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I sense the desire of the Committee to make progress. Clause 81 states that
“the Secretary of State is not required...to take into account representations made after the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the person making the representations was consulted”.
The first question is: is that long enough? The amendment we suggest is to substitute six months. On the second matter, we considered whether we should leave out subsection (3) simply because I would like the Minister to tell me what subsection (3) actually means.
Clause 81 places on the Secretary of State the statutory obligation to consult both the regulator—Ofgem—and the designated gas transporter before requiring the payment of any costs under clauses 77 or 78. In so consulting, the Secretary of State is not required by subsection (2)(a) of this clause to take into account, as the hon. and learned Gentleman says, any representations made after 28 days. In effect, this provision sets a 28-day cut-off date for representations to the Secretary of State, so that discussions of the details of the cost recovery mechanism can proceed quickly—which, I think, is in everybody’s interests—based on the issues raised by the affected main parties, namely the transporter and the regulator, during the consultation period. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked quite fairly whether that was enough: in our view, the answer is yes.
Amendment No. 206 seeks to remove the relevant subsection entirely. That would create a conflict between the principal objective and general duties of the Secretary of State and the authority in this area, and the exercise of the functions under clauses 77 to 81 of the Bill. The deletion of the subsection might prevent the Secretary of State and the industry regulator from using the powers under these provisions. The subsection allows the regulator to permit the cost of recovery arrangement for the specific purpose, without being in breach of its own obligations. As with the complexities we talked of earlier, we now have not only the law governing gas regulators but the provisions in this Bill; not only the regulatory framework that the designated transporter operates on, but the law and the statutory obligations that the regulator has. Despite its complexities, the provision is intended to afford the regulator the right to disapply its own obligations in the course of allowing the designated transporter to recover its policing costs. That sounded complex even when I said it, and the drafting of it is equally complex. I apologise for that, but it needs to be that way to allow choreography between the position and obligations of the Secretary of State and the regulator, and to allow their relationship with the designated transporter.
As I understand it, we have certainly consulted about the overall architecture. I am not entirely sure whether we have consulted specifically on 28 days, but I shall provide the hon. and learned Gentleman with the answer before Report. As I have indicated, we have certainly consulted on the broad thrust of how the whole thing will work. I ask that the amendment be withdrawn.