Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak's roof in security breach

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Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak
Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak's roof in security breach

A group of Greenpeace protesters have been arrested after clambering onto the roof of Rishi Sunak's Yorkshire manor house to protest against new oil and gas drilling.

Activists scaled the roof of the Grade II listed property at around 6am and blanketed the house in black fabric. Two protesters posed for pictures outside the house with a sign saying: "Rishi Sunak - Oil profits or our future?" It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans for more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, with more than 100 new drilling licences expected to be approved in the autumn.

The group returned to the ground at around 1.15pm and were taken away in police vans. Two men and two women were arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public nuisance. Another man was also arrested on suspicion of causing public nuisance. Mr Sunak departed for a family holiday in California yesterday afternoon so was not at his constituency home when the stunt occurred.

Assistant Chief Constable Police Elliot Foskett said: "Shortly after 8am this morning we responded swiftly to reports of protest activity at the Prime Minister's North Yorkshire address. There was no threat to the wider public throughout this incident which has now been brought to a safe conclusion. The Prime Minister and his family were not at the address at the time of the incident."

But a former top officer branded it a "major breach of security". Greenpeace campaigner Phil Evans said activists made sure the Prime Minister's family were not going to be at home before carrying out the protest, which is a response to Mr Sunak saying he would "max out" oil and gas in the North Sea.

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Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak's roof in security breachGreenpeace activists climb onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s £2m manor house in Yorkshire this morning in protest at his backing for a major expansion of North Sea oil and gas drilling (© Greenpeace)

"It's an incredibly dangerous thing to be saying and in general there's been an attack on the climate since the Uxbridge by-election," he said. "Rishi Sunak's Government has been the worst Government we've had on climate." He said the group had knocked on the door when they arrived and said: "This is a peaceful protest" but there was no answer.

Asked whether it was still intrusive to target someone's home, Mr Evans said: "This is the Prime Minister. He is the one that was standing in Scotland going to drill for every last drop of oil while the world is burning. He is personally responsible for that decision and we're all going to be paying a high price if he goes through with it. It is personal."

A No10 source said: "We make no apology for taking the right approach to ensure our energy security, using the resources we have here at home so we are never reliant on aggressors like (Vladimir) Putin for our energy. We are also investing in renewables and our approach supports 1000s of British jobs."

Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak's roof in security breachPolice near Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's house in Richmond, North Yorkshire (PA)

Peter Walker, a former Deputy Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police, told LBC he was "astonished" the activists had been able to gain access to the PM's constituency home. He said: "This clearly a major breach of security. Obviously nobody was there to prevent what they were doing and they have had access to the roof as well."

While no damage appeared to have been done, he said: "If free access is being granted to that property, people who wanted to do much more serious things would be able to leave devices or booby traps or something like that. I really think this is a major failing and it grieves me to say it because it's my old police force that's failed."

Mr Walker called for a significant investigation into how the activists had been allowed to gain access to the property to ensure the PM's safety.

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Targeting someone's home like this is disgraceful and totally unacceptable. This is against the law and rightly the police are taking enforcement action.

"The Prime Minister's home and family should never be targeted in this way."

Climate activists arrested over protest on Sunak's roof in security breachGreenpeace activists climb onto the roof of the Prime Minister’s £2m manor house in Yorkshire (Greenpeace / SWNS)

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told reporters in Hartlepool: "I think what most people would say is 'can you stop the stupid stunts', actually what they want to see from Government is action. That's what you're seeing here today - the world's largest offshore wind farm being built right here, creating jobs.

"But at the same time we're going to need in the coming decades oil and gas as part of our energy mix. The question is do we produce it here, where we get more tax, we create more jobs, or do we do what the Labour and others say which is say 'no more investment in our North Sea oil and gas'?"

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It comes after the Prime Minister triggered fury from campaigners, unions and MPs for continuing to back polluting fossil fuels as the world faces record temperatures and wildfires blaze in Europe. Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a former net zero tsar, blasted the PM's decision. He said: "This is the wrong decision at precisely the wrong time."

Mr Sunak pitched the move as a bid to slash household bills and reduce dependence on Russian oil and gas. But an old tweet emerged from last February, when Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands - then an Energy Minister - admitted in a tweet: “We do want to import less gas, but more UK production wouldn’t reduce the global price of gas.”

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Lizzy Buchan

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