New British PM Rishi Sunak reinstates fracking ban

Government spokesman confirms Sunak will honour the 2019 Conservative manifesto after predecessor Truss lifted the moratorium.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is seen in front of his 10 Downing Street office
Sunak's Conservative Party said in its 2019 election-winning manifesto that it would 'not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely' [Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo]

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has reinstated a moratorium on fracking in England, reversing a move by his predecessor Liz Truss to lift a ban on the controversial practice.

A spokesman for the new Conservative PM confirmed on Wednesday that he was committed to the position on fracking – the extracting of shale gas from rocks by breaking them up – set out by his party in its 2019 manifesto.

The manifesto said the Conservative Party would “not support fracking” – which was outlawed three years ago after the industry regulator said it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes it might trigger – unless science showed “categorically that it can be done safely”.

Truss lifted the moratorium last month during her short stint as prime minister, arguing that strengthening the country’s energy supply was an “absolute priority”.

But addressing the issue in Parliament on Wednesday, where he was facing his first session of Prime Minister’s Questions, Sunak said he stood by the party’s 2019 commitment on the issue.

Asked by a reporter if Sunak’s comment meant that fracking was “back in the bin”, the prime minister’s spokesman said later on Wednesday: “That’s correct.”

“You’ve got the position set out in the manifesto, which the prime minister pointed to,” the spokesman told reporters.

“Obviously it’ll be for BEIS [the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy] to come forward with a bit more detail on that.”

The main opposition Labour Party argued Sunak’s reversal of Truss’s decision still did not amount to a total ban on the practice moving forwards.

“The truth is that that the Tories [Conservatives] cannot be trusted on the issue,” Ed Milliband, Labour’s shadow climate and net zero secretary, wrote on Twitter.

“The only way to ban fracking for good is to elect a Labour government,” he added.

Truss had said fracking would be allowed where it was supported by communities, but the plans had faced opposition from many lawmakers, including from her governing Conservatives.

Fracking has also been opposed by environmental groups and some local communities.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies