Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, it strikes me that under the Bill, we—or perhaps more properly the Government and their administrators, who put these matters before us—are sitting behind our desks and drawing lines on the map for areas for which we have only the sketchiest detail, in much the same way as the old colonial Administrations used to do for parts of Africa and North America. That was underlined by my noble friend Lord Kingsland who, with much more authority than I can bring, told us that we know only about 3 per cent of the area for which we are legislating. I am sure that the colonial administrators

5 May 2009 : Column 504

also thought that they were dealing with areas in which nobody resided and which would not cause any problems.

Of course, at this stage we are not causing disruption to any resident populations of humans or administrative boundaries of communities. However, as our knowledge of detail expands and as the structures we place on the marine conservation zones become more rigorously enforced, we may find that these boundaries are causing unnecessary complications. That might then be overcome by redrawing the boundary in a way that would appear to be logical, although currently we have no access to the logic that might be available to future generations.

I find it of some interest that the mechanism used in subsection (4) in designating the different devolved areas is an Order in Council. Some kind advice that the Minister offered me is that Section 14 of the Interpretation Act 1978, if applied, would imply a power for amending or modifying an Order in Council.

What strikes me is that what we are looking at here predates the coming of devolution while not predating our acceptance of some European legislation. The issue might not be as clear as it once was. Let us suppose it became necessary to move the boundary between the English and Scottish offshore areas, or, heaven forbid, a new Administration in Scotland decided that they were not going to participate in the marine policy statement, but would insist that an Order in Council was not just any order and could not be overturned. Perhaps they would be able to argue that under some abstruse European statute, Orders in Council came under the aegis of their Administration. A clause such as the one I have proposed might serve to clarify any doubt there would be on the point. I beg to move.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I am not sure I can entirely follow the hypothetical case that the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, has set out, nor indeed where the Scottish Parliament might get some powers from a European source to insist on an Order in Council.

Undoubtedly, the designation of boundaries has a capacity for controversy. When the Scottish Parliament was established just 10 years ago, I well recall that one of the first orders we had to pass, which had previously been passed in this Parliament, was to determine the boundary between Scotland and England for devolution of fisheries matters. They took a line, which went at an angle from where the Scotland/England boundary hits the coast just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. That was contested by many Members of the Scottish Parliament, including those of my own party. Indeed, the first rebellion of my Back-Benchers was on that occasion, and we narrowly won the vote. Therefore, the issue is not without controversy.

However, there are certain advantages and certainty with a boundary that is set rather than one that continually flows back and forth, although I noted in an edition of the Economist last month that because of melting glaciers in the Alps the boundary between Italy and Switzerland is on the move. I do not think that anyone is suggesting that there is a similar sort of geological change here, but I cannot honestly be persuaded by the case made by the noble Duke, although undoubtedly these are sensitive issues.

5 May 2009 : Column 505

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I never thought that the issue of boundaries could be anything other than sensitive in almost any context. Therefore, I appreciate the interest in this clause and the amendment moved by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose. The Government consider that the time has come for the United Kingdom to declare an exclusive economic zone. This is an internationally recognised concept that is characteristically set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Up to now we have declared different zones for different purposes—fisheries, marine pollution, renewable energy and carbon storage. We recognise that the accumulation of these different zones produces the potential for confusion domestically, and is somewhat contrary to best international practice. Therefore, we believe that declaring an exclusive economic zone is the right course.

We do not think that the issue with regard to the amendment arises. The noble Duke referred to the Interpretation Act 1978, which applies to these orders made under Clause 39(4). I am sorry if it causes some difficulty, but the Interpretation Act is there to facilitate all concerned with these issues, to make it easier for the law to be understood and therefore enacted. Implied in the power in Clause 39(4) is a power to revoke, amend or re-enact any order made under that clause. Therefore, we already have, under the Interpretation Act, the very power that the noble Duke identified.

