Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Sixth Report


Memorandum by the Department of Trade and Industry

ORDER 2000 (S.I. 2000/3343)

1. The Committee has requested that the Department submit a memorandum on the following point:

    "Paragraph 1 of article 15 consists of a single sentence of 15 lines. Explain the effect of that paragraph and why the material in it was not split up (by sub-paragraphs or other divisions) so as to assist the reader.".

2. S.I. 2000/3343 ("the Order") commences, amongst other provisions, section 3(1) and (2) of the Utilities Act 2000 (c.27) ("the Utilities Act") which transfer to the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority ("the Authority") the functions of the Director General of Gas Supply ("the DGGS") and the Director General or Electricity Supply ("the DGES"). It also commences sections 9 to 16 of the Utilities Act which have the effect, amongst other things, of substituting for the general duties of the DGGS, the DGES and the Secretary of State (which are laid down in the Gas Act 1986 ("the Gas Act") and the Electricity Act 1989 ("the Electricity Act")) a principal objective and new general duties.

3. The Order contains transitional provisions to address matters which were on-going at the time of the transfer of functions and the substitution of the principal objective and new general duties. An example of the type of matters addressed would be an application which had been made to the DGGS but which had not yet been dealt with or the exercise by the DGGS of functions which was a continuing but not completed process.

4. Article 15 provides for transitional arrangements for certain of the functions of the DGGS, the DGES and the Secretary of State. Article 15(1) describes those functions. The need for their exercise arises where, in accordance with the provisions of section 7B of the Gas Act or section 7 of the Electricity Act, conditions have been included in a licence providing for some involvement in certain circumstances by the DGGS, the DGES or the Secretary of State. Article 15(1) provides that, where there is an "outstanding request" that the DGGS, the DGES or the Secretary of State exercise these functions, they will be exercised by the Authority or the Secretary of State as if sections 4 and 4A of the Gas Act and section 3 of the Electricity Act (which laid down the general duties of the DGGS, the DGES and the Secretary of State) had not been replaced by the principal objective and new general duties as provided for by the Utilities Act. Article 15(2) explains what is meant by an "outstanding request" for the purposes of article 15.

5. When drafting paragraph (1) of article 15 the Department did consider whether it would assist the comprehension of the reader to split up the material in it. This might have been achieved by describing in separate sub-paragraphs functions arising under the Gas Act on the one hand and the Electricity Act on the other. It was concluded that this approach might add to the length of the provision. Further, it appeared to the Department that the likely reader (principally the Authority and gas and electricity licence holders) would not find difficulty in comprehending the provision. With hindsight, the Department appreciates that it could have done more to make the provision easier to read. It will, in drafting further commencement orders under the Utilities Act, give due consideration to the length of sentences and introduce sub-paragraphs where appropriate.

29 January 2001

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