Lord Browne is the most senior business advisor to the tory led coalition government and chairman of the UK’s only shale gas driller. He said that “We will finance whatever it takes. If we succeed, it will be billions, over 10 years it will be billions of finance to provide”. This, if technical problems to recover shale gas are overcome, would translate into tens or hundreds of billions of profit for gas explorers for decades to come.
We would argue that although it produces smaller amounts of carbon dioxide when burned than coal, its adoption on the scale that Browne wants would mean that the UK would not meet its targets on reducing greenhouse gases and it would distract from other investment needed in truly green technologies. There is a growing body of evidence from the United States, where fracking is far more developed, that there are inherent and unacceptably high environmental and health risks associated with coalbed methane and shale gas extraction.
Drilling on a small scale in the UK has already given rise to small earth tremors. Villagers in Singleton, Lancashire, were woken by small earthquakes in April and May 2011, caused by fracking by Lord Browne’s gas drilling company.
Shale gas, for all its associated environmental and health risks, is unlikely to arrive quickly enough, in sufficient volume, to drive down UK prices to below international levels.
“We don’t want British businesses and families to be left behind as gas prices tumble on the other side of the Atlantic,” Osborne said in his Autumn statement to parliament in December 2012. Other countries in Europe do not share his view and are hesitant to endorse fracking because of the concerns that it pollutes water. See this video which shows some of the problems associated with fracking by clicking this link.
The recent attempts in the House of Lords to get the 15-year limit on electoral registration lifted were thwarted in the debate in Committee. The Amendments to the Electoral Registration Bill proposed by Lord Lexden were eventually withdrawn after some extraordinary speeches by some Lords. Lord Lexden withdrew his amendment after being offered an inquiry into political representation of expat citizens.
Lord Lexden will chair an Inquiry into the whole question of Representation including establishing Members of Parliament to be elected by expat UK citizens in a similar manner to the French system. This promises to be a good solution to our political isolation from UK parliament. This is important because so much of our lives as expats is decided and controlled by the UK parliament. For UK pensioners, public service pensioners and others who pay tax in the UK; for UK passport holders; for UK citizens whose health care and social welfare is the responsibility of the UK government, this will give some leverage when problems arise and policies are being discussed. It may also give us an opportunity to participate in crucial debates and referendums on our future within the EU.
The campaign for MPs to represent us has started.
You aptly reported all day on the 400,000 thousand French citizens living in the UK for whom 30 polling stations were open to cast their votes in the French Presidential election. In London, the 6th French city in the world, you showed thousands queuing up to vote and interviewed the French Ambassador to the UK. He underscored that the million French diaspora citizens are close to France, sharing the same tough issues as those living in France. They are also interested in schools, the international role of France, and ‘like everyone else in my country’ their concerns are roughly the same – unemployment and current crises, Does not the same apply to the millions of British expats who lose the vote after 15 years’ abroad?
The Home Office’s argument that after 15 years’ away, they are deemed not be connected to the UK and could change nationality, over-rides their human and civil rights in which the UK is out of step with its peers and out of conformity with international obligations. That right to vote is a fundamental tenet of the British Constitution. The right to vote without time restrictions is wholly consistent with relevant international instruments. However, unlike many other countries, the UK is one of the most restrictive in depriving its expatriates of these democratic rights. British expats are also part of our community representing a core value of globalisation. They share their cultural heritage with others and constitute a rich, global network of resources and new energy to tap. Surely they deserve the same consideration as French citizens abroad?
Check out www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
Dr Sylvia Moore (M.Litt Oxon)
British global professional, resident in France