Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he would be “glad” to have his back garden smashed as he risked deepening divisions in the Conservative Party by deriding those who oppose the controversial practice as “socialists”.
The business secretary was optimistic about restarting fracking in England after an almost three-year moratorium, saying the current limit of 0.5 magnitude to avoid mini-earthquakes being caused was “ridiculously low”.
Companies wanting to drill a new fracking well could “go around, door to door, like politicians do in elections and ask people if they would consent”, Rees-Mogg suggested.
“Then they have to go round to an identifiable community and if they get 50% plus one in favour, then they should be able to go ahead,” he told the fringe event Chopper’s Politics hosted by the Telegraph on at Conservative Conference in Birmingham.
So far, the government has said only that shale gas extraction companies will need “community approval” to start drilling, but declined to provide further details.
Liz Truss faced one embarrassing grilling by BBC Lancashire as part of last week’s round of local radio interviews. When pressed to elaborate on how communities would be consulted, the Prime Minister was unable to do so and was told “it sounds like you don’t know”.
Rees-Mogg said the current seismic limit for fracking was too low and he would soon announce “a more realistic figure”.
Asked if he would allow shale gas to be dug in his backyard, the MP for North Somerset, whose constituency home is the Grade II-listed Gournay Court, enthused: “Yes, of course I would, I would be delighted. If we do , what I’m proposing on shale gas, you’ll be doing a public service by having it in your backyard. But you’re also getting paid for it. So both the country wins and you win.
“Oh, and even better, the environment wins because it’s lower carbon emissions. Bingo. So who doesn’t like that? The Socialists and Caroline Lucas. Well, it makes my heart bleed.”
Rees-Mogg added that the areas producing shale gas should get royalties.
Many Tory MPs have voiced their opposition to fracking, some publicly since the announcement of the return of fracking and others before they became ministers – meaning they are prevented from speaking out.
Rees-Mogg also rejected the suggestion of former minister Nadine Dorries that in order for Truss to discard many policies of the previous government, she may need to call a general election.
“There is no constitutional requirement for a new election,” he said, noting that the deadline was January 2025 – adding with a smile: “There’s nothing like a good winter election.”