The UK government has stopped asking the British public whether they are for or against fracking for shale gas just weeks before the first fracking operation in seven years is due to start.

The question was dropped from the latest update, published yesterday, of the four-year-old public attitudes tracker run by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The number of people against extracting shale gas has outweighed those in favour since 2015, and the latest polling by officials found 32% opposed with just 18% in support. Now the government, which backs fracking and recently relaxed planning rules to help the shale industry, has temporarily suspended that line of questioning.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s shadow business secretary, has reacted by saying the move by BEIS is “scandalous as the government knows full well that there is overwhelming public opposition to fracking”.

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