HL Deb 23 July 1998 vol 592 cc1121-48

9.14 p.m.

House again in Committee on Schedule 5.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 193A:

Page 71, leave out line 6.

The noble Lord said: The Government have already expressed their view on this subject. There are one or two additional points which the Law Society wish to be made. I shall, if I may, follow those up in correspondence. I believe that it is unlikely that the Government will have changed their view in the last hour and a half.

[Amendment No. 193A not moved.]

9.15 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 194:

Page 71, leave out lines 11 to 13.

The noble Lord said: I am pleased that we have managed to return to the Scotland Bill. We are returning to the issue of whether certain difficult matters should be placed with the Scottish parliament or retained at Westminster. We have now moved on to the field of consumer protection. A number of consumer protection items are reserved. I fully understand that and believe that the Government are right about it. In consumer protection there is so much of a flow of goods around the country, by one means or another, with people living in Scotland and shopping in England, and vice versa—mail order and so on—that it would not make much sense if consumer protection were devolved to a Scottish parliament. I suspect that that parliament would simply have to follow slavishly whatever was done here. The Government have my support in that regard.

I wish to turn to the question of the exemption from reservation under this section. The exemption is the subject matter of Section 16 of the Food Safety Act 1990. The problem here is that, given the inter-UK trade, if I may call it that, it is wise that there should be one control over food safety, labelling, and so on, and it would not make sense for Scotland to have different regulations on these matters. In addition, so much consumer protection is now controlled, or at least triggered, by material in Brussels that it would not make sense to devolve many of the consumer protection items.

We know that the food standards agency will be a UK body. That was said by Mr. Henry McLeish at col. 1004 of Hansard on 30th March. I wonder, as I have on a number of occasions, why the Government have decided to have any exemption under this head at all. I look forward to the Minister's explanation. I beg to move.

Lord Sewel

These amendments would seriously undermine the devolution of responsibility to the Scottish parliament over all matters related to food safety, plant health and animal health. Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 seek to include within the reservation of consumer protection and product standards matters related to devolved areas of food safety, animal and plant health, fertilisers and pesticides. We intend, however, that the Scottish parliament should be able to legislate in relation to agriculture, fisheries and food on a "field to fork" basis—the quality chain. That is becoming more and more important. It is critical that we operate on that basis if Scottish agriculture is to thrive. The whole legislative competence from field to fork ought to be located with one parliament. That is what we are doing. Consumer protection and product standards, safety and the related labelling thereof are essential aspects of that process and go together as a unity. For these reasons, the Government cannot support the amendments.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, mentioned the food standards agency. It is true, as he reported, that that agency is to be a UK body. Food standards and safety will be devolved matters. The Scottish parliament would therefore inherit responsibility for funding the agency's activities in Scotland, and appropriate arrangements will be made for it to be accountable to the parliament and for joint control by the Scottish Ministers and the United Kingdom Government.

I understand the interest in these kinds of organisations. We come back to another example of a situation where responsibility for the power and the function is devolved. That responsibility is carried out and maintained in collaboration and co-operation through a UK agency. That is the choice of the Scottish parliament. It does not affect the logic of the devolution of those functions to the parliament in the first place. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

I see from the Notes on Clauses that tobacco advertising seems to be devolved. Is that the case? If so, how will that work?

Lord Sewel

There is only one possible response to that: if it is in Notes on Clauses, it is in Notes on Clauses.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Is it the case and how will it work?

Lord Sewel

I do not know how it will work.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane

I wonder whether my noble friend is assisted by the observation that it is not even devolved to the UK. Tobacco advertising is a European matter, as I understand it.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps I can intervene here, as it is Committee stage. My recollection of tobacco advertising and the affair of Mr. Ecclestone suggests that it is a matter for the United Kingdom Parliament. The Government changed their policy on tobacco advertising in relation to Formula One motor racing, thanks to the pressure brought on them by Mr. Ecclestone.

My noble friend makes a good point. If the noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, is right and it is entirely a European matter, why bother having it devolved at all? It is not worth it. If it is devolved, do different rules on advertising apply? I need not labour the point because, frankly, I cannot see how that would work. For example, would it work with television? Would our television pictures cut off at the Border if tobacco was advertised? We need an answer on that.

Again, I shall need to study what the Minister said. Is he saying that while these regulations and so forth will be carried out by a UK body, the regulations north and south of the Border could be different, or just the administration of them? If the regulations could be different north and south of the Border, it might be difficult. In agriculture, the supply of produce is a fairly unified market inside the United Kingdom, as are fish and fish products. For example, the Aberdeen-based fish processing industry sells its products in the whole of the United Kingdom. It would be extremely difficult if there were different regulations north and south of the Border. The same is true of other products. If product standards in fertilisers were different north and south of the Border, it would be extremely difficult for farmers. I hope the noble Lord can give us some help on these matters.

Viscount Thurso

Before the Minister gives that help, perhaps I can point out to the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that there are already a number of areas where the regulations north of the Border are quite different from regulations south of the Border. The one that immediately springs to mind—we had a short debate on it in your Lordships' House not so long ago in which the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, was kind enough to reply for the Government—relates to fire regulations. The fire regulations north of the Border are quite different and based on different principles to those south of the Border. In fact, we believe that those north of the Border are better than those south of the Border.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Perhaps I could also point to the noble Lord that the fishing industry is now concentrated in Peterhead and not Aberdeen.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Before both noble Lords sit down, I did not refer to the catching sector; I referred to the fish processing sector. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, that that is still concentrated in Aberdeen.

As to the other point, there is a considerable difference between fire regulations which concern premises which clearly are in Scotland and cannot move too readily to England and a fish or food processing factory whose markets may be throughout the UK and abroad.

Lord Sewel

I shall try to answer the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, on tobacco. As I understand it, we are moving towards the implementation of an agreement on a European basis on tobacco advertising. But that must be implemented. It is the implementation of that type of agreement which would be a devolved matter. I hope that gives the noble Baroness some clarification.

On the basic point, I see the tension in the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. At the end of the day, it comes down to this. We start with a principle which says that agriculture, fisheries and food are an entire devolved area. That seems to me to be a good starting point. We then get into areas of subdivision but we maintain the essential unity of the policy and the principle that that subject should be devolved. When it comes to matters such as food safety, animal and plant health, in the application of the principle we say, "Yes; that means that those subdivisions are devolved to the parliament", but in fact there is every practical, commonsense and pragmatic reason to maintain a UK approach.

