Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 24th July 2015

WP_20131008_001In the final week at Westminster before the parliamentary recess:

  • Lords asked questions over changes to the planning system for fracking and community vetoes for shale gas
  • And an MP criticised the Government for a u-turn on policy to allow fracking from Sites of Special Scientific Interest

With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts.

23rd July 2015
Lord GreavesWritten Questions

Question by Lord Greaves, Liberal Democrat
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the recent decisions by Lancashire County Council, whether they intend to change the system or the guidance in relation to planning applications for hydraulic fracturing.

Reply by Baroness Williams of Trafford for the GovernmentBaroness Williams
Due to the Secretary of State’s role in the planning process we are unable to comment on specific planning cases.

We will keep all aspects of the regulatory regime for shale gas, including the planning system, under review as the industry develops to ensure it is proportionate and fit for purpose.

 22nd July 2015
Viscount HanworthSecond reading of the Energy Bill in the House of Lords

Speech by Viscount Hanworth, Labour
Of the available sources of renewable energy, the cheapest by far is onshore wind. It has dismayed environmentalists to see the Government pursuing a policy that is in utter contradiction to their declared intention to provide renewable energy at the lowest possible cost. There are currently some 5,000 onshore wind turbines, which satisfy close to 6% of the electricity needs of the UK. It is reckoned that about 250 planned onshore wind farms are likely to be cancelled as a result of the early end to subsidies, which would mean that 2,500 planned turbines will not be built. This will have a devastating effect on the wind power industry, which is said to be in a fragile state. Moreover, given that around 70% of wind turbines are to be found in Scotland, the adverse economic effect of the cancellations will be concentrated in that region, which has infuriated Scottish MPs. The question arises of why the changes to the planning regime will affect onshore wind but not shale gas. Why should local authorities be given a power of veto over wind farms but not over fracking installations? There is no honest answer to that question.

Reply by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth for the GovernmentLord Bourne
There are people who feel that there are sufficient land-based wind farms and they affect the quality of their lives, so let us put that in perspective. We have just had an election in which that was an issue.

Developers can obviously still appeal against a decision from the local authority as they can in relation to shale. The point was made that somehow, the planning regime is fundamentally different in relation to shale. It is not. As we know from the decision recently taken in Lancashire, a decision is taken at local level and then there is the potential for appeal. In a similar way—although not identical because they are different planning regimes—there is a local element and then an appeal in both cases.

20th July 2015
Points of Order

carolinelucasCaroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. 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?

Reply by John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of CommonsJohnBercow
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. I have received no indication that a Minister is intending to come to the House to make a statement on the matter. 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.

Beyond that, I think what I would say is that the regulations will have to be brought forward, if they have not already been, and proceeded with either by the negative or by the affirmative procedure, with both of which the hon. Lady—an experienced Member of the House—will be well familiar. 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. I think we had better leave it there for today.  See also our earlier report

MPs started their summer holiday on Wednesday 22nd July 2015 and peers on Thursday 23rd July. This is the last Fracking Week in Westminster until 11th September 2015.

Catch up on recent posts from the Fracking Week in Westminster series

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 17th July 2015

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 3rd July 2015

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 26th June 2015

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 19th June 2015

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 12th June 2015

Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 29th May 2015

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