Chris Skidmore Resigns Conservative Whip Over Sunak’s Oil and Gas Licence Plan

4 min read

Former minister also resigns as an MP, which will trigger byelection in his Kingswood constituency

A former Conservative minister has announced he is resigning as an MP in protest at the party’s dash for oil and gas, setting up an awkward vote for the prime minister on the issue on Monday and an even more difficult byelection within weeks.

Chris Skidmore, a leading voice within the Tory party on green issues, said on Friday he would resign from parliament as soon as it returns next week over Rishi Sunak’s bill to allow new oil and gas licences to be issued.

Skidmore called the bill a “tragedy”, accusing the prime minister of being committed to a course of action that is “wrong and will cause future harm”.

His resignation in Kingswood will trigger at least the eighth byelection in a year, with Labour looking to chalk up another victory in a seat with an 11,000 majority.

Skidmore said in his resignation statement: “This bill would in effect allow more frequent new oil and gas licences and the increased production of new fossil fuels in the North Sea.”

He added: “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. I am therefore resigning my party whip and instead intend to be free from any party-political allegiance.”

Skidmore was the energy minister who signed into law the former prime minister Theresa May’s net zero by 2050 pledge.

More recently he led the government’s net zero review, which was published in September 2022. He has been critical of this government before, and previously told the Guardian the Conservative party was heading in a “very dark direction” around misinformation and climate change.skip past newsletter promotion

Next week, the government is introducing the offshore petroleum licensing bill in the House of Commons, which would allow for more licences to extract fossil fuel from the North Sea.

The latest IPCC report makes it clear no new fossil fuel projects can be opened, so doing so goes against the recommendations of most of the world’s leading climate scientists.

Labour intends to oppose the bill in a vote on Monday, although the government is likely to win, even without Skidmore’s vote.

Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, said: “Well done to Chris Skidmore for standing up to this desperate Conservative government.

Their irresponsible, reckless attempt to double down on fossil fuels won’t cut bills, undermines energy security and is a climate disaster. That is why Labour will vote against it on Monday.”


Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative peer and environmental campaigner, said: “The party will need to regroup after Sunak has crashed it against the rocks. Those who see themselves as part of that future should think very carefully about backing this nonsense policy”.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Memo to Rishi Sunak – this is what principled politics looks like. It has been a real pleasure working with Chris Skidmore on climate and he’ll be much missed. It’s a huge indictment of a government that is maxing out fossil fuels.”

Skidmore did not plan to run as an MP in the next election, as his constituency will be abolished in the upcoming boundary changes.

He has not said yet what he plans to do, but was thought to be in the running to be the chair of the climate change committee. However, as this position is selected by Sunak, his appointment is thought to be unlikely.


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