Fracking safety calls by MP Flint

A Labour MP has accused the Government of "hyping up expectations" over the extraction of shale gas.

Labour's Caroline Flint accused the Government of 'hyping up expectations' over the extraction of shale gas and urged 'more stringent benchmark testing'
Labour's Caroline Flint accused the Government of 'hyping up expectations' over the extraction of shale gas and urged 'more stringent benchmark testing'

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Caroline Flint said gas was an "important part of our energy mix" but her party was asking for "more stringent benchmark testing" a year before drilling starts to better measure what was happening.

Ms Flint said obtaining gas from Britain's own shores and onland was "not a bad idea" because the UK had become a net importer of gas over the last decade.

"But for fracking to go ahead, we first and foremost have to be assured that it is being done in a safe and sustainable way," she added.

She told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "One of the problems I think we've got is the Government has taken a tack to really hype up expectations about shale gas. I think only last week some geologists just said well actually it may be more difficult than we think even if it's there to get it out the ground. I don't think the Government have helped the debate. They've also posed shale gas against renewables and even against looking at biogas, gas from waste and that hasn't helped this debate."

"I think the public want a common sense approach to this, one that is reasonable, that understands that we need gas, but if we're going to discover it through shale, we do it in a way that's safe and sound."

The Queen's Speech this week is expected to include an infrastructure and competitiveness Bill which would change trespass laws to allow shale gas exploration firms to drill beneath private property without needing the owners' permission.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also claimed the Government was "focusing on the fantasy of fracking".

Commenting on the proposals, Ms Bennett told the same programme: "We're obviously opposed to that because we're opposed to the whole idea of fracking. I think it's really a demonstration of how this Government - which we might recall once claimed to be the greenest Government ever, which is now a very sad, sick joke.

"This Government is focusing on the fantasy of fracking, when what it should be doing is catching up with the rest of the developed world on renewables where we are being left further and further behind on and also getting serious about energy conservation."

A leading fracking company has previously warned that the industry will grind to a halt in Britain unless the Government allows it to drill under people's property without permission.

Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan told The Times it would be impractical to negotiate access with every landowner where it wants to use the controversial pressure mining technique.

David Cameron and George Osborne have hailed the potential benefits of fracking to the UK, and last week the coalition launched a consultation on whether to make the legal change the firms are seeking.

However, the proposals are encountering strong resistance from environmental groups and residents in areas where there are large shale gas reserves.