvious.
I will finish now, Dame Rosie—I am sorry for the time I have taken, but I am grateful for your indulgence. If we take up this type of proposal of penal taxes that can be changed within a month, we will lose in future deferred taxes the opportunity cost of investment. Big companies will say, “Do you know what? The UK is not a place for good investment. I think I will take my money elsewhere.” We may get £5 billion out of this tax as a windfall, but over time, in my view, we will lose more than £5 billion in the lost opportunity of businesses being attracted to the UK.
I have never believed, as has said in the House this afternoon, that the investment plans of the big oil and gas companies will be unaffected by this. I have been having discussions with them. There are already signs that they are scaling back their investment activities to the detriment of UK energy security, and I am afraid this Bill does not help with that all. If there is a Division on Third Reading, I will be voting against the Bill this evening.
Repetition is of course a convention of this House, but I am not much for many of the conventions of this House, so I do not intend to say much more than I did earlier about the Bill in general. I will just reflect very briefly on the amendments in my name and the names of my hon. Friends.
Amendment 9 relates directly to the electrification of North sea assets. We have heard comforting words about that from two Ministers now. I am sure the Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, now sitting beside the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, would agree that it will be in guidance that the electrification of assets will be able to get the taxation incentives. We cannot escape the fact that Ministers come and go, as we have seen so clearly in this place over the course of recent times, but what industry needs in relation to this issue is certainty. The best way—the only way—to provide certainty on the electrification of grids is to put that on the face of the Bill.
I agree with Craig Mackinlay on one point he made: it is deeply disappointing that there is not additional scope for the wider renewable sector to get these incentives. If the Government were serious about combating climate change and reaching their net zero ambitions, they would have extended those incentives to that industry.
That takes me on to new clause 6, again in my name and those of my hon. Friends, which aptly relates to net zero. The Government have rightly promoted, and will continue to promote, climate compatibility checks. I think we all in this place agree about those. What we need to be clear about, however, is the implications of this Bill for reaching net zero. The easiest, indeed the obvious, way to do that is to ensure that those climate compatibility environmental checks take place in relation to any investments. I thought that would be a very straightforward thing for the Government to agree with, and I hope they will do so.
Finally, in relation to new clause 7, I have teased this argument out on a couple of occasions in exchanges with Ministers: we know there is going to be a sunset clause on this levy, to end it in a couple of years’ time. However, the phrase “normal oil and gas prices” keeps being used again and again. We heard inferences from the former Chancellor that somewhere around $60 to $70 a barrel was normal. I just did a very quick calculation of prices. Between 2015 and 2021 the price was $56 a barrel, but between 2010 and 2015 it was double that, at $101.4 a barrel. I again ask the Minister—[Interruption.] Indeed, oil and gas is a good argument for independence.
I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. That has nothing to do with this Committee stage, and I would hate to get diverted, as some others did earlier.
What we and the industry need to be clear about is what price the Government regard as normal. If we are to have serious legislation, we need serious answers to the most basic of questions.
I wish to speak in favour of my new clause 1, new clauses 8 to 10, which I have signed, and of course the amendments from the Labour Front Benchers.
Away from the drama among Government Members over who will be their next leader, the cost of living emergency out there is biting ever harder. Experts now warn that the energy price cap will surge by another 64% in October to more than £3,200 a year—up £2,000 in just a few months. Millions of people will be thrown even further into crisis. We urgently need further Government interventions to help them, and my new clause offers a way to do that.
In May, after political pressure from the Labour Benches, the Government were forced into imposing a windfall tax on the North sea oil and gas producers’ excess profits. Such a tax is certainly needed. The Government’s own figures suggest that North sea oil and gas companies will make pre-tax profits of £21.4 billion this year—a staggering increase from the £2.5 billion average over the past five years. We have gone from a £2.5 billion average to £21.4 billion this year.
Let us be clear: these excess profits are not the result of extra investment. They are not the result of innovation. They are an undeserved and unexpected windfall, mainly resulting from Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine. They are vast super-profits made on the backs of higher bills for ordinary people. We have a clear choice. Either we allow the oil and gas giants to hoard those excess profits, or we use the funds to help to bail out the vast majority of people hit hard by soaring energy bills.
My new clause 1 calls on the Government to look at setting the windfall tax at 45% on top of normal tax rates, not the current proposed 25%. The aim is to ensure that nearly all of the windfall—the undeserved, unmerited excess profit—goes to supporting families instead of boosting the profits of oil and gas giants.
