Labour drops plan to backdate UK windfall tax on oil and gas

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Sir Keir Starmer has insisted the British public would “appreciate” him being “straight” about Labour’s plans for the economy after he slashed the party’s long-standing £28bn annual green spending commitment.

Starmer on Friday said Labour would still deliver on its green promises if the party took power, blaming the state of the public finances for his decision to slash the spending commitment to £4.7bn a year.

“I would much rather be straight with the British public than make a promise I can’t keep,” he told journalists on a trip to the West Midlands.

“All of the commitments I’ve made on outcomes, they all remain, and they’re fully costed,” he added.

The Labour leader dismantled his party’s signature policy pledge on Thursday in an attempt to defend against attacks by the governing Conservatives that Labour would increase borrowing in office.

Labour’s green prosperity plan had been its biggest policy pledge and was first announced in 2021 to present the party as willing to make ambitious investments on the transition to net zero.

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday said the U-turn showed that Labour did not have a plan for government. Labour is leading in the polls ahead of the general election expected later this year.

“Their signature economic policy is in tatters, and when you don’t have a plan, you can’t deliver any change for the country,” Sunak said on a visit to Devon in the south west of England.

He said his own party had started to bring down high inflation and cut taxes.

Labour will retain elements of its original plan, such as a £8.3bn state-owned energy company called GB Energy and a £7.3bn fund to decarbonise heavy industry.

A promised national insulation scheme called the Warm Homes Plan will be slashed from £6bn a year to just over £1.3bn a year — Labour has now promised to insulate 5mn homes over five years, in effect half its previous target.

Starmer said on Thursday about half of the reduced green spending pledge would be funded from Labour’s promised windfall levy on North Sea oil and gas, with the rest from additional government borrowing.

Earlier on Friday, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves blamed Labour’s U-turn on the “Conservatives crash[ing] the economy and causing huge damage”.

“Many people watching have had to change their plans over the last year or so because of higher mortgage rates, energy bills, higher taxes,” she told BBC Breakfast. “We’ve had to update our plans as well.”

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