Part of Energy Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:25 am on 26 January 2016.

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Photo of Alan Whitehead Alan Whitehead Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change) 9:25, 26 January 2016

Good morning, Mr Bailey. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship in this Committee.

The first clause of the Bill is about the very existence of the Oil and Gas Authority. In truth, it is a rather odd construction: it is a regulator, but at the same time it is a limited company, albeit one that does not have to use the word “limited”. Essentially, it is a private company with one shareholder—the Government. Presumably, therefore, the Government may sell their share whenever they wish. The OGA’s members, officers and staff are not, as we see elsewhere in the Bill, to be regarded as civil servants, but they do have access to civil service pensions. The OGA is quite an anomaly in the world of regulators.

My understanding of how regulators work across the board is that they have to perform a function that is clearly equidistant between Government, industry and other arrangements. In this instance, the set-up of the OGA does not appear to conform exactly to that principal definition of what a regulator should be. Why was it decided that this should be the formulation of the OGA? It is rather different from the precedent for regulators. An unworthy suggestion could be made that the OGA has been set up as it is to take it off Government books, although as far as staff of the OGA are concerned it will put them, at least in some instances, back on Government books again. However, I am sure that that is not the sole or the main purpose in deciding to set the OGA up in this particular way.

I would be very interested to hear from the Minister why this structure was chosen and what advantages it is thought to provide. Does she think any particular difficulties might arise from the Government company structure that the OGA is to have, and if so, can they be satisfactorily resolved by other aspects of the OGA’s construction?