Politics live: Truss facing backlash over end to fracking ban

Last updated: Thursday, September 22, 2022 at 6:00 p.m

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Boris Johnson made a significant verbal slip when he thanked Vladimir Putin for his “inspirational leadership” instead of Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

In his first major intervention as a backbench MP during a debate in the House of Commons, the conservative former prime minister said it was important to “double down on our defense of Ukrainians” if Mr Putin were to redouble his “aggression”.

Listing the reasons why Ukraine’s counteroffensive is proving successful, Mr Johnson inadvertently thanked Mr Putin for his “inspiring leadership” before quickly correcting himself and thanking Mr Zelenskyy.

He said: “Thanks to the heroism of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, thanks in part to the weapons we proudly offer, I congratulate my rather honorable friend (James Heappey) on his description of the work of the British Armed Forces. the weapons we send, the huge list…

“Thanks, of course, also to the inspiring leadership of Vladimir Putin…”

Mr Johnson immediately recognized his mistake, adding: “The inspirational leadership of Volodymyr Zelensky, forgive me, Russian forces have been driven out of much of the north-east of the country around Kharkiv in recent days.

“And in Kherson in the south, they are under increasing pressure and I have no doubt that the Ukrainians will win.”

Mr Johnson’s slip came during a general debate on the situation in Ukraine.

Liz Truss faces a political backlash after England’s fracking ban was lifted, anger from Tory MPs and threats that opposition parties will use the pretext to rally support in key electoral battlegrounds.

Economy and Energy Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said the fallout from Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine means that securing domestic energy supplies is vital.

The moratorium on fracking had been in place since 2019 after a spate of tremors and Conservatives representing seats in northern England to end it, breaking a promise made in the Tory Manifesto.

East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight told Mr Rees-Mogg that projected earthquakes resulting from fracking remain a challenge for experts, adding: “The safety of the public is not a currency in which some of us speculate.”

After Mr Rees-Mogg suggested it was “pure Ludditery” to oppose fracking, Fyldes Tory MP Mark Menzies shot back: “There is nothing Luddite about the people of Lancashire or the Fylde people.”

New rail strikes will take place next month, a union has announced.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) announced that 40,000 of its Network Rail members and 15 rail operators will retire on October 8th.

Train strikes are already planned for October 1st and 5th, next month passengers are threatened with new travel chaos.

More than 40,000 RMT members will go on strike on October 8th.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed that the increase in social security that came into effect in April will be reversed from November 6th.

In a tweet that appears to pre-empt Friday’s mini-budget, he said: “I can confirm that this year’s 1.25 percentage point increase in Social Security will be reversed on November 6th.

“Her replacement – the Health and Social Care Levy scheduled for April 23 – will be cancelled.”

Mr Kwarteng added: “Taxing our way to prosperity has never worked. In order to raise the standard of living for everyone, we don’t have to apologize as our economy grows.

“Tax cuts are key to that – and whether companies reinvest money freed up in new machinery, lower prices in workshops or higher staff wages, reversing the levy will help them grow while allowing the UK public to keep more of what they earn .”

The 1.25 percentage point increase in social security was announced by former Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help finance health and social care.

It has been widely reported that some of the opposition to fracking was funded by President Putin’s regime, Jacob Rees-Mogg said.

His comments came as Labor (Lancaster and Fleetwood)’s Cat Smith told him in the House of Commons that “there is no public support for fracking”.

The Business Secretary replied: “I am well aware that there have been objections to fracking, but I would also like to note that it has been widely reported that some of the opposition to…fracking was funded by Mr. Putin’s regime.”

Shadow Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband later tweeted: “Absolutely outrageous insult by Jacob Rees-Mogg that people who object to fracking are being funded by Putin. Shameful and disgraceful.”

A spokeswoman for Number 10 said: “This is obviously a matter for the independent Bank of England.

“I want to alert you to the support we have set out to help with the cost of living for people we know are troubling families and businesses across the country.

“I would like to draw your attention to the support we offer and the immediate help we have provided, particularly with energy bills.”

UK interest rates will rise to 2.25% after today’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting, my colleague Matt Brooks reports.

After a 0.5 percentage point hike last time, the Bank of England hiked rates again by the same rate from 1.75%.

The announcement, which was postponed after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, will have an impact on people’s finances, not least those with mortgages, as the Bank of England tries to get a grip on inflation.

And rates are likely to rise again in November and December, reaching 3% by the end of the year.

This could be bad news for the government, which wants to borrow more to fund the series of tax cuts that new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is to announce tomorrow.

The new Economic Secretary, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is now being shot at by the Conservative benches.

Mark Menzies is the Tory MP for Fylde in Lancashire, where there has been strong local opposition to a Cuadrilla fracking site

He accused Mr Rees-Mogg of ignoring his letters and WhatsApps he sent to the Cabinet Secretary’s PPS and said Liz Truss needed to be clear about how local consent would be given if she was a woman of her word should stay.

Responding to the Business Secretary’s suggestion that opposition was ‘gimmicky’, Mr Menzies said: ‘There is nothing mechanical about the people of Lancashire or Fylde.

“First of all, I would like to say how disappointed I am that Parliament has not been informed of this before the media and that, as a local MP, I have not been shown the courtesy despite having asked for two weeks to contact the Honorable Member to To get information about his PPS I have sent letters, I have sent WhatsApps, nothing in return.”

He added: “Can we be crystal clear on one thing? The Prime Minister at the Manchester hustings… made it crystal clear, without ifs and buts, without reservations, that fracking would only take place in the UK, where there is local consent.

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“Crystal clear. So if the Prime Minister is to remain a woman of her word, a woman that we can believe in, which I believe, can the Foreign Secretary set out how that local endorsement is given and demonstrated?

Labor has made it clear it will attack Liz Truss’ government for allegedly breaking its manifesto pledge on fracking.

The Conservative Manifesto of 2019 pledged not to lift England’s moratorium unless it was scientifically proven safe amid earthquake concerns.

A safety review by the British Geological Survey was commissioned but publication was delayed by the Queen’s death.

Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Climate Change, posed a pressing question in the House of Commons, saying: “So, firstly, why doesn’t he admit the truth that everyone who knows anything about this issue is saying that his claim that fracking will lower bills , nonsense is?

“Next, let’s go to safety. The 2019 manifesto, on which he and all members of the opposing party stood, said: “We will not support fracking unless the science categorically shows that it can be carried out safely”.

“He says in his written statement submitted to this House that it seems to us in the national interest to tolerate greater levels of risk and disruption.

“I look forward to him and his colleagues explaining his Earthquake Charter to people in Lancashire, Yorkshire, the Midlands, Sussex, Dorset and Somerset, and indeed Somerset will be part of his dangerous experiment.

“Let me say to the party: we will hang this broken promise around their necks in all parts of the country until the next general election.”

My colleague Matthew Mohan-Hickson reports that the fracking ban in England is to be lifted.

A drilling moratorium for shale gas has been in effect since November 2, 2019.

The ban was introduced based on a report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), which found that it is not currently possible to accurately predict the likelihood or magnitude of earthquakes associated with fracking operations.

However, Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced plans to lift the ban.

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