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Ben biffs Barry

Barry Gardiner, the MP for Brent North has been speaking about renewables at the Energy Live News website. During his interview, he made this remarkable statement about government support for different energy types:

He claimed the third [lie behind government energy policy] is that Government is “neutral” and doesn’t pick favourites in energy: “Last year the OECD announced that in 2010 the UK subsidised fossil fuels by £3.6 billion. In last year’s budget, the Chancellor announced a further £65million to oil and gas in 2011… In contrast the total subsidy paid to onshore wind in 2010 was just £400million.”

This is not the first time he has said this. Back in August he made the same claim in an article for the New Statesman:

Last year, the OECD estimated that in 2010 the subsidies for coal, gas and petrol in the UK amounted to £3.6bn on top of which the Chancellor, in the 2012 budget, has announced further exploration and production subsidies of £65m to develop the West of Shetland fields.

As readers here know, neither of these statements are true. The OECD paper does not mention subsidies of £3.6bn. That figure refers to the value of the reduced rate of VAT on energy. This does not meet the definition of a subsidy, which involves a cash payment. And since it applies to all kinds of energy it cannot be a "fossil fuel" subsidy either, so Gardiner's claim about picking favourites is patently false.

His claim about the further £65m for oil and gas is not a subsidy either, being a reduction in a supertax (the Supplementary Charge) which is paid by oil companies but not by renewables firms. This therefore is not a subsidy and demonstrates that government policy favours renewables over fossil fuels - the opposite of what Gardiner has said.

Ben Pile was incensed with Gardiner:

is a liar about the OECD analysis, even if he is right about energy proces rising. [...] Shame on you, Barry.

A tweet that ended up with quite an interesting exchange of views:

GARDINER: Your tweet is actionable. Please withdraw it. I correctly state OECD figures for Fossil Fuel Subsidies were £3.6bn in 2010

PILE: you can't call people liars and complain about being called a liar. Oecd figures are for reduced rate of vat, not subsidies...and you know that oecd figures are reduced rate, not subsidies, hence you are dishonest.

GARDINER: Also I said gov policy was based on a lie. No named person = not actionable You named me = actionable Please retract

PILE: it's true. You knew that what you said wasn't true. So you lied. I said so. That ain't 'actionable'. If you think it is...i'll withdraw my tweet if you explain that you were wrong about subsidies to energy live news...When did it become 'actionable' to call an MP a liar, anyway?...

GARDINER: So reducing tax to favour the consumption of a particular product does not count as a subsidy in your book? Really?

PILE: no, reducing tax is taking less money, subsidy is giving money. I'm surprised an MP can't tell the difference. Hmm....and reduced rate doesn't favour any particular form of energy. Applies to renewables too. Surprised you don't know this.

Send me your email address, and i'll give you my postal address so you can get your lawyer to proceed...


PILE: let me up the stakes by adding 'coward' to liar.

PILE: thanks. I've got no money or property, I hope you realise. Could cost you.

Popcorn is definitely required.

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Reader Comments (94)

Too many Barry's around here. ;-)

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

Piling on MP gets Piled on?

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Barry Gardiner appears to be "Ed Miliband's Special Envoy for Climate Change and the Environment"

So is anyone surprised by his behaviour. He appears to be as hapless as Ed Milliband

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterConfusedPhoton

This looks like a case for Arkell v Pressdram 1971:

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Suggest everyone on twitter spreads his ignorance and pomposity as widely as possible.

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:57 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

So does that mean the email address is in the public domain now and anyone can email him for clarification on what subsidy applies to what energy source?


Sep 13, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Barry sounds like someone who doesn't know that he doesn't know. When cornered, instead of doing what intelligent people do (ask for enlightenment) he blusters and threatens.

An idiot AND a bully.

Sep 13, 2012 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

Ben not sure if you will read this but good man no blather no sexed data just a good all round kick in the facts for a very silly man !

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterMat

So, by Barry's reckoning, if Tesco reduce the price of a tin of beans by 5p, buying that tin of beans means that Tesco is subsidising me by 5p? We don't have Tesco here in Sweden, so I often shop in Netto and they are quite cheap - so I'm probably being subsidised to the tune of hundreds of pounds a year. Fantastic!

