Motion to Approve
My Lords, it is good to be with you again. I beg to move that the draft order laid before the House on 4 March 2019 now be considered. The order is necessitated by the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, which sought to accelerate the procedure for how certain appeals are determined: namely, appeals on applications for consent for renewable energy generating station development and appeals against decisions to hold a public inquiry.
Today’s order will ensure that the same appeal mechanism applies whether there is a challenge against a decision of the Scottish Ministers on either an application for a marine licence or an application for a Section 36 consent for energy developments in Scotland’s waters. This order makes two amendments to the Electricity Act 1989 to ensure that this same appeal mechanism applies.
The UK and Scottish Governments have worked closely together to ensure that this order makes necessary amendments in consequence of the 2014 Act. This order demonstrates that the UK Government remain committed to strengthening the devolution settlement and shows Scotland’s two Governments working together. On that basis, I beg to move.
My Lords, I commend the Minister on the brevity of his exposition of this particular order. Again, it is one that Labour is not inclined to oppose. The Explanatory Memorandum describes part of the amendment as being in relation to a legislative oversight. Have any issues arisen as a result of this oversight? For example, is the Minister aware of any decisions that have been made affecting the Scottish part of the renewable energy zone that excluded Scottish Ministers from the decision-making process? Additionally, are any appeals currently outstanding regarding decisions that in fact affect the Scottish part of the renewable energy zone?
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Davidson, is quite right that this is a very short correction. In discussing this with my officials, we came up with the phrase “a technical tidy-up”, which is broadly what it is meant to do. The oversight mentioned by the noble and learned Lord—my word, I actually know the answer to this one—refers to the definition of “waters”. Because it was a reference to part of an earlier order, it was incorrect in so far as it did not encompass all of Scotland’s waters, but instead just the inshore waters. The purpose of this order is to ensure that, in essence, the entire zone out to 200 nautical miles is covered—the waters in their entirety.
As to the specific issues, there have been no occasions on which Scottish Ministers have been affected by this technical oversight. In essence, they have been exercising the powers as they assumed the provision had been drafted rather than as it was actually drafted. Only when we discovered that there was a technical problem did we recognise that this needed to be brought back to give clarity in law. So no outstanding appeals are affected in any way by this particular decision, and Scottish Ministers have not in any way been excluded from the decision-making process. In essence, we have just been diligent in correcting, literally, the letter of the law. On that basis, I commend the order to the House.
House adjourned at 5.01 pm.