A formal announcement is expected shortly that the government will not allow “new fracking”, but will continue to allow fracking on permitted sites, such as Cuadrilla’s controversial Preston Road site in Lancashire, the Daily Mail has reported.
Johnson hinted at a ban during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, saying the announcement would take into account “the very considerable anxieties that are legitimately being raised about the earthquakes that have followed various fracking attempts in the UK”.
He added that the government would “follow up” on the findings of an investigation by the Oil and Gas Authority into an incident at Preston Road that triggered a tremor of 2.9 magnitude this summer. Its report is expected to be published this week.
His remarks were in response to a question over the Conservative Party’s decision to hire a lobbyist whose clients have included fracking companies to help draw up its election manifesto.
A Conservative Party source told the Mail: “We now have a significant number of MPs who are unhappy about our stance on fracking. It's a whole range of concerns from not liking the technology full stop to local concerns about the potential impact of campaign groups.”
Activists at the party’s conference in Manchester warned that the government risked losing support in vital swing constituencies if it continued to promote fracking.
Diane Cheesebrough, a member of campaign group Frack Free United and the Conservative Party, pointed to 40 marginal seats that could swing in favour of the Labour or the Liberal Democrats, which have both pledged to introduce a full moratorium on fracking, in the general election.
MPs in the Conservative Environment Network have been pushing for the party leadership to ban the practice, describing it as an “unpopular, out of date industry” in a manifesto published in July.