The energy minister, Claire Perry, attended most of a 95-minute meeting with the shale gas industry which she said she had dropped in on, MPs heard this evening.
Ms Perrytold parliament last month that she had been advised she did not need to declare the meeting under the ministerial code because she had dropped in, rather than held the meeting in her office.
But the shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, said today:
“It would appear that the minister’s involvement in the meeting may not have been as casual as she suggested.”
Raising a point of order with the House of Commons speaker, Mr Gardiner said a freedom of information request had revealed that the meeting lasted 95 minutes.
“The minister was present for at least 70 of the 95.
“This would not, by any reasonable opinion, I contend, constitute dropping in on the meeting.”
Mr Gardiner also said he could find no reference to the difference in disclosure requirements in the ministerial code.
He asked whether the minister had made any request to come to the house to correct the record.
The speaker, John Bercow, replied:
“The short answer is that no request has been made by the minister concerned or by any other minister to make a statement of correction or other statement as far as I am aware on this matter.
“If a minister believes that he or she has erred it is not only open to that minister to correct the record, it is incumbent on him or her to do so. I have received no such indication. “
News of the roundtable first came to light in July, when the minister told a debate:
“I did hold a very effective shale industry roundtable”
DrillOrDrop reported on the meeting in August when officials at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released heavily-redacted meeting notes in response to a freedom of information request.
Following an internal review of the FOI request, the Department released more of the notes in October.
They revealed that the government would regard several shale gas well in production as a success for the industry. The meeting was also told that ministers intended to streamline regulation for shale gas and create a “UK model” for shale gas extraction that could be exported around the world.
Some material remained redacted. BEIS said this was because it referred to policy “that is intended for later publication”. This was thought to be about proposed planning changes for shale gas, which had not been formally consulted on.