Rishi Sunak reintroduces ban on fracking
Rishi Sunak has reintroduced the moratorium on fracking in England, Downing Street has confirmed.
The British prime minister's official spokesman gave the confirmation after Mr Sunak was pressed on the issue at his first Prime Minister's Questions.
The PM told the Commons he "stands by" the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto and insisted his Government will deliver on what was agreed at the UN Cop26 Glasgow climate talks.
Conservative former prime minister Liz Truss had lifted the ban, as she argued it would strengthen the country's energy supply.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) said in the Commons: "Yesterday, he (Rishi Sunak) promised to fix her (Liz Truss) mistakes as well as to uphold the party's 2019 manifesto.
"So, if he is a man of his word, will he start by reversing the green light she gave to fracking since it's categorically not been shown to be safe, and instead maintain the moratorium that was pledged in that very manifesto that he promised to uphold?"
Mr Sunak replied: "I have already said I stand by the manifesto on that. But what I would say is that I'm proud that this government has passed the landmark Environment Act, putting more protections for the natural environment than we have ever had with a clear plan to deliver.
"And I can give the honourable lady my commitment that we will deliver on all those ambitions. We will deliver on what we said at Cop (Cop26) because we care deeply about passing our children an environment in a better state than we found it ourselves."
Earlier this year a US-based campaign group called on Michelle O'Neill and her party colleagues in the executive to veto any bid by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to grant petroleum exploration licences.
The International Solidarity Campaign to Ban Fracking in Northern Ireland – a coalition of more than three dozen groups backed by US actor Mark Ruffalo – claim the granting of the licences would "open the door for fracking in Northern Ireland". The practice remains banned in the Republic, Scotland, England, and Wales
a US-based campaign group called on Michelle O'Neill and her party colleagues in the executive to veto any bid by Economy Minister Gordon Lyons to grant petroleum exploration licences.
The International Solidarity Campaign to Ban Fracking in Northern Ireland – a coalition of more than three dozen groups backed by US actor Mark Ruffalo – has taken a double page ad in The Irish News today urging the Sinn Féin deputy first minister to block the licences.
They claim the granting of the licences would "open the door for fracking in Northern Ireland" – a practice that has been banned in the Republic, Scotland, England, and Wales
Mri Sunak also pledged to rebuild the public finances in a way that is "fair and compassionate" as he brushed off opposition demands for an immediate general election.
In his first Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Sunak said he would always protect the most vulnerable as the British government addressed the "mistakes" of his predecessor Liz Truss.
Earlier, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that his Halloween budget setting out the measures to get the UK's deficit under control was being delayed to November 17 to take account of the very latest economic forecasts.
In noisy exchanges with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Sunak acknowledged that it would involve "difficult decisions" in order to restore "economic confidence and stability".
"I will always protect the most vulnerable. We did it in Covid and we will do it again," he said.
"This government is going to restore economic confidence and stability and we will do it in a fair and compassionate way."
In a combative session, Sir Keir attacked Mr Sunak's controversial decision to reappoint Suella Braverman as Home Secretary just six days after she was forced to resign over a security breach.
The Labour leader said it was a sign of the weakness of his position that he had to do a "grubby deal" with a prominent figure on the Tory right to ensure he gained the leadership this time around.
He taunted him over his defeat by Ms Truss in the last leadership contest over the summer.
"The only time he ran in a competitive election he got trounced by the former prime minister who herself got beaten by a lettuce," he said.
"So why doesn't he put it to the test, let working people have their say and call a general election?"
Mr Sunak responded that he had a mandate based on the Conservative Party manifesto on which they won the 2019 election.
Earlier Mr Hunt informed the first meeting of the new Cabinet that he and the Prime Minister had agreed it would be "prudent" to delay the medium-term fiscal plan which will now be a full autumn statement.
He said that it would enable them to take account of the latest economic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which will be published at the same time.
"But it's also extremely important that that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances," he said in a statement to broadcasters.
"The OBR also want to make sure that their forecasts are the most accurate possible and there have been a lot of changes even in the last 48 hours," he said.
"This is my recommendation to the prime minister as the best way to ensure that the decisions that we take, these very, very difficult decisions, are ones that stand the test of time."
Mr Hunt said he discussed the move with Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey on Tuesday night, adding he (Mr Bailey) "understands the reasons for doing that and I'll continue to work very closely with him".
Ahead of the statement, Downing Street refused to say whether the government stood by Ms Truss's commitments to raise defence spending to 3% of GDP by the end of the decade and to maintain the triple-lock on state pensions.
The prime minister's press secretary said: "That is something that is going to be wrapped up into the fiscal statement, we wouldn't comment ahead of any fiscal statements or budgets."
In the Commons, Sir Keir said the Tories had "crashed the economy" as he urged Mr Sunak to abolish tax exemption for wealthy foreigners living in the UK in a thinly veiled reference to his wife's "non dom" status.
He also challenged the prime minister over leaked footage of Mr Sunak at a garden party in Tunbridge Wells describing how as chancellor he had channelled funding away from deprived areas to those that were better off.
"He pretends he's on the side of working people, but in private he says something very different," he said.
"Rather than apologise or pretend that he meant something else, why doesn't he now do the right thing and undo the changes he made to those funding formulas?"
Mr Sunak said that he was simply being honest about the economic difficulties the country was facing.
"I told the truth for the good of the country, he told his party what it wanted to hear. Leadership is not selling fairy tales, it is confronting challenges, and that is the leadership the British people will get from this government," he said.