Question Time in Blackpool asks: ‘Who decides on fracking?’

180301 QuestionTimeSlider1

Question Time in Blackpool, 1 March 2018. Photo: BBC1 Question Time

Who should decide on fracking came under the spotlight on BBC Question Time from Blackpool last night.

The Conservative panellist, Ken Clarke, said the Government should decide because he believed national interest outweighed local opinion.

The former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, while supporting fracking, said local people could be given the say through a local referendum.

Labour’s Owen Smith, the Shadow Northern Ireland Spokesperson, said the Government had overblown the benefits of fracking and lied about giving local views priority. This wouldn’t happen under Labour, he said.

180301 Carol Henshall

Audience member who asked the question about fracking decisions, Question Time, 1 March 2018

The politicians were responding to an audience question:

“Is it fair that on two occasions planning permission to frack this area was not approved by the council and the government overruled us?”

The Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, granted planning permission for Cuadrilla’s fracking scheme at Preston New Road, near Blackpool. He also said he was minded to approve a similar proposal at Roseacre Wood. Both applications had been refused by Lancashire County Council.

Last night’s Question Time also heard from Michelle Dewberry, winner of The Apprentice in 2016, and now a TV presenter and businesswoman. She said the fracking industry had failed to win over people. Another panellist, Blue Peter and Winter Olympics presenter Radzi Chinyanganya, called for a move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

The issue of who should decide on fracking plans is now being investigated by a parliamentary select committee.

One option would be to regard fracking as nationally-significant infrastructure, where decisions are automatically made by ministers.

Lancashire County Council said no to national decision-making last week. Fylde, the district council covering Cuadrilla’s sites, is being recommended by officers to say there is “merit” in taking fracking decisions out of local control. (DrillOrDrop report)

One member of the largely anti-fracking Question Time audience contrasted how the will of the people was being used to support Brexit but not local fracking decisions.

Another said a shale gas industry would generate “billions of pounds” of tax revenue and “millions for the local economy”.

He said:

“Everyone in this room is going to go home tonight and put their gas central heating on. A wind turbine is not going to heat your house. It was the Labour Party in 2008 that actually got the ball rolling on shale gas and issued the exploratory drilling licences.

“This is under British regulations and British gas engineers, the best in the world. We will do it right.”

180301 QT audience1The final comment from the audience was:

“I wonder if the decision would have been overturned in the same way if the fracking was taking place south of Watford.”

Who said what about who decides?

Michelle Dewberry

“I think fracking, for whatever reason, is an industry that has completely failed to win over and convince people of their arguments.

“I think people are concerned about safety. People don’t want earthquakes and big firms denying all knowledge and then admitting down the line that maybe it is.

“It is a real safety concern and until those safety concerns are properly addressed and people understand what’s going on, until that point is reached, we’ve got a problem. I don’t understand what it’s going to take, because it hasn’t yet happened that that industry has managed to get people bought into what they’re doing and the benefits of it and address their real safety concerns.”

Asked if fracking would happen, she said:

“I think it is something that is not still understood enough to the degree where we can make a proper informed decision about it and I don’t quite understand why it is a very unpopular industry, and I understand people’s concerns here, if it was on my back garden I’d have concerns about it as well. But I just think that the industry needs to work closely with government regulations and residents to properly communicate what it is doing and to reassure those safety concerns if it wants to get the go ahead.”

Nigel Farage

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Nigel Farage, former UKIP leader, on Question Time, 1 March 2018. Photo: BBC1 Question Time

“It’s right of Government to have concerns. Michelle’s point about a very effective lobby against fracking – and they’ve been very good at it – they’ve been very good at putting the fear of God into people.

“Look, no form of the extractive industry doesn’t bring some degree of risk with it, whether it is coal mining or whatever it may be.

“We have been fracking since the 1950s. America has done more of it than we’ve done but even we’ve done a bit of fracking in this country.

“What you have got in this part of England is the most phenomenal reserve of natural gas.

“Exploited carefully and sensibly, it would not leave great scars on the landscape like coal mining did in many areas and it would revolutionise the economy of the northwest of England by providing tens of thousands of well-paid jobs.”