I have no way of allaying the broad anxiety, which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, indicated, that there can be differences of interpretation about the contestability of boundaries. I am all too well aware that that is a sensitive issue with implications as regards aspects of the relationship between England and Scotland, to say nothing of other devolved practice. I cannot answer that within the framework of this very limited amendment to the clause. What I am obliged to answer is why this amendment is not necessary and I have sought to make that case. I hope the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is satisfied on that point.

The Duke of Montrose: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minster for his reply. It is of course very useful that, even if the amendment is any good, he has at least stated the issue from the Dispatch Box for anybody who wishes to look at it again. We hope that if alterations to boundaries do become necessary—and I still think that they might—they will be achieved amicably and that there will not be any need to worry about rescinding legislation. In the light of these matters, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 58A withdrawn.

Clause 41 : Welsh zone

Amendment 59

Moved by Lord Davies of Oldham

59: Clause 41, page 21, line 20, leave out “modify or amend” and insert “make such modifications or amendments of”

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I say with some relief that this is definitively a minor and technical amendment to correct a grammatical error in the

5 May 2009 : Column 506

original drafting. It does not alter in any way the effect of Clause 41, which amends the Government of Wales Act 2006 to introduce a definition of the Welsh zone; it simply improves the grammar of the clause as originally drafted. I beg to move.

Amendment 59 agreed.

Clause 42 : Marine policy statement

Amendment 60

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

60: Clause 42, page 22, line 2, after “MPS” insert “or a policy, statement or information in a national policy statement designated under the Planning Act 2008 (c. 29)”

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, we are all for elegance, particularly when it is achieved in under one minute.

In Committee I tabled amendments on the relationship between the marine policy statement and the national policy statements under the Planning Act. It was explained to me that the subsection that I had attempted to amend had the purpose of promoting internal consistency within the marine policy statement. I did understand that. I am sorry that I did not make it clear that I understood not only that but that my own amendments would have taken the matter of consistency into a different area. So I say at the start that I am concerned not about internal consistency within the marine policy statement—I am concerned about it, but not for the purposes of this amendment—but about how we can be assured that the marine policy statement and the potentially large number of national policy statements are consistent, not as a matter of intention or aspiration but through the process provided by the legislation.

That is not quite as easy or obvious as it might appear, because more than one Administration are involved in the marine policy statement. At the last stage, the Minister said:

“If, as we intend, all four Administrations agree”.—[Official Report, 28/01/2009; col. 331.]

I read that phrase to my noble friend Lord Alderdice, who, with his background in one of the Administrations, laughed for quite a long time.

These amendments seek a greater understanding of the process provided for by the legislation. Amendments 60 and 61 would deal with the marine policy statement covered in Clause 42. Grouped with them, as they are on similar points, are Amendments 76 and 77 to Clause 49, which is about marine plans, and Amendments 89 and 90 to Clause 56, which is about authorisation and the enforcement of decisions. I beg to move.

7.15 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this matter. We come back to this relationship between the MMO and the IPC and also, in this group of amendments, the relationship between the marine policy statement and the national policy statements. She is right to say that there will be a number of those statements. I very

5 May 2009 : Column 507

much understand the point she raises about the need for clarity. She also mentioned the relationship between this Administration and the devolved Administrations. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, might be in the Chamber for the order that is about to be debated as it covers matters in which he has a great interest. I am not quite sure what lay behind his laughter, which the noble Baroness described. Our discussions with the devolved Administrations over the past few months about the Bill and the areas where we need absolute clarity and consistency between the Administrations have gone very well indeed.

These are interesting amendments. One of their themes is the extent of the influence of the plans and the marine policy statement on the IPC’s decisions; hence the amendment which would require the IPC to take its decisions in accordance with marine policy documents. Another thread in the amendments is that which relates to which documents and policies should take precedence in the event of a conflict between them.

