Big oil companies are plundering the public purse. As the government pushes through vast cuts to the services for which we pay our taxes, oil companies are benefiting from taxpayer support worth billions. That’s the lesson from ‘making a killing’ – a new briefing from Platform (see below).
The briefing outlines numerous ways in which the government is propping up and entwined with big oil companies:
- Tax breaks for North Sea oil and gas and (potentially) shale gas worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
- Oil companies have learnt to unconditionally expect military and political support from the government including with military convoys, lobbying and intelligence-gathering.
- The UK provides financial support to oil extraction and transportation abroad on preferential terms.
Meanwhile, these same companies also appear to be increasingly adept at dodging the taxes which pay for these benefits. Despite their profits rising rapidly in recent years, their tax bills haven’t gone up proportionately. By routing much of their new found cash through a network of hundreds of highly secretive subsidiaries, BP and Shell have ensured they pay very little new tax on their newfound surpluses.
The report outlines some fascinating stories about how many British embassies around the world are used primarily to support British oil companies. The consulate in Basra was maintained, at vast cost, almost entirely to support BP and Shell. When Britain first recognised Azerbaijan (after pressure from BP) our embassy staff were based in the BP offices.
Whilst many companies expect some support, we learn, no one else gets what oil companies do.
The report also explains how the British military defends Shell’s instillations in Nigeria; how the vice president of Shell’s shipping arm demanded that the Navy bring forward a new generation of war ships to protect his boats in the Gulf of Aden.
What the report reveals, though, is something deeper. Once the British army does what it’s told by BP or Shell, once foreign offices exist almost entirely for one country, we can be clear who it is that really runs the country.
British people are used to disapproving of petro-states elsewhere. But it’s not often we are reminded – other than when bombers start to take off from our air bases and fly South East – how much our own government’s policies are dictated by the rich men who run these vast, planet-choking corporations.
As one banner photographed in the report reads, it’s time to separate oil and state.
Read the briefing here: