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Zac Goldsmith Quits Government Saying Rishi Sunak Is "Uninterested" In Environment

Zac Goldsmith (Alamy)

4 min read

Lord Zac Goldsmith has resigned as a foreign office minister, accusing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of being “uninterested” in environmental policy.

The former MP for Richmond Park, who served in successive recent governments as minister of state for overseas territories, commonwealth, energy, climate and environment said it had been a “privilege to have been able to make a difference to a cause” he is committed to, but the government’s “apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we face” has made him staying in the role “untenable”. 

On Thursday Goldsmith was named as one of the parliamentarians who had attacked the privileges committee as a result of their work looking into whether Boris Johnson misled the Commons over partygate. 

Writing to accept Goldsmith's resignation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak indicated he believed the move was in direct response to fallout from the committee's report. 

"You were asked to apologise for your comments about the privileges committee as we felt they were incompatible with your position as minister of the crown," Sunak wrote. 

"You have decided to take a different course." 

Tweeting his resignation letter this morning, Goldsmith said he is stepping down “reluctantly”. 

Goldsmith, who has been in the Lords since 2020, said the UK has “visibly stepped off the world stage and withdrawn our leadership on climate and nature” and pointed to “abandoned” commitments such as the Kept Animals Bill, but pointed the finger ast Sunak’s own attitude. 

“The problem is not that the government is hostile to the environment,” Goldsmith said. 

“It is that you, our Prime Minister, are simply uninterested. 

“That signal, or lack of it, has trickled down through Whitehall and caused a kind of paralysis.” 

In his responding letter, Sunak said that ministers should "be proud of the UK's record as a world-leader" on net -zero policy. 

"We are going far beyond other countries and delivering tangible progress whilst bringing down energy bills," he added.

Goldsmith’s departure will leave a ministerial hole at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, where the Minister of State for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment post sits. 

Labour have accused the government of being "in disarray", with Goldsmith's resignation coming just one day after the priviliges committee report. 

Jim McMahon, the shadow environment secretary said: “Rishi Sunak’s weakness is laid bare as 24 hours after he refused to condemn Zac Goldsmith, Goldsmith scathingly condemns him. This ‘simply uninterested’ Prime Minister can’t lead his own team, never mind lead the country.

“The Conservatives are in disarray – with mortgages soaring, NHS waiting lists rocketing, and in their own words: ‘apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we face’.

“It’s time for this chaotic Tory government to make way for a Labour government which will provide the leadership this country needs – making it a clean energy superpower for lower bills, good jobs, energy security, and the urgency the climate and environment emergency demands."

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats said that "every day brings more more resignations and scandal in this depressing Westminster soap opera." 

Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney added: "Rishi Sunak should have had the guts to sack Zac Goldsmith yesterday when he was brutally criticised by the partygate watchdog. Sunak is clearly too weak to control his own party.

"Zac Goldsmith's resignation has at least confirmed what we have known all along, that Rishi Sunak's Government doesn't give a damn about the environment and animal rights.

"They have scrapped plans to stop puppy smuggling, watered down climate change action and let water companies pump sewage in our rivers. What a sorry state of affairs this is."

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