Although the power is devolved, the way in which that power is exercised is through a UK agency. Formally, that means that it would be within the scope of the parliament to withdraw from that kind of arrangement if it so chose. But that would not be the wisest or the most prudent thing for the parliament to do.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

To be honest, I am totally bemused by that answer. I am still extraordinarily puzzled. However, I can see that we will not get very much further this evening. I think I will take this away and check with some of the people I know in the fishing industry and in agriculture and try to work out with them how this will work, and during the long Recess I may correspond with the Minister. I may be much better informed after the past few minutes, but I am afraid that I am none the wiser. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 195 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon moved Amendment No. 196:

Page 71, line 38, at end insert— ("The regulation of the design and erection of telecommunication masts and equipment.").

The noble and learned Lord said: This is an amendment to Section 9 in Schedule 5. The section deals with telecommunications and wireless telegraphy. The purpose of the amendment is to except from the reservation of telecommunications and wireless telegraphy and the other related topics the issue of the regulation of the design and erection of telecommunication masts and equipment.

The reason for the amendment is straightforward. Throughout Scotland one sees erected a variety of steel structures. Some are for the transmission of electricity and some are for the transmission of telephone messages. In the area of telecommunications and wireless telegraphy one has masts and associated equipment which, on occasion, are quite frankly an eyesore. Planning issues and environmental issues arise. It seems to me that there is a strong argument for saying that the design and siting of such equipment should be a devolved matter, albeit that I fully accept that there is good sense in the topic of telecommunications and wireless telegraphy falling within the reservation. I beg to move.

Lord Hardie

As the noble and learned Lord explained, the purpose behind the amendment is to ensure that the Scottish parliament will be able to regulate the design and erection of telecommunication masts and equipment. As such installations will be subject to the Scottish parliament's competence in the field of land use planning, it is the Government's position that the amendment is unnecessary.

We recognise the need to balance the benefits of nationwide access to telecommunications networks against any consequent detriment to the environment. That is why the licences granted to operators under the Telecommunications Act 1984 contain a variety of conditions designed to protect amenity and the environment. Masts and equipment are also covered by planning legislation. Major installations are subject to full planning controls, while smaller installations enjoy certain permitted development rights. As the noble and learned Lord, with his experience of planning law, will appreciate, where there is permitted development rights, the person who benefits from those may erect the mast or whatever it is without the necessity of formal planning permission.

However, the permitted development rights to operators under the Act have certain environmental safeguards granted on the strength of the licences. The operators are not even as advantaged as others who have the benefit of permitted development rights. They have to look to the safeguards in operators' licences. Included within them is a provision that operators should not install masts or other equipment without planning authorities having had an opportunity to have their say on the appearance and siting of proposed developments. So large installations have to obtain planning permission. The operators of smaller installations with permitted development consent as a condition of the licence still have to go to the planning authority about siting appearance. If the noble and learned Lord finds, as I do, that many of these installations are unsightly, that could be the fault of the local planning authority.

These planning matters are to be wholly devolved and, accordingly, the amendment appears to be unnecessary. Therefore, I invite the noble and learned Lord to withdraw it. I sympathise with his objective and share his concern. But his objective will be achieved without this amendment in view of the fact that planning law will be devolved.

9.30 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I believe that the Scottish parliament will have to take an interest in the fact that these masts are to last for about 15 years. At the end of that period almost all mobile phones which the masts are erected to serve will have converted to satellite. Therefore, the Scottish parliament may have to legislate for their removal, which will be important for the environment.

Lord Mackay of Drumadoon

I am happy to accept the assurance given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate that the amendment is unnecessary. I am sure that what he said will reassure those concerned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 197:

Page 72. leave out lines 14 to 16.

The noble Lord said: This amendment removes from reservation, The subject-matter of section 1 of the Industrial Development Act 1982". This is something more than just a probing amendment because there is no doubt that the Scottish Office, through Locate in Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the Highlands and Islands Enterprise, has been extremely successful in the economic work it has done in Scotland in the attraction of inward investment to such an extent that the United Kingdom as a whole has received more foreign investment from outside Europe than the rest of the European Union put together. That has been due almost entirely to the successes of the policies of the Conservative government and those pursued by my noble friend Lord Lang, when he was Secretary of State, and others.

What bothers me here is that this may well be the thin end of the wedge. I want to explore just how thin or thick is that part of the wedge. Late last year it became clear that the Government were planning to end Scottish control over inward investment matters by centralising power in the DTI. Designation of assisted areas is an important part of that inward investment. It is an important part of the attractions that Scotland can offer to incoming industry. The DTI Minister, Mr. Ian McCartney, confirmed on 18th November last year plans to strengthen Whitehall control over Scottish aid packages aimed at wooing major job-creation projects by multinational companies. Indeed, it was also reported that Sir George Russell, the chairman of the Northern Development Company, was complaining that Scotland and Wales had tried to poach inward investment from his region by offering over-inflated packages. Also in November—

Lord Gordon of Strathblane

Does the noble Lord agree that a committee of the other House agreed that was not the case and that the Scottish Office had not been pinching jobs from the North-East? The reason for Whitehall supervision—I should not say "control"—is to stop the different regions of Britain outbidding each other with the same public money in an attempt to get jobs from abroad.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

That is exactly the point that I thought I was making. I was reporting that Sir George Russell had claimed that. I did not say whether or not it was true. I was merely laying out the background for my suspicions about the "wedge"—and the noble Lord has just confirmed them.

Last November, the Scotsman and Herald reported a leaked document suggesting that Whitehall would decide the size of the aid packages aimed at securing inward investment. That document said that there would be strict limits on the value of the grants that Locate in Scotland could offer.

The passing to Whitehall of control over those grants and perhaps of control over the designation of assisted areas may well be designed to level up the playing fields, as some parts of the Kingdom see it. However, if that is the case, they are being levelled—perhaps "levelled" is not the right word—to Scotland's disadvantage. As I have explained on a number of occasions, I do not believe in level playing fields. If there were such a thing, there would be no need for teams to change ends at half-time, yet that seems part and parcel of any game.

My worry is not that there will be a levelling up of the playing field, but that the playing field will be tilted to the disadvantage of Scotland by the DTI, Ministers of which will be here in London, answerable to the other place on industrial matters relating to England and Wales, who will no longer be terribly concerned about what happens in Scotland. They may well take the view, as we heard in this House not long since, at Question Time, that they want to clip the wings of Locate in Scotland, Scottish Enterprise and the new Scottish executive so that they will not be able, as the DTI might see it, to have unfair competition with other areas of the country.

This is a serious matter. I hope that the noble Lord can explain the reasoning behind the reservation. If I may say so, I hope that that reasoning will be a little clearer than was the reasoning behind the exemptions in relation to foodstuffs which we discussed a few moments ago. I beg to move.

