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The Deputy Chairman of Committees: As Amendment No. 80 has been agreed to, I am unable to call Amendment No. 81.

[Amendment No. 81 not moved.]

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 81A:

Page 22, line 20, after ("time") insert ("("the relevant time")").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 81B, 81C, 82 and 156. These are technical amendments which relate to

28 Jun 1995 : Column 787

paragraph 8 of Schedule 2. That paragraph provides for there to be a "deemed contract" between a supplier and a customer, where the consumer takes gas without a contract being in place. That could happen, for example, where there is a change of occupant at premises and nobody informs the relevant supplier.

Amendment No. 81B specifies that where someone takes gas and the premises in question are not supplied by any gas supplier, that person is deemed to have contracted with the "appropriate gas supplier". The new sub-paragraph (2) covers the cases covered by the original sub-paragraph, but it is in general terms and would deal, for example, with cases in which there had been theft of gas.

Amendment No. 81B provides that the "appropriate supplier" for this purpose is the supplier who last supplied the premises; or, where that supplier's licence has been revoked or restricted at the licensee's request, is the successor supplier.

Amendments Nos. 81A and 81B define the "relevant time" at which the deemed contract starts as that at which the supplier begins to supply gas to the consumer or the consumer begins to take gas.

Amendment No. 81C provides that the supplier's deemed contract scheme may provide for the determination of the amount of gas to be treated as supplied in such cases before the meter is read. It is essential that if the amount of gas taken is unknown, there should be some means of estimating it for the purposes of a deemed contract. However, it is appropriate to afford customers protection and standard conditions 4(8) and 5(4) of the draft conditions of the supplier's licence restrict how such deeming may be undertaken. I beg to move.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I should like to comment on the amendments in general. Some of them are technical and others are less technical. I have only just received today some Notes on Clauses. That may be my fault because I was away last week. I want the Minister to understand that we have had very little time to appreciate the technicalities and to obtain advice on them. In those circumstances, we reserve our right to come back on Report if we have any problems with them. It is quite possible that problems will not arise. I am sure that the noble Earl will recognise the problem. I just wanted to make the position quite clear at this stage.

Earl Ferrers: I absolutely understand the noble Lord's point. I am conscious of the fact that he did not receive the details earlier than today, which I should have liked, had it been possible. I am sure he will realise that some amendments were necessarily tabled rather late and therefore we could not give the full account of these amendments until then. I understand that the noble Lord would like time to consider them and that is perfectly reasonable.

Lord Clinton-Davis: I am grateful to the noble Earl for his understanding.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Lord Inglewood moved Amendments Nos. 81B and 81C:

Page 22, line 22, leave out sub-paragraph (2) and insert:
("(2) Where—
(a) the owner or occupier of any premises takes a supply of gas conveyed to those premises by a public gas transporter;
(b) that supply is not made by a gas supplier, or by a person authorised to make it by an exemption granted under section 6A of this Act or an exception contained in Schedule 2A to this Act; and
(c) a supply of gas so conveyed has been previously been made by a gas supplier,
the owner or occupier shall be deemed to have contracted with the appropriate supplier for the supply of gas as from the time ("the relevant time") when he began to take such a supply; but nothing in this sub-paragraph shall be taken to afford a defence in any criminal proceedings.
(2A) In sub-paragraph (2) above "the appropriate supplier" means—
(a) the gas supplier who previously supplied gas to the premises or, if more than one, the gas supplier who last supplied gas to the premises; or
(b) where that supplier's licence has been assigned generally, or has been assigned so far as relating to the premises, the person to whom the licence was so assigned; or
(c) where that supplier's licence has been revoked on his application, or has been so restricted on his application as to exclude the premises, the gas supplier with whom that supplier made arrangements for securing continuity of supply to the premises.").
Page 22, line 46, at end insert:
("( ) The terms and conditions so determined may include terms and conditions for enabling the gas supplier to determine, in any case where the meter is not read immediately before the relevant time, the number of therms or kilowatt hours which are to be treated as supplied to the consumer, or taken by the owner or occupier of the premises, during the period beginning with the relevant time and ending with—
(a) the time when the meter is first read after the relevant time; or
(b) the time when the supplier ceases to supply gas to the consumer, or the owner or occupier ceases to take a supply of gas,
whichever is the earlier.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendments Nos. 82 and 83:

Page 22, line 48, after second ("cases") insert (", or for different areas,").
Page 23, line 24, leave out (", until the matter has been remedied but no longer,").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 84:

Page 23, line 42, after ("above") insert ("(a)").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 85, 93, 156H and 156J.

I am conscious that the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, about the previous group of amendments to which I spoke may equally well apply here. I hope that it will help the Committee to have a brief resumé of what is involved.

Amendments Nos. 84 and 85 clarify that if a person unlawfully reconnects a supply of gas to premises that have been disconnected, the transporter or supplier, as appropriate, has the right again to disconnect them. That reflects a provision in Schedule 5 to the Gas Act 1986, which was not initially carried across to the new Bill.

28 Jun 1995 : Column 789

Although the power to cut off again in the event of an unlawful reconnection is implicit in many cases, it may not be so in all cases and so explicit provision is required.

Amendment No. 93 inserts a new paragraph in Schedule 2, which gives a transporter or a supplier a right of entry to consumers' premises to check whether a disconnected supply has been reconnected without the "relevant consent". The "relevant consent" is the consent of the transporter who disconnected the premises or of the supplier who cut off the premises or of a supplier who is or is about to become the relevant gas supplier for the premises.

It is important that companies have the right to enter premises to check that the supply has not been illegally reconnected—for example, where they have disconnected as a result of a theft of gas or non-payment. In the past, that has been done under the power to inspect gas fittings. But for the sake of clarity, we consider it appropriate to provide an explicit power in this case.

In addition, Amendments Nos. 156H and 156J are consequential on Amendment No. 93. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 85:

Page 23, line 44, at end insert ("and
(b) the transporter or supplier may again disconnect the premises or, as the case may be, cut off the supply.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 86:

Page 24, line 24, at beginning insert ("Subject to sub-paragraph (1A) below,").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 87. These amendments are also technical amendments to Schedule 2. I shall willingly explain them to the Committee if it would be helpful.

The amendments are inserted to correct an omission in paragraph 12 of Schedule 2, which was inserted on Report in another place. The paragraph places a duty on anyone who completely disconnects a meter to inform the owner and provides that failure to do so is to be an offence. The duty is designed to facilitate the return of meters to their owners and to help avoid them going missing and becoming available for fraud.

The amendments simply provide that this duty to notify the owner does not apply to cases in which the meter has only been disconnected temporarily, for example, for a meter examination or test or to reposition or mend it. I beg to move.

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