“(1) The Secretary of State must from time to time request the Committee on Climate Change to provide advice (in accordance with section 38 of the CCA 2008) on the impact which combustion of, and fugitive emissions from, petroleum got through onshore activity is likely to have on the Secretary of State’s ability to meet the duties imposed by—
(a) section 1 of the CCA 2008 (net UK carbon account target for 2050), and
(b) section 4(1)(b) of the CCA 2008 (UK carbon account not to exceed carbon budget).
(2) As soon as practicable after each reporting period, the Secretary of State must produce a report setting out the conclusions that the Secretary of State has reached after considering the advice provided by the Committee on Climate Change during that reporting period in response to any request made under subsection (1).
(3) The Secretary of State must lay a copy of any such report before Parliament.
(4) In this section—
“CCA 2008” means the Climate Change Act 2008;
“petroleum got through onshore activity” means petroleum got from the strata in which it exists in its natural condition by activity carried out on land in England and Wales (excluding land covered by the sea or any tidal waters);
“petroleum” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of the Petroleum Act 1998 (see section 1 of that Act);
“reporting period” means—
(a) the period ending with
This amendment requires the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change on the likely impact of petroleum (including natural gas) produced onshore in England and Wales, and to report periodically on the conclusions reached as result of the advice given.
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
(2) After Section 1.2 insert—
Hydraulic Fracturing Activities
(a) carrying out exploration or assessments prior to hydraulic fracturing;
(b) drilling wells for use in hydraulic fracturing;
(c) process of hydraulic fracturing;
(d) decommissioning and long-term maintenance of hydraulic fracturing wells.””
New clause 2—Shale gas extraction: devolution—
‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows:
“( ) The licensing of onshore shale gas extraction underlying Scotland.
( ) Responsibility for mineral access rights for onshore extraction of shale gas in Scotland.””
New clause 4— Committee on Climate Change shale gas reports—
It shall be a duty of the Committee on Climate Change to produce Reports into the effects of exploitation of shale gas in the UK on net carbon emissions from the UK.”
New clause 6—Hydraulic Fracturing exclusion zones—
‘(1) The Petroleum Act 1998 is amended as follows.
(2) In Section 3, after subsection (4), insert—
“(5) No licences shall be granted to search and bore for petroleum in protected areas using the process of hydraulic fracturing.
(6) For the purposes of this section, “protected area” means—
(a) special areas of conservation under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994,
(b) special protection areas under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
(c) sites of special scientific interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
(d) national parks under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949,
(e) The Broads under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, and
(f) areas of outstanding natural beauty under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.”
New clause 7—Environmental Impact Assessment: publication—
“(1) Any Environmental Statement undertaken in respect of the possible exploitation of petroleum or deep geothermal energy, under the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011, must be publicised before a planning application is submitted to the local planning authority and/or the Secretary of State.
(2) The publication of an Environmental Statement under subsection (1) must be in accordance with the procedures set out in Article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010.”
New clause 8— Impact on rural communities—
“The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs must, within one month of this Act receiving Royal Assent, lay before the House of Commons the full report on Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts.”
New clause 9— Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum—
“(1) All use of land for development consisting of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain shall be discontinued during the relevant period.
(2) The Secretary of State must ensure that an independent assessment is undertaken of the exploitation of unconventional petroleum in Great Britain including the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing.
(3) The assessment must take account of the impacts of the exploitation of the unconventional petroleum on—
(a) climate change;
(b) the environment;
(c) health and safety; and
(d) the economy.
(4) The Secretary of State must—
(a) consult such persons as the Secretary of State thinks fit; and
(b) publish the assessment within the relevant period.
(5) For the purposes of subsections (1) to (4)—
“relevant period” means a period of not less than 18 months and not more than 30 months commencing on the date two months after Royal Assent;
“unconventional petroleum” means petroleum which does not flow readily to the wellbore.
(6) In section 3 of the Petroleum Act 1998, at the end of subsection (4) add “and subsection (4A).
“(4A) Nothing in this section permits the grant of a licence to search and bore for and get unconventional petroleum in Great Britain during the relevant period.
(4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A) “relevant period” and “unconventional petroleum” have the meaning specified in section [Moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum] of the Infrastructure Act 2015.”
New clause 10— The security of supply of gas—
(1) The Secretary of State shall, in accordance with section 4AA of the Gas Act 1986 and so far as it appears to him practicable from time to time, keep under review whether further measures may be appropriate in order to protect the interests of existing and future consumers in relation to the security of the supply of gas to them.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Secretary of State may direct the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority to conduct a Significant Code Review in relation to whether modifications to licences granted under Part 1 of the Gas Act 1986 or to the Uniform Network Code are appropriate in order to underpin the demand for and the security of supply of gas.
(3) For the purposes of this section—
“consumers”, for the avoidance of doubt, includes domestic and non-domestic consumers;
“Significant Code Review” has the meaning given in Standard Special Condition A11 (24) of licences granted under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986;
“Uniform Network Code” means the document of that title required to be prepared pursuant to Standard Special Condition A11 of licences granted under section 7 of the Gas Act 1986.
New clause 11— Annual report by Secretary of State on security of energy supplies—
“(1) Section 172 of the Energy Act 2004 (annual report on security of energy supplies) is amended as follows.
(2) In subsection (2), at the end insert—
“(e) the security of supply of gas to consumers in Great Britain, including available storage capacity, and any appropriate remedial measures.””
New clause 19— Hydraulic fracturing: necessary conditions—
Any hydraulic fracturing activity can not take place:
(a) unless an environmental impact assessment has been carried out;
(b) unless independent inspections are carried out of the integrity of wells used;
(c) unless monitoring has been undertaken on the site over the previous 12 month period;
(d) unless site-by-site measurement, monitoring and public disclosure of existing and future fugitive emissions is carried out;
(e) in land which is located within the boundary of a groundwater source protection zone;
(f) within or under protected areas;
(g) in deep-level land at depths of less than 1,000 metres;
(h) unless planning authorities have considered the cumulative impact of hydraulic fracturing activities in the local area;
(i) unless a provision is made for community benefit schemes to be provided by companies engaged in the extraction of gas and oil rock;
(j) unless residents in the affected area are notified on an individual basis;
(k) unless substances used are subject to approval by the Environment Agency
(l) unless land is left in a condition required by the planning authority, and
(m) unless water companies are consulted by the planning authority.”
The purpose of this new clause is to ensure that shale gas exploration and extraction can only proceed with appropriate regulation and comprehensive monitoring and to ensure that any activity is consistent with climate change obligations and local environmental considerations.
Amendment 50, page 39, line 12 leave out clause 37.
This deletes the Clause that puts into primary legislation a new duty to maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas.
Amendment 68, in clause 37, page 39, line 17, leave out
“the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum, in particular through” and insert
“not the objective of maximising the economic recovery of UK petroleum but ensuring that fossil fuel emissions are limited to the carbon budgets advised by the Committee on Climate Change and introducing a moratorium on the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas deposits in order to reduce the risk of carbon budgets being breached, in particular through—”.
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on
Amendment 73, page 39, line 31, at end insert—
“(3A) A strategy must be compatible with the Climate Change Act 2008.”
This would require strategies drawn up under clause 37 on maximising the economic recovery of oil and gas to be compatible with the Climate Change Act 2008, thereby avoiding the risk that the Secretary of State could, as a result of clause 37, be required to fulfil conflicting duties.
Amendment 51, page 45, line 22 leave out clauses 39 to 44.
This deletes the Clauses that seek to change the trespass law and introduce a new right to use deep-level land, which would allow fracking companies to drill beneath people’s homes and land without their permission and to leave any substance or infrastructure in the land.
Amendment 44, in clause 39, page 45, line 25, leave out
“petroleum or deep geothermal energy” and insert—
“(a) petroleum; or
(b) deep geothermal energy.
“(1A) The right under (1)(a) only applies if the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent report under section (Committee on Climate Change Shale Gas Reports) concludes that shale gas exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.
(1B) The carrying out of hydraulic fracturing in connection with the exploitation of unconventional petroleum is not allowed unless the Committee on Climate Change’s most recent report under section (Committee on Climate Change Shale Shale Gas Reports) concludes that shale gas exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.”
Amendment 47, page 45, line 27, leave out from “if” to end of line 29 and insert—
“(a) it is deep-level land,
(b) it is within a landward area, and
(c) the well shaft is not within two kilometres of any village or town.”
Amendment 56, page 45, line 29, at end insert—
“(c) subject to the agreement of the owner of any land altered by the use.”
