On Saturday I addressed a Frack Free Lancashire rally at Maple Farm near Preston New Road, and despite the weather, it was incredible to see so many there. But I was not surprised – Lancashire folk are known for standing up for what we think is right. And Lancashire has been crystal clear that fracking is not right for us.
Our parish councils and borough councils voted against it, tens of thousands of people from across the county objected, and Lancashire County Council rejected both of Cuadrilla's applications to frack. I was furious to see the Government overturn that decision.
Now Cuadrilla have started site construction, despite the overwhelming opposition of local people and despite the fact that there are legal challenges ongoing. In a matter of weeks the High Court will make an initial ruling on whether the Westminster Government's decision to overturn Lancashire's rejection of fracking could be unlawful. Why are Cuadrilla pre-empting that decision pressing ahead with construction now? Cuadrilla should stop all work until those cases are heard.
Worse still – we now know Cuadrilla want to start drilling on the site next month, before they have completed their 12 months of groundwater monitoring. Drilling could impact on the baseline data being collected under the Infrastructure Act requirements, meaning that we would not be able to tell what impact any future fracking had.
Labour will ban fracking – not just because of the local hazards, but because it locks us into an energy infrastructure that is based on fossil fuels long after our country needs to have moved to clean energy. To have any chance of delivering the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees, 80% of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground.
Clean energy and low carbon technologies now employ more people in the UK than the entire teaching profession. They represent just 6 per cent of our economy but are responsible for 30 per cent of its growth. We must unlock the full potential of this sector, with government doing all it can to boost, not undermine green jobs. I am proud that, instead of giving tax breaks to a planet destroying industry, Labour would to deliver an industrial strategy that puts new jobs in the green economy at the heart of it.