Fylde MP Mark Menzies ensured 'far more cautious approach' to fracking

Former Secretary of State for Energy Sir Edward Davey paid tribute to Fylde MP Mark Menzies for ensuring environmental and planning issues remained at the fore after hydraulic fracturing licences were issued in the UK.

During a debate on planning regulations relating to the industry, an industry which started when the last Labour Government awarded licences for hydraulic fracturing, Sir Edward said: "When I was Secretary of State and had to deal with these issues, some people in the coalition thought that shale gas was the answer to everything and would reduce energy prices.

"They were extremely keen to push it forward. I was not one of those people.

"I was helped in my far more cautious approach by colleagues such as Mark Menzies and others on the Conservative Benches, who realised that we had to be extremely cautious about the environmental issues and the local planning issues.

"One reason I am proud of my hon. Friend Wera Hobhouse for calling this debate is my concern that the controls agreed by the coalition — being very strong on local democracy and risks such as seismicity—are in danger of being removed."

Mr Menzies spoke in the debate to oppose allowing permitted development rights for hydraulic fracturing sites. He cited the Roseacre Wood application in Fylde which was eventually turned down on traffic management issues - a matter he said would not have been considered if permitted development rights were granted.

Sir Edward added: "I was concerned that this relatively new industry had to be safely regulated, for the environment and to take account of local issues.

"When we looked at seismicity in particular, we took advice from the experts. We had advice from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering about what would be the right approach to regulation on seismicity. We consulted widely. I published the report that was given to me, and I asked for people’s opinions on it. We took a precautionary approach even to the evidence.

"I came to the view, and accepted the recommendation, that the traffic light system was the way to go and that we needed a precautionary approach, not least because the geologists and experts were telling us that even a small seismic event underground could damage the casing of the wells and the bore holes of the fracks.

"I therefore accepted that we needed to be cautious, and it was important to give that reassurance to the public. We decided that we would go ahead, but only on that explicitly cautious basis."