Environment Secretary Michael Gove has been accused of ‘hug-a-husky politics’ by Green MP Caroline Lucas following his speech on the environment at the Conservative Party conference.
Gove was speaking on the second day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, running from 30 September until 3 October, which so far has been overshadowed by divisions in the party over Brexit.
The Environment Secretary, who has overseen a number of headline-grabbing policies since his arrival at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in June 2017, used his conference speech to vaunt the Conservative Party’s track record on the environment and promise to deliver a ‘Green Brexit’.
He evoked the UK’s history as a seafaring nation to emphasise the importance of protecting the oceans, promising the government would work to ease the rising tide of ocean plastics and reinvigorate of the UK fishing industry. The latter he stated would be made easier by leaving the EU, saying the government “will make sure that we fish sustainably, by ensuring that we decide who fishes in our seas and on what terms” once the UK is no longer beholden to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy.
He went on to use his platform to issue a call for action over environmental degradation, promising more investment in recycling technologies and a crackdown on waste criminals, while also calling for increased support for British farmers and increased animal welfare standards, both at home and abroad.
Gove also called for developers of new housing to meet the “highest standards of quality in design” so that they “reverse environmental damage and invest in a greener, more beautiful Britain”, though he stopped short of promising new developments would not take place on Green Belt land.
The most eye-catching announcement was Gove’s promise to invest £15 million to tackle food waste, promising action “so that food which would otherwise be wasted is redistributed to those most in need” to the tune of 250 million extra meals a year.
However, Gove’s words were criticised for lacking real substance, with Green Party MP Caroline Lucas saying: "Michael Gove talks a good game on the environment – but his focus is forever on tidying up, rather than tackling the cause of the mess.
"Today's only real announcement was a plan to redirect food waste from shops to dinner tables – but without strong measures to change supermarkets' strict cosmetic standards, farmers will keep having to plough perfectly good produce back into the ground.
"Behind the scenes at his department, he's expanding the badger cull, back-peddling on a plan to ban live animal exports and cutting Natural England to the bone.
"This is hug-a-husky politics. We need an Environment Secretary brave enough to back up warm words with action to end environmental destruction at its source."