Amendment 83, page 45, line 29, at end insert—
(i) Special Areas of Conservation under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994,
(ii) Special Protection Ares under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
(iii) Sites of Special Scientific Interest under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981,
(iv) National Parks under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949,
(v) The Broads under the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Act 1988, and
(vi) Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty under section 82 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.”
Amendment 117, page 45, line 29, at end add—
“(c) subject to the prior collation of existing environmental data and that data is published in a form that enables it to be subject to scientific peer review.”
Amendment 57, page 45, line 32, at end insert—
(a) The right of use shall be subject to the precautionary principle being applied;
(b) The Environment Agency will determine whether the condition under paragraph (a) has been met; and
(c) In this section, “precautionary principle” shall mean that no land is used for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy unless it is proved that it is not harmful to the environment.”
Amendment 3, page 45, line 33, leave out “300 metres” and insert “1,000 metres”.
Amendment 65, page 45, line 33, leave out “300 metres” and insert “950 metres”.
Government amendment 86.
Amendment 2, page 45, line 36, at end insert—
“(6) The Secretary of State shall, before the award of licences in relation to the use of deep-level land for onshore oil and gas exploration, issue additional planning guidance introducing a presumption against such developments within or under protected areas.”
Amendment 48, page 45, line 36, at end insert—
“(6) The Secretary of State shall prevent the exploitation of shale oil or gas if either a water company or the Environment Agency credibly asserts that to do otherwise would—
(a) create substantial risks to public health due to potential contamination of groundwaters from the extraction process; or
(b) create substantial risks to nearby surface waters due to potential contamination from flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracturing activity; or
(c) create substantial risks to the nearby environment due to potential contamination from flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracturing activity.”
Amendment 49, page 45, line 36, at end insert—
“(5A) The use of hydraulic fracturing in connection with the exploitation of unconventional petroleum shall be prohibited.
(5B) For the purposes of subsection (5A), “unconventional petroleum” means petroleum which does not flow readily to the wellbore.
(5C) In section 3 of the Petroleum Act 1998, at the end of subsection (4) add “and subsection (4A).
“(4A) Nothing in this section permits the grant of a licence to search and bore for and get unconventional petroleum in Great Britain.
(4B) For the purposes of subsection (4A), “unconventional petroleum” has the meaning set out in section 38(5B) of the Infrastructure Act .””
This amendment would ban fracking (the use of high volume hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas) in the UK.
Amendment 66, page 45, line 36, at end insert—
“(6) This section shall not extend to Wales unless an order authorising it has been passed by the National Assembly for Wales.
(7) An order under subsection (6) may contain any conditions which the Assembly deems appropriate.”
Amendment 82, page 45, line 36, at end insert—
“(5A) The Secretary of State shall be required to commission and consider reports on—
(a) The cumulative impacts of water use in hydraulic fracking of exploratory and productive gas wells;
(b) The cumulative impacts of flowback and waste water arising from hydraulic fracking activity; and
(c) The cumulative impacts on communities of road and vehicle movements from hydraulic fracking activity
Before providing any permissions for exploitation of petroleum on deep level land where one or more exploitation facility exists within one mile of a proposed site.”
Amendment 60, in clause 40, page 46, line 6, at end insert—
“(f) any substance used for the purposes of paragraph (d) must be—
(i) approved by the Environment Agency; and
(ii) publicly declared by the operator.”
Amendment 1, page 46, line 17, at end insert—
“(3A) Before a well design is commenced or adopted in connection with the exploitation of petroleum, the right of use requires the Health and Safety Executive to inspect the well so as to satisfy itself that—
(a) so far as is reasonably practicable, there can be no unplanned escape of fluids from the well; and
(b) risks to the health and safety of persons from it or anything in it, or in strata to which it is connected, are as low as is reasonably practicable.
(3B) Where the Health and Safety Executive is satisfied that a condition in subsection (3A) is met, it shall give notice to the Secretary of State.
(3C) The Secretary of State shall publish the information received from the Health and Safety Executive in accordance with subsection (3A).”
Amendment 59, page 46, line 17, at end insert—
“(3A) The right of use shall be conditional on operators ensuring the—
(a) safe conveyance of wastewater from the site to a safe place of storage;
(b) effective treatment and disposal of wastewater from the site; and
(c) publication of the details of the treatment and disposal of wastewater under sub-paragraph (ii).”
Government amendment 87.
Amendment 78, in clause 41, page 46, line 41, leave out “may” and insert “shall”.
Amendment 79, page 46, line 44, leave out “may” and insert “shall”.
Amendment 61, page 47, line 2, at end insert—
“(c) to compulsorily purchase properties in the event of blight from the activities of the extraction and exploitation of petroleum and geothermal energy in deep-level land.”
Amendment 80, page 47, line 4, after “the”, insert “minimum”.
Amendment 81, page 47, line 5, after “payments”, insert
“which shall be calculated as a percentage of the gross value of the gas extracted”.
Amendment 62, in clause 42, page 47, line 19, leave out sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii) and insert
“to persons of specified descriptions”
Amendment 63, page 47, line 22, leave out “within the area” and insert
“on the Parish Council noticeboard”.
Amendment 64, page 47, line 24, at end insert—
“(2B) Failure to display or publish notice under the terms of subsection (2) will negate any right to exploit or extract petroleum or geothermal energy.”
Government amendments 88, 89, 90, 96, 97, 98, 99 and 103.
Amendment 69, title, line 10 leave out
“to make provision about maximising economic recovery of petroleum in the United Kingdom;”
This reflects the conclusions from an inquiry into the Environmental risks of fracking by the Environmental Audit Committee, whose report is published on
I rise to speak to new clause 15 and amendments 98 and 103. Both shale gas and geothermal energy are exciting new energy resources for the UK, with the potential to provide greater energy security, growth and jobs, while also playing an important role in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
I will make some progress, but I will give way to the hon. Lady during my speech. The provisions in the Bill provide for a right to use deep-level land for the purposes of exploiting petroleum or deep geothermal energy. That will help us unlock exploration for shale gas and deep geothermal as we move towards a low-carbon economy.
Several hon. Members have brought forward new clause 4, which would place a statutory duty on the Committee on Climate Change to produce reports on the effect of shale on the UK’s net carbon emissions. Amendment 44 states that the right of use, and the carrying out of hydraulic fracturing, are conditional on the finding in the Committee’s reports
“that shale…exploitation leads to a net reduction of UK carbon emissions.”
The Government are committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. To meet our challenging climate targets we will need significant quantities of renewables, nuclear and gas in our energy mix, and we are committed to listening to the experts and their advice on how to reach those targets.
Will the Minister explain how public confidence in fracking is enhanced by the Government’s refusal to let the public see an unredacted copy of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs report on the impacts of fracking on the rural economy? Will she make a gesture today by saying that that report will be unredacted and put in the public domain?
The hon. Lady will know that this matter is included in one of the amendments, which I will come on to discuss more fully later. Although I cannot make the commitment she is asking for, I will speak more fully on it a little later.
Three times now the Minister has referred to moving to lower carbon emissions in the UK, but what good is that if it results in displaced coal being available for use in other parts of the developed world? Whether the emissions come from coal being burnt in Germany or in the UK, they still contribute to climate change.
That is why, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, the Government have been so keen to get targets into Europe that apply across the whole of Europe. He will be aware that we are leading on those, and we will continue to do so. It is very important to lead by example, and he is right to raise the issue relating to Germany, which is why we are pleased to have a cross-European agreement. However, that does not detract from the importance of making sure that we do the right thing in this country.
On that point about displaced coal, is it not a fact that it is displaced coal from north America that is contributing to a rise in the burning of coal in Europe? If we take matters into our own hands and develop more gas, we can reduce the amount of coal that is burned. It is coal that is the enemy of climate change and that is enemy No. 1. Gas is our ally in a green future.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point based on his clear expertise in this area. The Committee on Climate Change has said that for flexible power supply, the UK will
“continue to use considerable, albeit declining, amounts of gas well into the 2030s” which will leave
“a considerable gap between production of North Sea gas and our total demand.”
It argues that that demand
“can either be met through imports or UK production of shale gas.”
It concludes that
“if anything, using well regulated UK shale gas to fill this gap could lead to lower overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than continuing to import LNG. It would also increase the proportion of energy produced within the UK, improving our energy sovereignty.”
The important thing that has come from these exchanges is that it is the use of carbon that causes the emissions. Therefore, it is crucial that we have a proper emissions trading scheme throughout Europe and that the source of the energy should be as low carbon as possible. Therefore, maximising the economic production from the North sea is an important first step.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely right. It is absolutely essential that we do also maximise economic recovery, and we will be coming on to that later in this debate.
