This is modern Britain. BP and Shell, two UK registered energy giants, post record (windfall) profits of £23 and £32 billion for last year. These are truly mind boggling figures equating to nearly £1000 for every person in the UK. Of course the companies will argue that they operate globally, and that’s true, but even then they have profits bigger than the budgets of many smaller nation states. And with money comes power. So BP can announce that it will renege on the promise to cut oil and gas production by 40% by 2030 as their contribution to the fight against global warming. And there is precious little this government will do about it. Instead they will both pay far less tax in the UK as government rewards them with tax breaks for investing in the search for new fossil fuels and they’ll pay a lower rate of tax than they would if they were declaring their UK income in Norway.
This is modern Britain. The Chief Executive of Centrica, British Gas to most of us, has had to apologise because their contractors have been smashing their way into people’s homes to force them into having a pre-payment meter which in effect cuts them off when money dries up. British Gas at the same time also earned record profits.
This is modern Britain. Following the uproar on the actions of British Gas, it wasn’t the government or OfGem, the energy regulator, but a very senior Judge who took action. He has ordered courts to stop, at least for the time being, from issuing warrants forcing people to have pre-payment meters fitted. He reminded the lower courts that amongst the families affected are those who are vulnerable. Well done our legal system.
But really we have got to look at why these energy giants are posting record profits. It’s simply not because their top executives are working harder or even coming up with great new ideas. It’s simply because they can charge higher prices as world energy prices shot up on the back of the Russian war in Ukraine. So who pays for this? It’s their customers here in the UK and elsewhere. In other words its you and me. And that’s why Prime Minister Sunak and friends are neglecting their day job, especially when the government’s finances are low, if they continue with the nonsense that a proper windfall tax will harm the UK. It’ll harm their friends probably but they can afford it. Tax the energy giants like the Norwegians do. It’s practical and its fair.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 11 February 2023.