Tories slam RSPB as charity apologises for ‘personal’ attack on ministers

Sunak says house building rule will ‘unlock 100,000 new homes’

Tory MPs have called on the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to lose its charitable status, after the organisation sparked a bitter partisan row over Government policy.

Yesterday, the Government announced it would abolish EU environmental restrictions which blocked up to 140,000 homes, namely ‘nutrient neutrality’ rules preventing local authorities from approving new properties if they lead to higher levels of phosphates and nitrates in waterways.

Rishi Sunak told the Express the “hangover EU law” had been getting in the way.

Today, a furious RSPB published a graphic on Twitter, accusing Rishi Sunak, Housing Secretary Grant Shapps and Environment Secretary Therese Coffey of being “LIARS!”

This move sparked backlash, with one RSPB trustee – Dr Ben Caldecott – saying the accusation was inappropriate.

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He said he raised his objection to the tweet with the CEO and Chairman.

Dr Ben said: “Whatever one thinks of the government’s policy proposals and their record on nature, these tweets are simply not an appropriate contribution to our public discourse from such an important and highly respected organisation.

“We can strongly disagree and make our case without calling people ‘LIARS!’. As a trustee I have raised this issue urgently with the CEO and Chair, among others.”

Red Wall Tory MP Mark Jenkinson joined the opposition to the RSPB’s contentious post, saying the group should be stripped of its charitable status as a result.

Mr Jenkinson asked: “Isn’t it time the Charity Commission stripped the RSPB of its charity status?”

He also accused the group of hypocrisy, tweeting: “Imagine wanting to stop houses being built, while staying silent about how one of your major funders is one of the real polluters”.

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“Imagine a charity being a self-proclaimed ‘Nature’s Voice’ having a Vice-President under investigation for offences under the Wildlife and Countryside Act”.

Fellow Red Wall Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith joined his colleague in calling for the Charity Commission to investigate the group, “who should decide whether this calls into question their status”.

He added that the RSPB had “massively overstepped the mark on this one”.

This evening the top charity appeared to back down over its political attack, though their original post calling the top Tory ministers ‘liars’ is still available.

In a statement, the RSPB said that while it is “frustrated” by the Government, its language fell “below the standard we set ourselves and for that we apologise”.

“We are in a nature and climate emergency and that demands urgent action. The RSPB is deeply frustrated by the government’s reneging on its environmental promises.

“But that frustration led us to attack the people not the policy. This falls below the standard we set ourselves and for that we apologise.

“We will continue to campaign vigorously on behalf of nature, but we will always do so in a polite and considered manner.”

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