Party conferences: Labour warns of fracking threat while Lib Dems fear for Defra

At Labour's party conference this week, shadow energy secretary Kerry McCarthy, pledged to halt govenment attempts to allow fracking in water protection zones and sites of special scientific interest. She said the government had broken its promise not to allow fracking in such areas. "They’ll be trying to get this through parliament soon – and we will do all we can to stop it," Later during the conference shadow energy secretary Barry Gardiner said a Labour government would ban fracking altogether. A proposal which the GMB union described as "mad."

At the Liberal Democrats’ conference, Defra spokesperson Baroness Kate Parminter (pictured) told a Liberal Democrat fringe event in Brighton last week there was “a real risk we’ll see a dismantling of our environmental protections” post Brexit.

The party’s deputy leader in the Lords and spokesperson for environment and rural affairs said she was not confident the government would opt to voluntarily transpose existing green legislation given its growth and deregulation agenda; environment secretary Andrea Leadsom’s climate change scepticism; and its track record – for instance on opposing protection for bees. “ This is a government whose heart is not in the right place,” the Baroness said.

Describing herself as “extremely nervous” about the future for the environment, she pointed out we won’t know any more until it is clear what prime minister Theresa May means by “Brexit means Brexit”. The soft option, which preserves access to the single market, would likely be accompanied by ongoing green protection, but with a hard Brexit “all bets are off”. Baroness Parminter will be leading a debate in the Lords on 20 October on environmental and climate change policy following UK withdrawal from the EU. She called on NGOs to work together to step up their efforts in the area too.

Parminter urged the government not to disband the department after fears for its future arose as the Treasury considers it autumn spending review. Most departments have been charged with finding £20bn in savings by 2020. Given the £1bn yaken from Defra's budget over the past five years, the Treasury cuts have put Defra's future in question.