Lord Lang of Monkton

My noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish said that this was little more than a probing amendment. I hope that it is not much more than a probing amendment because I am hound to say that I think that the Government are probably right on this point. It is, nevertheless, right to debate this subject. Similarly, I believe that the Government were wrong on the business rates issue. I must apologise to the Committee because I was unable to be present in time to participate in that debate. I got here in time only to make up my own mind and to vote in favour of the amendment! That was an example of how Scotland could be seriously disadvantaged if we forfeited the uniform business rate, which we achieved after great difficulty over a period of years, funded by the Treasury in a way in which will no longer be open to a Scottish parliament.

Scotland stands to lose considerably on this point if the present arrangements are forfeited. However, as my noble friend pointed out, when consideration is next given to the redrawing of the map, if a strong Scottish voice is not participating in those negotiations privately within government—not in the Chamber of the House of Commons, this place or any other forum, and we shall have forfeited the right to have a Secretary of State who is able to do that—we shall be disadvantaged because the criteria that will be brought to bear will be skewed in favour of other parts of the country. I know from experience of the previous parliament how this matter was addressed then. Although substantial changes were not made, consideration was given to changing the criteria quite considerably. Scotland would not be able to argue its own case in that situation. There is a real concern here which I do not think can be solved by removing the power from the Westminster Parliament. That illustrates what the schedule itself underlines. I hope that the schedule will be named "the San Andreas schedule" because it illustrates the faultline that runs all the way through this legislation.

Scotland's inward investment record has been a good one over the years. We have been able to achieve that within the existing designation of assisted areas under United Kingdom control. It is important that Scotland retains discretion to apply increased funds from its own budget, as was possible in the past, thereby attracting a larger number of inward investment projects by applying the criteria that apply universally. But it is inconceivable that Scotland can apply different criteria and yet expect the United Kingdom Treasury to continue to fund it in a way that enables it to bid up against other parts of the United Kingdom.

There is another reason why I believe it is impossible to change the situation. The rules of the European Union allow only a certain proportion of the population of the country to be within an assisted area. If we in Scotland unilaterally changed that assisted area designation we would be in breach of EU rules. It is inconceivable that the sovereign Westminster Parliament can possibly allow such a situation to arise. My noble friend addresses an important issue in tabling this amendment. The issue underlines the fatuity of seeking to achieve a devolved parliament within a sovereign state. Nevertheless, on balance I urge my noble friend not to press his amendment.

Lord Sewel

It is important to make clear what this amendment deals with; namely, the designation of assisted areas according to Section 1 of the Industrial Development Act 1982. Although I did not agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said, his appreciation and understanding of the interplay between assisted areas and our European obligations was absolutely spot on. To take away this reservation and give power to the Scottish parliament to make its own designation of assisted areas is simply not compatible with our European Union obligations.

Assisted areas are those areas which in the context of regional policy are identified as deserving or effectively requiring higher levels of aid to promote their economic development. To that extent a certain distortion in the single market is allowed in order to benefit those areas so identified. Because of that distortion it is important that designation is handled fairly across all areas. All parts of the country have a legitimate concern about the basis upon which assisted areas are selected and the criteria that are used.

The European Commission has the role of enforcing the European Union rules. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said, the Commission sets a ceiling on the total eligible population in a member state and expects evidence of a proper methodology adopted by each member state to determine which areas qualify for additional help. That applies across an entire member state. I believe that the argument starts and stops there. One cannot get round that problem by seeking to devolve responsibility to a devolved parliament for defining assisted areas. Essentially, it is a member state function. With that explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Steel of Aikwood

Before the Minister sits down perhaps he can clarify one point. It used to be the case that the UK Government could define assisted areas either on the basis of unemployment or (as in the case of the constituency that I once represented) depopulation. I believe that a Scottish parliament would be more sensitive to the second issue. Latterly, the UK Parliament has not been. For that reason I have sympathy with the amendment. It does not detract from the powers of the European Commission to determine the total population that is eligible for assisted area status, but I hope that the question of depopulation will not be overlooked in the future as it has been in the recent past.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Sewel

I make the general point again. A single methodology applying to the whole of the member state is required. We cannot take a methodology which is of particular benefit to Scotland and apply it to Scotland. One could keep on developing individual methodologies to one's heart's content. That is not a way forward. It has to be a single methodology applied within the member state. As I recollect, the main drivers of the methodology now are unemployment and GDP. I am not sure about depopulation. It may have been, but I am not sure that it still is.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

This has been a useful probe. I am pleased that at least some of my fears have been set aside by the Minister. It is odd that the Minister now changes his ground from that on which he stood firmly previously and tells me that the designation of assisted areas is deeply tied up with the European Union and that it would not be sensible to devolve it. If anything is deeply tied up with the European Union it is the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. The Minister refuses to address the argument as to why they cannot be devolved, and yet the European dimension remains. Here we have the argument turned on its head because there is a European dimension, which I fully accept.

I remember one redrawing of the boundaries in the early 1980s when I was at the Scottish Office. I fully accept the European aspects of that. But why cannot that be devolved to the Scottish parliament? It can play within the European rules, just as it is supposed to do on farming and fishing without being represented at Europe and without being a member state. I am left in some puzzlement as to the contradiction in the Minister's arguments.

I see the point of keeping designated assisted areas at a UK level, as my noble friend Lord Lang explained. He is rather uniquely placed to do so; not only was he the Secretary of State for Scotland but the President of the Board of Trade—it is always nice to count a president among one's friends—and he saw the problem from both sides.

I am grateful to the Minister. I accept that the reservation here is narrowly drawn. Perhaps my fears—triggered by Mr. McCartney's interventions earlier in the year into this general field—were unfounded. I shall read the defence on the European aspect with some interest when we come back to the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 197A:

Page 73, line 14, at end insert— ("( ) the subject-matter of Part II of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 so far as relating to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. but only in relation to deposits in the sea outside such controlled waters,").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the reservation of matters relating to the oil and gas industry will catch the deposit of substances or articles in the sea so far as that relates to oil and gas exploration and exploitation. This does not represent a change of policy. The amendment is needed merely because there is scope for doubt that the reference to "pollution" in the present text of the reservation will catch this matter.

In particular, this reservation will catch the ministerial powers to exempt from the licensing regime under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 "operational discharges" from oil and gas installations and, where compatible with international obligations and where safe and practicable to do so, to license the deposit in the sea of oil-related articles such as redundant oil installations.

The Government recognise, of course, that the Scottish executive and parliament will have an interest in the protection of the marine environment. We therefore propose that there should be a statutory requirement for a UK Minister to consult the Scottish Ministers before exercising his powers to license oil and gas-related deposits in the sea under Section 5 of FEPA in Scottish waters and for operations commencing in Scotland, and to approve the in situ abandonment or disposal of redundant oil installations within Scottish waters under Part IV of the Petroleum Act 1998. The Government intend that, before exercising these powers, the UK Ministers should not only consult Scottish Ministers but also use his best endeavours to secure the agreement of the devolved administration.

