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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:02 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Dan Byles Dan Byles Conservative, North Warwickshire 3:02 pm, 16th July 2013

I absolutely agree that it is important not to forget that Lancashire is part of the wider UK economy and that there are potentially significant benefits to not only Lancashire, but the whole UK economy. The jury is still out on how much shale gas might bring energy prices down, but it is certainly true that it might help to prevent them from rising as much as they might have done, which is, in effect, the same thing.

The majority of the members of a community who will be impacted by such development will be affected not by the actual activity of drilling for gas, but by the wider construction activity. In that respect, shale gas development is no different from any other infrastructure development. More people will probably be affected by things such as truck movements than by the activity of drilling for the gas.

When the Energy and Climate Change Committee visited Hinkley to discuss the Hinkley Point C power station, we had a long discussion with local parish councils about their concerns. I was struck by the fact that not one mentioned the fact that a nuclear reactor was going to be parked at the side of their town as a concern. They were concerned about truck movements, dust, noise, vibration and, interestingly, which pubs the itinerant work force were most likely to drink in.

When we look at the wider community benefit, and at how wide we go, therefore, it is important that we do not give the impression that somebody who lives five, 10 or 15 miles away from a shale pad requires compensating because of some activity that takes place there.

Others wish to speak, so I will say no more, other than that there is widespread agreement over the principle we are talking about. I do not think anybody here disagrees with the broad thrust of what community benefit will look like. We are now down to the definitions. What amount are we talking about? How should we levy it? Which community will benefit? Later, there will also be the practicalities of how moneys will be disbursed and to whom? We are in a good place, given that we are discussing the mechanisms involved in getting these things right, rather than whether we should do them. There is wide consensus that we should do them, and I think that is right.