Shale Gas (Lancashire) — [Mr Joe Benton in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:50 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 2:50 pm, 16th July 2013

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. As a former member of the Select Committee who believes in evidence-driven policy, I will look at the Institute of Directors report, as I will look at many of the other bits and pieces that come before us. We can have as many reports as we like, but at the end of the day the issue will remain one of judgment and proportion. What I am urging on the Minister and the Department and what I think largely echoes what the hon. Member for Fylde said is that they should proceed with caution. The precautionary principle should apply. I make no complaint against some of the people who propose the change because they want their business to succeed, but in the famous words of Mandy Rice-Davies after the Profumo affair, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Some people in other business areas will look at it through their end of the telescope, but it is not our job as Members of Parliament to look at it through their end of the telescope. Our job is to look at the effect on our constituents.

With that in mind, I strongly urge that we proceed with caution on the precautionary principle and probe laser-like into what the benefits will be and how broad they will be, and perhaps even to look at the impact on rural and seaside tourism, which are and should be interlinked. Our primary concern as Members of Parliament in the area must be for our residents’ well-being and environment. The Fylde is not like Arkansas or other areas of the United States that are relatively large and sparsely populated. The concern, whether justified or not, about contamination of the water table and other negative effects experienced in the United States would be much more profound and pronounced in the UK.

This morning, I went to Tate Britain for a quick peek at the wonderful exhibition of Lowry’s paintings of industrial Britain. He had the ability to summon up a terrible beauty from the destruction and marred landscape of the industrial revolution. We should take care in our House and in our deliberations not to be overborne by hype or business prospectuses. I would not want to see some of that terrible beauty visited on the Fylde in the 21st century.