I hope this explanation makes clear the reason for the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I do not like to disappoint the Minister, but it is not clear what he has amended. I shall read carefully what he said, and perhaps return to the matter at a later stage.

In dealing with a matter relating to oil and gas, I suppose that I am bound to make a declaration of interest, as I am a director of Elf Exploration (U.K.), which is engaged in the largest capital project in the North Sea at £1.4 billion. I guess that that is probably a declaration of interest that is more appropriate to any future debate we may have on taxation in the North Sea rather than this Bill.

I am concerned to discover in narrow ambit from the Minister that we are dealing, as I understand it, with two separate statutes. One relates to pollution with regard to oil and gas exploration and exploitation, but only outside what are described as "controlled waters". As I understand it they are defined in Section 30A(1) of the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The amendment relates to a change to the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. Where we talk about "controlled waters" I should like to be clear that there is no difference in definition between "controlled waters" as they apply to the Control of Pollution Act and as they apply to the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. I believe that it is intended that "controlled waters" are the same area under control, but it would be helpful if we could have that confirmed.

Furthermore, as I understand it, for oil and gas exploration purposes and other administrative reasons, Scottish waters are in UK legislation for administrative purposes defined as being those waters that fall north of parallel 55°50'. Is there any difference in the way those Acts apply to those areas which are within Scottish waters for administrative purposes and those south of them? It is not such an arcane matter as it might appear to be, because the parallel that is used comes out, as it were, in a straight line from the Border at Berwick. If one were to look at a BBC weather map it will be found as coming out in a horizontal line directly across at 90 degrees, whereas of course if we were to think the unthinkable and Scotland were to be unwise enough to contemplate going its own way as a separate sovereign state, there is real dubiety about whether that is the correct line to be drawn if sovereign waters are to be adjusted.

If we were to do it properly, according to my understanding of the existing rules of international law, that line has to be extended in a fashion outwards from the line of the Border. That would mean that waters, and oil and gas developments which lie some 200 miles off Aberdeen, would fall within the waters of England. I consider this to be an important matter, because the Scottish nationalists would tell all and sundry that there is no question but that they would be Scottish. There are sound international legal principles upon which to argue for the line being that of the land boundary that lies between two countries extended out into the sea.

I hope that those are unnecessarily arcane matters to raise under this amendment. But given the way that the Government's policy—I have to say—has been so remarkably unsuccessful in stemming the SNP's advance in the polls in Scotland, before we finish consideration of the Bill, it might be marginally advisable to ensure that we do not so set in concrete the administrative lines about what are Scottish waters that those who have the desire to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK would take advantage of what has been originally introduced as a purely administrative arrangement to argue a case at some future point for their sovereignty over those waters.

Lord Sewel

We are not talking about establishing the sea boundaries of a sovereign state. That is an entirely separate and different exercise.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

If the noble Lord will give way, I should be grateful if from time to time he listened to the argument. I understand perfectly well that we are not discussing that. I had thought that for a moment he might listen to an argument while appreciating that we deal with matters which are extremely complicated. The provision may only run to some 25 lines in Schedule 5 to the Bill but it engages us in all manner of complicated matters which take us into international obligations, conventions and the like. I appreciate that. All I have asked—I should be grateful if he were not quite so peremptory when serious points are raised with him—is that he considers them in some detail.

Lord Sewel

I apologise if I gave the impression that I was peremptory. I was not being peremptory. I sought to make the point as quickly as I could that we are not involved in the exercise that would be necessary if we were setting up something like a separate sovereign state of Scotland. That is not what we are about. I know that the noble and learned Lord recognises that.

I am well aware of the discussions involved, and the difficulties of deciding on lines. What we have fallen back on—it is more a practical way rather than one that is necessarily driven by processes which would normally apply to international law—is the basis of Amendment No. 173ZA to Clause 29 which we debated on Tuesday. That establishes the building block of Scottish waters in relation to fisheries matters. We build from that because we have to go beyond that, for instance, to areas of the UK Continental Shelf which extend beyond fisheries limits, in particular to the west of Rockall. The details of those discussions still need to be agreed and clarified. But we shall be able to come back to the House on that.

I accept all the points the noble Lord made. I was not trying to be peremptory. I sought to make a distinction between what is almost a pragmatic decision which is required in the nature of the devolution exercise we are about now and a very separate type of approach which would be necessary if we were dealing with these matters in the context of a completely separate sovereign state.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 198:

Page 73, leave out lines 24 and 25.

The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment. I ask a simple question. I begin by quoting Section 2 in Schedule 5 to the Bill on oil and gas. Under Reservation, it states: Oil and gas, including—

  1. (g) liquefaction of natural gas, and
  2. (h) the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas through pipes".
That seems perfectly sensible; I understand it and have no problem with it.

I then turn to the Exceptions from reservation and the manufacture of gas, and the reference to, The conveyance, shipping and supply of gas other than through pipes". I wonder why that distinction is being made. Leaving aside that I am not sure whether there is much manufacturing of gas currently, I refer to conveyancing. I presume that we are talking about cylinders and the like. I should have thought that if there is an argument in favour of reservation for pipelines, there is equally an argument in favour of conveyance, shipping and supply of gas, especially as liquefaction is being reserved. The two are related.

Having rightly decided to reserve the long list in subparagraphs (a) to (h) of items relative to oil and gas, including the two I read out, I cannot understand why the Government promptly make an exemption for the manufacture of gas and then for its conveyance, shipping and supply through pipes. Companies which do that do so on a United Kingdom basis. I cannot for the life of me see why it is exempted. The moment something is exempted, the possibility exists—I put it no higher than that—that there will be different rules and regulations in Scotland than in England and Wales. The Government having reserved everything else in oil and gas, quite wisely, I cannot understand why they have made these exemptions. I should be grateful for some kind of explanation, preferably one that we can all understand. I beg to move.

10 p.m.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I join my noble friend in asking some questions about these reservations. Subparagraph (g) relates to the liquefaction of natural gas. Does that mean that it does not extend to the liquefaction of petroleum gas? Do I understand that as regards subparagraph (h) the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas through pipes extends to a wider classification and categorisation of gas and might include the old fashioned town gas?

I do not have the faintest idea whether these days anyone manufactures town gas in Scotland, but it seems to me that the provision would cover that if someone wished to revert to such a technique for manufacturing gas? What would be even more curious, as my noble friend has pointed out, is the exception from that of the manufacture of gas. But once manufactured and supplied through a pipe a different set of statutory regulations would apply.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

Amendment No. 198 would extend the reservation of oil and gas to the manufacture of gas or its conveyance, shipping or supply by means other than pipelines. In the Government's view, that is unnecessary.

