Then you have to work out why nobody else realises the significance. Are you wrong? Maybe the changes slipped into the Finance Bill withdrawing eligibility for Enterprise Investment Tax Relief from community energy schemes are just what everyone assumes they are – the latest twist in the premature withdrawal of tapering subsidies for green energy.
If that was the case it would be a mistake, part of the government’s overzealous and short-sighted removal of support for renewables. Infuriating and blinkered, yes, but it would hardly compromise their legitimacy as a government.
Part of the problem may be that opposition MPs are seeing this move as if it was familiar. As if they would do that, wouldn’t they...
But I think it is something else. Why would any government, however little interest they might have in renewable energy, deliberately set out to trash a small but growing sector of the economy? Why would they deliberately undermine all the energy and imagination that goes into building a business – which, in the days of Margaret Thatcher, they used to pride themselves in backing. British ingenuity. Private enterprise.
Removing feed-in tariffs, the guaranteed income that renewables get – though less than the vast sums promised to Hinckley Point – could possibly be justified in the need to reduce fuel bills. You can see the point also, if they are still getting feed-in tariffs, that the enterprise already has its guarantee and maybe shouldn't get tax relief too (though community energy has been risky enough until now to still get it).
But you can’t remove both, and Enterprise Investment Tax Relief on community energy schemes is to disappear from 30 November, according to a clause slipped into the Finance Bill only at the end of October at third reading, after it could be debated.
It has meant a ridiculous scramble to get community energy schemes through the hurdle in just a few weeks.
Why, uniquely, should enterprise tax relief to be given to every other new start-up but not to renewable energy?
So this is what I mean about it changing everything. When a government deliberately tries to destroy the efforts of entrepreneurs, for ideological reasons – so that people and investors earn less, and the nation earns less as a result, then you know the writing is on the wall for them. Just as it was on the wall for Labour in the days of Michael Foot.
It is a fundamental principle that governments should not trash the efforts of their entrepreneurs – withdraw subsidies perhaps; they’re not under any obligation to support them, but you can’t unbalance the playing field against them, by denying the tax relief that most investment in new enterprises get. All except the innovative ones devoted to new energy schemes.
And you especially can’t do that – and survive scrutiny by the electorate – if you catapult them, as a result, that much more into the suffocating embrace of the big energy companies, an oligopoly if ever there was one. Or is it – just to raise a scary prospect – part of a secret agreement with the Chinese to make us dependent on their nuclear investments instead?
When a Conservative government torpedoes its own commitment to free and open markets, by setting out to undermine competition and enterprise, you know they are on the way out, intellectually and politically. And when they go, you can remind yourself that you read it here first...
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