Government minister Michael Fallon in alleged fracking 'shakes' jokes

 

A government minister with responsibility for fracking suggested in a private meeting that the innovative gas drilling process could cause houses' walls to shake, it is reported.

According to the Mail on Sunday, energy minister Michael Fallon joked that drilling in comfortable counties to the south of London would disrupt the lives of media commentators who have been agitating for fracking in other parts of the country.

Mr Fallon's comments came as exploratory drilling began at a site in Balcombe, West Sussex, despite anti-fracking protests by local people and activists from across the UK.

The technique, which involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract gas, has dramatically cut energy bills in the USA, and Mr Fallon has previously indicated he hopes that it could do the same in Britain. Opponents of the method have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

Mr Fallon is reported to have told a private meeting that while much discussion of potential sites for fracking has focused on the North West, there were also deposits which might produce gas in The Weald in the South of England.

"It's from Dorset all the way along through Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, all the way perhaps a bit into Surrey and even into my county of Kent. It's right there," he said.

"The beauty of that - please don't write this down - is that of course it's underneath the commentariat. All these people writing leaders saying, 'Why don't they get on with shale?' We are going to see how thick their rectory walls are, whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!"

A DECC spokesman did not dispute the paper's account of the comments, but said: "Fracking will only be allowed in the Weald if it is safe and poses no risk to the environment."

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron has said he is "greatly worried" by the Government's "dash for shale gas", which he said might damage the countryside.

Energy company Cuadrilla announced that it began operations at Balcombe yesterday.

Activists from across the UK have descended on the outskirts of the tiny village which has become a national focal point for the campaign against hydraulic fracturing.

Protests have caused delays to Cuadrilla's plans to drill a 3,000ft vertical well in a project lasting up to three months, and have led to confrontations with police and several arrests.

Although the energy firm has said it has no plans to use the controversial method of fracking, villagers fear it will at some point in the future.

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: "We have full planning and regulatory approval for this work from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, West Sussex County Council, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive."

More than 30 people have been arrested since last Friday at Balcombe, mainly on suspicion of obstructing deliveries, including Natalie Hynde, 30, the daughter of the Kinks' Ray Davies and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.

PA

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