UK government defies court order to release secret fracking report, The Cabinet Office was ordered to release the report first revealed by Unearthed nearly two years ago by Zach Boren, Nov 28, 2019, Unearthed
The story so far
- Secret UK government report lowers fracking expectations
- UK government says secret fracking report ‘could call into question the industry’s viability’
The British government has failed to comply with a court order to release key parts of a confidential report on the fracking industry following a years-long legal battle with Unearthed.
The move comes as the government continues to sit on a major report into Russian interference in the EU referendum, and despite a vague election pledge to halt the controversial oil and gas extraction technique.
The failure to release the report will cast further doubt on whether ministers intend to retain the moratorium on fracking for the duration of the next parliament.
Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office Jon Trickett said:
“The Tories’ failure to publish this crucial report on fracking shows contempt for democracy and serves as a stark warning on what lies ahead if Boris Johnson is re-elected.
Whether denying talks to sell-off our NHS or suppressing a report on foreign interference in our politics, this Tory Government repeatedly operates in secret. [Is there any Tory gov’t in the world that operates openly and democractically? Mulroney didn’t; Harper didn’t; Kenney isn’t; Ford isn’t; etc etc etc]
Labour will ban fracking, expand the Freedom of Information Act and introduce tough new transparency rules.”
The Cabinet Office, who are failing to release the report, declined to comment.
‘In the public interest’
An Information Tribunal held earlier this year over the Cabinet Office’s repeated denials to produce the report ruled that sections should be disclosed as they could not be classified as “internal communications” once they were shared with independent regulator the Environment Agency.
The tribunal judgement said: “It is no secret that the government supported the development of the industry and the report was designed to address how the government could help it to develop; it was in our view in the public interest that the public should know how far officials were suggesting government might go in doing so.”
The ruling ordered the report to be shared with Unearthed by November 25 but had not been supplied by November 28.
The existence of the 2016 report was first revealed by Unearthed in February of last year, when we obtained the government’s fracking well forecast — which was far smaller than previous public statements and industry projections had indicated. [Typical con of frac’ers and their enablers, everywhere]
In rejecting the initial Unearthed information request, BEIS said releasing the report “could call into question the industry’s viability.”
In its judgement, the Information Tribunal said: “We noted an unfortunate tendency on the part of the Cabinet Office to be content for positive information about the fracking industry to be released but anxious to withhold more negative information.”
The dispute comes as the government has placed a pause on fracking, though activists fear the moratorium could be lifted by a Conservative government after the election.
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said the moratorium would remain in effect until “new compelling evidence is provided” regarding the serious seismic incidents drilling has triggered in the north of England.
Cabinet Office ignores court order to release secret fracking report, Labour says failure to share document raises doubts about Tories’ promise to halt fracking by Jillian Ambrose, Nov 28, 2019, The Guardian
The Cabinet Office has defied a court order to release a secret government report on the UK’s fracking industry.
Officials were expected to hand over the report on Monday, days before Britain’s first general election leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, after the information tribunal ruled it was in the public interest to disclose its findings in full.
The Cabinet Office is understood to have received the tribunal’s order to release the documents on 28 October after a multi-year battle with Greenpeace, but by Thursday evening the government had yet to hand over the 2016 report or give an explanation for ignoring the court order.
Jon Trickett, the shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said: “The Tories’ failure to publish this crucial report on fracking shows contempt for democracy and serves as a stark warning on what lies ahead if Boris Johnson is re-elected.” [Mostly it proves “The Rule of Law” is a useless, cruelly expensive bag of shit]
Labour said the government’s refusal to reveal the documents cast doubt over its commitment to end fracking in England, weeks after it declared a fracking moratorium in the run-up to the election.
“Labour will ban fracking, expand the Freedom of Information Act and introduce tough new transparency rules,” Trickett added.
Doug Parr, the chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said the government was “ignoring the courts in order to avoid scrutiny of this dangerous and dirty industry”.
The campaign group uncovered some of the report’s findings last year through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request but its investigations arm was barred by Cabinet Office officials from obtaining the full report.
The FoI revealed that government ministers had known for years that fracking companies had exaggerated the economic benefits of the UK shale gas boom. It showed that only 4% of the UK’s potential shale projects were likely to go ahead, contradicting public claims that a shale revolution could spur £33bn of investment and create more than 64,000 jobs.
“We don’t know what further revelations are in the report they’re still hiding, but the government are clearly very keen that the public don’t find out, which makes it all the more important that we do,” Parr said. [Is it the gov’t or industry that doesn’t want the report public?]
As part of its ruling, the information tribunal said it had noted “an unfortunate tendency” on the part of the Cabinet Office to be content to release positive information about the fracking industry but “anxious to withhold more negative information”.
“It is no secret that the government supported the development of the industry and the report was designed to address how the government could help it to develop; it was in our view in the public interest that the public should know how far officials were suggesting government might go in doing so,” it said.
It is understood the Cabinet Office will comply with the ruling in due course. It declined to comment on the reason behind the delay. [Delay ’til after the election, then shred it and all copies?]
Boris Johnson snubbed the leaders’ debate on the climate, which was due to take place on Thursday evening.