Treasury chief Danny Alexander last night refused to apologise “one bit” for the Treasury’s £2 billion North Sea oil profits grab. The refusal comes despite serious concern within the industry that investment would plummet costing thousands of jobs.
Alexander said he understood the surprise levy was causing anger, but argued that high prices meant oil producers could absorb the cost. He dismissed industry projections of a jobs cull as “scaremongering”.
He said: “I certainly don’t apologise. I do understand the reaction, but I don’t apologise for the decision, not one bit, no.”
George Osborne, in his budget last week, announced that a 1p cut in fuel duty and avoiding other rises at the pumps would be paid for by increasing the supplementary charge on North Sea oil and gas profits from 20% to 32%.
“I think we have done absolutely the right thing,” Alexander said. “Oil companies are making very significant additional profits as a result of the high oil price … It is right to ask those companies who are benefiting to share some of those profits to reduce the pressure on families.”
The Liberal Democrat MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey also put down calls from some of Scotland’s wealthiest businessmen to have corporation tax devolved to Edinburgh, then halve it.
Leading business figures Sir Tom Hunter and Jim McColl made a plea last week for Holyrood to set its own rate, after Osborne launched a consultation on having the same power devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. However Mr Alexander retorted that Holyrood was already having new powers over income tax and other levies through the Scotland Bill.