Oil and gas industry calls on Johnson to reject windfall tax proposal

Signatories warn that the industry is only in the early days of a recovery.

23 May 2022

UK companies servicing oil and gas operators have urged the Prime Minister and the Chancellor against enforcing a windfall tax, in an open letter.

Political pressure has mounted on the UK Government for a one-off additional tax to fund support for customers facing higher energy bills.

In response, 31 organisations in the UK’s offshore energy supply chain have written an open letter calling for an end to speculation about such a tax.

They include manufacturing and technology companies.

Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be further help to deal with the rising cost of living, but he was “not attracted” by the idea of new taxes, in response to calls for a one-off levy on oil and gas firms to support struggling households.

The Treasury has refused to be drawn on a report in the Financial Times that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering a levy on the profits of electricity generators – including wind farms – as well as on oil and gas companies.

Mr Sunak, like Mr Johnson, has expressed reluctance to go down the road of a windfall tax, but he has acknowledged the need to be “pragmatic” in the face of the cost-of-living squeeze.

In the letter, issued on Tuesday by trade body Offshore Energies UK (OEUK), which represents more than 400 companies in the sector, signatories warn that the industry is only in the early days of a recovery, after suffering significant losses in recent downturns.

The letter says: “A one-off windfall tax on energy producers will not sustainably help consumers and will only further reduce investor confidence in the UK, the ripple effect of which we will feel for many years to come.

“And it will do nothing to address the cyclical nature of an energy system linked to global supply and demand, with the UK becoming much less attractive to investors who will look elsewhere for the long-term stability they require to progress major energy projects.”

It went on to say any “surprise windfall tax” risks operators – big and small – scaling back their investment plans in response, which could have an impact on jobs.

The letter says: “The ramifications of any halt in investment will be felt throughout the supply chain, through jobs, and the communities this industry supports, both directly and indirectly.

“For the tens of thousands of jobs this industry supports, the impact of a windfall tax will be even greater in the long term.

“This is not least because it follows a downturn felt especially hard by the supply chain side of the industry, with thousands of manufacturing roles lost up and down the country.”

OEUK chief executive Deirdre Michie added: “After significant downturns which saw the offshore energy industry lose thousands of jobs, we need to encourage investment in cleaner energies and the sector which supports it.

“This industry is committed to supporting the country’s energy security, economy and net zero ambitions – now is the time for us to work together to drive action.”

Pressure for a windfall tax has come from Labour but also from some senior Tories.

A Treasury spokesman said: “We understand that people are struggling with rising prices, and while we can’t shield everyone from the global challenges we face, we’re supporting British families to navigate the months ahead with a £22 billion package of support.”

The 31 signatories are from: 3T Energy Group, Aker Offshore Wind, Apollo, Aubin Group, Baker Hughes, Bilfinger, Blade Energy Partners, Carjon-NRG, Dron Dickson, Exceed, Fennex, Global E&C, Halliburton, Hydrasun, ODE Asset Management, Offshore Water Management, Optimus Plus, PD&MS Group, Petrofac, Ponticelli, Prodrill Energy Resource Solutions, Semco Maritime, Stork, Subsea7, TechnipFMC, Tees Medical Services, Texo Group, Three60 Energy Group, Vysus Group, Wood, and Worley.

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