HL Deb 25 February 1975 vol 357 cc648-65

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen and the Prince of Wales (as Prince and Steward of Scotland) to acquaint the House that they, having been informed of the purport of the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Bill, have consented to place their interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill. On behalf of my noble friend Lord Hughes, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.— (Lord Shepherd.)

On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.

Clause 1 [Acquisition of land for purposes connected with offshore petroleum]:

Lord SHEPHERD moved the following Amendment:

Page 2, line 25, at end insert— (" ( ) Any such statutory instrument on the expiry of 28 days from the laying of the draft thereof in a House of Parliament shall, whether or not it has been referred to a Committee of that House as aftermentioned, proceed in that House as if its provisions would, apart from this Act, require to be enacted by a public Bill which cannot be referred to a Committee under Standing Orders of that House relating to private Bills.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hughes explained yesterday to your Lordships that he would be prevented from attending this afternoon because of official duties in Scotland. I think I too should apologise for the double deferment of our debate on Third Reading. On the first occasion the postponement was because copies of the amended Bill had not become available early enough. The second postponement was to enable a little more time to be available to resolve the important question with which this Amendment deals. Once they have heard what I have to say I hope noble Lords will feel that, despite any inconvenience, the slight delay was worth while.

At the Committee stage of the Bill, an Amendment to Clause 1, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, was approved. That Amendment deleted the provision which disapplied from expedited acquisition orders under the Bill the hybridity procedures of your Lordships' House. Since then, the Government have, as your Lordships' would expect, reflected carefully on the arguments deployed on that occasion in what was a most full and interesting discussion.

Noble Lords will recall that the Government's view was that the hybridity procedures of the House in their present form were incompatible with the element of urgency which would inevitably attend the making of an expedited acquisition order. These orders will arise only where the Secretary of State is satisfied that land for which planning permission has been granted is urgently needed for essential oil-related developments. Noble Lords readily recognised the need for speed but argued that observance of the hybridity procedures raised important matters of principle and, bearing in mind the other safeguards in the Bill, would not in any case occasion serious delay. If, for example, the planning procedure has been gone through and a public inquiry has been held, then any Petitions arising under the hybridity procedure could be dealt with expeditiously.

What we have to achieve therefore is twofold. First, the House very reasonably wishes to retain its hybridity procedures, which it has guarded jealously for many years, and which form an important part of the private individual's rights under our Parliamentary system. Secondly, we must keep the urgency which is required for our North Sea oil programme. The Amendment before the House represents a genuine attempt by the Government to meet both these objectives, and as such I hope that it will be generally acceptable.

The effect of the Amendment is that hybridity is retained for a period of 28 days from the laying of the Order. At the end of that period the Government will be able to move an Affirmative Resolution whether or not the hybrid procedures have been completed. It is expected that hybridity procedures will be completed by then, but if not I should make it clear that it is the Government's intention to use this power in order that expedited acquisition orders can be made as quickly as possible. If of course there are no Petitions, or if no Petitions are judged by the Special Orders Committee to warrant a further inquiry, then the Affirmative Resolution would be moved before the end of the 28-day period.

The important question which this matter raises (and one about which I am sure the House will want to be dear) is whether the 28 days is sufficient to enable hybrid procedures to be completed. I believe it will be; and it is my understanding of the way in which this House conducts its business that the House will want to ensure that it will be sufficient. To achieve this, some modification of the hybrid procedure will be necessary, and if this Amendment is agreed to I propose to ask the Procedure Committee urgently to consider how best to meet this situation and what amendments of Standing Orders will be needed. In fact the Procedure Committee are already reviewing the Standing Orders on hybridity and will be able to take on this new task as part of their review. Consultations which I have held in the last few days indicate that, with good will, it should be possible to modify the hybrid procedure in such a way as to complete all its stages within 28 days without impairing the rights of Petitioners or their chance of a full hearing.

Bearing in mind the other opportunities which those who object to acquisition orders have under other provisions in the Bill to make their views known, I believe that this is a realistic timetable. Indeed, as I have mentioned, the spirit of much of the criticism expressed in Committee was that hybridity procedures would not be a cause of delay. The Amendment proceeds on that basis.

