Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, this is a case somewhat similar to that of model by-laws. We all agree on the fundamentals of what we want, but there may be disagreements about how to achieve them. Let us see if we can explore those differences.

Amendment No. 91 would require authorities, where they think it necessary or expedient, to appoint wardens or take other appropriate measures to achieve the purposes set out in subsection (2) of Clause 18. I should remind noble Lords that Clause 18(2) is subject to our Amendment No. 96 which has yet to be moved. The amendment will extend the scope of those purposes. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, pointed out, it would be a mistake to impose the duty on both access authorities and district councils. However, I do not think it would be sufficient only to refer to "or district councils". We shall need to go into the detail as regards agreements reached between the different authorities, which might be complicated. Nevertheless, as drafted, that is the scope of Amendment No. 91.

Amendment No. 92 would require authorities to ensure that access land is wardened where necessary or expedient. Amendment No. 93 would place a duty on authorities to appoint such numbers of wardens as appear to be necessary or expedient. Our starting point has always been that we want to see authorities being able to use discretion when appointing wardens. Given the interventions that have been made around the House, it is clear that, while noble Lords recognise the value of discretion, they do not think that that discretion goes far enough. Amendment No. 91 would retain some discretion, but I have already explained the difficulties with it.

Amendment No. 92 would retain a considerable amount of discretion. However, I fear that Amendment No. 93 would be considered by a court to require the appointment of at least some wardens. I do not think that that is what is wanted here. Clearly, certain district councils will have very little or even virtually no access land in their areas. Because of that, we could get into some difficulties with the wording of Amendment No. 93.

Between now and Third Reading I should like to talk about this with all noble Lords who have spoken on this matter. At the risk of embarrassing the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, I have to say that, if we are to achieve something along these lines, I tend more towards Amendment No. 92 than to the other two amendments. However, I hope that, when we discuss model by-laws, we shall have a chance to talk about this matter at the same time. I do not think that any fundamental disagreement exists between us here. We all see the value of wardens. Indeed, the Government

7 Nov 2000 : Column 1434

would not have tabled their amendments to Clause 18 if the value of wardens was not clear. However, as matters stand, and given that the amendments are alternative rather than cumulative, I am not able to accept the wording in any of the amendments presently before the House.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I was interested to hear about the experience of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath; namely, that most dog owners are responsible. However, in the presence of the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, I must remind him that there are spaniels who do run in.

The point behind our amendment is that wardens do not need to be full-time employees. Scope is offered for authorities to arrange matters as they like. The amendment does not seek to take away discretion from the authorities. They would have total discretion to do whatever they think is necessary or expedient. If they are considering only a small piece of land, they would be free to say that no warden was needed. Alternatively, they may decide that a part-time warden is required, and that the local farmer could be approached.

The only point we wish to change is that, when authorities have decided what it is necessary to do, they cannot then say, "We know that this is necessary, but we're not going to do it".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I understand that point and I do not disagree with it. However, perhaps I may make a further point which is relevant to what the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, is saying here about part-time or voluntary wardens. This refers back to a point I neglected to make in response to the noble Lord, Lord Monro. A power to fund wardens, as is being proposed by the Government, may be more effective than a duty. That is because a "duty" suggests that funds for wardening should be included as a part of the normal revenue support grant. We want to be flexible about this. We would not wish to rule out the option of setting up a specific grant regime to cater for wardening and other items associated with management. Indeed, it may be that a specific grant regime would result in more wardens. That, again, is a matter that I should like to consider in any discussions that we may hold with all noble Lords who have proposed and spoken to these amendments.

Viscount Bledisloe: My Lords, I shall of course be delighted to take up the generous offer made by the noble Lord. I have no pride of authorship. If the noble Lord prefers the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, then the only difference between us is that the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, prefers the wording of my amendment. But I am sure that we can come to some compromise. Provided that the Minister is, as I understand he is, saying, "Yes, we will do this, but we have to find a nice, tidy way of doing it", on that basis I will be delighted to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7 Nov 2000 : Column 1435

[Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 not moved.]

Lord Whitty moved Amendment No. 94:

    Clause 18, page 10, line 44, at end insert--

("(1A) As respects access land in an area for which there is a local access forum, an access authority shall, before they first exercise the power under subsection (1) and thereafter from time to time, consult the local access forum about the exercise of that power.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.30 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Energy Act 1976 (Reserve Powers) Order 2000

7.30 p.m.

