Clause 109 - Approval of decommissioning programmes

Energy Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 15th June 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

I want to give the Minister the opportunity to satisfy the Opposition. In his summing-up remarks on clause 108, he omitted to answer a simple question from me, which I will repeat. In approving decommissioning programmes under clause 109, does the Minister intend that the offshore installation in the renewable zone will return to its completely natural state, as it was before the installation was created? Comparisons with a nuclear plant, for example, are not the most helpful, but it might help the Committee to know that there is a planning application to take gravel and other building materials from a site that borders a Neolithic henge at Thornborough henges in the vale of York. That will not be restored to a similar state, but will be made into a water feature. Will the Minister clarify whether approval under clause 109 will involve returning the installation to its natural state?

Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

The intention is that any return after an installation is decommissioned is to an appropriate, acceptable usage. That means that, as far as possible—I choose my words carefully, because we are all realistic about the matter—that may range from as complete a restoration as possible to some alternative use. It very much depends on the circumstances of the time. However, I assure the Committee that the Government are determined, in this and related clauses, to ensure that exhausted schemes cannot be abandoned, nor can installations be left to rot in the sea to the potential detriment of shipping and of the marine environment.

Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page Conservative, South West Hertfordshire

I appreciate the Minister saying that he does not want things to lie there and rot, but is he not aware of a comprehensive programme of man-made reefs in the bays of the Caribbean where rigs have been deliberately toppled into the water to become fish

sanctuaries and wildlife havens? The sport of fishing off those toppled oil rigs is now lucrative and major. I appreciate that windmills, in themselves, may not offer the protection necessary for fish to live and breed, but I hope that the Minister does not intend eliminating such a possibility, if it is appropriate.

Photo of Nigel Griffiths Nigel Griffiths Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry

As a scuba diver, I have dived in the Caribbean, and I am aware of the value of artificial reefs and of deliberately sunk wrecks. They create a wonderful marine environment.

Clause 109 will allow us to require decommissioning in accordance with the international standards of the time. The hon. Gentleman posed a question. It may not be appropriate to remove everything; the marine environment may benefit from part of a structure being left, but that does not include some rotting hulk on the sea bed that may be polluting or environmentally damaging, or even dangerous. I think that I have reflected the available balance and I hope that the Committee will allow the clause to stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 109 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 110 ordered to stand part of the Bill.