MPs are being urged to demand the full release of a redacted government report on the impact of fracking on the rural economy.
The report, commissioned by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was released in response to an FOI request in July last year but had a total of 63 redactions, including 20 on one page. There were three redactions in the section about the impact of fracking on house prices.
Anti-fracking campaigners are arguing that MPs should have the chance to read the report in full before voting on the Infrastructure Bill, which includes clauses on fracking and shale gas. The bill seeks to allow companies to drill under land and leave substances underground without the owners’ permission. It is due to end its committee stage on Thursday (15/1/2015) and is expected to be discussed by the full House of Commons soon after.
A petition by the campaign group, Talk Fracking, calling for publication of an unredacted version, topped 4,000 at 6pm this evening. On twitter, the hashtag #defracoverup was used in more than 8,700 tweets between 5pm on Sunday and 5pm today (Topsy.com).
Talk Fracking will be asking signatories to its petition to write to their MPs on the issue. “MPs need to know what’s hidden in Defra’s censored fracking report before they vote on the Infrastructure Bill. The time to act is now”, a spokesman for the group said.
The Conservative MPs, Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) and Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), have already called for the release of the full report.
Miss McIntosh, in whose constituency Third Energy is preparing plans to frack at Kirby Misperton, challenged the Prime Minister when he appeared before the House of Commons Liaison Committee in December last year.
She said: “You just said yourself that we need to carry the public with us, so why was the Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts report so heavily redacted as published by DEFRA? Will you ensure that an unredacted copy, particularly in relation to the social impacts and impacts on housing, and to safety, such as flares, will be posted on the website at the earliest opportunity, before any fracking licences are granted?”
David Cameron replied: “I am very happy to look at that”.
Later in the meeting, Miss McIntosh said: “Last question. Prime Minister, will you insist that DEFRA publish unredacted the Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts report?”
Mr Cameron said: “I don’t know because I haven’t seen it. I will go and have a look at it, and I will give you my answer”.
We asked Number 10 whether Mr Cameron has had a look at Miss McIntosh’s requests. We’re still waiting for a response. When we get one we’ll let you know.
Zac Goldsmith joined a Twitter storm on Sunday evening tweeting: “Govt must release Defra’s report into fracking – unredacted – before asking MPs to vote for fracking clauses in the Infrastructure Bill.”
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, criticised the redactions when the report was first released last year. She told Radio 4’s Today programme: “This report would be comical if it wasn’t so serious because there is just so much of it that’s been blacked out.”
Dr Lucas announced this morning she was preparing new amendments to the Infrastructure Bill. She said they sought to ban fracking and delete clauses in the bill on trespass and the statutory duty on to the government to maximise the recovery of the oil and gas industry.
The committee stage of the Infrastructure Bill continues tomorrow (13/1/2015), starting at 9.25. Link to televised proceedings.