The intention behind the oil and gas reservation is to preserve a uniform regulatory regime for the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, and especially for the offshore oil and gas industry and pipelines. It would make no sense to break up, for example, the regulation of the integrated system of gas pipelines within Great Britain. Such considerations do not, however, apply either to the manufacture of gas or to the transport of gas other than in pipes—for example, the supply of camping gas in cylinders. The health and safety aspects of those activities are covered by other reservations on health, safety and transport. However, there is no need to reserve general control of the manufacture and conveyance of gas any more than there is for any other industrial process.

In answer to a point raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, the liquefaction of natural gas is part of the process of conveyance. Petroleum gas is also natural gas. I hope that answers his point.

I hope that I have made the Government's position clearer for the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish. I hope therefore that he will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining to me that natural gas also includes liquefaction of petroleum gas. Indeed, she might tell the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister that, because, as I understand it, they respectively use different gases for the cars that they now drive. However, I am happy to accept that definition.

However, I am still slightly troubled by the exceptions from the reservation. I am a happy camper who has travelled in the Lake District and bought some gas for my caravan. Am Ito expect that it will have a potentially different make-up, a different set of safety regulations, a different sort of packaging and that it is to be stored in a different way on site? Am I to understand that when I trundle out with my caravan all the way up to Loch Lomond, or wherever it may be, I will perhaps find that a different set of regulations applies? If that is so, it seems to me to be absurd.

I thought that the Minister's opening point was an extremely good one. If the noble Baroness wishes to maintain a regime across the whole of the UK so far as concerns the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas through pipes—in other words, that there should be a uniform arrangement across the country—that seems to me to be an extremely good idea and one which I would warmly support. But I do find the exceptions from the reservation rather tricky to understand.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Before the noble Baroness replies, it may be helpful if I pose a few questions. In that way, she will, with any luck, only have to return to the Dispatch Box once—at least, "with any luck" from her point of view. I notice that the noble Baroness said that the Government wished to preserve a uniform regulatory regime. If that is so, why do they not just accept my amendment?

If I understood the noble Baroness correctly, she said that all the health and safety matters and all transport matters would not be devolved; in any words, they will be reserved. Therefore, all those items will be covered by UK-wide regulations. So what does that leave? What does that actually mean in real terms for a Scottish parliament? What decisions will a Scottish executive have to make with regard to regulations governing, say, the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas other than through pipes"? There is more to this than just the case of the happy camper, which my noble and learned friend Lord Fraser suggested he might be. There is the simple fact that the same companies which provide gas for domestic consumers in Scotland not only transmit it through pipes but also do so by way of vehicles. Some outlying areas like parts of the Highlands, which I used to represent, actually get their natural gas by container vehicle. Presumably it is transmitted to the trucks in pipes and, then, when they get to Dunoon, Oban or Campbelltown; it is then, again, put into pipes. It seems to me to be illogical that that little gap in the middle should have regulations controlled by the Scottish parliament. That does not seem to me to make for a uniform regulatory regime. The noble Baroness gave us an explanation of the words, but we would be grateful for some examples of the kind of things that the Scottish parliament might do regarding the conveyance, shipping and supply of gas.

The Earl of Balfour

Perhaps I may just make two points in addition to what my noble friend has just said. There are also gases like carbon-dioxide for soda water or oxyacetylene torches for garages and welding gear. I believe that those types of gas should also be taken into consideration.

Lord Rodger of Earlsferry

I am having some difficulty in understanding the detail. If one bought a cylinder of gas—and I believe I understood the noble Baroness to say that that would be included—would it be a "product" for the purposes of this part of the schedule, where the product's safety would be a reserved matter and, therefore, a matter for the UK Parliament? In other words, would one have the situation where the specification of safety of the cylinder of gas would be a matter for the UK Parliament but the supply of the cylinder of gas would be a matter regulated by the Scottish parliament? It seems, prima facie, slightly surprising if that is so.

The Duke of Montrose

We are now reaching the stage where cars will be running on gas. I do not know whether that has been taken into consideration. That gas will presumably be supplied to cars through a pipeline.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

I hope the Committee will forgive me for saying that I think it is making extremely heavy weather of what is, to my mind, a rather straightforward situation. I repeat what I said about the regulatory regime; namely, the intention behind the oil and gas reservation is to preserve a uniform regulatory regime for the exploitation of oil and gas reserves, especially for the offshore oil and gas industry and pipelines. That is where the regulatory regime comes in. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, queried that.

The health and safety aspects of the manufacture and transport of gas, either by "happy campers" or anyone else, are covered by other reservations on health and safety and transport matters. There is no need for a general reserve control over the manufacture of gas and its conveyance. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, asked whether a safety aspect would be a reserve matter and whether a cylinder of gas would be a devolved matter. The answer is yes because health and safety matters cut across everything. I do not know why the Committee finds that odd.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. We are pleased to hear that health and safety will be a reserve matter and that transport will be a reserve matter. I do not think we find that odd. But what puzzles me is what the words mean in terms of what regulations and rules a Scottish parliament and a Scottish executive would be able to consider with regard to the, conveyance, shipping and supply of gas other than through pipes". If I was given an answer to that I might understand why those words appear at all; otherwise I shall take a leaf out of the book of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

The provision concerns anything that is not the manufacture of gas or its, conveyance, shipping and supply … other than through pipes". Pipelines are covered, but conveying gas in any other way is not. Any question of health and safety is reserved under another heading. Cylinders and everything to do with marketing and matters other than health and safety will be devolved because there is no reason why that should not be the case, as with any other industrial process. It seems odd to me that noble Lords opposite find this so difficult to understand.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

The last sentence the noble Baroness utters is usually the despairing remark of a schoolmaster or mistress who has failed to get a point over to the class. In this case I do not think the class is entirely stupid. I still await a real example of what a Scottish parliament might do differently from the UK Parliament. I do not believe that the Scottish parliament will have anything to do with the marketing of gas. I believe these words are totally unnecessary. I shall take a leaf out of the book of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, and suggest that the words be removed from the Bill. I therefore seek the opinion of the Committee.

10.13 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 198) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 26; Not-Contents, 60.

