Jacob Rees-Mogg’s taking ‘constituents for granted’ over ‘delight’ at back garden fracking

‘Time and again he takes his constituents for granted and this is yet another example’

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of taking his constituents for granted after saying that he would be “delighted” to allow fracking in his back garden.

The North East Somerset MP made the comments at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference on Monday when he was asked if he would allow fracking at his Somerset home.

He said: “Of course I would, I would be delighted. Particularly if I get these royalties.”

He added that attendees should be happy for it to happen in their back gardens too, saying: “If we do what I am suggesting on Shale gas, you will be doing a public service by having it in your back garden but you’ll also get paid for it.”

Wera Hobhouse, MP for the neighbouring constituency of Bath, hit out at the business, energy and industrial strategy secretary’s “arrogance”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg surrounded by police, walking through protestors as he arrived on the first day of the Conservative Party Conference

She said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s arrogance is staggering. Time and again he takes his constituents for granted and this is yet another example.

“This week, Mr Rees-Mogg said he would welcome fracking in his back garden. I am quite sure he did not ask, nor care, whether any of his constituents shared his view. The government consistently ignores the wishes of the local community and Mr Rees-Mogg is promising more of the same.”

Other local voices who have condemned the comments include Mr Rees-Mogg’s local councillor on Bath and North East Somerset Council, Liberal Democrat David Wood, and the leader of the Conservatives on the council, Vic Pritchard.

Mr Prichard said: “We recognise the advantages that shale gas has over other fossil fuels, and note the government’s desire to allow fracking to take place at appropriate locations. In Bath and North East Somerset, however, we believe fracking is highly inappropriate.

“We live in an area replete with natural beauty and rich in cultural capital. Surrounded by lush green belt and numerous Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as containing the UNESCO World City of Bath and countless historic towns and villages, this part of the country is entirely unsuited to fracking.

“One of the jobs of local councillors is to represent the views of residents and on an issue such as this, which would have a huge impact on communities, local peoples’ legitimate concerns about fracking are paramount.”

Mr Rees Mogg had dismissed criticism of fracking on Monday, saying: “So who doesn’t like it? The socialists and [Green Party MP] Caroline Lucas. Well that makes my heart bleed.”

Mr Wood, who represents the Mendip ward which includes Mr Rees-Mogg’s village of West Harptree, said: “By saying he would be ‘delighted’ by the prospect of fracking ‘in his back garden’ in Somerset, Mr Rees Mogg is showing how very out of touch he is.

“People are crying out for help with the cost-of-living crisis, which fracking will do nothing to address, and for action on insulation and other efficiency measures to cut fuel poverty and wasted energy. The government should focus on these issues rather than trashing the environment to line energy fat cats’ pockets.

“In principle, the government should be focusing on transitioning away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy built in the right places, making the UK independent of global energy markets and setting us up for long-term sustainability. And also in practice, due to the risk fracking poses to the unique landscape and hydrological features of the area, including the world famous Bath hot springs.”

Bath and North East Somerset Council agreed a motion in 2018 which identified the potential impact fracking could have on Bath’s hot springs.

Tim Ball, cabinet member for planning and licensing on the council, said: “The recent announcement by the central government that it has lifted the ban on fracking put in place in 2019 is extremely concerning to the council and local residents. Bath & North East Council has a statutory duty under the County of Avon Act to protect the source of the hot springs in Bath.

“This in itself would be a significant reason for opposing fracking within our area. However, when added to other environmental risks and impacts – and our commitment to the use of green technologies to help us achieve our net-zero ambitions- the case against fracking in our own and neighbouring areas is clear and compelling.”

The government said that local support would be needed for fracking as it lifted the ban on the practice which had been in place since 2019, but has not yet been made clear how local support will be defined.