‘We’ve never known these temperatures before’: Ministers deny failing to prepare for heatwave as poll finds Net Zero is BOTTOM of priorities for Tory members

  • As the country grinds to a halt, Kit Malthouse insisted Government was ready
  • But admitted that lessons would be learnt – and advised people to ‘take it easy’
  • As temperatures soar 4% of Tories say climate change a priority for new leader
  • They put economy, immigration and winning election top of YouGov wishlist 

Tory ministers have defended their planning for the heatwave gripping Britain – as it was revealed party members still rate climate change as their lowest priority. 

As the country prepares to grind to a halt thanks to temperatures that could hit 41C (106F), Kit Malthouse insisted the Government was ready.

However he admitted that lessons would be learnt – as he advised people to ‘take it easy’ over the next few days. 

It came as a new poll found that just four per cent of Conservative Party members rate the 2050 Net Zero emissions target one of their top three priorities for the new leader.

The survey by YouGov for the Times found that winning the next election, controlling immigration and easing the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on families came top of the list. 

It came after the Cabinet minister who led last year’s landmark UN climate change summit in Glasgow has indicated he could resign if the next prime minister is not fully committed to the Net Zero agenda.

Cop26 president Alok Sharma said some of the remaining candidates in the Tory leadership race had been only ‘lukewarm’ towards climate commitments.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Mr Malthouse today defended Boris Johnson’s decision not to attend a Cobra meeting on the heatwave and instead spend the weekend having a party at Chequers. 

He  told Sky News: ‘It’s my job to chair Cobra meetings. I briefed him yesterday morning at about 8am personally.’

As the country prepares to grind to a halt thanks to temperatures that could hot 41C (105F), Kit Malthouse insisted the Government was ready.

Heavy traffic on the M4 near Bristol, people are urged not to travel unless they have to as most of the UK has an amber warning with some places have a red warning for high temperatures.

A sign at London Bridge station about the heat The Met Office is warning temperatures could climb to 40C

‘If you are lucky enough not to be working today and you are going to the beach, obviously I know you will take lots of sun cream and water and an umbrella and all those kinds of things and be sensible.

‘But we need to recognise that there are some people who will not cope well in the heat and what we want is for everybody to look out for them.

‘Lots of people will go about their lives perfectly normally, for example we have said that schools should stay open and kids should go to school, very often they are safer in schools and kids need to learn and schools can look after them and hydrate them and keep them nice and cool.

But he also told the BBC: ‘We definitely need to adapt the way we build buildings, the way we operate and look at some of our infrastructure in the light of what seems to be an increasing frequency of these kinds of events,’ he told BBC Radio.

He urged people to ‘look out for those groups who are most vulnerable to the heat’ – particularly small children and the elderly.

In an interview with The Observer yesterday, Mr Sharma urged the new PM to ‘proactively’ set out their support for the net zero agenda and ‘green’ growth. 

Leaders at Glasgow’s Cop26 agreed to try and limit global warming to 1.5C – and the UK has pledged to become net zero by 2050.

It comes as climate experts warn of increasingly frequent extreme weather, such as that being seen across Europe and in the UK, and emphasise that the effects of climate change are not coming, they are already here.

‘Anyone aspiring to lead our country needs to demonstrate that they take this issue incredibly seriously, that they’re willing to continue to lead and take up the mantle that Boris Johnson started off,’ he said.

Asked if he could resign if candidates were weak on net zero, Mr Sharma said: ‘Let’s see, shall we? I think we need to see where the candidates are. And we need to see who actually ends up in No 10.

‘I hope every candidate realises why this is so important for voters generally and why it’s important for Conservative supporters. And I hope that we will see, particularly with the final two, a very clear statement that this is an agenda that they do support.’

Pressed a second time, he added: ‘I don’t rule anything out and I don’t rule anything in.’

Of the five remaining candidates in the contest, only Kemi Badenoch has said she does not support the UK target of getting to net zero emissions by 2050, describing it as ‘unilateral economic disarmament’.

The others have indicated varying degrees of enthusiasm for the policy, which is unpopular with some sections of the party amid concerns about the impact on the economy.

This fire in Gironde, France, this week led to the evacuation of more than 12,000 local residents for their safety

The Cop 26 president Alok Sharma said: ‘I hope every candidate realises why this is so important for voters generally and why it’s important for Conservative supporters’

Britain is today set to endure its hottest day on record as temperatures soar hit 106F (41C) – with trains already cancelled, GP surgeries and schools closed amid a serious warning that fit and healthy people could die.

With the UK set to be hotter than the Sahara Desert and the nation facing paralysis, transport links could grind to a halt due to train cancellations and melted roads while bosses have urged employees to work from home.

Health chiefs told patients to stay away unless it is an emergency amid fears hospitals will be overwhelmed, while emergency services urged swimmers to stay away from lakes and rivers in case they face difficulties.

Schools in the likes of Nottinghamshire, Hampshire and Oxfordshire have shut while others will close early – and water providers have also warned of shortages after the hottest day of 2022 so far yesterday with 33C (91F) highs.

As health officials declared a ‘national emergency’, rail chaos was already affecting parts of London this morning – with the Overground suspended between Willesden Junction and Richmond, and Romford and Upminster.

On the Underground, the District, Central, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines all had severe delays while the Hammersmith & City Line was completely axed due to ‘heat related restrictions’ and there was no Metropolitan line between Baker Street and Aldgate. Transport for London told all passengers in the capital to avoid non-essential travel.

The scorching heat means the UK will be warmer than Nassau in the Bahamas (32C), Kingston in Jamaica (33C), Malaga in Spain (28C), Athens in Greece (35C), Albufeira in Portugal (28C) and Dakhla in the Western Sahara (24C).

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