The Office for Unconventional Gas and Mark Menzies MP
How very disappointing to read Mark Menzies MP’s comment in the Lytham St Annes Express about how satisfied he is about the creation of The Office for Unconventional Gas.
One of those positives of course was the creation of the Office for Unconventional Gas – a direct response I feel to my Adjournment Debate on the regulation of onshore gas drilling a couple of months ago. In my debate and following many letters of concern from Fylde residents about the regulation of any possible extraction of gas from below ground in Lancashire, I called for a regulator to create one body with overall responsibility for on-shore drilling. This is exactly what we have got and that must be welcomed.
Of course what Mr Menzies actually said in Parliament during that Adjournment Debate was that
Fracking rightly demands careful monitoring and full transparency, and I believe that work by the current regulatory bodies will be aided and enhanced by the presence of an independent panel of experts. I have been assured that the technical competence of the regulators is not in doubt among those working in the industry, but the perceived lack of transparency, engagement and on-the-ground presence is prompting fears among many in the local communities that the industry does not receive sufficient oversight. We must therefore ensure that the UK continues its proud record of having world-leading energy regulators. Due to the developmental nature of the process in the UK, it is vital that we support the work of current regulatory bodies. In no uncertain terms can we allow the environment or the well-being of our constituents to be compromised.
He went on to say
I have called for the establishment of a committee of independent experts to look at all aspects of the process. Will the Minister take personal responsibility to ensure that that is done, and will he personally oversee the work of the committee, because it must be robust and of a Rolls-Royce standard? In the event of the Secretary of State giving permission for the shale gas industry to move from the exploration phase to the extraction phase, the panel should not only continue, but ramp up its work and take on the responsibility for scrutinising the onshore gas sector. Drawing on perceptions that have been formed from this point onwards, I would expect regular and thorough on-the-ground inspections from each regulator body; regulations that are rigorously enforced; and considerable sanctions brought to bear should any breach of such regulations take place.
However, instead of the independent panel Mr Menzies insisted publicly was the minimum requirement to safeguard “the well-being of (his) constituents“, which “must not be compromised” he has got another body run and funded by the Department for Energy & Climate Change.
DECC will establish an Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil, which will join up responsibilities across Government and provide a single point of contact for investors and streamline the regulatory process.
Mr Menzies is surely intelligent enough to see that he has not got exactly what he called for as he is claiming. Surely he can see the difference between an independent panel and a body funded and run by one of the organisations it is supposed to be regulating, and which has the stated aim of streamlining regulation, not strengthening it.
If he is can’t see the difference then he really is not competent to represent a political constituency.
If he can see this, then to retain any credibility he needs to stop congratulating himself on the wonderful job that he really hasn’t done and start doing something positive for the people he represents.
If he does not do this then he is proving to his constituents that his rhetoric in parliament was never intended to be taken seriously.
How did Shakespeare put it?
“..just a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth Act V Scene V
Let’s hope Mr Menzies is better than that. He still has time to show us that he meant exactly what he said and that he won’t let himself and us be fobbed off with this toothless new body.