The Green Party has accused Environment Secretary Owen Paterson of gross incompetence and is calling on the Prime Minister to remove him from his post.
Professor Molly Scott-Cato, leading Green Party MEP candidate for South West, the region which has borne the brunt of the Environment Secretary’s ill-judged policies, says Paterson’s handling of the flooding is the “final straw”.
They cite a string of failures which demonstrate his inability to fulfill his role as head of the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), a department whose remit is to “improve the environment and safeguard animal and plant health”.
Greens say Mr Paterson's handling of the badger cull was ‘inept’ and consider the whole policy to be a failure. Greens argue that the cull has divided rural communities while bovine TB continues to devastate livestock and farmers' livelihoods.
Greens also accuse Mr Paterson of ‘incredible complacency’ over climate change after new figures revealed that Defra will spend just £17.2m on domestic ‘climate change initiatives’ this financial year, a 41% decline on the previous 12 months.
Last week, Mr Paterson commented that he wanted to see fracking “all over rural parts of the UK”. Greens, the only party committed to opposing fracking in England and Wales, consider this to be totally irresponsible and an insult to rural communities.
The final straw for the Greens was Paterson’s abortive visit to communities in flood-hit Somerset in which he spoke to the cameras but ignored local people affected by the floods.
Dr Scott Cato, lead South West Green Party European candidate, said: “Paterson seems to have no idea what the environment means or what it means to be the minister for it. People may view his comments about badgers ‘moving goalposts’ or anti-fracking campaigners winning the arguments because of their ‘exciting clothes and banners’ as the lines of a stand-up comic. Well, perhaps he would do better as a comedian than Environment Secretary because these issues are far from a laughing matter.
“Rather than protecting the natural world he only visits the countryside to look for opportunities to exploit and profit from it. Since he is unconvinced by the science behind climate change he is unlikely to be the right person to develop policies to address this most significant problem we face; climate change goes to the heart of the flood problems afflicting communities living in the Somerset Levels.”
Last September Dr Scott Cato was involved in a spat with Mr Paterson, who had accused anti-fracking protestors of scaremongering. The following month the BBC reported him calling opponents of genetically modified rice “wicked” and blaming them for child blindness.
Dr Scott Cato concluded: “From genetic modification to fracking, from bovine TB to flooding, Owen Paterson has let down the British people and I am calling for David Cameron to replace him with somebody who truly understands the Environment Secretary brief.”