Mark Leftly: Government information on the future of fracking is buried far too deep

Westminster Outlook Francis Gugen has been described as "measured", "intense", "capable" and "determined". For years he led the UK and north-west Europe operations of Amerada Hess, today simply known as Hess Corporation and a gas station giant that is in the Fortune 100 list of biggest US companies.

Mr Gugen, then, is no fool, so it would be wise to take his comments this week extremely seriously: "During the course of the year there has been meaningful progress made in developing the regulatory and associated framework to support shale gas development.

"The Government has now put its full support behind shale gas and there is a broad cross-party consensus in favour of its development in Britain."

These words formed part of his chairman's statement at the annual results for IGas, which is listed on AIM.

IGas is close to completing the purchase of Dart Energy for nearly £120m, a deal that will create something of a British shale gas champion.

Fracking, which involves releasing gas by breaking shale rock layers deep beneath our feet, has been cast by opposing ends of the spectrum as either a huge environmental disaster waiting to happen – or the process that will bridge the country's ever-widening energy gap.

It is, then, only natural that people would want to know just what meetings that executives from iGas and Dart – as well as those from rivals Tamboran Resources and Viking Energy – have had with ministers and senior officials.

Specifically, a recent Freedom of Information (FoI) request asked for emails and letters between the Department of Energy & Climate Change and these companies, as well as internal ministerial briefing papers and agendas of face-to-face conversations.

This would date back to the start of last year and cover material concerning unconventional oil and gas extraction, which also includes retrieving gas from coal beds.

The department has, outrageously, declined what is a straightforward search of a few records, computer drives and email accounts for the information.

It would, according to a reply published on Monday, "require a substantial volume of work". It also curiously described this fairly well-defined request as "broad and voluminous". It would be better, it suggested, if the FoI request were refined to "a particular set of correspondence or meeting".

That is ludicrous given that the whole point of this request was to establish what correspondence or meetings have occurred and when. Too often, FoI has been used to conceal important information in plain sight. Allowing requests is very different from processing them but it creates the illusion of open government.

Mr Gugen is extremely clear that fracking is going to be a big part of Britain's future. We should be allowed to find out whether his comments are backed up by what he or his colleagues has been told on the quiet by those who govern us.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life