So this is how politics works. You invite four witnesses – two representatives from an anti-fracking group, (RAFF), together with representatives from a professional body (Institute of Directors) and a waste disposal company (Remsol), to provide evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee on the Economic Impact on UK Energy Policy of Shale Gas and Oil.
You make sure that the RAFF members who were there to support their colleagues are welcomed at the door of the committee room by an aggressive, jobsworth of a policeman who tells them ‘any monkey business and you’re out’. And here we were thinking that we looked like the respectable bunch of reasonable people that we are – we’d all dressed for the occasion – one of us was even wearing a tie. You then throw into the mix a group of old unelected men (and they were all men – are Ladies excluded for some reason or do they just find the prospect of discussing shale gas far too macho?), one of whom is a Thatcherite has been and the most infamous climate change denier in the land. You provide a largely unfriendly, smug and sometimes hostile environment, chuck in a moderate, if at times tetchy, chairman, and then you direct much of the questioning at the anti-fracking witnesses, and expect them to have more than a working knowledge of shale gas technology. This is apparently how the House of Lords works
To be honest none of these Lords looked capable of ‘a leaping’ anywhere. Two fell asleep fairly early into the proceedings, one waking up quickly only to doze off again when the representative from the IOD droned on and on. My word the IOD need to up their game if this is the best they can do. This chap made the Shipping Forecast seem feverish in comparison. Nigel Lawson kicked off the questioning. When told that Cuadrilla had been rapped on the knuckles by the ASA for unsubstantiated claims in their brochure, he brushed it off by saying that this is par for the course for ‘sales’ brochures. Obviously buying a conservatory and forcing an unwanted and dirty industry on people is much the same thing in his world.
The atmosphere was very much pro-shale with maybe a couple of don’t knows. Most tried not to look too bored and, one or two even looked genuinely interested in some of our comments. Some started talking to each other while we were giving our evidence. Obviously being a Lord doesn’t necessarily come hand in hand with respect and manners for your fellow beings. The nastiest and most aggressive was David Lipsey who asked about the chemicals that are used in the fracking process. He chided and mocked us for not knowing more about them – a bit difficult when we don’t know what cocktail will be used in the production phase. We thought it was unreasonable to take this attitude. He wasn’t the only one – we also got scoffed at for using the term ‘earthquakes’ instead of ‘tremors’, when the twit doing the scoffing had used the word ‘earthquake’ himself.
The whole event can be seen on video. It was an experience for us all and an ordeal for Tina and Ian who were grilled in a less than friendly atmosphere. We thank them on both your and our behalf for what we think was an heroic performance.
Witnesses: John Kersey, Lancashire Chairman, Institute of Directors; Lee Petts, Managing Director, Remsol Ltd; Ian Roberts and Tina Rothery, Residents’ Action on Fylde Fracking (RAFF)