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More cuts for environment and climate change not ruled out

More cuts for Government environmental and climate change projects are not being ruled out, the secretary of state for energy and climate change Chris Huhne said yesterday (27 May).

The subject was highlighted in a debate in the House of Commons about policies set out in the Queen’s Speech regarding energy and environment, food and rural affairs.

In response to a question asking for a guarantee that there will be no more cuts in the Government’s environment and climate change work, Huhne said it would not be “wise for anyone to suggest that we should continue to seek all possible ways of ensuring that we can live within our means”.

Labour MP Joan Walley asked: “Given his [Huhne’s] emphasis on the importance of environmental issues, will he give the House a guarantee that – notwithstanding the announcements that have been made about cuts elsewhere – the essential work that is being done on the environment and climate change will be protected financially and will not be compromised?”

She expressed particular concern for the Committee on Climate Change.

Huhne answered: “I agree that the committee has an extremely important role to play. However, the hon. Lady must be aware of the financial legacy that this Government has inherited from the Labour Government…If the hon. Lady looks at the manifesto on which she stood for election, she will observe that no such commitment was made in that manifesto, and it was not made in ours either.”

Last week, the Government announced £240m of cuts across the Department for Energy and Climate Change and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Huhne also said the UK’s energy infrastructure needs to “move to a 21st century system where supplies come from a range of sources” instead of having “predictable” large-scale sources which were built during the 1950s and 1960s. According to Huhne, the green investment bank, announced as part of the Energy Security and Green Economy Bill, will allow the UK to act urgently in creating a low-carbon economy.

Secretary of state for Defra Caroline Spelman did not attend the debate and no specific legislation relating to the environment was discussed in the session. But Huhne listed food waste minimisation as a key issue in her “ambitious agenda”.

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