9 January 2015
The Infrastructure Bill [HL] 2014-2015 has reached committee stage in the House of Commons. The Committee is expected to report to the House by Thursday January 15.
The Bill concerns an extensive range of legislation, from ‘the control of invasive nonnative species’, to ‘the Greater London Authority so far as it exercises functions for the purposes of housing and regeneration’.
As George Monbiot says in the Guardian: “The infrastructure bill epitomises the rising trend of legislation-stuffing: cramming so many unrelated issues into one bag that parliamentary votes become meaningless. MPs must either accept this great bundle of unrelated measures in its entirety or reject it in its entirety. So laws can pass which no one in their right mind would have voted for. Bills like this are good places for burying bad news, and this one is a graveyard.”
The Bill contains six parts; Strategic Highways Companies, Powers of British Transport Police Force, Environmental Control of Animal and Plant Species, Planning Land and Buildings, Energy, and General Provisions.
Two of these parts are of particular concern to employment rights; Strategic Highways Companies, and Energy.
With regards to the former, the Infrastructure Bill contains the intention to change the status of the Highways Agency from an executive agency to a Government Owned Company (GoCo). This has been described by PCS in their submission as the final staging post to privatisation of the strategic road network in England.
The Energy section of the Bill makes provision for the acceleration of fracking and the shale gas industry. The PCS opposes tracking on the grounds of “climate change and the environmental impacts; weak regulation; jobs; health and safety; energy security; ownership; human rights”. With regards to the supposed jobs creation resulting from shale gas extraction, PCS points out that: “Estimates around the number of jobs involved in fracking vary widely ranging from the Cuadrilla backed Institute of Directors report of 74,000 jobs to the AMEC report of 32,000 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs at peak. Again, evidence suggests that these are wildly overestimated and dependent on what elements are included in the supply chain. Conversely we argue for the creation of a National Climate Service that invests in workers who contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions”.
The jobs that fracking will create will be hazardous, with workers facing occupational health and safety risks. A central component of fracking is the use of silica sand, the inhalation of which has been linked to silicosis, lung cancer and other fatal diseases.
The bill can be read in full here.