Jacob Rees-Mogg Flogged By Tory MPs Over Fracking U-Turn

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Jacob Rees-Mogg (Photo: Getty)
Jacob Rees-Mogg (Photo: Getty)

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Photo: Getty)

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been flogged by Conservative MPs over the government’s move to lift the ban on fracking.

The new business secretary got a pasting from Tories who are concerned about the impact of fracking on their constituents.

One warned him over the “safety” of the public, another suggested communities were being “bought off” and one Tory MP warned that his constituents had “strong objections”.

In their 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party pledged not to lift England’s moratorium unless fracking was scientifically proven to be safe.

However, Rees-Mogg insisted on Thursday that lifting the ban on shale gas extraction will “bring us cheaper energy”.

He also revealed he had held talks with Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng about how to give compensation directly to people in communities that support fracking.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a method for recovering gas and oil from shale rock.

By drilling into the ground and pushing a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemical at rock, gas can be released from inside by splitting the rock open.

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine prompted the government’s u-turn as the Russian president choked global supply. However, serious concerns remain over the impact of fracking - in particular earth tremors.

Tory MP Sir Greg Knight MP, who was an energy minister in the 90s, said: “Is it not the case that forecasting the occurrence of seismic events as a result of fracking remains a challenge to the experts?

“Is it not, therefore, creating a risk of an unknown quantity to pursue shale gas exploration at the present time? Is he aware the safety of the public is not a currency in which some of us choose to speculate?”

Rees-Mogg said it was a matter of “proportionality” and claimed that there was no evidence that shale gas was “any worse” in terms of its ground impact than mining or oil extraction.

Tory MP Mark Menzies said if prime minister Liz Truss “is to remain a woman of her word” then the government had to set out how local consent is established.

Menzies also slapped down a comment Rees-Mogg made that opposition to fracking was “ludditery” by telling him: “There is nothing luddite about the people of Lancashire or of Fylde.

“I just want to start by saying how disappointed I am that parliament was not informed about this before the media, and that as a local member of parliament I was not given the courtesy despite having requested for two weeks contacting the honourable member to get information via his PPS, I’ve sent letters, I have sent WhatsApps, nothing back.”

Mark Fletcher, Conservative MP for Bolsover in Derbyshire, said it appeared communities were being “bought off” to allow fracking.

He told Rees-Mogg the local consent plans “don’t seem to wash” and added: “It seems to come back to communities being bought off rather than having a vote.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons on Thursday. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)
Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons on Thursday. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)

Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons on Thursday. (Photo: House of Commons - PA Images via Getty Images)

Another Tory colleague Scott Benton expressed his anxiety, saying his Blackpool South constituents had “strong objections” to fracking.

Prime minister Liz Truss has defended breaching a Tory manifesto pledge to lift the fracking ban, insisting she would not authorise “anything that carries a risk”.

A review into the earthquake risk conducted by the British Geological Survey has concluded forecasting “remains a scientific challenge for the geoscience community”.

The study said there had been little scientific progress in the field and more data was required to draw conclusions about the potential environmental impacts.

Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said the government had “broken” their promise despite no change in the scientific evidence.

“They are lifting the ban, but they cannot provide the evidence...in the absence of the evidence, [Rees-Mogg’s] approach is to change the safety limits,” he said.

Describing the proposals as a “dangerous experiment”, he added: “We will hang this broken promise around their necks in every part of the country between now and the next general election.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.