Mark Menzies MP – another shameful and piteous performance

Opponents of shale gas exploitation here in the Fylde are well used to watching our MP, Mr Mark Menzies, sitting on the fence and claiming credit for having done something when in fact he is just doing a very good impersonation of the dog in “His Master Voice”.

Mark Menzies

Back in 2013 we told the rather depressing story of how, listening to the advice given him by Mike Hill, he called for an independent regulator for the shale gas industry and then congratulated himself when instead we got the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (now known as Off U Go) – a body set up expressly to promote shale gas and streamline regulation for the fracking industry. Off U Go is not independent – it is a subsidiary of the Department For Energy and Climate Change and is currently funded by the government to the tune of £1.8m a year, which covers an office of 15 staff as well as programme funding for activities including research, communications and public engagement. In congratulating himself he very conveniently forgot the word “independent” which had been so important in his adjournment debate speech.

Honestly, we thought his dire performance there could not be surpassed, but today he has finally managed it.

Having claimed before his original election to be a staunch defender of the Fylde

“One of my key election pledges was to help protect Fylde’s green spaces from inappropriate development.”

and having blustered around his constituency claiming such things as

“As someone who believes strongly in localism, it is vital that these decisions are taken by the council planning authority, whose members are well aware of all the local issues involved.

“I have made it very clear in the House of Commons that under no circumstances should anyone seek to overturn the wishes of local people at a national level.

“If, after weighing up all the evidence, the planning authority decides to refuse permission then that decision should be respected and the companies should be told to go away and think again.”

and being quoted in the Blackpool Gazette as claiming

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “The Minister’s correspondence was in response to my letter to the Secretary of State where I outlined my concerns over these appeals.

“As someone who is a strong supporter of localism I believe the council’s original decisions over these sites should be upheld and I wanted to put my view on record to be considered as part of the appeals process.

“I have said all along that these decisions should be made at a local level and I stand by that.”

.. he was faced with a dilemma when Greg Clark called in the appeals for Preston New Road and Roseacre Wood yesterday. Should he stand by his statements (and his constituents) or should he look after his career. Sadly the career appears to have come first as he went on record with the Lancashire Evening Post, making the following ludicrous statement.

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said today: “While I am sure there will be claims that this is some kind of Government conspiracy, it is actually more democratic in that the decision will be taken by an elected representative of the UK Government, rather than an unelected civil servant with no democratic oversight.”

Apart from the rather obvious fact that he has just shown us that not a word that he says (or posts on his website) can be trusted, the intellectual and moral flexibility required to make such a bizarre statement shows us exactly what we have to deal with in this person who is supposed to represent his constituents in Westminster, but now clearly sees his job as representing Westminster in his constituency.

It is time that his local party took some action, if only to maintain a shred of credibility for the Conservatives of the Fylde. Mr Menzies does them and the rest of his constituents no favours by pirouetting to Mr Osborne’s tune.

Interestingly the following day (Saturday 28 November) the Blackpool Gazette carried a further comment from Mr Menzies. The additional text can now also be found on his website.

It read

“I know in the past there have been major planning appeals, such as the Queensway development in St Annes and the travellers’ site application in Newton, where residents have successfully campaigned for the Secretary of State to call in decisions to ensure the proper level of oversight.

“The process is well-established in that the full public inquiry will still be carried out by the inspector, a report and recommendation made before a final decision by the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, meaning there will be that additional level of oversight on these crucially important matters.

“I will be speaking to the Secretary of State about these applications and will impress upon him my belief that the decision made by the local council should be adhered to.”

Frankly we can’t make any sense of Mr Menzies apparent contention that it is at one and the same time better that the decision is not taken by a suitably qualified, and presumably objective, planning inspector, but is given to a professional politician from a party which makes no secret of its intention go all out for shale at any cost, and that at the same time “the decision made by the local council should be adhered to”. This having your cake and eating it isn’t fooling anyone Mr Menzies.

Let’s just hope Greg Clark displays some integrity, given what he said in July 2015:

Communities Secretary Greg Clark today (2 July 2015) told councils they are on the brink of a once in lifetime opportunity to be masters of their own destiny.

Speaking at the Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate, Mr Clark called on all cities, towns and counties to be ambitious in their proposals to take power and resources away from Whitehall.

He paid tribute to the recent efforts by councils to create growth and deliver better services that local people want and declared the days when Whitehall dictates what is best as over.

The Secretary of State said:

I want every place in the country to consider how they can assert their strengths and make their mark.

We must be a nation of muscular communities – north and south, town and country.

The government’s Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is paving the way to sweep a myriad of powers from ministers to town halls.

Mr Clark said

This is the chance of a lifetime to direct the future economic prosperity and social flourishing of your area. To make life better for even more people than you can now.

He added:

Those who are prepared to organise to be more effective and more efficient should be able to reap substantially the rewards of that boldness, whether in costs saved, additional revenues generated, or powers that can be vested.

I have no doubt about the ability of the people in this hall. Take power now. Don’t let yourself, any longer, be ruled by someone else.

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This text is taken from the Government’s own website

It would be lovely if we could believe at least ONE thing we are told by those who are elected wouldn’t it?

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