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Windfall tax on oil and gas firms: Jacob Rees-Mogg warns Rishi Sunak that no tax is 'economically co

27 May

One of the government's most loyal ministers has warned that a windfall tax on oil and gas companies will not be "economically cost-free".

The tax was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of a £21bn support package aimed at helping people cope with the rising cost of living.
But Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for Brexit opportunities and government efficiency, told Sky News that all taxation has an economic consequence.
Politics live: More Tories say Boris Johnson has lost their support
He said: "People need to understand that there is not a tax that you can take that is economically cost-free.
"It doesn't matter which tax it is, it will have an economic consequence.
"Whether it's a pasty tax, or it's an excess profits tax, there is an economic consequence.
"There isn't a honeypot of free tax that governments can just pop into.
"So as long as they raise the tax, knowing that it will have an economic consequence, which the chancellor does, then it is a matter of choosing between one form of revenue-raising and another.
"There is no non-tax way, ultimately, of spending. It is either today's tax, or it's tomorrow's tax through borrowing."
Cost of living latest: Martin Lewis responds to Sunak's announcement
Mr Sunak's levy on the oil and gas firms has also faced criticism from the CBI - which suggested the tax could discourage investment - as well as the Conservative backbenches, where MP Richard Drax accused the chancellor of "throwing red meat to socialists".
The levy is not just a one-off as it will only be phased out "if oil and gas prices return to historically more levels" and could be in place to the end of December 2025 - when a "sunset clause" will end the tax.
Measures announced by the chancellor in the Commons on Thursday included a one-off £650 payment to low-income households on benefits, paid in two instalments in July and in autumn at a cost of £5.4bn.
Pensioners will also receive a £300 payment in November/December alongside the winter fuel payment in a move costing £2.5bn, while £150 will be paid by September to people receiving disability benefits.
Mr Sunak announced that £5bn of the package would be paid for by the levy on the profits of oil and gas giants, and around £10bn will be covered by extra borrowing.
The chancellor attempted to avoid calling his plan for a 25% energy profits levy a "windfall tax", as he was accused by Labour of having been dragged "kicking and screaming" into a U-turn on the policy the Opposition has spent months calling for.
But Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, conceded it was a windfall tax, although one he said included a "carefully calibrated offer" due to its tax break incentives for companies to invest in North Sea oil and gas production.
When announcing his fiscal package in the House of Commons, Mr Sunak told MPs it was worth £15bn.
But officials later conceded that there was a hidden £6bn cost to the announcement, taking it to £21bn.
That is because over the next five years the original £200 rebate for energy bills, which was announced in February, and doubled and turned into a grant by the chancellor on Thursday, will no longer be paid back by consumers as originally planned.
Mr Sunak's announcement came a day after senior civil servant Sue Gray's damning report into lockdown parties in Downing Street, laying bare details of drunken parties, fighting and karaoke in the heart of government at a time when COVID-19 restrictions were in place.
In an interview with Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website, the chancellor was asked whether the fiscal measures had been quickly unveiled to act as a "fig leaf" after Ms Gray's report.
He replied: "I can categorically assure you that that had no bearing on the timing for us announcing this support, and I can give you my absolute assurance on that and my word."
Rishi Sunak will be speaking to Sky News about his £21bn support package just after 7am this morning


Texas school shooting: What social media posts tell us about gunman Salvador Ramos

27 May

The 18-year-old who shot his grandmother before killing 21 people - including 19 children - at a Texas primary school is not believed to have left a manifesto or note explaining his actions.

