Updated: Did fracking break the government?

Less than 24 hours after a chaotic parliamentary vote on fracking, the prime minister has resigned.

Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool, 2 January 2019. |
Photo: Frack Free Lancashire

Liz Truss made her announcement in Downing Street at 1.30pm, as Conservative MPs who publicly opposed fracking but voted against a ban took to social media to explain their position.

The government had initially made yesterday’s vote, brought by Labour, a vote of no confidence in the government.

This forced Conservatives to choose between defying the party’s 2019 manifesto pledge on the fracking moratorium or risking expulsion. But about 10 minutes before the vote, the instruction changed.

There were chaotic scenes outside the chamber, with reports of Conservatives, some in tears, being manhandled into the No lobby. See “I’ll never forget chaotic vote that sank Liz Truss”

A group who defied party managers and abstained were waiting this morning to learn what would happen to them.

Lifting the moratorium on fracking was a key part of Liz Truss’s leadership bid. The moratorium was introduced nearly three years ago after fracking by Cuadrilla at Preston New Road in Lancashire caused earthquakes.

Chris Holliday, an opponent of fracking, who lives opposite the Preston New Road site, was watching yesterday’s debate, when he said:

“It is hard to imagine that a debate triggered by what happened in a field across the road from where we live could potentially end up bringing down the government”.

Dennis May, of Frack Free Misson, a group opposed to the IGas shale gas site at Springs Road in north Nottinghamshire, said this afternoon:

“The root cause of the Commons voting shenanigans was definitely public pressure on Tory MPs to oppose fracking. Some of them have now lost all credibility on the issue, having backed a PM who resigned less than 24 hours later.”

Liz Truss making her resignation speech in Downing Street, 20 October 2022.

Miranda Cox, of Frack Free Lancashire, said:

“The government has U-turned on its 2019 election manifesto to lift the moratorium on fracking.

“If it U-turns on its recent announcement to consult local residents and offer a veto, they will be treating constituents, local MPs and elected representatives with contempt.

“Conservative-led Lancashire County Council and Fylde Council both unanimously voted last week to see reassurance from central government on this matter.

“They understand the strong and unwavering level of opposition to fracking across Lancashire.

“Jacob Rees-Mogg would be well advised to listen to us.”

David Burley, of Frack Free South Yorkshire, said:

“Liz Truss never really understood the depth of feeling against fracking. To order her MPs to oppose a manifesto promise was unnecessary and self destructive.”

Steve Mason, director of Frack Free United, a nationwide campaign against fracking, said:

“It just goes to show the contentious issue that fracking is and how divisive it is in every community including Westminster. My advice to the next leader is to pledge to keep the moratorium in place as is in the manifesto.”

Frack Free United joined CPRE and Friends of the Earth yesterday to issue a joint briefing paper for MPs on fracking.

Dave Timms, head of political affairs, Friends of the Earth, said today:

“There were many factors to Liz Truss’ downfall, but the vote on fracking that descended into chaos, accusations of bullying and MPs defying a three-line whip in Parliament, could certainly be seen as the final nail in the coffin.

“Truss’ government was completely out of touch with the vast majority of people in the UK, who care about the climate, want to protect our environment and expect action. Many of her MPs recognised her policies were at odds with people’s concerns and priorities.

“Future Prime Ministers beware. Attempting to revive fracking, and the massive assault on environmental protection and the planning system that became known as the attack on nature, are sure-fire ways to cement a short tenure at the top. Now the only thing that’s fracked is Truss’ career.”

CPRE Lancashire said:

“We are pleased that Liz Truss who lifted the fracking moratorium without any evidence it is safe has gone. Her position was untenable. We hope her replacement has a better approach to looking after our natural environment.”

Members of Bolsover Against Fracking protesting outside the office of local MP, Mark Fletcher, on 20 October 2022, after his vote against a fracking ban. Photo: Bolsover Against Fracking

Matthew Wilkinson, of Woodsetts against Fracking, a community group which opposed Ineos shale gas plans in south Yorkshire, said:

“I think Liz Truss has now realised that fracking causes earthquakes.”

Greenpeace UK said on Twitter:

“It’s fitting that the last act of Liz Truss’s government was to force her own MPs to break a manifesto commitment by voting for an unpopular, unproven fracking industry that has no future. The lesson for whoever succeeds her as Prime Minister couldn’t be clearer.”

Shares in shale gas companies fell on the news.

IGas dropped nearly 9% but later recovered some of the losses. At the time of writing, it was down 4.4% at 34.35.

Egdon Resources, one of the top four shale gas licence holders, fell 8.5% to 3.11p.

Shares in Cuadrilla’s owner, the Australian mining group A J Lucas, were down 15.46% at the time of writing at 0.082 Australian dollars.

  • A new prime minister is expected to be chosen within the next week. At the time of writing, no Conservatives had put themselves forward. Rishi Sunak is expected to stand. There is also talk that the candidates could include the former prime minister, Boris Johnson. Jeremy Hunt has ruled himself out. Labour has called for a general election.

Update: “I’ll never forget chaotic vote that sank Liz Truss”

Updated 24/11/22

The former chief whip, Wendy Morton, today described the chaotic fracking vote as

“one of those nights that I will probably never forget”

She told the BBC Politics Live programme that many Tory MPs were refusing to vote with the government about the Labour motion calling for a vote to ban fracking.

MPs had been told it amounted to a confidence vote in the government, in an effort to get them in line. Ms Morton said:

“That’s why I took the stance that I did, as chief whip.

“We were expecting colleagues to be in the lobby with us.”

But there was confusion when the climate minister, Graham Stuart, suggested near the end of the debate that it was not a confidence vote.

In her first TV interview on the subject, Ms Morton said she resigned as chief whip because “No 10 were interfering” in the vote.

Liz Truss would not accept the resignation and Ms Morton continued in post. But the next day, the prime minister stepped down.

The chairman of the 1922 backbench committee of Conservative MPs, Sir Graham Brady, told the BBC he had decided to tell Ms Truss her position was “unsustainable” after the “utter chaos” of the vote.

20 replies »

  1. Until the issue of many 10s of gigawatts of energy storage/backup is sorted (currently provided by gas) , renewables will be limited in providing a sustainable & reliable source of power.

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