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Clause 15

Volume 21: debated on Wednesday 31 March 1982

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Construction Of Pipe-Lines By Gas Corporation

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in page 19, line 40, leave out from beginning to 'likely' in line 41 and insert—

'(2A) The Secretary of State shall cause to be published in such publication or publications as he considers appropriate notice of the receipt by him of any notice under subsection (1) above; and a notice so published shall—
  • (a) specify the points between which the proposed pipe-line is to run;
  • (b) name a place or places where a copy of the notice under subsection (1) above (and of the map accompanying it) may be inspected free of charge, and copies thereof may be obtained at a reasonable charge, at all reasonable hours; and
  • (c) specify the time within which, and the manner in which, representations may be made as to the matters mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (3) below.
  • (3) Where in the light of any such representations duly made the Secretary of State is satisfied—
  • (a) that a demand exists or is'.
  • I do not think this will be a controversial amendment. Indeed, the essence of the amendment was proposed by hon. Members opposite during the Committee stage. At that time my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor) said that while the Government were content to accept the principle that the Secretary of State's power to direct the BGC to increase the capacity of a new high pressure pipeline should be contingent on the receipt of representations—this was the point we were debating—we would nevertheless be considering how best to give effect to this. Hence this amendment.

    I am grateful to the Secretary of State. This is another example of the discussions in Committee producing much that is valuable. I return to one point that prevents me from showing off a word shat I found. I bet that the House did not know that the corporation's pipeline is a reticulated system. I would have used the word more often had I spoken for longer. The corporation's pipeline is a reticulated system and much stems from that. The point that has been put to me, however, is delay.

    The notification procedure that we welcome will result in some delays. It has been put to me that as the Bill is drafted, the delays could last for up to two years. That is so long that the shorter period of six months during which the Secretary of State may advise the corporation of his intentions is assumed. Under the notification therefore, the choice of procedure, for the best way to achieve a given objective, must be made considerably earlier than is now the case. The extension of lead times means that the flexibility that is currently achieved through careful timing and phasing of alternatives will be lost. I should like a word, possibly not now, from the Department and the gas corporation about that matter. I am also interested to know about the extra staff for the Department of Energy, provision for which appears on the back of the Bill. Will this involve extra staff in the gas corporation as well?

    Timing is important. There are other issues, but they would have arisen as the Bill was first drafted. The new procedure is desirable and the Opposition welcome it, but how does it fit into timing and the problems of the gas corporation as a major supplier in this complicated system? If the process takes a long time, matters in the reticulated system will have changed. But timing is the only point that I want to raise with the Secretary of State.

    The system is indeed complicated and reticulated. We must bear in mind that only a limited number of pipelines will be involved as we are here concerned only with main transmission pipelines and major distribution pipelines. I am concerned that there should be no undue delay. The question of delay arises much more seriously in the next amendment.

    Amendment No. 11, while meeting some of the excellent points made by the Opposition in Committee, will still allow a thoroughly businesslike process by which the corporation's plans to build pipelines will become known and allow private suppliers of gas an opportunity to make representations about the capacity of a pipeline before any direction is given.

    I see nothing in the amendment which would add to the staff requirements of my Department.

    Amendment agreed to.