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Labour has accused the Government of a "huge" U-turn on fracking after ministers agreed a raft of changes to the law governing the controversial energy extraction method.
The Opposition tabled amendments to the Infrastructure Bill calling for a tougher regulatory regime for shale gas extraction, on the day a committee of MPs warned it could undermine efforts to tackle climate change.
Energy Minister Amber Rudd told MPs this evening she would accept Labour's new Clause 19 but said ministers would also seek further specific amendments to the Bill in the House of Lords.
“It is this Government's view that we will accept new clause 19 here," she said.
"But we plan on looking to amend it in the Other Place to replace provision G on the depth, with a view to put back the depth at the appropriate level for proper development.”
Speaking after the debate, Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint claimed the changes represented "a huge u-turn".
"Labour has always said that shale gas extraction cannot go ahead unless there is a system of robust regulation and comprehensive inspection, but David Cameron has repeatedly ignored people’s genuine and legitimate environmental concerns over shale gas," she said.
"Now, thanks to Labour’s amendment, the Government has been forced to accept that tough protections and proper safeguards must be in place before fracking can go ahead."
Ms Rudd also announced that ministers had agreed an "outright ban" on fracking in national Parks and protected areas of natural beauty.
Asked by Tory MP Anne McIntosh whether this meant the Government had removed the wording 'except in exceptional circumstances' from the Bill, the minister replied:
"The Honourable Lady is absolutely right. That is exactly what we have done. We have now put into place an outright ban and will be effectively removing those sentences."
Elsewhere, Ms Rudd distanced herself from a heavily-redacted report prepared by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the impact of shale extraction on rural communities.
The Energy Minister dismissed the report, published last year, as a “draft internal document which was not analytically robust”.
She also confirmed that the Government would introduce a fresh amendment to the Infrastructure Bill in the House of Lords allowing independent climate change advisers to assess the impact of shale on the UK’s carbon budgets.
David Cameron earlier reiterated his support for fracking, despite a recommendation by MPs that the controversial energy policy be put on hold.
The Environmental Audit Committee called for a moratorium on the technique, saying fracking was incompatible with climate change targets.
The Prime Minister this morning said there were “good reasons” to continue the Government’s drive for shale gas and predicted that “understandably sceptical” members of the public would be won over by the financial benefits.
In the event, just 52 MPs backed the amendment calling for a moratorium, with 308 voting against.
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