In this week’s Fracking Week in Parliament:
- Legislation to give the Welsh Assembly power over fracking
- Question on regulation of shale gas
- Academic funding from fracking
With thanks to TheyWorkForYou.com for the transcripts.
12 September 2016
House of Commons debate on The Wales Bill
Alun Cairns, Welsh Secretary, Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan
Extract of speech
The Bill meets the commitments in the St David’s Day agreement. It delivers a devolution settlement for Wales that is clearer, fairer and stronger, and it delivers powers for a purpose. It delivers a historic package of powers to the National Assembly that will transform it into a fully-fledged Welsh legislature, affirmed as a permanent part of the United Kingdom’s constitutional fabric, enhancing and clarifying the considerable powers it currently has. The Assembly is accountable to the people of Wales, with powers over taxes that will make it responsible not only for how money is spent in Wales, but for how it is raised. The Bill devolves further powers that will enable the Welsh Government to make a real difference on the things that matter to the people of Wales. The Assembly will be able to decide on, for example, the planning regime for major strategic energy projects, and whether fracking should take place.
15 September 2016
House of Lords written question on fracking
Question by Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, Conservative
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take to ensure that regulations governing the exploitation on a significant scale of shale gas by fracking will be robust and will not permit an unacceptable level of self-regulation.
Reply by Baroness Neville-Rolfe, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy minister
Shale companies need permission from independent expert regulators before any hydraulic fracturing operations can begin:
- A licence for onshore oil and gas exploration is required from the Oil and Gas Authority
- Planning permission is required from the local Mineral Planning Authority
- Permits to operate a site are required from the Environment Agency
- Safety on a drilling site and standards of well construction are regulated by the Health and Safety Executive
- A drilling consent is also required from the Oil and Gas Authority
We are confident that we have a robust regulatory regime in place. The Government will keep the regulatory regime for shale under review as the industry develops to ensure it is proportionate and fit for purpose.
Public Bill Committee discussion on the Higher Education and Research Bill
Gordon Marsden, Shadow business and education minister, Labour, Blackpool South
Extract of speech
We had a debate about what should and should not be in the Bill. Clause 14, to my surprise when I first saw the Bill, refers to “the principle that academic staff at an English higher education provider have freedom within the law”.
In my judgment, it is unusual to see that in a Bill and I was so bold as to table the amendment because the one group of people the academic staff did not seem to be protected from were Government or other relevant stakeholders. It talks about ways in which they might be protected against, presumably—perhaps the Minister will amplify this—being affected by their provider. One can think of all sorts of situations without naming individual universities. Hypothetically, for example, a university might depend heavily on funding or support from companies promoting genetically modified foods and so on.
I will not mention a particular university although I will mention a particular controversy. In future, a university might, for example, receive funding from the proponents of fracking and find that a member of its staff who was not keen on fracking had all sorts of legitimate academic arguments against it.
Updated 24/9/2016 to include extract of Gordon Marsden speech to Public Bill Committee on 15/9/2016