Personally, and through my office, I have made approaches to noble Lords directly involved in the debate at Committee stage. I am grateful for their understanding and willingness to help in finding a solution acceptable to them and to the Government. In particular, I should mention the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who I see is in his place and whose hand can be seen in the drafting of the Amendment, for which I am very grateful. From my discussions I am hopeful that I can carry all noble Lords with me in recommending this Amendment to the House. The Government have tried to resolve the conflict between the hybridity procedures and the urgency of crucial oil-related developments and to suggest an acceptable compromise. I believe that this proposal should in large measure satisfy both requirements, and I urge your Lordships to agree to this Amendment. My Lords, I beg to move.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his exposition of the purpose and objectives of this Amendment. For myself, I certainly welcome the fact that the Government have made a real effort to preserve the rights of individuals to petition against hybrid Orders. When we debated this matter on the Committee stage I certainly did not say anything to oppose or criticise the expedited acquisition procedure, which may be essential. At the same time I cannot but feel that perhaps undue emphasis is sometimes put on this element of urgency when one bears in mind that the expedited acquisition procedure would apply only after the full planning proceedings have been carried through. They normally take a very considerable time. I would have hoped that perhaps that procedure could have been accelerated without diminution of the individual's rights. But this is (and I welcome it) a serious attempt to preserve the rights of individuals and at the same time to secure the speed that the Government desire.

I do not think there should be any difficulty in dealing with the cases where a Petition is not referred by the Hybrid Instruments Committee for further inquiry within the 28 days. I am sure there will not be difficulty so long as the filter, which will be under consideration by the Procedure Committee, is right; and I personally take the view that, unless there is a substantive ground for doing so, a matter should not be referred to a Select Committee for any further inquiry if the matter has already been inquired into, or if the Petitioner had had the opportunity of having it inquired into. Only in the exceptional case should there be any reference for a further inquiry. Indeed this procedure about hybrid instruments has existed for many years. I think I am right in saying that on only about three occasions in the last ten years has any Petition been referred for further inquiry. I do not think it will often happen. It will certainly not happen if proper inquiries are made before we ever reach that stage.

I think the noble Lord, Lord Henley, called it a "safety net". I would rather say that it is more of a long-stop position in the event of anything slipping by the Government acting as wicket keeper. But the only point that worries me about the Amendment is this: let us assume that there is the exceptional case where something has slipped through and where the case for further inquiry is fully made out. I do not suppose that the Petitioner will know what is likely to happen until he has received the report of the Hybrid Instruments Committee, which will be some little time after the Order has been laid. Then he must have his case ready or prepare it more completely for a hearing. The hearing will have to take place and the whole procedure be completed and the report made to the House within 28 days of the laying of the Order. That is inevitable and is intended under the Amendment.

The only thing that bothers me about that is the exceptional case— which may not and, I hope, will not arise—because it appears to me to be quite novel, if the case for an inquiry is recognised, that it should be said at the same time that the inquiry must be finished by a certain date and that if it is not the rights of the individual will be over-ridden. That is putting a great premium on speed. I hope that it will work. I certainly do not propose to ask the House to oppose the Amendment, because it goes some way to meet a real problem.

At the same time, I think that we should watch to see how the procedure operates. I should like to see a little more flexibility. I should like the Government to have power in exceptional cases to say that the inquiry before the Select Committee can go on, because they recognise that the case deserves further inquiry. However, we shall see how it works and, though I think it is almost without precedent to say that the inquiry must be finished by a specific date or else the right to continue it will be abolished, I wish the Amendment well. We shall keep an eye on how it works and I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for his kind observations with regard to the part I have played in formulating the Amendment, which had a considerable period of gestation, which I shall not go into in detail.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, in moving this Amendment providing 28 days for the Special Orders procedure when hybridity is involved, the Government are contemplating circumstances of great national urgency arising from the need to get oil quickly from below the North Sea in the next five years. As we said at the Committee stage, Members of your Lordships' House would clearly act swiftly and not waste any time in the Special Orders procedures, once they had started. However, I should like to pursue the point raised by the noble and learned Viscount about what happens on the 29th day because, during the informal discussions on the Amendment which have gone on during the last few days and for which we are grateful to the noble Lord and his colleagues, I was given to understand that the position could be decided on the 29th day by this House, and that if the procedures had not quite ended in what might be a complicated case the House would not have to pass the Order on the 29th day, but would be able to permit the procedures to continue for another two or three days or a week, or whatever it might be. I should be glad, therefore, if the noble Lord could give us a reassurance on that.

