Good day to bury bad news: Survey reveals South Downs is ripe for fracking and Government report puts major construction projects on 'red alert'

Billions of barrels of oil discovered beneath Tory heartlands as doubts are raised over HS2 and Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier's future

Almost 13 years after a Labour spin doctor was caught out sending a cynical email about it being “a very good day to get out anything we want to bury” the government appears to be at it again.

As the attention of political journalists was focused on the election results, two major reports were published in Whitehall, which would have risked setting off a storm of controversy on a quieter day.

A British Geological Survey study of the South of England from Wiltshire to Kent, taking in the South Downs National Park, has been published today, showing that beneath the ground there is billions of barrels of shale oil, which can be extracted by the process known as fracking.

While the implications for the UK’s future energy needs are good, the impact on people living in the south is likely to set off furious protests. Lord Howell, a former Conservative Energy Secretary, recently urged the Government to give up any idea of fracking in the south, where it could cost the Conservative Party thousands of votes, and confine the process to the Labour voting north.

The Green MP Caroline Lucas, who was arrested last August during an anti-fracking protest in Balcombe, West Sussex, said: “It does look as if this is quite a good time for the Government to smuggle out this announcement. People in the south of England are going to be deeply concerned about the implications of the report.

“I think Lord Howell gave the game away. He recognised how much hostility there will be to churning up huge swathes of the south.”

The Government also chose today to publish its report on major construction projects, which set out in frank detail how many are classed as ‘red’ or ‘amber red.’ The report warns “there will be instances where a red rating signifies that a project is unachievable within reasonable timescales and to a reasonable budget without urgent remedial action. Red and red/amber ratings signal to ministers and officials that action is required.”

The highly publicised HS2 project to build a new high speed rail link between London and Birmingham is classed as ‘amber/red’ – though the fact that the necessary legislation is through Parliament makes it possible the prospects of success will improve in future.

But the £6.2 billion project to construct a new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, is on a ‘red’ warning. The Government is also struggling with yet another project to introduce a new IT system, which is proving slower and more expensive than they expected. This is the new system for the National Crime Agency, which was ‘amber/red’ this time last year has since been downgraded to ‘red’, though the Major Projects Authority, which makes the classifications, believes the problems will be solved in the end and the system will be a big moneys saver once it is up and running.

Jo Moore, a Labour special adviser, was found to have sent an email to a civil servant on 11 September 2001, just after the terrorist attack on New York’s twin towers, suggesting that it would be a good day to slip out an embarrassing announcement about expenses claimed by Labour councillors.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there