Rishi Sunak sets his trap for Labour on net zero

Rishi Sunak sets his trap for Labour on net zero

Rishi Sunak is setting a trap for Labour, says Christopher Hope

GB News/ PA
Christopher Hope

By Christopher Hope

Published: 03/10/2023

- 13:12

Updated: 03/10/2023

- 13:33

'This is a clear trap for Labour'

Rishi Sunak is setting a trap for Labour. At the Conservative party conference today I asked him why MPs had never actually been give a vote on the Government's net zero policy.

His answer was fascinating. He made clear that MPs will get a vote - but on his pragmatic approach to cutting emissions to net zero by 2050.

He told me that when MPs vote on new carbon reduction targets in coming months "they should be considering all the measures that are required to deliver that carbon reduction".

In bald terms, this means a vote on delaying a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 to 2035, as well as other moves to make new boilers more affordable for hard-pressed households.

This is a clear trap for Labour. Will the party's MPs vote against the measures and say that the bans on new petrol and diesel cars should stay in 2030?

If they do, strategists in Conservative Central Office will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of a new dividing line with Labour's MPs who voted to ban new petrol cars from 2030.

It's a trap for Labour. And further evidence that Sunak is pulling on his political boots for the looming general election campaign.

A MPs' vote on net zero matters because the 2050 target was set in law by Theresa May in the last weeks of her government in June 2019 without a division in the House of Commons with the Climate Change Act 2008 (2050 Target Amendment) Order 2019.

Sunak himself gets it - when he announced the row back on net zero targets, he said they were necessary as the net zero target could lose the "consent" of the British people.

I asked him then if he thought there should be a referendum on the issue. Perhaps not surprisingly - after the division following the 2016 Brexit referendum - he said no.

But it is clear now that MPs will get a vote on how the Government wants to get to net zero - and how the parties divide will be an issue at next year's general election.

Elsewhere in the interview Sunak was punchier than ever before on inflation, calling it "evil" and insisting that other countries were taking the lead from the UK on the Rwanda plan to tackle illegal migration.

I asked him if he thought withdrawal from the European Convention of Human Rights was "on the table" as three of his Cabinet ministers said on Sunday.

He dodged the question and stressed how his deal with Albania had cut small boats crossings by a fifth.

The most surprising answer was whether he would like allow Nigel Farage - who is back at the party conference as a GB News presenter - to join the Conservative Party as a member.

"The Tory party is a very broad church right? I welcome lots of people who want to subscribe to our ideas and values," he said. Farage to join the Conservatives? Stranger things have happened.

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