Ed Miliband has denounced the government proposal to lift the ban on fracking as a “charter for earthquakes” after Jacob Rees-Mogg announced plans to review the limit on levels of seismic activity allowed at extraction sites.
Addressing the Commons today, the Business Secretary said he was “glad” to be able to announce that the moratorium would be lifted, declaring: “It is important that we use all available sources of fuel within this country.”
Rees-Mogg told MPs that the government plans to “revisit” the seismic limits allowed at fracking sites to ensure that the extraction of shale gas can be done in an “effective and efficient way”.
Responding to Rees-Mogg’s statement, Miliband said: “Let’s start by taking his excuse for lifting the fracking ban, Mr Speaker, that it will make a difference to the energy bills crisis. It won’t because gas is sold on the international market.”
The Labour frontbencher highlighted that the Tories pledged in their 2019 election manifesto that the party would not support the extraction of shale gas “unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.
MIliband said: “They are lifting the ban but they can’t supply the evidence. And the British Geological Survey published today certainly doesn’t do it.”
Then Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced in April that the government had commissioned the British Geological Survey to assess the latest evidence on fracking and produce a report.
The report – received by the government in July but published for the first time today – concluded that “forecasting the occurrence of large earthquakes and their expected magnitude is complex and remains a scientific challenge”.
Miliband declared: “I look forward to him and his colleagues explaining his ‘charter for earthquakes’ to the people of Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Sussex, Dorset and indeed Somerset, who will be part of his dangerous experiment.”
Addressing the Tory benches, the Labour frontbencher said his party would “hang this broken promise round their necks in every part of the country between now and the next general election”.
Miliband added that the decision to lift the ban showed communities across the country that “they can never trust a word this government says again”.
He stressed: “You can’t escape a fossil fuels crisis by doubling down on fossil fuels. Renewables are today nine times cheaper than gas.
“The only way to cut energy bills and to have energy security is with zero-carbon homegrown power including onshore wind and solar, which his wing of the Conservative Party hates and he continues to block.”
“He has shown he is willing to break his promises to support dangerous fringe ideas that put the interests of fossil fuel companies above that of the British people,” Miliband added.
Rees-Mogg claimed that fracking has been “shown to be safe” and that “scare stories have been disproved time and again”. He argued that it is “sheer ludditery” to oppose lifting the ban on extraction.
Fracking is the process of drilling into the earth and directing a highly-pressurised mixture of chemicals into rock to extract shale gas. Writing for the Daily Mail in August, Liz Truss revealed that her government would end the ban on the process, which was introduced by the Tories in 2019.
The Prime Minister said ministers would “be led by science, setting out a plan to ensure communities benefit” and added that fracking would only take place in areas with a “clear public consensus behind it.”