Energy Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 23rd March 2004.

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Photo of Lord Donaldson of Lymington Lord Donaldson of Lymington Crossbench 6:45 pm, 23rd March 2004

My Lords, perhaps I may reminisce for one moment. I was asked by the previous Administration to conduct an inquiry into the best methods of command and control and state intervention in salvage projects or other situations in which there was a potential for pollution. I had the happy idea that we could adapt the whole of merchant shipping to platforms, which is what we were considering, by simply redefining a ship as including a platform. However, I found at once that that was unacceptable to the DTI, which said, "Oh no. We have our own regime".

The essence of my conclusions, which were accepted by the government of the day and by the present Government, was that one man must be in charge whenever an incident occurs. Not only should one man be in charge but Ministers should keep out. They must either back him or sack him. That was obviously a problem. But as the DTI insisted on having its own SOSREP, I did at least receive an undertaking that the same man would be appointed by both Secretaries of State.

However, the underlying point was that there was no instinct for joined-up government; there was a turf-war element—perhaps not at ministerial level but lower down. I wonder to what extent this legislation has been discussed with the Department for Transport at a level rather lower than ministerial. It is at that lower level that people are aware of the nuts and bolts of the problems.