Those who knew him say he was bullied and didn't have many friends.
But messages Salvador Ramos sent to strangers online have begun to surface.
In them, he tells a person to kill themselves, boasts about buying a gun, and in one online audio chatroom he comments that people deserve "to get raped".
Ramos had a number of social media accounts and used the same photos and usernames on them.
He was particularly active on an app called Yubo. It enables users to make new friends with people based on their location.
Screenshots show his account was verified with a yellow tick. This means he submitted evidence of his identity, including an official form of ID and confirmation he matches his photos.
He used at least two usernames on his accounts. He initially used his real name, but later changed it to "TheBiggestOpp", a username that also appears on his Instagram and TikTok accounts.
Ramos wanted people to follow him on his different social accounts. This screenshot of his Yubo profile promotes his Instagram username.
Selfies and abusive behaviour
Ramos uploaded a number of selfies, including one posing in front of what appears to be a broken mirror while lifting his T-shirt up.
He used these apps to message people he didn't know in real life.
A 15-year-old girl in Germany told CNN she met Ramos through Yubo. From there, they began to text and video call each other.
Ten minutes before the police were first called to the shooting, Ramos texted the girl to say he had shot his grandma and was going to "shoot up an elementary school".
CNN have reviewed the texts, but Sky News is unable to independently verify them.
Ramos also messaged a person on Yubo with proof he had bought a gun.
Read more:
All 21 victims of Texas school shooting named
Why do US gun sales increase after mass shootings?

He sent aggressive messages on the app. He told one girl on Valentine's Day that he would worship her before saying she should jump off a bridge.
This behaviour is recorded again when he is in an online audio chat room on Yubo.
He tells the group: "I guess everyone [inaudible] deserves to get raped."
The other people in the chat react in shock and chastise him for his comments.
Sky News understands at least one user who was contacted by him reported Ramos' account, banned him from her live chats and reached out directly to the company for "help with his harassment".
Yubo users have alleged Ramos abused animals and livestreamed it on the platform, although no screenshots or recordings of this have surfaced.
Sky News asked Yubo to respond to the screenshots in this article, the claim that his account was reported to them, and the allegations of animal abuse.
A spokesperson from Yubo told Sky News: "We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable loss and are fully cooperating with law enforcement on their investigation.
"At this stage, we are not legally able to release any specific user information outside of direct requests from law enforcement, but can confirm that we are investigating an account that has since been banned from the platform."
'Repost my gun pics'
Yubo was not the only social media platform he used to contact strangers.
Salvador Ramos posted a photo of two guns on his Instagram before the attack.
He included the handle for another Instagram user, epnupues, in the image.
These images and the Instagram profile have been widely shared.
Epnupues issued a statement saying they did not know Ramos.
The user wrote: "He's a stranger. I know nothing about him. He decided to tag me in his gun post.
"I'm so sorry for the victims and their families. I don't really know what to say."
The account also shared a number of screenshots of messages with Ramos.
On 12 May, he asked her to "repost my gun pics" on to her profile, to which epnupues replied, "What your guns gotta do with me" and "I'm so confused".
Epnupues also shared what appeared to be the last message she received from Ramos.
The message was sent at 9.16am. It does not have a date stamp, which means the screenshot was taken on the same day the message was received. This means it was likely sent the morning of the attack, but it is not possible to know this for certain.
His last message was "Ima air out", a reference to shooting someone.
As well as sharing the messages from Ramos, epnupues shared accusations made against them - with one person accusing the user of being Ramos' girlfriend.
"I don't know him and I dont even live in Texas," epnupues said in reply.
His profile has been shut down by Instagram, which is working with US law enforcement on the matter.
'Violent fantasies of revenge'
Daniel Allington, a senior lecturer at King's College London who specialises in social media in relation to hate and violence, reviewed Ramos' posts.
He told Sky News: "We've got a socially isolated young man who appears to have violent fantasies of revenge who begins by shooting an older female relative in an argument and then goes on to kill as many people as possible.
"Clearly there will be a lot of young socially isolated young men who are posting threatening and aggressive messages on social media, behaving in an aggressive way towards members of their family or a local community and very few of them go on to do something like this.
"So it's difficult to say that warnings were missed."
He also said Ramos's social media shows a sense of entitlement and attention seeking.
Referring to Ramos' conversations with epnupues on Instagram, Dr Allington said: "If you look at his interactions with on people with on social media, you can see there's a clear element of aggression, in particular towards the woman he was speaking to.
"He believes he's entitled to her attention, even though she doesn't actually know him. He uses the threat that he's about to do something, although he didn't say what, as a means of getting attention."
Dr Allington said there was currently no reason to identify Ramos with the incel movement, especially as the first person he shot was elderly and most of the rest were children. Incels typically direct their anger towards women who are of reproductive age and men who they see as more sexually successful than themselves, he explained.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.
Why data journalism matters to Sky News


Texas school shooting: Police waited at least 40 minutes to storm classroom - as husband of teacher

27 May

Questions are being asked about how much time elapsed before police stormed a Texas primary school classroom to end a rampage by a gunman inside.

