Speaker lambasts Sunak for announcing net zero changes during Commons recess

The Speaker of the House of Commons has reacted furiously to Rishi Sunak choosing to announce his new green policy in a press conference rather than addressing MPs.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle criticised the way the “major policy shift” was being unveiled while the Commons is in recess for party conferences, robbing the lower chamber of the chance to scrutinise the changes.

The Speaker said MPs have “expressed their disquiet” on the handling of the announcement, which he said was “not the way to do business”.

The speech had been planned for later this week, but appeared to have been brought forward by Downing Street after the net zero plans were leaked to the BBC on Tuesday night.

The timing means that only peers were able to debate the policy shift, because the House of Lords is still sitting until Thursday.

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.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech on the plans for net zero commitments
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech on the plans for net zero commitments (Justin Tallis/PA)

“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.”

An urgent question was asked about the Government’s climate change plans in the upper chamber on Wednesday afternoon ahead of the speech.

Crossbench peer Baroness Hayman, who asked the question, also denounced the timing of the move.

She said: “So the plan, I understand, was not to have Parliament sitting at all when these major announcements were made on Friday. Instead because of the leak, we do at least have some opportunity, in this House to question the minister.

“But I hope he won’t hide behind waiting for 4.30 when the prime minister talks to the press, not Parliament.”