Back in May this year, Ed Davey revealed to Parliament there had been a discussion at Number 10 with ‘experts in the shale gas industry’ concerning shale gas in the UK.
What was interesting about this, as Andrew Montford at the Bishop Hill blog pointed out, was that these experts apparently told David Cameron and other assembled stuffed shirts that it would take some time to exploit shale gas – and that ‘strong regulation’ would be required. It was certainly a strange sentiment coming from people in the industry, who presumably would want to push ahead quickly to exploit shale, and do so with minimal constraints.
As Montford speculated at the end of his post, ‘I wonder who Number Ten’s experts were?’ I wondered the same thing, which is why I submitted the Freedom of Information request shown below:
Now bearing in mind in April this year, none other than the Cabinet Office (the department that would field my request) Minister Francis Maude wrote in the Guardian (where else?) the claims below, one would expect that openness and transparency to be readily on display:
Since coming to office, the coalition has made great strides towards David Cameron’s commitment that the United Kingdom would be the most open and transparent government in the world. We have already brought a new openness to all areas of government, radically challenging the damaging idea that public data is owned by the state, not the citizen.
– Francis Maude, The Guardian, 19 April 2012
But of course, when it comes to politics we are in the Post-Truth Age. Anything goes in this ideologically bankrupt administration, so long as it and its friends benefit. Which is why more than two months after submitting my request – without explanation for the failure to comply with the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, or apology for the delay and failure to respond to my follow up queries – I received the following:
The suspicion is that the government is – as it so often does – only listening to opinions that reinforce its viewpoint and agenda. It stretches the bounds of credulity that even if the likely reserves of shale are not as extensive as some might suggest, representatives of the shale gas industry would seek to hinder their effort to exploit shale and actually demand significant government action to restrict the extraction of shale.
The rhetorical question is, in whose interest is this government working? It’s certainly not ours.