Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, has responded to Chancellor Osborne's flat-lining economy budget with an ambitious 'Plan G' alternative.
“Amidst the tax breaks for shale gas and boastful roadbuilding pledges, there is one huge green economy-shaped hole in this flailing Chancellor’s Budget," Ms Lucas said this afternoon (20 March 2013).
She continued: “With the UK’s green economy now worth over £120 billion – nine per cent of GDP – providing nearly a million jobs and generating a third of our most recent economic growth according to the CBI, it is completely inexplicable that George Osborne keeps pretending it doesn’t exist.
“Given the huge potential of green industries and clean energy generation to provide British jobs and prosperity, as well as the obvious environmental benefits they will deliver, it’s time to drop austerity and go for Plan G.
“There’s no doubt that the cuts have failed – now we need urgent investment in nationwide green infrastructure to stabilise the economy, tackle the environmental crisis and deliver clean and secure energy for the future.”
Ms Lucas continued: “This should also mean the Chancellor ditching his irrational obsession with gas. It’s outrageous that the Government is willing to gift yet more tax breaks to companies drilling for hard-to-reach shale – a costly gamble that risks keeping the UK addicted to polluting fossil fuels at precisely the time we should be leaving them in the ground.
“A Government which really cared about bringing energy bills under control and improving energy security would put its money on renewables – where the costs are predictable and falling – and agree to recycle carbon tax revenue into a jobs-rich energy efficiency programme, rather than deepening our dependence on gas, where prices are set to keep rising.
“Going all-out for offshore wind, for example, instead would save £20 billion by 2030, create 70,000 more jobs, and lead to both lower climate emissions and lower fuel bills.
“And with the new nuclear facility at Hinkley announced yesterday expected to come with a £14 billion price tag, this Government should urgently think again before ploughing ahead with its deeply misguided nuclear strategy. For the cost of one nuclear reactor, it’s estimated that 7 million households could be lifted out of fuel poverty.
“With the negotiations for a strike price for nuclear operators getting on for double the current price of electricity – to be paid by households and businesses already struggling with high bills – it’s clear that the main beneficiaries of this policy will be EDF and the French state.”
“With the Joseph Rowntree Foundation warning that tax rises, welfare cuts, and wages freezes will push over 7 million children below the breadline in the next two years, it’s scandalous that this millionaire Government is still so reluctant to make the richest in our society pay their fair share of tax.
“While millions across the country struggle to pay rising household bills, the Government is cutting tax for corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and Google – when they choose to pay it at all – to 25 per cent next month, 23 per cent by 2014 then 20 per cent the year after.
“The General Anti Avoidance Rule announced today will not be enough to stop the tax dodgers, as the tax QCs Graham Aaronson who worked it up has admitted it will be "narrowly focused", and apply only to the "most egregious tax avoidance schemes".
“If the Government was really serious about cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion, including shutting down tax havens, it would have supported my Private Members Bill requiring all companies to publish what they earn.
“It would also seek a strong international agreement to force all multinationals to report their tax practices transparently. HMRC has a duty to prosecute multinational companies who do not pay their taxes in the UK and it’s right that offenders are publicly named and shamed,” concluded Ms Lucas, a former leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and the party's first elected Westminster MP.