To shouts from the audience, he said:

“We must be mad, we must be mad, to look a gift-horse in the mouth.”

The audience booed when he said:

“It’s unpopular because people don’t like things in their back yard obviously and because the campaign has been effective against it.

Ken Clarke

180301 Ken Clark

Ken Clarke, former Conservative Chancellor and Home Secretary, on Question Time, 1 March 2018. Photo: BBC1 Question Time

“Of course we have a good local planning system but in big things of national importance the Government must have a role particularly nowadays.”

He said if Isambard Kingdom Brunel were building a railway from London to Bristol, he would have been advised not to go through the planning system. Mr Clarke likened fracking to building new roads, railways and airport runways. He said:

“You take account of local opinion.”

David Dimbleby: “and then ignore it?”

“You don’t ignore it but the national interest outweighs that and if the local opinion is just rejecting advice of the national geological survey, the scientific world, about whether there are risks involved in fracking or not, I think a Government is entitled to say in the national interest I think we’re going ahead.”

Mr Clark said:

“We have had decades of fracking and all this campaigning about all the dreadful things that are supposed to happen, your water will be poisoned, you’ll have earthquakes…”

David Dimbleby: “They did have earthquakes

Mr Clark said the Blackpool event was “not detectable by a human being on the surface. It was a low level tremor.”

Several people in the audience said “I felt it”.

At least nine people put up their hands when asked if they had felt the earthquake connected to fracking at Cuadrilla’s in 2011.

Radzi Chinyanganya

“We talk about well blow outs, we talk about its carbon intensity, we talk about it’s [being] water intensive but the very big issue is that if we’re serious about protecting this blue marvel that we’re on we need to move away from fossil fuels and really embrace renewable energy. In this area, there’s a lot of wind, why don’t we use it?”

Owen Smith

180301 Owen Smith

Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, on Question Time, 1 March 2018. Photo: BBC1 Question Time

“The benefits of fracking are totally overblown. The volume of jobs will be tiny, the reserves that we have are much less than America or France or some of the other places where they have shale gas to frack. In some of those places, like France, they have decided not go after it.

“Why did we have the Tories overruling local people? It was because they decided round the time of them getting elected in 2010 that it was a good idea for them to try to mimic the States. They could sell to people, as part of their election platform, that they were going to unveil this great new industrial revolution. It was going to produce jobs and cheap, free energy practically in this country. All a load of rubbish.

“The other thing they lied to people about was their suggestion that local people and local decisions will be given primacy. That clearly hasn’t happened here. It should have happened and if it had happened we would not have the fracking in Blackpool. It wouldn’t happen under a Labour Government.”

Question Time can be viewed for 11 months on the BBC IPlayer

What do you think about the answers of the Question Time panel? Please post a comment with your views.

136 replies »

  1. Instead of arguing about fossil and renewables, how about another approach to this global problem.

    if every couple who had children were not so selfish to have two, three, four, six !!!! children or more, then we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place.

    The global population has more than doubled since the 60’s.

    That is the real solution. No pain, no suffering, No loss of life, and a cleaner planet, with more to go round by halving the population over ONE generation.

  2. What an odd comment to not have more than one child would solve the problem of humans polluting the planet. I think you’ll find that is a very shakey argument. Talking of shakes 2 earthquakes in Oklahoma at magnitudes of 4.2 happened one last night and one this morning in their fracking fields.

    • Astonishingly I’ll informed proposal to limit the number of children by decree? Whose decree and how enforced? Totalitarian child stealers? Government sanctioned genocide? Child hunting police?

      Look at the China “One child Policy” that led to murder of female children, and stealing of male children, starving female children on the street rejected by their parents who only wanted a male child, child sex slavery for the unwanted female children, overflowing filthy and unbelievably cruel insane asylums as a result, similarly a vast increase in dangerous abortions of healthy but unwanted female children, secret agreements and buying and stealing on demand of male babies, slave rape, falsification of gender, and all becoming established “accepted social norms of behaviour” Not the least is the pollution of water and food from oestrogen from legal and illegal birth pill overuse which changes the sex of unborne babies and also animals, the west is suffering from that very problem. Look at fish in rivers and the decline in birth rates of all animals, gender immolated crocodiles in the Okefenokee swamps and elsewhere?

      A single Childs mentality is different from a multiple Childs mentality, often more self centred and selfish, being an only male child tends to skew mental processes and can produce sociopathic if not psychopathic tendencies?

      The Chinese single child policy is no longer enforced but that social experiment has produced scars so deep it will take many decades yet to come to restabilise the damage caused. Then you get into eugenics territory of child genetic selection and preference towards the nazi master race definition of racial superiority and overbearing dominance in all things, and the institution of the artificial concept of “racially inferior” genocide and we all know where that led don’t we?

      No, a single child policy, or limiting child birth is a terrible mistake and that Chinese experiment goes to prove how disastrous such Ill thought out totalitarian social engineering imperatives really are.

      Nature produces it’s own balance, and that is the best way to follow, economic or population numbers are not the solution, teaching every child to be the best they can be is the best way forward for everyone.
      Diversity not adversity.

      [Typo edited at poster’s request]

  3. To be fair Paul Cunnngham has a point. Our planet probably can’t sustain even the population we have already – with increasing coastal flooding, salination of low lying farmlands, expanding desertification on Asian and African continents and climate migrants already becoming a problem. It will only take a couple of years of major crop failures back-to-back for the issue to become calamitous. Dr Jim White – a reliable climate scientist – puts the population issue (and what could be done) in perspective near the end of this presentation… it’s an hour long but that point is raised near the end. If you don’t have time to take in the context you can jump straight to 57.30 : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPFNyRzrzdo

    • PhilipP. The world has birth control, in the form of pills, economics, education, buying ‘things’ instead of having a family.
      Bigots like those who have posted here forget that only 100 years ago people here had many children, most died, as they do in most parts of the world. Those who choose larger families on the whole have the resources and drive to take care of them; yes there will be a minority who don’t and the media will post that as the norm.

      Interestingly I find those who promote this ‘cleansing’ talk about ‘them’ and have no intention of limiting their own families, only those they perceive, with the help of the media, as not as worthy to inhabit the planet.

      There is only one answer. We need to share our resources. We need to detach from this un-balanced view of ‘them’ and ‘us’; perpetuated by the selfish narrative of the greedy. We need to achieve energy independence through new, self generating technologies (we used to light our own fires back in the sands of time, with no payments to ‘the company’); we need to share knowledge and embrace the ‘human’.

      • Hi Sherwulfe, precisely, I am always horrified by this population numbers concept, as you say, it’s always “someone else” who must suffer decimation, and worse, to “preserve” resources and economic “superiority”, never their own family and national and racial or economic or elite power base self proclaimed superiority group which will be targetted.

        They of course will always be the ones to enforce their total rule over others ability to reproduce as they see fit. It’s a non tolerance trap.

        The methods of population “control” are never really explored either, and what “penalties” the reproductive controllers will impose on those right across the world who do not, or will not submit? What results from that? A self proclaimed right to make “baby wars?” Genocide? Child police? Medical intervention and sterilisation? Chemical intervention?

        Food and water contamination with reproductive and sterilisation capabilities?

        Now that considering what we know about the dangers of fracking, is an interesting concept isn’t it? What else can be put into our water?

        Now that, perhaps, begins to approach the right question?

        The grounds for resistance are also never explored. The questions arise about who has the “right” to impose population control over others, particularly in terms of what sort of social, political and economic and inevitably religious systems are required to be maintained in order to impose such conditions?

        The inevitable conclusion is that only a totalitarian world government would have the required mindset to be legally and politically configured in order to carry out such a control system?

        Such power over others ALWAYS (-1) leads to self serving superior minded control freak fascism, since any other rational free and open system of government will run a mile from such concepts.

        There was a program “The Handmaidens Tale”, which explored and proposed the reverse concept of preserving those who could reproduce in a fascist state and the resulting concept of racial purity and superiority.

        It seems to me that such a proposal can only have the worst possible connotations for us all.

        We object to fracking in such a strong way, what reaction would there be to controlling how we reproduce?

        Civil war I suspect.

    • I’d say look at how the population argument exists in context with sustainability before turning into a high-horsed morality debate. James Lovelock, who advanced the Gaia hypothesis, also gives good reasons why the earth cannot sustain the numbers we have let alone where the world is heading with it’s population. As Jim White puts it – it’s not about the West dictating to poorer countries about what the size of their families should be it’s about broader education generally and empowering woman to play a greater role in cultural norms and expectations. He says there is a strong need for thinking about climate change in terms of 50 year, or more, time spans.

      If there’s any gender stereotyping that rings true for me (dangerous territory I know) it’s that woman tend to be looking out for the well-being of the next generation more-so than men. Whereas there’s a pattern of men looking to what has brought wealth or power in the past to be something that will guarantee security and protection for the future. The die-hards will defend old power relationships in that way, but it can lead to shortsightedness as well.

      • I have a great deal of respect for James Lovelock for his Gaia hypothesis, a sort of synthesis of the mother nature concept and the quantum physics theory of conscious matter, which i think was more accurate than we think even now, and similar to Philip K Dicks V.A.L.I.S. concept and speaks of a far deeper relationship with our planet than we can imagine.

        However at some point James Lovelock seems to have had an intimation that a more left brained approach rather than right brained approach solution to the problems of existence that would either assist in, or short circuit or circumvent the natural balance of things to man’s short term benefit. The proposals in support for nuclear power and population control seem anathema to his previous theories, however in deference to James Lovelock’s original theories i still hold him in great regard, but i have to disagree with the later nuclear and population density solutions.

        I must admit i feel that Rupert Sheldrakes proposal of morphic resonance and morphic fields and T.C. Lethbridge’s triadic and driadic field theories seem to agree quite closely with the original Gaia theory. And the quantum physics superposition theory of matter and energy seem to bear that out.

        The 99% efficiency of Chlorophyll is such a lesson in quantum physics.

        There is much we still do not understand about our true place in nature, but it seems to me, that rather than taking a sledge hammer to physics, and ripping out its heart with nuclear fission for our own selfish use, we should be working with natures own systems and trying to live inside the systems that defy conventional definition and categorisation.

        The lesson, it seems to me, is that we should not be ravaging and ripping out the heart and desecrating natural energy systems that our lives ultimately depend upon.

        With nature it should be jaw jaw, not war war, just in case that position may become reversed?

        • If you haven’t already, read Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, especially Chapter 8 There is no justice in history!

  4. Onshore unconventional hydraulic fracking has been attempted just the once in England. In 2012 Cuadrilla started at Singleton near Blackpool, caused a small earthquake or two and we’re immediately shut down!
    Millions of litres of radioactive toxic waste water were dumped in the Manchester Ship Canal as a consequence.
    North America revelations in a List of the Harmed show beyond dispute that fracking is a public health and water supply disaster.


  5. Greenpeace also exposed just recently a concealed Government report showing that the promised benefits of the fracking industry with regards to massive amounts of Shale gas for supply to English consumers and also the creation of thousands of new worthwhile permanent jobs for English workers have been massively overstated.
    Here on the Fylde the devastation inflicted upon our agricultural, farming and tourism industries would negate any possible benefits not to mention the damage to local residents health and property damage.

  6. I think as usual the lower opinion in reply to my comments is the one that takes over the whole debate.

    I’m not talking about enforcement, police monitoring and murdering, I’m talking about human nature and ones personal attitude to having a family.

    If the education was put out there in every nation as to the reason why one child is a good idea for the future, then perhaps we may get a result .

    Not overnight, ( same as renewables) but an attitude of the individual is the one that wins.

    I the meantime things will carry on as they are.

  7. The TV debate revealed a widespread lack of understanding of how the gas grid can be decarbonised and the debate here revealed that those who support Fracking don’t understand the scale of the threat from climate change. So we shot a video which will be sent to the various Fracking campaigns: –

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