Published:
January 27, 2015
Burnham's MP: 'Why I've resigned from government role over fracking'

Burnham-On-Sea's MP Tessa Munt has resigned as a parliamentary private secretary to Business Secretary Vince Cable after voting against the government on fracking this week.

Tessa's role was the first rung on the ministerial ladder and is bound by the principle of collective responsibility, whereby if a member of the government does not support its policy they must resign.

Tessa Munt defied the party whip on Monday evening, as forecast by Burnham-On-Sea.com here, to support a rebel amendment calling for a moratorium on the fracking technique.

She initially said that she intended to remain in her role despite opposing the government, but a spokesman for Vince Cable later confirmed she had quit as his aide.

"It is with regret that I have handed in my resignation after three enjoyable years working closely alongside Vince Cable as his PPS in the Business Department," she told Burnham-On-Sea.com.

"I understood the implications of voting against the Government, but with my principles, in favour of a moratorium or ‘freeze’ on fracking, as endorsed by the Environmental Audit Committee’s Report published on Monday morning."

"Even though the Infrastructure Bill passed with the insistence of both the large parties on Monday night I have restated my opposition to fracking."

"I am unwilling to compromise and cannot change my opposition to fracking. I will continue to campaign vocally against fracking and as result it is clear that my views cannot be reconciled with the Government on this matter. This evening I tendered my resignation as PPS to Vince."

"I will continue to defend and represent this beautiful part of Somerset, its residents, businesses with all the enthusiasm and energy that I have had since May 2010 when I became the Member. My campaign to stop fracking in Somerset continues."

Vince Cable, pictured above with Tessa, said in a statement: "I am sad to see Tessa step down in her role as my Parliamentary Private Secretary. Tessa is a wonderful colleague. She has been incredibly hard working and has fully supported our efforts within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to create new jobs and apprenticeships."

"I know standing down has been a hard decision for her but Liberal Democrat MPs are local champions and her priority is to the people of Wells. She has strong views on fracking which means she could not support the Government position in this case."

She explained why she voted against the Government in Monday's crucial fracking debate in Parliament.

"Unfortunately, the Labour Party sat on its hands, although it claimed to support the moratorium endorsed by the Environmental Audit Committee’s Report. Interestingly, two of Britain’s biggest unions – the GMB and Unite - weighed in, begging Labour MPs not to support a ban on fracking. This may go some way to explaining the confusion over what was happening in the House of Commons and Labour’s 180° about-turn."

"Over the last years, months, weeks and days, I have been clear that I could not support fracking. I have tried to force a rethink and as a result of various negotiations, a new clause strengthening the rules and regulations around fracking was accepted by Government Ministers and has been included in the Bill. The improvements are a significant achievement and move the Bill in the right direction. Nonetheless, I continued to push for an outright ban on fracking."

"My petition was launched last Friday. This kept the pressure up over the weekend as it attracted almost 2,000 signatures in just over 48 hours, demonstrating the enormous opposition to fracking in Somerset. I presented this, together with another petition, to Number 10 Downing Street on Monday, pictured right, with a total of 8,688 Somerset signatures calling for a fracking freeze altogether."

"When it became clear that the Government would not move any further, I voted for the moratorium along with 51 other members of the ‘awkward squad’. As a result, the Conservatives won by 308 to 52 votes."

"Disappointingly, Labour called for two other votes during the short debate on the ‘fracking’ part of the Bill, the effect of which was not to allow time for any votes on the proposed changes to the trespass laws."

"At the end of the evening, Labour again sat on its hands and didn't call a vote on Third Reading, so the Bill finished its course through the House of Commons. I remain firmly opposed to fracking and will continue to campaign against it in Somerset and elsewhere."

The Commons Environmental Audit Committee had warned there were "huge uncertainties" about the environmental impact of the controversial shale gas extraction technique.

However, MPs overwhelmingly defeated the bid to suspend fracking while an assessment is carried out, by 308 votes to 52 - although the government did agree to 13 new conditions, proposed by Labour, to be met before fracking can take place.

These included the completion of an environmental assessment and the need to consult residents on an individual basis. A ban on drilling in national parks was another of the suggestions in the Environmental Audit Committee's report.

 


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