Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Whitty: My Lords, there will be the overall strategic environmental assessment as well as the site-specific environmental impact assessment. There will be a designation, followed by a development proposition, which will have to come through the environmental impact assessment.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for her support and her questions to the Minister again. Obviously, I am disappointed at his response. Those words are so different, and I think they can be misunderstood. "Exploration" is used in the same

23 Mar 2004 : Column 632

context as "exploitation"; I think that will be a concern to those actually doing the work, although I think they will just get on with the work that they have to do.

I have listened to the Minister and I know I will not persuade him. At this stage, with disappointment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 175 and 176 not moved.]

Clause 77 [Application of criminal law to renewable energy installations]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 176A:


    Page 60, line 29, at end insert "if he would have been guilty of that offence and so liable had the offence taken place within a part of the United Kingdom"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 176A and 176B are intended to remedy a problem, which seems to have been unnoticed by the Government and their advisers, in relation to the application of the criminal law to offshore renewable energy installations.

Clause 77 provides that, by Order in Council, the criminal law may be applied to any actions which take place around an offshore renewable energy installation or within a renewable safety zone. Under subsections (6) and (7), liability may attach personally to directors and officers of companies for any criminal offence, whatever its nature, which is committed on the installation or in the safety zone.

The effect of this must be to widen the scope of the criminal law. It applies to all criminal offences which must include some in respect of which directors and officers would not otherwise be personally liable. Moreover, this widening will apply in such a way as to establish a legal inconsistency between certain offences committed within the jurisdiction, to which personal liability may not attach, and those committed in a safety zone, to which it will always attach.

We support the application of the normal criminal law to renewable installations and the area around them. However, there is no obvious policy rationale—at least, none that has been explained by the Government in consultation—either for widening the scope of the criminal law or for creating the difference in approach between the onshore and offshore regimes.

In our view, both subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 77 should be subject to the proviso that they are applicable if, and only if, the person in question would have been guilty of the offence, and therefore liable to be proceeded against, if the offence in question had taken place within a part of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the provisions in this part of the Bill relating to the criminal law are modelled on those in the Petroleum Act 1998, which itself consolidates a similar provision in the Oil and Gas

23 Mar 2004 : Column 633

(Enterprise) Act 1982. There is therefore quite a long history of treating offshore activities in this way. Quite a lot of modern legislation includes provisions for officers of corporate bodies to be punished when it can be proved that they had consented to or connived at criminal behaviour by the company or were negligent in allowing that to so happen.

I understand the point that the noble Lord is making, but there is a corporate responsibility here. It is largely corporations which will be operating in these renewable energy zones and on the installations to be established there. Officers of corporate bodies have a responsibility if it can be proven that they consented to or connived at the commission of an offence. The noble Lord is right that the provision extends the liability for an offence; it does not extend the definition of an offence as compared with onshore, but it is done in a way which has applied in the offshore petroleum industry since the 1980s for the reason that, by and large, what happens on oil and gas platforms and, likewise, offshore wind farms, is a corporate responsibility.

That seems to us sensible; I am not sure that the noble Lord has convinced me otherwise, although I understand his point. However, I am not at this stage inclined to accept that we should treat this differently from the very analogous situations that exist elsewhere offshore.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's response. The fact that there is a similar clause in previous legislation is not a conclusive response to the arguments I have put forward on behalf of the Opposition in support of the amendments.

We shall have differential criminal law regimes for directors of companies: one onshore and the other offshore. In my submission, that is inherently undesirable. All the Government have to do is to agree with our amendments. There will then be a level playing field for directors whether or not the offences are committed inland or outside the territorial waters. Why is that such a difficult pill for the noble Lord to swallow?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely sure that I am in order in responding at this point but I shall do so as long as we do not make a habit of it.

Presumably the same logic applies with petroleum platforms. Offshore it is extremely unlikely that individuals will commit offences unless they are under the broad jurisdiction of a company which either owns, is operating or is a subcontractor on that site. Onshore there is clearly a high probability that someone is acting entirely on his own whether or not he is a company employee. Therefore, one is dealing with a situation of corporate responsibility for the site, part of the site or part of the operation on the site in a way that does not apply on land. It is not unreasonable, therefore, that there is some additional

23 Mar 2004 : Column 634

responsibility—not additional extension of the criminal law—on the people who are in charge of the operations on that site.

Lord Kingsland: Additional responsibility means an extension of the criminal law since we are talking only about criminal obligations in this case. I am most grateful to the noble Lord for engaging in a discussion about this matter. I do not propose to pursue it to a vote today but I shall bring it back at Third Reading. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 176B not moved.]

Clause 81 [Activities in Zones requiring 1989 Act Licences]:

[Amendment No. 177 not moved.]

Clause 82 [Modification of licence conditions for offshore transmission and distribution]:

[Amendment No. 178 not moved.]

Lord Higgins had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 179:


    After Clause 84, insert the following new clause—


"LICENCES FOR GENERATING STATIONS
Provisions in this Act and earlier legislation concerning the granting of new licences for generating stations shall not come into effect until the Secretary of State has commissioned, received and approved a full report on the effect of offshore wind farms on radar, radio and other devices used by vessels for the purpose of navigation."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in the light of the Minister's comments, I propose to return to the issue at Third Reading but not to move the amendment.

[Amendment No. 179 not moved.]

Clause 85 [Consents for generating stations in Zones]:

[Amendments Nos. 180 and 181 not moved.]

Clause 87 [Further provision relating to public rights of navigation]:

[Amendment No. 182 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 183 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 183A had been retabled as Amendment No. 197A.]

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 184:


    After Clause 90, insert the following new clause—


"MEASURES TO MANAGE RISKS TO SAFETY OF NAVIGATION
(1) This section applies where the Secretary of State considers that the proposed location of offshore renewable energy installations or the stages of construction, operation or de-commissioning of the aforementioned installations give rise to unacceptable risks to safety of navigation.

23 Mar 2004 : Column 635


(2) Reference to installations also includes their safety zones, and the reference to risks includes those related to collision, grounding and to interference to shore and ship radar, radio and other electronic communication systems caused by the aforementioned installations.
(3) If risks are identified at the strategic planning or environmental impact assessment stages in the evaluation of proposed installations, the Secretary of State shall consider which of the following measures shall be introduced to eliminate or to reduce the risks to acceptable levels—
(a) the relocation of installations away from recognised sea lanes, navigational channels including port access channels, particularly where installations may cause interference to lanes essential to international navigation;
(b) the establishment of ships' routeing measures conforming to international standards;
(c) the introduction of vessel traffic services conforming to international standards; or
any other appropriate measures.
(4) If experience in any of the stages referred to in subsection (1) or (2) above identifies risks, the Secretary of State shall consider whether the measures in subsection (3)(b) or (c) or any other appropriate measures shall be introduced to eliminate or to reduce the risks to acceptable levels.
(5) Where the measures in subsection (3)(a) or (b) are to be introduced, the Secretary of State shall ensure that a system for monitoring traffic patterns, their volumes and densities is established to assist in implementation and to overseer the effectiveness of the measures.
(6) Where the measures in subsection (3)(b) are to be taken, the Secretary of State shall ensure that any deviation from recognised sea lanes, navigational channels including port access channels is kept to a minimum.
(7) Where the measures in subsection (3)(b) or (c) are to be introduced, the Secretary of State shall ensure that all costs are borne by developers."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move and seek the opinion of the House.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page