‘Desolate’ opinion not well received

A Conservative peer who claimed the north east was “desolate” and a good place for fracking to be carried out, has been invited to meet people he offended.

Former Conservative minister Lord Howell of Guildford sparked outrage over his comments last week, for which he backtracked and said he actually meant the north west.

But the remark left a bitter taste for people who were quick to defend the area as anything but desolate.

Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has condemned the peer and said the apology is not good enough.

“Lord Howell makes a good case of why doddery Lords should retire, and the sooner the better,” he said.

“I am proud of the north east – its natural beauty and the generous spirit of its people.

“Nevertheless, such southern bigotry stretches that generosity to breaking point.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery has written to Lord Howell inviting him to visit the region.

“It was an outrageous remark about one of the best places in the UK,” said Mr Lavery.

“The remarks were very offensive towards some of the fantastic people in this country. I don’t accept his apology.

“This man is one of the best educated. I don’t accept he didn’t mean the north east instead of the north west.

“I wrote inviting him to the area so he could meet some of the people he had offended.

“He said he would look to come to the constituency in October when he is visiting Durham.”

During a debate in the House of Lords, speaking about the controversial form of gas production, Lord Howell said: “There are large and uninhabited and desolate areas.

“Certainly in part of the north east where there’s plenty of room for fracking, well away from anybody’s residence where we could conduct without any kind of threat to the rural environment.”