Downing Street accused of electioneering over fracking ban

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

The government has been accused of electioneering after announcing it will move to ban fracking.

Downing Street announced on Saturday it would outlaw the controversial practice, which involves the collection of gas trapped beneath the Earth's surface, after a report warned it is linked to earthquakes.

Campaigners have long demanded a total ban on the practice, with some camping outside a fracking site in Lancashire in a bid to prevent it from continuing. They have welcomed the government u-turn - but insist authorities must do more.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn branded the announcement an "election stunt" in the run up to Britain heading to the polls on December 12.

The Liberal Democrats said that while a Government "moratorium" on fracking was welcome, it did not mean that the practice would be banned.

The Cuadrilla hydraulic fracturing site at Preston New Road shale gas exploration site in Lancashire Credit: PA

The policy reveal comes after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found it is not currently possible to accurately predict the probability or magnitude of earthquakes linked to fracking operations.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday he had "very considerable anxieties" about the issue of shale gas extraction.

The Government said it will end its support for the process, and further proposals to change the planning process for fracking sites will no longer be taken forward.

Its new stance on the issue, which has caused much controversy in counties such as Lancashire and Yorkshire, follows that of both Labour and Liberal Democrats.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks to anti-fracking protesters outside the gate at the Preston New Road shale gas exploration site in Lancashire Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Fracking expected to be key election issue

Fracking is expected to feature strongly in the campaign for the December 12 General Election.

A recent report by the National Audit Office found Government plans to establish the shale gas industry in the UK were taking longer than expected amid public concern over the effects of fracking on the environment and public health.

Protests have resulted at sites across the country and are estimated to have cost public bodies at least £32.7 million since 2011.

There has been much disturbance caused in particular to residents living near to the fracking site in Preston New Road, Lancashire, which is run by Cuadrilla.

Business and Energy Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “After reviewing the OGA’s report into recent seismic activity at Preston New Road, it is clear that we cannot rule out future unacceptable impacts on the local community.

“For this reason, I have concluded that we should put a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect.”

Business, energy and clean growth minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The Committee on Climate Change’s advice is clear that natural gas will continue to have a key role to play as we eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050, including for the production of hydrogen.

“However, following our action today, that gas will need to come from sources other than domestic fracking."

Cuadrilla declined to comment on the announcement. Credit: PA

The Government says it will "take a presumption against issuing any further Hydraulic Fracturing Consents” and this will continue unless compelling new evidence is provided".

Tom Fyans, deputy chief executive of countryside charity, CPRE, said that the news was a "fantastic win" for local democracy.

"Today we celebrate alongside the local communities, campaigners and environmentalists who have been campaigning valiantly to stop fracking for many years.

"This is a fantastic win for local democracy and everyone who cares about protecting the countryside from climate catastrophe and mass industrialisation.

"Today’s announcement should signal the start of a step change in the way we tackle the climate emergency."

Two activists in a temporary structure, outside the Preston New Road site Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Images

However campaigners outside the Preston New Road site remained sceptical about the announcement.

They said they would continue their protest "as business as usual" until they say the fracking machinery taken away from the site.

Cuadrilla declined to comment on the announcement.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, on behalf of the industry said: "Hydraulic fracturing stimulation is a long-standing technology used around the world and in a number of industries, including the oil and gas, water and geothermal sectors.

"Going forward, we are fully committed to working closely with the Oil and Gas Authority and other relevant regulators to demonstrate that we can operate safely and environmentally responsibly."