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Well done Ben.

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

A lying MP is about as notable as a lying Congressional member over here: sort of like flies around a picnic table.

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterlurker, passing through laughing

I will keep calling them subsidies somehow – even if I have to redefine what the dictionary definition is!

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:08 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

You mean this gentleman?
Mr. Gardiner, a former Minister for Biodiversity and currently Vice President of GLOBE International (according to the article "Ed Miliband appoints Barry Gardiner as his Climate Change & Environment Special Envoy " - April 7, 2011)
GLOBE International - that rings a bell!

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

He seems to enjoy travel too. Have a wee peek at his register of Members' Interests section on the theyworkforyou site

PS is GLOBE a part of the Thomas Cook group?

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

If reduced rate VAT was a subsidy (which it isn't) then it is a subsidy to the consumer not the producer.

The claim of the subsidy probably is the same as the Guardian used for this article: Wind power still gets lower public subsidies than fossil fuel tax breaks

That article links to an OECD report here (pdf)

The only mention of subsidies is as follows:

The United Kingdom has been a pioneer in deregulating and liberalising energy markets through price decontrol, the closure of inefficient coal mines, the removal of subsidies, privatisation and the introduction of competition and open access to electricity and natural gas networks, regulated by an independent regulatory body. Today, there is virtually no state ownership of energy assets and all markets are competitive.

Direct from the horse's mouth I take that to mean the OECD say there are no subsidies in the fossil fuel industry.

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

When did it become 'actionable' to call an MP a liar, anyway?...


With the very odd exception MPs are all gullible idiots and hypocrites also; they all gave Tony Blair, the PM who took the UK into an illegal war in Iraq, a standing ovation when he stood down from the Commons.

Sep 13, 2012 at 10:29 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

It was so funny, I thought it was Barry Cryer.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

As explained on Twitter, this document by the OECD says:

This document marks a first attempt to comprehensively list the various direct budgetary expenditures and tax expenditures that effectively support fossil fuel production or use in OECD countries. The scope of what is considered “support” is here deliberately broad, and is broader than some conceptions of “subsidy”. Essentially, it includes both direct budgetary expenditures and tax expenditures that in some way provide a benefit or preference for fossil-fuel production or consumption relative to alternatives.

I am sure the average Grauniad reader is well enough used to see liberalities taken with the meaning and spelling of words, but the OECD isn't.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:16 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Furthermore, the consumption supports total at 3,189.03M, not 3.6.

ps it appears that the PDF linked by Gareth is an extract from the document I quoted.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:19 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Before this gets out of hand, might I recommend a book to further understanding of the issues?

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterManicBeancounter

Tip to government:

1: Raise VAT to 50%
2: Reduce VAT to what it was before.
3: Call reduction "consumption support".
4: Win next election.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Barry (Digger) Gardiner all that tax on UK Gas and OIl its great.
Pays for all those useless Windmills you love so much and to decorate your flat too.Tut Tut.

Gonna need a bigger Trough.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

Re: omnologos (Sep 13 @11:16 PM)
If that's their definition, I'm not understanding OECD then. A reduced VAT on all energy does not "provide a benefit or preference for fossil-fuel production or consumption relative to alternatives." So how can they include that in "support"? I must be missing something basic.

Sep 13, 2012 at 11:54 PM | Registered CommenterHaroldW

HaroldW - the OECD does say later on they only cared about fossil fuels in the report anyway. So if the reduction applied to other sources or not, that's the wrong report to use.

ps I have decided to make everybody here pay £100 to read my comments. I have also decided, as part of my Readership Support Programme, to lower that fee by £100.

Look! I have just subsidised the Bishop Hill community by £2,300! Anybody knows if I can get a tax rebate for this very worthy initiative?

Sep 14, 2012 at 12:09 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Will a future Labour government, headed by Mr Gardiner, still allow me to subsidise myself, providing free transfers from my bank account to my pocket (and out of it)?

Come to think, I wouldn't be so sure. Perhaps a Personal Tobin Tax is in the making, so that every time I move my money for whatever reason from one container to another, the Government will extract a fraction of it.

Sep 14, 2012 at 12:12 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

A moment in time to relish!

Wind is maxing out!

