|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Baroness said quite a bit about climate change, which was entirely related to the negotiations taking place between the member states for the burden sharing within the European Union. Although that is necessary, do the Government recognise that by far the biggest problem on the road to a successful outcome at Copenhagen will be the negotiation on burden sharing between developed countries and developing countries? I did not hear anything in the Statementperhaps the noble Baroness will say a word about thisabout how the Government will address that, which, after all, will be the real conversation-stopper if it cannot be got right. Do we have any ideas on how that burden-sharing should be carried out; and, if so, what are they?
Secondly, again, I welcome very much what the Government are saying about energy security, but, frankly, the European Union has been saying all those things for quite some time but has not yet done anything about them. Is not the moment coming when the credibility of the mantras that we endorse a liberalised energy market and more interconnection between member states to make us less vulnerable in emergencies, and that we are determined to diversify our external supply, will not be enough? We need very soonin December, I hopeto come to some decisions to follow up the Governments warming attitude on the Nabucco pipeline,
20 Oct 2008 : Column 964
On climate change, the noble Lord is again right to say that the important negotiations will be with our partners in developing countries. However, the stance taken in the European Union provides a valuable foundation for the talks which I am sure are now taking place, but which will be heightened between this December, when the European Union reaches its agreement, and next December, when we have the discussions in Copenhagen. We have to use that year very carefully to ensure that we reach agreement with our partners in developing countries.
On energy security, I understand the noble Lords disappointment about the position that the European Union has reached. However, that is something that the UK continually pushes. I think that he may be again disappointed in December because there will be no conclusions on energy security, but I understand that an action plan will be adopted to be in place for the spring European Council. I hope that we can move forward on that basis.
I take this opportunity to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, when he again called for a debate on economic issues. That is under discussion between the usual channels and I am sure that a date will be forthcoming as soon as there is agreement.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I have two questions. The first relates to how these Statements are handled. I say that because this has been a very complicated and long Statement, but when I went to the Printed Paper Office to get a copy of it, I found that a copy was not available because the Prime Minister had not sat down. Frankly, that is not good enough. I hope that the noble Baroness will look at the procedure to see whether we can ensure that, when the Statement is made in this House, it is made available to all Members so that they can properly read it and react.
The second question relates to asylum and immigration policy. It is not quite clear to meand, perhaps, to no one elsewhat it is all about. Over the weekend, we have had statements made, statements withdrawn and counterstatements about the Governments immigration policy. Today, we have a new Statement about an EU pact on asylum and immigration, which presumably will remove British control of our borders, immigration and asylum. Could that be explained, please?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, first, I shall deal with Statements and noble Lords access to them. It is extremely difficult. The Prime Minister stood up to make his Statement at 3.30 pm. The Statement that I read out, as noble Lords may have noticed, is substantially different from the one that was issued about five minutes before, which said, Check against
20 Oct 2008 : Column 965
There has been absolutely no change in the Governments policy on asylum and immigration. We have recently introduced a points-based system, which is the policy of the Government. However, there is always active discussion of such an important policy, which sometimes carries on into the press.
As I understand it, the migration pact, which was agreed at the European Council, in no way changes the United Kingdoms policy. We have a points-based system. That is the policy of this Government, and it has not changed over the weekend.
I took that to mean that we were in favour of the Nabucco pipeline, which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has already mentioned, or perhaps it means that we are half in favour of it but are not prepared to put any money into it. If we are pulling back from Nabucco, which is clearly an extremely important issue in Europes long-term energy security, it would be helpful if we knew.
Secondly, in the part of Statement that deals with the Financial Stability Forum, there was a reference to the need for openness and disclosure in international financial markets. Her Majestys Government are responsible for a number of offshore financial centres that come under UK sovereignty, but so far it is extremely unclear how far those centres will be included in tighter regulations for openness and disclosure. I was struck when reading the Financial Times last week that British investors who had offshore accounts in Guernsey and the Isle of Man were asking to have their accounts guaranteed by the British Government in order to get back the money that they had lost in offshore accounts. As the purpose of investing in Guernsey and the Isle of Man was to avoid British taxation, that seemed a little rich. If this is part of what we need for openness and disclosure, is this part of the Governments agenda?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I confess that I am completely unequipped to respond to the noble Lords question about Guernsey, the Isle of Man and offshore accounts. It is clearly a British issue. It could be a European issue, too, but I will write to him.