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 12th September be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on 7th September protestors blockaded Stanlow refinery in Cheshire. The oil companies advised my department that action at other refineries could quickly lead to serious disruption of fuel supplies. As a consequence, the Government sought an Order in Council under Section 3 of the Energy Act 1976.

The Energy Act 1976 (Reserve Powers) Order 2000 was made by Her Majesty on Monday, 11th September and was laid on 12th September. The order came into force on 11th September, it being considered that the exceptional urgency of the situation justified the order coming into force before it had been laid. Were the House and another place to have approved the order, it would expire on 10th September 2001; that is, 12 months after it was made. Failing such approval, the order would expire at midnight on Sunday, 19th November.

Article 2 of the order declares that, because there is imminent in the United Kingdom a threatened emergency affecting fuel supplies which makes it necessary in Her Majesty's opinion that the Government should temporarily have at their disposal exceptional powers for controlling the sources and availability of energy, the powers of Sections 1 and 2 of the Energy Act 1976 are to be exercisable to their fullest extent. Those sections enable the Secretary of State to make orders and to give directions to regulate the production, supply and use of certain fuels, including petrol and diesel.

It was considered in September that it was necessary for the Government to have those powers at their disposal, given the serious threat to fuel supplies and hence to emergency and other essential services, to the

7 Nov 2000 : Column 1436

health service and to food distribution. Using these powers, the Secretary of State subsequently made orders designating priority retail fuel sites and priority purposes to facilitate the orderly return to normal when protests ended. These arrangements would have ensured continuity of essential services for a longer period had the blockades continued.

While the order is in force the Secretary of State can, under Sections 1 and 2, regulate the production and supply of fuel and direct companies and others as to the use of petroleum products or the price at which they are sold. Examples of the orders and directions which the Government might want to issue would be directing petrol suppliers to supply only to specified locations and for priority purposes; or restricting private, commercial or public transport activity for the purpose of conserving supplies.

It may be helpful if I remind your Lordships about the Government's actions in response to the recent disruption. We made clear from the beginning that we were determined to ensure that supplies were returned to normal. As soon as it became apparent that supplies were being affected, we acted to ensure that procedures were put in place to allow for supplies to be brought back to normal as soon as possible.

Using the powers available under the Order in Council, the Secretary of State made further orders designating petrol stations and depots around the country as priority suppliers, requesting oil companies to ensure that available supplies were, in the first instance, used to keep these stations open. Subsequent orders added further petrol stations and depots to the list following representations from priority users, business and the public. From that list of petrol stations we additionally specified about 300 outlets which should service primarily essential users and we issued a list of essential users.

Although the powers under the Order in Council enabled us to issue legally-binding directions to this effect, we took the view that the arrangements should be non-statutory and handled on the ground by local authorities and the police, who were best placed to respond effectively to local circumstances. Guidance was placed on government websites and distributed through police stations, local authorities and health authorities. We also set up two hotlines so that essential users and members of the public could telephone for information.

The situation returned to normal, but to ensure that disruption on this scale was not repeated, the Prime Minister set up a task force which agreed the broad principles of a memorandum of understanding between government, oil companies and the police on the handling of any future emergency.

I mentioned the task force and the memorandum on 5th October in replying to a question from the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy. In another place last week my right honourable friend the Home Secretary confirmed that the task force was putting in place measures aimed at ensuring, in the event of future disruption, the delivery of fuel to petrol stations, with priority for essential users; better preparation for

7 Nov 2000 : Column 1437

disruption by local authorities and other essential users; the availability of Ministry of Defence drivers to drive tankers as a last resort; the protection of food depots and other potential targets; and the keeping open of major roads.

I regret that we appear to be faced with threats of further disruption. We have no alternative but to seek extension of the exceptional powers so that we can take responsible action to safeguard essential services. The Government are in no doubt that it is necessary to have these powers available for some time to come in order to take the action necessary to preserve essential supplies and services. The Government are firmly of the view that a situation continues to exist in which there is a real threat of disruption to fuel supplies and that it is our responsibility to be prepared to act quickly to maintain essential services, particularly at this season of the year.

The Section of the Energy Act 1976 in question, Section 3, had not previously been activated. This was not something which we therefore did lightly. Careful thought was given before an order was sought in early September, and very careful thought has been given again to this issue. But it is our considered view that it is right and necessary to extend these powers. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 12th September be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Lord Sainsbury of Turville.)

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page