Why I had to quit, by Chris Skidmore

KINGSWOOD MP Chris Skidmore announced his resignation in a lengthy statement on social media, giving his reasons.

The former energy minister blamed the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill the government has introduced to allow “increased production of new fossil fuels in the North Sea”.

He said: “As the former Energy Minister who signed the UK’s net zero commitment by 2050 into law, I cannot vote for a bill that clearly promotes the production of new oil and gas.”

Mr Skidmore said that while no one denied there was a role for existing oil and gas, to reach net zero – a balance between new carbon dioxide emissions and the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere – by 2050 there “must be no new additional oil and gas production”.

He said that with a global transition away from fossil fuels and the “exponential growth” of renewable power, there was “no case to be made for increasing fossil fuel production at a time when investment should be made elsewhere, in the industries and businesses of the future, and not of the past”.

Mr Skidmore said the Mission Zero review he published last year set out how “net zero can be the economic opportunity of this decade, if not our generation”, bringing hundreds of thousands of new jobs, and hundreds of billions of pounds of investment.

He said: “To achieve this, however, requires long term commitment to the energy transition, and a clear and consistent message to business and industry that the UK is committed to climate action as a global leader, as it has been for the past two decades.”

Mr Skidmore said the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill “achieves nothing apart from to send a global signal that the UK is rowing ever further back from its climate commitments”.

He added: “We cannot expect other countries to phase out their fossil fuels when at the same time we continue to issue new licences or to open new oil fields.

“It is a tragedy that the UK has been allowed to lose its climate leadership, at a time when our businesses, industries, universities and civil society organisations are providing first class leadership and expertise to so many across the world, inspiring change for the better.”

Mr Skidmore warned that “the future will judge harshly” anyone who voted for the government’s bill.

He said: “I can also no longer condone nor continue to support a government that is committed to a course of action that I know is wrong and will cause future harm.

“To fail to act, rather than merely speak out, is to tolerate a status quo that cannot be sustained.”

Mr Skidmore said he was “especially grateful” to his constituents for placing their trust in him for 14 years.

He said: “First and foremost, my duty has been to serve them, as their elected representative.

“It is with that duty to them in mind as their representative that my personal decision today means, as I have long argued, that they deserve the right to elect a new Member of Parliament.

“I am sorry my actions  disappoint or upset those to whom I will always be personally deeply grateful for their support. To my excellent staff, local councillors and association members, to colleagues and friends I apologise if you feel I have let you down and only hope that in time you can all understand why I have taken the decision I have today.

“I will not however apologise for doing what I know to be the right thing, both environmentally and economically, both for our country and the planet.”

Responding to Mr Skidmore’s comments, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said he was “wrong” on the issue of new North Sea oil and gas.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Hunt said: “It is very sad to lose a respected colleague like Chris Skidmore.

“But I do profoundly disagree with the reasons that he gave for resigning.

“The independent panel for climate change that we have in this country are very clear that even when we reach net zero in 2050, we will still get a significant proportion of our energy from fossil fuels, and domestic oil and gas is four times cleaner than imported oil and gas.”

Mr Hunt said recent attacks on shipping in the Red Sea showed that “it is very important for energy security that we have domestic sources of that kind of energy as we go into transition”.