Away from the fallout from Osborne’s disintegrating Budget this week was another, less high-profile but nevertheless historical climb down by the Chancellor. The government was forced to accept an amendment from Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, Rebecca Long Bailey. Such amendments to budget resolutions are unprecedented.
The amendment was designed to block Osborne’s planned 400% increase in VAT on solar panels and energy saving materials which would have added £1000 to the cost of a household solar energy installation – punishing those families who are trying to do the right thing and help address the problems we are facing from energy insecurity and climate change. It would have also devastated a new and growing renewable energy industry here in the North West.
A number of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs were convinced to sign up to the amendment and within a few hours of the solar tax rebellion picking up pace Ministers backed down claiming, extraordinarily, that what Labour had proposed was their position all along....
Rebecca Long Bailey said, ‘’I am delighted to have forced the Chancellor to back down on this tax hike which would have cost the already struggling solar industry £200 million and put thousands of jobs in the industry at risk. It would have stopped the growing renewable energy industry here in Salford in its tracks. The Government should be supporting the renewables industry to grow, giving greater support to industry and pioneering research facilities like the solar research facility at the University of Salford instead of slamming the industry with cut after cut. We need a real industrial strategy here in the North West and cutting off the blood supply to the renewable energy sector is not the way to do it ’’.
Labour intends to keep up the pressure to ensure this solar tax U-turn is guaranteed in black and white in the Finance Bill alongside the tampon tax U-turn. This victory must mark the end of Osborne’s short-sighted approach to energy which is worsening the power crunch and undermining Britain’s international reputation on climate change.