Rishi Sunak has reversed one of Liz Truss’s key policies by committing his government to the fracking ban.
The new prime minister told the Commons he “stands by the manifesto” which pledged to ban fracking until science proves it is safe.
Truss was toppled after trying to whip Tory MPs into lifting the moratorium on drilling for shale gas – a strategy that resulted in chaos, shambles and “manhandling” at Westminster last week.
The ex-PM argued the time was right to lift the fracking ban – subject to the support of local residents – given the energy crisis and the potential economic boost from exploiting Britain’s shale gas deposits. Truss’s intention to ramp up fracking around the UK dismayed environmental experts and angered her own MPs, many of whom have constituencies where drilling could take place.
Fracking has been a contentious issue for the Conservative party throughout Johnson’s and Truss’s time in No 10 despite the 2019 manifesto’s explicit pledge: “We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”
Sunak ‘stands by manifesto’ on fracking ban
At PMQs today (October 26), Green party MP Caroline Lucas said: “The prime minister’s reckless predecessor [Truss] took a wrecking ball to nature, prompting millions of members of the RSPB, the National Trust and the Wildlife Trust to rise up in opposition.”
Lucas continued: “Yesterday, he promised to fix her mistakes as well as to uphold the party’s 2019 manifesto. So, if he is a man of his word, will he start by reversing the green light she gave to fracking? Since it’s categorically not been shown to be safe, and instead maintain the moratorium that was pledged in that very manifesto that he promised to uphold.”
Sunak replied: “I stand by the manifesto on that”.
The same manifesto also ruled out building new on-shore wind farms, meaning climate campaigners’ cheers over the fracking reverse were soon muted by Sunak’s hint he will re-impose the ban on new onshore wind farms in England – a policy that Truss wanted to lift.
Sunak said he will “stick with what we said in our manifesto” and that his government will focus on “more renewable, more offshore wind and more nuclear.”
The person who stopped fracking
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey was part of the 2010-15 Cameron-Clegg coalition government, working as energy secretary from 2012-15 and responsible for introducing regulations that halt any work that triggers tremors over 0.5 magnitude.
The rule, Davey said, “actually meant that the fracking industry has not developed in this country at all”. He told Channel 4 in 2019: “I’m very proud that you’re looking at the person who basically stopped the fracking industry in this country.”
Starmer slams Sunak’s ‘grubby deal’
In the Commons, Sunak’s first PMQs, saw Sir Keir Starmer mock the prime minister for having been “trounced” the “only time he ran in a competitive election” by Truss “who herself got beaten by a lettuce.
Starmer criticised Sunak’s re-appointment of Suella Braverman as home secretary less than a week after Braverman was sacked for breaching the ministerial code and repeated his call for a general election.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are demanding Cabinet Secretary Simon Case investigates the security breach that caused Braverman’s departure. Starmer said Sunak has done a “grubby deal” with the home secretary, promising her cabinet job back in return for her support in the Conservative leadership race.
“He’s so weak, he’s done a grubby deal, trading national security,” Starmer told MPs, “party first, country second”.
At the Treasury, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has delayed the fiscal statement set to take place on Halloween until November 17. Hunt said it will now be an autumn statement.
“I want to confirm that it will demonstrate debt falling over the medium term which is really important for people to understand,” said Hunt. “But it’s also extremely important that that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts.”