In this Fracking Week in Westminster:
- Ministers make changes to planning policy in statements on shale gas and oil
- Lisa Nandy asks: Does the government have a plan to keep the lights?
- Cat Smith asks: Did the government discuss the release of the full version of the rural impacts report with Cuadrilla?
- MPs and Peers question the policy differences between fracking and renewables
- Debates on the Trade Union and Energy Bills
Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
Written ministerial statements
16th September 2015
Energy and Local Government ministers made long written statements in the House of Commons and House of Lords. The statements said they formally replaced the shale gas and oil policy statement issued by DECC and DCLG on 13 August 2015. They give ministers the right to intervene in deciding planning applications and appeals for oil and gas. Our report on the implications of the statements.
“This statement to Parliament should be taken into account in planning decisions and plan-making”
- The national need to explore UK shale gas and oil resources
- Safety and environmental protection will be ensured through responsible development and robust regulation
- Transparency and information for the public
- Sharing shale income with communities
The statements said:
“The Government considers that there is a clear need to seize the opportunity now to explore and test our shale potential”
“The Government is confident we have the right protections in place now to explore shale safely”
- Identifying underperformance in respect of oil and gas applications
- Recovery criteria for appeals
Questions and debates
18th September 2015
Environment Questions, House of Commons
Question by Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will publish the final version of her Department’s report, Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts.
Reply by Rory Stewart, Environment Minister
The full version of the draft rural economy impacts paper was released on 1 July and is available on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-shale-gas-rural-economy-impacts-paper The draft paper was intended as a rapid review of existing literature; it is not analytically robust. Work on this paper was discontinued and we have no plans to update it.
17th September 2015
Energy Questions, House of Commons
Question by Richard Burgon Labour, Leeds East
How can the Government justify slashing support for renewables while at the same time imposing a 16-week limit on councils, such as Leeds City Council, for considering applications for fracking?
Reply by Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary
Our energy security relies upon an energy mix. We therefore support shale and feel that the right way to approach it is to have a planning process that councils adhere to. We stand ready to help councils when they need it, and I hope that we will have the opportunity to do so.
Question by Lisa Nandy, Labour, Wigan
Investors looking at the UK are scratching their heads. On the one hand the Government say that they are trying to reduce the cost of energy for working families, but on the other hand they say that they want to go for shale gas and CCS, which are unproven markets. We have, “new nuclear build and offshore wind which are substantially more expensive than renewables such as onshore wind and solar PV. Investors don’t know what the government is trying to achieve.”
Those are not my words; those are the words of Ernst and Young’s energy analyst in a report that was published this week. When will the Government return with a plan to keep our lights on, cut pollution, and get energy bills under control?
Reply by Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary
The hon. Lady is entirely wrong. This Government have a clear plan, and in a way she summed it up in her conclusion. We are committed to ensuring that energy security is at the front, to carbon reductions, and above all—a feature that never appears except on the Conservative Benches—to keeping consumer bills down.
Question by Peter Lilley, Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the main factors accounting for the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions since 1990 have been the recession, the dash for gas and the outsourcing of the manufacture of carbon-intensive products to China and other third-world countries? The huge expenditure on trying to reduce CO2 emissions by renewables has had far less impact. Is she therefore not right to try to pare down the cost of this rather ineffectual policy?
Reply by Amber Rudd, Energy Secretary
I have to confess that I do not agree with everything my right hon. Friend has said, but I agree that our energy needs a mix of policies. The bringing on of more gas has certainly been a successful way of reducing carbon emissions. With the development of shale, we believe that that will continue to happen.
14th September 2015
Question by Cat Smith, Labour, Lancaster and Fleetwood
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, whether her Department discussed (a) the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report, Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, published in redacted form in March 2014 and (b) the timing of that report’s release, in either redacted or full form, with Cuadrilla.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Energy Minister
The Department did not discuss this report, or its timing, with Cuadrilla. This was a draft internal paper and is not analytically robust. It refers to data from overseas studies which cannot be used to predict impacts in the UK with any degree of reliability. The UK has a robust 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.
Second reading of the Trade Union Bill, House of Commons
Extract of speech by Chris Matheson, Labour, City of Chester
There is a sinister and dangerous authoritarianism to the Government’s actions. Attacking the funding of the Labour party, as the Bill clearly and deliberately does, breaks many long-standing political conventions. It is part of a pattern that other hon. Members have identified: the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 taking away the ability of charities and unions to campaign in a general election, but not big businesses and newspapers; allowing local communities to decide on whether to have fracking in their local communities, but then, if they decide against it, the Government driving it through anyway;
Committee stage of the Energy Bill, House of Lords
Extract of speech by Lord Teverson, Liberal Democrat
It seems that the Government are in favour of this reallocation or repatriation [of planning decisions on onshore wind] because they want to put greater obstacles in the way of this far more cost-effective and efficient form of energy: onshore wind.
Yet in other areas of energy policy, not least fracking—I am not against fracking in principle—the Government try to move things in exactly the opposite direction. Due to the frustrations felt with Lancashire County Council, we have the irony of the Government trying to move decision-making up to the Secretary of State whereas onshore wind, which seems bad in terms of Tory ideology, is moving the other way and back to local authorities. That inconsistency concerns me.
Extract of speech by Baroness Young of Old Scone, Labour
It is rather strange that we are moving in one direction for fracking consents and in another for onshore wind consents. I simply make that remark without having any belief that there should be one without the other.
Extract of speech by Baroness Worthington, Labour
if you compare that with what is happening with fracking and the extraction of gas using unconventional methods, you see that there is a huge gulf in how different technologies are now being treated by this Government. That is regrettable. Personally, I do not think that any Government should have an a priori view about any technology. There will be good and bad examples of the deployment of those technologies.
Extract of speech by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, Conservative
It would be interesting to know the Opposition’s position on fracking. It is legitimate to ask that because the issue has been raised. We are obviously trying to encourage new energy sources in order to reduce costs and increase energy security. However, local communities, across the range, must be fully involved in planning decisions—be it shale or onshore wind—and we proceed on that basis. There should and will be a full public consultation for both. On that basis, I believe that Clause 59 should stand part of the Bill.
Extract of speech by Lord Howell of Guildford, Conservative
If fracking proceeds in the UK—I say “if” because oil is at $50 and likely to become lower, with many people now talking about $25 and $30—the investment attraction of gas or oil extraction by hydraulic fracturing will, frankly, not be great. It could become an additional gas source to the many already available to us. There is LNG, obviously, and Norway is willing to pipe us a lot more gas, while even the Russians want to sell us gas direct through their Nord Stream pipeline extension. If all those ifs fall into place, we will have gas.
Extract of speech by Lord Grantchester, Labour
The impact of recent government decisions is to reduce support for renewables—onshore wind in this Bill; solar in changed arrangements for that sector—while making it easier to use North Sea oil and gas and easier for fracking ventures. The direction of energy policy in relation to energy decarbonisation is further shown through measures on onshore shale gas and oil, giving rise to considerable doubts about the Government’s overall intentions. This is aggravated by the reported delays in bringing new nuclear power capacity into the system, given the problems at Hinkley Point with EDF.