Jeremy Corbyn accuses Tories of 'election stunt' after fracking U-turn

2 November 2019, 11:08 | Updated: 2 November 2019, 16:16

A halt to fracking called by the government has been branded "an election stunt" by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The suspension in the run-up to the 12 December poll came after scientific research raised fresh fears over the risk of earthquakes linked to the controversial method of extracting shale gas.

It marks a major U-turn by the Tories - including Boris Johnson, who once hailed fracking as "glorious news for humanity".

The moratorium comes after a report by the Oil and Gas Authority found it is not currently possible to accurately predict the likelihood of strength of earthquakes connected to fracking operations.

Fracking has provoked protests at sites across the country including Lancashire and Yorkshire, and the issue was expected to feature prominently campaigning for next month's General Election.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has made clear the ban was only in place "until the science changes".

Mr Corbyn argued the prime minister could not be trusted over fracking.

On Twitter, he wrote: "The Conservatives' temporary pause of fracking is an election stunt to try and win a few votes.

"Boris Johnson described fracking as 'glorious news for humanity'. We cannot trust him.

"Labour would ban fracking. That's real change."

Mr Corbyn later told reporters: "I think it sounds like fracking would come back on 13 December, if they were elected back into office.

Liberal Democrat Sir Ed Davey, a former energy secretary, has also demanded an "immediate ban now".

He said: "This belated, eve of election policy pause won't distract voters from the Tories' shocking record on the environment - not least the prime minister's, when he lobbied to relax air pollution laws."

As secretary of state in the coalition government back in 2013, Sir Ed said fracking was "not the evil thing that some people try to make it out to be".

Mr Johnson had previously argued energy companies "should leave no stone unturned, or unfracked" and dismissed opponents views as "ludicrous" and "mad denunciations".

However, he now says he has "very considerable anxieties" about fracking.

Fracking supporters say the government's new moratorium is an over-reaction.

James Woudhuysen, visiting professor of innovation at London South Bank University, told Sky News: "It has increased the sense in the population that we're under siege from dangerous innovations.

"And that's not the case at all."

But anti-fracking campaigners say the moratorium is good news for communities who have long campaigned for sites to be shut.

"This industry is poisonous, it's toxic, it contributes significantly to climate change it has no place in our communities," Eddie Thornton, who lives near a proposed fracking site in North Yorkshire, told Sky News.

He added: "The moratorium represents a significant victory for communities like mine up and down the country that have been fighting fracking for so long.

"But the timing of this announcement will now be lost on anyone. It's a cynical attempt to grease the wheels of Boris Johnson's election bus."

Fracking is already banned in Wales and Scotland.