‘We cannot allow debt to keep rising’, the Chancellor said to Parliament last week, repeatedly emphasising the need to ‘level’ with the public about the size of the national debt. Strange then that just days later it was revealed that ministers have been doing the opposite when it comes to the costs of the fashionable cause of ‘Net Zero’. Instead government officials deliberately hid ‘more realistic’ estimates which showed Net Zero would cost billions more than publicised, while agreeing amongst themselves that the predicted costs were ‘highly uncertain’.
These revelations came about after the Treasury was finally defeated in a two-year battle to prevent me seeing documents I’d requested under the Freedom of Information Act. I’d asked for the calculations behind their claim that the cost of decarbonising the UK economy was going to be around £1 trillion.
In the event, after two years, they eventually handed over what was essentially a short memo, discussing two competing estimates of the cost, one from the Department for Business Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the other from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The amateurishness of the Treasury analysis is extraordinary: a few figures are jotted down, as if on the back of an envelope, and a crude graph is sketched out, after which a picture to present to the public is decided on.
But more importantly, the memo appears to show that the Treasury set out to deceive the public. The mandarins involved felt that the higher BEIS estimate was more credible than the lower figure from the CCC, but shamefully decided to publicise the CCC number anyway.
This kind of behaviour by Whitehall officials has become all too common, but the public may not yet be aware of the extent of the deception regarding Net Zero.