A Conservative former UK Cabinet minister has hailed the “good news” that climate change has “prolonged or saved the lives of over half a million of our fellow citizens”.

Conservative peer Lord Lilley, who was previously linked to the climate sceptic think-tank The Global Warming Policy Foundation, was responding to analysis carried out by the Office for National Statistics.

Data over the last two decades showed there had been a reduction in deaths caused by cold winters since 2001 in Wales and England as the climate warms, while there was relatively little increase in deaths due to hotter weather.

Temperature-related deaths, with the UK experiencing fewer cold days and more warm days, fell by 555,103 or an average of 27,755 deaths a year between 2001 and 2020.

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Raising the figures in Parliament, Lord Lilley, who sits on the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, said: “Isn’t that good news, that climate change has prolonged or saved the lives of over half a million of our fellow citizens?”

Addressing the work and pensions minister, Baroness Stedman-Scott, he added: “How long does she expect this beneficial effect to continue?”

The minister said: “I’m afraid the impact of climate change is way outside my brief, but I am sure everybody notes the points made.”

Earlier, responding to a separate question, the environment minister, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, indicated his frustration with “endless consultations” on Government plans.

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He had been pressed in the upper chamber over moves to ban the use of peat in horticulture in England and Wales, the extraction of which is environmentally damaging.

Lord Goldsmith said the Government was currently canvassing views on ending its professional use in England and Wales.

In reply, Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said: “Environmentalists are just sick of all these consultations because the Government promised to ban it in 2020.”

Lord Goldsmith said: “She is not the only person who is sick of endless consultations, but unfortunately consultations are unavoidable when the impact of a policy affects the value of a business or the value of assets.

“So we have no choice but to consult and that is what we are doing, but we are doing so as quickly as we can.”

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