The windfall tax as it stands will raise £5 billion. The higher windfall tax that my new clause addresses would raise another £4 billion in tax revenues this year alone, which could provide an extra £1,000 payment to the most vulnerable 4 million households. Surely that is more important than boosting oil and gas company profits. North sea oil and gas companies’ revenues have risen so much that even with this higher tax they would still make £3 billion in profits this year, which is above their recent average.
I am also supporting calls for the current windfall tax to be made permanent and brought in line with international averages tax rates of 70%. Norway, another North sea oil and gas-producing nation, has a regular tax rate of 78% on its production, almost double our levels. That could raise billions annually to provide immediate help and to fund a huge home energy efficiency programme to cut energy use, permanently lower bills and tackle one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions.
We also need action against a major loophole in the Government proposal, which allows oil and gas companies to avoid much of the windfall tax through a major tax relief scheme on new investments that gives a 91p tax saving for every £1 they invest. That is a subsidy to oil and gas giants—[Interruption.] Conservative MPs laugh in defence of the oil and gas giants. They are in no position to laugh at all. They are an utter disgrace to their party, to the Government and to the country, so I suggest they pipe down. If they are going to speak up, let them start speaking up for the ordinary people hit hard by this cost of living crisis, not for oil and gas giants.
My hon. Friend has obviously given real thought to his proposals. Does he agree that the vast profits that the oil and gas companies make do not stay with those companies but go to their ultimate owners, the big City institutions which, in my view, the Conservative party represents these days?
That is an important point well made by my hon. Friend. That is what this is really about. It is a political choice that we are discussing.
On the Government’s major loophole that I referred to, which gives a 91p tax saving for every £1 invested by the oil and gas companies, we need to be clear that it is a subsidy to oil and gas giants. It takes money away from supporting families and encourages further fossil fuel production when we need to be ending all new oil and gas production to avoid climate catastrophe.
With another huge spike in energy prices now expected, much more needs to be done to help families. The Government should start by accepting my amendment and others that would see less going into profits for oil and gas firms, and more into bailing out people facing the biggest crisis in living memory.
First, new clause 8 would require the Government to produce an assessment of the revenue that would be generated if the level of taxation on oil and gas companies were permanently raised to the global average of 70%. That is 5% higher than the total level of taxation with the addition of the Government’s levy, but it would be permanent.
I know the new Chancellor may be disinclined to increase taxation on the oil and gas industry, given that he has benefited so handsomely from it in the past, previously earning £1.3 million from his executive position at Gulf Keystone Petroleum, including a whopping £285,000 settlement payment when he stepped down from that role in 2018 after becoming a Minister. However, it is important to understand that the level of taxation that this new clause proposes on oil and gas would simply bring the UK into line with countries such as Angola and Trinidad and is backed by 63% of the public. By way of comparison, it may be interesting to note that the UK’s North sea neighbour, Norway, has a taxation rate of 78%, and that does not seem to have done it any harm. I therefore hope that the Government will recognise that this is a very reasonable amendment that it should be easy for them to support.
The reason I am proposing a permanent taxation level is that the UK currently has the lowest tax take in the world from an offshore oil and gas regime. That is not a badge of honour; it should be a badge of shame. Indeed, Norway’s tax take from a barrel of oil in 2019 was over 10 times the equivalent here in the UK. The amendment would simply require the Government to assess the impact of ending that shameful state of affairs. Greenpeace estimates that a tax at that level would generate an additional £13.4 billion for the Exchequer in comparison with the status quo—money that, in addition to providing immediate support to households to cope with the cost of living scandal, could be used to invest in much-needed energy efficiency, quite literally insulating households from escalating costs.
To date, the Government have spent £37 billion on short-term financial support. Although that support is of course very welcome, gas prices are likely to remain high for several years, and a more long-term approach is necessary, especially when the CEO of Ofgem is warning that the number of households in fuel poverty could reach 12 million in October when the energy price cap rises again. The think-tank E3G estimates that the average household with an energy performance certificate of D or lower will be paying what it calls an inefficiency penalty of £916 per year for adequate heating compared with households with an EPC of C or higher. Investment to kick-start a local-authority-led, street-by-street home insulation programme would save cash-strapped families money not just this year but every year. It would also rectify a glaring omission in the Government’s approach so far, with the Climate Change Committee saying clearly in its 2022 progress report to Parliament:
“Given soaring energy bills, there is a shocking gap in policy for better insulated homes.”
New clause 9 would require the Government to produce an assessment of how much revenue would be generated by the energy profits levy if the investment allowance were removed. I also support the Labour Front-Bench amendment that would simply delete the clause on the investment allowance, which is nothing less than a scandal. As the Chancellor and his team very well know, it will come at huge cost to the taxpayer. Analysis by the New Economics Foundation suggests that the investment allowance will cost £1.9 billion a year because any subsidised oil and gas projects will not start to return a profit until after 2025—the date of the sunset clause in the Bill.
