04 August 2023

Environment Secretary ‘orders department to cut ties with Greenpeace’ after demo

04 August 2023

Environment Secretary Therese Coffey is understood to have ordered her department to cut ties with Greenpeace following an anti-oil protest that targeted Rishi Sunak’s constituency home.

The decision was made about 12 hours after a group of activists scaled the Prime Minister’s grade II-listed mansion on Thursday, the Guardian reported.

The protesters were arrested and later bailed amid an ongoing investigation by North Yorkshire Police.

Civil servants from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have now been told to end meetings and engagement with the group until further notice.

In response to the intervention, Greenpeace defended the protest as “entirely peaceful” and diligently planned to avoid safety risks.

The group’s UK co-executive director, Will McCallum, said: “This isn’t about the Government engaging with Greenpeace, it’s about them engaging with the world around them. The planet is on fire and Rishi Sunak is acting like nothing’s happening.”

The campaigners had scaled Mr Sunak’s manor and draped it in an oil-black fabric to demonstrate against Government plans to grant more than 100 new licences for oil and gas extraction in the North Sea.

They climbed onto the roof at about 8am while the Prime Minister his wife and children are on holiday in California and stayed up until around 1.15pm, when they were arrested.

Areeba Hamid, co-executive director of Greenpeace, said the protest had been planned “carefully and meticulously” and would not have gone ahead if the Prime Minister was there.

She told Sky News it was a “proportionate response to a disastrous decision” by Mr Sunak to allow for further drilling.

The activists had knocked on the door and got a response before making it clear to those present who they were, she said.

North Yorkshire Police said: “All five suspects who were arrested following the protest in Kirby Sigston on August 3 have been released on conditional police bail to allow for further inquiries to be carried out.

“The investigation remains ongoing.”

Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett said: “There was no threat to the wider public throughout this incident, which has now been brought to a safe conclusion.”

But Peter Walker, a former deputy chief constable from the force, told LBC it was a “major breach of security”, as he called for an “investigation into how this has been allowed to happen”.

Mr Sunak, the MP for nearby Richmond, this week announced plans to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves by granting more than 100 new licences for extraction in the North Sea.

Protester Alex Wilson, who lives in Newcastle with her partner, who was also on the roof, released a video message from the scene, saying: “We’re all here because Rishi Sunak has opened the door to a new drilling frenzy in the North Sea while large parts of our world are literally on fire.

“This will be a disaster for the climate.”

Health minister Maria Caulfield refused to comment on the Prime Minister’s security arrangements but said safety for MPs is “always a concern”.

She said: “MPs overall do have security concerns.

“We’re coming up in October to two years since our good colleague Sir David Amess was murdered, so yes, security around MPs is always a concern.”

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