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Sat, 6 June 2020

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EXCL Labour urges John Bercow to step in as they accuse David Lidington of ducking climate change grilling

EXCL Labour urges John Bercow to step in as they accuse David Lidington of ducking climate change grilling
3 min read

Labour have lodged a complaint with John Bercow after accusing Cabinet minister David Lidington of trying to dodge questions about his department’s work on climate change.

Frontbencher Jon Trickett has written to the Commons Speaker to argue that the de facto deputy Prime Minister is trying to "offload responsibility" by claiming that the Cabinet Office does not have to answer questions on the issue.

The move comes despite the Cabinet Office being signed up to a drive to slash the Government’s own carbon emissions.

Labour MPs had tabled a string of questions last week in time for Wednesday’s round of Cabinet Office questions, asking Mr Lidington to spell out moves by his department to make sure “cross-governmental co-operation on tackling climate change” happens.

But Labour say the questions were snubbed by the Cabinet Office after the department argued climate change is an issue for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

In an angry letter to the Speaker, seen by PoliticsHome, Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said the move had “worrying implications”.

And the Labour frontbencher pointed out that the Cabinet Office is one of only a handful of departments meant to work on the ‘Greening Government Commitments’ - a series of pledges that are meant to drive down Whitehall’s own emissions from government buildings and ministerial cars.

“The implication in the Cabinet Office’s decision not to answer the question discussed is that the department plays no such coordinating role,” he said.

“If this is the case, then the Minister must explain why.”

Mr Trickett added: “It is the responsibility of the Minister for the Cabinet Office to answer questions on his department’s specific involvements, and not offload responsibility to other ministers.

“For these reasons, we believe the Cabinet Office was wrong to remove the question on climate change.” 

And he warned: “This action by the Cabinet Office sends a concerning message that the full machinery of government will not be directed at this monumental challenge, and that for some departments it is an inconvenience.”

The Labour frontbencher also accused the department of having “ignored” the party’s calls for an explanation - and he urged Mr Bercow to rule on whether or not the Cabinet Office was right to make the move. 

Mr Trickett told PoliticsHome: “Climate change is the biggest issue of our time, and this crude attempt by the Cabinet Office to wash its hands of responsibility, despite its crucial cross-departmental role, is a worrying indication of just how lightly the Government takes this issue.

“Labour is very clear: tackling climate change will require action and cooperation from every government department, and environmental considerations must thread through every policy stream.

“The Conservatives should follow our lead, and drop the underhand tactics aimed at preventing a proper debate about climate change and the Government’s miserable record of failure.”

But the Cabinet Office defended the move.

A spokesperson said: “It is common practice to transfer tabled questions to others departments who deal with the relevant policy area. We always consider carefully the most appropriate department so that those asking the question receive the most substantive answer."