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Lord Kingsland: I thank the Minister for his very full reply. As regards Amendment No. 32, if I understood him correctly, on the substance of the matter he and I are in agreement. Perhaps I shall reflect on introducing a word other than "possible" to try to provide the Bill with more precision at Report stage.
However, as regards Amendment No. 33, I confess to serious disappointment with the Minister's response. To me it seems unreasonable to expect, on the one hand, licensees to have imposed on them obligations by the authority and, on the other, not to be furnished with the wherewithal to finance them. I am equally surprised that the Minister is prepared to see a weaker obligation with respect to meeting all reasonable demands in Great Britain for gas and electricity conveyed to consumers. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 32. However, when Amendment No. 33 is called, I shall seek to test the opinion of the Committee.
Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.
The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I should like also to speak to the following amendments: Amendments Nos. 41, 48, 53, 285, 294, 295, 302, 305, 306, 307, 308, 327, 328, 334, 339, 340, 342 and 345.
This group of amendments brings together the bulk of government amendments concerned with the functions of the gas and electricity markets authority. I shall start with Amendments Nos. 36, 41, 48 and 53.
The functions of the authority and of the Secretary of State are principally set out in the Gas Act 1986 and the Electricity Act 1989, as those Acts are amended by the Bill. However, once the Bill receives Royal Assent they will also have functions under stand-alone provisions of the Utilities Act. For example, Clause 4 requires the authority to prepare, consult on and publish a forward work programme. Clause 26 empowers the authority to publish a notice issued by the consumer council setting out its reasons for refusing to supply information.
The general duties in Clauses 9 and 13 relate to the authority's and the Secretary of State's functions. Similarly, the obligation in Clauses 10 and 14 to have regard to social and environmental guidance and the health and safety duty under Clauses 11 and 15 also relates to those functions. Amendments Nos. 36, 41, 48 and 53 make it clear that references to the authority's or the Secretary of State's functions in those clauses relate to their functions under the provisions of the Utilities Act equally as they relate to those under the Gas Act and the Electricity Act.
The amendments that follow are more technical or consequential in nature. Amendment No. 285 broadens the effect of paragraph 8 of Schedule 3 to ensure that in all documents relating to transfers under Clause 3 references to the authority or consumer council, as appropriate, are substituted for references to the outgoing directors general and Gas Consumers' Council. In particular, this will ensure that paragraph 8 will have effect in relation to licences. Amendments Nos. 295 and 305 insert words accidentally omitted to clarify that the existing standards of performance powers under Section 33A of the Gas Act 1986 and Section 39 of the Electricity Act 1989 apply in individual cases--in other words, for each customer or potential customer individually.
That is to emphasise the difference between "individual" and "overall" performance standards. If the former are not met--for example, if a company misses an appointment-- compensation is payable to the individual customer concerned. Overall standards, such as that 95 per cent of letters to a company should be answered within 10 days, do not lead to individual payments if they are missed. But companies are required to run their businesses in a way that can reasonably be expected to lead to the standards being met.
Amendments Nos. 295 and 302 are technical amendments in relation to the power of the authority to require information from licensees in certain conditions, such as the suspicion of a breach of licence conditions or revocation of a licence. Amendment No. 295 ensures that the scope of the information power in Section 38(1) of the Gas Act 1986 matches the authority's revised duties and corrects a minor omission from the Gas Act 1995.
Amendment No. 302 inserts into Section 28 of the Electricity Act 1989 the equivalent provision to Section 38(1A) of the Gas Act. Amendments Nos. 306, 307 and 308 clarify that the existing standards of
Amendments Nos. 327, 328 and 342 repeal various provisions of the Gas Act and the Electricity Act consequential to the provisions of Clauses 59, 94 and 95. Each of Amendments Nos. 334 and 340 repeals provisions of the Gas Act which are the duplicate of provisions of the Bill. Amendment No. 340 repeals paragraph 15(2) of Schedule 7 to the Gas Act, which is the duplicate of Clause 5(9). Amendment No. 334 repeals the latter half of Section 47(7) of the Gas Act, which is the duplicate of paragraph 10 of Schedule 1 to the Bill.