Energy Bill [HL] - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 7th September 2022.
Moved by Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke
40: Clause 57, page 52, line 11, leave out “function on any” and insert “relevant function on any relevant”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment is to ensure powers are appropriately delegated.
Thank you very much. This is another one on future-proofing. The amendment says,
“leave out ‘function on any’ and insert ‘relevant function on any relevant’” person. The reason is that these delegation powers could be interpreted as being broad and non-specific, and it would be some comfort to insert this language to ensure it is clear that the Bill is referring only to the powers relating to revenue support regulations, and that these will be appropriately delegated to a person with the right capabilities. It seems to open a door that makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable and I think it would be a very sound way to go forward to accept the terms of this Amendment 40. I beg to move.
I add my welcome to my noble friend Lady Liddell and I am certain that my noble friend Lord Foulkes will be thinking of organising a party to celebrate her return to Westminster.
I cannot add to the comments she made on her amendment. I completely support what she said. I feel that there is a bit of déjà vu here and that we are going over ground we covered in our first session on Monday, but I think it is really important that we emphasise again, through the amendments that my noble friend Lord Lennie and I have put down, how important it is that we have clarity in all aspects of the Bill. I want to emphasise again the need to ensure that all aspects are future-proofed, thereby giving all parties the confidence that matters of probity, security and appropriate appointments are always taken into account in key positions. It is unfortunate that we need to emphasise this aspect, but I think experience will tell us that it is a very necessary part of all the processes that we bring in place.
To recap briefly, in Amendment 42 we would like to insert the phrase “fit and proper”. As we have said before, this is not the first time this has been used—it was used in the National Security and Investment Bill. Through this amendment we make sure that it is the responsibility of the Secretary of State personally to deem the individual as fit and proper.
Amendment 44 specifically refers to the need for the hydrogen counterparty to be
“a fit and proper person”.
The aim is to make sure that responsibility is very clearly accounted to the Secretary of State.
The explanatory statement for Amendment 64 says:
“If the Secretary of State needs to find a new counterparty, this amendment requires that they must ensure they are a fit and proper person, as with previous amendments in our names”.
I do not think that at this point in the state of affairs we can emphasise enough just how important it is to have accountability, clarity and the ability to have straight- forward lines of communication.
I did not like to address the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness before she had addressed them herself. I welcome the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell; I think it adds clarity. I absolutely agree with the amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, has just gone through. I think “fit and proper” is used many times throughout certainly financial services secondary legislation, and when it comes to hydrogen production it seems to me that this is something that is really key. I look forward to the Minister arguing that people in this position should not be fit and proper people, and I pass over to him.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his kind invitation to address noble Lords on this subject, and I thank others who have contributed to the debate.
Let me start with Amendment 40, tabled by the formidable Scottish duo of the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes. He is sadly not with us today, which is a shame: he always adds to the jollity of the proceedings, but I am sure he will be back with us soon. This amendment seeks to ensure that the conferral of functions on persons by revenue support regulations is appropriately delegated.
Clause 57 sets out the Secretary of State’s power to make provision in regulations about revenue support contracts, including the funding of liabilities and costs in relation to such contracts. These are referred to as, as has been said, as the revenue support regulations. Clause 57(7) states that
“revenue support regulations may confer any function on any person.”
This is intended to enable persons other than a revenue support counterparty, allocation body or a hydrogen levy administrator to take on a role in the delivery of revenue support contracts and related funding. As with revenue support regulations, such functions would be limited to those about revenue support contracts, including the funding of liabilities and costs in relation to such contracts.
Let me make it clear to the House that Clause 57(7) absolutely does not provide the Secretary of State with a general power to confer any function on any person, outside of the scope of revenue support regulations. It is also worth noting that the selection by the Government of any person to undertake such functions would be subject to principles of public decision-making. The Government are, of course, duty bound to take only relevant considerations into account when making a decision.
I move on to Amendments 42, 44 and 64, from the noble Lord, Lord Lennie, and the noble Baroness, Baroness Blake, and spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. These amendments seek to ensure propriety when conducting the designation exercise and when transferring any relevant property, rights and liabilities. Of course, it goes without saying that I too support ensuring the upmost standards for those wishing to fulfil the role of hydrogen production counter- party.
The Government anticipate that the Low Carbon Contracts Company Ltd, or LCCC, which is the existing counterparty for contracts for difference and the planned counterparty for the dispatchable power agreement, will in fact be the counterparty for the low-carbon hydrogen agreement, subject of course to successful completion of administrative and legislative arrangements. That is also the case for the industrial carbon capture contracts. In taking the decision to proceed with the LCCC as the counterparty to the low-carbon hydrogen agreement, the Secretary of State considered, among other things, its ability to deliver the required functions and experience and track record in contract management. These considerations would of course be made on any future decisions, which would also be subject, as I have said, to the normal principles of public decision-making.
It is worth pointing out—I suppose that this is the Government declaring an interest—that the LCCC is wholly owned by the Secretary of State for BEIS and is governed by its articles of association and a framework document setting out the relationship with the Secretary of State and its guiding principle.
The justification of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for the inclusion of “fit and proper” was its apparent precedent in what was the National Security and Investment Bill, yet this phrasing does not in fact appear in the Act as made. Therefore, with the reassurances and information that I have been able to provide to noble Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
Given that explanation, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 40 withdrawn.
Moved formally. No! I will speak to it.
You just can’t get the Whips to support you properly nowadays, can you?
I am only joking. My noble friend is brilliant at the job.