HL Deb 15 July 2004 vol 663 cc1381-3

10 Clause 84, Leave out Clause 84

Lord Whitty

rose to move, that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10 but do propose the following amendments in lieu—

10A Clause 84, page 64, line 29, leave out from beginning to "(the" in line 30 and insert "In each of section 4AA of the Gas Act 1986 (c. 44) and section 3A of the 1989 Act" 10B Clause 84, page 64, line 31, leave out from "Authority)," to end of line 35 and insert "in subsection (5)—

  1. for the "and" at the end of paragraph (b) substitute—

(ba) to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development; and";

  1. for "and shall" substitute "and (so far as not otherwise required to do so by this subsection) shall"

The noble Lord

said: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10 but propose that we adopt instead Amendments Nos. 10A and 10B.

We have argued in both Houses that the three pillars of sustainable development—economic, social and environmental—are already covered in legislation. Sustainable development is already taken fully into account when the Secretary of State, Ofgem and GEMA carry out their functions under Part I of the Electricity Act 1989 and the Gas Act 1986. We have questioned whether this additional duty on the Secretary of State would significantly alter the way the work is delivered.

However, on further reflection and having listened to the arguments originally proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and by others both here and in the Commons, the fact that this sustainable development duty has wide cross-party and stakeholder support demonstrates to us that it might be better to make this clear in the Bill.

I am familiar with the precedent in the Water Act 2003. It is difficult to argue with it. I tried earlier, but I am not sure that I convinced myself, and I clearly did not convince many noble Lords or Members below. We should have a similar provision in relation to the Secretary of State and GEMA in this Bill and, for consistency, in the Electricity Act 1989 and the Gas Act 1986, which were referred to in the original amendment.

We are therefore content to propose that that a sustainable development duty is added to those to which the Secretary of State and GEMA must already pay attention. I hope that shows beyond doubt the Government's intention in this matter.

Moved, That the House do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10 but do propose Amendments Nos. 10A and 10B in lieu thereof.—(Lord Whitty.)

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 10A and 10B. I express my considerable gratitude to the Minister for listening to all the arguments. As he said, he played a considerable role in ensuring that there was a similar provision in the Water Act 2003, and so he was open to the suggestion that it was important to have such a provision in this Bill, as far as the regulator is concerned.

There was some debate around the fact that guidance could be issued for environmental and social requirements and the question of whether that was sufficient. The fact that the Government have had a change of heart and have included a sustainable development duty for GEMA signifies a real step forward for the industry.

All too often, the parts of sustainability are taken separately. The Minister is correct to say that they all need to be considered together. The Government's amendment, which replaces the deleted Clause 84, is extremely welcome and satisfactory.

Baroness Byford

My Lords, we are delighted that the Government have been persuaded. We had long debates at earlier stages in the Bill, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, and I pressed very hard. We took the Water Act through. I am grateful that the Minister has listened to the arguments and has convinced his colleagues at the other end. We support the amendments.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, I would like to add my support to this and draw the House's attention to what I have found a compelling report by Sustainability First, Economic regulation and sustainability policy. It took my printer a long time to print it out, but it was worth it.

The main recommendation in that report is that sustainability obligations should be the same for the energy regulator as they are for the water regulator, as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, has said. The Government are wise in moving in that direction. I support the amendments too.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, I am grateful for this support.

On Question, Motion agreed to.