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Is there a reason for choosing superintendent, or could many police forces consider a chief inspector, or a detective chief inspector, a “senior police officer” for management reasons?

Mr. McNulty: That is a fair point. My understanding is that the provision gives an appropriate definition of “senior police officer” that is readily accepted across the piece in policing matters, and in legislation. If there is any other specific reason for defining the term in that way, I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on the point, but that is my understanding.

We urge the House to agree with the Lords in their amendments Nos. 71, 73 and 74, which deal with a range of issues concerning the Security Industry Authority and sports grounds. I assure the House that Lords amendments Nos. 80 to 104 and 111 to 118 are—I know that colleagues bristle when they hear a Minister say this—minor and technical amendments to the schedules, and they are necessary if we are to achieve the policies already discussed. Although the Lords amendments are grouped together under the heading “Miscellaneous and minor amendments”, they are important, and we freely agree to them, as they will improve the efficacy and effectiveness of the Bill—indeed, that is the thrust of our response to all the amendments today. I commend them to the House.

Nick Herbert: I agree with the Minister that the amendments are more than just technical, and some of them are on important issues. I shall highlight just four. First, I should mention Lords amendments Nos. 67 and 68 on ticket touting. It was anomalous that the ticket-touting legislation did not apply to football matches. That was a particularly serious lacuna in the law, because the authorities’ inability to deal with ticket touting could cause public order issues, as it can compromise arrangements for segregating rival supporters. It therefore makes sense to close that loophole in the law.

The second amendment that I think is significant is No. 69, which is on “Power of entry and search of relevant offender’s home address”. We should not allow the amendment to be agreed to without recognising that it gives police significant additional powers relating to the notification requirements for sex offenders, or those who are cautioned for sex offences. The concern is that offenders are seeking to frustrate the process of risk assessment that the police must undertake on them. It is entirely legitimate for us to consider ways of dealing with offenders’ attempts to get round the various notification requirements, although the Government resisted doing so for some time. They are dealing with the problem by giving the police a pre-emptive power to enter premises and search the homes of the sex offenders who are on the register, even in circumstances that fall short of
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suspecting that an offence of whatever kind has been committed. The House should be wary of giving the police such pre-emptive powers. However, safeguards have been built into the amendment.

First, the police should have a warrant issued by a magistrate to enter the offender’s home. Secondly, the application must be made by a senior police officer, whose rank does not fall below that of superintendent. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley(Sir Paul Beresford) pointed out, that is a senior rank, and thus a significant safeguard. Thirdly, the constable must have sought entry to the premises in question and been denied access by the offender on at least two previous occasions. Subject to those safeguards, we accept that the wrong that the Lords amendment seeks to address is a serious one. It is extremely important that the authorities are able to monitor sex offenders properly, and it is important for public confidence, so we welcome the additional power.

6 pm

Lords amendments Nos. 81 to 104 deal with what Lord Addington described in the other place as

The application of the Private Security IndustryAct 2001 was broader than was intended as, inadvertently, it covers stewards employed by the governing bodies of clubs at sporting grounds. Lord Pendry said in the other place:

The provision caused problems when important events were held at venues such as Twickenham, Lords and Wimbledon. We do not want to increase costs unnecessarily, as there is no evidence that those stewards should be accredited to the same standards as other individuals whom the Act was intended to cover. We therefore welcome the removal of their inclusion.

Finally, Lords amendments Nos. 105 to 110 amend schedule 2, which deals with football banning orders. Some individuals have attempted to make the application of the orders difficult, and have avoided compliance, whether intentionally or otherwise, by changing their name, address or passport details. People should not be able to act in that way, so we welcome the power provided by the amendments. The remaining Lords amendments are consequential and technical amendments, which we are happy to support.

Sir Paul Beresford: I welcome Lords amendmentNo. 69, and I am slightly at odds with my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert).

The Lords amendment is familiar, because in many ways it resembles a private Member’s Bill that I introduced, as well as amendments that I tabled in Committee when the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was proceeding through the House. The Minister knows this but, for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs, I should say that a police requirement is required because a few predatory
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paedophiles are among the most devious, unco-operative, persistent reoffenders to appear before the courts. Many of them know that the loophole in the law offers them an opportunity. When the police knock on their door, and ask for admittance so that they can risk-assess them, they just close it. Superintendent Matt Sarti of the Met told me about a case involving an individual who owns a block of flats. Most of the flats are inhabited by single mothers with children, but that individual believes that his front door is the door at the front of the block. The police know from his history that it is extremely likely that he is engaged in skulduggery and paedophile activities, but they cannot enter his flat. They have no reason to issue a warrant, so the Lords amendment is a necessity, because it provides another arm to protect children.

