“We placed a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect. Having listened to local communities, we have ruled out changes to the planning system. We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”
There is a long story behind this form of words.
It includes: support for fracking from the Coalition and Cameron governments; support for a relaxation of planning laws under Theresa May; legal action against her government on the matter; opposition to Government fracking proposals from some 20 Conservative MPs; a planned Commons rebellion from them…and then confirmation last month that fracking plans and planning reforms have both been dropped.
Hence the manifesto’s statement. Boris Johnson wants an election win. That means no hostages to electoral fortune.
Mind you, Greenpeace have not quite got the ban they want – since, after all, a moratorium is not a bar. The manifesto’s wording potentially allows the Government to turn turtle: Ministers could eventually argue that in their view science suggests that fracking can be be done safely. The door may seem to have been closed, but it has been left slightly ajar.
Nonetheless, the planning position looks well entrenched. This is a good decision for Conservative prospects in marginal seats in the Midlands and North. Whether it is quite so good for Britain’s energy needs is more doubtful.