'No future' for fracking, minister confirms, as MP insists the 'risks simply cannot ever be taken'

A Yorkshire MP has told of how “risks simply cannot ever be taken” with fracking as he sought assurances the controversial practice would not be returning after a Government ban.

Rother Valley’s Alexander Stafford called an adjournment debate in the Commons last night on the issue, as exploratory work continued despite a ban on fracking coming into effect last year.

Conservative Mr Stafford said: “As if contaminated water sources and earthquakes were not enough, fracking negatively affects Rother Valley in other ways, too.

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“Fracking is a colossal imposition on people’s lives, many of whom are elderly or vulnerable.

Rother Valley MP Alexander Stafford. Photo: Parliament TV

“For instance, one of the proposed fracking sites in Rother Valley is very close to a residential home, causing much distress to its residents due to the noise and pollution potential.”

The controversial process was halted in November last year over earthquake fears.

A report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found it was not possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations, leading to the Government ending its support.

And the U-turn came ahead of the general election and followed controversies in counties including Lancashire and Yorkshire.

Labour’s Rachael Maskell, York Central MP, said during the debate: “Fracking itself holds no benefits for places of beauty such as North Yorkshire.”

Mr Stafford added: “It is the effect of fracking as a whole and all the issues around fracking that have a huge impact.”

Mr Stafford said one of his ​constituents described fracking as “the great sword of Ineos” hanging over his head.

“Even though the Government has issued a moratorium on fracking, this has not stopped Ineos from circling around the sites in Harthill and Woodsetts like vultures, biding its time and waiting for the moratorium to be eased,” he said.

“Exploratory drilling and acidisation are still not covered by the moratorium and we fear that fracking companies seek to exploit that. The ban needs to cover exploratory drilling and acidisation.

“We all know that Ineos is willing to outspend local community groups many hundreds of times over on legal fees and feasibility reports. This unjust situation is akin to David versus Goliath.”

He said: “Fracking has no future in the United Kingdom.”

Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed there were “no plans whatsoever” for the suspension of fracking operations in England to be lifted.

He added there will be no fracking “for the foreseeable” future anywhere in the country.

Mr Kwarteng told the Commons: “As a consequence of the moratorium the Government has made it very clear that we will take a presumption against issuing any further hydraulic fracturing consents in this country.

“I think this sends a clear message not only to the sector but to the local communities concerned that fracking, on current evidence – and I stress on current evidence – will not be taken forward in England nor is it likely that it ever will be maintained or taken up again unless there is compelling new evidence.

“As (Mr Stafford) implied, the world has rather moved on from fracking.

“He has very eloquently championed the green revolution, he’s championed hydrogen, a number of new technologies which we think will get us to net-zero, and so hydraulic fracturing – he described it as a technology of the past but it’s not something we envisage at all in our future and in our progress towards net-zero.

“On that basis this Government has no plans whatsoever to review the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.

“We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely and without inconvenience.

“And as I’ve said, this is extremely unlikely to happen, as far as I am concerned.

“In fact, there has been no fracking since August 2019 and no applications for hydraulic fracturing consent have been made.

“There will be no fracking for the foreseeable future in the Rother Valley or anywhere else in this country.”