Five arrested as Greenpeace drape 'oily-black fabric' from Sunak's home to protest new oil licences

After covering Sunak's house in black fabric, campaigners on the roof held up a sign reading: 'No new oil', ITV News Political Correspondent Harry Horton reports

By Elaine McCallig, ITV News Digital Content Producer

Five protesters have been arrested after climate and environment activists draped an "oily-black fabric" over Rishi Sunak's house, West Yorkshire Police said.

It comes just days after the prime minister gave the green light for new oil licences.

North Yorkshire Police said two men and two women had been arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and public nuisance. A fifth man was later arrested on suspicion of causing public nuisance.

Greenpeace said climbers on the roof of Mr Sunak's house draped 200 metres of black fabric from the roof early on Thursday morning in a bid to "drive home the dangerous consequences of a new drilling frenzy".

In an image shared by the group, four activists were seen on the roof of his Yorkshire home while two protesters held a sign reading: "Rishi Sunak - oil profits or our future?"

Greenpeace activists on the roof of Sunak's house in Richmond, North Yorkshire Credit: Greenpeace

They took the action as Mr Sunak and his family are away on holiday in California.

The group returned to the ground at about 1.15pm and were being spoken to by officers before being loaded into the back of police vans.

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is chair of Parliament's Privileges Committee, hit out at the activists for targeting someone's home.

On Twitter, he wrote: "Targeting someone’s family home because you disagree with their politics is completely unacceptable.

"It’s also shocking that such a security breach could happen at the prime minister’s, or for that matter, any MPs home."

Assistant Chief Constable Elliot Foskett said: “There was no threat to the wider public throughout this incident which has now been brought to a safe conclusion.”

A former deputy chief constable of North Yorkshire Police, Peter Walker, told LBC the protest was a “major breach of security”, as he called for an “investigation into how this has been allowed to happen”.

In an earlier statement, Number 10 said police were attending the scene before defending Mr Sunak's climate policies.

Police pictured near Sunak's house on Thursday morning Credit: PA

“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 [Russian President Vladimir] Putin for our energy,” Number 10's statement continued.

“We are also investing in renewables and our approach supports thousands of British jobs.”

The protest comes days after the prime minister, the MP for nearby Richmond, insisted he wants to “max out” developments in the North Sea.

On Monday, Mr Sunak travelled to Scotland to announce government support for future oil and gas licensing rounds, confirming at least 100 new oil and gas licences will be granted in the UK.

And while he refused to say if the controversial Rosebank field to the west of Shetland – the development of which is fiercely opposed by environmental campaigners including Greta Thunberg – would get the green light, he did remark that "individual licensing decisions are made through a regulatory process”.

He said "[maxing] out the opportunities in the North Sea" would be good for energy security and jobs.

He also claimed it would be good for the climate "because the alternative is shipping energy here from halfway around the world with three or four times the carbon emissions."

The plans have been criticised by climate campaigners, opposition parties and even leading green Conservatives amid fears of how they will affect the UK’s mission to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

Tory MP Chris Skidmore, who led the government’s net-zero review, has said the move is the “on the wrong side of modern voters” and “on the wrong side of history”.

UN Chief Antonio Guterres has called countries increasing the production of fossil fuels “truly dangerous radicals”.

But Mr Sunak dismissed the concerns, saying “I 100% believe that what I’m doing is right”.

“What I would say, not just to him [the UN Secretary General] but more generally, is let’s look at the record. Which G7 country out of the large countries of America, Italy, France, Germany, us, Canada, Japan – which of those countries has decarbonised fastest over the past years or decades? Which one? It’s the UK, right?

“So we should not take any lectures from anybody about our record. Our record is fantastic.”

Speaking on Thursday, Greenpeace UK climate campaigner Philip Evans said: “We desperately need our prime minister to be a climate leader, not a climate arsonist.

"Just as wildfires and floods wreck homes and lives around the world, Sunak is committing to a massive expansion of oil and gas drilling.

"He seems quite happy to hold a blowtorch to the planet if he can score a few political points by sowing division around climate in this country. This is cynical beyond belief."

Mr Evans added: “Sunak is even willing to peddle the old myth about new oil and gas helping ordinary people struggling with energy bills when he knows full well it’s not true.

"More North Sea drilling will only benefit oil giants who stand to make even more billions from it, partly thanks to a giant loophole in Sunak’s own windfall tax.”

Alicia Kearns, the senior Tory who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday's protest was “unacceptable”.

“Politicians live in the public eye and rightly receive intense scrutiny, but their family homes should not be under assault,” she said.

“Before long police will need to be stationed outside the home of every MP.”

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who is standing in for Mr Sunak during his holiday, told the protesters to “stop the stupid stunts”.

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