My Lords, at the outset I thank all noble Lords from all sides of the House who have contributed to this important but lengthy debate. I must confess that I was wondering what would have happened had the amendment been reached late last night. I think we might have had a much shorter debate. Nevertheless, some very interesting points of view have been put forward. I am very grateful to noble Lords who have been able to expand on the many points that I could not possibly cover in my opening remarks.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, is not in her place, but I should like to pick up her point suggesting that perhaps we might be anti-wind farms. I can categorically say that the shipping industry is not against wind farms. It recognises that the Government have chosen this way forward with renewable energy. All it seeks is the right mechanism and the right early consultation to enable the developers and the users of the sea to cohabit. Indeed, the Minister has said that the Government want to achieve that.
The Minister has been generous in the assurances that he has announced: I have not been sitting with a checklist, because there were too many of them. He has certainly gone a long way towards meeting many of our concerns. There are still one or two concerns outstanding, particularly with regard to the Transport and Works Act 1992, where developers have an alternative route of going about things, which, although it may be expensive, could be attractive to them because of the possibility of extinguishing rights of navigation and therefore reducing risks.
The Minister said that route would be subject to the same checks and balances as under the Coast Protection Act 1949, but there are still one or two worries on that. Using that route, there is no statutory requirement for wind farms causing a hazard to navigation to be addressed. It is appreciated that the MCA, as the Minister said, will be asked to assess orders from the safety perspective. However, the MCA is not legally part of that consent regime, and therefore any conditions in the consents imposed by them would not be legally binding on developers.
If that route was to be taken, there would be a serious weakness in the legislative machinery to protect against wind farms causing a hazard to navigation and therefore compromising safety. I do not know whether, with the leave of the House, the Minister is able to say a little more on that before I decide what to do on this amendment—no answer is forthcoming. In that case, once again, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate and the Minister for his assurances. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.