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John Hayes: Britain Could Get Shale Gas ‘Wealth Fund’

Rowena Mason, The Daily Telegraph

Britain could create its own “sovereign wealth fund” like oil-rich Gulf states to protect future windfalls from shale gas for the taxpayer, a minister suggested last night.

John Hayes, an energy minister, said the Government has not ruled out setting up a fund to allow future generations to benefit from the expected boom in shale gas.

He said shale gas could have a “profound economic effect” on the UK, when money is raised from the sale of licences to drill shale gas and extra tax income.

Asked whether a sovereign wealth fund could be set up, Mr Hayes said “watch this space”. He later added: “I wouldn’t speak on behalf of the Treasury. We are in discussion with the Treasury and all matters are being debated and considered.”

Shale technology, which involves pumping liquid into the ground at high pressure to fracture rocks and release gas, has been hailed by David Cameron as a potential “revolution that we should be involved in”.

The Prime Minister has said the controversial technique could help bring down household energy bills.

Mr Hayes yesterday said people should not assume the exploitation of shale will suddenly make gas “cheap” again but it could give a boost to the economy. Communities may also get financial “benefits” from the shale gas being drilled in their areas.

The minister told MPs on the energy committee that he expects “businesses to play a full role in community engagement” when they start drilling for shale gas.

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