Sir Jim Ratcliffe attacks Labour plans days after backing Starmer

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, co-owner of Manchester United
Sir Jim Ratcliffe said Labour's net zero plans would undermine the UK's energy security - BERTRAND GUAY/AFP

Labour’s green energy plans will tax the North Sea “out of existence”, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has warned, days after he publicly backed Sir Keir Starmer.

The chief executive of chemicals giant Ineos and co-owner of Manchester United said Labour’s plans to raise taxes on oil and gas producers meant “the North Sea will become extinct relatively soon”.

He said Sir Keir Starmer’s plans, which also include slashing North Sea tax allowances, would undermine Britain’s energy security and lead to increased imports from overseas.

Sir Jim said: “If we shut down the North Sea, what is that accomplishing? Because we’ll just have to import our energy.”

The attack on Labour’s energy policy comes just days after Sir Jim signalled his support for Labour.

Earlier this week, he said: “I’ve met Keir a couple of times and he’s a sensible guy: intelligent, thoughtful.

“We’ve not had the most successful patch with the Conservatives so the mood in the country is that we need a change.”

Sir Jim’s endorsement of Sir Keir marks a change in attitude for the entrepreneur, although he remains sceptical of Labour’s net zero policies.

This is reflected in his views on Labour’s bid to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system within the next six years. Speaking at The Times CEO summit in London, he described the plan as “absurd”, bursting into laughter when asked if the goal was possible.

He said: “Where’s it all [electricity] going to come from?

“Remember, gas is fundamentally important for electricity supply because the wind doesn’t blow every day. You can’t just run your hospitals on a windy day or go to school on a windy day.

“So when the wind doesn’t produce any electricity, we have to switch all our gas-fired power stations on.”

Sir Jim warned that the 2030 deadline heightened the risks of power shortages because it coincided with the expected closure of most of the UK’s remaining nuclear power stations.

Hartlepool nuclear power station in Co Durham is scheduled to close in 2026, as is Heysham 1 in Lancashire. Heysham 2, on the same site, will close two years later – as will Torness, in East Lothian.

Unless any secure further extensions, that will leave Sizewell B as the UK’s only operating nuclear station from 2028 – with the much-delayed Hinkley Point C nuclear station in Somerset not expected to be in operation until at least 2031.

Sir Jim said: “We’re not doing terribly well on building new nuclear power stations. It takes 10 or 15 years to build a new nuclear power station, so in 2030 we’ve got no gas, nuclear is all shut down and the wind goes up and down. It’s not consistent.”

Labour has, however, made clear that it plans to retain a number of gas-fired power stations as a back-up source of electricity. They would be available, along with power supplied from other countries via interconnectors, whenever weather conditions or surging demand outstripped production from renewables.

The chemicals mogul, who is worth £11.9bn, was a prominent Brexiteer but has criticised the Tories’ handling of the UK’s exit from the EU. He has also recently attacked the Conservative Government’s handling of the economy.

He said: “The Government is spending [over] a trillion pounds a year, a colossal amount of money and it’s patently obvious that it’s not being spent well.”