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05th Oct 2022

Shell boss urges UK government to tax gas and oil companies to help poorest

Jack Peat

High prices and market volatility is “damaging to society”, he said

The chief executive of Shell has implored the government to start taxing oil and gas companies in order to protect the poorest people in society from soaring energy costs.

Speaking at the Energy Intelligence Forum in London, Ben van Beurden said: “One way or another there needs to be government intervention that somehow results in protecting the poorest.

“That probably may then mean that governments need to tax people in this room to pay for it.”

His comment was in reference to companies rather than individuals, a Shell spokesperson later said, but he added that high prices and market volatility is damaging to society.

“You cannot have a market that behaves in such a way… that is going to damage a significant part of society,” he told those in attendance.

Liz Truss has remained staunchly opposed to a windfall tax on gas and energy profits, preferring instead to lump the burden of the current cost-of-living crisis onto taxpayers instead.

The European Union, conversely, has approved emergency levies on energy firms’ unusually high profits.

Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the proposal could raise 140 billion euro (£121 billion) to help people hit by spiralling energy prices.

She said: “These companies are making revenues they never accounted for, they never even dreamt of.

“In our social market economy, profits are OK, they are good. But in these times it is wrong to receive extraordinary record revenues and profits benefiting from war and on the back of consumers.

“In these times, profits must be shared and channelled to those who need it the most.”

In July, Shell made record profits of nearly £10 billion between April and June and promised to give shareholders payouts worth £6.5 billion as the oil supermajor benefited from the surge in energy prices prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The FTSE 100 company made adjusted profits of $11.5bn (£9.5bn) during the second quarter of the year, beating its previous high – set between January and March – by 26 per cent.

The profits were more than double the same period in 2021, and higher than expected by analysts.

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