29/08/2013 10:27 BST

Tory MP George Hollingberry Accused Of 'Backpedalling' On Fracking Fears

File photo dated 01/12/12 of demonstrators hold placards calling for a ban on exploration and development of shale gas and coal bed methane in the UK as fracking won backing from the Government in the 2013 Budget with promises of a generous new tax regime for extracting shale gas.

A Tory MP who warned that fracking could be "disastrous" in his Hampshire constituency has been accused of "backpedalling" on his concerns.

George Hollingberry, MP for Meon Valley, told his local newspaper that he would be "manning the barricades" against shale gas exploration if it harmed the region's water supply.

“Any threat to the water supply here would be utterly disastrous – every single person and business relies on that water," he said.

Hollingberry's intervention marks him out as the first Tory MP to raise concerns about fracking.

But the MP, who serves as ministerial aide to Home Secretary Theresa May, later told the Huffington Post UK: "I am entirely happy to put on record that I think fracking has the potential to be a significant part of the solution to the UK's energy needs and I am certainly not against it per se."

"I have much to learn about fracking and I have a number of meetings set up with the key players to discuss the issue."

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, told the Huffington Post UK: "I'm glad that Mr Hollingberry showed some capacity for thinking independent of his party line, at least initially.

"I'm sure many of his constituents were pleased with that, if disappointed by his subsequent backpedalling.

Bennett added: "If [Hollingberry] would like to learn more, I'd suggest that he visit the Balcombe anti-fracking camp, where he could find many local people and campaigners from around the country who could inform him of the facts."

In response, Hollingberry said: "If those with entrenched positions on either side of the argument have a problem with this then so be it, but it's very clear to me that my job is to represent the interests and concerns of my constituents and I shall continue to do just that."

Roger Helmer MEP, UKIP's energy spokesman, told the Huffington Post UK: "Indigenous gas offers Britain an economic lifeline at a time when we desperately need one. It would be downright irresponsible to ignore it, and it is downright irresponsible of Tory MP George Hollingberry to give credence to the wilder claims of extremist greens."