The Minister rightly said that the displacement of coal by gas could make a massive impact on reducing our carbon emissions. But it is also right to say that that is no good if countries such as Germany go down the coal route. Does she think she can persuade those countries to follow us in going towards gas more quickly?
We will certainly do our best. The UK is a leader in Europe in providing our own example and in trying to corral our European partners to ensure that we move to a low carbon economy.
I will make a little more progress.
Professor David Mackay and Dr Timothy Stone have supported the findings of the Committee on Climate Change and in 2013, they published recommendations on how to reduce emissions from shale gas operations, which the Government have accepted. In addition, the Environment Agency has agreed to make green completions—techniques to minimise methane emissions —a requirement of environmental permits for shale gas production.
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, but first I want to outline what the Government are doing on this matter.
I am pleased to say that we have tabled an amendment that will place a duty on the Secretary of State to seek advice from the Committee on Climate Change as to the impact of petroleum development in England and Wales, including shale gas operations, on our ability to meet the UK’s overall climate change objectives over time, and it is not limited to a specific carbon budget period. The Secretary of State must consider the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and report on his conclusions at least every five years. By introducing this amendment, we are making it absolutely clear that shale development will remain compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
I thank the Minister for that amendment. It goes halfway towards my amendment, which called for that to happen and then said that we should not allow fracking if it increased emissions. She spoke about the report from Dave Mackay, one of my constituents. Does she accept that he also says that
“in the absence of strong climate policies…we believe it is credible that shale-gas use would increase both short-term and long-term emissions rates.”
If it turns out that we do see higher carbon emissions, will she agree that we should end fracking at that point at least?
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I am confident that our amendment addresses exactly that. The Committee on Climate Change will take a view on what it sees, now that there is an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult with it. I am encouraged by the fact that that obligation is now in place.
On the point made by my hon. Friend David Mowat, is the Minister aware that, historically, the German nation has been providing massive subsidies—up to £4 billion a year—to its coal industry? She could do something in the Council of Europe about solving the problem that she has been describing. Will she do that?
I thank my hon. Friend for his expression of confidence in our ability to work with our European partners to improve output in the UK and in Europe more widely.
Is my hon. Friend aware that David Mackay, to whom Dr Huppert referred, also reported that carbon emissions from shale gas are lower than those from liquefied natural gas, and that because the most likely effect of developing our shale gas reserves will be to substitute for LNG imports, the direct and immediate effect of allowing shale gas to go ahead will be a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is a win-win for the UK in both potential economic benefit and reducing our carbon footprint.
In addition to all the advantages my hon. Friend has already mentioned, does she accept that we need to have a shale gas industry to go hand-in-hand with our wind industry, because wind-powered generators require gas generators to back them up?
My hon. Friend is right: having a successful shale gas industry is an important part of supporting our renewables industry.
New clause 2 proposes specific changes to the Scotland Act 1998. Although I understand the intention, the Bill is not the right vehicle to make those amendments. The new devolution settlement should be debated as a whole package in the next Parliament. Last Thursday, the Government published their Command Paper, “Scotland in the United Kingdom: An enduring settlement”, which sets out that draft clause 31 will devolve to Scottish Ministers the regime for licensing exploration and extraction of oil and gas, and transfer to the Scottish Parliament legislative competence for the licensing of onshore oil and gas exploration and extraction. Responsibility for mineral access rights for underground onshore extraction of oil and gas in Scotland will also be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
I assure hon. Members that those matters will be fully addressed through the broader process of reviewing the devolution settlement, to which all three major parties are committed. Whoever forms the next Government will take forward the draft legislation for further Scottish devolution. I announced in Committee the Government’s intention to table an amendment to remove Scotland from the scope of the provisions concerning the right to use deep-level land. We have now tabled amendments that will achieve that.
I note what the Minister says, and obviously I am keen that the powers be transferred as soon as possible, but does she not acknowledge that, as I and the Scottish Government have said on numerous occasions, there is a gap? Scotland has planning and environmental powers, but will not, if the Government do as she is saying they will, get powers on licences for some time yet. Will the Government give a guarantee that no more licences will be granted in the meantime? What is the position of licences already granted? Would it not be more sensible to support new clause 9, so that there is a moratorium until the Scottish Parliament can make a full decision on these matters?
I feel that the Government new clause deals with the specific issues that are relevant to the Infrastructure Bill. I understand—we all do—that many other measures may need to be debated, but the time for that will be after the next Government are in place, when there will be a fuller debate on proper devolution.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that contribution, but I must defer to other Departments on that. For now, I will deal with the specific issues on the table for the Infrastructure Bill.
The Minister is talking about new clause 2 and the devolution of licensing, which she says is promised and will be delivered as part of the Smith agreement. Given that the 14th round has been started but the licences not awarded, does it not make sense for those licences not to be awarded in Scotland until devolution has happened?
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point—one that was not raised in Committee, although we did debate this fairly fully. I take the view that the Bill is not the place to do that, but it could be considered after the next general election.
The Secretary of State for Wales has announced that a set of commitments agreed by the four main political parties in Wales on the way forward for Welsh devolution will be in place by
That covers the hon. Gentleman’s amendment 66, which seeks to render the application of the clauses to the approval of the National Assembly for Wales. In addition, the current Government of Wales Act 2006 clearly sets out that oil and gas are excluded from the list of devolved subjects, and the exploitation of deep geothermal resources cannot be considered to have been conferred under any of the subjects in schedule 7. We see no grounds on which this measure would currently be within the legislative competence of the Welsh Assembly. That is the situation for now. Scotland and Wales will continue to have substantial control of onshore oil and gas, and geothermal activities through their own existing planning procedures and environmental regulation, as these are already devolved. I ask hon. Members not to press their amendments.
New clause 6 and amendments 2 and 83 suggest that the national planning policy framework leaves gaps in respect of protected land, but this is not the case. Strong protections already exist for these areas and further protections are not necessary. A blanket ban, as proposed, would be disproportionate.
Is the Minister saying—she should be very clear on this—that there is absolutely no prospect of any fracking happening on any of this list of properties, and that anybody reading this debate should be clear that the Government have no intention of allowing that? Is that what she is saying?
If the hon. Gentleman will let me comment on that aspect in my own words, I hope that will reassure him.
The existing legislative framework provides a robust framework of protection for those sensitive areas. The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 require a developer to undertake a habitats regulation assessment whenever a proposed project is likely to have a significant impact on a special conservation area or a special protection area. These protections derive from European law and set a very high bar. The regulations are supported by the national planning policy framework, which recognises areas that should be given a high level of protection, even if the development is outside the site boundary. These include special areas of conservation, special protection areas, sites of special scientific interest and Ramsar sites.
Planning guidance published last July set out the specific approach to planning for unconventional hydrocarbons in national parks, the broads, areas of outstanding natural beauty and world heritage sites. The guidance makes it clear that planning authorities should refuse planning applications for major development in these areas unless it can be demonstrated both that exceptional circumstances exist and that it is in the public interest.
Let me add to my earlier comments that we have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks, sites of special scientific interest and areas of outstanding natural beauty. I hope that will reassure the right hon. Gentleman about the liability potential for any of the areas that I know he is particularly keen to protect.
I know that my hon. Friend will shortly respond to some of the amendments tabled in my name, but will she complete the sentence? Is she saying that there will be an outright ban on any fracking in national parks? Have the Government removed the words “except in exceptional circumstances”?
My hon. Friend is right. That is exactly what we have done. We have now put in place an outright ban and will effectively remove those words.
That is something that I will have to look into. For the moment, I will make progress and hope to come back to the hon. Lady on that point this afternoon.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you assist the House? The Minister seems to have suggested that an amendment is being made to the amendments before us. If that is the case, and what she has said about words being removed from the Bill is correct, will we have an opportunity to scrutinise that amendment?
I think that is a matter of the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation. For the avoidance of doubt, I must say that no manuscript amendment has been tabled. The normal course would have been for it to be tabled prior to the start of the debate, and it has not been. I think that the best course at this stage is for hon. Members in all parts of the House simply to listen to the Minister’s speech.
There is indeed no manuscript amendment—I do not think that I can be clearer.
No amendment is required to prove that there is no amendment. That makes me think that the hon. Lady has been reading Heidegger—“the nothing noths”. There is no manuscript amendment, and consideration of this matter should not be clouded by thoughts of a manuscript amendment. I have been given no indication that there will be a manuscript amendment. It would be extraordinary, to put it mildly, for a manuscript amendment to be proposed or put forward for consideration by me or by professional advisers when the debate has already started. Things need to be dealt with in an orderly manner.
