Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed there have been widely reported stories that opposition to fracking has been funded by the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Business Secretary’s comments came as he was answering questions in the Commons on the lifting of the moratorium on shale gas extraction.
Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs he is “well aware” there are people who are opposed to fracking, but noted “some of the opposition” has been funded by Mr Putin’s regime.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband accused him on Twitter of making an “absolutely outrageous slur”.
Labour’s Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, told the lower chamber: “One thing I think the Secretary of State is perhaps not aware of, is the strength of opposition to fracking in communities like mine in Lancashire.”
She went on: “There is no public support for fracking. So I’d like to ask the Secretary of State if he can be very clear to my constituents in Lancaster and Fleetwood whether or not they will be given decision on whether or not fracking happens in Lancashire?”
The Business Secretary replied: “I’m well aware that there have been objections to fracking, but I would also note that there have been stories widely reported that some of the opposition to … fracking has been funded by Mr Putin’s regime.”
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband tweeted shortly afterwards: “Absolutely outrageous slur by Jacob Rees-Mogg that people who object to fracking are funded by Putin.
“Shameful and disgraceful.”
During the urgent question, which was raised by Mr Miliband, Mr Rees-Mogg also accused fracking opponents of “hysteria” and “ludditery”.
“The hysteria about seismic activity, I think, fails to understand that the Richter scale is a logarithmic scale”, he said.
He added: “This (fracking) is of such importance, and it is sheer ludditery that opposes it.”
On the issue of financial compensation, Mr Rees-Mogg told MPs he does not have a “formal thing” to announce but repeatedly stressed the need for it to encourage areas to allow fracking.
He said: “The last time we discussed fracking, the idea was communities would be delighted if they got £10 for the village hall.
“I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, it needs to be direct to the individuals who are affected, and I’ve had preliminary discussions with the Chancellor, but I don’t have a formal thing to announce.”
Earlier, he told MPs: “We should not be ashamed of paying people who are going to be the ones who don’t get the immediate benefit of the gas but have the disruption.”
On Thursday evening, Government minister Robert Jenrick appeared to distance himself from Mr Rees-Mogg’s claims about opposition to fracking.
“I don’t know what evidence there is that opposition groups have been funded by the Kremlin,” he said.
“What I think he may have been trying to articulate is that it is absolutely essential we have energy security as a country and one of the roots to that is to broaden and diversify our domestic energy production and fracking is one crucial element in that.”
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