Politics

Anti-fracking group criticises MP’s survey as biased and selective

Fracking Survey

MP Kevin Hollinrake has defended his decision to survey supporters in his Thirsk and Malton constituency on fracking.

The campaign group, Frack Free Ryedale, has described the survey as “astonishingly biased” and criticised the MP for sending it to “a select group of supporters”.

The questionnaire, which uses the web-based tool, SurveyMonkey, was distributed by email last week and had to be completed online.

Thirsk and Malton has the largest number of oil and gas exploration licence blocks of any constituency in the country. It could host the first fracking operation in the UK since 2011 if Third Energy gets permission to frack an existing well at Kirby Misperton.

Seeking views

In the introduction to the survey, Mr Hollinrake said he “would very much like” to know the recipients views on shale gas exploration.

The MP explained why he thought fracking would be good for the UK, if “properly monitored” and “delivered sustainably”. There were then four questions covering proposals being promoted by Mr Hollinrake:

  • A producers’ summit planned for 8th February to which gas companies have been invited to discuss a regional plan
  • An independent body to monitor fracking developments
  • A five-year local plan dealing with fracking traffic, site locations and impacts on the economy.
  • Supply of gas from Ryedale gas fields to local people directly by plastic pipe

The final question asked participants whether, taking these issues into account, they supported fracking.

“Why isn’t the survey open to all constituents?”

Frack Free Ryedale criticised the decision not to allow anyone to take part in the survey. Chris Redston, from the group, said:

“It seems very odd for Mr Hollinrake to be conducting a survey on fracking only among his core supporters, without opening this up to the wider public.

“We wonder why this survey isn’t available on his website for all his constituents to fill in.”

“Perhaps he is frightened of what the results would be, particularly given his recent resignation from a Parliamentary Committee, and his decision to vote in favour of fracking under National Parks and AONBs last month.”

“Not meant to be a referendum”

Mr Hollinrake said he had used an email list of Conservative Party members and supporters in the constituency to distribute the questionnaire.

“The survey was not meant to be a referendum of the constituency. We don’t have the capacity to do that. But we do have email addresses of our supporters and members.”

“If we use the results of the survey we will make this clear.”

He said he had used the list before to gain views on issues such as assisted dying and military action in Syria. It had the advantage of covering the whole constituency, he said.

“The purpose of the survey was to get reaction to shale gas and proposals to moderate its impact.”

He added:

“Thirsk and Malton is a very conservative area. Just because it was only sent to Conservatives does not mean it is unrepresentative.”

At the last election, Mr Hollinrake polled 52.6% of the vote and was more than 9,000 votes ahead of the closest candidate.

“Survey completely redefined ‘leading questions’ ”

Frack Free Ryedale has also criticised the wording of the questions.

Mr Redston said some people had been “so incensed by the way it was worded” that they sent the questionnaire to the group.

Monica Gripaios, from Hovingham, said:

“What I found most disturbing is the extraordinarily biased wording of the survey, completely redefining the term ‘a leading question’.”

She gave as examples:

Would an independent body monitoring developments at every step of the process would (sic) reassure you that fracking was being delivered in a balanced and measured way?

Do you think a better understanding of the visual impact that demonstrated that the process could be done discreetly, would that ease any concerns you have regarding shale gas exploration?

Sue Gough lives near the site in Kirby Misperton where Third Energy wants to frack. She said:

“Mr Hollinrake is clearly aware that there is a growing anti-fracking sentiment in the local community – perhaps choosing who to send the survey to is a way of fixing the results to his desired outcome, allowing him to publish a bogus survey that he can claim shows local people support fracking.”

Kevin Hollinrake’s Fracking Survey 2016

  • A third public consultation on the Kirby Misperton planning application opened yesterday. It will last for 21 days and follows the submission of further information by Third Energy to North Yorkshire County Council. More details coming soon.

10 replies »

  1. When Mr Hollinrake was elected, he was elected to represent all his constituents. There are people who voted for him that did not receive a survey, equally he is also there to represent those people who did not vote for him as well. Not his chosen few!

    And having read the survey I can quite understand why people are upset because they were excluded. I also agree that the content is biased. Almost along the lines of if you have “particular” needs (whatever that means) you may get free gas or low cost gas – would you like fracking? I kid you not.

    He must be desperate to deliver fracking to his Westminster masters to behave in such a way and offer the latest bribe of free gas – completely undemocratic and unprincipled.

  2. My favourite quote here is “Just because it was only sent to Conservatives does not mean it is unrepresentative.” What rubbish. Any such survey is only representative of Conservative Party members who have given the party their email address, and I dare say there was much more selectivity than that too in who it was sent to.
    Bearing in mind that at the last election, Mr Hollinrake polled 52.6% of the vote, that means 47.4% of the electorate voted for other people, of which all but one were strongly anti-fracking and spoke at the Rally for Ryedale in April. So what Mr Hollinrake seems to be saying effectively is that if you’re not a Conservative voter, your opinions don’t count. And even if you are, he has phrased the questions in such a way that it would be very hard not to agree with him and is probably the most biased survey I have ever seen.
    Also, it’s worth noting that many Conservative voters in Ryedale are very strongly against fracking, even though they voted for the party on other issues – fracking didn’t really get a look in nationally, and was therefore not a trigger issue for most people. However, there is growing opposition to fracking in North Yorkshire by traditional Conservative voters, witness this letter from very influential people in his constituency in the Yorkshire Post.
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/yp-letters-the-five-great-perils-of-fracking-in-ryedale-1-7633374
    And any survey that starts “I would very much like to know you (sic) views on shale gas exploration.” is setting it up for ridicule. Get someone else to copy check the next one, Kevin. Or, better yet, don’t bother.