Order. I will take the point of order from the hon. Lady and then the Minister can either respond to that or continue her speech.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think that the House would like some clarification as to whether what we are going to be voting on will be an overall ban. Members on both sides of the House have tabled many amendments seeking to bring that about. When, in an hour’s time, we vote on these amendments, we will not know whether we can be confident that the Government are really doing as they say. I would be grateful if the Minister, if not instantly, then in the next 45 minutes, could tell us what she is actually proposing.
Of course Members must listen to what the Minister has to say, but, for the avoidance of doubt, Members will be voting on that which is on the amendment paper. I do not mean this in any sense discourteously, but it is not for the Chair to seek to interpret amendments or new clauses, and I would not presume to do so. Each right hon. or hon. Member must make his or her own assessment of the merits or demerits, and implications, of new clauses and amendments and vote accordingly. We are voting only on what is on the amendment paper, not on that which is not on it. I call the Minister.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
I will address new clause 7 on environmental impact assessments—EIAs—and new clause 19 and its various themes in turn. The Government share the desire expressed in new clause 7 and new clause 19(a) to ensure that the public are made fully aware of issues raised in EIAs before a planning application is submitted, and I can assure Members that this is the case. The comprehensive requirements for planning applications for which there is an environmental statement are already set out in article 13 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010, which requires that the environmental statement be publicised before a local planning authority can determine an application. Planning authorities are already required to ensure that mineral developments will not have unacceptable adverse impacts on the environment. Where a development is likely to have a significant effect, an EIA is required. If any significant environmental effects are identified that cannot be mitigated, planning permission can be refused.
This approach works well in practice and is consistent with our European obligations. It ensures that an EIA, which involves substantial work often taking up to a year to develop, is undertaken only where it adds value. However, the Government understand the need to build public confidence in the shale sector. We therefore welcome the reassurance provided by the industry’s public commitment to carry out EIAs for all exploration wells that involve hydraulic fracturing. The industry has made a further commitment to produce an annual report listing the shale sites that have produced an EIA.
New clause 19(b) and amendment 1 are concerned with the inspection of wells. The Health and Safety Executive is the independent regulator. Its specialist inspectors assess operators’ well notifications and weekly operations reports throughout well construction. Final consent for drilling operations rests with the Department of Energy and Climate Change, which will check that the relevant environmental agencies and the HSE have no objections before giving consent.
Health and safety legislation in the UK requires all well activities to be reviewed by an independent well examiner. There is an important principle that it is the well operator who retains responsibility for preventing any unplanned release of fluids. It is right that that fundamental duty rests with those who create the risk. The proposal that the HSE should approve each well could remove that responsibility. Rather than give a one-off approval, as is suggested in amendment 1, the HSE currently takes a lifecycle approach and can intervene at any time.
The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. There is a lot that can be considered in primary legislation, but there is also a place for secondary legislation. We have decided that what is in primary legislation is sufficient.
I reassure Members that each shale site will still be inspected by the Health and Safety Executive during the exploration phase. I have agreed with the HSE that it will publish information for each visit to a shale site in its assessments.
The short answer to that is yes. The purpose of HSE inspections is to ensure that there is safety and clarity. I believe that my hon. Friend will be reassured about that when he takes a closer look.
On new clause 19(c) and (d) and amendment 117, I reassure Members that we support the use of baseline monitoring. At issue is the appropriateness of the monitoring period and the requirements involved. The Environment Agency has the power to require baseline monitoring under the conditions that are set in the environmental permit. The operator reports that information to the Environment Agency, which places it on the public register.
I will make progress, but I assure hon. Members that I will let them intervene before I finish.
The environmental regulator adopts a risk-based approach to its assessment that is endorsed by the Royal Society. In addition, as was announced in Committee, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to undertake at least three months’ baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater before hydraulic fracturing can commence.
I want to take the Minister back to what she said about the use of secondary legislation. She will know, having been a Member of the House for a number of years, that secondary legislation is dealt with in a Committee that lasts a maximum of merely 90 minutes. We need to enshrine the environmental safeguards in primary legislation. Why is she so obsessed with not doing that?
I am only sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not have time to listen to the Committee, where we spent many, many hours debating this subject and many different subjects. That gave everyone a great opportunity to raise all the issues. There is no suggestion that there has not been enough time to address this matter.
I do not think that that is a matter for the Chair. Members must make their own assessment. The hon. Gentleman has made his assessment. For all I know, he might beetle around the Chamber to share it with others, but people will form their own assessment. Let us hear the Minister’s oration.
Thank you for that clarification, Mr Speaker.
On the announcement I made in Committee, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to undertake the three months’ baseline monitoring. That is a minimum of three months so, in practice, the Environment Agency may require a longer period of monitoring where appropriate.
The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. It is essential that the HSE can do its job well. We have had conversations with it and there is no suggestion that it cannot do its job well, but we will keep that under review.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. It is essential that the Environment Agency and Health and Safety Executive have sufficient staff. They have not raised that with me and have accepted the fact that they will have the responsibility, but we will keep conversations with them open to ensure they can do their job correctly.
I am going to make progress.
On fugitive emissions, I have spoken about the report produced by Professor David MacKay and Dr Timothy Stone. Their report determined that, with the right safeguards in place, the net effect on greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas production will be relatively small. We report fugitive emissions from onshore energy extraction annually as part of our international reporting obligations on the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. That is done in accordance with guidelines produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and is audited annually by a group of international experts.
I may be wrong, but I just have a slight sense that this might be a point not of order but of frustration. We will discover.
There is a lot of frustration in the debate, Mr Speaker. In Committee, the Government made an extraordinary statement that there were some issues around baseline monitoring that the Minister regards as commercial-in-confidence. That is why I have tabled the amendment. Would it not be helpful if the Minister answered that point now, while she is dealing with that measure, rather than simply moving on?
All sorts of things are helpful and all sorts of things are unhelpful, but they usually have one thing in common: that none of them is a point of order.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The hon. Gentleman is right and asks an interesting question. I reassure him that I have written to him and other members of the Committee about that point.
It was sent to every member of the Committee.
With regard to industry reporting commitments, fugitive emissions levels will be constantly monitored at all stages of development. The data will be made available in line with best practice and regulatory reporting requirements. However, to provide additional reassurance, I am pleased to announce that the Government will direct the Environment Agency to require operators to monitor and report fugitive methane emissions. In addition, the industry has confirmed its commitment to site-by-site reporting of fugitive emissions.
I am going to make substantial progress. I am concerned that other hon. Members will not be able to speak.
New clause 19(g), and amendments 3 and 65, are on depth limits. A company looking to develop shale or deep geothermal will need to obtain all the necessary permissions before it can proceed. The process of obtaining those permissions rather than the level at which we set the depth level will provide the relevant safeguards. There is no question of changing the existing regime governing access to land at surface down to depths of 300 metres.
How can the Minister assure us about fugitive emissions and the safety of fracking when she proposes to give untrammelled access at 300 metres to developers, as she has just mentioned? Fracking lines travel far higher than 300 metres and cannot be detected in advance by the Environment Agency or others undertaking baseline monitoring.
The hon. Gentleman raised that in Committee. We share his concern about safety and care for the community, but the Government believe that the Environment Agency is able to address that, and that we can rely on it to do so. In my conversations with the agency, it has given us that assurance, and it is the expertise that we have in particular in the UK that is so useful.
I wish to make some progress.
A company looking to develop shale or deep geothermal will need to obtain all the necessary permissions before it can proceed. It is the process of obtaining all those permissions, rather than the level at which the depth limit is set, that will provide the relevant safeguards—
I will not: I am going to make some progress.
There is no question of changing the existing regime governing access to land at the surface and down to the depths of 300 metres. Extending the depth limit would not improve landowners’ enjoyment of their land or achieve any increase in the level of protection.
On new clause 19(i) and amendments 78, 79, 80 and 81, the Government have been clear that communities hosting shale gas developments should share in the benefits that are created. The shale industry is at a nascent stage. We will need more exploration to go ahead before knowing exactly how communities will benefit. At this stage, we need to ensure that schemes are flexible. A voluntary scheme offers a multitude of benefits to communities when compared with a statutory system, enabling schemes to be tailored to communities’ needs. Any statutory scheme might not be suitable for every situation, and would be more difficult in future.
The industry, represented by the UK Onshore Operators Group—UKOOG—has already committed to the community benefits charter, which will provide significant benefits to affected communities. Industry will pay £100,000 per hydraulically fractured well site at exploratory stage to communities, and 1% of revenue if it successfully goes into production.
My hon. Friend has raised that issue before and I hope that we will hear from him later. As he will be aware, we believe that that question is best decided later, when we have a charter in place that will address the issue.
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier in the Minister’s speech, she referred to a letter that she claims to have sent to the members of the Committee. I have checked my file—everything was sent electronically—and no such letter arrived in my office. I would be grateful if a copy of the letter could be made available to Members now.
