MICHAEL Gove has been forced to apologise to the Commons after a breach of protocol that led to the Speaker suspending proceedings in the chamber.

The Levelling-Up Secretary said he intended “no discourtesy” to Sir Lindsay Hoyle after failing to provide advance written copies of a statement on a controversial new coal mine.

Sir Lindsay suspended the Commons for five minutes just after 11 am so that Labour could get a chance to read the full statement on the West Cumbrian development.

The Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven will produce 2.8 million tonnes of coking coal for steel production each year, most of it destined for export.

Advocates say the £165m investment will create around 500 local jobs, but it has been widely criticised for flying in the face of UK climate change targets.

The first new coalmine approved in 30 years in the UK, it will produce 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, equivalent to 200,000 extra cars on the roads.

Mr Gove argued his approval was a quasi-judicial decision following an independent planning inspector previously recommending approval.

Labour said the Government was “giving up all pretence of climate leadership”.

After Mr Gove had finished his initial speech this morning, Sir Lindsay said: “There’s something missing between what I have been provided, the Opposition have been provided.

“That is not according to the ministerial code. We don’t work like that. 

“The shadow secretary has not been able to read what’s been said. I am going to suspend the House for five minutes.”

After five minutes passed, Sir Linday then suspended the Commons for a second time, until 1130, and allowed Business Questions to take priority after that.

“Sorry about this, this is not the way we do good Government,” he told MPs.

It was not until 1230 that Mr Gove was allowed to resume his statement and take opposition questions on the mine.

As the Commons returned to the statement, he told Sir Linday: “I apologise to you and to the House. No discourtesy was intended and I do appreciate the importance of maintaining the courtesies of the House, particularly with regard to statements.”

Mr Gove said his decision on the mine “may of course be subject to a legal challenge”, as planning decisions were rarely “an open and shut matter”.

But he went on: “The decision that I issued yesterday was in line directly with the recommendation of the inspector who had all the evidence for and against the scheme, and was also able to test that evidence through the participation of interested parties.

“This was a comprehensive and thorough process lasting over a month hearing from over 40 different witnesses.”

He stressed the mine would produce coking coal for steel-making, not coal for energy plants. 

“Our net-zero strategy makes it clear that coal has no part to play in future power generation, which is why we’re phasing it out of our electricity supply by 2024.”

He also said the mine would “to some extent, support the transition to a low-carbon future”.

He added: “The employment and the indirect employment that would follow will result in a significant contribution to the local and regional economy with increased spending in local shops, facilities, and services.”

He concluded: “The inspector’s report makes a strong case in a balanced way for the granting of permission. After reading the inspector’s report in full, I am satisfied that in my role as Secretary of State, it is the right thing to do to grant this planning application.”

His Labour shadow, Lisa Nandy, said the decision was “bad policy and it is bad politics”.

She said it would lead to “environmental vandalism”, and demand for such coal was waning.

“It gets worse – the two big steel producers Tata and British Steel are phasing out this coal in favour of lower carbon production methods so that by the mid-2030s at best the UK will use less than 10% of the output of the mine.

“Across the world, demand for this coal is projected to fall off a cliff by 88% by 2050.

“People in Cumbria deserve a long-term future. Lasting, well-paid jobs that power us through the next century. But instead they are saddled with a weak, short-sighted, unambitious Government who only two months ago rejected a plan to bring new nuclear to Cumbria which would have created not 500 short-term jobs, but 10,000 jobs for the long-term.”

Tory MP Lee Anderson claimed Labour had “turned their back on the red wall and the coal-mining communities”.

He said: “I speak as an ex-miner and a net zero champion in this place. I remember a time when the Labour Party… stood shoulder-to-shoulder, side-by-side with the coal mining communities in our great country, but their treachery has taken a new twist. They’ve turned their back on the red wall and the coal-mining communities.”