In the first Fracking Week in Westminster of 2016:
- How one MP fears the Housing and Planning Bill could be used to promote fracking sites
- Measures to ban on shale gas drill in protected areas
- Call for a bespoke regulatory regime and independent monitoring for shale gas sites
- Details of government meetings with the oil and gas industry
- Criticism of ministerial announcements just before the parliamentary recesses
Thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts
Report stage (day 1) of the Housing and Planning Bill
5th January 2016
This bill proposes to change the powers about housing, planning and compulsory purchase.
Clause 111 introduces the concept of “permission in principle” which allows automatic planning permission on sites allocated for development without any scrutiny by the public or local authorities. Critics have said this will take power away from local communities and give it to private developers and central government. Caroline Lucas has introduced an amendment to remove this clause.
Caroline Lucas, Green, Brighton Pavilion
Extracts from speech
I rise to support my amendment 74. One of the many reasons I oppose the Bill is that it takes power away from local communities and places it in the hands of private sector developers and central Government. It is a profoundly undemocratic Bill, and nowhere is that clearer than in the plans for planning authorities.
I believe that local communities are best placed to understand the particular needs and detailed characteristics of their local area, but if such oversight is sidelined, we risk significantly compromising community resilience.
Nothing in the Bill will limit permission in principle to brownfield sites alone or prevent it from being applied to any development on any land allocated in a so-called qualifying document. The consequences are far reaching. As the Town and Country Planning Association has pointed out, fracking could easily be given permission in principle as part of a minerals plan, which would be completely unacceptable.
7th January 2016
Question by Kevin Hollinrake, Conservative, Thirsk and Malton
What steps she is taking to prevent shale gas drilling at the surface in areas of the greatest environmental value.
Reply by Andrea Leadsom, Energy and Climate Change Minister, South Northamptonshire
First, I commend my hon. Friend for the personal commitment he has shown to researching best practice in this area. I can assure him that the Government are committed to protecting our most valuable spaces from surface drilling of wells for fracking. On 4 November, we set out how we plan to do this via petroleum exploration and development licences. We will issue a response to our industry consultation as soon as possible.
Question by Kevin Hollinrake
I very much welcome the Minister’s comments. The Task Force on Shale Gas has called for a single regulator and increased levels of independent monitoring. Does the Minister agree that this would improve public confidence and provide further protection, particularly for our most sensitive areas?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
The task force’s 2015 report says that the regulatory regime is currently fit for purpose, but my hon. Friend rightly points out its proposal that if the shale gas industry does develop the Government should consider creating a bespoke regulator. I can absolutely assure him that we will keep the regulatory regime under review to make sure that it remains fit for purpose. On his second point about independent monitoring, I entirely agree, and that is why we are already grant-funding baseline monitoring in North Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Question by Dennis Skinner, Labour, Bolsover
Does the Minister accept that there is widespread opposition to fracking in all parts of Britain? Will she congratulate, as I have, the residents of Calow in Bolsover for refusing to allow a drilling operation and getting it stopped not only by the local authority but by her own inspectorate?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
It is quite extraordinary that Opposition Members continually talk about the potential for shale gas as if it is some kind of disaster. The hon. Gentleman comes from a very honourable and long-standing mining area. Mining has a legacy that we will be dealing with for many years to come. The shale industry, on the other hand, offers the opportunity to create a new home-grown energy source that is vital for our energy security into the next decades.
Question by Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Lancaster and Fleetwood
When will the Secretary of State produce some legally enforceable protection against surface-level fracking in our national parks and sites of special scientific interest?
Reply by Andrea Leadsom
I hope that the hon. Lady heard my initial comment, which was that we have been able to put forward our proposal to restrict surface drilling in any of our most protected areas, not limited to national parks but including many other valuable spaces, through licensing. As things stand, we are waiting for our report in response to the industry consultation that closed on 16 December, and we will make our announcements very soon.
Written questions to the Treasury
7th January 2016
Question by Helen Goodman, Labour, Bishop Auckland
To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will publish minutes of the meeting of the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury with Oil and Gas UK, BP, Schlumberger UK, Northern Europe AMEC Foster Wheeler, EnQUEST, Global Energy, Nexen Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, Talisman Sinopec, Shell Centrica Energy, Chrysaor, OMV UK Limited, RGU Oil & Gas Institute, STUC, KCA Duetag, UK Onshore Oil & Gas, Apache North Sea Ltd, Aquaterra Energy Limited, Wood Group PSN, Statoil Production (UK) Limited, ExxonMobil, Total E&P UK, Chevron Upstream Europe, Maersk Oil UK, GE Oil & Gas and Expro Group to discuss energy and climate change in June 2015.
Reply by Damian Hinds, The Exchequer Secretary, East Hampshire
Treasury Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. Details of ministerial and permanent secretary meetings with external organisations on departmental business are published on a quarterly basis and are available at:
Business of the House
7th January 2016:
Statement by Chris Bryant, shadow leader of the House of Commons, Rhondda
May I suggest that after every recess, the first day back should be devoted to no business other than statements from Ministers and urgent questions? That might stop the Government piling up bad news announcements for the very last day before the recess. This December was the worst ever, with 36 all in one day. In one day, we learned that immigration officers had given up hunting for 10,000 missing asylum seekers, that HMRC had lost out on £16 billion of tax, and that there would be a massive expansion of fracking for shale gas.
Reply by Chris Grayling, leader of the House of Commons, Epsom and Ewell
On the question of the announcements made before Christmas, I just remind the hon. Gentleman that I have stood at this Dispatch Box week after week listening to the Opposition asking, “When can we have an update? Can we have an announcement before Christmas? Can we have the publication of a report before Christmas?” However, when before Christmas we actually produced a whole range of announcements, publications and reports and confirmations of Government policy, they complain about it; it is an absolute nonsense. We will do the right thing by this country; they will no doubt carry on complaining about it. That is their prerogative in opposition, but frankly I am taking no lessons from them.
Tuesday 12th January 2016
Housing and Planning Bill Report Stage (day 2) and 3rd reading Details
Friday 29th January 2016
2nd reading of Fracking (Measurement and Regulation of Impacts) (Air, Water and Greenhouse Gas Emissions) Bill, introduced by Geraint Davies, Labour, Swansea West Details