A senior Tory MP branded oil company bosses the “new oligarchs” in a direct call at Westminster for the Chancellor to impose a windfall tax on profits.
Robert Halfon warned Rishi Sunak that oil companies are not passing cuts in fuel duty to consumers during a debate in the Commons.
The Conservative MP said oil bosses are the “new oligarchs” due to “earning multi-million pound salaries and getting multi-million pound bonuses”.
He urged Mr Sunak to consider a windfall tax on oil companies to enable the government to cut taxes for the lower paid, or cut energy bills.
It came as MPs prepared to vote on a windfall tax proposal by Labour during debate on the Queen’s Speech, which set out government plans.
Reacting to the comments, Aberdeen South SNP MP Stephen Flynn said: “In recent times we’ve had senior politicians refer to the oil and gas industry as the ‘hard right’, and now we have a top Tory talking of ‘oligarchs’.
“Such incendiary comments are unnecessary at the best of times, but given the role that oligarchs have played in propping up Putin they are just not acceptable.
“Tensions are clearly high around both the necessary transition to net zero, and introduction of a windfall tax, but these verbal attacks on an industry that supports the employment of tens of thousands of my constituents need to stop.”
BP and Shell reported bumper profits earlier this year as energy prices skyrocketed.
‘No option off table’
The Chancellor repeated his claim that “no option is off the table” after calls to introduce the tax.
He told the Commons: “We are pragmatic and what we want to see are energy companies who have made extraordinary profits at a time of acutely elevated prices investing those profits back into British jobs, growth and energy security.
“But as I have been clear, and as I have said repeatedly, if that doesn’t happen soon and at significant scale then no option is off the table.”
Labour shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the UK is facing an “unprecedented social emergency”.
On the government’s stance on a windfall tax, he said a “massive U-turn is lumbering slowly over the hill”.
The Labour MP added: “But I say this to the Chancellor: swallow your pride and get on with it.”
SNP energy spokesperson Alan Brown told MPs his party “does agree with Labour on the principle of a windfall tax”.
But he said this “shouldn’t just be a cash raid on the North Sea but rather a wider pandemic profit levy”.
The MP added that “just six companies made a profit of £16 billion in the financial year 2021”.
‘Smash and grab raid’
Conservative MP Andrew Bowie hit out at Labour’s plans for a “smash and grab raid on one of Scotland’s most successful industries”.
He accused Mr Miliband of making “offensive remarks” about the oil and gas industry in his opening speech.
The former Labour leader described profits being made by oil and gas companies as “unearned”.
Mr Bowie said: “I asked him to come up to my constituency of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and actually say that to the men and women who go off in the North Sea for weeks at a time in difficult, and sometimes dangerous, circumstances to provide the energy that keeps the lights on in this place and around the country and tell them the profits of the companies they work for are unearned.”
The north-east MP said Labour’s plan would put jobs “at risk”, adding firms such as BP have said future investment plans may be affected.