Texas Department of Public Safety director Steve McCraw said that 40 minutes to an hour had elapsed from when Salvador Ramos first opened fire on the school security officer, to when a tactical team shot him dead.
In that time, 21 people - 19 students and two teachers - were killed.
And the community is now demanding to know the full detail about what exactly happened during that time.
Their questions come as it emerges that the husband of one of the teachers who died has also passed away - less than 48 hours after the tragedy.
Joe Garcia had been married to high school sweetheart, Irma Garcia, for 24 years before she was gunned down on Tuesday at Robb Elementary in Uvalde.
Speaking to Sky's US partner NBC News, Irma's nephew John Martinez said of Mr Garcia's death: "I don't even know how to feel. I don't believe it. I don't want to believe it."
It is thought Mr Garcia suffered a heart attack after going to his wife's memorial to leave flowers. A relative said on a social media post that he believed Joe had "died of a broken heart" after losing "the love of his life of more than 30 years, was too much to bear".
The couple had four children.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who is a supporter of gun rights, has pulled out of the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston, instead deciding to visit Uvalde again.
He was scheduled to speak at the NRA leadership forum on Friday but will instead deliver pre-recorded remarks virtually.
The governor will visit the town of the tragic shooting and hold a news conference.
The NRA's schedule online still lists Mr Abbott as one of the speakers, alongside Texas senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump.
Read more:
Duchess of Sussex lays flowers at site of massacre
Why do US gun sales increase after mass shootings?
Lone shooter drill lessons from my nine-year-old and why handguns became humdrum

One Texas law enforcement official has said the 18-year-old gunman walked in unimpeded through an apparently unlocked door.
After entering the school, Ramos barricaded himself in a classroom and began to kill.
Another official said Border Patrol agents had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key.
In the meantime, it has been reported, one of the victim's fathers had become so frustrated about time apparently elapsing that he threatened to "rush in".
Javier Cazares, whose daughter, Jacklyn Cazares, was killed in the attack, said he raced to the school when he heard about the shooting, arriving while police were still gathered outside.
Upset that police were not moving in, he raised the idea of charging into the school with several other bystanders.
'Police were unprepared'
"Let's just rush in because the cops aren't doing anything like they are supposed to," he said. "More could have been done."
"They were unprepared," he added.
A Texas Public Safety department spokesman said later that authorities could not give a solid estimate of how long the gunman had been in the school.
"The bottom line is law enforcement was there," Mr McCraw said. "They did engage immediately. They did contain (Ramos) in the classroom."
Uvalde Police chief Daniel Rodriguez maintained officers had responded "within minutes" and said he felt it was "important for our community to know that".
'Answers won't come fast enough'
He said there was an ongoing investigation into all aspects of the shooting being led by the Texas Rangers adding: "I understand questions are surfacing regarding the details of what occurred.
"I know answers will not come fast enough during this trying time, but rest assured that with the completion of the full investigation, I will be able to answer all the questions that we can."
In the wake of yet another mass shooting, gun safety advocates are now pushing President Joe Biden to take stronger measures to curb such violence.
On Thursday they spoke to White House representatives and urged the president to appoint a gun violence tsar.
They also called on Mr Biden to make an emergency declaration on gun violence (a situation where a government is empowered to be able to put through policies it would normally not be permitted to do), issue an executive order (a signed, written, and published directive from the president) on background checks for firearms purchases, and advocate lifting the Senate filibuster if necessary (the rule that requires at least 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate to pass most legislation).
14 acres of guns
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has said it will continue with its annual convention in Houston, Texas, over this upcoming holiday weekend.
It promises to showcase "over 14 acres of the latest guns and gear ".
It issued a message of condolence to the victims of Uvalde on its convention website.
It read: "Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims involved in this horrific and evil crime.
"On behalf of our members, we salute the courage of school officials, first responders and others who offered their support and services.
"Although an investigation is under way and facts are still emerging, we recognise this was the act of a lone, deranged criminal.
"As we gather in Houston, we will reflect on these events, pray for the victims, recognise our patriotic members, and pledge to redouble our commitment to making our schools secure."