We are not going back at all on the southern corridor for Caspian gas. I do not know what discussions took place on the financing of that corridor, but it was certainly on the agenda and the conclusions called for proposals that included the southern corridor for Caspian gas. Again, I will look into this and write to the noble Lord.
Lord Tugendhat: My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to the forthcoming meeting called at the initiative of President Bush and President Sarkozy. Does she agree that, although multilateral action is absolutely essential if a conclusion is to be reached on some of the problems facing the world, there is nothing more dangerous than a very high-profile international meeting without a carefully prepared agenda and a good deal of agreement beforehand on what the conclusions will be? At first sight, a forthcoming meeting of this sort is a very unpromising scenario. The meeting with President Sarkozy and Senor Barroso was chaired by an American president who is unable to commit his country because the next meeting will take place after the presidential election.
The noble Lord, Lord McNally, and others referred to the 1930s. The noble Baroness no doubt will recall that one of the more disastrous conferences that took place in the early 1930s was in Washington when there was exactly the problem that no one had prepared the conclusions beforehand.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I disagree with the noble Lords assertion that the meeting between President Bush, President Sarkozy and Senor Barroso provided us with an unpromising scenario. I agree that such meetings have to be carefully prepared, but at a time of economic crisis, it is important that the discussions take place. I am sure that there was preparation for this meeting, but perhaps not as much as one would wish. I am also sure that there will be many other international meetings, including with the newly-elected President of the United States, and that those agendas and outcomes will be carefully prepared.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, it seems to me and, I think, to other noble Lords that a certain lack of integrity, honesty and candour, as well as incompetence in the financial services sector, has helped to get us into this problem. In the Statement, my noble friend spoke about greater regulation and greater transparency, and the need for change, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, referred. Is my noble friend satisfied that that is enough to change this culture? If it does not change, these problems will arise in another form, as they have in the past and will in the future.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: No, my Lords, words are never enough to change a culture. We have to ensure that actions follow words. I hope that creating the supervisory colleges of regulators will ensure proper supervision of the banking and financial system.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, the noble Baroness said that the Government do not want to cut down on freedom of movement in the European Union. It is clear that a dangerously growing political problem for member states will be, as unemployment rises, the presence of large numbers of workers from other member states. Did the Council discuss that likely scenario at all or did it discuss only people committing criminal acts in other member states?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, as I understand it, the discussion focused on the criminal aspect of freedom of movement. Freedom of movement is one
20 Oct 2008 : Column 967
The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 359A is in a large group, in which I have a great number of amendments. If I lose my place, I hope that Members of the Committee will forgive me. The juggling required for this sort of group is physical and it is not within the normal repertoire of politicians.
However, in Clause 145 we learn that the development consent order may remove the requirement for consent by a relevant body. Through this amendment I seek an assurance from the Government that this is not directed at operational consents. The Government will be aware of the concern of the Environment Agency, which has contacted me with regard to this provision. It has said that it would be unlikely to agree to transfer operational consents save in exceptional circumstances and that the urgent need to streamline the planning system for major infrastructure coupled with the complexities of the consents regime has meant that the Bill is unable to draw a clear distinction between those consents necessary to implement infrastructure projects and regulation of the subsequent operation of the infrastructure.
Amendment No. 360 probes the extent of Clause 116(5) and registers some concerns about it. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee commented that it was not aware of comparable legislative powers being given to anyone other than a Minister or to be exercisable other than by statutory instrument. As the committee points out, the Government are clear that the ability of the IPC to overwrite statutes is in fact at the heart of the Bill, and thus is perhaps not unrelated to Clause 101 on which we considered amendments last week and to which we might return.
I am not entirely comforted by there being an order by statutory instrument which is not subject to parliamentary procedure. To what scrutiny is it likely to be subject? In the Commons the Committee was told that the only pieces of legislation that can be altered are those that the promoter includes in the application; that any Member will be able to scrutinise the model provisions and force a parliamentary debate on them, and that the IPC as the decision-maker, although sometimes the Secretary of State,
I have some difficulty in following all this. Paragraph 25 of the Governments response to the DPRR Committee says that the clause is very tightly worded so as to allow the amendment or exclusion of statutory provision only where it is strictly necessary, but Clause 116(5)(b) does not use such words; rather it states necessary or expedient. That is a very different position. I should be grateful for an explanation of this.
