Meeting with Lee Rowley,MP, Saturday 15 October 2022

On Saturday 15 October Sarah Marsh and Bob Street, representing Eckington Against Fracking and Coal Aston & Dronfield Against Fracking, met with Lee Rowley, MP to discuss events following Liz Truss’ decision to remove the Moratorium on Fracking which was imposed by her own Party, then under the leadership of Boris Johnson, in November 2019. Here are the questions we put to Mr Rowley, followed in each case by his responses which are paraphrased.

  • “Could you meet with Liz Truss and Jacob Rees-Mogg to try to get them do a U-turn on this?”

Mr Rowley said he had already done so and intends to continue meeting with them to raise concerns about the issue. He is also meeting with “40-odd” Conservative MPs to discuss what courses of action they might pursue in order to try and bring about a change of direction.

  • “Could you re-start your All-Party Parliamentary Group on the impacts of fracking, now that you are a Minister?”

Mr Rowley confirmed that, as a Government Minister he himself is unable to lead an APPG: however, if any backbench MP wished to take over leadership of the Group he would be happy with that.

  • “Could you in your role as Housing Minister, look at set-back distances/buffer zones and introduce national legislation into safe distances from fracking sites, of 500 metres?”

Mr Rowley replied that this would be a matter for the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), not for his department which is Levelling-Up, Communities and Housing (DLUCH).

  • ”How does fracking fit with the Net Zero policy? What happens at COP27?”

Mr Rowley agreed that fracking would not help in achieving Net Zero in any way. He also confirmed that he did not support any new fossil fuel developments and that greener energy sources were the logical way forward towards achieving Net Zero.

  • “What input/influence do you or your Dept have in the development of green energy projects such as solar and wind – in particular the banning of solar energy fields on farm lands?”

Mr Rowley replied that, again, this was a matter for BEIS not DLUCH.

  • “What is the likelihood of fracking sites being made NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects) which aren’t subject to the current planning laws and are, by their nature, fast-tracked – would you support this?”

Mr Rowley said he would not support such a move.

(NOTE: The Government under Teresa May’s leadership carried out a Public Consultation on this idea in 2018 and it was widely criticised. The proposal was dropped as a result.)

  • “The Labour Party have just said they are planning to put out a Motion (Opposition Day Motion) which will force MPs to vote on a National ban on fracking. Difficult question, but how would you vote if they do?”

Mr Rowley said that he would not support such a Motion and that he would probably vote against it as, in his view, it “would have no bearing” on Government policy. However, he would continue to work inside the Government to try to reverse the decision to lift the Moratorium.

(Note: although not yet put before Parliament at the time of writing, Labour’s ODM might be to restore the Moratorium rather than impose an outright ban. Even if it carries a majority in the vote, ODMs are not binding on the Government although they can act as an indication of opinion across the House. Mr Rowley said that in his view Labour were grandstanding on the fracking issue and he would not be drawn into what he described as “political games”.)

  • “Could you ask a question about the issue of [community] consent at PMQs – saying that your local constituents feel that the oil and gas companies would have a vested interest in this, and not be impartial. They’re also worried about “bully-boy” tactics that could be used to persuade people to consent (this is a genuine concern, as we’ve received reports from landowners that INEOS pressurised them into agreeing to seismic testing on their land). If this becomes an actual ruling we will need to know exactly who will be asked to consent. Will it just be communities living in areas with active licences? Will it be communities around agreed sites that have already been given permission to oil/gas companies? Or will the whole constituency be asked? If not, where will the cut-off be?”

Mr Rowley said that, as a Government Minister, he cannot ask questions at PMQs. He has, however, made his views “very clear” to Jacob Rees Mogg, the BEIS Secretary of State and has raised with him the question of how his “50% + 1” for a majority would be calculated (eg, if one area voted 50%+1 in favour and another area voted 50%+1 against, how would that work?). If the EAF and CADAF groups write to Mr Rowley he would be happy to “highlight at top level” our views and concerns about this, since the issue of what community consent actually would entail has not yet been decided in detail. Mr Rowley agreed that any process of obtaining and proving consent must be both open and transparent. We said it should also be overseen and scrutinised by an independent body such as the Electoral Commission, for example.

We also discussed the point which seems to have slipped under the radar, that even before the fracking companies start trying to obtain community consent they would have to obtain Landowner consent from the owners of the land which they wish to start fracking on. Mr Rowley agreed with us that there does not seem to be much appetite for this among Landowners.

In conclusion, Mr Rowley confirmed that he remains as committed to opposing fracking as he has been previously and will continue to work closely with our two groups.

One thought on “Meeting with Lee Rowley,MP, Saturday 15 October 2022

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  1. He is claiming to oppose fracking behind the Government screen, whilst not opposing the Government pro-facking stance via public parliamentry means. If the Government plough ahead he can not remain a Minister and claim to oppose them.


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