A Government minister with responsibility for fracking suggested in a private meeting that the innovative gas drilling process could cause houses’ walls to shake, it has been reported.

According to the Mail on Sunday (MoS), energy minister Michael Fallon suggested that drilling in comfortable counties to the south of London would disrupt the lives of media commentators who have been agitating for fracking in other parts of the country.

He reportedly said: “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.

“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 howthicktheir rectory walls are, whether they like the flaring at the end of the drive!”

Last night it was reported that he defended his comments claiming they were “light-hearted”.

Mr Fallon’s comments came as exploratory drilling began in Balcombe by Cuadrilla, despite anti-fracking protests.

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Meanwhile Francis Egan, Cuadrilla’s chief executive, has revealed that he received an anonymous bomb threat.

According to the MoS, he said: “I received an anonymous email saying that unless Cuadrilla ceased its activities in the UK, we would soon receive pipe bombs delivered by express mail to our premises. ‘Fracking kills,’ the message said, ‘and so do we’.”

It is understood thematter has been reported to the police.

Craig Bennett, director of Friends of the Earth’s policy and campaigns, said: “Michael Fallon’s unguarded comments will resonate across theUKand fuel more opposition to the Government’s disastrous support for fracking.”

A Cuadrilla spokesman said: “We have full planning and regulatory approval for this work from the Department for Energy and Climate Change, West Sussex County Council, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.”

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