Electricity Transmission (Compensation) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:39 am on 21 April 2023.

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Photo of Lord McLoughlin Lord McLoughlin Chair, Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Chair, Joint Committee on the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee 10:39, 21 April 2023

My Lords, this Bill comes to your Lordships’ House having completed its stages in the House of Commons. It was taken through the House of Commons by Dr Liam Fox and is based on his experience in his own constituency of what I think is a flaw in the regulations, which I will come on to say a little more about later. It has to be said that this is the second Private Member’s Bill in two years that Dr Fox has managed to steer through the Commons; the other one, the Down Syndrome Act 2022, was also successfully steered through your Lordships’ House. He seems to be having more success in taking legislation through from the Back Benches than he managed when we were both in the Cabinet together; I congratulate him on that.

The purpose of the Bill is to require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament proposals for the use of the alternative dispute resolution—ADR—process to determine compensation in electric-related land acquisition cases. The intention is that the proposal will encourage and facilitate the use of the ADR process, thereby helping parties in dispute to avoid having to take their case to the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber). The Bill provides that there should be proposals for ensuring that any determinations are enforceable so that the outcome is binding on an electricity network operator.

I realise that one concern is that this Bill may somehow lead to delays in certain cases. I do not think that it will. Having to take a case up to the Upper Tribunal is a lengthy and expensive process; it therefore operates against an individual who feels that they have a complaint. Nobody is keener than me to see national infrastructure projects make progress and not be delayed but, when big national infrastructure proposals are coming forward, one must recognise the blight of them and the impact that they may have on individuals. This is a correcting Bill: it will bring in a system that is there for other availabilities. The Bill also requires that there should be proposals for ensuring that the ADR process operates independently and that

“the processes are accessible to landowners without undue difficulty or expense”.

Anybody who reads through the Second Reading debate held in the House of Commons in November will see there some of the cases that have caused Dr Fox and other Members of the Commons great difficulty as far as their constituents are concerned. As I say, this Bill does not seek in any way to delay infrastructure projects, but it puts a duty on the company that is involved to treat the people whom it affects in a fair way. The Bill has vocal support from the NFU because it has seen what it will do for some of its members.

I have some questions. I hope that, in her response to me, my noble friend the Minister will be able to give some indication of what the timescale will be for the creation of a task force; I know that her officials have been looking at what the consequences of the Bill will be. Also, can the Government provide further detail on how and when the composition of that task force will be decided? I realise that those questions possibly anticipate the Bill’s passage into an Act of Parliament. It is right, however, that reassurance on big issues of national infrastructure is given to those people who are directly affected that they will be treated fairly. That is really the main aim of this Bill.

Where electricity transmission takes place, this Bill will provide the same sort of rights that are available in other big national infrastructure projects. For some reason, electricity has been left out because of its national significance. Nobody doubts that— nobody questions the necessity of this infrastructure being taken forward—but people should be treated fairly by operators when they are seeking these acquisitions. I beg to move.