Labour’s policy of not granting licenses for viable oil and gas fields in the North Sea would mean the UK “would be reliant on countries like Russia” for energy, Michael Gove has claimed.
The levelling up secretary said that “the Just Stop Oil policy”, which he also called “the Labour policy”, is that “we get rid of British jobs, and we give them to Russian workers”.
He told Sky News that this approach “is in no way either right economically or right environmentally”.
It comes after energy security and net zero secretary Grant Shapps vowed last week to “max out” North Sea oil and gas.
Mr Shapps told the Financial Times: “What Labour foolishly and irresponsibly want to do is pursue a policy of self-harm by not taking that oil and gas but buying it from abroad”.
He insisted the government’s approach was compatible with Britain’s pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But the interventions from Mr Shapps and Mr Gove come as ministers look at potentially watering down measures intended to help the UK reach Net Zero emissions by 2050.
Over the weekend, Mr Gove called for the relaxation of some environmental measures as he warned against treating climate change like a “religious crusade”.
In his own department, Mr Gove admitted the government is “asking too much too quickly” of landlords. Under current proposals, they will be banned from renting out their homes unless they pay for green measures, such as insulation and heat pumps, to meet a new minimum energy efficiency target by 2028.
The broader focus on environmental policy across government follows the Conservative party’s by-election win in Uxbridge, which has widely been attributed to the Labour mayor’s ULEZ plans.
Asked about London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s ULEZ plans this morning, Mr Gove insisted that environmental change should not “penalise people”.
He said: “The ULEZ expansion that the Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has contemplated is about asking hard working people to pay a significant amount more during a cost of living crisis.
“My view is that the way in which you build support for the environmental change we need is not by penalising people in this way.
“It’s by showing leadership across the board and that means everything from investing in nature recovery to making sure the progress that we’re making towards electric vehicles… and more broadly towards decarbonisation is properly directed.”
However, he said a thoughtful approach will also “take note of other economic factors”.
“It’s absolutely vital that we take steps to advance and improve our environment,” Mr Gove added.