Sir Keir Starmer has denied making his 31st u-turn since becoming Labour leader, despite now promising that off-shore oil and gas will be part of the UK’s energy production for many years to come.
The promise seemingly stands in stark contrast to his announcement just a few weeks ago, when Sir Keir confirmed plans to block all new North Sea oil and gas projects in a new green energy drive.
On May 28 a party spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are against the granting of new licences for oil and gas in the North Sea. They will do nothing to cut bills as the Tories have acknowledged; they undermine our energy security and would drive a coach and horse through our climate targets”.
However yesterday it was revealed Starmer has privately promised Equinor, the Norwegian state-owned energy company, that he won’t block the development of the new Rosebank oil and gas field in the Shetland islands should he take power at the next election.
The move came after sustained criticism of the policy both by the Tories and unions, who described the policy as “naive”.
READ MORE: Iain Duncan Smith tears into Starmer – ‘He’s backing the Luddite rabble’
On BBC Breakfast Sir Keir was asked whether the change of policy was “another Labour u-turn”.
Sir Keir denied any such change of policy, saying: “oil and gas will be part of the energy mix for decades to come, probably until the 2050s.”
Confronted by unions’ criticism that Labour’s oil policy is “vague and really worrying to people” in the industry, Sir Keir merely repeated his line that “oil and gas will be part of the mix for many years to come”.
“I’m talking to Unite and all the unions – I’m talking to the sector as you’d expect – but in the clean power initiative there are 200,000 jobs directly in play and 280,000 indirectly in play,
“So there are half a million jobs to be won if we run directly towards this challenge.”
Labour is now promising not to revoke any fossil fuel extraction licences granted between now and the next General Election, even though the new developments could only start drilling well after Sir Keir takes office.
The Sunday Times reported that Sir Keir is believed to have conveyed the change in policy to a number of energy giants directly during a round of phone calls on Friday.
115 new oil licences are currently being bid for by 76 companies wanting to drill in the North Sea.
The major new Rosebank development, one of the largest oil and gas fields in the North Atlantic, is set to get the go-ahead with the next fortnight.
Sir Keir is in Scotland today with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Net Zero spokesman Ed Miliband.
He will promote Labour’s plan to scrap the ban on onshore wind, which the party claims has cost households £5.1bn per year on energy bills.
He will also slam the planning the system, which means it can take 13 years for a wind farm to be set up.
The Hornsea 1 wind farm off the Yorkshire coast was commissioned under the last Labour Government, but didn’t come online until 2019.