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Shale Gas

Volume 607: debated on Thursday 24 March 2016

12. What steps she is taking to prevent protected areas from being adversely affected by the development of shale gas. (904305)

Shale gas could become a valuable new industry and it is in the strong interests of the UK to explore its potential. However, we are determined to protect our most valuable spaces, and therefore it is our intention to ban surface-level drilling in the most precious areas, including national parks and sites of special scientific interest. We have also regulated to make sure hydraulic fracturing cannot take place at less than 1,200 metres under protected areas.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Although I am sure it will allay the concerns of some, does she believe that more can be done to extol the positive virtues of shale gas, including, for example, the new jobs and security of energy supply it will bring?

My hon. Friend is right to point out that there are lots of benefits of shale gas. The first is energy security, as we could be importing about 75% of our gas by 2030. The second is jobs, as the industry could mean jobs and opportunities for the UK, with a report by Ernst & Young estimating that a thriving shale industry would create up to 64,000 jobs. The third is benefits to communities, as those hosting shale developments will see a direct share of the benefits through an industry-funded package, and the shale wealth fund will mean that up to 10% of the tax revenues from shale gas deliver investment directly to local communities.