Fracking week in Westminster – w/e 30th Jan 2015

Transcripts and reports of parliamentary debates, questions and answers about fracking and onshore oil and gas for the week ending 30th January 2015

This week

  • Vote on fracking moratorium in the Report stage of the Infrastructure Bill
  • Publication of MPs report on fracking risks
  • Questions on
    • Shale gas fund
    • Community consultation on fracking
    • Redacted report on shale impacts on rural communities
  • Statement on councils’ retention of business rates for shale gas operations

With thanks to

26th January

Environmental Audit Committee report on fracking risks

Report Stage of Infrastructure Bill


27th January

Treasury questions

John Baron (Basildon and Billericay, Conservative)
Given the financial short-termism of the previous Government, I welcome the Chancellor’s comments about a shale gas fund. When he is Chancellor after the next general election, will he consider expanding the concept to create a North sea sovereign wealth fund for the benefit of the country as a whole?

George Osborne (The Chancellor of the Exchequer; Tatton, Conservative)
Of course, our challenge is to eliminate the deficit and to get our debt falling. Sovereign wealth funds are built up by countries that run consistent budget surpluses, which is exactly what we need to do in the United Kingdom. In particular, I would like to see some of the revenues from the shale gas industry used to support local communities. That would be a boost to communities across the country, especially in the north of England.

Written energy questions

Frank Field (Birkenhead, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what steps he has taken to ensure that the views of local residents are represented in decisions relating to drilling for shale gas.

Matthew Hancock (Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change; West Suffolk, Conservative)
Companies developing shale will speak with local communities, residents and other stakeholders at each of the three stages of operations – exploration, appraisal and production. This is as well as consultation through the planning application.

The planning process takes into account local considerations, there are multiple opportunities for the public to be consulted and permission can attach conditions for operators.

Communities that host shale development should share in the benefits. A community benefits package means that £100,000 is paid to local communities on exploration and a minimum of 1% of revenues from production.29th January 2015.

Christopher Chope (Christchurch, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, which areas within Christchurch constituency are covered by existing Government licences permitting fracking.

Matthew Hancock
There are currently no existing Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) which contain acreage that falls within Christchurch constituency.
Environment questions

Maria Eagle (Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Garston and Halewood, Labour)
The Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, said on Monday in the House that the severely redacted report on the impacts of shale gas on the rural economy was prepared by a junior member in another Department “and it was not appropriate for them to have done so”.—[Hansard, 26 January 2015; Vol. 591, c. 594.] In view of those comments, will the Secretary of State tell us why it was done and which one of her Ministers was responsible for overseeing the production of the report? Or is that information to be redacted too?

Elizabeth Truss (The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; South West Norfolk, Conservative)
The paper in question was not analytically robust and it was not signed off by Ministers. The responsibility for the economic impacts of fracking is a matter for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and it is looking at the issue. I am clear that fracking has a huge potential to provide jobs and growth and lower our energy costs. That is why it is so important that we proceed with this vital technology.

Maria Eagle
Ministers have responsibility for what is done in their Department. The report has been so heavily redacted that even the name of its author has been removed. Given that the Government have now caved in to Labour’s demand for extensive and robust regulation, without which there can be no fracking for shale gas, why does the Secretary of State not now publish the report, unredacted, in the interests of full transparency? Does she understand that refusing to publish it merely fuels suspicion that the Government have something more to hide than her junior Minister’s embarrassment at being asleep on the job?

Elizabeth Truss
The majority of the proposals the Government accepted were already Government policy and were being carried out voluntarily by the industry, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive. We have agreed to accept the proposals to provide reassurance in law to give the industry the best chance of success in this important technology.

Written environment questions

Duncan Hames (Chippenham, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will publish without redaction the Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts report, published by her Department with redactions in March 2014.

Elizabeth Truss
A The economic impact of fracking is a matter for the Department for Energy and Climate Change. The paper that my Hon Friend refers to was an internal draft document. It was not analytically robust and was not signed off by Ministers. It has not been published and we have no plans to do so.

My department is responsible for the environmental aspects of this policy. The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering review on shale gas concluded if fracking is properly regulated it is safe and has minimal environmental impacts.

Local government statement

Kris Hopkins (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Keighley, Conservative)
The Coalition Government have introduced new financial incentives to councils to support locally- led enterprise and economic growth, as part of our programme of decentralisation and as part of our long-term economic plan.

Since 2013, local government has kept half of all business rate revenues and business rate growth. But we want to go further over time to increase these incentives.

Last year, we announced proposals to allow 100% local retention of business rates on shale oil and gas sites. In October, we published a technical consultation on draft regulations to implement this measure. We received 25 responses. A majority of those supported retention of 100% of business rates on shale oil and gas by local government. Having considered the responses we have decided to continue with our proposals as set out in the technical consultation. This policy will ensure that local councils that host shale oil or gas sites can benefit from millions of pounds in business rates paid. The measure could be worth up to £1.7 million for a typical site and will be funded by central Government.

Shale will help to improve energy security, create jobs and meet carbon targets benefiting the UK through improved energy security and economic prospects. Local councils and communities have an important part to play in securing those improvements and we believe they should also share in the economic opportunities and benefits of shale. Tough environmental protections are in place, and are being further enhanced as announced to the House during the Infrastructure Bill on Monday.

The associated secondary legislation has been laid before Parliament, and the responses to the consultation published. Subject to Parliamentary approval, the provisions will come into force in April 2015.

2 replies »

  1. Dear Ruth Thank you for your invaluable reports.

    Do you know anything about: 1 Are Labour’s 13 ‘fracking’ conditions in New Clause 9 sufficiently legally watertight to do what they appear to intend? Has Labour been challenged on the details, and if so what is their response? (Eg no fracking in ‘protected areas’ – why have these not been specifically defined and what difference will this make? Exactly what is to be monitored 12 months in advance of hydraulic fracturing, why has this not been spelt out and what difference will this make?) 2. How will Labour/what is the likelihood of getting these conditions to ‘stick’ in the HoL when it gets to ping-pong on 9 February? 3. Why do the 13 conditions only apply to hydraulic fracturing and not to other methods of extracting unconventional gas? What will be the effect of this omission? (Eg will current Clause 39 in Inf Bill, re the right to use underground land for the broader purposes of ‘petroleum and geothermal enegy’and leave ‘any substance’ be qualified by the Labour conditions? ) 4. What comments/ analysis are there of the stringent time restrictions placed on discussion of the Infrastructure Bill? Can this be appealed against on the grounds of subverting parliamentary process and destroying open democratic debate and scrutiny? 5. Was the GMB letter to the parliamentary Labour Party on 26 January the reason why they did not support the moratorium? 6. What happened at the GMB Conference in Blackpool on 30 January?

    Many thanks, Linda Hurrell.

    Sent from my iPad

    • Hi Linda
      Thanks for your comment. All very good questions. I’m working on it! Watch this space. And if you find out anything, I’d be grateful for the information.

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