A secret report into the impact of fracking on house prices should and will be published, energy minister Andrea Leadsom has said, opening up a rift with the environment department over the controversial issue.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which commissioned the report, published parts of it last year in response to a request from campaigners but redacted 63 passages.
The Information Commissioner ordered earlier this month that the report be published in full but Defra, which fought to keep it secret, has so far failed to do so.
Responding to questions from MPs, Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, said on Tuesday that the report “is going to be published” and said she believed “it should be made available to the public, so that they can draw their own conclusions”.
The position is at odds with Defra, which on Tuesday confirmed it was still considering its options – including a potential appeal against publication.
Defra has 28 days from the Information Commissioner’s June 18 decision to lodge an appeal. If it doesn’t appeal it must publish it within 35 days of the decision or be deemed in contempt of court.
The department, headed by Liz Truss, has claimed the report is “inaccurate and potentially misleading” and that its publication would be “damaging”.
Among the redacted parts of the report were several sections on the “impact on housing demand and property prices”, fuelling fears that ministers who are in favour of fracking were hiding evidence about its drawbacks.
The Information Commissioner said the full document should be published as there was a “a strong public interest” in the Government’s policy on fracking and research on it.
The split within Government emerged the day after it suffered a major setback in its hopes of developing a UK shale gas industry as councillors in Lancashire threw out a proposal from Cuadrilla to frack in the county.
Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate, Ms Leadsom said those who opposed shale should not be labelled nimbys or luddites but rather people who “need to understand better”.
She said: “I would never call those with local, very well founded concerns nimbys or luddites. Plenty of people in my constituency have concerns about all manner of things, ranging from HS2 to wind farms, to anaerobic digestion plants.
“They are not nimbys or luddites, but local communities who need to understand better. My priority will be to reassure them and, yes, to use an element of persuasion… We need to take local people with us, so that will be my absolute focus.”