Fracking ban in national parks


Published: Monday 26th January 2015 by The News Editor

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Ministers have agreed an outright ban on fracking in national parks and accepted Labour proposals for tougher regulation but blocked backbench calls for a moratorium on shale gas extraction.

Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, speaking outside the Commons, said the coalition had performed a “huge U-turn” by agreeing to Labour’s demands for stronger safeguards around fracking.

The acceptance of the Opposition’s amendment to the Infrastructure Bill came after Energy Minister Amber Rudd told MPs the Government will be “effectively removing” the condition which would allow fracking in national parks in “exceptional circumstances”, in an apparent concession.

Ministers also won a series of votes during report stage on the Infrastructure Bill, including a backbench attempt to place a moratorium on further fracking taking place – which was defeated 308 to 52, majority 256, after Labour did not take part.

The Bill, which contains a range of other infrastructure measures including a roads strategy and planning reforms, received an unopposed third reading and will return to the Lords for further scrutiny.

Introducing the Bill at third reading, Transport Minister John Hayes said: “This Bill looks beyond short-term political expediency to a future of greater investment, a future of more jobs, more opportunities and more growth.

“It’s a Bill which improves the funding and management of our major roads, streamlines the planning process, particularly for major projects, so facilitating investment.

“And it supports house building, introduces rights for communities to buy a stake in new commercial renewable electricity schemes, boosts our energy security and economic growth by making the most of our North Sea oil and gas reserves and facilitates shale gas and geothermal development.

“This is a bold Bill introduced by a far-sighted administration.”

There was confusion in the Commons as Ms Rudd outlined her agreement to ban fracking in national parks as ministers had not tabled an amendment to put the prohibition into the Bill, despite it being the last chance to do so in the Commons.

Speaker John Bercow said he was reassured that new amendments could be tabled when the legislation returns to the Lords.

Meanwhile, Labour warned the Government against trying to tinker with its proposals for tougher regulation of fracking when the legislation comes before peers, saying ministers would be “asking for trouble” if they attempted to water down the protections in the Lords.

Shadow transport minister Richard Burden said: ” I have to say to the Government there were just one or two comments that were made in debate today that suggested that whilst new clause 19 was being accepted today, when it goes back to the Lords there could be some attempts to tinker around with it.

“Take a bit out here, put a bit in there.

“I just have to say to the Government if they go down that road they will be asking for trouble because that amendment and that new clause was thought through, it’s a package, it’s not a pick and mix and I do hope the Government will respect that.”

Published: Monday 26th January 2015 by The News Editor

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