Division No. 4
Attlee, E. Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Balfour, E. Minto, E.
Burnham, L. Montrose, D.
Byford, B. Mountevans, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Rawlings, B.
Chesham, L. Rowallan, L.
Courtown, E. [Teller.] Saltoun of Abemethy, Ly.
Dixon-Smith, L. Selkirk of Douglas, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Sempill, L.
Kintore, E. Skelmersdale, L.
Lang of Monkton, L. Stair, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Torphichen, L.
Addington, L. Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Alli, L. Desai, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L. Dixon, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L. Evans of Parkside, L.
Blackstone, B. Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Borrie, L. Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Carlisle, E. Gilbert, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.] Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Chandos, V. Grenfell, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Hacking, L.
Currie of Marylebone, L. Hanworth, V.
David, B. Hardie, L.
Davies of Coity, L. Hardy of Wath, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. Haskel, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Puttnam, L.
Hoyle, L. Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Hughes of Woodside, L. Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L. Sewel, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. Simon, V.
Judd, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Linklater of Butterstone, B. Steel of Aikwood, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller.] Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
McNally, L. Thurso, V.
Mar and Kellie, E. Tope, L.
Monkswell, L. Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Pitkeathley, B. Whitty, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

10.21 p.m.

The Earl of Balfour moved Amendment No. 199:

Page 73, line 40, at end insert— ("The subject-matter of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.").

The noble Earl said: I rise to move Amendment No. 199. Amendment No. 200 is consequential upon that amendment. I believe that radioactive and nuclear materials should be a United Kingdom responsibility. I seek to place the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 in the reservation area of Section 4 under Head 4. In order to support my argument, perhaps I could ask the Committee to look at Head 5, Section 5, page 76, at line 31. The transportation of radioactive material is a reserved function, which I believe strengthens my argument that radioactive substances should be a reserved matter. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

My name is also down to this amendment. I have the same puzzlement. The Radioactive Substances Act 1993 is about registration of premises and so on, as far as I can see from the copy of Statutes in Force which I obtained from the Library. I wonder whether it is wise to take one small part of the nuclear industry and devolve it to the Scottish parliament. Would it not be better to keep the whole subject together and reserved?

Lord Sewel

We start from the point that environmental protection is a devolved area. We then go through and look at environmental protection in relation to radioactive waste. The Radioactive Substances Act 1993 contains provisions under which the Scottish Environment Protection Agency at present grants authorisations for the disposal of radioactive waste on or from premises in Scotland.

At the moment the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), operating with the authority given to it under the Radioactive Substances Act, controls the disposal of radioactive waste in Scotland in terms of environmental considerations. That specific part was taken out and not reserved because it reflects what happens at the moment. It is not a deviation of policy from that which obtains at the present time. On that basis, with that clarification, I hope the noble Earl can withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Balfour

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 200 not moved.]

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 201:

Page 74, line 27, leave out from ("training)") to second ("of') in line 28.

The noble Lord said: We now move on to Head 5 which concerns transport. The amendment relates to road transport. A number of matters are reserved about which I have no argument. Once again my puzzle comes from the exemption reservation. The exemptions are the subject matter of Sections 39 and 40 relating to road safety and training—I have no trouble with that—and Sections 157 to 159, which relate to payments for treatment of traffic casualties, of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

That seems to suggest that the payment for treatment of traffic casualties should be devolved to the Scottish parliament and implies that the Scottish parliament could opt for a different system. It may decide to claim all the costs of any patient treated as a result of a road traffic accident. I suspect that that would be an awkward position inside the United Kingdom where motorists move between one country and another and it would be even more awkward for insurance companies. They would clearly have to increase their premiums for any driver who lived in Scotland or anyone in the United Kingdom who drove in Scotland because they would be carrying a higher risk.

I am puzzled as to why the Government decided to devolve that matter. It seems to me to be part and parcel of the uniform way in which we deal with the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. I shall be grateful for an explanation. Perhaps 1 am missing some subtle point, but it seems to me to be worthy of at least a probe. I beg to move.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone

I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, in his amendment. Sections 157 to 159 of the Road Traffic Act apply where the insurer or the vehicle owner contributes to the hospital treatment costs of the person injured up to a maximum of around £2,949. We do not see why the cost incurred of someone being treated should not be payable in Scotland to a Scottish health board.

The Scottish parliament should be able to vary the circumstances and rate at which payment for the treatment of patients in road accidents should be made. After all, the parliament is being entrusted with the responsibility of varying income tax by up to 3 per cent. and should also be able to take other decisions which impact on public spending. Health is one of those. Regulations on payments to health boards are a good example.

The amendment would prevent the Scottish parliament from increasing the maximum amount that should be paid in compensation for hospital treatment or for stopping it altogether should it so choose. We do not support the amendment because it would further restrict the powers of the Scottish parliament.

Lord Hardie

For the reasons given by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, the Government cannot accept the amendment. The sections to which reference has been made deal with the recovery of payment for hospital treatment of road traffic accident casualties. The provisions are not an integral part of the roads legislation. Powers in relation to those charges are currently exercised by health Ministers. Most health matters are to be devolved to the Scottish parliament. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for this area of recovery of payment for hospital treatment to be reserved. I hope the noble Lord will accept that explanation and withdraw the amendment.

10.30 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Frankly, no, I do not accept that explanation. The noble Lord, Lord Sewel, has taken pains to try to paint a logical pattern that if the major parts of an issue are devolved, that should drive where one goes with the other parts of the issue. I accept that the health service is devolved; but quite clearly, under transport, the bulk of transport is not devolved. I should have thought that there would be some logic in following the transport route here rather than the health route.

I do wonder whether the Government have spoken to the insurance industry about this. Will the provision lead to the possibility of higher or lower premiums? I did not understand the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater. She just seemed to think that the Scottish parliament should get as much as it can. But that was not my concern. I was concerned about what would happen to the customer. Will Scottish residents be treated differently from people in England for road accidents in the same National Health Service? That is what I am exploring. Before I decide what to do with the amendment, I should be grateful for an indication as to whether or not the Government have discussed this matter with the insurance industry.

Lord Hardie

I cannot give a direct answer to that question. But what I can say is that we are not treating Scottish customers differently from others. With respect, the noble Lord seems to misunderstand the position. Clearly, a driver from England who has an accident in Scotland and causes an injury would be liable to pay for the hospital treatment just as a Scottish driver in England or his insurers would be liable to pay for the hospital treatment of someone who was injured by him in England. I should be very surprised if the insurance industry were able to apply loaded premiums because someone drove in Scotland or might drive in Scotland.