May I ask the Minister a few questions? First, I am sorry that it has taken so long to introduce the provision, as Conservative Front and Back Benchers have pressed for it for a considerable time. I am relieved that it has been introduced, but I would be grateful if the Minister explained why it has taken so long. Secondly, I have touched on the rank of the police officer involved. The Met is probably the only force with a child protection unit headed by a superintendent. Other child protection units are smaller and, at best, are headed by a detective chief inspector. It is too late now, but if there was an opportunity for second thoughts, it would be desirable to lower that rank from superintendent to chief inspector to provide flexibility, good management and reduced bureaucracy.

Thirdly, alternatives were discussed with the Minister’s predecessor, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Byrne) and his officials. There was a simple alternative to the approach that we have taken—it should be a requirement for the risk-assessed individual to show a duty to co-operate, for example, by allowing the police to enter their accommodation and by co-operating in the risk assessment. Lords amendment No. 69 permits the police to enter, but a problem arises, as co-operation could cease. If the individual is difficult and does not allow them to enter, their failure to co-operate with the risk assessment is guaranteed. The Minister’s predecessors and some officials accepted that there was a sensible alternative, so the provision is a missed opportunity. I believe—the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—that the Lords amendment was worded to match legislation that is either pending or has been introduced north of Hadrian’s wall.

All in all, I welcome the provision more strongly than my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs. It is overdue, and it is a necessity. Those individuals are progressively learning that they can buck the law and stop the risk assessment. Now, the police will be able to get in.

Mr. McNulty: First, on the broad issue of football banning orders, it would be remiss not to put on record the fact that they have been hugely successful, not least in managing the behaviour of English fans at the World cup in Germany in the summer. It is therefore appropriate to tweak them to make them even more effective. Secondly, I accept the broad thrust of the points made by the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), but the measure is broadly in alignment with Scottish measures, and provides
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another method for tackling the problem. None the less, I welcome his welcome, which was stronger than the welcome from his hon. Friend the Memberfor Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert). Surprisingly or otherwise, the point that I made about the rank of superintendent rather than chief inspector was right without any assistance from the officials in the Box. [ Interruption. ] Indeed, I was shocked, but it was an acceptable legal definition of a senior officer.

Beyond those simple points, the Lords amendments deal with matters of substance—they are not a catch-all series of technical amendments—that have received ample debate in both the Lords and the Commons. Once again, the Bill will be better for the inclusion of the Lords amendments, which I commend to the House.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 68 to 118 agreed to.

Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to their amendment No. 27: Mr. Alan Campbell, Michael Fabricant; Lynne Featherstone; Siobhain Mcdonagh and Mr. Tony McNulty; Mr. Tony McNulty to be Chairman of the Committee; Three to be the quorum of the Committee.— [Mr. Alan Campbell.]

To withdraw immediately.

Reasons for disagreeing to the Lords amendment reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.


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Energy Supply

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.— [Huw Irranca-Davies.]

6.10 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): When I published the energy review in July, I said that I hoped that the House would have an opportunity to discuss not just the conclusions of that review, but the security of gas supplies this winter, following the concerns that there were last year because of the more rapid decline in North sea gas than had previously been anticipated. This Adjournment debate provides the House with that opportunity.

Of course, it just happens that the report by Sir Nicholas Stern was also published today. Sir Nicholas’s work is a major contribution to the understanding of the economic issues surrounding climate change. He presents a number of ways in which we can tackle that. In a curious sort of way, the conclusion of his review is essentially optimistic, because there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change if we act now and if we act internationally. The energy review was part of that. If we take the deliberate and necessary policy choices, we can make a difference. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said today, we need to have an economy that is both pro-growth and pro-green, and we can have an economic policy that is also an environmental policy.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also announced that a climate change Bill will be introduced in the coming Session so that we can become a leading low-carbon economy, which is essential for the future. That Bill will help to provide a clear framework so that we can meet our long-term climate change targets to reduce CO2 emissions by 60 per cent. by 2050, with real progress by 2020.

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Will the Secretary of State accept that, as we reduce our carbon emissions, it will be critical to maintain the UK’s global competitiveness so that we can still create wealth, which runs the NHS, and jobs, which support families?

Mr. Darling: Yes, but I do not think that the two are competing objectives. We can and should have an economy that is competitive, but that also takes account of the environmental consequences of climate change. One of the central findings of the Stern report was that there is an economic cost to doing nothing. It is far more efficient and effective to take action to tackle climate change, which will, in turn, help us to maintain our competitive position. There is not a polarisation of views there. That is one of the points that I put to members of a high level group in Brussels today—some of whom, coming from other countries in Europe, seemed to think that there was a choice to make. I think that that is a false choice and I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees.

