Sections 24 to 26: Supplementary
Lord McIntosh of Haringey (Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household; Labour)
I rise to move Amendment No. 157. I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 158 to 179, 288, 290, 291, 297, 298, 310, 311, 324 to 326, 330, 335, 336, 341 and 348. I acknowledge that this is a large group comprising 39 amendments, but I hope that the Committee takes comfort when I say that all of them are designed to do no more than tidy up the existing provisions of the Bill and the Gas and Electricity Acts. They stem from our desire to align the electricity and gas regulatory regimes as far as possible. This group of amendments covers a number of themes related to licences and licensing. We have organised the amendments within this group under those themes with the intention to help structure the debate. The themes are: gas licence conditions; standard conditions of licences; collective licence modifications; licence modification references to the Competition Commission; and a few minor miscellaneous amendments.
I begin with gas licence conditions, which are dealt with in Clause 73. Two of these amendments are worth a quick mention. The remaining three, Amendments Nos. 158, 159 and 325, are minor tidying-up amendments. Amendment No. 157 provides that the authority shall give reasons to an applicant for a gas licence should it propose not to grant a licence. This brings gas into line with the provisions in Clause 29 in relation to electricity licences. Amendment No. 160 delegates to the authority the power to make regulations in relation to applications for gas licences. We have already made a similar provision for electricity in Clause 29. The Government consider it is appropriate that the authority, which will be solely responsible for granting all licences, should have the power to specify the information it requires in order properly to assess applications.
The second group is concerned with standard conditions of licences (Clauses 32 and 80). There are five amendments in this group, four of which--Amendments Nos. 161, 169, 170 and 325--are related to the same point. They provide that the standard conditions to be included in electricity or gas licences granted after the establishment of the standard conditions by the Secretary of State should incorporate any changes which have been made to the standard conditions under powers elsewhere in the Electricity and Gas Acts respectively. The remaining amendment, Amendment No. 162, merely attempts to clarify the meaning of subsection (10)(b) of the new Section 11A inserted by Clause 32.
There are five collective licence modification amendments in Clauses 34 and 81: Amendments Nos. 163, 171, 172, 173 and 298. Four are minor tidying-up amendments of no significance. Amendment No. 172 corrects a small but significant drafting error in Clause 81 which relates to the tests which the authority is to apply in order to determine whether the level of opposition to a proposed collective licence modification is sufficient to prevent it proceeding with the modification. Without this amendment, the statutory frameworks for gas and electricity collective licence modification would be markedly different one from the other. The intention is, of course, that they should be the same.
The next group, comprising 10 amendments, deals with references to the Competition Commission in Clauses 35 to 39 and 82. All of these amendments are minor or consequential. Briefly, Amendments Nos. 164 and 291 are similar in nature and extend the definition of "relevant conditions" and "relevant licence" holder used elsewhere in the Electricity Act 1989 and the Gas Act 1986 to the Competition Commission's new power to veto licence modifications in Clauses 38 and 82.
Amendments Nos. 165 and 175 serve to clarify that the Competition Commission may veto proposed electricity licence modifications which do not go far enough to remedy or prevent adverse effects identified in its report as well as those that go too far. Identical amendments, Amendments Nos. 166 and 176, clarify that where the Competition Commission exercises its veto it may in turn modify only relevant conditions of licences as defined in the Electricity Act and Gas Act respectively. Identical amendments, Amendments Nos. 167 and 177, clarify that where the Competition Commission has vetoed collective gas or electricity licence modifications, the holders of such licences should be notified and receive notice of the Competition Commission's own proposed modifications. Amendments Nos. 168 and 178 provide for the consequential modifications to electricity and gas licences that might be necessary following modification by the Competition Commission of the standard conditions of a type of licence.
There are 11 amendments in the miscellaneous group: Amendments Nos. 288, 290, 297, 310, 311, 326, 330, 335, 336, 241 and 348. These amendments are related to licences and licensing but do not share any common theme. They are minor and technical amendments of no real consequence. I beg to move Amendment No. 157.