Priti Patel accosted by eco-protester over government plans to boost fossil fuel drilling

24 January 2024, 12:36 | Updated: 24 January 2024, 12:52

Environmental Protester confronts Priti Patel over climate change

By Kit Heren

Dame Priti Patel was heckled by a climate activist over government fossil fuel plans as she arrived for an event in London on Wednesday.

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The Conservative former Home Secretary was branded "disgraceful" by the female protester, who stood in her path and shouted at her outside a talk on policing held by the Policy Exchange think tank.

It comes after a government plan to hand out more new oil and gas licenses to boost the UK's energy security passed an important hurdle in the House of Commons this week, to the dismay of climate activists.

Dame Priti did not vote on the bill, according to House of Commons records.

The protester, who was working with the Fossil Free London activist group, shouted at Dame Priti: "What are you going to do to protect the people of this country from the climate crisis? There's literally climate breakdown happening."

She added "Indefensible - you should be ashamed of yourself."

Read more: Priti Patel pledges 'crackdown' on eco protesters and migrant Channel crossings in 2022

Read more: Chris Skidmore formally resigns as MP over Sunak's oil and gas bill triggering fresh by-election headache for PM

The protester shouting at Priti Patel
The protester shouting at Priti Patel. Picture: LBC

The woman said: "People can't afford to heat their homes or feed their families, and you're handing out oil and gas licences to fill the pockets of yourselves and the oil and gas companies that are destroying this world."

Dame Priti, who left government over a year ago, called on the government to pause net zero policies in July, warning that "the public are not ready" for the green transition.

As Home Secretary, she also pledged to crack down on disruptive eco-protesters.

As the protester continued her broadside on Dame Priti, various attendants and others in the small room tried to usher her away.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel. Picture: Alamy

But she said: "I'm not going to calm down when people are dying across the world right now.

"I'm not going to calm down as she shouldn't either, as a representative of the people of this country.

"Disgraceful - line your pockets and let the world burn."

Dame Priti was due to speak at an event called "‘Differential Policing’? Protest, politics and partnerships", organised by Policy Exchange, a conservative think tank.

She served as Home Secretary under Boris Johnson, from 2019-2022, before resigning.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which passed its second reading by 293 votes to 211 on Monday, would require the industry regulator to run annual rounds for new oil and gas licences, subject to stringent new emissions and imports tests.

Some Conservatives joined those on the opposition benches in voicing concern.

Chris Skidmore, the former minister who resigned as an MP in protest over the legislation, told the Commons: "As I stated in my resignation letter, the future will judge harshly any MP that votes for new additional fossil fuels.

"Today’s legislation makes no economic sense, will deliver no additional energy security, and breaks the UK’s international commitments on climate action.”

Greenpeace UK’s political campaigner, Ami McCarthy, said that "the planet and everyone on it has lost as a result" of the vote going in the government's favour.

"Literally no one benefits from this nonsensical, climate-wrecking bill except the oil and gas industry and its shareholders.”

Alasdair Johnstone, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, added: "The North Sea is in terminal decline and this only serves to distract from actual solutions to securing the UK’s energy independence which lie in reducing our need for gas in the first place.

"That means building out renewables and insulating cold, damp homes, areas where the government’s recent track record is questionable."