Peer: Frack in 'desolate' North

George Osborne's father-in-law has told shocked peers that fracking should be carried out in the North East of England where there are "large, uninhabited and desolate areas." Lord Howell was energy secretary under Margaret Thatcher.

Latest ITV News reports

Lord Howell: 'I meant frack in the North West - not East'

Lord Howell has said that he meant to say the North West, not the North East when he said that fracking should take place in "desolate" areas in the north of England.

Lord Howell speaking in the Lords yesterday.
Lord Howell speaking in the Lords yesterday.

Watch - Tory peer: Room for fracking in 'desolate' North East

Speaking to the Telegraph Lord Howell said: "What was in my mind was much more the drilling going on off the Lancashire coast.

"But it came out of my mouth as the North East, which you can blame me for rightly. And that has created a great furore.

“The North East wasn’t in my mind at all."

Yesterday Lord Howell, who is father-in-law to George Osborne said: "There are large and uninhabited and desolate areas. Certainly in part of the North East where there's plenty of room for fracking."

Read more - Peer: Frack in 'desolate' North

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Northern papers' fury over peer's fracking comments

Two newspapers in the north have reacted angrily to the news that a Conservative peer said that countryside in the south should be sparred fracking in favour of areas in the "desolate" north.

'Fracked off' the front page of tomorrow's Northern Echo.
'Fracked off' the front page of tomorrow's Northern Echo. Credit: Northern Echo

The Northern Echo said it "welcomes his lordship's embarrassing, belated and entirely necessary climbdown from his lofty position of ignorance and prejudice."

'What on earth is your father-n-law talking about George?' The Journal's front page.
'What on earth is your father-n-law talking about George?' The Journal's front page. Credit: The Journal

The Journal linked Lord Howell to his son-in-law the Chancellor George Osborne.

Shock in Lords as peer urges fracking in 'desolate' north

Peers in the House of Lords gasped in shock and disbelief when a Conservative peer suggested that fracking could take place in the "desolate" North East of England.

Lord Howell has since apologised for his claims that the controversial form of gas production would suit the area as it is "uninhabited and desolate."

ITV News deputy political editor Chris Ship reports:

Lord Howell apologises for fracking comments

Conservative peer Lord Howell has apologised for "any offence caused" by his comments about fracking, and insisted he did not believe the north east was "desolate".

"I apologise for any offence caused. I certainly did not intend to suggest that the North East is desolate and I do not believe it to be the case. There are parts of the country that are less densely inhabited than others.

"That includes parts of the North East but also other areas in the South of England as well.

"The Shale gas industry should be encouraged to develop in a sustainable way where it is appropriate to do so and in way that ensures communities benefit, which could be in many different parts of country."

Watch: Lord Howell on room for fracking in 'desolate' North East

Fracking comments 'not only ridiculous but offensive'

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, has branded Lord Howell's comments "ridiculous and offensive" and said the Conservative peer had fundamentally misunderstood the region:

Lord Howell's comments in relation to the North East demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the region, with two areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as a national park.

The region is far from desolate as Lord Howell suggests, making his comments not only ridiculous but quite frankly offensive.

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Greenpeace: Countryside 'not a disposable resource'

Greenpeace UK energy campaigner Leila Deen said:

Were Lord Howell or any member of the Government to visit the north east of England they'd find there are actually people living there, people who don't regard their countryside as a disposable resource.

The same is true of the south of England, which is already up in arms against the plans of Lord Howell's son-in-law, who wants to see vast swathes of the home counties fracked.

Tyne Tees

Baroness Quin writes to Lord Howell over comments

by Paul Brand - ITV Political Correspondent

Baroness Quin has just sent me an abridged copy of her letter to Lord Howell over his 'desolate' North East comments. In it she asks, "what were the 'desolate' and 'uninhabited' areas to which you were referring?"

"The North East's areas of population are fortunate in being surrounded by areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, whether it be the Northumberland National Park, the North Pennines, Teesdale or the North York Moors. These landscapes rival anything to be found in the UK."

"It would be good if you could assure me that you believe that all residents in the UK wherever they live should have equal rights to be consulted and have their views taken into account in proposals for energy exploitation and other measures."

Lord Howell's political career

Lord Howell's first job was with HM Treasury from 1959-60 as part of the Treasury Economic Section.

In 1966 he won the seat of Guildford, representing the Surrey county town until 1997, when he was made a life peer.

Lord Howell was Secretary of State for Energy, and later for Transport in Margaret Thatcher's first Cabinet (1979-83). He was chairman of the International Energy Agency ministerial meeting in May 1979.

  • From May 2010 to Sept 2012, Lord Howell was appointed Minister of State at the FCO, with responsibility for international energy policy.
  • After stepping down he was appointed as personal adviser to Foreign Secretary William Hague on energy and resource security.
  • He is also Chairman of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which counts Shell and BP among its members.
  • Lord Howell is married with two daughters and one son. One of his daughters, Frances, is married to George Osborne, the current Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Shale resources found across northern England

The British Geological Survey recently published an assessment of the shale gas resources in the Bowland Shale, an area stretching across a swathe of northern England and the Midlands.

Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire.
Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District National Park, Derbyshire. Credit: Geoff Kirby/Press Association Images

It identified a large area in the North East which had shale resources, which stretches into the North York Moors National Park. Shale resources also occur under the Peak District National Park.

In addition the BGS assessment showed shale gas resources in heavily populated areas including around Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Doncaster and Wakefield.

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