Many plaudits this morning for ministers such as Michael Fallon who have catalysed the government’s push ahead with fracking. The only question, though, is whether enthusiasm in Whitehall will translate into enthusiasm in local communities. Ministers are pointing to a change in the incentives for communities which means they can now keep 100 per cent of business rates from extraction sites. But it certainly hasn’t impressed Ben Wallace, the Tory MP for Wyre and Preston North, who is a vocal spokesman for the group of MPs whose constituencies sit on the Bowland Shale. Wallace tells me:
‘What they are offering us today – an extra £850,000 of business rates is pathetic, insulting. The Treasury should take a little less and we could have a little bit more. These are crumbs from the Treasury table.’
Now, naturally, an MP is going to make as much noise as possible about getting a good deal for their constituents. But the question in this case is whether that MP’s constituents are going to see the incentives confirmed today as sufficient to accept fracking in their areas. Wallace thinks not, saying:
‘They don’t hold all the cards, this is not offshore gas, the mineral rights authorities hold the cards and without support this will be a long hard road.’
Ministers and aides insist that they can look again in future at fracking incentives if they prove to be insufficient. But the MPs who represent Bowland shale constituencies have been campaigning on this for long enough for their position to be clear, and their constituencies are already in many cases far more comfortable with the idea of industry than other areas of the country with shale deposits. If Wallace is right and his area is sluggish to accept fracking, then there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of hope for the rest of the country.
More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us.