Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle slams Rishi Sunak as PM expected to delay petrol car ban

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle slams Rishi Sunak as PM expected to delay petrol car ban

The Commons Speaker has slammed Rishi Sunak for holding a press conference to announce his new green plan rather than addressing MPs in Parliament.

Furious Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the “major policy shift” over proposals to water down climate change measures should have been announced when the House was sitting.

Rishi Sunak is expected to announce a delay on the ban of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, currently due in 2030, by five years, and weakening plans to phase out gas boilers from 2035.

Parliament is currently is recess while parties hold their annual political conferences.

A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office said: “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.

“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.

“Instead, the unelected House of Lords will have the opportunity to scrutinise this change in direction this afternoon, when it hears the Government’s response to a private notice question on this issue.

“This is not the way to do business. Ministers are answerable to MPs - we do not have a presidential system here.

“The House of Commons is where laws are made, national debates are had - and where statements should be made.”

Rishi Sunak also came under fire from senior Conservatives, with some of his own MPs said to be so incensed that they were considering sending in letters of no confidence in him.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned “we cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country”.

But Mr Sunak, who held an emergency Cabinet meeting on his blueprint, won the backing of others, after the mooted plan was leaked to the BBC.

He was due to give a speech on Wednesday afternoon in Downing Street on his plans.

But before that a minister was summoned to Parliament at 3.45pm to explain his shake-up.

The Commons is in recess but the Lords is still sitting and the Lord Speaker, Lord McFall of Alcluith, accepted a request from crossbencher Baroness Hayman for a Private Notice Question on climate change and specifically: “To ask His Majesty’s Government what changes they plan to make to the UK’s climate change policies.”

Lord Callanan was expected to reply for the Government.

Sir Alok Sharma, president of the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow in 2021 and MP for Reading West, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If we have countries around the world resiling from their commitments, I’m afraid the patient is going to be very much on life support, and by that I mean of course the planet.

“It’s really important, and this is a message that I’m delivering when I’m meeting other governments as well, is that we all need to stay committed.

“The UK played its part as a leader through COP26 and that is something that we absolutely need to continue doing.

“It’s frankly what the world wants us to do.”

Ex-PM Mr Johnson stressed: “Business must have certainty about our net zero commitments.

"This country leads on tackling climate change and in creating new green technology. The green industrial revolution is already generating huge numbers of high quality jobs and helping to drive growth and level up our country.

"Business and industry - such as motor manufacturing - are rightly making vast investments in these new technologies.

"It is those investments that will produce a low carbon future - at lower costs for British families.

"It is crucial that we give those businesses confidence that government is still committed to net zero and can see the way ahead.

"We cannot afford to falter now or in any way lose our ambition for this country."

Home Secretary Suella Braverman declined to express support for the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars as she criticised “arbitary” and “punitive” targets.

She told LBC: “We’re absolutely committed to rolling out our net zero commitments by 2050, in line with our international commitments.”

But she added: “We’ve got to remember these targets are goals, not straitjackets, and we’re not going to save the planet by bankrupting the British people.”

She could not explain how the 2030 target would “bankrupt” people but argued that taxpayers and people’s household budgets should come “first”, before tackling the existential threat of climate change.

However, Tory peer Zac Goldsmith, who quit as environment minister in June with a scathing attack on Mr Sunak’s environmental “apathy”, accused the Prime Minister of a “moment of shame” and of “dismantling” the UK’s credibility on climate issues.

The former Richmond Park MP said: “His short stint as PM will be remembered as the moment the UK turned its back on the world and on future generations.”

The peer, a former editor of The Ecologist magazine and previous Tory candidate for Mayor of London, later messaged further: “ I have had 00s of messages from Cons friends in govt, Parliament & around the world telling me this move by the PM vindicates my decision to noisily resign.

“We need an election. Now.”

As the price of oil soared towards $100 dollars a barrel, Chris Skidmore, a Conservative former energy minister who chaired the Government’s net zero review, warned Mr Sunak against making “the greatest mistake of his premiership” with the leaked blueprint.

He said: “If this is will potentially destabilise thousands of jobs and see investment go elsewhere.

“And ultimately the people who will pay the price for this will be householders whose bills will remain higher as a result of inefficient fossil fuels and being dependent on volatile international fossil fuel prices.”

A U-turn on the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars, if it happens, would come after Levelling-up Secretary Michael Gove recently flatly ruled out such a move, after Mr Sunak had wobbled over it.

After a summer of wildfires and floods in many countries, the Prime Minister confirmed he will make a speech this week to “set out an important long-term decision”, following reports that he would use one to row back on green targets.

Mr Sunak said on Tuesday that the Government remains committed to the target of net zero emissions by 2050, but will achieve it “in a better, more proportionate way”.

He said that politicians “of all stripes have not been honest about costs and trade offs” and accused previous Tory governments of taking “the easy way out, saying we can have it all”.

The Prime Minister insisted the Government is not “losing our ambition or abandoning our commitments”.

But he looks set to renege on a host of policies put in place by Conservative governments to hit the net zero goal, including possibly axing plans for new energy-efficiency targets for private rented homes.

The party’s success in the summer’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, won largely through a campaign against the expansion of the ultra low emission zone (Ulez), has led to some MPs to call for Mr Sunak to water down or abandon net zero pledges.

Responding to the mooted U-turns, shadow net zero secretary Ed Miliband said: “This is a complete farce from a Tory government that literally does not know what they are doing day to day.

“13 years of failed energy policy has led to an energy bills crisis, weakened our energy security, lost jobs, and failed on the climate crisis.”

Liberal Democrat climate and energy spokesperson Wera Hobhouse added: “What Rishi Sunak should see in front of him is the opportunity to embrace the industries of the future and protect the coming generations from the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

“Instead, he has cowered to the delayers and deniers like the disgraced Liz Truss and adopted wholesale their policies.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “This decision would be economically illiterate, historically inaccurate and environmentally bone-headed. This absurd rollback will mean higher energy bills, colder homes, fewer jobs, more air pollution and more climate chaos.”

Jess Ralston, head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said: “As the rest of the world is rushing to invest in net zero industries, any further rowing back by the UK would leave our international standing further tarnished.”

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, Mike Childs, said: “Rolling back on key climate commitments as the world is being battered by extreme flooding and wildfires would be morally indefensible.”