'I don't think we should be pursuing climate policies to the detriment of people's bank balances'
Suella Braverman has warned against pursuing climate policies that hit voters in the pocket, saying the priority for government must always be economic growth.
The home secretary made the comments after the Conservative party's narrow win in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election - which was driven by opposition to the expansion of London's clean air zone, Ulez - sparked conversations about climate policy among MPs in both main parties.
The prime minister is facing pressure from his backbenches to delay the 2030 introduction of a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars, and a ban on gas boilers five years later.
Speaking during an interview for ITV's Tonight programme, which will air on Thursday and looks at direct action protest groups like Just Stop Oil, Ms Braverman said: "I'm very proud of this Conservative government's track record on the environment... leading internationally and also at home."
But she added: "My personal view is, I don't think we should be pursuing climate policies to the detriment of people's bank balances, and that economic growth must be the primary objective for our country.
"That's how we create jobs, prosperity, and ultimately security."
The comments come after Downing Street indicated they could be open to delaying the introduction of some measures by saying they would "continually examine and scrutinise" measures like the petrol and diesel ban.
Rishi Sunak said he still backed Net Zero but added that it should not “unnecessarily give people more hassle and more costs in their lives”.
He promised a "proportionate and pragmatic" approach.
The by-election result also led to some soul searching among Labour MPs who warned that they too had to be careful about environmental measures that can be seen as negative for the cost of living.
But sources in the party insisted they would not back down from key Net Zero pledges, including investing £28 billion a year in green tech and rolling out a huge insulation programme.
Instead, they argued that the framing needed to always be about economic pressures on families - and first and foremost focused on how measures can bring down energy bills.
'Of course net zero is important to me', Rishi Sunak insists, as he refuses to commit to banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030
Mr Sunak has long faced pressure from members of the backbench Net Zero scrutiny group- launched by Craig Mackinley MP a couple of years ago.
Early on, the group didn't get the cut through it hoped for, but the 60-strong group now sees the Uxbridge result as an opportunity.
Mr Mackinley told me the by-election was the first electoral test of such measures.
He and others have laid down several amendments to the energy bill, including asking for it to start with a duty on the secretary of state to ensure that every measure inflicts the least possible costs on consumers and businesses.
But the Tories also have a Net Zero support group, with even more MPs, led by Chris Skidmore. They are warning against losing our leadership on Net Zero.
One minister told me: "It's important not to draw the wrong conclusion from Uxbridge," arguing that Ulez felt like an unfair charge but ading voters support Net Zero and green policies that are not seen as discriminatory.
A senior figure in the climate world also warned that Ulez was not even about Net Zero, but arguing that policies must be sold in a way that makes the economic case.
Failing to act on climate change, they said, would be far more costly on consumers in the long run.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…