We are always in danger of reopening the regime established by the Planning Act 2008, which the Government are reluctant to do. We believe that it has established a new regime for allowing us to address the national need for infrastructure that is vital to the future of this country. The new regime has been put in place precisely because of the recognition of the particular and special importance of nationally significant infrastructure projects and the considerable challenges that are related to them. In particular, I believe that there is a lot of support for the notion that there should be a special planning and consenting regime to consider them. Nationally significant infrastructure projects which are in the marine area, whether they are related to ports or energy generation, are a vital part of this new process. The Government have consistently argued that those projects should not be removed from the new planning regime simply because they are in the marine area.

We think that it is entirely appropriate that the IPC will make its decisions in accordance with the national policy statements but also have regard to the marine policy statement and relevant plans, because we think that that gets the relationship right. Clearly, as far as the IPC is concerned, the relevant national policy statement will be the prime statement. However, we are also clear that the IPC must have regard to the marine policy statement. I do not want to take us back to the debate on group 10, but we also expect the MMO to have a strong role by having to be consulted on pre-applications and then to have an involvement in the IPC’s examination process itself.

I also want to reiterate a point which I have made consistently. The national policy statements and the marine policy statement plans will be entirely consistent—they have to be. The same departments will collectively be involved in establishing both the NPS and the marine policy statement. It would be intolerable if there were inconsistency and conflicts between the two statements. It would not give the kind of clarity that all noble Lords, including me and the Government, wish to see.

5 May 2009 : Column 508

I know that the noble Baroness’s Amendments 89 and 90 seek to ensure that policies in the marine policy statement or plans will always take precedence over those in the national policy statements. Of course, Clause 56 imposes a clear duty on public authorities, with the single exception of the IPC, to take any authorisation or enforcement decision relating to the marine area in accordance with the marine policy statement and plans. In contrast, the only public authority under a direct duty to take its decisions in accordance with the national policy statements is the IPC, in view of the national significance of projects on which it will take decisions. So those duties and the relative precedence of the marine policy statement and national policy statements in relation to authorisation and enforcement decisions seem to be entirely appropriate.

The question of precedence is less acute in relation to the secondary duty on public authorities to have regard to the marine policy statement and plans when taking their other marine decisions. Even so, that duty to have regard to the marine policy documents is clear and applies to any decision which is capable of affecting the UK marine area.

I am not unrealistic. I recognise that there will sometimes be circumstances in which a planning authority is to have regard to both a national policy statement and the marine policy statement. Despite the best endeavours of government, there could be a conflict between the two which had not previously been foreseen, and I do not think that as a matter of principle one could provide that the marine documents should in all cases outweigh the national policy statements. Policies on matters of national significance will by their very nature often be different from those relating to local matters. Sometimes a decision-maker, such as a coastal local planning authority in the present context, may need to consider both when deciding what weight as a material or relevant consideration should be given to each. We have therefore not imposed duties to take these decisions in accordance with either the marine policy statement or the national policy statements, precisely because in such circumstances we believe that public authorities should use their discretion and judgment, looking at the context and the likely impacts of possible decisions.

That is not an unusual approach and, after many years’ experience, planning authorities are experts in weighing up and integrating government policy. We would also expect them to seek advice from the relevant department on how to resolve any conflict, which will help us to identify any potential need for clarification or amendment of our policies. It should not be a question of technical precedence but of taking the best decision for the marine area and the national interest in all the circumstances.

If the noble Baroness were to press her amendments and they were accepted by your Lordships they might reduce the clarity in the Bill about how any conflicts within the MPS or plan should be resolved. Clauses 42(3) and 49(9) presently provide that in the event of a conflict between the policy and any other information included in an MPS or plan, the conflict is to be resolved in favour of the policy. This provision is

5 May 2009 : Column 509

necessary to ensure clarity for decision-makers and we think that that would be lost if the focus of these clauses were turned on the national policy statements instead.

