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Lord Skelmersdale: As one who supported the noble Lord, Lord Peston, last week, I am tremendously grateful that my noble friend has not only taken on board the original idea of the noble Lord but also, in this amendment, my amendment to his original idea. I am grateful.

Earl Ferrers: I told the noble Lord, Lord Peston, only a short while ago that when he produced good amendments the Government were always ready to accept them. The fact that I have pleased the noble Lord opposite and the noble Lord behind me constitutes a double barrel in both directions. That is satisfactory.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 149D:


Page 59, line 15, leave out ("is made by one licence holder to another if") and insert ("is required by a notice under section 38 above, or which is made by one licence holder to another where").

The noble Earl said: This amendment was discussed with Amendment No. 149A. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 149E


Page 61, line 9, leave out from second ("pipe") to end of line 10 and insert (", other than a distribution main of a public gas transporter, which is used for the purpose of conveying gas from such a").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 150:


Page 61, line 21, after ("therms") insert (", and references in this Part to therms or kilowatt hours,").

The noble Earl said: This amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 101. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

28 Jun 1995 : Column 847

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 151:


Page 61, line 31, at end insert ("or, in the case of a modification under section 27 above, as would be so mentioned if the references to the Director in subsection (4) (a), (b) and (d) of section 7B were references to the Secretary of State"").

The noble Earl said: This is a technical amendment to iron out an anomaly in respect of the Secretary of State's powers under Section 27 of the 1986 Act. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 151A:


Page 62, line 2, at end insert:
("(2) In paragraph 1(1) of that Schedule, for the words from "placing in" to the end there shall be substituted the following paragraphs—
"(a) placing pipes, conduits, service pipes, cables, sewers and other works, and pressure governors, ventilators and other apparatus, in or under any street; and
(b) from time to time repairing, altering or removing any such works or apparatus placed in or under any street (whether by him or by any other person."
(3) In paragraph 3(2) of that Schedule, for the words "giving a supply of" there shall be substituted the word "conveying".").

The noble Earl said: This amendment was spoken to with Amendment No. 99A. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 151B to 151D:


Page 63, line 19, at end insert:
("( ) the Local Government (Omnibus Shelters and Queue Barriers) (Scotland) Act 1958;").
Page 63, line 22, at end insert:
("( ) section 204(2) (a) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972;).
Page 63, leave out lines 36 to 42 and insert:
("( ) The reference in Schedule 4 to the Public Health Act 1961 to gas undertakers shall have effect as a reference to a public gas transporter.").

The noble Earl said: These are technical amendments to ensure that the new regulatory framework can continue to apply to other legislation previously drawn up in the context of previous regulatory systems for the gas industry. I beg to move the amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 151E and 151F:


Page 65, line 4, leave out ("in relation to a gas operator or electricity supplier, means") and insert ("means—
(a) in relation to a gas operator, an officer, servant or agent of the operator and any servant or officer of such an agent; and
(b) in relation to an electricity supplier,").
Page 65, line 5, leave out ("operator or").

The noble Earl said: These are technical amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 151G to 151K:


Page 66, line 10, leave out ("service").
Page 66, line 14, leave out ("service").
Page 66, line 18, leave out ("service").
Page 66, line 19, leave out ("a service pipe by which gas is") and insert ("any pipe—

28 Jun 1995 : Column 848


(a) by which any premises are proposed to be connected to a distribution main of a public gas transporter; and
(b) by which gas is proposed to be").

The noble Earl said: These amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 99A. I beg to move the amendments en bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 151L:


Page 66, line 39, leave out ("'public gas transporter' and 'service pipe'") and insert ("'distribution main' and public gas transporter'").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 152:


Page 67, line 24, at end insert ("and different days may be appointed for different purposes").

The noble Earl said: This amendment ensures that the Secretary of State is able to hand over to the Health and Safety Executive enforcement responsibilities for certain provisions of the Bill as and when the HSE is ready to deal with each one. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 153:


Page 67, line 26, leave out ("In section 12 of the Energy Act 1976") and insert:
("(1) In subsection (1) of section 9 of the Energy Act 1976 (liquefaction of offshore natural gas), for the words from "except" to the end there shall be substituted the words "except where—
(a) methane or ethane is liquified for the purpose of enabling it to be stored;
(b) the process of liquefaction is carried out by a public gas transporter within the meaning of Part I of the Gas Act 1986; or
(c) small quantities of liquid methane or ethane are produced in the course of a gas processing operation within the meaning of section 12 of the Gas Act 1995."
(2) In subsection (2) of section 12 of that Act").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is intended to ensure that the Secretary of State's consent under the Energy Act 1976 is not required for the liquefaction of natural gas in certain circumstances. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Ezra moved Amendment No. 154:


Page 69, leave out lines 29 to 32.

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I should like to say that this is an important issue. However, I can also be brief.

The question that I wish to put to the noble Earl is this. Why, so soon after the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, have the Government inserted this clause into the Gas Bill when it was expressly stated that the former Bill was not for subsequent legislation? That point was made in the report of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee. Therefore an issue of some legislative importance is raised. I beg to move.

Lord Peston: This is an enormously important amendment. Indeed, I cannot emphasise too strongly how important the matter is.

If noble Lords will cast their minds back to when we debated the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill (as it then was) I specifically raised the point: could the Bill be used in a forward looking way? I was told categorically that it could not be so used. I do not mean that I was simply

28 Jun 1995 : Column 849

told; I was told categorically that it could not. I set out all the dangers. I was discontented enough with that Bill, but the thought that it might reach forward appalled me because it meant that no legislation passed in Parliament would be safe from the ad hoc procedures of that Bill, now an Act.

I must admit—and I do so parenthetically—that I had not noticed paragraph 20 on page 69 of the Bill until the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, put down his amendment. If I had noticed it, I would have had a tremendous row at Second Reading because I regard this as an act of bad faith on the part of the Government. I have to put it as bluntly as I can. The Government said in terms that this could not possibly happen. In replying to the Second Reading debate, the Minister stated that it could not happen.

I have endeavoured to treat the Gas Bill as a Bill which needs amending but with which I agree in principle. However, unless the Government take out this paragraph, I shall feel obliged to raise the matter on Report, not simply as an issue relating to the Bill but with regard to the whole of the Government's approach. In other words, I shall find it impossible to have a normal Report stage and will simply demand that we have further time. I can only hope that the noble Earl will tell me that it is simply a mistake. I cannot emphasise how serious the matter is. If the Committee lets the clause go through, we have no protection against a similar clause in any other Bill which comes before your Lordships.

It is absurd in an empty Chamber at 9.15 at night that I have to speak so strongly. It is my fault that I did not spot the matter early enough to raise it when I should have done on Second Reading. I regard the proposal as disgraceful, quite unacceptable and not something I could accept for the future of the Bill. Since it is not my desire to sabotage the Bill, I hope that the Government will say that it is a mistake, that they cannot go against what they said before, and that they are taking the proposal out of the Bill.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale: I have to speak more in sorrow than in anger because I suspect that there is a total misunderstanding of the position as expressed by both noble Lords, Lord Ezra and Lord Peston, especially with the latter's forcefulness.

When, with the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, as it was then, we were told that the Bill was retrospective but was not prospective, it was absolutely accurate and remains accurate. That is why we need paragraph 20 in Schedule 4. We are talking about this Bill. I am sure my noble friend will explain why the Government see the need to make the Bill, as a special exercise, subject to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act. If Members of the Committee do not like it, they can take the usual course of disagreeing with the Government in a Division. However, I cannot accept the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, that categoric assurances which he received—and I was there when he received them—on the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill were invalid and should never have been given. I cannot accept it.


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