Let’s Frack in ‘desolate’ North East says Tory peer


  By Martin Kelly
A Conservative peer has caused anger after describing the North East as “desolate” and calling for controversial fracking to be carried out there because it is “well away” from residencies.
Lord Howell made the remarks in the House of Lords where he said all of the UK should not be “lumped together” and added: “…there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas.  Certainly in part of the North East where there’s plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody’s residence where we could conduct without any kind of threat to the rural environment.”

There were gasps in the Chamber when the peer, who is the father in law of Chancellor George Osborne, made his remarks.  Last week Mr Osborne pledged lucrative tax breaks for the fracking sector in an effort to kick start the controversial industry.

Scientists have claimed that shale gas could help plug the energy gap south of the border with deposits estimated to be enough to last for many years.  However the technique used in order to extract the gas has caused controversy with claims it leads to water contamination and earth tremors.

Thus far there are 176 fracking sites in the UK, the vast majority based in England.

Conservationists slammed Lord Howell’s comments with Friends of the Earth Energy Campaigner Tony Bosworth criticising what he termed “dirty fossil fuel addiction”.

“Lord Howell’s suggestion that fracking should be concentrated in the ‘desolate’ North East is jaw-dropping.

“But the Government’s ill-conceived fracking plans aren’t something that can be quietly brushed under the carpet ‘up north’ – as the villages resisting the drillers in the Tory heartlands of England’s south show.” He said.

The peer’s comments came as protesters gathererd for a sixth day at a rural site earmarked for fracking in Balcombe, West Sussex.

Lord Howell was a minister in the Foreign Office responsible for international energy policy from 2010 and 2012 and energy secretary from 1979 to 1981 under Margaret Thatcher.

Responding to the furore, a UK Government spokesman said: “Lord Howell is not a minister and does not speak for the Government. He has not been a Government adviser since April 2013.”

Following the criticism, Lord Howell issued a statement saying: “I apologise for any offence caused. I certainly did not intend to suggest that the North East is desolate and I do not believe it to be the case. There are parts of the country that are less densely inhabited than others.

“That includes parts of the North East but also other areas in the south of England as well. The shale gas industry should be encouraged to develop in a sustainable way where it is appropriate to do so and in way that ensures communities benefit, which could be in many different parts of country.”


Gasland – A documentary about fracking