30 May 2024

New Prime Minister Sunak restores ban on fracking

New Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reintroduced the fracking ban just two days into his leadership.

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Sunak was committed to the ban on fracking in England set out in his party’s 2019 manifesto.

Last month, Liz Truss’s government had lifted the ban in an effort to improve the UK’s energy security amid the cost-of-living crisis, but the move sparked widespread anger among climate groups worried about the environmental impact of fracking. And earlier this month, the Conservative-led East Riding Council voted to oppose fracking in its area.

During Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Green MP Caroline Lucas asked if Mr Sunak would restore the moratorium on fracking that had been promised in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto. He said: “I have already said I stand by the manifesto on that.”

Last week, the Labour Party submitted a motion to re-ban shale gas production. However, during the debate, Conservative MPs were initially told that the vote would be treated as a vote of confidence in the government, so they had to support it or face expulsion from the party if they broke ranks.

Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart was caught up in the confusion, telling the Commons that the vote was not being treated as a vote of confidence, but Downing Street later told journalists: “Throughout the day, the whips treated the motion as a confidence motion. The minister at the Despatch Box was told, mistakenly, by Downing Street to say that it was not.”

The Labour motion was voted down, with 326 MPs against, and 230 for.

A representative of campaign group West Newton said No! told the Gazette yesterday: “I think the vote is still important particularly as Graham Stuart is climate minister and Sunak clearly realised that many of his own MPs were angered that they could not vote against fracking, hence his U-turn on the moratorium.

“This is of course great news. However, this does not stop Rathlin Energy from its destructive operations at West Newton. This is because technically they are not fracking because they are using high volumes of acid, not water (fracking definition is high volumes of water to fracture rock).

“So, this is good news for the country, but it is the same threat for the residents of Holderness.”

After the controversial vote on October 19, which came the day before the resignation of Liz Truss, a member of the West Newton said No! campaign group had said: “We believe the vote on fracking turned into an absolute farce which resulted in chaos and confusion among Tory MPs and ended up in bullying MPs into not voting against fracking, which was quite frankly abhorrent.

“To hijack such an important topic was unforgivable.”

Mr Stuart earlier said he understood that the previous government’s move to lift the moratorium against fracking had caused concern among some of his constituents.

He said: “Fracking should only proceed if the science shows that it is safe, sustainable and minimises disturbances to local communities.

“Britain’s focus will be to accelerate the deployment of wind, nuclear, solar and hydrogen power, while supporting the production of domestic North Sea oil and gas in the nearer term, which could see 95 per cent of UK electricity by 2030 being low carbon.

“These measures will be central to weaning Britain off expensive fossil fuels, which are subject to uncontrollable and volatile prices, and will provide both cleaner and more affordable energy, and energy security.

“While the UK is driving down demand for fossil fuels on the path to net-zero, it is important to recognise that there will continue to be ongoing demand for oil and gas while we transition to low-carbon energy.”

Mr Sunak took office on Tuesday, calling for unity amid growing demands for a general election.

Standing outside Downing Street after his audience with King Charles III, Mr Sunak – the country’s first British Asian Prime Minister – said: “I want to pay tribute to my predecessor Liz Truss – she was not wrong to want to improve growth in this country, it is a noble aim.

“And I admired her restlessness to create change.

“But some mistakes were made. Not borne of ill will or bad intentions. Quite the opposite, in fact. But mistakes nonetheless.

“And I have been elected as leader of my party, and your Prime Minister, in part, to fix them.

“And that work begins immediately.

“I will place economic stability and confidence at the heart of this government’s agenda.

“This will mean difficult decisions to come. But you saw me during Covid, doing everything I could, to protect people and businesses, with schemes like furlough.

There are always limits, more so now than ever, but I promise you this.

“I will bring that same compassion to the challenges we face today.

“The government I lead will not leave the next generation, your children and grandchildren, with a debt to settle that we were too weak to pay ourselves.

“I will unite our country, not with words, but with action. I will work day in and day out to deliver for you.

“This government will have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level.

“Trust is earned. And I will earn yours.”

However, a YouGov poll run on the day that Ms Truss announced her resignation found that 63 per cent of people wanted the new PM to call an early general election.

And George McManus, secretary of Beverley and Holderness Labour, said: “It’s not credible for the Tories to ‘appoint’ another Prime Minister.

“This will be the third Prime Minister the country’s had in three months. That is unprecedented. The country is facing a cost-of-living crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen. The Tories have no answers to the country’s problems. People are suffering.

“We need a new government which can stabilise our political decision-making. We need a credible economic recovery plan. We will only get that with a Labour government. We need a General Election.”