Lord Howell, who advised William Hague on energy policy until April and is the father-in-law of the chancellor, George Osborne, drew gasps of astonishment in the House of Lords on Tuesday for suggesting that the controversial form of gas production could take place in the north-east without any impact on the surrounding environment. Howell later apologised for "any offence caused" by his comments and said he didn't believe the north-east was desolate.
During Lords questions, he asked: "Would [the minister] accept that it could be a mistake to think of and discuss fracking in terms of the whole of the United Kingdom in one go? I mean there obviously are, in beautiful natural areas, worries about not just the drilling and the fracking, which I think are exaggerated, but about the trucks, and the delivery, and the roads, and the disturbance."
The peer, who lives in southern England, said: "But there are large and uninhabited and desolate areas. Certainly in part of the north-east where there's plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody's residence where we could conduct without any kind of threat to the rural environment."The old boy is 78 and probably a bit gaga, even if his views are representative of the bulk of Tory opinion in the home counties.