Sunak ditches fracking plans in return to manifesto commitment

Rishi Sunak has scrapped plans to introduce fracking in Yorkshire and the North as he begins work fixing the “mistakes” of Liz Truss.

He told MPs during his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions since taking office that the Government is returning to its manifesto commitment to keep the moratorium on shale gas drilling.

The PM told the Commons he “stands by” the manifesto, which said the Conservative party would not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.

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The Prime Minister’s official spokesman later confirmed that he was committed to this effective ban on fracking, which has caused dissent from Tory MPs in Northern seats which are opposed to the move.

Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of CommonsRishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons
Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons

The move was hailed as a “fantastic victory for common sense” by environmentalists and welcomed by green Tories.

“The Government must now focus on real solutions to the energy crisis including a street-by-street home insulation programme and developing the UK’s huge potential of onshore wind and solar energy production,” said Friends of the Earth’s Danny Gross.

Sam Hall, director of the Conservative Environment Network said: “It is unpopular, and few communities would approve fracking projects locally, meaning little or no gas would be extracted, despite the high political cost.

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“Instead, the government should focus on building more cheap and popular renewables, including onshore wind and solar where there is local support.

“These technologies will bring down bills, improve energy sovereignty and reduce emissions.”

However, one of Liz Truss’ most popular green energy policies with climate activists, the prospect of further onshore wind turbines, was thrown into doubt by the Prime Minister.

When asked if he is still against building more onshore wind farms after committing to keeping the ban during the summer’s leadership contest, he did not commit to new projects, unlike his predecessor in Downing Street.

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Labour yesterday said that Mr Sunak could not be trusted to follow through on his new position on fracking, after he previously supported it during the Tory leadership contest.

"Last week Rishi Sunak voted against Labour's fracking ban, but this week his spokespeople tell us he is in favour of the temporary moratorium on fracking in the Conservative manifesto,” said Ed Miliband, the party’s shadow climate change secretary.

“Whatever their latest position, the truth is that the Tories have shown that they cannot be trusted on the issue of fracking. The only way to guarantee that fracking will be banned for good is to elect a Labour government.

“And by doubling down today on the onshore wind ban, Rishi Sunak is showing that he offers more of the same after twelve years of failed Conservative energy policy, which has made energy bills too high for families and weakened Britain's energy security.”

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Yesterday Mr Sunak’s press secretary also refused to commit to further spending commitments following the delay to the Chancellor’s budget till late November.

This included whether defence spending would be increased to 3 per cent of GDP, whether the triple lock on pensions would be maintained, and whether benefits would be uprated with inflation.

Low-tax investment zones, a key part of Liz Truss’ programme for growth, could also now be scrapped after the Prime Minister’s spokesman said that there were now “no plans” for supply-side reforms that were announced under the last administration.