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Lord Dixon-Smith: I am grateful to the Minister for that explanation in which he has given us additional information which we shall clearly need to study. I hope that he will understand that and that we may need to return to this at a later stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdrawn the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 1, line 25, at end insert--
("( ) Before making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State shall--
(a) consult individuals and businesses involved in activities proposed to be subject to those regulations; and
(b) publish the result of that consultation.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to introduce a degree of consultation with the relevant parties to Clause 1. It is grouped with a government amendment which seeks to do the same thing, but in rather a better way. I shall need an assurance from the Minister that Clause 2 applies to Clause 1.

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However, the matter is not straightforward and I should like to be sure of the ground on which I am standing. My noble friend Lord Lucas, who is not in his place, has tabled an amendment to Amendment No. 8 and subsequent amendments have been tabled to the Government's amendment, Amendment No. 13, which may require discussion if the Government choose to press their amendment. It is essential that in making the regulations all the relevant parties are consulted and their views taken into account before any regulations are made. That is not to say that the effect of the consultation should mean that the views of the consultees should be predominant. Clearly, there is a much wider interest. However, consultation is always useful and helpful points may arise from it. That is why we think that consultation should be on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved, as an amendment to Amendment No. 8, Amendment No. 9:

Line 5, after ("regulations;") insert--
("( ) publish all submissions made to him as part of that consultation, and all relevant expert reports and opinions commissioned by him;").

The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Lucas, I beg to move his amendment, Amendment No. 9. I wonder whether it might be for the convenience of the Committee if the Minister spoke now to his amendment so that we could then discuss the amendments to his amendment. I hope that that will be within the rules of order.

Lord Renton: Before the Minister does so, I hope that it may be helpful rather than unhelpful if I mention something about Amendment No. 8 which has slightly puzzled me. The amendment would require the Secretary of State to,

    "consult individuals and businesses involved in activities proposed to be subject to ... regulations".
That seems an impossible task to impose on the Secretary of State because not only hundreds, but possibly thousands, of individuals and businesses may be affected.

Line 10 on Page 2 of the Bill states--I refer to Clause 1(4)(c)--that the regulations may,

    "make different provision for different cases, including different provision in relation to different persons, circumstances, areas or localities".
I can understand that circumstances, areas or localities could be dealt with in different ways, but it seems somewhat unrealistic to mention in the regulations a vast number of "different persons". As those words are already in the Bill, it is not entirely surprising that in Amendment No. 8 my noble friends refer to the need to consult "individuals and businesses".

Lord Dixon-Smith: My noble friend Lord Renton has introduced a justifiable criticism. However, I remind him that the Bill not only requires the making of regulations, but that the regulations can then lead to further downward delegation. Although I entirely agree that it would be impossible for the Secretary of State to undertake appropriate negotiations with every

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interested party, it is to be hoped that consultations will take place at the point where the regulations will apply.

In moving the amendment, I said that I thought that in some ways the Minister had tabled a superior amendment. We have not yet reached that amendment, which is why my noble friend Lord Jenkin suggested that it may be right for the Minister to speak now.

Lord Whitty: I am sorry to be so bashful in coming forward. It may indeed be sensible for me to speak now. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, raised a point which to a large extent applies to both my amendment and to that of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. Although some flexibility is required in relation both to the Secretary of State's ability to determine who should be consulted and, further down the line, to the delegated authorities, perhaps that issue needs some consideration in terms of the noble Lord's query.

I am sure that the Committee will recognise that when we produced the third document on the regulations, we were engaged in a pretty wide consultation exercise in a complex area. Such consultation is what we intend in future. I have sent copies of the draft regulations to those who have shown an interest in the Bill and have placed a copy in the Library. In the spring, we intend to hold a final round of consultations on the remaining issues, such as the timetable and the phasing. The Department of Trade and Industry will shortly be consulting on the separate issue of the proposals for regulating offshore oil and gas installations.

The proposals in the amendment were, in broad terms at least, widely welcomed--and not only by this Committee. On Friday, I received a letter of support from the CBI as regards the Government's amendment on consultation and the subsequent amendment that we shall shortly be debating. Therefore, I hope that the spirit behind the amendment will be accepted.

A significant number of other amendments have been tabled to my amendment which may make today's debate a little complex. Noble Lords may wish to speak to some of those amendments and any points raised may need to be considered by the Government. In general, I am unhappy about accepting any of the amendments as they stand. Noble Lords should realise that point and decide accordingly how to proceed. However, in case the noble Lords responsible for those amendments want to press them, perhaps I may advise the Committee that it may be more sensible to consider my amendment, the points just raised, and the amendments to my amendment in the round. We may then come forward with a firm amendment on Report, covering all those points. I do not want to curtail debate or prevent those who wish to pursue particular points raised in their amendments from doing so. However, if that course of action were generally acceptable, I would be prepared not to move my amendment at this stage on the grounds that its principles will re-appear on Report when we shall

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have had the opportunity to take into account other points already raised--or which may be raised once I have sat down.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I am most grateful to the Minister; indeed, I can only regard that as an extremely helpful reply which I welcome. I am sure that other Members of the Committee will do likewise. I believe that I have tripped up again and now I do not know which bit of ground I am standing on. I thought that I was in a position where I could withdraw Amendment No. 8.

Noble Lords: Not yet!

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I have not spoken to Amendment No. 20, which is the last amendment in this grouping. I, too, very much welcome what the Minister said in relation to Amendment No. 13. The noble Lord referred to the forthcoming draft regulations for the offshore oil and gas industry. My only concern in tabling the amendment was the fact that that industry has had some informal talks with the DTI, which is its regulator; it is not regulated by any of the agencies responsible to the Minister's department. The industry has not seen any draft regulations as yet, though no doubt it will have taken note that they will be forthcoming. But it expects full consultation to take place on such regulations.

I am sure that the Minister can give that assurance, but the purpose of my amendment was to make it absolutely clear that the discussions which the industry has already had will not be relied on as complying with the subsection in the Minister's amendment so that it will be said, "Oh, we have talked to them already. That was consultation". However, the answer is that it would not be consultation that would comply with the Minister's regulations if it happened after the Bill became an Act. That was my sole purpose for tabling the amendment.

Lord Whitty: For the sake of clarification, I can confirm that "consultation" in these terms means consultation on draft regulations. We have had substantial discussions with the offshore oil industry, but it will also need to consult on the regulations which, I understand from my colleagues in the DTI, will shortly be forthcoming.

Lord Dixon-Smith: I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 8.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 9.

Amendment No. 9, as an amendment to Amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 8, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 10 to 12 not moved.]

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