Ministers at odds over agenda for green talks

A A A

The environment minister Michael Meacher was at loggerheads with Clare Short last night over the purpose of the forthcoming Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

Mr Meacher had already incurred Downing Street's wrath when he attacked the Government's poor record on green issues.

But tensions within the Government were further underlined by Ms Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, in an interview on the Johannesburg agenda.

"This isn't an environmental summit," she said, in an apparent rebuke to Mr Meacher's stated priorities. "It's a summit about sustainable development. The biggest challenge to the world is to guarantee to the poor of the world development in a planet that we keep sustainable."

Asked on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend about Mr Meacher's comments, Ms Short said: "The summit isn't about Britain's transport policy. It is about the sustainable management of the whole world's resources. To focus it all on such issues in the UK is not to talk about what the main issues of the summit will be."

Earlier, Mr Meacher, who fought off an attempt by No 10 to exclude him from the British delegation to the summit, had denounced Labour policies on transport, house-building and airports.

He complained that the Government had not faced up to the scale of the threat to the environment and depicted himself as a "lone voice in the wilderness" on the subject.

But a Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The Government is committed to sustainable development to ensure we have a planet worth living on for our children and their children."

She said that one of the reasons the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was created last year was to put the issue "at the heart of our policy-making".

One Whitehall source claimed last night that the Environment minister was "increasingly behaving like an unguided missile".

Ms Short confirmed she had volunteered not to attend the summit during discussions on reducing the size of the British delegation, but added: "It was the view of most of my fellow ministers that I needed to be there because the developing countries will be in the lead in this summit."

In his interview with The Sunday Times, Mr Meacher said: "I make no bones about it. I don't think the Government, as a whole, is ready to take the magnitude of the decisions I think are necessary."

Asked if he believed Tony Blair understood the threat to the environment, he replied: "I hope so. One is like a lone voice in the wilderness."

Malcolm Bruce, the Liberal Democrats' environment spokesman, warned yesterday that ministers could no longer afford to ignore Mr Meacher. "The row over Michael Meacher's role in the Government's delegation to the summit has strengthened his position and presents an environmental challenge to Tony Blair," he said.

"Mr Meacher has now become virtually unsackable."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
News
peopleWarning - contains a lot of swearing
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project