Opposition

Key points from Infrastructure Bill debate 4pm-5pm

  • The government bans fracking outright in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • The government accepts Labour’s new clauses which has 13 measures to increase regulation on fracking

Tim Yeo, Con South Suffolk

Shale gas has lower emissions than liquefied natural gas (LNG). Substituting shale gas for LNG would lead to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Amber Rudd, Energy minister,
“Shale gas would be a win-win for the UK”. She points to potential economic benefits and a reduction in the UK’s carbon footprint.

Devolving onshore oil and gas powers to Scotland
Changes to the Scotland Act, which would give the Scottish parliament power over oil and gas licensing and mineral access, will be discussed by the next parliament

Mike Weir, SNP, Angus
This creates a gap. Scotland has powers of planning and environmental regulation but will not get power on licenses for some time. He calls for a guarantee by the government to stop licencing in Scotland and calls for a moratorium.

Amber Rudd
This will be debated more fully in next parliament

Tom Greatrex, shadow energy minister
Licences considered under the 14th round should not to be awarded in Scotland until licensing has been devolved.

Amber Rudd
This is not the place for that. It will be considered after next election

Jonathan Ed, Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen East and Dinefwr
What about Wales?

Amber Rudd
There is a strong case for devolution to Wales. But the government believes licensing is not currently in competency of the Welsh Assembly.

Fracking in special biodiversity areas
There is strong protection for these areas and further protection is not necessary. A “blanket ban would be disproportionate”.

Julian Huppert, Lib Dem, Cambridge
Are you saying there would be no fracking on any of these places?

Amber Rudd
The existing legislative framework is robust for sensitive areas. The government issue planning guidance for hydrocarbons in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and World Heritage Sites

Norman Baker, Lib Dem, Lewes
Large areas of SSSI are covered by the 14th licensing round

Amber Rudd
We have agreed an outright ban in National Parks and AONBs.

Anne McIntosh, Con, Thirsk and Malton
Will there be an outright ban on any fracking in National Parks and the words “except in exceptional circumstances” removed?

Amber Rudd
Yes. We have removed those sentences.

Joan Walley
What about ancient woodlands?

Amber Rudd
I will have to come back on that

Environmental Impact Assessments
These are only undertaken where they add value. She welcomes industry’s assurance to do EIAs for fracking developments.

Well inspections
Mark Menzies, Con, Fylde
Will well inspection visits by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) be unannounced, rigorous and published?

Amber Rudd
Yes. This should reassure if he takes a closer look.

Baseline monitoring
We support use of baseline monitoring. The Environment Agency already has the powers to require baseline monitoring. Operators will report to the EA and these will be placed on the public register. DEFRA will direct the EA to require at least three months of baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater before fracking takes place.

Andrew Gwynne, Lab, Denton and Redditch
What we need is for environmental safeguards to be enshrined in proper primary legislation. Why is she [the minister] so obsessed with not doing that?

Jim Cunningham, Lab Coventry south
There have been cuts in the HSE budgets. How is it going to be competent to carry out inspections?

Amber Rudd
There are no suggestion they cannot do their job well. But we will keep it under review

David Anderson, Lab Blaydon
Has she [the minister] looked at needs of EA/ HSE for extra staff?

Amber Rudd
It is essential that they have sufficient staff. They have not raised it with me. We will keep conversations open with them.

Fugitive emissions
The net effect of shale on greenhouse gas emissions will be small. The UK reports these emissions annually.

Extending the depth limit [currently 300m] below which companies could drill without permission
This would not increase protection.

Voluntary community benefit schemes
These have many benefits. The definition of community is best decided later. Regulations could be introduced if DECC not satisfied with the voluntary industry scheme.

Substances left underground and fracking chemicals
These have to be approved by the EA. It will require full disclosure of chemicals in fracking and can prohibit hazardous substances. The chemicals used and the maximum concentrations will be set by environmental permits and placed on the public register.

Water companies as statutory consultees
The government is consulting on whether to make water companies statutory consultees in planning applications and will bring secondary legislation.

Labour’s new clause 19 with 13 additional regulations for fracking
The government accepts this but may seek to change to the depth for underground access

Defra’s unredacted document on shale gas impacts on the rural economy
This was a literature review. It was not exhaustive. Drafts are not normally published. It was not complete or accurate. This is a fast-moving policy area. Publication in full risks undermining the government’s ability to deliver effective policy. DECC is responsible for the economics of energy. Defra should not have not have produced document

Caroline Lucas, Green, Brighton Pavilion
How can the minister expect people to have confidence in government when she refuses to publish this document

Anne McIntosh
We take the concerns of rural communities very seriously indeed. We should listen to their concerns. It is unfortunate that this [document] will not be in public domain.

Amber Rudd
This government takes seriously the security, safety and the good abode of everyone in rural community. We will keep this in mind.

Moratorium
I am surprised [by the call]. It is more important to explore the potential for shale gas while risks are managed.

Recovery of UK petroleum
On the clause which would create a new duty on the Government maximise economic recovery, the government feels oil and gas makes an important contribution to UK economy.

Tom Greatrex, shadow energy minister
The government wants to cherry pick Labour’s 13 necessary conditions for shale gas – it’s all or nothing. This [debate] is an absolute shambles. They [the government] do not have a clue what they are doing.

We asked for two days for the Report Stage and we have one. It makes it very difficult to us in this House to make a judgement. This is a dereliction of duty for government. Fracking cannot be allowed without regulations, monitoring, local consent and at expense of binding commitments on climate change.

I am very disappointed. It doesn’t meet the concerns of the chair of select committee. Ridiculously redacted. How little confidence we can have in government that refuses to publish.

The focus for the government is to listen to parliament. No fracking can happen without complete and comprehensive regulations are in place.

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