Downing Street has confirmed Rishi Sunak will drop Liz Truss’ plans to end the England ban on fracking.
The Prime Minister told MPs today that he “already said I stand by the manifesto on” fracking, which committed to maintaining a moratorium on the practice unless scientific evidence shows it’s safe.
Sunak’s spokesperson confirmed today that Truss’ plans to allow fracking sites across England would not go ahead.
Truss’ decision to end the shale gas extraction ban caused a major backlash among Tory MPs, with a Labour vote on the issue last week leading to chaos in the House of Commons.
The vote, which saw confusion about the government’s instructions to backbenchers and alleged physical bullying by senior ministers, directly led to Truss’ downfall the next day.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), Sunak said: “I have already said I stand by the manifesto on that but what I would say is that I am proud that this government has passed the landmark Environment Act putting more protection for the natural environment than we have ever had with a clear plan to deliver and I can give the honourable lady my commitment that we will deliver on all those ambitions.”
The Conservatives’ 2019 election manifesto promised that the ban on shale gas extraction would not be lifted “unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely”.
A British Geological Survey review of fracking was inconclusive around the safety impacts of the controversial practice.
Truss and ex-business secretary still opted to end the ban on fracking as a response to the global energy crisis, arguing it would increase supply in the long-term.
Critics say the practice can cause earth tremors and would likely add very little to the UK’s gas supplies.
The Conservative Environment Network, a group that includes dozens of Tory MPs, said it welcomed “the Prime Minister’s decision to stick to the Conservative manifesto and keep the fracking moratorium”.
“It is unpopular, and few communities would approve fracking projects locally, meaning little or no gas would be extracted, despite the high political cost,” they said.
“Instead, the government should focus on building more cheap and popular renewables, including onshore wind and solar where there is local support. These technologies will bring down bills, improve energy sovereignty, and reduce emissions.”
Billionaire Ukrainian-British Tory donor, and director of Aquind, Alexander Temerko also backed in the move.
“Rishi Sunak’s ban on fracking has corrected a historic political and environmental mistake,” he said.
“The previous government’s destructive policy on fracking was short-sighted, but fracking is a distraction from the real issues of the energy crisis – the UK’s long-term capacity for generation, and for energy import and export.”
Andy Mayer, chief operating officer at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), said restoring the ban was “an error”.
“This decision will not help the planet; the UK will become more dependent on gas imports, with higher emissions than local production,” he said.
“It will not help the growth plan; we will be borrowing to pay Qatari and US taxes rather than building an industry.”