No, minister: mandarins frustrate Miliband's green revolution

His brief is to lead the fight against climate change. But civil servants have other ideas

It was designed as a symbol of the Government's firm commitment to curbing climate change – a new department, with a bright, ambitious Secretary of State, dedicated to planning Britain's energy production around curbing greenhouse emissions and streamlining the fight to save the planet.

But after taking the plaudits from environmentalists and campaigners, all is not well at Ed Miliband's Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). Almost half a year after it was formed, it is beset with organisational problems, a severe backlog of paperwork and vacancies in key posts. Mr Miliband faces a battle of wills with senior civil servants still committed to cheap, fossil-fuel energy production.

Whitehall mandarins now under Mr Miliband's new department, which took over responsibilities held by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Business Department, are still working in different buildings.

The top team of officials remains incomplete. Despite leading the fight against climate change, DECC has yet to fill the key role of chief scientific adviser. Robert Watson, who holds the position at Defra and who environmentalists see as the Government's leading expert on climate change, has not made the move to Mr Miliband's department.

Mr Miliband has had to order a paperwork "blitz" after MPs complained of not receiving answers to letters and parliamentary questions sent to ministers and civil servants, in violation of Whitehall rules. Its website has also been hit by delays, only becoming fully operational this month. Mr Miliband recently told MPs on the DECC Select Committee that some of his staff in the new department had not been "adequately prepared".

Even Mr Miliband has been affected by the ongoing teething problems. One high-profile political colleague was surprised to find the Climate Change Secretary holding a meeting in a small side room with plastic chairs, rather than in the more suitable surroundings of a ministerial office.

"After holding court in the plush ministerial office of [former Environment secretary] Hilary Benn, it was a bit of a change to find Ed in a small room with plastic chairs, a table and a white board," said an official present at the meeting. "It looked like a classroom."

The problems have undermined the widely praised progress made by Mr Miliband around the cabinet table. He angered members of the environmental lobby over the continued expansion of Heathrow, while at the same time falling out with the Transport Secretary, Geoff Hoon, in winning environmental concessions. He managed to gain government backing for the ambitious (albeit faraway) target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

But his eagerness to push a green agenda has not only dented his relationship with cabinet colleagues. There are rumours in Whitehall that senior civil servants wedded to coal and nuclear energy – those joining him from Lord Mandelson's Business Department – are stifling Mr Miliband's plans to move energy policy away from a staunchly pro-business agenda. Some figures making the move, such as the department's director general of energy, Willy Rickett, remain committed to fossil fuel energy production and nuclear power.

Mr Miliband is said to have received short shrift from certain civil servants after he suggested they needed to place Lord Turner's report into climate change (which originally proposed the 80 per cent emissions cut) at the centre of their thinking on Britain's energy supply.

Allies of Mr Miliband played down the problems yesterday. One insisted: "Ed has not had any problems with gaining control of the officials working for him and the [restructuring] changes made to the department before Christmas were planned from day one."

A spokesman for the department admitted that it was experiencing integration problems: "Establishing the new department is well advanced but it inevitably takes time to bring people together under one roof in a new location." But he said that the DECC should be judged on policy: "From day one Ed Miliband and his officials have been firmly and effectively focused on pushing forward policy to tackle climate change and secure clean and affordable energy for Britain."

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' spokesman on climate change, said the problems at DECC were a "classic example of reorganisation on the hoof".

"Not surprisingly, there have been internal problems with staffing from top to bottom. "They have had problems about deciding departmental boundaries – and they're still not entirely clear or logical," he said.

"By definition they have therefore had problems with budgets – because these are set annually at least. And they have had problems sorting out their message with a website that has only just come online. None of this inspires confidence."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent