The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told anti-fracking campaigners at a rally in Westminster that the Labour Party stood in solidarity with them. And he predicted opposition to fracking would be a key issue at the next election.
Speaking at the gathering in Parliament Square, Mr McDonnell said:
“The message from Jeremy Corbyn and myself is: You have our overwhelming support. We are here in solidarity with you.”
Mr McDonnell said:
“This is such an important issue.
“There is no way that any government can meet its climate change targets with fracking.
“We are putting the lives of our children, the lives of the next generation, at risk. This issue is at our core.”
Mr McDonnell was one of several politicians to address the rally, which saw more than 100 women from across the UK gather opposite the Houses of Parliament to demonstrate their opposition to fracking.
Many wore Suffragette costumes to mark the 100 years since some women received the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
Mr McDonnell said Labour was mobilising its movement against fracking.
“We will link and work cooperatively with other political parties like the Greens who are opposing fracking.
“We have to use every effort we can to campaign against fracking proposals. When the general election comes, this will be one of the key issues in that debate.”
Mr McDonnell said Labour had expected “significant opposition” from parts of its movement to the decision to include a ban on fracking in the party’s manifesto at the last election. But he said:
“We got overwhelming support. This is now Labour Party policy. When we get into government we will legislate accordingly.”
He said Labour was looking at policies to build human rights and climate protection into trade deals and to encourage pensions funds to invest in decarbonisation.
“This [policy] is a huge advance for the Labour Party and the Labour and trades union movement.”
The rally also heard from Labour MPs from constituencies in shale gas areas.
Ruth George (above), Labour MP for High Peak in Derbyshire, criticised ministers over plans to change the planning rules for shale gas developments.
A parliamentary debate earlier today heard arguments against the proposals to make non-fracking shale gas plans permitted development, without the need for planning permission. The government is also proposing to give decision-making on major shale gas production schemes to a minister on the advice of a planning inspector. (DrillOrDrop report coming soon)
Ms George said:
“The government is taking away the democratic process of planning. They will ride rough-shod over communities across the country.”
Mike Amesbury, Labour MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire, said:
“[Conservative MPs] are waking up to the fact that this will hurt them where it counts when it comes to the general election. They stood on a platform of driving what they see as a revolution in the shale gas industry and fracking. We need to expose them for what they are – the local cheer leaders for fracking.”
Rachel Maskell (Labour, York Central) said the battle against fracking was not over.
“If we let this go through the damage will be clear to see. We need to keep the pressure on the government.”
The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas described the government as cowardly for announcing consent for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site on the last day of parliament before the summer holiday. She told the women who protest regularly outside the site:
“You are leading the way with your inspiration. You are putting your bodies in the way of the fracking people.”
The Green Party’s peer, Baroness Jenny Jones, said the injunction granted to Cuadrilla for Preston New Road and surrounding roads “deserves to be broken”. She urged the rally:
“Please do not lose heart. It is easy to think it is impossible to shift a government or a policy.”
Reporting from this debate was made possible by individual donations from DrillOrDrop readers