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Opinion

Immoral energy companies should face corporate manslaughter charges if people die this winter

27 Aug 2022 3 minute read
Picture by Yui Mok / PA Wire

Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru Councillor for the Queensway ward on Wrexham Council

Every winter there are more deaths than in summer.

Across Wales and England this was 23,000 a year in pre-pandemic times. This is likely to increase significantly this winter unless something is done to tackle soaring energy bills.

That’s why it’s time to seriously turn our attention to the soaring profits of companies cashing in on the energy price hikes coming this winter.

It’s surreal seeing our bank accounts drained into the ever-swelling pockets of oil and gas companies who are currently recording record profits. BP, Shell, Total Energies and Equinor, four of Europe’s largest oil and gas companies, recorded more than £74 billion in pre-tax profits in the first six months of this year.

Domestic energy bills are expected to reach approximately £3,549 a year for the average household from October, with estimates this will increase to £6,166 by April next year.

The Welsh Government estimates that the winter hikes will push a staggering 68.7% of Welsh households into fuel poverty.

The picture for businesses is bleak too, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have recently announced that 53% of firms are expected to stagnate, shrink or fold in the coming 12 months.

In Wales, over 60% of our businesses are SMEs, who employ around 1.2m people. The impact here will therefore be particularly devastating.

Without major intervention, NHS bosses are also warning of an impending public health emergency which will lead to a rise in excess deaths and more people falling ill faced with the choice of skipping meals or heating their homes this winter.

Disaster

In the face of this impending disaster, where should accountability sit?

Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell MS quite rightly called this week for the Westminster Government to reduce the price cap to pre-April levels of £1,277 per year, paid for through implementing a higher and backdated windfall tax on excess energy company profits.

It’s a sensible approach, meaning it’s unlikely to be implemented by a Westminster Government in the pocket of right-wing think tanks funded by fossil-fuel interests.

The longer-term solution is clearly public ownership, we need key industries like energy run in the interests of our communities rather than shareholders.

This is something we’ll achieve much faster in an Independent Wales, with both the Tories and Labour in England having ruled it out.

Under Westminster rule we’ll be at the mercy of oil and gas profit margins for the foreseeable future.
In the shorter term though, if desperate pleas from communities, health leaders and politicians continue to fall on deaf ears, we will have no choice but to take on the big boys directly, and maybe it’s about time we did.

In Wales, England and Northern Ireland, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force in 2008, meaning that companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failings resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.

With thousands of lives and livelihoods acknowledged to be on the line this winter as a direct result of energy price hikes, the profits being raked in by energy firms are simply obscene.

This immoral behaviour needs to be challenged, possibly the best place to do that is in the courtroom.

Let’s hit them where it hurts, in the pocket.


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Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 month ago

I understand that my energy bill is not necessarily going to be the £3,549 of the cap but if you add that to £1,058 council tax and £4,727 rent it adds up to £ 9,334 a year.
My OAP is £8,074 a year.
I have other income but far too many do not and, like Micawber in misery, are “floored”.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Kerry Davies

Kerry you are one of many who share that predicament staring into the abyss to come mainly because of the greed of our government and their friends in the corporate world. Back in 2013 when I started drawing private pension I was OK as I was able to continue earning a (smaller) pay packet. 3 years later I got my state pension and things looked manageable although only my state pension was index linked. However what was a tidy situation until recently is now becoming stressful and I am acutely conscious of all those people who are worse off than… Read more »

One of the two witnesses
One of the two witnesses
1 month ago

Vote Tory. Get Screwed. Those foreigners not looking quite so evil now eh?

Kurt Constable
Kurt Constable
28 days ago

Its not the energy company thats to blame, its brexit Britain and the dodgy UK government and their pointless regulator. My energy company seems to be arguing for a cap lower, they are not the oens who should be protecting me, government and regulators are. Not helped by the English refusal since 2016 to put windfarms onshore, meaning they drag us into their mess.

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