Then, I, too, am glad that the Government have clearly tried to meet the wishes of this House acting in these matters on behalf of Parliament as a whole. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, has been involved in the drafting of the Amendment and we are grateful for his experience and help, and for the warning that he has just given about the effects of the speed required in certain cases, and the fact that the Petitioner and his advisers would have to move very quickly.

Also, I should like to draw attention to the fact that this Bill first came forward with a subsection which was struck out and then with the present Amendment—if it is agreed—as a special piece of legislation in contemplation of cases of national urgency. We believe that any future Bill must be considered separately on its own merits. We have noticed a subsection similar to that which was removed at the Committee stage of the present Bill, in Clause 10 of the Industry Bill in another place. Before the Government slip into the habit of putting in such subsections and then amending them, we feel that we should ask them to accept that any such proposal must be considered on its merits in the light of the urgency and importance of the different circumstances of a different Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who told us that, unfortunately, he would not be able to be here today, made it clear at the Committee stage that it would be in only very special circumstances that such a subsection would be used. He said this at column 1123 of the Official Report, where he explained that the Government were seeking in certain specified circumstances to abrogate the procedures in the special circumstances which exist. He referred to past occasions which noble Lords had mentioned, and said that those special circumstances had not at any time applied to anything that the Government had sought to do in the past. I would hope, therefore, that in the future as in the past, the precedent which will be set by the present Amendment, if it is eventually translated by the Procedure Committee, will not automatically be regarded as normal procedure in forthcoming Bills.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord has said that he hopes that his Amendment will be generally acceptable. I accept it only under the strongest protest and I hope that, in accepting it— because I feel that I may well be forced to do so—I can make it quite clear that I do not in any way depart from the principle that any truncation of the Hybrid Instruments procedure would be a great mistake. I argued this on Second Read- ing and at Committee stage, when the Amendment which I put forward to delete the Government's attempt to bypass the Parliamentary scrutiny was accepted. In accepting the noble Lord's compromise I want to receive very strong assurances, so far as the noble Lord is able to give them, before I shall feel at all happy about it.

I think that the Government may well have had it in mind to reverse in another place the Amendment passed by your Lordships at the Committee stage. I suspect that they have refrained from doing so because they feared that a number of their own friends would feel that they were perpetrating a constitutional impropriety, and might well not follow them in doing so. Be that as it may, the Government have come up with this compromise in an effort to try to leave the Special Orders procedure more or less intact, though cutting it down in time. I should like to reinforce what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has just said. In arguing for the necessity of the expedited procedure, and in particular for the cutting out of the Parliamentary scrutiny, the Government have made great play with the time factor. They have stressed how very urgent the matter is and have said that time is of the essence in what we do here, and that should we lose a week we may also lose millions of pounds.

I reject that argument; I felt that it was specious and I repeat that. However, if the Government feel that the urgency is so great that they must have a compromise provision such as the present proposal, then they must have it. I hope that they will not try to use this argument again in relation to any other Bill. As I said, I do not accept the Amendment even in relation to the present Bill, and I urge the Government not to do it again.

The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, has raised the question whether the procedure can work. Looking at the time allowed, I am a little worried about this. Twenty-eight days are allowed, and I should like to review what that means. First of all, 10 days' petitioning time is allowed during which the objectors have to make their Petition. Then, let us say that four days over a weekend—it cannot be much less—will be needed for the Hybrid Instruments Committee to meet. I shall come to this in a moment; it is a new name for an old Committee. The Committee then has to sit to decide whether there should be a Select Committee at all, which will take another day. Then 10 days will be left for the Committee to hear counsel and evidence. Then, last of all, there will be something like three days during which the findings of the Select Committee can be put before both Houses of Parliament. It is a tight schedule. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, mentioned this in Committee and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, mentioned it again.

Can the solicitors prepare a case? One may well say that a great deal of this has already been gone over during the planning stage and that any objector will know his case. That may be so, but what if a new situation has arisen? And what about briefing counsel? There may have been no counsel at the inquiry or, if there were, perhaps new counsel have to be employed for the Select Committee. That must take time. One cannot brief counsel overnight, even if the solicitors involved in the case already know all about it. Then there is the question of the 10 days, or what looks like 10 days, for the inquiry in Select Committee. When the noble and learned Viscount was explaining the timetable to me he said that it was rather like saying, "You may have a fair trial so long as it is over by 3 o'clock." That is really what it looks like.

