As so many of you know, the UK is host of the COP26 climate summit. This means the government has a once-only opportunity to get an international agreement on halting climate change and the biodiversity and nature crisis.

Will this government rise to the occasion and make history? Or will ministers prioritise short-term gains over the long-term security and stability of our planet? From their recent record, I am worried.

This was the theme of my speech during the Business Statement, the weekly slot where I challenge  the government on what they are doing – or failing to do – in Parliament and beyond. While I always ask what the government is doing nationally, this is always inspired by the concerns and queries from people in Bristol West.

At a time when politicians, negotiators and scientists are making last minute preparations for the most important environmental summit of our lifetimes, ministers have repeatedly undermined their own attempts to make this a success.

Just last week, anyone curious about the Tories’ environmental credentials might have watched the government voting against tougher legal limits on air pollution, against stricter controls on water companies dumping raw sewage and against stronger regulation for bee-killing pesticides. Of course I voted to protect our environment and nature, but the government failed to live up to their promises.

And this week in the budget, the Chancellor chose to ignore climate change and incentivise short-haul, domestic flights. This is just embarrassing.

So in my weekly speech, I asked whether the Business Secretary will explain how the government’s support of new oil drilling in the North Sea can be squared with its commitment to move beyond fossil fuels. The Leader of the House was unable to answer, probably because there is no good answer to this. I will continue to push the government on this.

Test and Trace failures

Fixing climate change will mean planning ahead, not just chasing ego-boosting headlines. This is something the government seems unable to do. We have seen the same problem in the government response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under pressure from myself and other Labour colleagues, ministers have belatedly agreed to a public inquiry to learn lessons (I’ve asked about the inquiry at least six times in recent months). I’ll be returning to this in future weekly speeches to push them on the timetable and terms of reference.

This week I also asked about the Covid ‘Test and Trace’ programme, which was “muddled, overstated and eye-wateringly expensive” according to a damning report from the Public Accounts Committee.

Originally intended to avoid lockdowns and to keep life running normally it is hard to know what it has done successfully for a massive £37 billion of taxpayers’ money – apart from funnelling cash into the pockets of Tory ministers’ friends and business associates.

Just think what this wasted £37 billion could have achieved in the right hands. For example, Labour’s commitment to invest £28 billion per year in renewable energy, insulating buildings and other actions to take us to net zero carbon emissions as quickly as possible. This would create good jobs, a clean environment and healthier lives.

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