Fylde’s Tory MP has sensationally called for fracking to be halted.
The move came as councillors in Lancashire today met to decide the fate of controversial plans for two shale gas sites in rural Fylde.
In a move at odds with Tory party policy, Mark Menzies – the Conservative MP for Fylde – voted to back a moratorium of 30 months which would have effectively put a block on gas firm Cuadrilla’s two proposed sites at Roseacre and Little Plumpton going ahead.
The moratorium vote was defeated in Parliament, but Mr Menzies says big questions remain over the regulation of the controversial industry.
Mr Menzies told The Gazette: “This is the first time we have had a vote in Parliament on anything substantial to do with fracking.
“I thought it was appropriate to vote for the moratorium after careful consideration.
“The key reason I supported it is there is a whole range of ongoing issues – the announcement last week that the British Geological Survey will carry out monitoring. I want to see more details.
“The Environment Agency announced it was committed to carrying out spot checks. I want to know more details.
“The Chancellor has also been talking about a ‘sovereign wealth fund for the north.’ I want to see more details.
“The sensible thing is to stop and take a look at all of these things.
“We should not try and thrash it all out, these things should be looked at and sorted out beforehand.”
The cross-party Environmental Audit Commission demanded a moratorium on fracking – the process of extracting gas through deep drilling and blasting water and chemicals into shale rock – because they say it would hurt the UK’s climate change targets and could pose significant environmental risks.
However, the move made as an amendment to the Government’s Infrastructure Bill, did not attract Labour party support and was heavily defeated by 308 votes to 52.
Mr Menzies, who joined Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw in voting for the moratorium, said one of the major reasons for supporting the move was concerns over regulation.
The backing of the moratorium bid could be seen as something of a sea change for Mr Menzies who has been
accused by anti-fracking groups of being too supportive of the Government’s so-called “Dash For Gas”.
Last February, in response to claims the Fylde coast could miss out on a fracking cash bonanza, he said: “If there’s a chance for Blackpool and the Fylde coast we should be looking at doing this. Other countries would love to get their hands on this. We once again risk something that was a great prize slipping through our fingers.”
But today Mr Menzies said the protective framework had to be right before he considered supporting fracking.
He added: “I raised four years ago, when I held an adjournment debate on fracking in Parliament, that I would like to see an independent panel of experts look at how the whole industry operates; the regulations from the Environment Agency and various other bodies from the start to the finish of the process (so they) are fit for purpose.
“The Government is moving towards that direction but I want to see more commitment and more policing in place.”
Critics say regulation is
nowhere near robust enough for the new UK industry.
Asked whether he still backed fracking as an industry, Mr Menzies added: “Even now it’s too early a stage to say.
“The key thing is to look at the cumulative impact, not just one potential site but three or four sites on an area. There’s still more work to be done.
“It’s really important we look at this objectively and take our time. There is no need to rush this decision.
“I want to see all of the questions answered before we go any further.”