HC Deb 16 May 2000 vol 350 cc78-9W
Ms Coffey

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to implement the Gas Directive (98/30/EC). [122714]

Mrs. Liddell

I have today issued a consultation document outlining proposals for implementation of the 'downstream' aspects of the Gas Directive. This follows a parallel consultation document outlining proposals to implement those aspects of the Gas Directive which apply to upstream pipeline networks, which I issued on 30 March 2000,Official Report, columns 242–43W.

The regime for the gas market in Great Britain, which has been fully open to competition since 1998, with regulated third party access to pipelines and requirements for non-discrimination, is generally well ahead of the requirements of the Directive. However, there are a number of areas where relatively limited technical amendments will be needed to ensure full compliance.

The consultation document identifies requirements for amendment to the regulatory framework in the following areas: improvements in the transparency of the procedures for licence applications; a duty of non-discrimination to be imposed on certain undertakings (in addition to those already subject to such a duty); separate internal management accounts to be kept by certain undertakings; statutory provisions for third party access to be applied to certain undertakings; competent authorities for dispute settlement purposes to be designated.

It also identifies a need for certain administrative actions.

The parallel 'upstream' consultation document proposed that the interconnecting pipeline between the United Kingdom and Belgium should be regarded as an upstream pipeline for the purposes of the Directive. However, the responses to that document may make a good case for treating it as a downstream pipe-line. The present consultation document therefore seeks views on how this interconnector might be treated as a 'downstream' pipeline, subject to statutory third party access with appeal to the Secretary of State.

The regulatory impact costs on business, on which comments are invited, are expected to be negligible.

Comments on the consultation document have been requested by 16 June 2000.

A copy of the document has been placed in the Library of the House. The document will also be available on the Department's website (www.dti.uk).