Kingswood MP Chris Skidmore resigns, forcing by-election

KINGSWOOD MP Chris Skidmore has announced he is standing down “as soon as possible” – meaning that a by-election will be held in the constituency.

The Conservative MP said he was standing down because, having “signed the UK’s net zero commitment by 2050 into law” during his time as Energy Minister, he could not vote for the government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which he said would “cause future harm” through the promotion of new oil and gas production.

If he resigns next week, when Parliament returns from its Christmas break, then the by-election would be held on either February 8 or 15, as the timetable for parliamentary by-elections is set at 21 to 27 working days.

Mr Skidmore’s Kingswood constituency is due to be abolished at the next general election, when new boundaries come into effect.

Most addresses in the constituency will become part of the new Bristol North East seat, while the rest will become part of North East Somerset and Hanham, another new seat, or Filton & Bradley Stoke.

That means that whoever wins the by-election will only be the MP for Kingswood for a maximum of a year.

The Kingswood seat includes Emersons Green, part of Lyde Green, Mangotsfield, Blackhorse, Soundwell and parts of Downend including Westbourne Road, homes off Fontwell Drive and parts of Aintree Drive, and Beaufort Road.

The Conservatives, Labour and Greens have already announced candidates for Bristol North East.

In a lengthy statement posted online, Mr Skidmore said his decision to refuse to support the government over the issue was “the right thing, both environmentally and economically, both for our country and the planet”.

He said the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, due to be debated next week, “achieves nothing apart from to send a global signal that the UK is rowing ever further back from its climate commitments”.

Mr Skidmore said: “We cannot expect other countries to phase out their fossil fuels when at the same time we continue to issue new licences or to open new oil fields.

“It is a tragedy that the UK has been allowed to lose its climate leadership, at a time when our businesses, industries, universities and civil society organisations are providing first class leadership and expertise to so many across the world, inspiring change for the better.

“I cannot vote for the bill next week. The future will judge harshly those that do.

“At a time when we should be committing to more climate action, we simply do not have any more time to waste promoting the future production of fossil fuels that is the ultimate cause of the environmental crisis that we are facing.

“But 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.”

Mr Skidmore said he was also standing down as an MP because his constituents “deserve the right to elect a new Member of Parliament”.

He added: “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.

“I can no longer stand by. The climate crisis that we face is too important to politicise or to ignore.”