In this week’s Fracking Week in Westminster
- Chris Matheson on his exclusion from an anti-fracking court case
- Jim Cunningham on estimates of UK energy from shale gas
- Julie Elliott on government steps to increase UK energy self-sufficiency
- Alan Whitehead on a ban on fracking in sensitive areas
- Plus questions in the Scottish parliament on the fracking moratorium
With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
9th November 2015
Point of Order by Chris Matheson (Labour, City of Chester)
Mr Speaker. May I seek your guidance and advice on an incident that took place last week in which I believe I, as a Member of Parliament, was prevented by the actions of public officials from undertaking my duties in supporting my constituents?
The incident took place at Manchester civil courts, where approximately 40 to 50 of my constituents were involved in a case. When I arrived at the security point I was told that I was not to be granted entry. I identified myself as a Member of Parliament. There was a stand-off for a while, and of course I assure you, Mr Speaker, that my manner was courteous, as always, and calm. After about five minutes, a manager came up, pointed his hand towards me and said, “You’re not coming in. I’m now telling you to leave, and the police have been called.” Obviously I had no desire to cause any trouble for Greater Manchester police, but I did have a desire to join my constituents to support them in the court case. I identified myself to the police inspector and had a quick chat with him, and then left.
I believe that the officials of the court, knowing that I was a Member of Parliament, denied me the opportunity to support my constituents. I seek your guidance, Sir, as to the best way in which I might progress the matter further.
[DrillOrDrop report of the case]
John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. He has made clear, both in what he sent to me and in what he has articulated on the Floor of the House, his concern about the manner in which he was treated on Friday.
While I am always keen to defend Members’ ability to represent their constituents outside as well as inside the House, the question of whether a Member of Parliament should be given access to a court of law in support of constituents is not a matter for me. I say that simply as a matter of fact. Nor is the conduct of court officials a matter on which it would be appropriate for me to comment, having not been present and therefore privy to the circumstances.
That said, I make two other observations. First, the hon. Gentleman has made his point and put his concern on the record. I have a sense that colleagues who know that they could be in a similar position will empathise with him. From personal experience over the past six months, I can confirm that he has always been fastidious in his courtesy—courteous to a fault—in his dealings with the Chair.
Secondly, I think that sometimes people who are not quite conversant with the circumstances, or who perhaps lack directly comparable experience but are anxious to execute their duties in the most zealous way, err on the side of caution. That caution sometimes makes them think that it is easier to say no than to say yes. I was not there, and I make no criticism of any individual, but personally I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman and think it is very regrettable that he has had to bring the matter to the House. I think we will have to leave it there for today
Written question by Jim Cunningham (Labour, Coventry South)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what estimate she has made of the proportion of total UK energy production likely to be sourced from fracking in each of the next five years.
It is too early to make an assessment of the future extent of shale gas and oil production. We do not yet know the full scale of the UK’s shale resources nor how much can be extracted technically or economically.
Written question by Julie Elliott (Labour, Sunderland Central)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, what recent steps she has taken to increase the UK’s energy self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on imported fuel sources; and if she will make a statement.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The UK boasts a diverse range of energy sources including oil and gas, nuclear, a number of different renewable technologies and coal. These are home grown sources and it is our policy to add new nuclear and shale gas to the existing mix.
The recently established Oil & Gas Authority is working to maximize the economic recovery of UK conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources. In addition, the UK has six refineries which supply fuel into the domestic market and DECC is working closely with the industry to remove market distortions and ensure relevant regulations are fit for purpose, so they can continue to be competitive.
Furthermore, we are seeking to increase our domestic electricity generating capacity by working with three developers taking forward proposals to build six new nuclear power plants in the UK, including the recent commitment by EDF and CGN to take forward the Hinkley Point C Project. Renewables are also increasing our domestic generating capacity having provided nearly one fifth of the UK’s electricity needs in 2014 and we are on track to reach our target of 30% by 2020.
Written question by Alan Whitehead, Shadow Energy Minister (Labour, Southampton Test)
To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, under what timetable she will announce the mechanism for ensuring that hydraulic fracturing cannot be conducted from wells that are drilled at the surface of sensitive areas.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
On 4 November 2015, the Government set out proposals to ensure that hydraulic fracturing cannot be conducted from wells drilled at the surface of specified protected areas. The proposals are now subject to consultation with key stakeholders, including industry and non-governmental organisations.
Questions in the Scottish Parliament on the impact of fracking on the environment
Question by Neil Findlay (Lothian, Labour)
To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the impact on the environment of fracking.
Reply by Aileen McLeod (South Scotland, Scottish National Party)
The impacts of unconventional oil and gas on our environment, communities and economy need to be fully understood. The Scottish Government’s moratorium will allow time for careful examination of the issues and proper engagement with the public in considering them.
The comprehensive programme of research that we announced on 8 October will include projects to investigate possible climate change impacts, as well as the effects of additional traffic movements, site decommissioning and aftercare.
Question by Neil Findlay
A freedom of information response that I have received shows that Government ministers and officials met Ineos representatives 13 times prior to the moratorium on fracking, and that Nicola Sturgeon met them on the day that the moratorium was announced. Since then, John Swinney has met them twice. Given that, and given the current construction of a large holding tank, is it not clear that, as soon as the election is over, the moratorium will be over and fracking will begin in Scotland, or has Ineos just blown a big pile of cash on licences that it will never use?
Reply by Aileen McLeod
As I said, ministers have held meetings with representatives of environmental non-governmental organisations, community groups, industry bodies and local government. Those meetings have helped us to prepare for the research and public consultation processes. As a result, we have planned a robust and thorough research programme and a wide-ranging and participative consultation process.