Enjoy, you have paid for it! And will continue to do so for a very long time to come!

Sep 14, 2012 at 12:18 AM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

HaroldW: "I'm not understanding OECD then."

The OECD and IEA went renewable nutso last year, hence they produced those headline figures. More at and more about Gardiner banging on about the coalition's lies as though their energy policy was radically different to the previous government's --

They have a weird agenda. Like most intergovernmental agencies, their functions and mandates are nebulous and highly questionable -- a fact that is known to them perhaps more than anyone else. Since they can do nothing at all to make energy more abundant or accessible -- in fact a world of abundance is the most terrifying prospect for an aspiring technocratic bureaucracy, because it will make them redundant -- they're naturally forced to (unwittingly) promote scarcity.

I'm waiting to hear from BG's lawyers, but not holding my breath; his only defence of peddling lies is that Ed Miliband's Special Envoy for Climate Change and the Environment didn't understand or didn't read what he was parroting -- in which case he has no business commenting on energy or climate policy. He chose to make an issue out of being called a liar, rather than reveal his ignorance. He revealed it, nonetheless.

Sep 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM | Unregistered CommenterBen Pile

Well done, Ben, as always on top and on the job. Yes, I'm back from seeing my son for the first time in the Czech republic and rareing to get stuck in. Well done, once again!

Sep 14, 2012 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterLewis Deane

the party's (almost) over:

13 Sept: Radio Netherlands: Victory for the centre in Dutch elections
The GreenLeft party also lost heavily, taking just 3 seats compared to their current 10...

similar in recent local elections in New South Wales, with Govt Labor Senator going so far as to suggest the Greens had lost the plot on climate change. surely then, the Govt should discontinue the CO2 tax and other CAGW policies!

10 Sept: Australian: Greens' NSW council election flop due to asylum position, says Bowen
Voters turned on the Greens in the weekend local government elections in NSW, with the party losing support in many traditional leftist strongholds...
His fellow Labor colleague Senator Doug Cameron said the Greens had "lost the plot" on climate change and asylum seekers.
"On the big issues, the Greens fail," Senator Cameron said.
"But it's not just the policies, it's just their complete lack of political maturity."

Sep 14, 2012 at 1:05 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Well done. I am glad that someone has taken someone to task over the blurring of the very obvious difference between subsidy and rebate.
Let's see if this twit has the balls to take action. I doubt it.

Sep 14, 2012 at 1:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Apropos of legal action has Mikey Mann served suit on Mary Steyn yet?

Or will all his huffing and puffing just serve to illustrate yet again what a big girl's blouse he is?

Sep 14, 2012 at 1:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

"So reducing tax to favour the consumption of a particular product does not count as a subsidy in your book? "

This type of thinking originates in the minds of people for whom the sole known purpose of a tax on a substance is the control of its rate of consumption.

Even if you accept this logic, a reduction of tax to favour consumption would, in many cases increase consumption to a level that would increase the total tax amount collected by government.

If you remember stupid factoids in your head and twitter them to the world, this is the end result - you end up showing what you are really made of.

Sep 14, 2012 at 1:58 AM | Registered Commentershub

@Sep 14, 2012 at 12:27 AM | Ben Pile
Well put sir.
My words, not yours, but it's smashing to see someone hitting our elected trough-snufflers on the snout!
If they fight back, using the law, they will publically reveal themselves as the rent-seekers that they clearly are.
Barry G, has no choice but to adopt the Michael M defence - Bluster, threaten and trust that his "my pals are bigger than yours'" threat will be enough to cower any opponents into submission!
Barry, some words of advice that you should, perhaps, ponder.
BALLS, cost nowt, but beat GLOBES' every time!
You've been called out. What's your next move?

Sep 14, 2012 at 2:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

In my previous post I ended with the question to one of our elected representatives, BG, "What's your next move?"
Given that the current response from our "democratically-elected", "open-government" supporting organisms (of any political flavour) is along the lines of "nobody was available to comment", this is clearly destined to be a rhetorical question!
Let me answer for you then BG.
Your next move will be SFA.
As always.
Happy travels, conflict-free (Post-Normally defined of course), mate.