The debate supplements the second annual report to Parliament on the security of gas and electricity supplies, which was laid before the House on 12 July. Since May, I have tabled three written statements
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setting out the position. I want to summarise the position for the record. In relation to gas, the recent tightness in the UK supply-and-demand balance for gas has largely arisen because supplies from the North sea have declined faster than expected, although the North sea remains our largest source of gas and is likely to do so for some considerable time.

The national grid winter consultation report was published by Ofgem in September. It states that the gas supply-and-demand balance for the coming winter could be tight, especially in the first part of the winter. However, there are grounds for some optimism—although we are right to be wary and vigilant—because some of the uncertainties that existed earlier this year in relation to major new infrastructure have been much reduced since I issued my first written statement in May.

The Langeled pipeline between Norway and this country was opened by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Norway and it now has gas flowing from Norway. The Balgzand to Bacton pipeline will see gas flowing from the Netherlands. It remains on course to begin operation in December. The Belgian interconnector has been completed ahead of schedule. In addition, work is continuing on the Teesside offshore liquefied natural gas importation project. The storage facilities in Rough in the North sea and at Humbly Grove in Hampshire are now available and are both full up with gas.

Although there are grounds for optimism, we are right to remain vigilant. Although the question last winter might have been whether there was adequacy of gas supply, clearly there is concern about the consequent increase in gas prices, which was partly caused by that uncertainty a year ago. As ever in this country, there is uncertainty about the weather. Although the national grid winter consultation report indicates that, under all likely weather forecasts, we will be able to meet demand, the Met Office is forecasting a near average winter. Clearly, if it was colder than average, that would have consequences too.

Compared with last year, there are grounds for being more optimistic, although we have to face the consequences of higher prices than we have had in the past. The gas supply situation should ease further next year, because we will have access to gas supplies from the new Norwegian Ormen Lange field and the new liquefied natural gas importation facilities at Milford Haven.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Will the Secretary of State allow me a parochial note and accept that we must balance the need for increased security of gas supply with the need to protect local communities—particularly when they include residential homes, schools and businesses—from unacceptable increases in danger as a result of the importation of LNG, such as may be the case if plans go ahead for the importation of LNG from ships to Canvey Island? That is causing great concern. Will he agree to a public inquiry—held on Canvey Island—if that goes forward?

Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is quite right that safety is important. There are procedures and safeguards in place to make sure that safety is very much at the
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front of the minds of those who consider planning applications. I am sure that he would agree that it is necessary to ensure that we have security of supply, because there are obvious consequences if we do not. The importation facility at Milford Haven, and those in other areas, are important.

On electricity, earlier this year the consultation report showed a generating plant capacity—an excess in capacity—of 22 per cent. in September. The National Grid will monitor that level of generating ability. Obviously, unplanned outages, such as those already announced in relation to British Energy, will have some effect on the margin, although at the time of the announcement, it was clear that there were some nuclear plants that would come back into operation. Indeed, some have come back into operation since that time. There is an operating margin precisely to allow for unplanned outages. We are hopeful that electricity supplies this winter will be more than sufficient.

I said earlier that, clearly, prices have increased. For several years, they were a lot lower than in Europe. Indeed, some of our prices still are lower than those in Europe. However, the gas that is now being sold to consumers—both industrial and domestic—was purchased at a time when the wholesale price was much higher. As a result, prices have gone up. Ofgem will keep a close eye on that to make sure that, when prices start to come down, the gains are passed on to consumers. That is important. It is also important that we see greater transparency and liberalisation in the continental European markets, to drive down costs. That has been a concern of ours. I have made representations to the Commission, as has my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy. There are signs that the Commission is vigorously pursuing those countries where the market is not as transparent as it ought to be.

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): That is an extremely important point. I entirely agree with the Secretary of State, but does he really think that the Commission is serious about deregulation of the European market? After all, we see the takeover of British companies by, in particular, French companies, but it is impossible to go the other way. One does not find any British-owned energy companies operating elsewhere. There appears to be absolutely no will, either in Germany or France, to see anything like the positive progress that he suggests.

Mr. Darling: There is evidence that the Commission is pursuing countries and companies to ensure that there is greater transparency. It was responsible for seizing several papers and documents that might throw some light on what happened last winter. The Commission itself is genuinely committed to a more liberal market, although it must be said that there are countries in the European Union that have shown a lack of enthusiasm for liberalising markets over the past few months and years. Any gain that they may get will be in the short term. In the long run, liberalised energy markets will be absolutely essential if Europe is to remain competitive.


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