5 questions answered on the fracking comments

According to Cameron,"fracking is safe."

Five questions answered on PM David Cameron’s recent fracking comments

Writing in The Daily Telegraph, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has outlined why he thinks people must accept fracking in the UK countryside. We answer five questions on his comments.

What are the key points made by David Cameron in his article?

The Prime Minister wrote the article to speak out in favour of fracking. He said: "fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down", adding that it will create jobs, bring money to local neighbourhoods and that "local people will not be cut out and ignored."

What about the potential damage to the environment, did he address this issue? 

Yes. According to Cameron,"fracking is safe." He says: "International evidence shows there is no reason why the process should cause contamination of water supplies or other environmental damage, if properly regulated." He added that: "I would never sanction something that might ruin our landscapes and scenery."

What about the North/South issue, where will fracking take place?

Cameron, who is no doubt keen to repair damage done by his father-in-law and former government advisor, Lord Howell of Guildford, who said a few weeks ago that gas fracking should be confined to the North East because it was full of "large and uninhabited and desolate areas," confirmed that fracking should take place in both the South and North of England and not just in certain parts of Britain as has been suggested.

He said: "This is wrong. I want all parts of our nation to share in the benefits: north or south, Conservative or Labour. We are all in this together."

What did he say are the benefits of fracking to local communities?

Cameron laid out the benefits fracking could bring to local communities.

"Fracking will bring money to local neighbourhoods," he said

"Companies have agreed to pay £100,000 to every community situated near an exploratory well where they’re looking to see if shale gas exists. If gas is then extracted, 1 per cent of the revenue – perhaps as much as £10m – will go straight back to residents who live nearby."

He added that this money could be used for reduction in council tax bills or invested in neighbourhood schools.

What have those against fracking said?

Tim Farron, president of the Liberal Democrat party in coalition government with Cameron’s Conservatives, has said fracking may damage rural areas.

He told The Sunday Telegraph earlier in the month: I am afraid the Government has seen flashing pound signs, and has not considered the long-term threats fracking poses to the countryside.

"I think this is a very short-sighted policy, and we will all be left to live with the consequences."

He added: "This technology can lead to earth tremors and I’m particularly worried that buried nuclear waste in my part of the country could be affected. We should be investing more in renewable fuels."

A Greenpeace sign outside Conservative HQ. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.