Green MP criticises tactics of government u-turn on fracking in wildlife sites

CarolineLucasCaroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, has accused the government of using legislative small print to hide its policy reversal on fracking in important wildlife sites.

Ms Lucas said MPs had approved the Infrastructure Bill earlier this year following a promise by Amber Rudd for the government that fracking would be banned in these areas. (Our report)

But regulations published last week did not include wildlife sites on the list of areas where fracking would be excluded.

During points of order in the House of Commons yesterday, Ms Lucas said:

“During the debates on the Infrastructure Bill on 26 January, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change told the House unequivocally that there would be an outright ban on fracking at sites of special scientific interest.”

“That was the basis on which the majority of the House agreed the Bill should be enacted. Yet secondary legislation published on Friday does the exact opposite, by failing to include SSSIs in the list of protected areas.”

“Mr Speaker, could you please offer some guidance on the appropriateness of concealing such a U-turn in the small print of a statutory instrument, and advise us of whether you have had any indication that the Secretary of State intends to make a statement on the matter, given that what she told the House very clearly and specifically no longer appears to be the case?”

The Speaker, John Bercow, said he had no news that a minister planned to make a statement to MPs. He said:JohnBercow

“I am not familiar with the detail of what was said at an earlier stage, and it would not be right for me to seek to umpire between competing voices on the subject of the history of commitments made. Suffice it to say that Members on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Lady’s point of order.”

But he suggested MPs would be able to vote on the regulations if there was an objection from either the House of Commons or the Lords.

“There should, therefore, be at least an opportunity fully to debate the matter, and for the hon. Lady to flag up what she regards as an inconsistency between past commitment and present content.”

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