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Lords Accuse Rishi Sunak Of Dodging Scrutiny On Net Zero Delays

Baroness Hayman challenged the government on the timing of its originally planned announcement (Alamy)

3 min read

Peers in the House of Lords have accused the government of attempting to dodge scrutiny from MPs and peers in parliament, claiming the Prime Minister was originally planning to announce delays to net zero policies when parliament was in recess for party conferences.

On Tuesday night, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's plan to dilute some of the UK's climate change policies, including delaying outlawing the sale of diesel and petrol cars from 2030, was leaked to the BBC. 

Following the revelation, Sunak used a Wednesday afternoon press conference to confirm that his government would push back a number of net zero deadlines, an announcement that had been expected on Friday when both the House of Commons and the House of Lords would have closed for recess over the party conferences.

While Wednesday's announcement coincides with the final day of Lords sitting before conference recess, the Commons is no longer sitting, meaning MPs will now not have a chance to debate the changes until mid-October. 

Labour peer Baroness Hayman, who is chair of the Peers for the Planet group, challenged the government in the House of Lords and accused the Prime Minister of avoiding parliamentary scrutiny on the issue. 

"So the plan, I understand, was not to have parliament sitting at all, when these major announcements were made on Friday," she said.

"Instead, because they were leaked we do at least have some opportunity in this House to question the minister, but I hope [the minister] won't hide behind waiting for 4:30pm when the Prime Minister talks to the press, not to parliament."

Baroness Hayman also said the government had been "deeply disingenuous" to suggest that rolling back on climate commitments was in the interests of families struggling with the cost of living, and accused the government of "disregarding" advice from economic experts. 

"Can the government explain why it is disregarding all the advice from the Treasury, the OBR and others, that delays to the actions essential to achieve net zero by 2050 will make the task more difficult, more chaotic and more expensive?," she continued.

Responding to her question, Lord Callanan, Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance, did not respond to this accusation on behalf of the government, but insisted the government is "really committed" to net zero.

"The UK is leading the world on climate change, we are committed to net zero by 2050 and the agreements that we have made internationally," he said.

"The Prime Minister will make a statement on this issue later this afternoon."

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also said he felt the government had not followed correct procedures by not bringing the issue to parliament. 

“If he had the power, the Speaker would recall the House immediately – and he is writing to the Prime Minister today, to express that view in the strongest of terms," a spokesperson for the Speaker’s Office said.

“This is a major policy shift, and it should have been announced when the House was sitting. Members with very different views on this issue have expressed their disquiet on the way this has been handled, especially as the Commons rose early last night, so there was plenty of time for this statement to be made."

They added this was "not the way to do business" and that ministers are answerable to MPs as the UK "does not have a presidential system".

"The House of Commons is where laws are made, national debates are had – and where statements should be made." 

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