That is not a point of order for the Chair, but the hon. Gentleman has clarified what he believes to be the position. The Minister may or may not wish to comment.
The letter came from the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend Mr Hayes, and with that information the hon. Gentleman may be able to find it. I am happy to send him another copy.
The industry will need to show how it has complied with the charter on an annual basis, and any failure to follow through will ultimately result in a loss of membership and the benefits attached. In addition, operators will contribute a voluntary one-off payment of £20,000 for the right to use deep-level land. Each year, operators will need to publish evidence detailing how these commitments are being met. The Department of Energy and Climate Change will regularly monitor this evidence. Let me reassure the House that the proposals in the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to introduce regulations to set up a statutory payment mechanism, if not satisfied.
On new clause 19(j) and amendments 62, 63 and 64, notice and publicity requirements relating to the planning and environmental permitting processes are already in place. We believe the system works well, but we recognise the concerns that have been raised by the new clause.
New clause 19(k) and amendment 60 are on the approval of substances to be left in the land. As part of the application for environmental permits, the EA will require full disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and has the power to restrict or prohibit the use of any substances where they would pose an environmental risk. Our regulations ensure that information on chemical substances and their maximum concentrations is included within the environmental permit, along with information on the total daily discharge of hydraulic fracturing fluid into the ground and the fluid taken off-site for disposal. The permit is placed on the public register.
I have already announced that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will direct the Environment Agency to publish information about chemicals it requires operators to disclose.
The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. I hope he will find that it will be dealt with later on, but if it is not I will certainly write to him on that point.
New clause 19(m) relates to water companies. The Government recognise the importance of ensuring that water companies are engaged fully in shale gas development. The existing regulatory framework ensures issues relating to water are addressed robustly. The water industry and shale operators have already agreed a memorandum of understanding to engage early, and share plans for water demand and waste water management. The Government have considered this issue carefully and want to provide further reassurance to the public. Therefore, we are consulting on whether to make water companies statutory consultees in respect of these applications. Subject to the response to the consultation, which closes at the end of this month, we would seek to bring forward any necessary secondary legislation.
New clause 19 has raised some very interesting and critical points in relation to reassuring the public. It is the Government’s view that we will accept new clause 19, but we plan to amend it in the other place to replace provision (g) on depth, with a review to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.
On amendment 61, regarding compulsory purchase of properties in the event of blight, I would like to reassure my hon. Friend Miss McIntosh that the regulatory regimes for planning, environmental permitting and health and safety already provide a very robust framework that ensures residential amenity is properly protected from any unacceptable effects of development. The protection of amenity is recognised in the core planning principles of the national planning policy framework. In the unlikely event that operations caused any damage, there are various options available. The landowner may be able to bring claims in tort, such as negligence and nuisance, against any operator. I trust my explanation of this issue reassures hon. Members, and that they will withdraw the related amendment.
On new clause 8, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ “Rural Economy Impacts” document was a draft internal document, which was not analytically robust; it was a literature review of existing studies and was not exhaustive. Where policy work is current, draft documents are usually kept within government, because they do not provide a complete and accurate picture of the overall material. This is a highly sensitive and fast-moving policy area. Releasing information that is at the formative stage of being shared between Government Departments risks substantially undermining our ability to deliver effective policy.
DEFRA retains an interest in the implications of shale gas development for rural communities, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change leads on the economic aspects of shale gas policy. It is therefore my view that DEFRA should not have produced a document of this kind. The redactions were made for those broader reasons, not on the basis of sensitivity of materials. In fact, in the interests of providing free access to the information on which the draft paper was based, the Government have provided the full list of references. Following Committee, I consulted with a range of colleagues. Releasing the unredacted draft paper would not help to inform the debate on developing the UK’s shale industry. I ask, therefore, that my hon. Friend withdraws her amendment.
What the Minister has said, essentially, is that DEFRA should not do research that might possibly become embarrassing if it become public. How on earth does she expect people to have any confidence in the Government’s policies on fracking if the Government cannot even put the research in the public domain?
I do not think the hon. Lady quite heard my comments. If somebody in another Department has prepared something, a junior member perhaps, and it was not appropriate for them to have done so, which is a comment I have fairly made, I do not think it is appropriate for it to be released. It could mislead the public. It is because I am so concerned about the public that we have taken this view.
I think my hon. Friend would wish to put a message out to rural communities today that we take their concerns very seriously indeed. We must be seen to listen, in the House this afternoon, to their concerns. It is unfortunate that the report will not be in the public domain. My hon. Friend answered one point on my amendment relating to blight. Will she also accept that in the event a house could not be sold, there may be an option for the fracking company to compulsory purchase that property?
Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government take very seriously the security, the safety and the right of good abode of everybody in the rural community, and we will keep that constantly in our minds as we move forward.
I am concerned that I still need to cover several amendments. If I may, I shall move swiftly on, and I hope that hon. Members with particular concerns will take the opportunity to speak later.
New clause 9 and amendments 49 and 57 propose a moratorium on the exploitation of onshore unconventional petroleum, subject to an impact assessment, and that the right of use be subject to the precautionary principle. I am surprised by these proposals. It is far more sensible to explore the potential of shale and assess the impacts along the way, while ensuring that development is regulated and risks managed. I hope I outlined my confidence in that process earlier. On the amendment suggesting that the right of use be subject to the precautionary principle, I reassure hon. Members that the right of use is limited to being no greater than access rights granted by landowners under the existing system.
Amendments, 51, 56 and 47 are not necessary. I have already outlined why the underground access provisions are required. Many other industries already access underground land beneath peoples’ homes, in order to lay cables and build infrastructure such as water pipes and tunnels. I ask that hon. Members do not press these amendments.
I shall not take any more interventions, as I must finish my comments.
Amendments 50, 68, 69 and 73 touch on the recovery of UK petroleum. Amendment 50 would delete clause 37, which puts into primary legislation a new duty to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas. The Government feel that oil and gas recovery makes an important contribution to the national economy by supporting jobs and growth. In June 2013, we commissioned Sir Ian Wood to review UK offshore oil and gas recovery and its regulation, and we have been making good progress implementing the recommendations.
The amendments would also place a moratorium on hydraulic fracking for shale gas to reduce the chance of our carbon budgets being breached. As I indicated, UK shale development is compatible with our goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions and does not detract from our support for renewables. I hope hon. Members will find this explanation reassuring and will not press their amendments.
I thank my hon. Friend Charles Hendry for tabling new clauses 10 and 11. It is critical for any Government to secure reliable gas supplies, and we keep our gas security under constant review, but let me be clear: the risks to consumers are low. We still have significant levels of domestic gas production, pipelines from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium, liquefied natural gas terminals and 10 gas storage facilities. Indeed, two new gas storage sites have opened for business in the last six months. This diversity of supply is how our gas needs are met.
Under the Gas Act 1986, the Government and the regulator have a duty to carry out their functions in a way that protects the interests of existing and future gas consumers, including the security of supply. Ofgem also has the ability to launch a significant code review, if it suspects a problem in the gas market. I respect my hon. Friend’s experience on these matters and take his concerns seriously, and on that basis, I will commit to including information about gas storage capacity in our annual statutory security of supply report to Parliament. I hope he will find that reassuring.
I will not, I am afraid, as I need to finish. I am sure other Members would like to speak.
On new clause 1, the Government welcome in principle the sentiment behind the proposed amendment to the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 to make explicit reference to hydraulic fracturing, and I would like to reassure hon. Members that the Government will continue the work we have initiated and introduce any appropriate changes to the regulations in due course. I therefore ask hon. Members not to press the new clause.
It is my firm belief that there is no need for new clause 19(e) or amendment 59, because the necessary protections are already in place. Outside source protection zone 1 areas, extraction activities will be permitted only if they do not pose a significant risk to groundwater.
In covering all the amendments and new clauses, I hope I have reassured hon. Members of the care the Government are taking to develop the best shale gas environment we can, for the benefit of the UK generally.
I have to say at the outset that if Members and those watching our proceedings were short of confidence in the Government on this issue before we started the debate, they will be even more bereft of confidence after witnessing the last hour or so. What appears to have happened is that the Minister is seeking to amend an amendment on providing protection for areas that has not been put in front us. She says that she—or, rather, her ministerial colleague—has sent a letter that none of the members of the Committee has received. I am looking round to see whether any Committee members in their places today can confirm that they have received it. Finally, we appear to have received a mixture of a commitment from the Minister: she said that she will accept new clause 19 but went on to say that she disagrees with elements of it. Let me make it absolutely clear that our new clause 19 is all or nothing; it cannot be cherry-picked. All the conditions need to be in place before we can be absolutely confident that any shale extraction can happen. It should be stopped until all those conditions are met.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I was not a member of the Committee, but if it provides him with any reassurance, I did receive a letter late last week from the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my right hon. Friend Mr Hayes, about the Infrastructure Bill. As it was a letter sent to all MPs, I assume that if Members looked at their e-mails carefully, they would find they had received it as well.
