Energy Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 8:45 pm on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of Lord Jenkin of Roding Lord Jenkin of Roding Conservative 8:45 pm, 22nd October 2008

My Lords, the clause rightly makes it an offence knowingly or recklessly to supply false or misleading information to Ministers in response to any statutory requirement relating to the decommissioning and clean-up of nuclear sites.

The offence thus created is an absolute offence, with no materiality threshold. This is likely to cause problems of due diligence and practicality in the supply of information, since almost any statement could be held to be misleading in any one of hundreds of immaterial respects.

There is a great deal of precedent for dealing with this problem, which qualifies the offence by being false or misleading in a material particular. These precedents include Sections 117 and 201 of the Enterprise Act 2002, and Sections 119, 350, 501, 795 and 1112 of the Companies Act 2006—I was quite glad not to be involved with that Bill; it was a very long business. There are many others.

The amendment would therefore insert the normal materiality test, so that the clause read,

"information that is false or misleading in a material particular".

That would bring the offence into line with the approach which is more generally used, and of which the financial and legal community has good experience and knowledge. It would be more practicable in operation while maintaining what we would all agree should be very severe sanctions for lying. I beg to move.