Energy windfall tax petition snubbed
THE majority of MPs in the Westcountry will not sign a
petition calling on Gordon Brown to levy a one-off windfall tax
on energy and utility companies.
The petition, organised by the left-wing pressure group
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Compass, asks that a share of the profits made this year by the
main energy providers, which it says are up from £557 million
in 2003 to £3 billion this year, be used to help Britain's
Most MPs in Cornwall and Devon said they agreed with the
principle of the petition but insisted it would be practically
impossible to levy such a windfall tax because most energy
companies are big multinationals and make some of their profits
MPs in the region believe it would make more sense to levy a
tax on the profits that energy firms have made through the EU
carbon emissions trading scheme.
Richard Younger-Ross, Lib-Dem MP for Teignbridge, said he
would support the idea on principle but would not sign the
He said: "As an MP I use early motions in Parliament to make
my views known. If I started signing national petitions I would
receive every petition there is under the sun.
"It's a good idea to claw some of the profits these
companies are making back to help those who can't afford to pay
their energy bills, so long as the Treasury does not use this
money for any other purposes."
Matthew Taylor, Lib-Dem MP for Truro and St Austell, agreed,
saying: "In theory it's a great idea. These companies have made
huge profit through no investments of their own, just because
of the market speculation.
"If the Government can get some of these profits back to
help poorer people, then all the better."
It would not be the first time the Labour Government had
levied a windfall tax on energy firms. In 1997, when it came to
power, it raised £4.5 billion to fund its new deal for the
This time round, Compass believes billions could again be
raised with the view to help people who are suffering from the
rising costs of living or have been plunged into fuel
Compass's petition said: "Part of the money raised should be
used to immediately help those struggling with rising fuel
bills and should be particularly targeted at families in or
facing fuel poverty."
The Prime Minister, who returned yesterday from the Olympic
Games' closing ceremony in Beijing, has shrugged off demands
for a windfall tax on energy companies' profits. Instead, he
favours increasing the amount these firms pay for pollution
Originally permits under the EU carbon emissions trading
scheme were free, leading energy firms to make an estimated £9
million profit out of them.
Now Labour ministers want to auction seven per cent of them
– a measure that could raise £2 billion over four years. This
could be extended to 10 per cent, which would bring in a
further £500 million.
Hugo Swire, Conservative MP for East Devon, said it should
be up to the individual companies to decide to share out their
huge profits and not see a tax imposed on them by central
He said: "We need to address the fundamentals of the
economy. Why has council tax risen so much?"
Julia Goldsworthy, Lib-Dem MP for Falmouth and Camborne,
said that the petition for a windfall tax was only looking at
energy firms' profits but should look at the profits made under
the EU carbon emissions trading scheme instead.
She said: "These firms have made £9 billion under the
emission trading scheme and some of this should be going
towards increasing energy efficiency and helping people who
face rising costs of living and fuel poverty.
"That would be a better approach than just taxing them on
their profits which may have been made abroad."
Adrian Sanders, Lib-Dem MP for Torbay, agreed, saying: "If
it's about a windfall tax on the huge profits these companies
make from the emissions trading scheme, then it's brilliant. I
would sign such a petition.
"But if it's just on their profits, then when you think most
of these companies' profits are made in other countries, I
don't think it would bring in much money. Besides, it would
jeopardise these companies' ability to carry on operating in
St Ives Lib-Dem MP, Andrew George, said he would only sign
the petition should the wording be acceptable.
"Oil companies have made the largest profits in their
history at a time when the rest of us are struggling," he said.
"It is putting fishermen out of business, and placing a real
hardship on people especially in rural areas. The system is
just not working.
"It is right that these companies should share their profit
and alleviate the problems they have created.
"The same goes for energy firms. But there are many
practical difficulties to levying a windfall tax on their