Conservative Chris Skidmore is quitting as an MP over the government’s energy plans, triggering a by-election to replace him. The former minister said he could not continue as a Tory MP ahead of a vote on a bill on Monday to guarantee annual oil and gas licensing rounds. The Kingswood MP added his “personal decision” meant his constituents deserved the chance to elect a new MP.
He had already announced plans to leave Parliament at the next election. His seat near Bristol has a Conservative majority of 11,220, but was previously held by Labour from 1992 to 2010.
It will present another headache for Prime Minster Rishi Sunak, who already faces a by-election in Wellingborough after local voters ousted scandal-hit Peter Bone. In by-elections in October, Labour overturned Tory majorities of 24,664 in Mid Bedfordshire and 19,634 in Tamworth. The government announced the bill in November, in a bid to draw a dividing line with Labour, which has said it will not issue new licences if it wins power.
Ministers say the legislation, which will fix yearly North Sea fossil fuel licensing in law, will help improve the UK’s energy security. They argue the UK will still need oil and gas to meet its energy needs, even if it reaches its goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But Mr Skidmore, who signed the UK’s 2050 net zero commitment into law as an energy minister under Theresa May, said the bill would send a “global signal that the UK is rowing ever further back from its climate commitments”.
In a statement on X, formerly Twitter, he added it would “in effect allow more frequent new oil and gas licences” to be issued. We can not 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,” he added.
Labour’s shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband welcomed Mr Skidmore’s decision to quit, saying he was “standing up to this desperate Conservative government”. Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said it was an “embarrassing mess for Rishi Sunak,” showing voters “simply don’t trust the Conservatives on the environment”.
Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said it left the government’s green credentials “in tatters”. Mr Skidmore confirmed to the PA news agency he would officially tender his resignation as an MP when Parliament returned from its Christmas recess next week.
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