Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 23rd Jan 2015

Transcripts of parliamentary questions, answers and debates on fracking and onshore oil and gas for the week ending 23rd January 2015

This week

  • The effects of fracking on rural communities
  • Shale gas developments in Northamptonshire
  • New bill on regulating fracking
  • Redacted government report on impacts of fracking
  • Fracking powers for Wales
  • Overruling planning authorities on fracking decisions

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com

 19th January 2015

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment she has made of the effects of fracking on rural communities; and if she will make a statement.

Dan Rogerson (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; North Cornwall, Liberal Democrat)
Shale gas exploitation has the potential to benefit rural communities. It will create jobs in the industry and supply chain. Communities will also benefit locally from a share of the revenues and from additional business rates. The Department of Energy and Climate Change lead on the economic benefits of shale gas. Any potential impacts, including those on the local environment, are fully considered through the rigorous permitting and planning processes.

20th January 2015

Philip Hollobone (Kettering, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whether his Department has received any expression of interest in pursuing shale gas development and exploration in (a) Northamptonshire and (b) the borough of Kettering.

Matthew Hancock (The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Minister of State; West Suffolk, Conservative)
The Department for Energy and Climate Change has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

21st January 2015

Geraint Davie (Swansea West, Labour), supported by Kelvin Hopkins, Mr David Winnick, Jim Sheridan and Jim Shannon, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to measure and regulate the impact of unconventional gas extraction on air and water quality and on greenhouse gas emissions; and for connected purposes. Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 February, and to be printed (Bill 158).

22nd January 2015

Written questions
Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for what reason her Department’s internal report on the impact of fracking on rural communities has been made public only in redacted form; what the criteria are for imposing such redactions; and if she will make it her policy to publish the report in full.

Dan Rogerson (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; North Cornwall, Liberal Democrat)
I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw, John Mann, on 11 September 2014, Official Report, column 723W.

Lords questions on fracking
Lord Wigley (Plaid Cymru)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the Welsh Government regarding the devolution of powers over fracking for gas on land.

Baroness Randerson (Liberal Democrat)
A My Lords, in November 2014 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales announced a programme of work to seek a political consensus on the way forward for devolution and to provide a stable settlement for Wales. This work is underpinned by discussions with Welsh party leaders, including the First Minister of Wales, the right honourable Carwyn Jones AM.

Lord Wigley
My Lords, may I interpret that Answer as an indication that we can look forward to a Statement being made by the Secretary of State on St David’s Day to indeed confirm a transfer of responsibility for fracking to Wales? Since the Government have their own amendment to the Infrastructure Bill, Amendment 86, on Report in the House of Commons on Monday, removing Scotland from the provisions of that Bill concerning the right to use deep-level land for fracking, why is there not a similar amendment for Wales, if that is indeed the direction in which the Government are going? Will the Minister link up with the department today to see whether it is possible, even at this late stage, to table such an amendment?

Baroness Randerson
A The noble Lord should take into account the process that is under way. The Secretary of State has set great store by the fact that he wants to achieve political consensus across the four parties in Wales. The Welsh Government are involved, of course, and they have made it clear what their views are on the need to offer powers to the Welsh Government if they have been offered to Scotland. However, what is right for Scotland is not necessarily always right for Wales, and discussions are still ongoing.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, within 10 miles of my home in Gresford in north Wales—its second mention this morning—there were in 1866 some 21 shale oil extraction plants, selling petrol at three shillings and four pence per gallon. Two years later it had fallen to 10 pence a gallon and the industry was completely wrecked. Is Welsh shale oil as sound a basis for Welsh independence—which 3% of the people of Wales want, including the noble Lord—as, for example, North Sea oil is for Scotland?

Baroness Randerson
A My noble friend illustrates the volatility of energy prices, then as now. From current reports, the potential for significant amounts of shale gas in Wales is unclear. However, I agree with my noble friend: the recent big falls in the oil price have illustrated the shaky financial foundations on which the Scottish independence campaign was based.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Labour)
My Lords, forgive me, but I did not quite follow the first Answer of the noble Baroness. Have there been discussions on the devolution of powers over fracking for gas on land—yes or no?

Baroness Randerson
A My Lords, there are four parts to the ongoing discussions. One of them relates to the Smith proposals, and which of those proposals would refer to Wales appropriately. Those discussions include the issue of fracking. In relation to Wales, the conversations are ongoing.

Lords debate on national infrastructure
Lord Horam (Conservative)
Urgent attention needs to be paid to two things that I want to stress to the Minister, which I hope he will pay attention to. The first is that we need to get going on fracking. There is an important decision being taken shortly—in the right direction, I hope—by Lancashire County Council. I speak as a Lancastrian who knows the area of Bowland extremely well; it is where I was born.

That decision needs to go the right way. If it does not go the right way, I hope that the Government will intervene and overrule the council.

We need to make progress on this matter, otherwise we will be left behind in this very important area of energy development. …. I therefore say to my noble friend: I want to see in the next Conservative manifesto something very concrete on fracking and something very concrete on affordable housing.

Lord Deighton (Conservative)
I support my noble friend Lord Horam in his call to accelerate fracking. We have put the planning environment and the tax incentives in place. It is now down to the developers to determine if the economics are there for them.

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