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Boris refuses to rule out windfall tax in wide-ranging interview with LBC

12 May 2022, 09:52 | Updated: 12 May 2022, 10:23

Nick Ferrari spoke to Boris Johnson
Nick Ferrari spoke to Boris Johnson. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou and Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out introducing a windfall tax, telling LBC that the Government "will have to look at it".

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In a wide-ranging interview, he denied he was out of touch with ordinary Brits facing the cost of living crisis, refused to say if he would resign over Partygate if Sir Keir Starmer resigned over Beergate, and said Ukrainian refugees would not be sent to Rwanda.

And he revealed if he backed Ukraine's Eurovision act over the UK's in Saturday's contest.

The Prime Minister has faced increased pressure to introduce the tax as Brits continue to suffer from spiralling energy costs.

Shell and BP were among those to have made record first-quarter profits thanks to the increase in oil and gas prices.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari during his visit to Finland on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said: "The disadvantage with those sort of taxes is that they deter investment in the very things that we need to see them putting them in.

"They need to be investing in new technology, in new energy supplies for the UK."

"But the bosses say it won't deter them, Prime Minister," Nick hit back.

"Well then we'll have to look at it. What I say is I want them to make those investments - they've got to be making those investments - in new energy supply for our country," Mr Johnson said.

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Nick asked: "Are you ruling out a windfall tax?"

"I don't like them," the PM said.

"I don't think they're the right way forward. I want those companies to make big, big investments."

A one-off tax would be intended to target oil and gas companies benefitting from something they were not responsible for - known as windfall.

For energy companies, they have benefitted from increased demand due to the pandemic as well as supply concerns amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Responding to Boris Johnson's comments to LBC, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey said: "The mixed signals from Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak over a windfall tax are a sign of a government in chaos that is failing to act on the cost of living emergency.

"People want to see decisive action now to help them with soaring energy bills. Instead we have day after day of contradictory statements, while energy companies rake in record profits and families can't afford to put food on the table.

"It is a clear sign that Boris Johnson is simply not fit to lead us through this time of national crisis. We need strong leadership, not endless flip flopping."

And when pushed on whether more help is on the way for squeezed Brits, given criticism over if enough has been done to help people, Mr Johnson denied he was out of touch with ordinary people.

Read more: U-turn on windfall tax? Boris Johnson refuses to rule out levy on oil giants profits

Read more: Ukrainian refugees will not be deported to Rwanda, Boris Johnson vows

Admitting more assistance was in the pipeline, he said: "I wake up every day thinking about what we can do to help people through this period, just as we helped people through COVID.

"I think a fair-minded person would say that when it came to it, the UK Government stepped up to the plate and came up with some pretty imaginative schemes to get people through the crisis. We had the biggest fall in output for 300 years.

"We came up with the COVID programme and many other forms of support. Now, that has, in turn, led to a real fiscal problem and so our room for manoeuvre is not as big as I would like, but we will do what we can to help."

Read more: 'How do you economise Prime Minister?' Boris denies he's out of touch with household costs

"You have a supremely rich Chancellor of the Exchequer with a non-dom wife... Can you tell me you are in touch with people? For instance, you've referenced children, more than one occasion. A price of 24 Pampers nappies at Boots. How much?" Nick asked.

Mr Johnson said: "I'm not going to get into…

Nick said: "Well, okay. How do you economise?

Mr Johnson replied: "What I can tell you is that we will do everything we can to help people through a difficult time. And yes, I think that it is vital that we focus our fiscal firepower on those who need help the most."

He was also unable to tell Nick if he knew what the energy price cap was set at.

Reacting, Lisa Nandy, Labour's shadow communities secretary, said; "Well, yesterday we had a Conservative MP who said that people just needed to budget better and learn to cook food, denying that there was a crisis going on across this country for people who just don't have money in their pockets,"

"I think all of this just speaks to a wider sense that increasingly the government isn't just out of touch with what's happening in the country, but is just living on another planet."

"Every country is dealing with pressure on energy prices, pressure on inflation, but our country is forecast to have the lowest growth of all the G7 countries next year.

"And that's because we haven't been investing, we haven't been retrofitting homes and investing in home insulation that could cut energy bills by up to £400."

The Prime Minister spoke to LBC during a visit to Finland, where he signed a historic deal to help the country if they come under attack, as part of an agreement to boost defence and security co-operation.

Both countries have traditionally been neutral and are assessing whether to join Nato.

Asked by Nick whether the agreements are enough to deter Putin, Mr Johnson said: "These are countries that have been traditionally neutral, Sweden, Finland, they are countries that pose no conceivable threat to Russia. But you’ve got to look at what’s happening in Ukraine… that's another country that posed absolutely no conceivable threat to Russia and yet it was attacked in a vicious and unprovoked way."

Read more: Boris tells LBC 'we will get through cost of living crisis' as he vows to support Brits

He added: "What we are saying today, us and the Swedes, us and the Finns, is that we will come to each other's assistance in the event of an attack."

Speaking in the wake of the defence pact with Finland and Sweden, Nick also pushed Mr Johnson on whether Ukrainian refugees could end up getting sent to Rwanda.

The Government has agreed a deal with the East African country to send asylum seekers there.

Mr Johnson said the prospect of Ukrainian refugees being sent to Rwanda is "simply not going to happen".

He went on: "Don't forget this is on top of what the UK has already done with Afghans, with Syrians, with the Hong Kong Chinese.

"There is no country that has opened its hearts more to people fleeing war and persecution around the world since 2015. No one's done more."

Nick also spoke to the PM about whether he would resign if Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, had to quit over Durham Police’s probe into "Beergate".

Mr Johnson dodged questioning about what would happen if Sir Keir was fined over Beergate - something the Labour leader has already said he would resign over.

When he asked the question for a fourth time, the Prime Minister said that Partygate "however fascinating it is to people" is not "material to the cost of living".

Asked about whether he would back the UK's Eurovision entry, Sam Ryder, over the highly-fancied Ukraine act on Saturday, Mr Johnson said: "I will leave it to the good nature and good judgement of our brilliant listeners.

"They can decide whether on merit or for whatever sentimental reason they have, to vote as they please. I would not presume to advise them since, as you've detected by your question, I haven't listened to any of the songs."