Infrastructure Bill [HL] — Commons Amendments – in the House of Lords at 4:05 pm on 9th February 2015

Posted on 17 Feb 2015 under Uncategorized, Latest in Parliament

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green  6:30 pm, 9th February 2015

My Lords, I thank everyone who took part in the debate, even those who did not agree with me. There were valuable points of clarification from the Minister—for example, the fact that water companies will be consulted is crucial because fracking takes a huge amount of water. That is important in these days of a sometimes erratic water supply.

I said at the beginning that my main point of concern related to the groundwater source protection zones 1 to 3. The Government are not taking that issue seriously enough. Those zones were protected in the original Amendment 21 and I see no reason to remove them and include them in secondary legislation. I said that in my speech but perhaps the Minister missed it. Additionally, Labour has flip-flopped badly on this, and I cannot help but feel that it does not understand how important this issue is. If the Government are actually going to listen to the Environment Agency on many of these issues, why not listen to it on those protection zones and take it as accepted that those zones will not be fracked? I do not understand why that is so difficult.

I am also glad that fuel poverty was mentioned. This is increasingly on peoples’ agenda and more people are suffering from it. If we provided help with insulation, that would probably protect and help more people than worrying about only the cost of fuel.

This Government could take a lead from Wales and Scotland—as well as France, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and even New York state—in opposing fracking, focusing

on renewables and cutting energy waste. That seems a much more profitable way forward. Personally, I am against any fracking, but I equally accept that if it is going to go ahead then the protections have to be secure and strong. That is definitely not what this Bill supplies.

Of course, our water supply is absolutely crucial to our well-being, not only from a health point of view but also for farming and agriculture. It has to be protected. Again, I do not feel this Bill takes it seriously enough. In passing the Bill we are actually letting the Secretary of State decide on protected areas. I am a politician, and many people here perhaps are politicians, but even I would not trust a politician to decide on that. The Environment Agency ought to have the loudest voice here. I would very much like to divide the House on this—obviously—because I care very much about it. However, I am equally positive that it would be a crushing vote so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.