Mr Burns will be well aware that the Minister to whom he refers is a prodigious correspondent. We get plenty of letters from him, but this was about a very specific point made by my hon. Friend Andrew Miller that was raised in the Committee and was relevant to his amendment. I do not see any members of the Committee here and I have checked my own in-box. If we have not received this letter, how can we take the Minister at her word and the Government at their word?
What we have seen so far this afternoon has been an absolute shambles. The Government have not got a clue what they are doing, leaving us in a difficult position. This Bill, and particularly this part of it, has attracted a huge amount of attention, and many Members of all parties wish to speak about it. It is not particularly party political, and many Members have concerns and have tabled amendments, yet it is not clear what exactly the Minister and the Government are saying. I feel sorry for the Under-Secretary who has spoken this afternoon, as she has been put in this position by her ministerial colleagues. They are good at giving quotes to The Sun about this issue, but they seem to shy away from taking part in any of our discussions.
The Minister said that she had commented on every single amendment put forward from all sides of the House, but does my hon. Friend agree that we still do not know how even to raise in Parliament the points the amendments make, let alone vote on them because we are not going to have the opportunity to speak to the amendments that we have tabled?
I thank my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. We are here to scrutinise this Bill, and we have reached this stage after our debate in Committee with a whole stream of amendments on a range of relevant issues. We asked for two days and we have secured only one, and we are left with a very short to try to deal with the issues. It is very difficult indeed for the House collectively to make a judgment on them. That is an indication of a dereliction of duty on the part of the Government in bringing this Bill before us this afternoon.
I have no desire to embarrass the hon. Gentleman—I regard him almost as a protégé, so I would never want to do that. I have to tell him, however, that the letter in question, which he claims not to have received, was dated
I am sorry to disappoint the Minister, given that I seem to have just been anointed his protégé. That will have done me no good at all. If my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston cannot find any evidence that he has received that letter—[Interruption.] If he has not received the letter, it makes it very difficult for us to deal with these issues.
Let me return to the wider issue of what the Minister said a moment ago now in relation to the protection of certain areas, which Miss McIntosh, Sir John Randall and others have raised in amendments. There seems to be a suggestion that the exception in the Bill would be removed, but no indication of how that would be done, given that the Bill has been through the House of Lords and we are now dealing with its final stages.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, who has himself tabled amendments to this part of the Bill, would be much more confident about the Minister’s approach if it had not just been suggested that a change would be made in relation to the protection of areas when we do not have that information in front of us. How can we have any confidence in such an approach, given that we have less than 40 minutes in which to consider a wide range of amendments?
The hon. Gentleman is being very courteous in giving way, but may I appeal to him, on behalf of my constituents, to try to leave these procedural matters behind and deal with the substantive issues about which they and other Members’ constituents are concerned?
The hon. Gentleman is usually a stickler for procedure. This is about scrutiny of the Bill, and we need to have confidence in the way in which that scrutiny takes place. I think that it ill behoves the House to become involved in a situation such as the one that we have experienced during the last few minutes.
Does my hon. Friend agree that this is also about potential applications that are due to be submitted in the next month—including one affecting Misson in my constituency—and that the clarification or otherwise of the point that has been raised may well be a fundamental issue for the planning authority and the general public when it comes to making decisions?
My hon. Friend has made an important point in a very cogent fashion.
Let me now deal with some of the new clauses and amendments. I am very conscious of the amount of time that we have left, and I shall try to be exceptionally brief so that others can speak.
There are two facts that are fundamental to any debate about unconventional gas extraction in the United Kingdom. First, hydraulic fracturing cannot be permitted to go ahead without robust regulation, comprehensive monitoring and local consent. Secondly, it cannot take place at the expense of our binding commitments on climate change.
As Members will know, 80% of our heating demand, and many industrial processes, are reliant on gas. This debate is not just about sources of electricity generation, although that is how it is sometimes portrayed. As the independent Committee on Climate Change has made clear, we shall need gas for some time to come. The issue is how much gas we use, and whether that can displace imports of gas in a way that does not breach our climate commitments. That has consistently been our position, and I have been making the case on behalf of the Opposition for nearly three years.
In March 2012, I set out a range of regulatory principles that would need to be addressed before fracking could commence, at a time when it was suspended. Since then we have pushed the Government on those specific points. For instance, as members of the Bill Committee will know, we did so during the Committee stage. Given the number of new clauses and amendments that reflect concerns and include specific suggestions, such as those in new clause 19, those concerns are widespread, they are not party political, and they are deeply held. It has always been, and continues to be, our position that the stewardship of these issues requires a Government’s approach to be careful, cautious and coherent. Such issues demand a responsible approach on the part of Government and regulators, not only for the sake of regulatory coherence, but to meet the higher public acceptability test and the legitimate environmental concerns that many people feel.
Has my hon. Friend had a chance to read the report that was published today by the Environmental Audit Committee? It examines the whole issue of the regulatory regime and how it can be made compatible with the carbon budget. Will my hon. Friend say a little more about how we could press the pause button, and ensure that the safeguards that he wants could be introduced?
I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I did indeed have a chance to read her Committee’s report of this morning, and she explained how that was a rapidly produced but important piece of work which touched on the many issues I have raised concerns about. In the summary of the report, her Committee highlighted a number of issues in terms of methane emissions and monitoring and nationally important areas and water protection zones which are addressed in new clause 19, and I think her Committee has done the House a service in bringing those points forward.
As I said, those points are important. In terms of carbon budgets and meeting the carbon commitments, I would just refer to the evidence the Environmental Audit Committee got from the Committee on Climate Change about the way in which that can be done if it is done appropriately. My hon. Friend Joan Walley will know that we have a commitment to a 2030 decarbonisation target in terms of electricity supply as well as maintaining carbon budgets. This is about how the gas we may produce fits within those budgets. I think that is something we can do, provided that we have the right regulatory framework and the right processes in place.
I do, however, have to say in respect of amendment 68 that I have a concern particularly in relation to the removal of the maximising economic recovery clause. That will have a serious impact in the North sea, which I know is of concern to many Members.
To be fair, I did say I was not going to give way again. I am conscious of time.
The Government said they were sympathetic to our new clause 1. We think it is very important to ensure that there is clarity and coherence in how permitting happens and in the responsibility of the Environment Agency in this regard. The Minister touched on new clause 2 and we had some exchanges on it. It is clear from the concessions that the Government made in Committee that there will be no change to underground access rights in Scotland without the approval of, and the decision being made by, Scottish Ministers. I welcome that change, but I reiterate to the Minister that it is very important that the licences in Scotland under the 14th licensing round are not granted at a time when we are effectively devolving the licensing process for onshore as well. I think she should reflect on that.
The Minister went through the subsections of our new clause 19 in detail. That new clause incorporates many amendments tabled by other Members from all parts of the House. She seemed to suggest that she would accept that amendment but that she still disagreed with parts of it. I am afraid that is not good enough because the entirety of that amendment needs to be agreed this afternoon, as it makes it absolutely clear that there will be no shale gas exploration or extraction until those conditions are in place. It is not a pick list from which she can decide which ones she likes and which she does not. It is intended to ensure that it is absolutely clear in legislation that those protections are in place. If this is, indeed, the Government’s case now, it proves that all the contributions from the Minister and others saying that they thought the regulatory process was coherent, correct and comprehensive during the course of the Committee and in discussions leading up to it have been demonstrated this afternoon to be entirely false. That underlines the importance of our taking a responsible attitude to these issues and making sure that they are properly covered. As I have said, that has been reflected by many others who have tabled amendments to this Bill, including Members of the Minister’s party.
A number of other amendments have been tabled by other Members, and I must say that I am disappointed in the response of the Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock, to the DEFRA report. It is so redacted that it seems that it was written by someone called “Redacted”. It does not meet the concerns of the Chair of the relevant Committee, and the Minister’s total contribution to this debate so far has been to suggest from a sedentary position that what I say is not so. However, I have the report in front of me—“Shale gas rural economy impacts” by “Redacted”. That is how ridiculously redacted this report has become and it highlights why we have so little confidence in the Government, because they seek not to publish it and not to enable Members of this House to look at the cumulative impacts.
The hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton has tabled a number of amendments on that issue, mandatory EIAs and other matters, all of which we agree with. We also agree with the amendments on water companies, and those providing a statutory footing for community benefit, tabled by Nick Herbert and others. The Minister should properly consider those amendments.