I apologise for speaking at such length. It is so good to see the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, now in his place. It is not too late for him to intervene and explain why he thinks that collaboration between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations will not work on the marine Bill. His timing is impeccable.

I fully understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, has moved these amendments—she seeks clarity. I want to reassure her that we thought a lot about this. We do not want the circumstance that she fears to arise whereby there is a lack of clarity and a conflict and the relevant public bodies do not know what to do. It is clear, as it has to be, that the IPC must turn first to the national policy statements.

I turn to my own amendment in this group. It is a minor and technical amendment to correct a typographical error in Clause 56(4). As noble Lords will have noted, the closing words should read “in relation to which” rather than “relating to which”, as currently in the Bill. I hope that noble Lords will support the Government on that amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, that was a typographical mistake, was it? I thought that it was much more significant.

We on these Benches often see our role as one of asking the “what ifs”. I found what the Minister said very helpful. It certainly deserves to be read properly. It went a great deal further than the response that I had on similar amendments in Committee. He accepts the possibility of conflict, as do we, not least because the two sets of statements may have been developed at different times, with slightly different considerations. I need to think about his comment on not allowing a technical response and the Government being unable to tweak policy. I think that that was more or less what he said.

I am left with one query. In saying that the MPS and the NPSs must be consistent, is the Minister saying that the Secretary of State would not agree something that was inconsistent if there were a conflict between the Secretary of State and one or more of the devolved Administrations? That seems to be what he is saying or the natural conclusion to his comments. His comments were helpful. I certainly do not intend to press the matter tonight. My objective is to understand the Government’s thinking and how it would all work rather better than was set out at the previous stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 60 withdrawn.

Amendment 61 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned until not before 8.30 pm.

5 May 2009 : Column 510

Health Care and Associated Professions (Miscellaneous Amendments and Practitioner Psychologists) Order 2009

Copy of the Order
9th Report from JCSI
11th Report from MC

Motion to Approve

7.28 pm

Moved By Baroness Thornton

Relevant Documents: 9th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments and 11th Report from the Merits Committee.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the reforms set out in this draft order aim to enhance public confidence in the ability of the healthcare regulatory bodies to protect the public and deal with poor professional standards. The order continues the process of implementing the Government’s programme to improve patient safety through the reform and modernisation of the regulation of the healthcare professions, as set out in the White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety.

I am aware that there has been a lot of interest in the build-up to this debate both in support of and against the provisions. There appears to be a good deal of confusion about the content of the order, what it provides for and what it does not. I should therefore like to spend a little time going through the provisions of the order and dealing with some of the issues that have been raised.

This order introduces statutory regulation of practitioner psychologists across the UK. It is in this area that I think most of the confusion has arisen, so let me make clear now that the order makes no provision at all for the regulation of psychotherapists or counsellors. Psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors are part of a number of professional groups offering talking therapies. At the moment, the only regulated group is psychiatrists, who are regulated as doctors by the GMC. As doctors they can also prescribe drugs to patients. The next highest qualified providers of talking therapies are practitioner psychologists, who are now being regulated for the first time. They must all have postgraduate qualifications.

Consideration is also being given to the regulation of psychotherapists and counsellors who have descending levels of professional qualification. The Health Professions Council has been working with bodies representing these groups to develop proposals but we are not there yet. Those discussions are continuing but no formal decisions have been made although we understand that the working group is hoping to report to the council of the HPC later this year. Any proposals to regulate psychotherapists and counsellors will be subject to further consultation before legislation is brought before the House. Given the weight of interventions on this matter by psychotherapists, we anticipate robust discussion and consultation.

Statutory regulation exists to protect the public from poorly performing practitioners. It does this essentially in three ways: first, by setting standards of practice, training and conduct; secondly, by registering

5 May 2009 : Column 511

those who have trained as competent and fit to practise; and thirdly, by operating a system to investigate and impose sanctions on registrants who are found unfit to practise. However, we do not wish to regulate for the sake of regulation.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page