Dozens of climate and energy crisis activists have occupied the Central Lobby in the Houses of Parliament hours after Rishi Sunak was named the UK’s new prime minister.
Activists from Greenpeace and Fuel Poverty Action caused live interviews with MPs to be shut down and unfurled a banner reading: “Chaos costs lives”.
As members of parliament reacted to the appointment of Rishi Sunak – the third prime minister the UK has had in two months, parliamentary security forced news crews to stop filming as the protesters arrived.
In a statement the activists said the action is designed to highlight the cost of living crisis, which has seen energy bills soar, and they are demanding that the next prime minister “starts putting the welfare of the British people before fossil fuel companies by properly taxing oil and gas profits and launching a nationwide home insulation programme to tackle fuel poverty”.
The protesters have linked arms and are reading testimonies from people struggling with their bills.
The protesters said they had “entered the Palace of Westminster as tourists and visitors earlier today”, but the demonstration and disruption it has caused will raise questions about levels of security in the Palace of Westminster.
The protesters justified the action saying the Conservative Party had spent the last two months focusing on internal party politics rather than putting forward policy to address the worsening cost of living crisis.
Greenpeace’s Will McCallum, who was among those taking part in the protest said: “Since Boris Johnson resigned as prime minister, this government has spent more time looking for a new leader than leading the country.
“We now need a government capable of confronting crises, not creating them. Almost a quarter of the country is suffering fuel poverty thanks to ridiculous gas prices and the oldest, coldest housing in Europe.
He added: “Winter is coming and lives will be lost if the government keeps failing to solve the problem. Rishi Sunak should have realised by now the huge mistake he made by blocking plans for warmer homes and failing to properly tax fossil fuel giants.”
Rocketing gas prices and poor home insulation have been widely blamed for the energy crisis hitting millions of households, Greenpeace said, citing figures indicating that numbers of UK homes being insulated dropped by 95% between 2012 and 2020.
Meanwhile, between April and June this year, BP and Shell made adjusted profits of $8.45bn and $11.47bn respectively.
The activists said they are “calling for the government to use the vast excess profits being made by fossil fuel companies to help those most in need, with a proper, loophole-free windfall tax to fund more support for households with their bills and a national programme of home insulation”.
Greenpeace said it has calculated that £6bn of dedicated public spending on domestic insulation and energy efficiency is needed immediately to kickstart a national rollout over the next two years.