This is a controversial subject in which there is much interest outside and inside this Chamber. It is one aspect of a Bill that contains many measures, some of which are supported and others not. It is absolutely the role of Government to address those concerns and to take on board the issues we have already heard about today and will continue to hear about for the next half an hour—not just from one party but from probably every party represented here.
The focus for the House and for the Government this afternoon is to listen to Parliament, to respond to the concerns and reflect on them, and to ensure that no fracking takes place until the wider confidence that is needed is applied in the regulatory framework—not partially, not with exceptions, not for some but not others, but in full, completely and comprehensively. For those reasons, I implore the Government to accept new clause 19 in full, and not to cherry-pick its subsections. If they fail to do so, we will divide the House on new clause 19 and other of our amendments.
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and in particular to my interests in the energy industry.
I want to contribute briefly on the subject of shale gas and fracking, on which my Committee has reported twice, in 2011 and 2013. Those were two detailed reports involving seven oral evidence sessions, two with Ministers, and visits to Lancashire to look at what Cuadrilla was doing, and to Texas to see an established shale gas industry’s operations. Our conclusions, which were based on a very careful analysis of the evidence, were totally different from those of the Environmental Audit Committee, whose consideration of the matter appears to have been rather briefer. We concluded that fracking is a safe technology from which Britain could benefit substantially by exploiting our shale gas reserves, if indeed those reserves turn out to be significant—something we cannot know without doing a great deal more drilling.
Far from attacking the Government for rushing on this issue—
We will be pushing new clause 9 to a vote this evening to ensure that we have a proper moratorium on fracking. Will the hon. Gentleman and his Conservative party colleagues support us?
No, I will not support that. A moratorium would not serve Britain’s national interests.
Far from attacking the Government for rushing on this issue, our concern is that they have been going rather slowly. We could speed up the process of encouraging fracking, so that we can establish whether it is indeed a valuable natural resource whose exploitation would be generally for the benefit of consumers and the environment.
We should proceed as fast as possible, consistent with environmental safeguards, which the Government recognise to be essential.
Let me deal with this rather curious idea that allowing fracking somehow increases greenhouse gas emissions. It does nothing of the sort. It is common ground between supporters and opponents of fracking that the UK will use a lot of gas in the next 15 to 20 years. Since 2000, we have become extremely dependent on imported gas. By the mid-2020s, perhaps three quarters of our gas will come from abroad, and we will be competing in the Qatar LNG market, for example, with the likes of China and other Asian giants. So, allowing fracking will enable us to replace imports with domestic supplies, which will improve energy security—a very important aim of energy policy. Further, it will actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, as David MacKay reported in September 2013, the net greenhouse gas emissions from LNG are higher than those from shale gas.
My hon. Friend is talking about the extent to which we are increasingly dependent on imports. By 2030, probably 75% of our gas will be from imports. Does that not make the case for our doing more now on gas storage, as set out in new clauses 10 and 11? It takes more than five years to build such facilities, and our vulnerability is increasing all the time.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. I was very tempted to sign his new clauses on that point. Improving gas storage would not only greatly improve our energy security, but make it possible for some of the low-carbon, intermittent generating technologies, such as wind and solar, to be used much more widely.
There is no reason to suppose that decreasing our reliance on imports will lead to an increase in gas consumption. Consumers will not suddenly think, “Oh, as we’re not importing gas, we’ll turn the heating up.” It is a completely mistaken notion to think that allowing fracking has such malign consequences.
In any event, emissions in this country are now subject to the carbon budgeting process. It is greatly to the coalition’s credit that it has confirmed the fourth carbon budget. Achieving that rigorous set of targets will absolutely put us on the path to meet the EU target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. That will be the case whether or not fracking occurs in this country.
My Committee looked very carefully at the environmental and safety concerns. We are satisfied that with the right robust and rigorous regulatory framework, fracking presents no danger to the integrity of the water supply, the health of local residents or the environment generally. The mistakes made by the fracking industry in the US in its early stages can easily be avoided in this country.
Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that, according to all the projections produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the amount of gas used between 2020 to 2030 will be substantially less than at present—not none, but substantially less—and that the likely net effect of recovering gas by fracking is that it will be for export, not the domestic market?
I do not entirely agree. The fall in gas consumption in the UK will not take it below the level at which we require imports. Even if gas consumption goes down, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, we will probably still import gas. For the reason I have just mentioned, if that gas is LNG, using our domestic supplies of shale gas would be beneficial in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
I note that the environment, health and safety concerns highlighted by the Environmental Audit Committee are not shared by the Environment Agency. I also note that Lancashire county council’s objections relate not to such concerns, but to noise and traffic movements. Those understandable issues arise in all sorts of planning applications, many of which have nothing to do with the energy industry.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that extremely pertinent point.
We have probably all received a great many e-mails on the trespass issue. It is worth pointing out that the coal industry has enjoyed such a right for generations, and there seems to be no reason why it should not be extended to the gas industry.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I am glad to have the opportunity to say how welcome he is as a resident in my constituency, where he has recently purchased a house. I assure him that any evidence of subsidence in his property will receive my close personal attention.
That brings me to the subject of earth tremors. When they were experienced in Lancashire, Cuadrilla acted very responsibly by immediately halting its activities while it investigated them. The investigation showed not only that the tremors were so light they could not be felt on the surface, but that they were at a level routinely experienced across the UK every week. The vast majority of such tremors are caused, as my hon. Friend said, by old coal mine works.
On the positive side, in addition to the improvements in energy security there will be a significant improvement in our balance of payments—not that many people seem to worry about the trade balance any more. If, as we hope, UK reserves turn out to be substantial, there will be significant employment opportunities as well. Equally importantly, there is now a real chance for the UK to lead Europe on the issue. If we press ahead now, others will follow but we will have an enormous first mover advantage. It could be UK regulations that set the standard right across the EU and UK businesses that dominate the supply chain.
I urge the Government to ignore today the siren voices calling for delay; to look objectively at the facts, which have been analysed by many learned institutions as well as by my Committee and other bodies; and to recognise the huge potential benefits of fracking, without exaggerating their impact, as I am afraid some of our less well informed supporters have done. Let us oppose amendments that would obstruct the development of a potentially valuable natural resource.
I am conscious of the fact that we have about 20 minutes left for the debate, and that there are about 60 amendments on the amendment paper. It will be impossible for the House to do justice to the concerns of people across the UK about how the Government are going all-out on fracking.
I will respond to the points that the esteemed Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Mr Yeo, made. His Committee did produce reports on fracking, but the concerns that the Environmental Audit Committee received related to the haste with which the Government are taking fracking forward and the fact that we have started out with a regulatory regime that has not been thought through from every different perspective. We have the Health and Safety Executive, local planning inspectors, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Environment Agency, and we have petroleum exploration and development licences, which the Department for Energy and Climate Change issues, but we do not have an overarching, integrated way of dealing with applications. From the evidence that my Committee received, we felt that the matter should be looked at from every single perspective. We need an overall strategic assessment, not individual case-by-case assessment of each application. Until that is sorted out, it is difficult to see how the system will be right for the country’s energy security and supply.
An application was made last year in Lound, in Bassetlaw, a former munitions site. The county council, as planning authority, the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive were all unclear about who should have responsibility for knowing the state of play with potential contamination, and the application simply bounced around between them.
That is exactly the point—no one knows who has overall responsibility. The Environment Agency appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee to give evidence, but it was unable to take overall responsibility. Somebody has to, otherwise we will be dealing with liabilities long into the future.
I know that our time is brief, but I wish to raise the issue of whether there could be a moratorium. People out in the country see that we currently have exploration for shale gas going on, but not full-scale industrialised extraction. When that is in place, 10 or 15 years down the line, the issues will not have been properly thought through. Why do we not sort all of that out now? Why do we not have a regulatory regime that is fit for purpose both for exploration and for the larger-scale extraction that will happen later?
My hon. Friend is right that we should be discussing that—actually, now is not when we should be discussing it, because it is an outrage that we have 20 minutes or so left for speeches on a matter that could have been discussed at much greater length before. We all know that half the time in Parliament we are not debating Bills and there are no votes, so more time could have been made available to discuss fracking at a much earlier stage, and the Government could and should have made more time available now.
I agree with my hon. Friend about having more time. People in this country will not forgive us for not having the time necessary to scrutinise this Bill in detail. We could well end up with a fossil fuel industry in 15 years’ time, precisely when we should be phasing out fossil fuels. That is what we have signed up to in international agreements, but we could well end up with an industry that has not been properly regulated because of these failures on overall strategic assessments.
