Fracking

Energy and Climate Change – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 31 January 2013.

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Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden 9:30, 31 January 2013

Whether his assessment of fracking in the US included any information on (a) people poisoned by water contamination and (b) buildings damaged by earth tremors as a result of fracking.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Now for shale gas, Mr Speaker. Shale gas has exciting potential, but we need to move forward with the right measures to ensure safe and secure operations, and reassure local communities. As for the US experience, so far as we know there has been no confirmed instance of any person being poisoned by water contamination or of buildings being damaged by earth tremors as a result of fracking.

Photo of Peter Lilley Peter Lilley Conservative, Hitchin and Harpenden

I am grateful to the Minister for that clear answer. I know that he will not want to be critical of his predecessors in the Department, but why has it taken 18 months to discover such a simple fact, which, if promulgated earlier, would have set at rest the minds of people in the areas where frack drilling is likely to take place?

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

As my right hon. Friend knows, the Secretary of State has made it clear that he has put in place conditions, regulations, and secure and safe circumstances that will allow the continued exploration for shale gas. Shale gas is a potential virtue, but it has to be pursued in a way that is safe and secure, and guarantees public support.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Will the Minister take heed of the words of his predecessor, Charles Hendry, who warned against “betting the farm” on shale gas? Will the Minister assure me that the Government’s perspective on this issue is not influenced by the over-inflated claims made by firms that are major donors to, and have close links with, the Tory party? Such firms include the one that put in the recent planning application for exploratory drilling in Somerset and has given £500,000 to the Tories.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

There will be a proper planning process subject to all the normal scrutiny and discipline. Of course we must move ahead with caution, but to ignore this opportunity and cast aside this potential would be folly.

Photo of Christopher Pincher Christopher Pincher Conservative, Tamworth

The British Geological Survey suggests that there could be 10 trillion cubic feet of gas under the Bowland field, whereas Cuadrilla suggests that there may be as much as 200 trillion. Would not the best way to determine who is right, so that we find out just what impact this vital resource could have and to ensure that we can get players into the marketplace, be for the Department to release the information it has and forge ahead on the next licensing round? That would allow us to get players into the marketplace and just do it.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change

Consistency is the watchword that characterises all the work that my hon. Friend does in this place, for in the Select Committee he made just that point and urged the Government to move ahead with another licensing round as soon as possible. We need to test and we need to establish the scale of this potential. Without exploration we cannot do that—he is absolutely right.