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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Labour attacked on environment
Jonathan Porritt
Jonathan Porritt: Critical of government's record
The government has defended its record on the environment following accusations from one of its chief advisers that its obsession with presentation meant green issues had been sidelined.

Jonathan Porritt - who chairs the government's sustainable development commission - accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of failing to live up to manifesto promises on the environment.


The biggest problem is the failure to put the environment at the heart of government decision making

Charles Secrett
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Porritt said that the government was obsessed with a "spin doctor focus group approach".

"Politicians have got used to being told by their clever advisers and focus groups that the environment isn't sexy, it doesn't lead to votes," he said.

"So they've downgraded it... but that's where the leadership thing comes in."

Government still has a 'lot to do'

But a Downing Street spokesman played down the remarks, saying that although Mr Porritt was "entitled to voice his opinion" the government had led the way on environmental issues "tackling climate change, improving air quality, increasing the use of renewable energy and protecting our wildlife and countryside".

However, the spokesman conceded there was still "a lot to do".

Mr Porritt's criticism came ahead of talks at Downing Street with leading environmentalists who were called to Number 10 to help Mr Blair draft a speech on green issues which he is due to deliver later in October.

Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett, who was among those attending the meeting, also seemed to lend his support to Mr Porritt's views.

Manifesto pledges 'undelivered'

Mr Secrett said that despite the fact the election manifesto was full of "good promises" many of them had yet to be delivered - although some pledges such as the establishment of a food standards agency had been met.

He said: "The biggest problem is the failure to put the environment at the heart of government decision making."

Mr Secrett also attacked the prime minister's handling of the recent fuel crisis, asking: "Why did Mr Blair miss a golden opportunity to explain to the public that it is right that the polluter pays and that is why we are lowering the price of cleaner fuels?

"Instead there was a deafening silence."

He also renewed calls for Mr Blair to attend the forthcoming international conference on climate change in the Netherlands alongside Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Environment Minister Michael Meacher,

Mr Secrett said: "It is only when the prime minister goes that industry understands the importance of the problem."

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