Westminster diary: Big issues that are not on the Tory leadership race agenda

Credit: Tom Sheldrick.

The decision on the West Cumbria coal mine may have been delayed (see last week), but the controversy is not going away.

On Monday, members of the environmental campaign group Extinction Rebellion posed as dead canaries outside parliament, calling for any new coal projects to be halted.

Green party MP Caroline Lucas spoke alongside them, and called for the Conservative leadership candidates to "say where they stand" on the mine.

She said anyone in favour of it going ahead is "not fit to be Prime Minister."

She has not been successful in getting it on the agenda for the leadership contest so far, though.

The closest thing I've heard is Tom Tugendhat, who said in response to a question about how to create a green economy that the UK must not see its steel industry closing down as other countries "use dirty coal and we're not allowed to" - which sounds like he would support the mine as a means of producing coking coal.

Several candidates, particularly Kemi Badenoch, have questioned the UK's net zero targets, while there's been support for new nuclear power.

We discussed the coal mine on our regional politics show on Thursday, and South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck notably went against the position of her party leader Sir Keir Starmer and climate change spokesman Ed Miliband.

They have clearly opposed the project, but she told me she supports it, as "people need the jobs."

Watch Around the House here.

On Tuesday, the UK government lodged its initial response with the Supreme Court, after the Scottish Government asked judges to rule on whether an independence referendum would be legal without Westminster's consent.

The UK government argues that Holyrood does not have the necessary powers, and questions whether the referral to the Supreme Court is premature, as legislation has not been introduced to the Scottish parliament.

On Thursday, Nicola Sturgeon published the second in a series of papers arguing the case for independence - this one focused on democracy.

She said she would be "open" to meeting the next Prime Minister, and to "compromise" on the details - though not the principle - of her plan for a second referendum next October.

The independence question has also not been a prominent part of the Conservative leadership debate so far.

The candidates who have been asked about it have declared their views that another referendum should not be held for at least a decade.

The Chief Executive of a new body responsible for overseeing NHS services in North Cumbria gave evidence to MPs on Tuesday - on mental health challenges in rural areas.

Samantha Allen, from the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said there was still "a high level of trauma" in local farming communities after the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001.

She told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee that more targeted work was needed to tackle loneliness in rural areas.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron raised another rural issue in the Commons on Tuesday - saying people who use heating oil "have seen their prices more than double over the past 12 months", with no price cap in place.

The Liberal Democrat MP said there are 19,000 households in Cumbria affected as they are off the gas grid.

Energy Minister Greg Hands insisted the UK government is providing support, for example, a £400 discount for anyone who pays an electricity bill.

He said a price cap would be "extremely difficult" for heating oil distributors to manage, but the situation "is under constant review."

We've covered this issue recently from north of the border - watch the report here.