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UK weather: Ed Miliband attacks government for inaction over climate change

Opposition leader said the UK is 'sleepwalking into a national security crisis' caused by the increasingly extreme weather

Ed Miliband has warned Britain is “sleepwalking into a national security crisis” triggered by climate change, arguing that the havoc wreaking winter storms should serve as a “wake up call”.

Launching a fierce attack on David Cameron for giving up the fight against global warming, the Labour leader said it was “extraordinary” that the Prime Minister was now portraying the problem “a matter of conscience”, when in Opposition, he had made it a “core conviction”.

In an interview with The Observer, Mr Miliband said: “In 2012 we had the second wettest winter on record and this winter is a one in 250-year event. If you keep throwing the dice and you keep getting sixes then the dice are loaded. Something is going on…

“We have always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.

“But the events of the last few weeks have shown this is a national security issue in our own country too with people's homes, businesses and livelihoods coming under attack from extreme weather. And we know this will happen more in the future.”

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Mr Miliband’s warning comes as the death toll resulting from the latest conveyor belt of storms has risen to five, after a pregnant woman and her unborn baby died in a car crash during high winds and heavy rain.

The 20-year-old from south Wales was travelling in the Gwent area when the car she was travelling in collided with another at around 11pm on Friday. The drivers of the cars involved, both male, were uninjured.

A Gwent Police spokesman said the woman was taken to Nevill Hall Hospital in a critical condition but “sadly she and her unborn baby have since passed away”.

In London, a minicab driver, named her as Julie Sillitoe, 49, died when masonry from a building in Holborn fell on her car, killing her and injuring three other people. A 77-year-old man from Caernarfon, north Wales, who was hit by a falling tree on Wednesday, died in hospital on Friday.

In the English Channel, a massive freak wave hit a 22,000-ton cruise ship, killing an 85-year-old man and injuring 15 others, including a woman in her seventies who was airlifted to a hospital in France. The wave smashed the windows of the dining room, seven decks above sea level, leaving several of the 800 passengers, many of them elderly, “bloody” and “screaming”.

Calling for cross-party consensus on climate change to be rebuilt, Mr Miliband said: “The science is clear. The public know there is a problem. But, because of political division in Westminster, we are sleepwalking into a national security crisis on climate change. The terrible events of the last few weeks should serve as a wake-up call for us all.

The Labour leader said he had “genuinely believed” that Mr Cameron was sincere about his passion for green issues while in Opposition, but the sacking of Charles Hendry as energy minister and appointment of Owen Paterson - widely viewed as a climate change sceptic - as Environment Secretary suggested otherwise.

“It is pretty extraordinary that it has gone from a core conviction, a part of his irreducible core, to a matter of conscience as to whether you believe it or not,” he said.

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“Denial is damaging because it means you won't take the steps necessary, but dither is damaging, too, because it means you are half-hearted about taking the necessary measures.”

David Cameron meanwhile has warned that the flooding crisis is likely to get worse, even though Britain is today experiencing a respite from the storms.

The Prime Minister said while the weather was due to improve, the sheer volume of rain over recent weeks meant groundwater levels would keep rising in many places.

A poll for The Independent on Sunday has revealed today that six out of ten voters think the Government has failed to get a grip on the flooding crisis.