Fracking back on the table as Johnson and Starmer clash over UK energy security

Fracking could return to the UK, after Downing Street admitted the ongoing situation in Ukraine meant the government would “look at all options” to improve British energy security.

When asked if the UK was considering a return to shale gas fracking, the prime minister’s spokesperson said the country needed to “move away from our reliance on Russian hydrocarbons” and the government would “consider all our options”. 

The position is a marked change from the 2019 Conservative manifesto, which states: “We will not support fracking unless the science shows categorically that it can be done safely.”

This comes after Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees Mogg told Conservative Home’s Moggcast podcast on Tuesday that people should have a “sense of proportion about what the seismic activity [associated with fracking] is”. He referred to a 2012 report published by the Royal Geographical Society that suggested a “fall of rock in a disused coal mine is more than you get from most fracking incidences”. 

Number 10 refused to say whether the government had asked for new scientific evidence, adding the moratorium on fracking “remains in place”.

At Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon, Boris Johnson announced the government would outline a new “energy security strategy” in the coming days. An already announced ban on Russian oil imports.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent oil prices and wholesale gas prices soaring to new records. The UK currently gets 3% of its energy supply from Russia oil and gas.

Labour’s leader Keir Starmer put pressure on the prime minister to make changes to the government’s plan to deal with the cost-of-living crisis, arguing the chancellor’s “bet” on energy prices falling “looks set to fail”.

Under current arrangements, UK households will be given a £200 loan in October to deal with energy bills that are due to rise by around £700 next month. The loan would be repaid in five-year instalments. 

Johnson defended the government’s plans, declaring Starmer was “out of his mind” to suggest the chancellor should U-turn on the current package of support for UK households.

The government has already announced a £20 billion package of support measures in the next financial year.

The two leaders also clashed over the future of the UK’s energy security, after Starmer said improving the UK’s energy supplies “starts with new nuclear”.

Johnson was greeted with loud cheers on the Conservative benches, after he jibed that Labour’s support for nuclear power would be “news to some of his party”.

Starmer fired back: “Come off it. Labour is pro nuclear. This prime minister can’t get a single brick laid of a new nuclear plant”.