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The Tories are ‘working hand in hand with the fracking industry,’ Labour charges

Ministers have held more than 30 meetings with fracking bosses but not one with environmental campagners

GOVERNMENT ministers have held more than 30 meetings with leaders of the controversial fracking gas extraction industry — but not one with opponents.

The cosy get-togethers have even included discussions with a Home Office policing minister.

Anti-fracking campaigners have demanded the same face-to-face meetings with ministers that the industry’s bosses have been afforded.

Labour, which exposed the meetings today, accused the government of “working hand in hand with the fracking industry while ignoring all the evidence and failing to give a fair hearing to local people affected.”

Labour revealed that over the last three years fracking company bosses had 31 meetings with ministers from six government departments, including the Treasury and the Home Office.

The companies involved were Ineos, Cuadrilla and UK Onshore Oil and Gas.

Then policing minister Brandon Lewis met fracking firm Cuadrilla in March 2018, as protests at the firm’s Preston New Road drilling site in Lancashire intensified.

Six months later, in September, three anti-fracking campaigners at the site were jailed. The sentences were overturned on appeal.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said: “It’s a scandal that the government is determined to force through fracking at any cost and against the wishes of local communities.”

“Fracking has got to stop and the next Labour government will ban it.”

Labour’s revelations caused fury among anti-fracking campaign groups, which are to protest at Downing Street on December 1.

Steve Mason of Frack Free United said: “This just goes to show how much the Tory leadership are in the pockets of the frackers.

“But we have the power to change that. Marginal seats are going to be impacted by fracking. It’s our turn. We demand the same level of access to ministers as the lobbyists get. Frack Free United will be delivering this call to action to Downing Street on December 1.”

More than 30 earth tremors have been recorded at Cuadrilla’s site in Lancashire since gas extraction began three weeks ago.

Three breached government safety levels at which the process has to be suspended for investigations to be carried out.

Frack Free Lancashire’s Claire Stephenson said the group was “entirely unsurprised that the fracking industry has an access-all-areas pass.

“Over the last few years, it has become difficult to distinguish the difference between industry and government: the revolving door is very much in full swing.

“We greatly object to the top-down power grab attempts over fracking by the Conservative government, putting industry interests before those of local people. We are having decisions forced upon us by greedy politicians who put their careers before communities.”

Fracking involves drilling into shale layers deep beneath the earth’s surface and pumping in a toxic mixture of chemicals, sand and water to shatter the layers, releasing gas.

Opponents say the process can pollute water tables and the atmosphere, industrialises the countryside and causes earthquakes.

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