Liz Truss, the environment secretary, turned on her own department yesterday as the Tory government came under increasing criticism for its heavy-handed redactions to a controversial report about fracking.
Truss, a Conservative member of the Cabinet, told the House of Commons there are “no plans” for the release of an unredacted version of the Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts report and blamed her own officials at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
She complained that Defra should never have produced the report. “The economic impact of fracking is a matter for the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC),” she argued. She said the report “was not analytically robust and was not signed off by Ministers”.
This echoes statements made by Amber Rudd, the Under Secretary of State at DECC, on Monday during the Infrastructure Bill debate. The Tory told MPs that the report was prepared by a junior member in another department “and it was not appropriate for them to have done so”.
Labour were quick to attack the government. Maria Eagle, shadow environment secretary, said: “Ministers have responsibility for what is done in their Department. The report has been so heavily redacted that even the name of its author has been removed.”
“Given that the Government has now caved in to Labour’s demand for extensive and robust regulation, without which there can be no fracking for shale gas, why does the Secretary of State not now publish the report, unredacted, in the interests of full transparency?”
She went on: “Does she understand that refusing to publish it merely fuels suspicion that the Government have something more to hide than her junior Minister’s embarrassment at being asleep on the job?”
The government has repeatedly refused to release a full version of the report which has been redacted 63 times within 13 pages and shows direct connections between fracking and falling house prices. The request was originally made for Greenpeace by information law non-profit, Request Initiative, last summer.
Caroline Lucas, Britain’s Green party MP, asked during Monday’s debate: “How on earth does she [Rudd] expect people to have any confidence in the Government’s policies on fracking if the Government cannot even put the research in the public domain?”
Photo: Policy Exchange via Flickr