Be that as it may, the issue is not a transport issue. The issue is a health issue. Health Ministers currently recover the costs from insurance companies for these accidents. If the noble Lord genuinely accepts the logic of my noble friend Lord Sewel, the position is that, if health is devolved, it makes sense to devolve this health aspect of the road traffic provisions. It happens to be a Road Traffic Act, but it is clearly a health provision.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

If a Scottish driver in England, or an English driver in Scotland, will be paying the same or will be liable to pay the same if he is involved in a traffic accident and has to go to hospital or have medical treatment, there does not seem to be any point in devolving it. The whole point about devolving it is the presumption that at some stage in the future the Scottish parliament may act differently. If it acts differently, if it says that for accidents in Scotland drivers will not have to pay anything, that is fine. I suspect that Scottish drivers will then suggest that they might pay slightly lower premiums. But if the parliament decides that they will pay more—I do not seem to be able to get this point over—I suggest that the insurance industry would then say, because that is the way its business works, that there is a risk of greater payments having to be made to a Scottish driver who is involved in an accident in Scotland.

I suggest to the Government that it would be nice if they would just take something away and think about it without commitment. Perhaps I may suggest to them that, before we come back for Report stage, they should explain this and say whether they envisage that there could be different arrangements for the payment. Perhaps they could even talk to the insurance industry. With those comments, I rather reluctantly withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish moved Amendment No. 202:

Page 75, line 28, leave out ("or finish or both") and insert ("and finish").

The noble Lord said: I hope that this amendment is not too complicated for the Government to cope with. It is about shipping services. The implication is that the Scottish parliament will be able to finance, help and subsidise shipping services that run within Scotland; namely, leave ports in Scotland and arrive at ports in Scotland. So that deals with Caledonian MacBrayne, shipping services to the northern isles and so on. That is fine; I have no problem with it. However, there is a reservation on those services which do not start or end in Scotland. I take it that that means that the new service running from Campbeltown to Ballycastle in Northern Ireland or the services from Stranraer to Belfast or Larne will not be eligible for financial assistance. I do not believe that the Stranraer to Larne or Belfast service receives any financial assistance, but I suspect that the Campbeltown to Ballycastle service does. Does that mean that that is not to be a responsibility of the Scottish parliament but reserved to Westminster?

There is a possibility of a service from Kircudbright to the Isle of Man. Clearly, that would be outwith the powers of the Scottish parliament. The argument about it is based on the economic well-being of Kintyre and pulling in more tourists. All these are devolved matters. It seems a little illogical that when the case for subsidising a shipping business to get it started, if not to run it, is based on grounds which are devolved, I am puzzled as to why a restriction is contained in the schedule to forbid the Scottish parliament helping such shipping lines. I beg to move.

The Earl of Balfour

Amendment No. 203 is grouped with this amendment. I am quite happy that the protection of wrecks prohibition on approaching dangerous wrecks is a reserved function because the buoying and marking of such wrecks while at sea is carried out by the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners. Equally, I am quite happy that "ports, harbours, piers and boatslips" should be a devolved function.

Except in relation to paragraph (d), which is the protection of wrecks, I cannot see why, if there is a wreck within the precincts of the port or harbour, it should not be dealt with by the devolved parliament. That is my reason for deleting that paragraph.

Lord Sempill

I support my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish on this amendment. There is one issue which I find slightly baffling. Making the assumption that the company concerned is Scottish—there are quite a few of them—and it pioneers a new destination in which the port is outwith Scottish waters, surely it is right for the Scottish parliament to be in a position to give assistance in setting up or subsidising the company. After all, it is to the benefit of the Scottish economy that the boats return laden with tourists. I can see no reason why Scottish shipping companies should not turn to their own parliament to look for that financial assistance.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether that phrase means that help will be available from the UK Treasury for those shipping lines which start or finish there (or both)?

Lord Hardie

On the question of the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry service, support for, or subsidy to, that service would be reserved to Westminster, so the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, has correctly interpreted those provisions. That services operates commercially and without financial assistance, although the harbour facilities at Campbeltown and Ballycastle were both upgraded with support from public funds, including European assistance. The Scottish parliament would continue to have competence to provide assistance for ferry services in the form of support for pier and harbour works, just as they have already been so provided in that example.

I regret that I cannot accept Amendment No. 202. It would have the effect of devolving to the Scottish parliament the matter of financial assistance for shipping services between Scotland and another part of the United Kingdom, or even another country. Financial assistance to shipping services operating wholly within Scotland is a devolved matter.

The Government recognise that shipping services between Scotland and other countries are of economic significance to Scotland. Our intention in the Bill is to give the Scottish parliament appropriate powers to maintain and develop the internal shipping services it considers necessary for the maintenance and improvement of economic and social conditions in Scotland, particularly in island and remote Highland communities. The noble Lord's amendment would give the Scottish parliament and executive competence over financial assistance to existing or new external shipping services. I shall come in a moment to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sempill, when I deal with the European position.

In the case of services between Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, the Government consider that those services are best dealt with on a UK-wide basis because they are as much the concern of the UK in its entirety as they are of Scotland. Furthermore, in the case of the devolution of international shipping services to or from Scotland, such a provision would be inconsistent with the general reservation of international matters, including trade.

Finally, if competence were exercised so as to provide for financial assistance to shipping services to or from Scotland where such financial assistance was not available to operators of services in other parts of the United Kingdom, there might be a valid complaint of unfair competition from those other shipping operators. There might also be difficulties with EC state aid regulations. That deals with the point of the noble Lord, Lord Sempill.

State subsidies to assist passenger ferry services are subject to EC state aid guidelines. Any subsidy agreed by the European Commission would have to seek approval as a public service obligation under these guidelines which apply strict criteria about when support is justified.

Support is available only for services serving, peripheral regions of the Community or thinly served routes considered vital for the economic development of that region where the operation of market forces would not ensure a sufficient service level". In view of my earlier comments, the examples given by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, are not in that position. Therefore, one cannot accommodate that service.

I turn to the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour. I begin by declaring an interest as an ex officio commissioner of the Northern Lights. The noble Earl has set out the reasons for the amendment. I recognise that he brings experience to this subject and I understand the arguments behind his explanation, but I should like to draw the Committee's attention to our concern over his amendment and ask that it be withdrawn. The effect of Amendment No. 203 would be to give the Scottish parliament responsibility for the subject-matter of Section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 as it applies in ports, harbours, piers and boatslips around Scotland's coastline. Noble Lords will recall that responsibility for ports and harbours is devolved.

The Scotland Bill reserves to the Westminster Parliament legislative competence over matters relating to marine transport where there is a need for consistent provision across the United Kingdom. Schedule 5, Head 5, Section 3, reserves the subject-matter of the relevant legislation on marine safety and pollution matters. But the Bill identifies ports, harbours, piers and boatslips in Scotland as an exception from the reservation. That exception is, however, subject to a qualification which continues to reserve the subject-matter of certain legislation including at item (d) the subject-matter of Section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

As the noble Earl explained, under Section 2 of the 1973 Act the Secretary of State has powers to designate an area round a wreck as a prohibited area if because of anything contained in it the vessel is in a condition which makes it a potential danger to life or property and on that account it should be protected from unauthorised interference. It is an important role in securing overall levels of safety in and protection against pollution of territorial waters throughout the United Kingdom. It is operated in practice by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 is a reserved matter for very good reasons. The Government's guiding principle was clearly set out in the White Paper. Paragraph 3.3 states that transport safety and regulation, including regulation of shipping and marine services, would be reserved.

