Page last updated at 11:48 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 12:48 UK

Labour pressed over windfall tax

Michael Meacher MP
Mr Meacher called for greater state control of energy resources

Union leaders and Labour MPs have called for a windfall tax on energy companies, saying current efforts to tackle fuel poverty are not enough.

The Labour conference voted in favour of the issue of a windfall tax being sent to Labour's National Policy Forum for further consideration.

Tony Woodley, of the giant Unite union, said ministers must "sweep away vested interests" to help the most vulnerable.

Ministers have said they have no plans at the moment for a windfall tax.

Chancellor Alistair Darling who addressed conference on Monday, said energy firms were doing their bit.

'Stark choice'

He defended the energy efficiency and insulation plan, announced earlier this month, saying it had secured more financial support from power firms than would have been forthcoming via a one-off tax.

Critics have said the 910m plan is flawed because energy firms will simply pass on the cost of funding new schemes onto fuel bills.

There can never be a stronger case for a Robin Hood tax than now
Michael Meacher, MP

In a debate on fuel poverty, ministers faced a succession of calls for a tax on energy company profits, which have soared on the back of rising global oil prices.

Former government minister Michael Meacher said millions of pensioners and families faced "a stark choice" this winter of whether to pay for rising fuel bills or to feed themselves.

"There can never be a stronger case for a Robin Hood tax than now," he said.

"Is our government on the side of big business or the fuel poor?" Mr Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, added.

Calling for a windfall tax to help working families, Mr Woodley said "lagging the lofts won't stop us lagging in the polls".

Earlier, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said the British people were "crying out for change" including "curbs on the excesses of markets".

"These are tough times for government, for the economy but, most of all, for workers and their families," he said.

But Business Secretary John Hutton said a windfall tax would send the wrong signal as the UK desperately needed substantial investment from power firms in new sources of energy.

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