Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Energy Bill [HL]

8.35 p.m.

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 82 [Additional functions of UKAEA]:

Lord Triesman moved Amendment No. 7:

"(i) nuclear pension schemes; and
(ii) such public service pension schemes as may be approved by the Secretary of State for the purposes of this subsection."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 address the issue that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, on Report. His proposal was that the UKAEA's powers to administer pensions schemes should be widened beyond the extension already proposed by the Government to include not just nuclear pension schemes but public sector schemes in general.

Given the expertise of the UKAEA's Thurso pensions office and subject to appropriate ministerial oversight, we saw considerable merit in his proposal. The Government have therefore tabled these two amendments for noble Lords' consideration. They extend the UKAEA's powers to administer pensions schemes to "public service pension schemes". The terminology used is consistent with the Pension Schemes Act 1993 and the Pension Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act 1993. It would cover, for example, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme.

Before being able to administer public service schemes, the UKAEA will need to secure ministerial consent. We will also need to ensure that UKAEA is structured so as to ensure that competition is run on a fair and equal basis. The amendments provide the necessary enabling powers for the UKAEA to enter this market. I beg to move.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, we welcome this extension of the pension rights.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

20 Apr 2004 : Column 236

Lord Triesman moved Amendment No. 8:

    Page 63, line 26, at end insert "; and

"public service pension scheme" means a public service pension scheme within the meaning of the Pension Schemes Act 1993 (c. 48) (see section 1) or the Pension Schemes (Northern Ireland) Act 1993 (c. 49) (see section 1)."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 85 [Application of criminal law to renewable energy installations]:

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 9:

    Page 65, line 13, leave out subsections (6) and (7).

The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments return to a matter that we raised on Report about the scope of the criminal law.

Under subsections (6) and (7) of Clause 85, liability may attach personally to the directors and the officers of companies for any criminal offence by their company, whatever its nature, committed on an offshore renewable energy installation or in a renewable safety zone. That applies even where there may be good policy reasons why directors and officers would not otherwise be personally liable.

We support the application of the normal criminal law to renewable energy installations and the area around them and the liabilities of directors and officers that arise under that law. However, we know of no good reason either for creating the difference in approach between the onshore and offshore regimes or for widening the scope of the criminal law.

In our view, the creation of differential criminal law regimes in this manner is inherently undesirable. We need only consider the potential clash between these provisions and any new offence of corporate killing—for example, where the Government propose not to attribute liability to directors—to see how problematic Clause 85, as drafted, really could be.

After further consideration, we believe that the liability of directors and officers that would apply as if the offence in question had taken place within a part of the United Kingdom is adequately covered by Clause 85(1). On this basis, it seems sufficient simply to omit subsections (6) and (7).

The second amendment serves to omit a definition of "director" that appears to have no function if our first amendment is accepted. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I opposed an equivalent amendment tabled in Committee but, having reflected on the wisdom of the words of the noble Lord and his advocacy this evening, I am prepared to accept these amendments.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, if only achieving success for every amendment were as simple as that. I thank the noble Lord most warmly for his reaction to our amendments.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 10:

    Page 65, leave out lines 33 and 34.

20 Apr 2004 : Column 237

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Higgins moved Amendment No. 11:

    After Clause 89, insert the following new clause—

New licences for offshore wind farms shall not be granted until the Secretary of State has commissioned, received and approved a full report on the effects of offshore wind farms on radar, radio and other devices used by vessels for the purpose of navigation and been satisfied that these effects would not compromise safety or arrangements for search and rescue operations."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 11, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, for the fact that, due to an unexplained breakdown in communications, his name does not also appear above the amendment. We have benefited greatly from his contributions to our earlier debates on these issues.

This amendment and the two following it are all concerned with the effects and dangers of wind farms to shipping. When this matter first came to my attention at earlier stages, I was concerned about the way in which the interests of the shipping industry, but more particularly the safety aspects of wind farms in relation to shipping, had not been adequately considered.

