Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twenty-Third Report


Memorandum by the Northern Ireland Office



The Committee, in its letter of 4 February 1998, requested a memorandum on the following points.

      (1)  S.R. 1997/545 was made on 19 December 1997 but was not laid before Parliament until 21 January 1998. S.R. 1997/555 was made on 19 December 1997 but was not laid until 22 January 1998. Explain the reason for the delay.

      (2)  Paragraph (2) of regulation 7 of S.R. 1997/555 provides that the Regulations are not to apply to vessels which are registered outside the United Kingdom and are on passage through territorial waters. Explain the need for this provision, given that paragraph (1) provides that the Regulations are to apply within territorial waters to certain activities in relation to any building or other structure not being a vessel.

      (3)  Explain why regulation 7(3) of S.R. 1997/555, instead of referring the reader to the definitions of "territorial waters" and "vessel" in regulation 2(1) of the Offshore Installations and Pipeline Works (Management and Administration) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995, does not set out those definitions.

2.  With regard to point (1) delay, in the case of the first mentioned Regulations, was largely accounted for by the fact that the timetable (which was drawn up before Christmas) for the processing of the draft regulations provided for them to be made on or by 5th January and for arrangements to be made with HMSO for the Northern Ireland Statutory Publications Office to receive the required number of prints of the Regulations not later than 19th January 1998 (ie within two weeks of the 5th January deadline). The printers were closed for Christmas and the New Year until Monday 5th January. This timetable therefore allowed for the Christmas and New Year holiday period. However the Regulations were in fact made on Friday 19th December 1997 (ie shortly before the holiday period commenced). Prints of the Regulations were received by the Northern Ireland Statutory Publications Office from HMSO on 14th January 1998 and were forwarded by that Office to the Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch on the same date. There appears to have been some further, at present unaccountable, delay in the course of transmission before they arrived in the Home Office Legal Adviser's Branch on 21 January 1998. They were laid before Parliament on the same date. Similar considerations applied in the case of S.R. 1997/555. Any undue delay between making and laying is much regretted and the Department will endeavour to ensure, whenever possible, that instruments are laid speedily after they are made.

3.  With regard to point (2) the Department accepts that as paragraph (1) of regulation 7 specifically does not apply to "vessels" there is no need for the additional exclusion contained in paragraph (2) in relation to foreign-registered "vessels" in transit through territorial waters. The Department will revoke the superfluous paragraph (2) in the next suitable vehicle.

4.  With regard to point (3) the Department took the view that it was sufficient to define by reference to the definitions in the earlier Instrument but accepts that it would be more convenient for the reader of these Regulations to have the definitions set out in them. Again this will be done in the next suitable vehicle.

10th February 1998

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