Energy Bill [HL]
Lord Whitty (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Labour)
My Lords, in a moment I shall move government Amendment No. 57 in this group. Noble Lords will recall that it was the subject of some procedural discussion in Grand Committee. I apologised to the Grand Committee that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee had not had the opportunity to consider the amendment before we tabled it on that occasion. The committee has now had a chance to consider the amendment and has approved it. Amendment No. 57 does not indicate any change of policy but simply makes clear that the powers set out in Clause 32 to modify the provisions extend to both the strategy and the annual work plans, which are covered by Clauses 11 and 12.
The noble Baroness asked why we need this power in relation to Clause 11 of the Bill. The answer is that, although the detail that would be modified is in Schedule 2, Clause 11 introduces Schedule 2. Therefore, in order to provide for delegated powers, which I know the noble Baroness objects to almost in principle, we must mention Clause 11 as well. However, it does not mean that the powers could completely change the whole of Clause 11 as it relates to this provision.
Perhaps I may refer to the government amendment. I know that the noble Baroness is not keen on affirmative resolutions, but such resolutions provide a substantial parliamentary power in allowing some flexibility. At the same time, they provide Parliament with a means of control over the Executive. This provision relates mainly to the NDA's strategy. The Bill sets out in some detail in Schedule 2 the issues which must be covered by the NDA strategy, and that level of detail reflects our determination to provide a framework for the strategy over time.
However, as my noble friend Lord Davies said in respect of another amendment, here we are legislating for a function carried out by the NDA which will last for decades and, indeed, on occasion for at least a century. Over time, the situation is bound to change in ways of which we cannot easily conceive. Therefore, it is sensible to provide flexibility to make amendments in respect of issues where the strategy and annual plan would need to cover a change in circumstances.
In a sense, Amendment No. 57 would make good a gap in the original draft of the plan. The Bill already makes such a provision in respect of the annual plan in Clause 31(1)(c) but not in relation to the NDA's strategy. However, the intention was that the flexibility would apply to both. Before the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, rises to say that this is muddled legislating, perhaps I may explain the logic behind it. During the course of revising the NDA provisions for introduction as part of the Energy Bill, the clause covering the strategy was divided into two but the consequential change required in Clause 32 was missed.
I apologise for that oversight, but the intention had already been made clear in the White Paper and subsequently. Therefore, I hope it will be recognised that the need to provide some flexibility in the content of the strategy and the annual plan and the provisions relating to parliamentary scrutiny through the affirmative resolution is appropriate. Indeed, it is also true that in future we shall have an additional procedure in relation to the Select Committee on the merits of statutory instruments. That may be of some comfort to the noble Baroness in any future application of this amendment. I hope that I have explained why the noble Baroness's amendment is not necessary and why, in a moment, I shall wish to move my amendment.