The subject-matter of this legislation is a reserved matter on the grounds that it is a matter of maritime safety regulation and pollution prevention which requires consistent provision across the UK. Section 2 of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 in our view comes clearly within that criterion and the Government wish to ensure that such matters are treated consistently on a UK-wide basis. Furthermore, these matters are bound up with international conventions to ensure the security of navigation throughout UK territorial waters. I hope noble Lords agree that for the reasons stated the Bill should remain unchanged. I hope that, given the explanations, the noble Earl is able to seek leave to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I cannot speak for my noble friend, but I believe he indicates that he is satisfied. I have one small point. I understand the distinctions that have been drawn, but I am not entirely sure that the reasons have been explained. I understand that in the case of the Campbeltown to Ballycastle ferry no financial provision could have been made by the Scottish executive under this Bill. Could the Scottish executive have contributed to the harbour costs at Campbeltown?

Lord Hardie

That is so, because harbours and piers are devolved.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

I understand that that applies even to a ferry service that is not covered by the provision. I am grateful for that response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 203 not moved.]

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 204:

Page 75, leave out lines 36 to 39.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 205 and 206 not moved.]

The Earl of Mar and Kellie moved Amendment No. 206A:

Page 77, line 24, leave out ("section 22") and insert ("sections 22 and 26").

The noble Earl said: Amendments Nos. 206A and 206B are grouped together. Amendment No. 206A seeks to devolve the powers and duties of social work departments to provide residential accommodation and to recover the costs in respect of accommodation provided both by the social work department and by private contractors. As conditions vary widely throughout the United Kingdom and because social work is one of the most essential matters to be devolved, the setting of cost limits and charges of residential accommodation should be devolved to the Scottish parliament. It would be especially useful if the Scottish parliament were to adopt policies towards residential accommodation which differed substantially from elsewhere.

Amendment No. 206B seeks to devolve social security policy in respect of Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 concerning the provision of accommodation for children. That Act allows the local authorities to make financial charges on parents for the provision of accommodation. It would be sensible if these charges were approved by the Scottish parliament, especially as it will set social work policy and standards. I beg to move.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

I have listened carefully to what the noble Earl has said. The Government do not consider that the subject matter of Section 26 of the 1948 Act is covered by the reservation anyway. However, in view of the points he has raised and the relationship between Sections 26 and 22, I would like to take the opportunity to consider the noble Earl's views more fully. I would like to take this away and I would find it helpful if he would agree not to press this amendment tonight.

Amendment No. 206B seeks to except Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 from the social security reservation. This amendment is unnecessary. Section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act imposes a duty and powers on local authorities to provide certain children and other young persons with accommodation. Along with other local authority responsibilities, these fall to be devolved to the Scottish parliament. In view of this explanation, I hope that the noble Earl will agree that the amendment is not necessary and withdraw it.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, for her encouraging remarks. It is quite remarkable. As usual, I do not know what to do with myself.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

Perhaps I can congratulate her.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 206B not moved.]

[Amendment No. 207 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 208 not moved.]

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendment No. 208A:

Page 78, line 3, at beginning insert ("The regulation or).

The noble Baroness said: I speak to Amendments Nos. 208A to 208C, 209A, 209B, 292NA, 293ZA, and 294ZA. Over the past two weeks we have looked again at the structure of the pensions reservation at Section 3 of Head 6. We have concluded that this section would benefit from some restructuring to make it easier to follow. Amendment Nos. 208A to 208C, 209A and 209B bring about these changes. They do not reflect any change of policy. Occupational and personal pensions are to be reserved, but matters relating to the provision of pensions for certain persons are to be within the competence of the Scottish parliament. The amendments reflect an attempt to make our policy intentions clearer.

The amendments should be looked at as a group. The net result of the amendments is that Section 3 on occupational and personal pensions will now contain two parts only. The first will be an expanded section dealing with the reservation of the various pension matters, making clearer the particular areas where the parliament can legislate. The second will be a much smaller interpretation section. The section dealing with the illustration of the reservation will no longer be necessary as the material from that will be incorporated within the section dealing with the reservation itself. The same applies to the exceptions from the reservations section.

As the Committee may remember, the section dealing with Scots private law has already been discussed in Amendment No. 209. The key amendments in the group are Amendments Nos. 208A and 208B. Amendments Nos. 294ZA and 293ZA move the definitions from the pensions section to the general definition in Clause 112 because they are also needed for other provisions in the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 208C, 209A and 209B are consequential amendments which delete material that is no longer necessary. Amendment No. 292NA is of course a purely technical drafting amendment. I can expand on the amendments, but in view of the lateness of the hour I shall stop there. I shall expand on the matters if any noble Lord wishes to put any questions. I beg to move.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish

The Minister will be happy to hear that due to the lateness of the hour I have just one question to put to her. This is an important matter. When I read it. I appreciated that the Government were doing a considerable rewrite of the way they were approaching the issue. I should be grateful if during the Recess I could have a letter which will show me what the clause will look like, rather than just have the amendments, and an explanation. I should be grateful to have that so that I can study it. Pension matters are of some interest to me. That is not just a reflection of my age but of the fact that I took the Pensions Act through this place, and I should like to study this to ensure that the Government are doing the wise and sensible thing with regard to those people who will be affected by a reservation on pensions.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale

I understand that, and of course I am happy to agree to the noble Lord's request.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendments Nos. 208B and 208C:

Page 78, line 3, at end insert ("including the obligations of the trustees or managers of such schemes.

Provision about pensions payable to, or in respect of, any persons, except—

  1. (a) the persons referred to in section 76(3),
  2. (b) in relation to a Scottish public authority to which paragraph 1 or 2 of Part III of Schedule 5 applies, persons who are or have been a member of the public body, the holder of the public office, or a member of the staff of the body, holder or office.

The subject-matter of the Pensions (Increase) Act 1971.

Schemes for the payment of pensions which are listed in Schedule 2 to that Act, except those mentioned in paragraphs 38A and 38AB").

Page 78, leave out lines 13 to 26.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 209:

Page 78, leave out lines 27 to 35.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendments Nos. 209A and 209B:

Page 78, leave out lines 37 to 42.

Page 78, leave out lines 44 to 46.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

House resumed.