Tories fume at Labour plan to ban new North Sea oil and gas drilling

Tories fume at Keir Starmer’s plan to ban all new North Sea oil and gas drilling and say ‘incoherent’ Labour move will leave Britain more reliant on foreign energy imports and cost thousands of jobs

  • Sir Keir Starmer is set to announce net zero plans under a new ‘national mission’

Britain will be left more reliant on foreign energy imports under Labour’s ‘incoherent’ and ‘dangerous’ plans to block all new North Sea oil and gas developments, critics claimed today.

Sir Keir Starmer is set to announce his party’s net zero plans in the coming weeks as part of his latest ‘national mission’ for a Labour administration.

His proposals will reportedly include a pledge to ban all new North Sea oil and gas licences in a major break with current Government policy.

Since becoming Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has pledged his ‘wholehearted support’ to Scotland’s oil and gas industry and stressed Britain will need to ‘rely’ on fossil fuels for decades to come.

He has insisted it it ‘makes sense’ to utilise sources in the UK rather than rely on imports as the country transitions away from hydrocarbons.

The Government last year opened up a new licensing round to allow oil and gas companies to explore for fossil fuels in the North Sea.

Sir Keir Starmer is set to announce his party’s net zero plans in the coming weeks as part of his latest ‘national mission’ for a Labour administration

The Labour leader’s proposals will reportedly include a pledge to ban all new North Sea oil and gas licences in a major break with current Government policy

According to the Sunday Times, Sir Keir will draw an electoral dividing line with the Tories over North Sea oil and gas in a speech in Scotland next month.

He will also announce that a Labour government would only borrow to invest in green enterprises and promise to double onshore wind, triple solar and more than quadruple offshore wind power, the newspaper reported.

Labour are expected to claim their plans will create up to half a million jobs in the renewables industry, including at least 50,000 in Scotland.

But critics berated Sir Keir for abandoning those currently employed in Britain’s oil and gas sector and increasing the likelihood of foreign energy imports.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, told MailOnline: ‘It is green hypocrisy of a high order.

‘We will still need the oil and gas but will import it which means higher emissions because of transport and the energy required to liquify and then regasify Liquefied Natural Gas.’

Fellow Tory backbencher Craig MacKinlay, who leads Net Zero Scrutiny Group of Conservative MPs, said: ‘Whilst I have been widely condemning our own flawed energy policy, Labour’s plans to block any new North Sea oil and gas is incoherent. 

‘All the while there remains no practical or affordable plan for storage of the fantasy amounts of surplus electricity that bulked up renewables may produce, gas remains the flexible backbone of electricity generation and home heating, with oil the mainstay of motive power and industrial processes.

‘More UK produced oil and gas has advantages in ensuring reliable domestic supply bringing investment, jobs and tax revenues and is hugely positive to the country’s perpetually poor balance of payments record.

‘Labour’s plans to import more will simply enrich foreign treasuries and increase CO2 output such is the flawed model of international LNG shipments.

‘When politicians follow flawed ideology the result is usually 180 degrees away from what common sense would dictate. These plans are truly dangerous.’

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: ‘First it was the SNP, now Labour want to abandon the North East and the thousands of jobs that support North Sea oil and gas.

‘Only the Scottish Conservatives will stand up for the area and those employed in our oil and gas sector.’

Stephen Kerr, a fellow Tory MSP, added: ‘Keir Starmer will apparently come to Scotland to tell us how he’s going to shut down North Sea Oil and make us dependent on foreign imports, at the cost of tens of thousands of NE Scotland jobs.’

He also noted how Sir Keir and Labour have accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations from wealthy climate activist Dale Vince, who has also given money to Just Stop Oil.

John Longworth, the former director general of the British Chambers of Commerce who is now chairman of the Independent Business Network of family businesses, claimed Labour’s plans would leave the UK as a ‘backwater paying over the odds for imported gas’.

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth this morning pushed back against claims that stopping new North Sea oil and gas developments would increase the UK’s dependence on energy from countries such as Qatar or even Russia.

‘What we’ll be doing in the coming weeks is outlining how we want to invest in the green jobs of the future to bring bills down, to create a more sustainable energy supply,’ he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday show.

‘We’ll be announcing that in a significant mission in the coming weeks and we’ll be announcing more details then.

‘We know we’ve got to move towards more renewable sources of energy – it’s important for our climate change commitments.

‘But it’s also a way in which we can bring energy bills down for consumers.’

Asked about Labour’s plans increasing Britain’s reliance on foreign energy imports, Mr Ashworth insisted the party would not be shutting down existing North Sea oil and gas production or relying solely on wind power to fill a shortfall.

‘This isn’t about shutting down what’s going on at the moment – we will manage those sustainably,’ he added.

‘It’s a mischaracterisation to say our policy is all from wind. Yes we do need to invest in wind, we need to invest in tidal, we need to invest in nuclear.

‘We need more sustainable sources of energy supply in order to bring bills down for consumers and actually create jobs in this green transition.

‘There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that will come online from the transition to low-carbon industries and technologies.

‘Not just directly in the energy sector, but associated jobs in manufacturing, in design, in engineering. We should be a world leader in this.’

A Labour source said: ‘We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea.

‘They will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged. They undermine our energy security, and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets. 

‘But Labour would continue to use existing oil and gas wells over the coming decades and manage them sustainably as we transform the UK into a clean energy superpower.’

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