Jacob Rees-Mogg in uncomfortable exchange with Tory MPs over new fracking law

Britain's Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg leaves a hotel to take part in the annual Conservative Party conference, in Manchester, Britain, October 5, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble
New business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg was challenged by Tory MPs over the government's decision to reintroduce fracking. (PA)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has come under fire from his own MPs following the government's decision to u-turn on a ban on fracking.

The government confirmed it is lifting the moratorium on fracking in England on Thursday, claiming it will improve the UK's energy security after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine wreaked havoc with Europe's gas supplies and prices.

The decision, which breaks a Tory 2019 manifesto pledge, has triggered anger not just from opposition MPs and environment campaigners, but also from the government's own MPs.

Read more: UK cuts business energy bills in half to stop firms collapsing

It also comes after several senior Conservatives, including chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, previously said lifting the ban was not the answer to ensuring energy security.

Responding to questions in the House of Commons on Thursday, Rees-Mogg – the new business, energy, and industrial strategy (BEIS) secretary – was subjected to a going over

The Conservative MP for Bolsover, Mark Fletcher, expressed concern local communities might be “bought off” by companies to allow fracking.

"Can the secretary of state confirm once and for all if local residents across Bolsover, who are concerned about fracking, will get a vote to object to these schemes locally?” he said.

Scott Benton, Tory MP for Blackpool South, said many of his constituents have "strong objections" to fracking in their area and called on the government to make it clear whether they would have a choice.

Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks to journalists at the Empire State Building in New York during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. Picture date: Tuesday September 20, 2022.
Liz Truss said communities would have a choice whether fracking would happen in their areas during the Tory leadership campaign. (PA)

Conservative MP and former energy minister Greg Knight expressed concern about public safety, and said "it is not a currency in which some of us choose to speculate”.

“Despite what he said, is it not the case that forecasting the occurrence of seismic events as a result of fracking remains a challenge to the experts?" the MP for East Yorkshire said.

“Is it not, therefore, creating a risk of an unknown quantity to pursue shale gas exploration at the present time?"

And visibly frustrated Tory MP Mark Menzies asked if the prime minister was going to be a "woman of her word" after she pledged that fracking would only happen in the UK where there was local consent.

Rees-Mogg insisted the government wanted to “work with local communities" and companies to "come up with packages that make what they are proposing to do welcome to local communities.”

Read more: Map reveals possible fracking sites in England

He also suggested that "compensation and consent are two sides of the same coin" – and that fracking was safe, despite concerns about it triggering earthquakes.

However, he repeatedly failed to confirm communities would not have fracking sites forced on them without their consent.

Ed Miliband, Labour’s shadow climate change and net zero secretary, said the decision to lift the ban on fracking was "unsafe" and "unpopular".

“Fracking is a dangerous fantasy - it would do nothing to cut energy bills, it costs far more than renewables, it is unsafe and it is deeply unpopular with the public," said Miliband.

“The Conservatives have broken yet another manifesto promise, this time on banning fracking.

"Now Conservative MPs must explain to their own constituents why they will have to suffer the danger of fracking in their own backyard."

Watch: Government could allow higher ‘seismic limits’ at fracking sites, Jacob Rees-Mogg suggests