The wrong climate for cutting greenhouse gases

Click to follow
The Independent Online

* For all the Environment Secretary David Miliband's tough talk on tackling climate change, his department is about to come under attack from the environmental lobby.

In the past financial year, Miliband's staff at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have clocked up fees of more than £1.75m on airline travel.

According to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, nearly £1m of that figure was spent on flights outside the EU, an increase of two thirds on the previous year. Around £255,000 of it was spent just on flights within the UK.

"These figures are enormous, and while I recognise that Defra officials may have to attend EU meetings, the totals for non-EU flights is a whopping £955,968.55 of taxpayers' money," says the Opposition environmental spokesman Bill Wiggin.

"At a time when we are all trying to do our bit to combat climate change, you might have hoped that the Government's spend would have fallen instead of more than doubling in the past year. When the Prime Minister wanted us to recognise climate change as a priority, it is now clear that Defra was not listening."

A Defra spokesman blamed the spending on Britain's joint presidency of the EU and G8 at the end of last year, which led to an increase in official journeys.

Miliband's predecessor at Defra, Margaret Beckett, above, was nicknamed "air miles Marge" after it emerged that she had taken more than 134 flights on ministerial business between 2002 and March 2005.

* It has been a traumatising past few days for the family of Richard Hammond after the television presenter flipped over in a jet-powered vehicle. Things have been similarly testy for his publishers at Orion Books.

Last Thursday, the day after the crash, journalists received in their morning mail advance copies of Hammond's new book, Car Confidential.

Not only was it disastrous timing by the publisher - at that stage Hammond's condition was said to be critical - but the book also contains a chapter called "Take the final journey", which offers a light-hearted guide to funeral hearses.

"I sent off the advance copies before the accident and they must have been held up in the warehouse," explains a frantic publicist when I call.

"I'm sending out an e-mail to apologise for the mistake and we're holding off publication until Richard's better."

* Michael Caine is in danger of further upsetting our ever-dwindling film industry.

Caine has made only one movie on these shores since he reignited his Hollywood career in 2000 after scooping an Oscar for The Cider House Rules. The reasons, he claims, are due to poor writing.

"All my films would be British films if I got the scripts," he told me recently. "But then the thing is I can't just sit around for fifteen years waiting for another Educating Rita."

Caine's view of British writing appears to have changed since Hollywood came calling again. In the 1990s, he happily appeared in such British feats as Michael Winner's Bullseye! And with a group of puppets in The Muppet Christmas Carol, right.

* Charles Clarke may be peripherally warming the Labour back benches these days, but his relationship with the press remains as frosty as ever.

Yesterday afternoon, the former home secretary barged past hacks outside the Radisson Hotel in Manchester as they waited to catch a word with Cherie Blair.

One intrepid young BBC reporter boldly asked Clarke what he thought of reports that the Prime Minister's wife had accused Gordon Brown of lying during his conference speech. "He called the lad a word which began with a C and ended with a T," I'm told.

* During his playing days, the former England rugby flanker Jason Leonard's 18-stone frame earned him the sobriquet "the fun bus". Funny, then, that four years since relinquishing his role as one of the foremost on-field heavies, he will now be performing with the English National Ballet.

This week, Leonard will team up with the Ballet to launch "Open Rehearsal", a campaign designed to help encourage more people to explore London's cultural venues.

"The idea is that everyone can come and get involved, even those you wouldn't expect," explains a spokesman. "As far as I know, Jason has no experience with the ballet before. But he's going to be running through a few steps with them at the launch."

pandora@independent.co.uk

Comments