Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Ampthill: Before the Minister responds, perhaps I may intervene briefly. I should like to begin by expressing my apologies to him because it was I who first suggested that the Bill should be recommitted on the Floor of the House. I deeply regret the inconvenience to which the noble Lord has been put. I have sympathy with what the noble Lord's amendment proposes, but I feel that what the Minister has in Clause 1 is perfectly capable of amendment at a later stage. Therefore, if the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, is dissatisfied with it as it is presently placed, there is no reason why he could not rectify that at the next stage of the Bill.

Lord Whitty: I am grateful for the noble Lord's intervention. As I hope I have indicated, I do not believe that the wording of the noble Lord's new clause represents a difference between us which can be expressed as being merely the thickness of a cigarette paper. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Farrington, has explained to me what a cigarette paper is. I believe that the difference is slightly wider.

Our clause, as amended, gives an adequate description of the Bill and refers to the Bill's purpose. At the appropriate point, I shall be pressing my amendments. Therefore, I ask the noble Lord not to pursue his amendment for the reasons that I have outlined. If amendments were to evolve at a later stage, I would be happy to consider a purpose clause which might meet my points. However, in the meantime, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. As I said, I shall be pressing my amendments at a later stage.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am sorry that the Minister feels that he cannot "shuffle the pack" at this stage in order to meet what I believe to be a highly desirable situation. Nevertheless, I understand that that might be technically difficult because one is re-drafting a re-draft of a re-draft, so to speak. Therefore, it is not exactly a straightforward matter. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate because there are important issues of principle involved. Indeed, they are not matters which we can let go or treat in any light way.

In fact, I am grateful to the Minister for the approach which the Government have taken, in so far as it goes a very long way to meeting the objections which were raised regarding the original draft. In the light of what the noble Lord said, I wonder whether he might afford me the same facility and think about what I have said. At this stage I am prepared to withdraw the amendment, and beg leave to do so.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

19 Apr 1999 : Column 956

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 2:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Controls on Offshore Power Generation Plant

(" . Regulations under this Act may provide for emission controls on offshore power generation plant with a total thermally rated input above 50MWs.")

The noble Lord said: By way of introduction to the amendment, I must say that I was surprised to see that this proposed new clause is still starred on the Marshalled List despite the fact that it was tabled last Wednesday. Therefore, it was bound to be starred when the first Marshalled List was issued the next day. However, for the life of me I cannot see why it should still be starred three days later in the current Marshalled List which is available in the Printed Paper Office. There is always the suggestion that a starred amendment is, somehow, late and therefore a less-deserving afterthought. This was not; indeed, it was tabled in the middle of last week. Although I appreciate that this is not a matter primarily for Ministers but rather for the House authorities, I hope that in taking up the point that was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, that can be looked at because I find it slightly infra dig that one of my amendments is starred, which suggests that I did not table it soon enough.

I do not think this debate will take an hour. It was recognised by the offshore oil and gas industry that the wording of the new clause which we have just debated--and which my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith has withdrawn--may not have been sufficient to take into account certain aspects in relation to that industry. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has indicated that that is one of the purposes of the whole Bill.

The point that is sought to be made here is that under the European large combustion plants directive which applied to power generation plant with a total thermally rated input above 50 megawatts, that plant was expressly excluded from the large combustion plants directive. The offshore installations were expressly excluded.

As the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, pointed out, that is not the case under this directive. Indeed, it is one of the first items in the appropriate schedule to the directive. I think all I need say at this stage is that when we look again at the question of a purpose clause--because that is what this amendment is intended to reflect--we need to take account of the points which the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, made about the offshore oil and gas industry. This is almost certainly not the right form of words, but there needs to be something to indicate that here we have a significant extension of the existing controls, which hitherto have not applied to that industry.

Perhaps I may use this as a peg on which to hang a question to which I have not yet received an effective answer. If other countries in the European Union do not propose to apply this directive to offshore installations, what are the Government going to do about it? The whole purpose of having a European directive is that it shall apply throughout the European Union. I have been told--no one has suggested this is wrong--that, for instance, when the Danish Government perform the

19 Apr 1999 : Column 957

same process as we are going through now and embody the directive in domestic legislation, they do not intend to extend it to the offshore oil and gas industry. That seems to me to make a nonsense of the whole thing. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is in a position to tell us anything more about that. I say to him with respect that merely to refer to taking infraction proceedings is not a satisfactory answer.

We are still producing legislation throughout the Union in order to implement the directive. That is the moment at which these things need to be made clear. We should not wait until it is all on the statute book and then say, "Hoi, you have not done what you should have done. We shall now haul you before the European Court". That is a longstop process, as it were; the position should be made clear now. I do not see why this Parliament in this country should enact this legislation, when we are told that others do not propose to enact it in the same form or with the same substance. That would simply hamstring our own industry and put it at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis those of other European Union countries.

I recognise that those questions perhaps go a little wider than the new clause which I propose. Nevertheless, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, will be able to give us a more satisfactory answer than we received at the previous Committee stage. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, indicated that it might not be appropriate to press this amendment at this stage in its present form because of other discussions that are taking place. I refer not just to the discussions which are taking place in relation to this Committee; the regulations for implementing the directive are subject to a consultation process, of which the noble Lord is well aware, which will close on 26th May. That process is carried out by my colleagues in the DTI and a task force involving the industry which is chaired by my colleague John Battle. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Macdonald, who was present a moment ago, is the deputy chair of that body. There is quite a long way to go before the threshold issue as regards regulations is resolved in those discussions. The noble Lord is aware that the threshold to which he refers is contained in the draft regulations.

As regards the application of the measure in other European countries, our understanding is that in the case of large combustion installations--one must recognise that it is the process that is relevant here, not the location--the measure applies to installations outside territorial waters. It is also our understanding that other EU countries have understood--in some cases belatedly--that that process applies to their equivalent installations as well as to ours, and that they would therefore be subject to possible infraction proceedings if they did not introduce legislation to cover those installations. I believe that the other parliaments to which the noble Lord referred are at an even earlier stage of introducing this legislation than we are. However, all of us here are attempting to pass the legislation to comply with the directive by 30th October.

19 Apr 1999 : Column 958

I believe that by that stage the other member states--Norway through its membership of EFTA is bound by the same provisions--will have met those requirements in their legislation. I hope that in the light of those comments the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment, at least at this stage.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I am extremely grateful to the Minister for that clarification which takes us rather further forward than was the case in February. I shall obviously want to take advice on this matter, but at this moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 1 [Regulation of polluting activities]:

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page