I fully understand and appreciate people’s concerns about fracking, but let me reassure you that the Government is creating a regulatory regime that provides clear, strong protections for the environment.  With these in place, I think it is right that we explore and make use of shale gas and oil.  The opportunity to extract this energy, as well as to secure jobs and investment, cannot be ignored.

As you may be aware, MPs were asked to vote on regulations, which will protect some of the country’s most beautiful areas from fracking.  I would like to reiterate my assurances that National Parks are covered by these protections.  As a result of these regulations, gas cannot be extracted at depths of less than 1,200 meters under National Parks.

In addition, we have firmly stated our commitment to ban fracking wells and drills at the surface of National Parks, in order to safeguard the landscapes of these beautiful areas.  Consultations will start on this shortly. 

These regulations were debated and discussed by MPs, who approved them on 16 December.  We are listening closely to people’s concerns, and have, for example, recently launched a consultation that could see these protections extended even further.

The UK has one of the best track records in the world when it comes to protecting our environment while also developing our industries, and this experience will be brought to bear on the shale gas protections.  The industry will be developed safely with world class environmental protections, creating jobs and delivering better energy security, while all the time safeguarding some of our most precious landscapes.