MPs vote down Labour’s bid to ban fracking

A Labour bid to introduce legislation to ban fracking was defeated this evening.

MPs voted by 230 to 326 on Labour’s motion to allow parliamentary time for a law securing an all-out ban.

The result was expected after Conservative whips described the vote as a motion of no confidence in the government.

They had threatened MPs with expulsion from the party if they voted for the Labour motion or abstained.

Conservatives were, in effect, forced to choose between voting against the 2019 manifesto and losing the whip.

Despite this, the voting figures suggest 42 Conservative MPs abstained. More than 90 MPs (from all parties) did not vote.

There are reports, raised in parliament after the vote, that the government’s chief whip and her deputy have resigned over the vote. Later reports said were still in post.

Labour’s Chris Bryant called for an investigation into behaviour outside the “No” lobby. Labour’s Anna McMorrin said she saw members being “physically manhandled” and “bullied” to vote against the Labour motion.


During a three-hour debate, the business secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said local communities would have a veto on fracking schemes. He told MPs:

“There’s an absolute local consent lock”.

He also said MPs would vote on any scheme for measuring community consent proposed by the government.

He said:

“Any process to determine local consent must be run independently and this House will vote on any scheme that we bring forward.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP

He also said:

“I recognise that many members and their constituents have concerns about shale gas, and that is why we will consult on the system of local consent and provide clear advice on seismicity and safety before any hydraulic fracturing for shale gas takes place.”

“Let me be absolutely clear, local communities will have a veto. If it does not get local consent, and that will be consulted on as to what local consent’s form must be… and it may be by local referendum. That is what the consultation will be about.

“If local consent is withheld, that is a veto and it won’t be overruled by national government”.

The moratorium, introduced nearly three years ago after fracking-induced earthquakes in Lancashire, was lifted last month.

“No compelling evidence”

Labour’s shadow climate change secretary, Ed Miliband, who opened the debate said there was no compelling evidence on safety that the government promised would be basis of lifting the ban. It was the clearest evidence of a broken election promise, he said.

Ed Miliband MP

He said fracking was dangerous, expensive, would not bring down energy prices and would not help the UK meet its climate targets. It was also deeply unpopular, he said.

An official report on fracking in Lancashire said an earthquake measuring 4.5ML could not be ruled out, he said. This would be widely felt, with widespread building damage.

Mr Miliband said:

“They want to design a system of public consent. We have the answer from the public: fracking is deeply unpopular and communities don’t want it.”

He urged MPs:

“The way to stop fracking is to say no. Their constituents will know they had a chance.”

He said the “genius minds” in the Conservative whips office had sought to turn the issue into a vote of confidence in the current prime minister.

“At the 11th hour, one galaxy brain says the way to force it through is to make it a vote not just on one of the most unpopular causes in the country, fracking, but the most unpopular cause in the country: the current Prime Minister.

“You might call it, deputy speaker, the frack me or sack me strategy.”

Two Conservatives suggested they would vote against the government on fracking. The Treasury minister Andrew Griffith, MP for Arundel and South Downs, wrote on Twitter:

“Personally, I do not and have never supported fracking in #WestSussex as our dangerous local roads would never support the additional vehicle movements even if residents consented.”

Chris Skidmore, who is reviewing the Net Zero strategy for the government, tweeted:

“As the former Energy Minister who signed Net Zero into law, for the sake of our environment and climate, I cannot personally vote tonight to support fracking and undermine the pledges I made at the 2019 General Election. I am prepared to face the consequences of my decision.”

Neither were listed by Hansard in the vote for Labour’s motion.

“The geology has not changed, nor has the science”

Other Conservatives queued up to speak in the debate about their opposition to fracking.

Mark Menzies, MP for Fylde, where Cuadrilla fracked in 2011, 2018 and 2019, each time causing earthquakes, said:

“For people in Fylde this is not a debate about what might happen. It’s about not repeating events that have happened: events that have impacted on our countryside, our people, our homes, our communities.

He said he took a science-based approach but he said “the geology has not changed nor has the science. The industry has had more than a decade to show that fracking can be carried out safely in Fylde. Every time they have tried, the same thing has happened. We cannot keep doing the same thing and hope for a different outcome.” Fylde and its geology remain wholly unsuitable for fracking.

On local compensation, he said:

“do not confuse that with a thought that communities can be bought. The people of Fylde are not for sale, their principles are not up for auction. They will look at this on the facts and the safety merits, first and foremost.”

The neighbouring MP, Paul Maynard, Conservative, Blackpool North and Cleveleys, said he would prefer the moratorium remained. He called for a free vote in a parliament and a local referendum to measure consent.

Alexander Stafford MP

Alexander Stafford, Conservative, Rother Valley lives in Harthill one of two villages in the constituency where Ineos wanted to explore for shale gas.

He said he continued to oppose fracking but he accused Labour of “playing party games”, a “cynical move to weaponise the issue for cheap headlines”. It is yesterday’s technology, he said. But he said “who am I to say what people should think in other parts of the country”. Those directly affect will ultimately have the last say, he said. He also promised to leading the charge against fracking.

“Moratorium should stay in place”

Simon Hoare, Conservative, Dorset North, who also opposes fracking, said the moratorium should stay in place unless and until a new regulatory scheme was in place.

He said he was absolutely convinced that fracking would not happen. He would love to vote against fracking tonight, he said, but he added:

“I want to keep my voice and my vote to shape the future of the party and not prepared to throw it away on an issue that is not going to happen.”

Andrew Selous, Conservative, SW Bedfordshire, said the party had been elected on a manifesto which said the moratorium would stay in place unless there was compelling evidence that it could be done safely. He called for a rapid evidence review on safety.