Sep 14, 2012 at 2:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

speaking of "huffing and puffing", amazing to see neil wallis turn up on Huffington Post UK today:

13 Sept: Huffington Post UK: Neil Wallis:Why Doesn't David Cameron Set Up a Leveson Inquiry for Hillsborough?
After all, it involves the press, the police, a blatant cover-up lasting years, politicians and the establishment actively assisting that cover-up, judges going along with the concealment of the truth, taxpayer funded public services lying, distorting and doctoring evidence... and 96 dead people...

from a related page on Huffpo, we are told Wallis was "a junior features executive at The Sun at the time of the tragedy". Sun has apologised for its coverage.

and speaking of lying:

13 Sept: Yorkshire Post: The tragic truth emerges at last
Then-chief constable of South Yorkshire Peter Wright and his officers, with the help of local Tory MP Irvine Patnick, sought to cover up the failings, briefing media that drunken, ticketless fans and violence were to blame.
164 police statements were altered, 116 of them to remove or alter “unfavourable” comments about the police.
South Yorkshire Ambulance documents were also changed. Attempt were made to attack the reputations of those who died by carrying out Police National Computer checks on them...

Sep 14, 2012 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Would the MP sue in England? Because there is no way an MP, congressman, or anyone in elected office could sue and win that case in the US. Ben's tweet could be totally utterly wrong and Ben would still win if the plaintiff is a politician! And of course, truth is a complete defense in the US.

Sep 14, 2012 at 3:00 AM | Unregistered Commenterlucia

5 Sept: Reuters: Dutch province tilts at (real) windmills
North Holland says wants to cancel 20 pending projects
The Netherlands has been famous for its windmills for centuries but now one of its most populous provinces has said it wants to ban their modern-day incarnations - wind turbines - on the grounds that they are ugly and noisy.
The government of North Holland, home to the Netherlands' largest city, Amsterdam, has authorised a giant wind power project in the north of the province and had been considering applications to construct 20 similar projects.
But on Wednesday it said it would not give any other wind power projects the go-ahead after the existing project - which will allow the province to fulfill its wind energy target - is complete.
"Wind turbines had a maximum height of 25 metres or so, 30 years ago," said Frans Nederstigt, a spokesman for the provincial government.
"Now they are modern machines of up to 120 metres, with rotors up to 75 metres across - meaning a total height of 180 metres is not exceptional."...
Turbines caused noise pollution, he added, saying that sunlight flickering through turbine blades could also be a distracting hazard for drivers.
The ban on future construction, which will probably be approved by the provincial assembly within a few months, drew criticism from the country's Green party which argues that the turbines provide a clean renewable source of energy...
The country has about 2,000 wind turbines generating more than 2 gigawatts. But renewable energy still contributes less than 4 percent of the country's power needs, well short of the national target of 14 percent by 2020...
The province would continue to allow offshore wind energy developments, he said, even though turbines at sea cost twice as much as their land-based counterparts.

Australia's Macquarie involved in the following:

11 Sept: Radio Netherlands: Dutch wind farm in trouble in Mexico
Dutch pension fund PGGM is the under fire in Mexico because of its plans for a wind farm in the south of the country. Furious local farmers and fishermen are demanding that the project be abandoned.
The conflict centres on the Marena Renovables project, a wind farm under construction near the Indian village of San Dionisio del Mar on the Mexican west coast. Once completed, the project would be the largest wind farm in Latin America. It is being jointly financed by PGGM and two other foreign investors...
In 2004, the local Ikoots Indians signed a contract with the investors granting them a thirty-year lease on the land. But local representatives now claim the deal was signed on the basis of incomplete information. Protestors say the developers have unilaterally increased the number of turbines from 40 to 132. They say the noise of the mills will have a negative effect on the livelihoods of local fishers and farmers.
Reacting to the criticism, PGGM says the negotiations were conducted fairly. The company claims the problems are related to disagreement amongst the locals over the division of money. “We deposited the funds for the local community in a central bank account and can only assume that it was then distributed fairly”, PGGM’s head of infrastructure Henk Huizing, told Dutch daily de Volkskrant. “We can’t verify that that is the case, and nor is it our responsibility”, he added...
There are already 500 wind turbines scattered around the state and the Mexican government wants to see that number quadruple.
The atmosphere in the town has deteriorated steadily. Angry locals have sabotaged the construction of an access road, occupied the town hall and forced the mayor to flee. The protestors say they’ve had death threats from community leaders who are determined to see the project go ahead at all costs.
PGGM and the two other investors, the Mitsubishi Corporation and the Australian investment fund Macquarie admit that the conflict has intensified recently but are confident construction will continue.

