There is no evidence from the United States of underground water being contaminated as a result of "fracking", Energy Minister Michael Fallon has claimed.

Mr Fallon insisted that because hydraulic fracturing for shale gas takes place deeper beneath the Earth's surface than groundwater levels, gasses cannot escape into the water and contaminate it.

His comments come despite numerous reports of possible gas contamination of groundwater in the US, where fracking is now widespread.

The Government has set out plans to encourage fracking to take place in Britain in its legislative programme announced in the Queen's Speech earlier this month.

Mr Fallon was asked by shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex whether the Government would commit to baseline monitoring of methane gas levels in groundwater.

During energy questions in the Commons, Mr Greatrex asked him: "You referred to robust regulation and you are right that robust regulation is important, as is comprehensive monitoring of those regulations to meet the high public acceptability test for this technology.

"Given that groundwater can contain methane naturally, could you explain why it is, more than two and a half years after it being raised with your predecessors, it's still the case the regulations do not include the baseline monitoring of methane in groundwater, given that some of the concerns from the US and elsewhere is of contamination in that way?

"Surely it's important now that we have that as part of the regulation to ensure confidence in the regulatory regime for shale gas?

The Tory minister replied: "There are no examples from the United States of hydraulic fracturing contaminating groundwater because as you will appreciate the fracturing takes place very much deeper than any groundwater levels.

"But I'm very happy to look at the specific point that you mention about baseline monitoring."