Before I am willing to accept— and I do so only under great protest— a state of affairs of that kind, I want certain assurances. First, there is the question, which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, mentioned, of the alterations to the recommendations of the Brooke Committee. One of those recommendations is that the newly-named Hybrid Instruments Committee should itself be the Select Committee which examines the petition. I regard that as quite sensible, because it will mean only one set of arguments and not two. There is also the fact that the Hybrid Instruments Committee is a sessional committee and has been appointed by this House at an earlier stage in the Session. I want an assurance that it will not, in constituting itself into a Select Committee, have to be put again to your Lordships' House because that would represent a waste of several days.


My Lords, to clarify the position, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is a member of the Hybrid Instruments Committee at the moment and, if so, whether that is one of the reasons that he seeks satisfaction over the questions he is now posing?


My Lords, I am not a member. At present there is no such body; as the Hybrid Instruments Committee. I think I am right in saying that at the moment it is the Special Orders Committee. Under the Brooke recommendations, the Special Orders Committee will become the Hybrid Instruments Committee and when the latter looks into the question of whether or not it will recommend a Select Committee, it will, in fact, itself be the Select Committee which is appointed to hear counsel and evidence. I do not want a waste of these twenty-eight days in reappointing the Hybrid Instruments Committee as the Select Committee which will hear these issues. This is a small point but one which must be dealt with.

The noble Lord used the phrase "with good will" in saying that this process could be taken through within the twenty-eight days. However, Governments can frustrate things, as is only too well known to noble Lords. Business can be held up in ways of which we are all aware and, in a case like this, it is possibly a great temptation to a Government to do that. I hope they will not. I hope that, so far from trying to frustrate the course of events, they will see fit to try to give prior notice not only to land owners directly affected but also to certain named bodies such as COENCO, the National Trust for Scotland and the Council for the Protection of Rural Scotland. Any of these organisations will, I hope, automatically be given prior notice that the Government intend to make an expedited acquisition order.

This combines, in a way, with the frustration of the process of events— the question of the Government's power to organise business. If we are to accept that this will work on the basis of good will, it is to be hoped that the Government will so order their business that it will not be held up. Let me give an example of the kind of thing that can so easily happen in this respect. On Wednesday, the day between Report and Third Reading— Third Reading as it was to have been— I was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for an assurance about whether or not I would move an Amendment on Third Reading. I said that I should consult my noble friends and let him know within the hour. I did, but the noble Lord gave me no intimation whatever— I am not holding this against him; there may have been reasons which will be explained to me—that the Government were, in fact, considering an Amendment themselves. Thursday arrived and the Third Reading came up. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, withdrew the Third Reading on the grounds of printing difficulties. Again, not a word was said to the House or to me—not a squeak did I hear—that the Government were at that very moment engaged in conversations with the Scottish Office on this compromise.

I was in the House speaking on the Waterways Bill. I was here until 6.30 p.m., and although those consultations went on until that hour, none of them reached me. The first thing that reached me—I thought that I need not even come on Monday because there would be no Amendment, neither by me nor by the Government—was a message I received quite late on Friday in Cumberland to the effect that the Government had a highly controversial Amendment.

I am not saying that there was anything devious in this. I do not believe there was and knowing the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, I am certain that there was not. Nevertheless, it could look very like an attempt by a Government to frustrate something and, as it were, position business so that it is too late to do anything about it. I repeat that I am sure that the noble Lord had no such intention, but this is the way Governments can, and as we know, do behave if they want to frustrate. I said before that I suspect that this attempt to arrive at a compromise— and I regret having spoken at such length about this because it is an extremely abstruse constitutional point which is not easy to grasp until one has spent perhaps half an hour considering it—


My Lords, I intervene only because I happened to intervene in the course of the debate which is the subject of this discussion. I re- called, when the noble Lord moved his Amendment—and this applies similarly to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy —the case that was then being advanced. The Government were asking for compulsory powers, undefined, and a demand was made that no powers should be vested in the Secretary of State, the Minister involved, unless they were clearly defined. That was the only Amendment. There were no alternative proposals either on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, or of the noble Lord himself. It was merely an objection to the Government seeking compulsory powers which were undefined. As the Minister found it impossible to define powers which might never be required or used, it was obvious that no conclusion would be reached, and that was why the matter was referred to the Minister with the valuable assistance of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, and why this concession has been offered. I am bound to say that if the Government required compulsory powers in order to undertake something which was regarded as—

Several Noble Lords: Order, order.