I endorse the comments the hon. Lady is making. I am now on to dealing with my fourth and fifth shale gas applications in my constituency. On Second Reading I made it clear to the Government that I wanted to see an overarching body that looked at end-to-end regulation—from start to finish—just as she is envisaging. The Government are still not out of time—they can still relinquish on that.
As we heard from the Minister just now, there may well be time for further amendments, because clearly we have not got the amendments that we need to be looking at right now. When those further amendments are introduced, it is imperative that the Government examine that long-term issue, making sure, for example, that whatever a local planning authority is going to rule on it is not going to be overturned by the Secretary of State. That is the real danger we face. On something as controversial as this issue and this Bill, the current approach makes no sense. There has been consultation and people have been saying that they do not want these proposals coming forward in this way. It is a toxic recipe for the Government to be—
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister has referred to the potential for further amendments to be introduced. I know we have had an iterative process here this afternoon, to put it mildly, but even I did not think there would be scope for the Government to introduce further amendments in this House. Will you rule on this issue and clarify whether the Minister is making a statement correctly or incorrectly.
Let me help by saying that it would be possible for the Lords to look at that and do something about the Bill at that stage.
I am interested in that point of order because it sets out for us the situation we are in: we are going to be voting today in this House on something that is not before us, in the hope that the concerns that we do not have time to raise can then be addressed by amendments in the other place. That is just not the right way to make good legislation.
I am conscious that so many Members wish to speak, so let me just say that there should be a moratorium, that the Government have overlooked the needs of people all over the country and that without that public support this policy and this haste—going all out for fracking—is just a failed policy.
I will try to be brief, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to follow Joan Walley, and I pay tribute to her for her work on this issue and her call for the moratorium, with which I agree. We have the problem of using too many fossil fuels; despite knowing the harm that climate change is causing and is going to continue to cause, we still see a thirst to have more and more of them. The solution has to look different. Perhaps in the future it will be nuclear fusion—who knows? We are 25 years away from that, as we have been for about 50 years. We have to reach a situation where we have renewables and other low-carbon energy sources, and energy efficiency, so that we use less energy, be it for heating, transport or anything else.
Indeed; we should be seeing a quest for more renewables. One of my concerns about the dash for fracking and for gas is that it can be seen as a substitute for a dash for renewables and other low-carbon technologies, which is where we have to get to. That is what worries me about all this. When we know from study after study of the huge amounts of fossil fuels that we have to leave in the earth because we simply cannot afford the harm that would come from burning them, why go to a mass effort to legislate to say that we have to take as much as possible out of the ground? That is not the right way to go. Carbon emissions, be they carbon dioxide or methane, are the biggest problems with shale gas and fracking.
It is very interesting to look at the scientific evidence on the comparison with liquefied natural gas. A comment was made about my constituent Dave Mackay and the range of carbon emissions. What he found was that the range of carbon emissions from shale gas overlaps with that from liquefied natural gas. There is no guarantee that we will see a reduction as a result.
Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman that we take this matter seriously. We will introduce a further amendment in the Lords to place a duty on the Secretary of State to consider in every carbon budget period advice from the Committee on Climate Change as to the impact of UK shale development on the UK’s overall climate change objectives. If the Committee on Climate Change advises that shale development adversely impacts on climate change objectives, the Secretary of State must either choose to deactivate the right of use provisions or to make a written statement to Parliament explaining the reasons.
I thank the Minister for that welcome news. I was going to talk about water usage, but I will turn to that matter instead. The Minister’s words effectively bring us closer to proposed new clause 4 and amendment 44, which were tabled by me and a number of my Liberal Democrat colleagues. They propose that we should not allow fracking if it leads to an increase in carbon emissions.
I thank the Government for new clause 15, which takes us halfway there, and this other amendment, which takes us even further. We will know, as a result of this change, whether there are higher carbon emissions. The change does not go quite as far as banning fracking, but it is, none the less, a welcome step. I will not now be pressing new clause 4 and amendment 44 to a Division.
I still feel strongly about new clause 6, but we are waiting to get clarity from the Department about exactly which areas are excluded. I hope that we will get that clarity later. New clause 9, on a moratorium on onshore unconventional petroleum, was tabled by Yasmin Qureshi, who asked me to speak in support of it as she is unable to be here today. I believe that we should have that moratorium, and so am happy to support that new clause. I would love to hear what the position of the official Opposition is on it as they were not prepared to say. On amendments 50 and 51, which I also feel strongly about, the Opposition made it clear that they do not support them. We will see what happens if we have the opportunity to test the will of the House on those as well.
I rise to speak in support of amendment 117, which is in my name. In Committee, I brought to Members’ attention the Government’s own science and innovation strategy, which talks very clearly about openness. It says:
“Technology allows openness and public scrutiny of research that was not possible until now –going far beyond the ability to share a published paper through open access; the data and the information behind the paper can be made available to all.”
That substantive document, which was produced by the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, sets out the case for openness. There are two areas of this debate where openness has not occurred. The first relates to the redacted documents from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is hardly consistent with the Government’s stated position. The second relates to the point made in amendment 117, which is that baseline monitoring data should be published
“in a form that enables it to be subject to scientific peer review.”
It can be done.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Mr Hayes referred to a letter—I thank him for giving me a copy of it because I had not seen it—but it does not address the substantive point of the amendment, which is that data should be published in a form that enables them to be available for scientific peer review. I am not talking about any old published charts and data. The data should be published in a way that the scientific community can use. There are established standards that are well understood by the Departments of the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd. I also ask the Minister to consider that matter with some care as the Bill progresses through the Lords.
Let me give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. If the letter was not clear that is my fault, not his. I am absolutely clear that the information must be made available in an appropriate and proper form and in the way that he describes.
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to the amendments standing in my name, which were tabled in a personal capacity as the constituency MP for Kirby Misperton, where Third Energy proposes to apply for a licence in six weeks. At a public meeting attended by residents of the three villages affected, Third Energy admitted that there is a minuscule risk of contamination of groundwater. I therefore urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to look extremely carefully at the contents of amendment 59.
My hon. Friend the Minister talked about the amount of monitoring that would be done three months before a licence application for drilling can be started. Is she aware of the worrying fact that at least one insurance company has stated in writing that it will not insure for public liability any landowner who allows the oil and gas industry or fracking companies on to their land? That raises the question whether during the monitoring stage and, in the long term, during the fracking stage, home owners will be able to obtain insurance.
Another point raised is about emissions after the fracking operation has finished. Third Energy seems to think that the land will revert to the landowner at completion of the fracking operations, but I believe that that is a misunderstanding. I shall be grateful if the Minister clarifies that matter.
I am delighted that my hon. Friend says that compensation for blight may indeed be possible, as proposed in my amendment 61.
I am sorry that there is such a lack of time to make a serious response to the amendments still outstanding for debate this afternoon.
I wish we could press amendment 51 to a vote, because that amendment would stop the Government’s proposed change to trespass laws. Some 360,000 people signed a petition opposing that change and 99% of those who responded to the Government consultation opposed it as well. To see the Government just flinging that back in people’s faces, simply not listening to the consultation, raises big questions about what the consultation is for and undermines the credibility of the process, as does the ongoing secrecy about the DEFRA report. I am not reassured by what the Minister said about it.
No—I am sorry, but I am short of time.
Labour’s new clause 19 does not offer the kind of protection it pretends to offer. It certainly does not offer any kind of moratorium, and it will be interesting to see whether Labour support a moratorium. That is what people are asking for, hence the importance of new clause 9.
In summary, the big point is that it is simply not compatible with our climate change objectives to be exploring for yet more fossil fuels and to start a whole new fossil fuel industry as fracking does. By the time fracking comes on stream in 10 or 15 years, it simply will not be possible to be compatible with our CO2 objectives. For those reasons, we must have a vote on new clause 9.
I rise to voice my support for new clause 19, which I believe provides a substantial series of baseline starting points for any fracking to take place. If those baselines are not in place, no fracking takes place. That is my understanding of the new clause and it seems to me to provide very substantial protection indeed.
I am also concerned about the cumulation of fracking over a period. I tabled a new clause which addresses that. If we have substantial and extensive fracking to the extent that is envisaged in the Government’s rush for fracking, we may well find that we have 18,000 or 20,000 wells across the country, perhaps more than half of those in two particular parts of the country, with virtually no environmental safeguards on the cumulation of those arrangements, even if there are some environmental safeguards on individual fracking enterprises as they go forward. It is essential that should there be any cumulation of fracking, those safeguards are in place. New clause 19 provides protection both in the individual exploration phase and in the production phase. I would like to see—
Debate interrupted (Programme Order, this day).
The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (
Question agreed to.
New clause 15 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (