Mark Menzies MP, Regulation and Cuadrilla

What are we to make of our newly parachuted-in MP? Here in Fylde we grew accustomed to being represented by an MP, Michael Jack, who clearly held the interests of his constituents close to his heart. More than that, his wife, Alison, campaigned tirelessy and effectively to defend the area that was her family home.

Since Mr Jack retired he has been replaced by a relatively young and inexperienced man who has no history in the area and who has no family ties to give him roots here. Maybe it is hardly surprising that he keeps showing signs of having divided loyalties. Of course, we understand that he has a career to look after, and without a family maybe that assumes a greater importance for him than it otherwise would, but an MP has a responsibility to his constituents to “represent their interests and concerns in the House of Commons.”

Fracking is probably the most controversial development that will happen in this constituency during not just the lifetime of this parliament but in all our lifetimes, but Mr Menzies is maintaining an aloof position whilst not being averse to claiming a bit of credit when something crowd-pleasing happens. (Even if it doesn’t quite add up when compared to his previous utterances.)

So we see in today’s Lytham St Annes Express that, rather as expected, he is claiming credit for the fact that we now have a subsidiary of the DECC streamlining regulation for the fracking industry (“Having originally campaigned for this watchdog”), when in fact he is on record as stating that nothing but an independent panel would satisfy him.

In the Express he says:

This week I attended a meeting which signals the next important step in the process of setting up the new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO).

Having originally campaigned for this watchdog to be installed before commercial shale gas extraction be allowed to go ahead in Britain, it was fascinating to witness the framework of that office being developed.

I was pleased to see so many representatives from the different industries and the regulators, as well as environmental campaigners, who were all keen to get involved in making sure the activity is properly monitored from the outset.

As I mentioned in the Adjournment Debate I called on shale gas, robust regulation is vital but careful consideration must also be given to the selection of any potential sites.

I have said previously I have concerns over the suitability of the owners roadside in Westaby and they need to be considered before going forward.

Those of us with longer memories will recall that Mr Menzies, in his adjournment debate called for

an independent panel of experts to be set up without delay. Many questions and concerns still surround the shale gas process, and it is vital that we have a panel for three purposes: to look at each issue in detail; to fully appraise the risk; and to ensure that specific regulations are in place to deal with that. If part of the process cannot be dealt with safely through regulation, an alternative method should be found. If, however, an alternative way of carrying out that process is not possible, it must not be done.” (Hansard 24 Oct 2012)

Clearly Mr Menzies is happy to praise himself for not achieving a great deal. He is also happy to support and endorse Cuadrilla by continuing to allow them to use his image in two places on their website. He is well aware that the use of his image can constitute an endorsement, as he has wrote to one of our members on the subject of the use of the unauthorised use of his image by the Coalition for Marriage:

Many thanks for your emails and for bringing this leaflet to my attention. In no way do I endorse this campaign and you are sadly not the first people to write to me with that concern. I therefore have had my office call the group on two occasions now to request that they no longer put out any leaflets with my image on, as my permission was never sought for this.

I am deeply sorry if you felt this leaflet suggested my support for the group. I hope you understand I had no involvement with this publication and would never endorse the campaign.

Judging from that response it seems fair to say that, in spite of his ineffectual protestations about regulation, he does in fact endorse Cuadrilla.

That isn’t perhaps what we might expect from a committed local MP is it? It looks more like an MP who knows where his future political interests lie. We are sure he will go far (both in terms of career progression and in distance from this constituency after it has been fracked on his watch).

We would, of course, be delighted to find that we have misjudged Mr Menzies, but until then we can only go by the evidence available…

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