Sep 14, 2012 at 5:07 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat


Gardiner is parroting a piece by Damian Carrington
Does that count as a defence or an aggravating circumstance? Damian Carrington is a notorious liar, as Tim Worstall comes near to saying in his article.

Sep 14, 2012 at 5:47 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Definitely an aggravating circumstance! Especially since these articles have been out for quite awhile, it's not like he was reacting off the cuff to something he hadn't had time to look into.

Sep 14, 2012 at 6:10 AM | Registered CommenterSkiphil

Some international agencies (including the World Bank) do actually class the non-collection of due taxes as a tax subsidy to the energy industry. I can't tell if reduction of VAT or any other Supertax would be considered in the same vein as forgiveness of production royalties or income taxes or where they may differentiate same.
The linked paper has a number of discussions but the second paragraph on page 24 has a definition of tax subsidy.

Sep 14, 2012 at 6:43 AM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

I don't do Twitter so could someone ask the great Mr Gardiner who he expects to be paying for his legal action ? If it appears to be me via his expenses he can Foxtrot Oscar.

Sep 14, 2012 at 7:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMorph

Critics of the renewables scam share Gardiner's error in so far as they call money gained through the Renewables Obligation a "subsidy". That the label has stuck does not make it accurate.

Subsidies are funded by taxpayers and awarded by government and thus are at least notionally subject to parliamentary control. The subsidies paid to rail companies are a case in point.

The Renewables Obligations are different - they are levies imposed on electricity consumers by electricity suppliers under the supervision of OFGEM that are guaranteed to last until 2035. They are not subject to parliamentary scrutiny nor even, as Chancellor Osborne recently discovered, readily amenable to ministerial manipulation.

Nor can I see how they can be revoked though, if any lawyer who reads this can tell me different, I'd (seriously) be grateful for an explanation.

The difference between Gardiner and his critics is that the latter are using an epithet that tends to mislead, Gardiner isn't. If he genuinely does not know the difference between the RO and a subsidy then he is such an ignorant fool that, on balance, to call him a liar is to do him a kindness.

Being well disposed to the chap, my guess is that he's probably just another cheapskate parliamentary liar and not ignorant at all. I never thought I'd say this but Pile is right.

But, Baz, old fellow, if suing OAPs is your thing, the Bishop has my e-mail address and my permission to forward it to your brief on request. I could do with a little excitement to warm me up this miserable autumn.

Sep 14, 2012 at 8:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

A Narcissistic politician, I'm not surprised.

Sep 14, 2012 at 8:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

It might as well be that, having freely interpreted the OECD words any way he pleased, Gardiner found himself surrounded by the usual sycophants and fellow environmental crusaders. In other words, by nobody who would question or even think about his assertions.

This reminds me of the recent statement by Romney on climate change, miles ahead of Obama's platitudes. As they say, nobody knows theology like a convinced atheist. Believers most of the time don't even need to think.

Sep 14, 2012 at 8:52 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Perhaps one day one these loud mouths will actual try and take someone to court , and that mat well be a very good day , on that note I wonder how Mann is getting on with his many threats of court action?

Sep 14, 2012 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

Perhaps we should rename Barry Gardiner, Elmer Gantry?

Sep 14, 2012 at 10:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlecM

Gardner is suffering from pollytoynbeeitis, a debilitating disease which makes the bearer believe that all money belongs to the government. The sufferers thus believe that if the government doesn't take your money off you it's subsidising you.


Sep 14, 2012 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Mark Twain on politicians

"Imagine, if you will, that I am an idiot.
Then, imagine that I am also a Congressman. But, alas, I repeat myself."

Sep 14, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaul_K

So if I was to mug Mr Gardiner and take £100 out of his wallet, but then decide to hand him back a tenner because I was feeling sorry for him I guess he'd come away all happy having made £10 from the mugging?

Sep 14, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSean O'Connor

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