Cut energy bills with this ‘Robin Hood’ tax on suppliers – Sir Ed Davey
It was, Johnson wheedled, “a bit of a tip” due to its former resident Theresa May “only” having used John Lewis. So much better, Johnson must have privately reasoned, to use £840-a-roll wallpaper courtesy of interior designer Lulu Lytle.
While the Prime Minister was wrestling with how he planned to build back better with his soft furnishings, many Britons were struggling with a rather more basic domestic conundrum: whether to stay warm or eat.
Energy bills have been soaring, with food prices also rising. And it’s set to get worse. Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis predicts energy bills will rise by a further 50 per cent, and for poorly insulated homes that shocking figure could be even higher.
So as temperatures plummet the Liberal Democrats have turned up the heat on the Prime Minister with my call for a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on a few profiteering energy companies to raise the cash to help over 17 million people with their heating bills.
We have worked out the economics carefully. This isn’t some stealth tax against legitimate wealth creation. The fact is energy companies are basking in the warm glow of unexpectedly sky high profits, not because they’ve done anything, but because the global gas price has rocketed. Our plan lets the nation share in some of these surprise super-profits, so we can quite literally stop some of our fellow citizens freezing to death – without draining the Covid-stretched public purse.
So far Boris Johnson has seemed quite happy for a few wealthy oil and gas executives and shareholders to trouser vast bonuses, even ignoring the pleas of British industry struggling with the dramatic rise in energy costs.
Earlier this week it emerged that Russian energy giant Gazprom, based in London, has cashed in a £179m dividend. Meanwhile, the boss of BP has described his company as a ‘cash machine’ after soaring oil and gas prices boosted its profits to £2.4bn in the third quarter of 2021 alone.
It’s high time Boris Johnson stopped taking the rest of us for granted, and offered real help. He could immediately charge our ‘Robin Hood’ tax on those oil and gas firms making super-profits, to raise money to support millions of families facing soaring heating bills.
This would be a one-off levy to raise at least £5bn from companies making record profits.
With our plan, the money recovered wouldn’t just be sent to the Treasury to be wasted on dodgy contracts for Tory donors – it would be sent directly to the most vulnerable, shivering in the bleak mid-winter.
Firstly, we want the current £140 rebate off energy bills, called the Warm Homes Discount, to be more than doubled to £300, and offered to an extra 5.5 million vulnerable and low-income households – from disabled people to those on pension or universal credit.
Secondly, the Winter Fuel Allowance offered to pensioners should also be doubled so the most elderly pensioners would get up to £600 towards their heating this year. And we would act fast, to get people this extra help for this winter
But I also want Ministers to end their focus on the grotesque trivia of the self-inflicted scandals engulfing them – from illegal parties to interior decoration – and instead tackle the cycle of fuel poverty.
When Liberal Democrats were in Government we took forward and improved home insulation programmes started by Labour and introduced new laws for making homes warmer. Yet in 2015 the Conservatives hit the brakes, scrapped our laws and essentially ended the insulation revolution that was fighting both fuel poverty and energy waste.
Now is the time for the Conservatives to admit they have got it badly wrong. Liberal Democrats have so many ideas we could suggest to heat homes, improve energy efficiency and boost green British businesses – a triple win.
The start must be a ‘Robin Hood’ tax on soaring profits of energy giants. I know Johnson likes his wallpaper, but anything else is just papering over the scandal of British fuel poverty.
Sir Ed Davey MP is leader of the Liberal Democrats and a former Energy Secretary.
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