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THE Tories were accused of a U-turn on fracking today after the release of a document suggesting the harmful practice could still be on the cards.
The document, a response to a consultation on fracking, was published mere days after the government announced a ban on drilling on November 2.
It reads that “future applications [for fracking] will be considered on their own merits,” sparking concerns from Labour that the supposed ban will not be respected following the election result.
“You can’t trust a word the Tories say on fracking,” shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said.
“In just over a week their policy has evolved from a ‘ban’ to a ‘temporary pause.’
“Communities have fought back hard against the Tories’ efforts to force through dangerous fracking in their backyards.
“After years of the Tories cooking the evidence and ignoring court rulings on fracking, they won’t be taken in by a phoney ban.”
The announcement of the ban, which was swiftly replaced with a moratorium, has been described by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as an “election stunt” and a “bit of a green wash.”
Green campaigners also accused the Tory Party of keeping the prospect of fracking alive.
Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace, said: “These mixed signals are confusing and unhelpful.
“At best, ministers don’t have control over their own Civil Service, whose policy work has not caught up with the political reality.
“At worst, the government is not serious about stopping fracking and this is a sign of the loopholes they are trying to sneak through.”
Friends of the Earth fracking campaigner Jamie Peters said: “While there is no prospect of an immediate return to fracking, it’s clear that the means to do so still exist.
“It’s imperative that communities remain vigilant and push for the current moratorium to be locked in legislation by the next government.”
Labour also expressed concerns over worrying hints laid out in the document about future plans which would put drilling under “permitted development” — a category designed for minor home improvements such as putting up a shed.
Changing these rules would give frackers “drill at will” powers, green campaigners have warned.
The Conservative Party said: “The government has placed a moratorium on fracking in England with immediate effect by making it our policy not to issue any Hydraulic Fracturing Consents.
“This does not technically prevent applications but it does mean that they will be refused. Fracking is now off the table.”
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