General election 2019: Labour to pledge windfall tax on oil companies

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Labour’s general election manifesto – to be unveiled later – is expected to include a windfall tax on oil companies.

The move is part of leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to “transform” the UK into a low carbon, green economy.

A conference pledge to make the UK zero carbon by 2030 is set to be watered down, the BBC’s Iain Watson says.

But the manifesto will include other “radical” environment polices, party sources say.

These include a new emphasis on public transport, with axed bus routes restored and entitlement to free travel greatly expanded.

Mr Corbyn will insist its policies are fully costed and “popular” – but there has been internal controversy over the idea of a one-off tax on the oil industry.

Some trade union officials feared it would hit Scotland’s North Sea Oil industry.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the plan was in a draft of the manifesto and he had been told it was expected to be in the final document.

Mr Corbyn is promising to set up a £250bn Green Transformation Fund – to be paid for through borrowing – to fund 300,000 new “green apprenticeships” and loans for people to buy electric cars.

In September, Labour’s annual conference passed a motion urging the party to commit to make the UK carbon neutral by 2030 – matching the Green Party’s key general election pledge.

But the wording of the pledge is expected to be watered down, following complaints from trade unions and others in the Labour movement who feared it was impossible to meet.

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Jeremy Corbyn at Labour’s annual conference in September

‘Radical and ambitious’

Labour calls its manifesto the “most radical and ambitious plan to transform our country in decades”.

It will include a pledge for more cash for the NHS if the party wins the 12 December general election, paid for by taxing higher earners and borrowing.

Labour’s Brexit plan, including another referendum, will also be set out.

The role of the local as well as national state will be enhanced, with what Mr Corbyn will say is the biggest affordable house building in decades – including 100,000 new council houses a year by 2024.

Local authorities will also be given more powers over schools in their area.

Among the other policies expected to be confirmed at the launch are:

  • A “real living wage” of at least £10 an hour – including for younger workers
  • The creation of one million “green jobs” to tackle climate change
  • Free broadband for all delivered by part-nationalising BT
  • A plan to bring rail, mail, water and energy into public ownership

‘Manifesto of hope’

Speaking to supporters in Birmingham, the Labour leader will say it is a “manifesto of hope”, adding: “Over the next three weeks, the most powerful people in Britain and their supporters are going to tell you that everything in this manifesto is impossible.

“That it’s too much for you. Because they don’t want real change. Why would they? The system is working just fine for them. It’s rigged in their favour.

“If the bankers, billionaires and the establishment thought we represented politics as usual, that we could be bought off, that nothing was really going to change, they wouldn’t attack us so ferociously. Why bother?

“But they know we mean what we say. They know we will deliver our plans, which is why they want to stop us being elected.”

The party is hoping its manifesto will be a turning point in its push to get back into power for the first time since 2010, as the opinion polls so far suggest it is heading for defeat on 12 December.

Labour is locked in a battle with the Conservatives – who are also promising to borrow money to spend on public services – in seats across the Midlands and the north of England.

Unite trade union Len McCluskey – a key ally of Mr Corbyn – told ITV’s Robert Peston the manifesto’s message to voters in the party’s traditional heartlands was: “Come home to Labour.”

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‘The people own Labour’

In his speech, Mr Corbyn will also criticise the Tories after claims they are being backed by donations from a third of Britain’s billionaires.

“The billionaires and the super rich, the tax dodgers, the bad bosses and the big polluters – they own the Conservative Party,” he will add.

“But they don’t own us. They don’t own the Labour Party. The people own the Labour Party.”

The Labour leader will say voters can trust his party to deliver its pledges because “we’re opposed by the vested interests for standing up for a different kind of society”.

“We’ll deliver real change for the many, and not the few. That’s what this manifesto is all about,” he will say.

But the Tories have accused Mr Corbyn of trying to distract voters from his party’s “failing campaign” and “his inability to give answers” on Brexit.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Corbyn in Downing Street would mean wasting the whole of next year on two chaotic referendums and leaving our economy staring down the barrel of bankruptcy.”

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