Since then the House has agreed to two amendments which will be important in helping to improve the situation, but it still seems extraordinary to have reached what is known as Round 2 of the allocation of wind farm sites. The Crown Estate has gone ahead with putting forward proposals for sites, some in the Thames Estuary, some outside the Greater Wash and some outside Liverpool, which have progressed to the extent that individual companies have been asked to submit more specific proposals. One would have thought that, in circumstances where the Government are proposing to authorise the establishment of offshore wind farms, the first question would have been, "Where are the shipping lanes?". They could then have sited the wind farms at an appropriate distance away from them. On the contrary, the approach adopted by the Government seems to have been to site the wind farms where it seems most beneficial and to expect shipping to go around them. This seems to me an extremely dangerous approach to the problem.

That brings me specifically to the amendment before the House. One of the considerations which clearly ought to have been taken into account, but appears not to have been considered at all, is the effect that offshore wind farms may have on radio, radar and other devices used by vessels for the purposes of navigation. When we debated this matter at an earlier stage, the Minister made various suggestions, including that we should have discussions. I expressed my appreciation to him for arranging a meeting with him, together with some of his officials.

I turn to the progress that we should make on what seems to be an important point. The effect of wind farms on radar and navigational arrangements is somewhat uncertain; they can affect radar transmissions both from shore to ship and from ship

20 Apr 2004 : Column 238

to shore. Even at this stage it is not entirely clear how such interference will take place. Clearly, the establishment of a whole row of turbine pillars is likely to have an effect. I do not believe that the generation of electricity by the turbines is likely to affect radar, although the Minister may care to express a view on that. More particularly, the danger appears to arise from the vanes of the turbines; they may not turn either because there is no wind or because there is too much wind. We are unaware of the effects that that will have on ships' radar. There are very real dangers.

I hope that the Minister will be prepared to accept the amendment in the terms in which it appears in the Marshalled List. It is an extremely reasonable amendment. However, the important point about it is that such studies should be carried out and we believe that the Secretary of State should commission them. In part the funding may come from the deposits that the Crown Estate has already collected from potential developers. My Treasury halo tends to emerge at this stage in the proceedings. More particularly, having reached this late stage in the process of round two proposals, it is essential that one does not go ahead with final consent until we are clear what effect wind farms will have on shipping. If one goes ahead without such clarification, particular licences may be granted to individual contractors and we may find that the dangers inherent in the effects of wind farms on navigation are greater than was believed.

There is much anecdotal evidence to be found from other countries, particularly Denmark or Holland, which already have considerable experience of ships passing near to wind farms. I frequently fly over the approaches to Rotterdam and perhaps some experience can be gained there. One also needs to look at the more specific problems before reaching a final conclusion. I stress that it appears to me that we must get on with this matter. It is extraordinary that we have not already taken this point into account, given that the Ministry of Defence, for example in relation to aircraft, clearly is concerned about the issue.

I am grateful to the Minister for his earlier response, but we have come to the point where clarification is needed. We need to do something to reduce the concern that has been expressed about such dangers. It is true to say that the environmental lobby is increasingly schizophrenic on this issue. While we would all like to see more renewable energy of the type produced by wind farms—I am not against them in principle—there is a problem: if ships have to make diversions or have to queue outside the approaches to ports, additional greenhouse gases may be produced that otherwise would not have been emitted by the vessels.

Against that balance, I see no evidence at all of the Government considering the balance between renewable energy generation and the increased pollution due to the diversion of ships. More particularly, there is a major danger of an environmental disaster in terms of a ship—perhaps a tanker—hitting such a set of obstacles with disastrous effect. Indeed, that might happen not only on one occasion but time and time again unless we are clear

20 Apr 2004 : Column 239

that the safety zones around them—and the location of them, in particular—are sufficient to ensure that ships are able to navigate safely past the wind farms.

This is an important amendment. I hope very much that the Government will sympathetically accept it. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page