This is interesting and perhaps goes beyond what one might have expected the IPC to be able to do. Will it be able to provide for them in principle or regulate them? How will this operate? If the IPC gets into the realm of tolls, it will be going further than most readers of what has been going on would expect.
We seem to be moving further and further away from planning. I can understand that some of the projects which are the subject of the Bill will be very sensitive in terms of security and might need special protection, but, again, this seems to take us a long way forward.
Having spent many hours in this Chamber arguing about central government control of matters such as borrowing limits, where it should not get involved, giving this away in a schedule to the Bill requires some explanation.
Amendments Nos. 384 to 387 raise similar points in the main part of the Bill. Amendment No. 384 relates to ignoring the effect of a bridge or tunnel. I am not an engineer, but is it possible in this context for the IPC to be told that it must ignore the effect of a bridge or tunnel? Amendment No. 385 relates to highways and a toll regime. Amendment No. 386 relates to harbours. Clause 140(5) states that the provision may
20 Oct 2008 : Column 969
Perhaps the kind questionI am being a little scathingis to ask whether this provision replicates existing legislation. I see lots of nods coming from the Government Front Bench so I have not disgraced myself entirely. We will have that on the record. If it were an entirely novel provision, it would require to be justified. I beg to move.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: Amendment No. 360A, to which my noble friends on the Front Bench have added their names, is in this group. If I may say so, the noble Baroness has expressed herself with unnecessary moderation on an issue that warrants much stronger words than she used. Clause 116(5)(a) and (b) say that,
I find this horrifying. We are setting up a body, the IPC, that will be making an order, and somewhere in that order it is going to alter statutes. I cannot believe that that is what is intended. It is bad enough when we hear about Henry VIII clauses, where Ministerswho, after all, are accountable to Parliamentare empowered to alter statutes by order, orders having frequently to come before Parliament, but here there is nothing of the sort. No Minister is responsible and there is no parliamentary process; the IPC, when it makes its order granting consent, can actually change the effect of the existing law. I simply cannot believe that is right.
It may be that I have misunderstood the language and the Minister will be able to explain that I have got it all wrong. I should be greatly relieved to be assured of that. As it stands, though, this wording appears to give the IPC the power to change the law. My amendment would take out the two sections about altering and amending the law so that they would not apply. As an alternative, it could be that if the order needed to change the law in order to have proper effect given to it, it should ask the Minister to introduce an order that would then come before Parliament, which could express its view on it. Simply to leave the commission with the power to change the law when it issues its consent order seems to be wholly unacceptable. This is the sort of matter about which Parliament needs to come in and say, Look, this is contrary to the rule of law and we will not have it.
Lord Dixon-Smith: I support my noble friend in his amendment, to which we have added our names. The issue he has raised is a fundamental one, about which I am sure we would all have the gravest concern, as he does. I hope the Minister can give us some explanation that suggests that what we are reading is not what is intended. Unfortunately, whatever she may say in
20 Oct 2008 : Column 970
In this group of amendments I have also tabled a debate on whether Clause 117 should stand part. I do not intend to take the time of the Committee on that debate; it is a consequence of some earlier amendments of ours that we have not dealt with at the moment, and there is no point in dealing with them here.
The Earl of Caithness: Amendment No. 371A in my name is in this group of amendments but deals with a slightly different subject. I hope that the Committee will bear with me while we yet again go off at a tangent and lose the thread of a very important debate on Clause 116.
My amendment relates to Clause 118 on compulsory purchase. As a result of Clause 118, there is a danger that the positive decision to acquire land compulsorily will be seen as a natural consequence of a positive decision in favour of a project on planning grounds. That is worrying because it is contrary to the existing position, where any impediment to the grant of planning permission will weigh against the likelihood of obtaining compulsory purchase powers but the availability of permission does not in itself justify the exercise of compulsory powers.
While the Government cite the need for a more streamlined decision-making process for major projects of national importance, no justification has been advanced for treating the affected parties differently in respect of taking or otherwise affecting land. It is important that there is consistency in the treatment of those affected by potential dispossession.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|