UK: Pro-shale MP resigns from Parliamentary Committee amid conflict of interest claims

Kevin Hollinrake MP

A British MP from a constituency where Third Energy plans to drill for shale gas was forced to step down because of his involvement in the industry-funded All Party Parliamentary Group (AAPG) on Unconventional Oil and Gas, of which he was vice-chairman.

Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said in a resignation statement: “A number of constituents have contacted me to express concerns that my involvement with the [group] is inappropriate, due to the amount of sponsorship it receives from the oil and gas industry. Clearly, this would never influence any of us to take a particular view, but nevertheless, I think I should resign as an officer to make sure that my impartiality is not called into question.”

Chris Redston, of the Frack Free Ryedale group , commented: “We note that Mr Hollinrake has now resigned, having been caught in bed with the fracking industry. It is, however, simply not credible for him to claim that he had no idea that this [parliamentary group] is funded by the fracking industry.”

Mr Hollinrake said that he is now setting up a new APPG for Shale Gas Regulation and Planning, which he intends will be independently funded.

Meanwhile, the South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge said that county councils will never approve fracking because “the current climate” makes it difficult to make a rational, objective decision.

During exchanges in the Energy Bill’s second reading, Mr Cartlidge said: “Fracking is clearly incredibly controversial. The point is that some of the stuff we’re hearing coming out in the media warns of terrible things that could happen.”

“I don’t see how a district council would ever approve fracking applications in the current climate and yet this industry potentially offers us so much potential, we at least have to give it a go.

“Indeed shale production could create up to 74,000 jobs, with many in areas of high unemployment.”

Challenged in The Commons on whether he believed that local communities should be denied vote on shale exploration, he defended his position saying: “if you have a lot of hysteria about a sector it can be very difficult to achieve a rational, objective decision.”

He concluded: “I know it’s divisive and not all honourable members share that, and if I was an MP in Lancashire and had the issue some of my honourable friends have had I’m sure it would be difficult to cope with that pressure.

“But there is no doubt there is huge strategic potential with shale.”

So far, apart from initial drilling by Cuadrilla in 2011, interrupted when the operations caused earth tremors in nearby Blackpool, there have been no shale exploration activities in the UK.

Image: Kevin Hollinrake MP

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