04/08/2013 04:51 BST | Updated 04/08/2013 10:15 BST

Michael Fallon's 'Fracking Will Make Your Walls Shake' Joke Lands Him In Trouble

The Tory energy minister has landed himself in trouble after joking that fracking would make houses' walls shake.

Michael Fallon made the remark in a private meeting, poking fun at the media commentators in the Home Counties who are leading the calls for the controversial drilling plans, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Fallon said that while much of the attention has focused on the North West, there was also potential for fracking also deposits which might produce gas in The Weald in the South of England.


"It's from Dorset all the way along through Hampshire, Sussex, East Sussex, West Sussex, all the way perhaps a bit into Surrey and even into my county of Kent. It's right there," he said.

"The beauty of that - please don't write this down - is that of course it's underneath the commentariat. All these people writing leaders saying, `Why don't they get on with shale?' We are going to see how thick their rectory walls are, whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!"

Fallon confirmed to the BBC that he had made the comments, but said The Mail had "completely misconstrued a light hearted remark".

According to the Mail on Sunday, the minister 'conjured up a chilling image of swathes of rural England shaking with the sound of drills'.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron said he was "greatly worried" by the government's "dash for shale gas", which he said might damage the countryside.

Last month Lord Howell, George Osborne's father in law, caused a huge row by suggesting fracking should take place in the "desolate" north east, rather than in the south of England. He later said he actually meant to say the north west.

Fallon's comments come after drilling started in Balcombe, West Sussex, despite high-profile anti-fracking protests by local people and activists from across the UK.

The technique, which involves fracturing rocks deep underground with water and chemicals to extract gas, has dramatically cut energy bills in the USA, and Fallon has previously indicated he hopes that it could do the same in Britain.

Opponents of the method have highlighted concerns about potential water contamination and environmental damage, as well as small-scale earthquakes.

Friends of the Earth's policy and campaigns director Craig Bennett said: "Michael Fallon's unguarded comments will resonate across the UK and fuel more opposition to the government's disastrous support for fracking."