A Conservative former energy minister said he cannot support the King’s Speech over the Government’s plans for new oil and gas licensing.
Chris Skidmore, who led a government-commissioned review on net zero, offered an apology to the King over his decision and said he regrets that the future use of fossil fuels has become “politicised”.
The Government has proposed the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which would mandate licences for oil and gas projects in the North Sea on an annual basis. They argued this would enhance the UK’s energy security.
Speaking during the King’s Speech debate, Mr Skidmore told the Commons: “Unfortunately I’m unable to vote for the King’s speech. I apologise to His Majesty in advance, I hope he doesn’t mind. But I cannot be put in a place of supporting new oil and gas licensing when this is not needed. It’s not needed for environmental reasons, obviously, but it’s also not needed for economic reasons.”
The Kingswood MP described the UK as a “clean energy superpower” which “all other nations look to”, adding: “It’s so important that once you have earned a reputation, that you seek to preserve that reputation. Because many countries now are following the UK and the reality is we are now in a new global net zero race.
“We may have gone further faster, which has meant we’re able to attract initial inward investment into this country as a result of our climate leadership, but other countries are following up further faster behind the tracks.
“I’m reminded of the tortoise and the hare debate here. You know the tortoises of the world are coming up and we can’t just sit there waiting and pausing, thinking that this is good enough.”
Defending his stance, Mr Skidmore said: “I don’t belong to Just Stop Oil. You know I’m not some eco extremist just because I signed net zero into law, which is the very bare minimum we could do.
“I saw net zero as a Conservative mission, recognising that one of the priorities of the Conservative Party is to conserve, if anything at all, but at the same time that allowed us to generate economic growth and to ensure that all jobs, regardless of whatever industry you worked in, were protected.”
Labour has proposed to ban new exploration licences and focus on renewable energy if it takes power.
Later in the debate, business minister Nusrat Ghani praised the “tremendous work” by her colleague for the Skidmore Review.
She added: “I obviously agree with the fact that he said that we had earned a reputation in the UK and that reputation now needs to be preserved. As leaders, when it comes to achieving net zero that it is indeed a race and we started off fast and we need to make sure we continue ahead of the game.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub