HL Deb 21 July 1989 vol 510 cc1041-3

11.30 a.m.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

As your Lordships will recall, Section 3 of the Petroleum Royalties (Relief) and Continental Shelf Act 1989 was debated in this House in January. The purpose of Section 3 was to implement the recent agreement with the Republic of Ireland on the delimitation of the Continental Shelf. It gave power to amend by Order in Council the Continental Shelf (Designation of Additional Areas) Order 1974, to the extent necessary to give effect to the agreement. As a result of an unfortunate oversight, power was not taken in Section 3 to amend the Continental Shelf (Designation of Additional Areas) Order 1971. Line B, agreed with the Irish, runs through the area designated by that order of 1971 at its south western corner. This was not noticed until after Royal Assent when a large scale map was prepared during the drafting of the order to be made under Section 3. There is therefore no alternative to a further Bill.

The House has already approved the policy of implementing the agreement with the Republic of Ireland. However, the wording of Section 3 does not achieve the legislative purpose. It is slightly too narrow. The purpose of the Bill is simply to amend Section 3, so as to take power to modify the order of 1971. This would allow the agreement to be implemented. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Trefgarne.)

11.32 a.m.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for explaining the complexities of this small Bill. We now understand the reason for it, and I agree that it is necessary to get it through all its stages expeditiously so that the agreement between the Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland can be brought into force without further delay.

I recall the difficulty which successive governments have experienced in reaching a settlement. The argument started at the time that I was a Minister in the old Commonwealth Office, which is quite some time ago. I hasten to say that I did not start that argument. It all had to do with the agreed boundaries. I should be grateful if the noble Lord could say with some confidence that there will be no further trouble with the lines once they are agreed.

We noted what the Minister said about Section 3 of the Petroleum Royalties (Relief) and Continental Shelf Act which passed through this House earlier this year. I am particularly anxious to get this definition absolutely right because I note from map A in the agreement that line A is very close to the front door of my home in Anglesey. Therefore, I am as concerned about this, as are my Irish friends across the water. The immediate problem, however, is mercifully on line B, and the small strip at issue is only 1.5 per cent. of the total area. We support the Bill and hope that it will remove any possibility of future dispute with the Irish Government.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, perhaps I may take 30 seconds of the House's time to ask the Minister this. Can he be perfectly clear that the change, which was prevented by the former Act and which is now made possible by the Bill before us, will be one by which the United Kingdom gives up to the Republic of Ireland its claim to a tiny corner, and not the other way round?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I believe I can assure him that there is no prospect of him becoming an Irishman as a result of the Bill. I hope he will find that reassuring. I can also answer the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in the affirmative. I am grateful to both noble Lords.

On Question, Bill read a second time; Committee negatived.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Continental Shelf Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Then Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 18th July), Bill read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.