Fracking Week in Westminster – w/e 11th September 2015


Fracking Week in Westminster returns after the summer recess with questions and debates on fracking and onshore oil and gas

  • Cat Smith asks the PM about rural economic impacts of fracking
  • Dan Jarvis on protection for Barnsley
  • Barry Gardiner questions government U-turn on protection from fracking for Sites of Special Scientific Interest
  • Elizabeth Truss says: “It is perfectly possible to frack safely and in an environmentally friendly way”
  • Louise Haigh calls for a debate on new oil and gas licences
  • Chris Grayling tells MPs: “Fracking is an essential part of our future energy strategy”
  • Caroline Lucas warns of public opposition to fracking
  • Tom Elliott raises the need for research on fracking risks

Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts

11th September 2015

Written questions on fracking

Cat SmithQuestion by Cat Smith, Labour. Lancaster and Fleetwood
To ask the Prime Minister, whether he read the report, Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in March 2014.

Reply from the Prime Minister, David Cameron
This was a draft internal DEFRA paper which was not analytically robust. The UK has a regulatory regime that will ensure that the exploration and production of shale gas can be carried out in a safe and environmentally sound manner. We are committed to ensuring that communities feel the benefits of fracking. Investment in shale could reach £33 billion and support 64,000 jobs in the oil, gas, construction, engineering and chemical sectors. That would be good news for the whole of the UK economy.

Dan JarvisQuestion by Dan Jarvis, Labour, Barnsley Central
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what steps she plans to take to protect people in Barnsley from potential harmful environmental effects of fracking.

Andrea Leadsom, The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change
The Government has been clear that shale development must be safe and environmentally sound. We are already have one of the most robust regulatory regimes in the world for shale gas. We insist on high standards of health safety and environmental protection. All of this is backed up by independent checks from the regulators.

We have been successfully regulating for gas and oil drilling for over 50 years and have tough regulations in place to ensure on-site safety, prevent water contamination, mitigate seismic activity and air pollution. Through the Infrastructure Act 2015, we are putting in place a range of further measures to provide the public with confidence that this industry is being taken forward in a balanced way, including measures on environmental impact assessments, groundwater monitoring and community benefits.

10th September 2015

Environment questions

Barry GardinerQuestion by Barry Gardiner, Labour, Brent North
In the infrastructure debate, the Government promised they would safeguard our groundwater and sites of special scientific interest from the dangers of fracking. These promises have now been abandoned. The Government now permit fracking in SSSIs, and four out of five of the old water protection zones are no longer frack-free under the new water protection areas. Was the Secretary of State consulted by her Cabinet colleagues about this U-turn on fracking in protected areas, and if so, why did she agree to downgrade these important protections?

ElixabethTrussReply from Elizabeth Truss, The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
We are clear that we have one of the best environmental protection regimes in the world, through the Environment Agency, which makes sure that groundwater sources are protected. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the study produced by the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering—both independent bodies—he will see that it is perfectly possible to frack safely and in an environmentally friendly way.

Business of the House

Louise HaighQuestion by Louise Haigh, Labour, Sheffield Heeley
Over the summer the Government announced, without consultation, 27 blocks of land, including in my own constituency, on which fracking companies can begin exploratory drilling. Given that the Government have granted communities the right to oppose onshore wind farms, can we have an urgent debate on the Government’s energy policy and the rights of our constituents to oppose and have a say over what happens in their own backyard?

Chris GraylingReply by Chris Grayling, Leader of the House of Commons
There is local decision making about planning applications for fracking, but, given that we have to provide future energy to warm our houses, particularly those of elderly people, it is in the strategic interests of this country to have good, effective sources of energy. In this Government’s view, fracking is an important resource and we should take advantage of it. It is not a new technique. It has existed in the oil and gas industry for many years. We are strongly of the view that it is an essential part of our future energy strategy. The hon. Lady will have a chance to raise those issues with the Secretary of State in Energy questions next Thursday, but this country must have a smart approach to ensuring that we have sources of energy for the future, and this is one of them.

8th September 2015

Debate on Devolution (London) Bill

CarolineLucasCaroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion, Green
Responding to Stewart Jackson, Peterborough, Conservative, “There are some cases where renewables are being sited in areas where there is opposition, but those are a minority. I assure him that if he thinks there is going to be much popular objection to renewables, he should just wait until his constituents and others see the impact of fracking. That is when he is going to see an awful lot more opposition to the energy choices that this Government are making.”

Debate in House of Lords on the motion: To move that this House takes note of Her Majesty’s Government’s plans to boost productivity in the United Kingdom

Speech by Baroness Noakes, Conservative

I applaud what the Government have been doing to facilitate the development of fracking in the UK and to call a halt to some of the most inefficient renewable subsidies. But energy costs remain a huge concern both for households and for energy-intensive industries. Even after the changes announced in July, environmental levies will still be more than £4 billion this year and will more than double by 2020-21. These levies are borne by energy consumers, including our productive industries. The Government need to look again at whether the costs imposed in the name of climate change represent value for money for our economy or another drag on the cost base and competitiveness of British industry.

7th September 2015

Industrial health and safety questions

Tom ElliottQuestion by Tom Elliott, UUP, Fermanagh and South Tyrone
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether the Health and Safety Executive has carried out research into the potential risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

Reply by Justin Tomlinson Work and Pensions minister
It is not necessary for HSE to commission new research in order to be confident that it can regulate the shale industry effectively, due to the broad range of shale research already available and HSE’s existing knowledge of oil and gas extraction. I have asked HSE to keep the situation under review.

Debate on the Energy Bill in the House of Lords

Speech by Lord Howell of Guildford, Conservative

My own view is that, barring high-impact events like huge new political upheavals beyond the ones we already have in the Middle East, there will be no obvious bounce back in the price for a very long time. People talk as though the OPEC countries had some choice of policy—they could just cut production and the price would go up. Well of course that would not happen. They have lost control of the price. Russia has no intention of co-operating, and the shale industry in America, although there have been a few bankruptcies, will come back again and increase production as soon as the price rises. So the OPEC countries would gain nothing. Iran of course may be coming on stream as well. All this means that the industry in the North Sea is now facing a period when, on the supply side, there will be a lot more oil. On the demand side, there will probably be rather flat demand, whether from China, from Japan—which is going back to nuclear so will not need so much—or, indeed, from the United States or us, where the demand

Updated 11/9/15 to include questions by Cat Smith and Dan Jarvis

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