I very much support what the hon. Lady is saying. Is she aware that in Germany for three months in succession people are being offered a €9 a month pass that can be used on all public transport, thereby shifting people on to public transport, reducing energy costs, encouraging environmental green investment, and stopping our addiction to fossil fuels? Does she think that a higher tax could help us to do that and put us on a more sustainable route to a green future?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, particularly since it helpfully highlights a party policy of the Greens, who were, as he knows, in coalition Government in Germany. It has absolutely been their policy to introduce those kinds of incentives, and they are being massively taken up because they are incredibly popular.
I was talking about the investment allowance and just how egregious it is. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that investing £100 in the North sea now will cost companies just £8.75, with the public picking up the remaining investment costs in the form of the forgone windfall tax. What is more, there is a chance that this new subsidy could lead to the development of otherwise economically unviable projects, becoming stranded assets of little or no economic value. Oil and gas companies are benefiting from that right now. For example, according to analysis by Rystad Energy, Shell, which recorded quarterly profits of over £7 billion earlier this year, will pay £210 million less in windfall tax for investment in the newly approved Jackdaw gas field.
The investment allowance also significantly reduces the amount of revenue generated, which is why I can only assume that the Treasury believes that its levy will raise only £5 billion in its first 12 months, especially since oil and gas company profits are expected to reach £11.6 billion this year, with BP’s chief executive describing the company as a “cash machine”. Let us remember that, as other hon. Members have outlined, these profits are not earned; they are a consequence of high global gas prices fuelled by Russia’s illegal invasion and war in Ukraine, and must be urgently redistributed to provide vital support to struggling families. Will the Government now publish their full impact assessment? Will they accept this crucial amendment so that we can have clarity over the cost of their perverse proposal?
The subsidy in the Bill is unfortunately entirely consistent with the Government’s approach to subsidising the fossil fuel sector overall. While they refuse to acknowledge that tax reliefs are indeed subsidies and prefer to use the very narrow International Energy Agency definition of a subsidy, Ministers and colleagues will know well that there are much wider definitions in use, including that developed by the World Trade Organisation, which would very definitely include the investment allowance. If the Government go ahead with this subsidy, it will come on top of countless other tax reliefs from which the sector benefits, including those for exploration for new fields, for R&D, and for decommissioning. The latter, for decommissioning, has an especially egregious element in the form of decommissioning relief deeds that guarantee future tax reliefs for oil and gas companies at a given rate. Imagine any other sector being guaranteed tax reliefs in perpetuity with future Governments unable to make changes to that! Companies should pay decommissioning costs, with decommissioning plans required to ensure a just transition for workers. That is the only fair approach. The measures in the Bill will add to the decommissioning tax relief burden faced by the public purse going forward, to say nothing of the impact on fossil fuel extraction.
The hon. Lady will be interested to know that people in Swansea University are looking at using the energy from wind farms that is not used by the grid off-peak to create hydrogen that can be put in the gas pipes to dilute the gas to reduce the carbon footprint of everyday gas. Would it not be better to put the money into those sorts of green investments rather than digging more and more holes to destroy the planet?
Again, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Those are precisely the kinds of forward-looking policies that we need rather than the backward-looking, dinosaur policies that seem to think that digging out more and more fossil fuels is the way forward.
To make the same point that I made to my hon. Friend Richard Burgon, can I urge the hon. Lady to follow the money? For as long as these tax credits are given to the oil and gas companies, they are passed on to the people who control the Conservative party in the City—the big hedge fund investment billionaires who have massive incomes because of their ownership stakes in those companies.
The hon. Gentleman puts it perfectly succinctly and I very much agree.
It has been estimated that existing decommissioning relief deeds could enable the extraction of the equivalent of 1.7 billion barrels of oil that otherwise would have remained unextracted, and that will only increase if we continue with the vicious cycle of handsomely subsidising fossil fuel companies to exploit oil and gas reserves. In response to the Glasgow Climate Pact’s call for parties to
“phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”, the Climate Change Committee said that the Treasury should initiate a review of the role of tax policy in delivering net zero, and was very clear that no fossil fuel subsidy should be considered efficient in the UK. Will the new Chancellor now commit to that review, listen to his own Climate Change Committee, and take its advice?