Cost of living help will have 'minimal impact' on inflation says Rishi Sunak

27 May

Rishi Sunak has said cost of living support delivering hundreds of pounds to every household will have a "minimal impact" on inflation - and suggested those who do not need it could give the money to charity.

The chancellor told Sky News that the announcement of new measures worth £15bn to ease the burden on squeezed households was "targeted at those most in need".
Under the plans, every home will see £400 knocked off their bills - an upgrade from a previous policy of loaning them £200 to be repaid over five years - while eight million of the most vulnerable will also receive £650.
It comes at a time when inflation of 9% - a 40-year high - is squeezing households' spending power.
The universal nature of the energy rebate will have the effect of helping many who do not need any assistance - and Mr Sunak suggested to Sky's Niall Paterson that "you, like me... can give that money to charity if you don't need it".
He added: "Our estimate in my view is that it will have a minimal impact on inflation."
Asked if it would lift inflation by one percentage point he said "much, much less than that".
"What we're doing is very targeted at those most in need. We're also raising money to help pay for it," Mr Sunak said.
"The combination of those two things is the responsible approach.
"Even though we are supporting the economy we want to make sure that we don't make the inflation situation worse."


Ukraine war: Fear, suspicion and split loyalties in the city where situation is spiralling out of co

26 May

Time is fast running out for the thousands of people still in the besieged city of Severodonetsk and the odds are very much against them. 

We managed to make one of the last trips in and out before the Ukrainian military shut down the remaining useable bridge into the city because of heavy shelling.
The city has come under intense and sustained bombardment over the past few days as the two sides slug it out for control. There has been no let-up day or night.
And to us, it seems the Russian troops are making inroads. They're throwing everything they can at taking this city - shelling, pounding, missile strikes and signs that they have ground troops not only on the city perimeters but inching their way in.
Volunteers who have been trying to deliver food and water to residents trapped in their homes by the raging battle have come under fire - they believe - from Russian soldiers.
One was shot in the arm but when they ran for cover at the nearby residential houses they've been delivering aid to, those inside bolted their doors and refused them entry. It's not clear why they did this but it speaks to the fear, suspicion and split loyalties in this city which is fast turning into a focal point for the Russian military.
A whole lot worse
But the Ukrainian troops are vastly outnumbered. The Ukrainian president has warned by as much as seven to one in some areas of the Donbas.
Russia moving missile system through Belarus as Putin sets sights on Slovakia - all latest Ukraine news live
It feels like it's simply a matter of time before this key city in the Donbas area of Luhansk falls under Russian control. And if it does, the fear is, it will be the catalyst for the Russians to move further into the Donbas and Donetsk - the second area which makes up the region.
The situation is dire for those inside Severodonetsk and it seems very likely it's about to get a whole lot worse.
They've had no power, communications or running water for weeks. There's little movement around the city because of the constant bombardment. Those still inside the city emerge from basements or shelters simply to cook and forage for water.
Exceedingly bleak
Evacuations have halted because the routes in are coming under heavy attack and the sole operational hospital is cut off by the battle exploding around it. Most patients have been taken out but we understand about ten may still be there.
Ukraine's commander in chief of its armed forces - Valerii Zaluzhnyi - urged Western countries to send more deliveries of long range weapons. 'We are in great need of weapons that will make it possible to hit the enemy from a long distance," he was quoted as saying in the Kyiv Independent.
President Zelenskyy has warned the end of this war is likely to see some of its bloodiest battles. We saw one unravelling in Severodonetsk.
The next few days and weeks look exceedingly bleak for the city.