Oil and gas will be part of UK energy supply for 'many years', Keir Starmer insists amid questions over Labour policy
Sir Keir Starmer has insisted oil and gas will be part of the UK energy supply for “many years” following extensive criticism from trade unions.
GMB union general secretary Gary Smith had earlier warned the party’s policy to ban new oil and gas extraction licences in the North Sea would create a “cliff edge” that will hit jobs, while the Tories claimed Labour had an “ideological vendetta against British energy independence”.
Speaking on a visit to Hinkley Point C in Somerset on Monday, Sir Keir stressed the benefits of adapting to climate change, but offered an olive branch to the oil and gas industry.
He said: “I think we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity now to seize the jobs of the future.
“Oil and gas will be part of that, because where there is existing licences they will go on to the 2050s and so oil and gas will be part of our energy mix for many, many years to come.
“But we need to seize the opportunities for the next generation of jobs. And that is in renewables, it is in nuclear, Hinkley Point C here today, staring at the future.
“We have got 9,000 people working on this site, they are going to power the UK and they are the jobs of the future.”
The Labour leader insisted that both Labour and the GMB wanted a “government with a strategic purpose that seizes those opportunities, doesn’t see job losses, actually sees an increase in the number of jobs, because we have taken the tough decisions to go forwards to the next generation of energy power for not just the next 10 years, but something like Hinkley Point C here, a 100-year project.”
It came as Labour accused the Conservatives of a “shambolic” failure to open any nuclear power plants during 13 years of power.
His party claims the Tories’ failure to open any of the 10 nuclear sites approved under the last Labour government has cost 7,000 British jobs. The Prime Minister previously warned it would be “economically illiterate” not to invest in new UK oil and gas.
Despite Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C being identified in 2009, they are still not operational.
Ahead of the visit, Sir Keir said the UK’s “ambition and potential grinds to a halt” under the Tories.
“The British people should be benefiting from our country’s natural resources, but the Tories’ woeful record is holding us all back,” he said.
“My government will lower household energy bills, create jobs and ensure Britain’s energy security.
“Nuclear is a critical part of the UK’s energy mix. It’s shambolic that after 13 years of Tory government, not one of the 10 nuclear sites approved by the last Labour Government have been built.”
Responding to Labour’s nuclear criticisms, a Tory spokesman said: “In 1997 the Labour Party cut the legs off Britain’s nuclear industry, declaring ‘no new nuclear’, nationalising British Energy and handing our energy dependency to China and France.
“That’s why there hasn’t been a nuclear power station built under the Labour Party since Britain had the shilling.
“The Conservatives started turning that around, delivering the first large-scale nuclear project Hinkley Point C and agreeing last year to begin Sizewell C.”
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