New clause 10 would require the Government to produce an assessment of the impact of the investment allowance on achieving net zero and on limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°. It is frankly astounding that the Government need to be reminded yet again that the IEA has been clear that limiting global temperatures to 1.5° necessitates
“no new oil and gas fields approved for development” as from last year. Yet according to the United Nations Environment Programme, the level of fossil fuel production planned and projected worldwide by Governments in 2030 is more than twice the levels consistent with that goal. The UK has given North sea oil and gas companies almost £14 billion in subsidies since signing the Paris agreement in 2015 alone. This Bill was an opportunity for the Government to change course, but instead they have chosen to double down and to play with fire by bringing forward a Bill that is plainly incompatible with a safe future.
It is patently obvious that the Government should amend the Bill to ensure that oil and gas profits are taxed properly, but I believe fundamentally that that should pave the way for a much wider overhaul of our tax system. We need a carbon tax, which, if implemented properly with a dividend to shield low-income households, could be pivotal in driving the change we need in order to decarbonise our economy fairly. That tax—it has long been Green party policy—would target the big polluters such as oil and gas companies. It is estimated that, starting at a rate of about £100 per tonne of CO2, it could generate up to £80 billion to fund the transformation necessary to achieve our climate goals. That is the kind of innovative policy we need right now to save ourselves from the climate emergency that is only growing deeper.
Many of the points that have been raised in Committee were considered on Second Reading, but I would like to touch on a few of them and then deal with amendments.
James Murray asked how the new investment allowance works. On
I want to deal with some of the points made by my hon. Friend Craig Mackinlay, because I understand his objections, and no Conservative wants to bring in a tax rise where it is not necessary. I have had the opportunity to talk to him on a number of occasions about these measures, and he will know that they are targeted and temporary. He says he fears for investment coming through, but of course that will be assessed by the OBR in due course. I am not sure whether he was in the Chamber earlier when I quoted some companies that have said that they will be investing and that this encourages investment, but I will mention a further one. Kistos has said that it is
“assessing opportunities in the UK that would enable us to take full advantage of the investment allowances implicit in the recently introduced UK Energy Profits Levy”.
I turn to the amendments. Amendment 1 would require companies to report on how much additional tax relief they are claiming as a result of the levy’s investment allowance, in addition to the existing requirement to report how much levy is payable. The amendment would also require that data to be published on a quarterly basis. Companies will already be reporting the information to HMRC that allows it to ensure appropriate compliance with the law, and figures on the amount of tax raised through the levy will also be published on a periodic basis in line with other taxes. As a result, this amendment should not be made to the Bill.
Amendment 9 would add clarification to the allowable purposes of expenditure under the levy’s investment allowance. I have already dealt with that point on Second Reading, and I confirm to the Committee that HMRC will clarify this in written guidance.
New clause 1 calls for an assessment of the impact on revenue and on oil and gas companies’ profits of a 45% levy rate. Similarly, new clause 8 calls for assessments of the revenue impact of a permanent 30% levy rate, which would bring the permanent headline rate of tax for oil and gas companies in ringfence corporation tax to 70%. However, it is not standard—I will be saying this in relation to a number of new clauses—for the Government to publish assessments of the fiscal and economic impacts of measures that they are not introducing, and it is not clear that doing so would be a beneficial use of public resources. Therefore, I recommend that the Committee rejects these new clauses.
Again, new clauses 3, 5 and 9 would require reviews or assessments of policies that the Government are not introducing. New clause 3 would require a review of the revenue that would have been raised had the levy taken place from early January. I set out on Second Reading why we did not bring forward this measure earlier, and I did so last week as well. We are not supporting these measures because, as I have said, it is not usual to bring forward public assessments of measures that we are not introducing.
New clauses 2, 6 and 10 would require reviews or assessments of the impact of the investment allowance on the energy market, climate change commitments and exploration activity. The Government oppose these amendments on the basis that the Treasury already carefully considers the impact of all measures on the energy market and our climate change commitments as a matter of course.
New clause 4 would require a review of the amount of investment allowance that will be claimed and how it relates to expenditure that would have happened were the investment allowance not in place. The first point to reiterate here is that the Government expect the combination of the 25% levy and the 80% investment allowance to lead to an overall increase in investment, and the OBR will take account of this policy in the next forecast. HMRC already publishes data on the costs of non-structural reliefs, which will include the investment allowance in due course, once data is available.
Finally, new clause 7 would require the Government to publish regular reviews of the oil and gas market, including assessments of the need for the levy and whether it should be continued to promote further decarbonisation of upstream oil and gas activities. That is also unnecessary, since the Government already monitor the UK oil and gas sector, and data is published on gov.uk on a monthly and quarterly basis.
For all the reasons I have set out, I urge Members to reject all the amendments and new clauses. I commend the clauses and schedules to the Committee.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.