Why I had to quit as MP, by Chris Skidmore

A BY-ELECTION is taking place in Kingswood this month following Chris Skidmore’s decision to quit as MP after nearly 14 years.

The former Energy Minister’s resignation in early January has put the district in the national spotlight. Voters here and in the Northamptonshire constituency of Wellingborough will go to the polls on February 15 in a forerrunner of the general election, which will take place later in the year. The Tories are defending both seats.

Mr Skidmore, who has represented the Kingswood constituency since winning it for the Conservatives in 2010, had already said he would stand down at the end of this Parliament when his seat will disappear because of boundary changes.

But after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak marked the start of 2024 by insisting that his “working assumption” was that the election would not be before the autumn, Mr Skidmore resigned.

He said he could no longer support a Government that was introducing legislation 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 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 two decades.”

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.

“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 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.

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”.