Shale Gas and Oil (EAC Report) — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:32 pm on 4th November 2014.

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Photo of Lord Tugendhat Lord Tugendhat Chair, EU Sub Committee C - External Affairs 6:32 pm, 4th November 2014

I certainly agree with my noble friend. I was going to touch on a related point, which I will now make. One of the most disagreeable things about many of the protests against the development of shale gas is that they come from prosperous people in prosperous areas, and these people may very well prejudice the development of a resource that would help less prosperous people in less prosperous areas. I agree that the regime must safeguard as far as possible the quality of life of the people in the areas concerned, but it would be quite intolerable if a small minority of people in the most well-to-do parts of the country was allowed to prevent the development of a resource which could have such a very great and beneficial impact on the country as a whole—and, as my noble friend said, in particular on that part of the country which has benefited least from the great development of the British economy over the last 20 to 30 years.

If we do not get ahead with exploiting this possibility we will be doing a great disservice to the nation. Nobody can foresee the future but we know that the electricity margin of safety is now so tight that supplies might well be interrupted during the winter. We are investing huge sums in renewables and in nuclear power, but when will they make a decisive contribution? As the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, pointed out, the cost in the case of nuclear power will be very considerable indeed.

Can we be sure that we and our European Union partners will never again be blackmailed by Russian or Middle Eastern suppliers, or that we will never suffer interruptions as a result of war or civil disorder? One only has to consider these possibilities to realise the importance not just in terms of our prosperity but in terms of our security of developing a new natural resource. If things go wrong and we are not safeguarding our future, the people who will suffer will be the least prosperous people because it will be impossible to keep our manufacturing industry going at the rate at which it could have been kept going if power supplies act as a brake instead of an accelerator on national economic development.

Looking back to the 1960s when development of the North Sea began we have a great deal to learn from the foresight, enthusiasm and political courage of those who made sure that we had a regulatory regime that enabled companies to go forward and develop those resources. All of us have benefited from that and I hope that in 50 years’ time, those who are sitting here will be able to say the same for the present.