MAGGIE PAGANO: Ignore fanatics' calls for windfall tax on energy firms

Ignore windfall tax fanatics: Energy giants need to invest to secure our long-term needs, says MAGGIE PAGANO

National Grid’s John Pettigrew is right to knock proposals to levy a windfall tax on energy giants to help offset the cost of living crisis. It’s a terrible plan at the best of times and will do zilch to secure longer term energy supplies in the North Sea, eventually at cheaper prices.

As the grid’s chief executive says, taxing the likes of BP and Shell – which are only just recovering from losses made during the pandemic – now could be a deterrent to their investment plans.

They invest over decades so, more than any business, they need a stable regulatory and policy environment rather than ad hoc extra taxes.

Self-defeating: Debate is still raging between ministers over whether to give-in to Labour's populist call for a one-off tax on energy giants which would, at most, raise £2bn

Self-defeating: Debate is still raging between ministers over whether to give-in to Labour’s populist call for a one-off tax on energy giants which would, at most, raise £2bn

Nor was Pettigrew talking his book. National Grid would not be affected by any such levy: its job is providing the pipes that operate electricity supplies and has nothing to do with buying or selling energy.

Yet his sensible comments may fall on deaf ears. Debate is still raging between ministers over whether to give in to Labour’s populist call for a one-off tax which would, at most, raise £2billion.

Gelukkig, the Prime Minister is said to be dead set against such a tax. Other ministers, egter, who should know better, have capitulated, arguing it would be popular.

They also claim that it shouldn’t be seen as an anti-Conservative tax as Margaret Thatcher and David Cameron imposed windfall taxes on the banks.

That doesn’t wash today: the UK’s energy giants need to plough all the private capital they have available back into investing for the future.

As the last year has demonstrated so vividly, Britain’s energy security has been found wanting, partly the result of not having a central independent body ensuring the lights are kept on.

Which is why the Government’s recent decision to take National Grid’s Electricity System Operator (ESO) into independent ownership is so smart.

Dis die 900 staff at the ESO who work out how many connections are required, whether the transmission system is resilient and where the energy is coming from. Vital stuff.

Rather than smacking the energy industry with more taxes, ministers should speed up legislation to set up the new ESO. Security of supply – and building more of our own resources – is essential. That would serve consumers best.

Plumbing new heights

Richard Harpin, together with a colleague from P&G, raised £50,000 between them to set up Homeserve more than 30 jare terug.

It was a lot of money, and life got so tough for Harpin that he had to borrow £10,000 from his mother, a loan she made without telling his father.

But Harpin, who had been buying and selling since he was a teenager, was convinced that providing households with an efficient electrical and plumbing repair service would work.

He was right. Working his socks off, getting up for 5am starts and flying helicopters between meetings, Harpin’s grit has paid off: he and his wife will make nearly £500m between them after Canada’s Brookfield confirmed its £4.1billion takeover bid.

Harpin – who I interviewed years ago at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford because it was a handy place for his helicopter to land – is cock-a-hoop with the deal.

The price is more than fair, hy sê, and investors have made a return of 9,800 keer. What now for Harpin?

He’s not sure but he will keep re-investing his fortune in British start-ups, and keep on with his work persuading government and schools to help more youngsters to be trained in skills, particularly in the construction industry. This man needs to be cloned.

Schröder’s shame

Germany’s former chancellor Gerhard Schröder says he doesn’t do mea culpa. So he won’t mind too much that the German government is to strip him of his parliamentary privileges as punishment for his close ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

As one of those privileges, Schröder has the use of six rooms in a building in a posh part of Berlin – near the Russian Embassy – costing German taxpayers around €407,000 (£345,000) n jaar. That’s going to be taken from him but he’s to be allowed his ex-chancellor’s annual €8,300 stipend.

Government criticism is unlikely to have any impact on Schröder, who is still chairman of oil giant Rosneft.

Quite the reverse: his links are getting tighter. He is due to be voted on to the board of Gazprom at next month’s elections. Schröder may not do ‘guilt’ but at least Olaf Scholz is sharpening his claws.