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Climate resilience minister fails to attend climate change committee as UK heads for hottest day on record

MP Michael Ellis declined to attend a committee examining the UK's resilience to climate change as the UK heads for its hottest temperature ever.

A meeting of Cabinet Ministers

Michael Ellis MP (second from left) declined to attend the committee. Image: Number 10 Downing Street/Flickr

The minister responsible for the UK’s climate change resilience strategy didn’t turn up to a committee on the topic on Monday as the country headed towards the hottest temperature ever recorded.

The session, led by the National Security Strategy committee, (NSSC) was organised to discuss how the UK can adapt critical infrastructure to cope with climate change.

As his role is directly related to the topic at hand Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis was invited to attend the session by the NSSC, but did not turn up. Instead, Roger Hargreaves, director of the civil contingencies secretariat went in his place. 

It comes as the UK is experiencing a record-breaking heatwave which has grounded planes, disrupted trains and led to water shortage warnings in parts of the country.

When asked by Lord Butler whether Ellis “is responsible for the resilience strategy”, Hargreaves confirmed that he is. 

Following up his question, Lord Butler then asked why Ellis had therefore refused to attend the session to give evidence. Hargreaves responded that Ellis was due to appear in parliament at the time the committee session was taking place.

Lord Butler, however, said that Ellis had previously been invited to give evidence about the UK’s resilience strategy for climate change but had refused on the grounds that he was responsible for “convening”, not “coordinating” the UK’s climate change resilience strategy.

“He [Ellis] made it clear that he was not prepared to give evidence at any other time on this subject,” committee chair Margaret Beckett MP then clarified.

Earlier in the day, the NSSC published correspondence which confirmed that Ellis had refused to attend an earlier session on July 4 about climate change resilience. 

Writing to the Cabinet Office on June 29, Beckett said:“My letter was in response to an extraordinary letter from the Minister, [Ellis] claiming that he

is “not best placed to give evidence at the session”, which he regards as a “technical and specialist matter”. 

“As I set out in my reply, the fact that two pieces of written evidence have been submitted by the Minister does suggest rather strongly that he has some responsibilities in this policy area, not to mention his assertion that he is “the lead government minister for resilience and security, and accordingly for CNI resilience.”

Beckett went on to warn that the “unfortunate impression” the committee had from their correspondence with ministers was that none were taking responsibility for adapting infrastructure to cope with climate change.

“There are no ministers with responsibility for the resilience of critical national infrastructure to the effects of climate change, nor for cross-government climate adaptation efforts,” the letter reads.

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