Labour’s proposal to ban new oil and gas developments in the North Sea is “bizarre” and will only benefit Vladimir Putin, Rishi Sunak has said.
The prime minister accused Sir Keir Starmer of letting “ecozealots” at Just Stop Oil write his energy policy after it was revealed the party had received £1.5m from Dale Vince, one of the group’s biggest backers.
Labour is due to lay out its plans to block all new domestic oil and gas developments and invest in renewables instead during a visit to Scotland this month.
Asked whether the party needed to “come clean” about how its policies were being shaped, Mr Sunak told reporters: “It does appear that these kind of ecozealots at Just Stop Oil are writing Keir Starmer’s energy policy and, not content with disrupting our summer and cherished sporting events, they are essentially leading us into an energy surrender.
“My view is we should focus on energy security, not weakness and dependency which seems to be the Labour Party’s policy.
“They are putting ideology ahead of jobs, ahead of investment, and ahead of our energy security – I think that is wrong and it’s not the right policy for the UK.”
He added: “It’s a completely bizarre policy which says ‘we won’t ban oil and gas, we’ll just ban British oil and gas’.
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“The only people that benefit from Keir Starmer’s energy policy are dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin.”
The Labour leader’s plans come in stark contrast to the government’s policy, which is to continue to licensing new oil and gas fields in the North Sea to boost the UK’s energy security, despite warnings it may compromise climate targets.
But Sir Keir’s proposal has faced criticism from the party’s trade union backers, who are fearful of the impact the transition to green energy could have on jobs.
The Labour leader attempted to allay union concerns at the GMB congress in Brighton on Tuesday, in which he said his party would not repeat the mistakes which “decimated” coal mining communities in the 1980s with his plan to phase out new oil and gas drilling.
The Labour leader pledged to work with unions to “seize the opportunities” of green energy to prevent mass job losses.
During a Q&A at the GMB congress, it was put to him that his plan to end new oil and gas extraction “is a threat to Scottish jobs and UK energy security”.
The Labour leader responded: “I want to be absolutely clear: oil and gas are going to be part of the mix for decades to come, into the 2050s.
“What I will never let happen is a repeat of what happened in coal mining, where an industry came to an end and nobody had planned for the future”.
Sir Keir’s appearance in Brighton came days after the union’s general secretary, Gary Smith, called his policy on oil and gas production “naive” and lacking in “intellectual rigour”.
He was joined in his criticism by Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, who said Labour must be “very clear that they will not let workers pay the price” for the transition to renewable energy.
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The Labour Party has repeatedly defended the donations Mr Vince, whom it has described as a “perfectly legitimate person” to take money from.
Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said his party had been “extremely clear on our views on Just Stop Oil”.
“Indeed, Keir Starmer has said of them ‘just go home’ because they are not actually promoting the cause of tackling climate change,” he said.
“What they are doing is entirely counterproductive and the only debate it’s provoking is about our public order laws.”
But he said Mr Vince – who is the chairman of League Two football team Forest Green Rovers – is a “successful businessman” based in the UK.
“He’s a perfectly legitimate person to take money from.
“If he wishes to give money to other causes that’s up to him, but it can hardly be said that this affects our views as a Labour Party on Just Stop Oil.”