HL Deb 04 March 1975 vol 357 cc1196-8

[Nos. 1 and 2]

Clause 1, page 1, line 8, leave out from "for" to "the" in line 11 and insert "purposes relating to exploration for or exploitation of offshore petroleum in".

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:—

Because the Amendment would restrict excessively the purposes for which land may be acquired under the Bill.


My Lords, I hesitate to enter into what appears to be a family quarrel. I beg to move that the House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 1 to which the Commons have disagreed for the Reason No. 2, Because the Amendment would restrict excessively the purposes for which land may be acquired under the Bill. I do not wish to go into too much detail on this Amendment, since the point it raises has been very fully debated on a number of occasions both in your Lordships' House and in another place. The effect of the Amendment would be to restrict the purposes for which land may be acquired under the Bill to those specified in Clause 1(2); that is, platform sites, pipelines, terminals and infrastructure. It would similarly restrict the application of other provisions of the Bill relating to the carrying out of works, the making of loans or guarantees and reinstatement. Such a definition of purposes would be too limiting. As I explained to your Lordships on Report stage when this Amendment was debated, there may well be occasions in the future when the Government would wish to facilitate oil operations by acquiring land and making it available for other purposes relating to the exploration for or the exploitation of offshore petroleum, but to which no particular degree of urgency of acquisition attaches.

At Report stage in the House on 18th February I was asked why the wording of paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) of Clause 1(2) do not cover the examples I gave. Let us take, for example, an off-shore oil service or supply base to be located at a port or harbour in Scotland. The purposes of such a facility would be to keep offshore drilling operations, whether for exploration or production, supplied with their material needs. Clause 1(2)(a) covers only a site or facilities for the construction or assembly of platforms or installation. A supply base does not carry out that function, and therefore the powers of land acquisition would not be available under the terms of the Amendment. Similarly, testing or research facilities for underwater equipment are not comprehended within Clause 1(2)(a) because they are not construction or assembly. It was suggested in one of our earlier debates that the wording of Clause 1(2)(d) with its reference to: … services or facilities … for … development … of land … might cover a service base. What Clause 1(2)(d) is meant to cover in this sense is services by way of roads, sewers, et cetera, for the development or use of land. It would not cover the provision of a base whose function is to give service not in relation to land but in relation to offshore operations.

It is worth emphasising also that the Amendment would prevent the acquisition of land by the Secretary of State for these purposes even with the agreement of the owner. The effect of the Amendment is therefore to make the Bill a less versatile tool for the Government's task in helping to ensure development of, and securing lasting benefit from, our offshore oil. The Government therefore remain convinced that it is necessary to give the general power of land acquisition in Clause 1(1) to give a degree of flexibility to meet land requirements arising from future offshore technology; and for the reasons I have outlined, I ask your Lordships not to insist on this Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on their Amendment No. 1.—(Lord Hughes.)


My Lords, the Amendment in question would restrict the powers in the Bill to what, in our opinion, are necessary to deal with the urgent situations that can be foreseen. We were told during the discussions on the Bill in this House that the outstanding virtue of the additional very wide power which would be dropped under your Lordships' Amendment was that it was most unlikely ever to be used. That was stated as a reassurance to Parliament but it is hardly an argument in favour of that power. We believe that neither this part of the clause, if restored, nor the rest of the clause is likely to be needed. The whole concept is concerned with compulsory acquisition of land to avoid delays in the oil programme, but so far no delay to our oil programme has been caused by any difficulties over the acquisition of land; the delays have occurred for other reasons, as I and my noble friends have explained to the House. It will be interesting to see, if this Amendment is not pursued, whether the Government will use these powers and, if so, in what circumstances.

On Question, Motion agreed to.