I congratulate Wera Hobhouse on securing this debate, which I will call “shale 2”, as it is a repeat of the Westminster Hall debate promoted by my hon. Friend Lee Rowley. It is clear from today’s debate that passions remain as high on this subject as on that heady afternoon.
I know the hon. Lady was not trying to position herself as the sole custodian of our precious countryside. My party overwhelming represents the British countryside and recognises the precious nature of our green and pleasant land. As an unapologetic environmentalist myself, I share that view. Being genetically from Yorkshire—although I was brought up in the north-west and educated in the north-east—I also have the interests of the northern half of this country at heart. I now happily represent a part of the same bulge of chalk as my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs—I also have oil production that goes on unnoticed and uncomplained about by my constituents—so this is a matter of extreme importance to me.
I emphasise that no final decision has been made on whether to bring these proposals forward. The consultations have now closed and the Government are currently considering the representations made and will issue a response in due course. These consultations are part of a range of measures to make planning decisions faster and fairer for all those affected by new shale gas development and to ensure that local communities are fully involved in the planning decisions that affect them.
As right hon. and hon. Members will know, my remit as Housing Minister in relation to shale gas development is focused on planning policy and delivering the related manifesto commitments. Given that hon. Members have raised matters beyond my remit, including energy policy and reported seismic events, I will refer those matters to the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, my right hon. Friend Claire Perry, for a response.