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Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lord, I thank the noble Baroness for introducing this order and giving the House such a comprehensive view of what it does. I am sure that everyone will agree that it is a different kettle of fish to what has been debated so far this afternoon. Nevertheless, it is important to many people, including yachtsmen, among whom I count myself.
I congratulate the General Lighthouse Authorities on what they have been able to do over the past two years, culminating this year in a reduction in light dues. I welcome the order as it stands. As the noble Baroness said, it foreshadows--I do not know whether that requires any further parliamentary time--the end of the Decca system around the end of the year 2000. That was an issue with which I had some involvement some six years ago. I should have liked to see it done then, but it was not possible. The Decca system was a good one but, unfortunately, it is expensive to run. The fact is that Decca can no longer obtain money from selling the system, which means that it receives no income. That is why it has become a cost on the General Lighthouse Fund. In the old days it obtained a little money from every bit it sold.
The noble Baroness referred to the fact that the GPS is operated by the United States Department of Defense and is now what most people use. Sets can be bought for as little as £200 each. The problem with it is, as the noble Baroness said, that the United States Government can alter its accuracy and therefore we need to have this mechanism in place which can compensate for that.
I should like to ask the noble Baroness one or two questions. I have not given notice, and I apologise for that. If she cannot answer them, perhaps she will write to me in due course. At one time there was a proposal that it might be possible to make a contribution towards the cost of GPS in order to obtain a better guarantee from the United States Government. I do not know whether anything happened in that regard or whether it has been pursued. I appreciate the difficulties that it may cause and that we may not obtain the necessary guarantees as to the validity of the system.
The noble Baroness mentioned also the Commissioners of Irish Lights. In my day there was considerable argument about the cost of the Irish lighthouse authorities and how much was coming from UK light dues. I do not know what the present situation is and whether we are still subsidising Irish lights to the extent that we were. I realise that it is an all-Ireland body and therefore we must take care of the Ulster part of it, but we are subsidising the Republic part of it by a considerable amount. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell me what progress has been made over the years on that.
Generally, I welcome the order and I am encouraged to hear of the possible savings of £30 million over the next 25 years. I am sure that we shall end up with a better system than what we have now, and the GPS is the system that most people use at the moment.
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am sure the whole House is grateful to the noble Baroness for so comprehensively explaining the order and its background. I should like to thank also my noble friend Lord Brabazon. I am someone who prefers to keep his feet firmly on terra firma and it was extremely helpful to hear his remarks. This order seems to combine saving lives with saving money, which is an excellent proposition, and we support it.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for raising his two questions and for his support for the order. Perhaps I may write to him in detail in relation to the financial proposals with regard to possible support of the United States' system and the benefits.
With regard to the Irish subsidy, the current arrangements pre-date the establishment of the Irish Republic, as I am sure the noble Lord is well aware. Officials will be proposing to Ministers that negotiations commence later to look at the current and future funding arrangements. I commend the order to the House.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity of inviting this House to approve an affirmative order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 (TWA for short). This order involves minor, but useful, amendments to the original 1992 order and should not, I believe, be controversial.
Although the TWA is mainly concerned with new railway and tramway schemes, it also enables other types of projects in England and Wales which would previously have been authorised by private Acts to be approved by ministerial orders. Those include inland waterways and projects which interfere with rights of navigation, such as, for example, river barrages.
The order-making system is set out in Part I of the Act. Section 3 enables the Secretary of State to make an order for the carrying out of works which would interfere with rights of navigation and are of a
The first Section 4 order--the Transport and Works (Descriptions of Works Interfering with Navigation) Order 1992--prescribed 10 categories of works. The effect of the order is to enable promoters of the prescribed works to make an application under Section 3 of the TWA. It does not mean that works of such description will necessarily be approved. The case for approving particular projects is considered only in relation to specific applications made to the Secretary of State under Section 3.
The first order sought to cover the full range of projects which might interfere with rights of navigation, but works projects have been developed more recently which were not foreseen at the time. We have in mind in particular proposals for certain millennium works in Portsmouth Harbour which require a Section 3(1)(b) order and are not prescribed in the existing Section 4 order. These projects include a retail development to be constructed on a piled platform, an observation tower and an illuminated water fountain sending out jets of water periodically across the harbour. The amending Section 4 order prescribes these types of works.
We have undertaken a public consultation exercise on the proposed changes. Those consultees who responded have generally been supportive or have offered no comments. Two organisations questioned the need for the order but their concerns appear to be based on misunderstandings about the overall purpose and nature of the TWA order-making process. One of those two respondents thought that the order would enable works to be authorised by Section 3 order which would more appropriately be approved under other statutory powers. The proposed order was therefore an unnecessary duplication. The second objector argued that by not prescribing the proposed categories of works in the first Section 4 order, Parliament had indicated that such works should continue to be authorised by Private Bill and there was no compelling case for enabling them to be subject to approval by TWA order rather than by an Act of Parliament.
On the first point, the TWA procedure is permissive. It is for promoters to decide whether they need the statutory powers and protection from actions in nuisance afforded by a Section 3 order. They are unlikely to apply for such an order if there is another more convenient and appropriate means of approving a project. Moreover, the Secretary of State can refuse to make an order where he considers that the necessary powers could be obtained by other means--Section 13(2) of the Act. In the case of the proposed works in Portsmouth Harbour, we are satisfied that a Section 3 order under the TWA is the appropriate mechanism for obtaining statutory
Turning to the second point, Parliament decided in enacting the TWA that it was no longer appropriate for infrastructure projects, involving as they do consideration of detailed and local planning issues, to be the subject of Private Bills. Sections 2 and 4 of the Act were therefore inserted to enable the range of projects coming within Sections 1 and 3 to be prescribed and extended by order with the aim of ensuring that all works schemes are normally determined by the TWA procedure where the only alternative would be a Private Bill. Parliament clearly envisaged that there might need to be more than one order made under Sections 2 and 4 by referring in these sections to "orders" in the plural.
It is worth repeating that, by bringing forward the order, the Government are not necessarily signalling their support for any of the proposed projects covered by the extended descriptions of works. Each application under Section 3 of the TWA will be considered on its merits, after taking into account any objections to the proposals. What we are saying is that, in line with the whole thrust and purpose of the 1992 Act, the proposed works in Portsmouth Harbour and other similar projects should be subject to the TWA statutory approvals process where the only alternative would be a Private Bill. That is what this order, if made, will ensure. I commend the order to the House.
Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 28th October be approved [11th Report from the Joint Committee].--(Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton.)
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