Rebecca Pow, Conservative, Taunton Deane, said “scientific evidence is everything”. She said the debate should not be just about seismicity but also the effect of fracking on future hydrology.

Robin Walker, Conservative, Worcester, said he did not support lifting the moratorium because there was no scientific evidence to support the decision. But he urged MPs not to vote for Labour, who he accused of “seizing control of the order paper Lets take action to lower energy bills, protect the environment and deliver on our 2019 manifesto.

“Remove right of appeal on fracking”

Sir Greg Knight, Conservative, East Yorkshire, said the government should take away the right of appeal by shale gas companies. The local planning authority should be the final authority.

Nick Gibb, Conservative for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, called for local referendums, arranged by local authorities and overseen by the electoral commission.

Caroline Lucas, Green, Brighton Pavilion, said a consultation on public consent was a waste of time and money because there was no consent.

Andrew Gwynne, Labour, Denson and Reddish, said public opinion was not a material consideration for the Planning Inspectorate. Public opinion counted for nothing, he said.

Maria Caulfield, Conservative, Lewes, said planning refusals were overturned almost on a daily basis. She said she opposed fracking about she could not vote for Labour’s motion.

“Conservative front bench should hang their heads in shame”

Ruth Edwards MP

Ruth Edwards, Conservative, Rushcliffe, said of her own front bench:

“they have enabled the opposition to force colleagues to choose between voting against our manifesto and voting to lose the whip.  They should take a look at the faces of colleagues behind them, colleagues who have fracking sites in their constituencies and they should hang their heads in shame.

“A Conservative government will always have my confidence but its leadership today has severely tested my trust and the trust of many colleagues, and I would advise them not to do so again.”

Barbara Keeley, whose Worsley and Eccles South constituency includes the Barton Moss shale gas site, said drilling at the site led to months of demonstrations, with 150 police officers every day, at a total cost of £1.7m. She said lifting the moratorium should not be used by a failing government as a confidence vote.

Mike Amesbury, Labour, Weaver Vale, said communities in Ellesmere Port had rejected shale gas at a public inquiry. He asked “why do we have to jump through hoops again?”

Justin Madders MP

Justin Madders, the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port said:

“Dictionary definition of consent is permission to do something or agreement to do something, so let’s be clear that is not the same as getting a payment in lieu of consent.

“Consent is not the same as consultation and this amendment talks too much about consultation rather than consent.  Consultation is not as definitive, it’s not as robust and it’s certainly not what people would expect.

“The business secretary said last month that compensation and consent become two sides of the same coin.  I would say they can not possibly be two sides of the same coin.  Compensation is payment in recognition of a loss and does not in any way mean that people have agreed to suffer the loss.”

Christian Wakeford, Labour, Bury South, said:

“The public don’t want it. Councils don’t want it. Ministers don’t want in their back yard. Who does want it?”

7 replies »

  1. A veto, absolutely delighted. Highly unlikely that fracking will take place now, no NSIP, no industry conducting the survey, Conservative MPs were even talking about wanting the right to appeal a planning decision being taken away. My guess is if the Truss government falls, the new government will ditch fracking, given the scale of the opposition to fracking within their own party, let alone public opposition.

  2. Not as sorry as the silly Labour woman who summed up and accused him of vacating the chamber-when he was sat right opposite her! Suspect that bit will be edited from her highlights to be circulated.

    In terms of what was in a manifesto, Paula C, there was no mention of Covid or Ukraine either. If you really expect what was written in 2019 to remain unchanged after such, then dream on. I recall the Labour leader making certain pledges to get elected party leader, and then ditched most as soon as elected-and that had nothing to do with world events.

    • Are you really saying that we should not take too much notice of commitments made by politicians because chances are that circumstances will change so they can conveniently ditch them?

  3. Perhaps the Labour party and, for that matter, envionmentalist parties ought really breif themselves on the facts that may ensue from trying to ditch fossil fuels before we have sufficient alternatives. In effect they may be condeming people to death, while at the same time claiming that they are trying to save people from death. Here are figures published by Age UK and they are just for the this country. Multiply that, if you will, across Europe and we could see upwards of 200,000 people dying as a result of insufficient heating this winter. Is this really what Labourand the Green’s want for us ?
    This winter 24,000 older people may not survive the cold weather – that’s 200 deaths a day that could be prevented(3). Contrary to public belief, about half (41%) of all excess winter deaths are due to heart attack and strokes(4).
    There are a number of reasons for cold related illness and mortality from poorly insulated homes to sustained low indoor temperatures(7). Living room temperatures should ideally be kept at 70F (21C) and above whereas bedroom temperatures should be kept at a minimum of 64F (18C).(8) However, Age UK’s research(9) shows that over 80% of older people didn’t know the ideal living room and bedroom temperatures.

  4. Looks like it, Jill. Just look at what was promised- “ The Conservatives offer a future in which we get Brexit done, and then move on to focus on our priorities – which are also your priorities.
    Because more important than any one commitment in this manifesto is the spirit in which we make them. Our job is to serve you, the people. To deliver on the instruction you gave us in 2016 – to get Brexit done. But then to move on to making the UK an even better country – to investing in the NHS, our schools, our people and our towns.
    We will build a Britain in which everyone has the opportunity to make the most of their talents. We will ensure that work will always pay. We will create a fair society, in which everyone always contributes their fair share.
    So that together, led by Boris Johnson, we can get Brexit done, and move on to unleash the full potential of this great country.”

    Everything conveniently ditched and significant progress made, but in the opposite direction. The first of the legendary U- turns.

    Is this the last gasp of the Nasty Party?

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