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."
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.
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.