Rees-Mogg should do his constituency first to frack, says Tory MP | Fracking

Written by

Jacob Rees-Mogg should “lead by example” and make his the first constituency to be broken, a Conservative MP has said.

Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde, challenged the business secretary to start drilling in North East Somerset before imposing fracking on other constituencies.

Menzies’ constituency is one of those worst hit by shale gas drilling, with seismic incidents in Fylde, home to Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site, twice forcing national moratoriums.

“I think the Secretary of State has shale gas in his constituency,” he said. “It would be great for him to lead by example on this, so why doesn’t he ensure that the first shale wells are destroyed in his constituency, and why not? There is no nobler cause than leading by a good example.

“There is nothing to stop him demanding that North East Somerset be the flagship project. I am sure, having listened to him in Parliament, he is very confident that people will welcome this with open arms, which the communities will celebrate. Let’s start with North East Somerset. I think we would applaud him.”

Rees-Mogg did not respond when asked by the Guardian if he would take up Menzies’ challenge. While British Geographical Survey maps show there could be shale gas under his constituency, no licenses have yet been granted in North East Somerset. However, there are shale gas licenses in the neighboring constituency of Wells, so his constituents would still be affected if those areas were destroyed.

Menzies, who was elected in 2010, has sought assurances that the prime minister, Liz Truss, will stick to her promise to coat areas only after securing local consent. This week is Guardian exposed the government is considering turning fracking sites into nationally significant infrastructure projects, thus bypassing local planning requirements.

In Parliament on Thursday, Rees-Mogg refused to assure Menzies that his constituents would be able to block drilling, saying instead that they would be compensated. “Obviously we want to work with communities and it’s really important that companies looking to extract shale gas come up with packages that welcome what they’re proposing to do to the communities,” he said.

Tory MPs confront Jacob Rees-Mogg over decision to lift fracking ban – video

Menzies does not think this is good enough. He said: “One question put to the Secretary of State was how do you define local consent – it was put to him eight times – and the answer was none. The Government came to the dispatch box with no answer: it has some work to do to reassure MPs.

“This is a critical thing for me, the people of this country can understand the issues around energy prices, but above all they expect the Prime Minister to ensure that her government follows through on crystal clear commitments and there is no backtracking or reframing.”

He suggested Truss could face a backlash from backers if she were to go back on her word: “Every Conservative colleague who has fracking in their constituency is taking the Prime Minister at her word that it will only go ahead with local consent, and the strength of the feeling will be across the Parliamentary party, for all of us who will be affected by this.”

Menzies has been dealing with fracking and its effects on his constituency for 12 years, and was not always against it. However, after experiencing disruption, local anger and earthquakes, with no benefits to the constituency, he has become a vocal opponent of shale gas extraction locally.

“I’ve been doing this for 12 years. For a lot of the time I wasn’t against it. I was of the opinion that you had to consider whether it could be done safely, whether local people could come along, whether it has benefits local or national. And now we have seen the result,” he said.

“So anyone who says it hasn’t been tried doesn’t know what they’re talking about. If the industry wants to keep fracking the same piece of rock – I would emphasize article in The Guardian it underlines the fact that the founder of Cuadrilla says it would not work.

“For the Conservative MPs who don’t have shale gas and think it’s all great, I would say imagine if it was your constituency and the people you represent. You would have to take their concerns on board, you would not brush them aside.”

About the author

Leave a Comment