My Lords, I am particularly conscious of time and I would normally have allowed my noble friend full spate, but he is intervening in the middle of a speech by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and I do not think that interventions permit a speech to be made. I hope that we can come to a conclusion on this matter very quickly, because there is a lot of business before the House.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will, if he wishes, make a speech after my speech. But he is, I think, misunderstanding me. I do not in any respect object to the Government's having compulsory powers; indeed, there is a whole field, and has been for 100 years or more, in which this Party and every other Party have supported compulsory powers. All I am saying is that there are certain Parliamentary scrutinies which I do not wish to see removed. We prevented the Government doing that at the Committee stage and they have now come back with a compromise. I say to your Lord- ships that the compromise has been arrived at because the Government are not willing to take it back, or fear taking it back to the Commons, because they fear that some of their friends would not support them. That is all I am seeking to say. If the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, can give some of the reassurances for which I ask, I shall be less unhappy about this matter than I am at present.


My Lords, if I may say so, the speech of the noble Lord—


My Lords, I should like to say something about this, because I feel that this is a very common sense compromise and I wish to support it whole heartedly. I took part in the Second Reading debate in which I expressed the opinion that this is a very important constitutional point. I implored the Government not to discard your Lordships' Select Committee procedure, and the Government have brought out this compromise. One does not expect to get 100 per cent. when going into a compromise, but I think it is a very reasonable one. I congratulate the Government on having put it before the House, and I hope that your Lordships will accept it.


My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend, Lord Chorley. I did think—

3.52 p.m.


My Lords, I did not take part in the Second Reading debate, but I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, on having arrived at what seems to me a very sensible compromise about a matter which is of some constitutional importance, particularly to Members of your Lordships' House. To some extent I share the reservations expressed by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, as to how this will work. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has attempted— I think successfully—to achieve a balance between the legitimate demand, on the one hand, that the expedited acquisition orders procedure should not be unnecessarily impeded; and, on the other hand, that this House should preserve what it has always jealously regarded as its right to protect Her Majesty's subjects when they think that their individual rights have been prejudiced by some order, in regard to which there is no opportunity for criticism except under the limited procedure afforded by this House, of which there is no parallel in another place.

My only doubt— this is a matter on which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will be able to give us an assurance—is that as I understand the language of this Amendment, which has only recently appeared, a Statutory Instrument made under this Bill will have effect on the expiration of 28 days, notwithstanding any proceedings that may have taken place: in Committee. May I say in parenthesis that it is perhaps unfortunate that this debate should be taking place at a time when the Procedure Committee of this House is reviewing the whole subject of the procedure of this House, under Standing Order No. 216.

But be that as it may, the point to which I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will address himself is this. Let us assume that there is the exceptional case— and as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said, there have been only two or three of these in the past 20 or 30 years, but they have all been cases of some considerable importance to those concerned with them— in which one of Her Majesty's subjects feels aggrieved, because there has not been a public inquiry and no opportunity of presenting a case by Petition. Let us assume that a Committee is considering that matter within the period of 28 days. Would the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, please tell me whether in those circumstances it would be the intention of the Government, notwithstanding the terms of this Amendment, to proceed at the expiration of 28 days to ask the House to pass an Affirmative Resolution? Or would it be open to Members of this House to draw attention to the fact that there was an inquiry proceeding and, through no fault of theirs, it had not been completed, and would that be a case in which the Government would think it right not to exercise their powers on the 29th day in asking this House for an Affirmative Resolution?


My Lords, following upon that, may I just put this point to the noble Lord? Does not this Amendment mean that after the 28th day the hybrid procedures stop, and it then has to be treated as if it were a public order, with no hybridity?


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, and others who have welcomed the Government's initiative in this matter. The reason why we took this initiative has nothing to do with what may be or may not be the position in the House of Commons. There was a genuine feeling in your Lordships' House that Petition rights which have been jealously guarded for very many years should not be taken away lightly. The Government felt that, in a set of circumstances, the provisions in the Bill were right and proper. Time is of very great importance. If you were to delay a month or so, you could lose over a year because of the weather conditions in the North Sea.