  3. “Just because it was only sent to Conservatives does not mean it is unrepresentative.” Seriously, you couldn’t make it up. Send that man a ‘The Thick of It’ DVD Box Set.

  4. Ideally it should go to all residents.
    Where it should not go to is London residents (Chris Redstone for instance), or to outside of the constituency. The public record of local opposition letters shows that the supposed massive opposition is not reflected in letters from local people. There also have been some very dodgy practices, including multiple letters using different addresses, and a fake letter supposedly sent from several District Councils., and other shenanigans. I gather the police are looking into these matters.
    The problem with these type of surveys is that they are taken over by zealots, who seem to think that any public opinion that goes against them must be fought using immoral methods. Why should someone in New Zealand comment on a fracking application in N Yorks?

    The reason they are protesting so much is that they fear that when it comes down to it, the local opposition may not be as strong as they would like to think. All of the noise and scientifically illiterate nonsense that FFR come out with and all of the meetings that completely ignore UK regulations, and requirements wil have swayed many. The trouble is, that when looked at all of these matters are low risk, and carefully looked at.

    Ken Wilkinson (not local, and so I didnt write a letter to the N Yorks council)

    • The matters have been looked at very carefully in a number of jurisdictions. It is not necessary to antagonise people by falsely claiming that information provided by campaigning groups is unscientific. It speaks to the paucity of the arguments in favour of fracking when insults are used in this way. It may or may not be that Frack Free Ryedale have made errors, such errors if they exist do not detract from the genuine concerns being expressed. Proof of this lies in the halt that has been put on fracking in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Quebec, New York and a number of others.

    • I don’t think you’ve quite grasped that there are no stringent regulations. Since the altering of the definition of fracking in the Infrastructure Act and the changing of several bespoke permits to standard permits the whole business of on shore drilling has become distinctly weighted in favour of companies not affected communities. Reporting to HSE & EA is undertaken by the company doing the drilling with no unscheduled visits or monitoring by either agency.

      A large decrease in the the number of employees at both agencies has left them impotent to do anything meaningful.

      The communities who have suffered at the hands of drilling companies know to great personal cost the negative impact upon their lives. I would urge you to look under the rhetoric and read reports from those who have experienced the ever growing number of problems from both off shore and on shore drilling. The negative costs to health, wildlife and the environment far outweighs the benefits.

      There are cleaner more sustainable alternatives available the issue is they are seen as economically unviable for Governments and more, importantly big business, so are being kept out of reach of the majority of the population.

      I respond to you as a resident of a small village badly affected by the appalling exploratory drilling programme of Rathlin Energy. 14 breaches to permit, including the cold venting of waste gasses that made local residents ill, an on-going HSE investigation and absolutely no support for the community or penalties imposed on Rathlin from either agency.

      Also the appalling grammar in the survey should be enough to question the intelligence of the author and whoever signed it off for publishing.

    • I don’t think you’ve quite grasped that there are no stringent regulations. Since the altering of the definition of fracking in the Infrastructure Act and the changing of several bespoke permits to standard permits the whole business of on shore drilling has become distinctly weighted in favour of companies not affected communities. Reporting to HSE & EA is undertaken by the company doing the drilling with no unscheduled visits or monitoring by either agency.

      A large decrease in the the number of employees at both agencies has left them impotent to do anything meaningful.

      The communities who have suffered at the hands of drilling companies know to great personal cost the negative impact upon their lives. I would urge you to look under the rhetoric and read reports from those who have experienced the ever growing number of problems from both off shore and on shore drilling. The negative costs to health, wildlife and the environment far outweighs the benefits.

      There are cleaner more sustainable alternatives available the issue is they are seen as economically unviable for Governments and, more importantly, big business so are being kept out of reach of the majority of the population.

      I respond to you as a resident of a small village badly affected by the appalling exploratory drilling programme of Rathlin Energy. 14 breaches to permit, including the cold venting of waste gasses that made local residents ill, an on-going HSE investigation and absolutely no support for the community or penalties imposed on Rathlin from either agency.

      Also the appalling grammar in the survey should be enough to question the intelligence of the author and whoever signed it off for publishing.

  5. Why hasn’t the article pointed out that Monica Gripaios is actually Friends of the Earth and an anti-fracker? Seems to me like this article is trying to spin peoples perceptions here. And why do the anti-frackers ALWAYS attack anything or anyone who doesn’t agree with them with such venom? And you wonder why the general public doesn’t support them – because no one likes to be intimidated by a zealots. They have rendered a proper debate about the issue impossible in this country.

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