The great difficulty stems from Standing Order No. 216, which I think the noble and learned Viscount will agree with me has been in our Standing Orders since 1925 unamended, and it provides that once the Hybrid procedure has been started, irrespective of the length of the inquiry, the House is not able at all to consider whether the order should be approved. That was the difficulty of Standing Order No. 216, and it was the reason for the clause that was in the Bill.

My Lords, I did not enjoy the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Henley. I thought it was rather sour. May I say to him, however, that the Government, the Secretary of State, will be required under the Bill to notify by advertisement and other actions those who are directly affected by any acquisition order, and this has to be done before the order is laid in Parliament. Therefore, there is no reason why some interested body should not be aware of the Government's intention. But with regard to those organisations which may not be directly affected but have an outside or overall interest in environmental matters., I will see what can be done to ensure that they are informed.

My Lords, as the noble and learned Viscount said, the Procedure Committee is now very anxiously looking into ways and means by which our procedures can be streamlined; and we are indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who has done a great deal in this matter. I believe that the Procedure Committee has already reached preliminary decisions and the question is now one of drafting. These matters will shortly come before your Lordships' House, and I think that as a consequence of the proposed Amendments to the Standing Order many of the difficulties that were foreseen by the Government will be removed.

My Lords, in regard to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Fletcher, the position is that the hybrid procedure will be started. We certainly can use the flexibility and good will of your Lordships' House to ensure that as far as possible all the steps that are open to Petitioners are available and are proceeded with. But the procedure here now makes it possible for the Government on the 29th day to put down an Order for consideration under the Affirmative Resolution procedure. It is then entirely for your Lordships' House to decide whether or not you approve the Motion. Your Lordships can take into account the evidence that the Select Committee may have obtained; no doubt there will be circumstances mentioned by correspondents and by the Press. I want to impress upon the House that the procedure I am putting forward here does not in any way remove the rights of this House to reject a proposal or to move a Motion for the adjournment of its consideration if it should feel that to be the right course. To that extent, if there is an exceptional case I believe it can be dealt with on the 29th day. I stress that this permits the Government to move if they so wish; it is not a requirement to do so on the 29th day. Any sensible Government will take into account the general circumstances surrounding the proposal and whether your Lordships' House is willing to proceed and to give it favourable support.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has done his work on the Industry Bill. I feel very strongly about your Lordships' House and the way we conduct our business. I therefore have no intention of speculating or hazarding a guess as to what may be in the Industry Bill when considering the Offshore Petroleum Development (Scotland) Bill. My Lords, having had this longer debate than I thought was likely on this Amendment, I hope your Lordships will now give it your approval. If there are any questions of substance which I have not dealt with I will write to noble Lords and I hope I can then put their fears, if any, at rest.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—.(Lord Shepherd.)


My Lords, briefly I felt that this Bill should not leave us in its present form at this stage without a few words being said upon it. It was discussed in the context of winning offshore oil in quantity as soon as possible— an admirable aim. But the Bill will do little to help to achieve that purpose, for two reasons: first, the oil programme is slowing down because of the likely effects of the Government's taxation policy and also their intention concerning 51 per cent. participation. Secondly, the Bill concerns itself with the acquisition of land, and that has not yet been a cause of any delay with the oil programme. The delays which have occurred with, unfortunately, the loss of tens of millions of tons of oil in the years 1977–78, have been due to planning procedures which are not dealt with by this Bill. Therefore, the Government in this Bill are trying to close the stable door long after the occupant has cantered away; moreover, they have chosen the wrong door to open. They are dealing with land acquisition and not with planning procedures.

Some parts of the Bill, when it first reached us, were commended on the grounds that it seemed they would never be used or applied, which was a strange commendation. The Bill has been much improved by the three main amendments, and I think they can all be described as being constitutional or Parliamentary procedure.

Finally, may I express our admiration to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes—I am sorry his duties keep him elsewhere— for his stamina on each of the three days in replying to the many points and queries which we have put. We only regret that the contents of the Bill have not been sufficiently worth while or as relevant to the urgency of winning the offshore oil to have made all his efforts necessary.


My Lords, if I do not reply to the noble Lord I do so only in the interests of your Lordships' House. I should be happy to continue the debate on the various points he has raised but I do not think this is the occasion to do so. I have next to introduce a very important Bill and it may be that I shall then need to inflict a long speech on your Lordships, so perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me. If there are any other points I will write to him. I am grateful for his thanks to my noble friend Lord Hughes, who needs stamina when dealing with the Scots.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.