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Pollution Prevention and Control (Fees) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021

Volume 812: debated on Tuesday 8 June 2021

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Pollution Prevention and Control (Fees) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2021.

My Lords, I beg to move that these regulations, which were laid before the House on 21 April 2021, be approved. I will refer to them as the fees regulations.

As the environmental regulator of the offshore oil and gas industry, which I shall refer to as the offshore industry, BEIS’s Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning, OPRED, recoups the cost of its regulatory functions from the industry, rather than the taxpayer footing the bill. OPRED’s role is to minimise the impact of the offshore industry on the environment by, for example, controlling air emissions and discharges to sea and minimising disturbance over the lifecycle of operations, from seismic surveys through to post-decommissioning monitoring. Regulatory activities for which OPRED can recover costs are covered in two ways: within a suite of regulations that are covered by the fees regulations and by four fees schemes that are not, because they do not require legislative change and will be amended administratively.

OPRED’s annual fees income is on average £6.2 million, which is recovered from around 130 companies. These are billed quarterly. OPRED recovers its costs via fees based on hourly rates. The fees regulations will increase the hourly rates used to calculate fees payable by the offshore industry. The fees relate to the provision of regulatory functions for the environmental management of offshore operations. Currently, the fees that OPRED charges for providing its regulatory services are based on hourly rates of £190 for environmental specialists and £101 for non-specialists. Environmental specialists are qualified technical staff who carry out the legislative functions of the Secretary of State and non-specialists are administrative staff who support them.

The current hourly rates have been in place since April 2020. OPRED has reviewed the cost base and concluded that the existing hourly rates need to be increased to fully recover the costs of providing specific regulatory services. The fees regulations will therefore amend the charging provisions by increasing the hourly rates for environmental specialists and non-specialists to £197 and £108 respectively. As the increases relate to cost recovery, they do not represent monetary changes linked to inflation.

OPRED’s fees are determined by adding together the recorded number of hours worked by environmental specialists and non-specialists on cost-recoverable activities, multiplied by the hourly rates. The new hourly rates were approved by Her Majesty’s Treasury in November last year. They were calculated in line with the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance and cover the expenditure on all resources used by OPRED to support cost-recoverable activities: for example, staff salaries, accommodation, IT and office services and corporate services such as human resources, senior management, legal, finance and learning and development.

Guidance on OPRED’s fee-charging regimes is published and clearly explains the scope of the cost-recoverable functions undertaken by OPRED and how the costs are to be calculated and recovered. The cost-recoverable functions undertaken by OPRED include: the evaluation of applications and issuing of consents for seismic surveys and the conducting of appropriate assessments on the likely significant environmental effects of proposed projects; assessing and approving operators’ oil pollution emergency plans; and compliance monitoring activities, including offshore environmental inspections.

The revised fees to be paid will increase by a small amount, sufficient only to allow OPRED to recover its eligible costs. In this regard, the additional total cost resulting from the increase in hourly rates will be around £300,000 per year. OPRED’s guidance on its fees-charging regime will be revised to reflect the new hourly rates. Those charged by OPRED are aware that it reviews its hourly rates annually and, although there was no statutory requirement to consult on the fees regulations, in February OPRED informed the offshore industry of the planned increase to the hourly rates. No representations were received.

I conclude by emphasising the importance of the increase to the hourly rates being introduced by the fees regulations. The increase will enable OPRED to recover the costs of providing regulatory services from those who benefit from them, instead of those costs being passed on to the taxpayer. The fees regulations were debated and approved by the House of Commons on 26 May. I therefore hope that noble Lords will support the measure and I commend the regulations to the Committee.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for setting out so clearly the background to these regulations and their effect, as he always does. I support the regulations, which represent the annual review of the hourly rates used to determine the fees payable by the offshore oil and gas industry to BEIS’s Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning, for activities engaged in by OPRED in relation to environmental management of the offshore hydrocarbons industry. These activities include the conservation of habitats and species, as well as matters relating to the storage of gases and some of the seismic changes on the continental shelf. As the Minister rightly said, the last review of fees was conducted in April 2020 and the industry, when asked about the increases, had no comment to offer.

The regulations appear reasonable and unexceptional, but I would like to explore with my noble friend the Minister the current position on carbon capture and storage. It has long been recognised that carbon capture and storage can play a key role in economic terms for the United Kingdom and, crucially, in achieving net zero. Indeed, its deployment could lead to the UK offshore oil and gas sector actually becoming carbon negative.

The Government committed to CCS deployment at scale happening during the 2030s, subject to the costs coming down. For that to happen, clearly there needs to be commissioning from the fast approaching mid-2020s. We have massive potential for this as the United Kingdom’s continental shelf, because of oil and gas drilling, is absolutely the area to develop it in. Of course, we have staff and personnel who could be deployed from the UK oil and gas industry to help with speedy deployment of CCS—staff who have the relevant expertise. I would be most grateful if my noble friend could update the Committee on progress in that area.

I recall the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who of course has massive knowledge and expertise in this area from his commitment to it and his time in the energy industry, doing a brief report for the Government on this area when Amber Rudd was Secretary of State. The only downside then apparent was the cost; that was some five to six years ago, and I believe that the cost may now have come down and that the attitude of government to the cost may have changed, in any event—along, indeed, with the attitude of the world. Perhaps governmental and world attitudes have changed, as they need to, as we approach the time when action is absolutely vital. We need to do this at speed and at scale, looking at experience elsewhere: in the United States, Canada and, I think, in Australia. Can my noble friend give some update on progress in this area, ahead of the important COP 26 in Glasgow and the fast-approaching need for immediate action?

My Lords, this looks like a fairly simple instrument, and I congratulate the Minister on laying it out with what appeared to be great transparency—so I thank him for that. We seem to be looking at some incredibly paltry rises in administration fees to deliver a government service to the oil and gas industries at cost price. Why are we selling at cost price? I do not understand. This is a subsidy for a government service, and yet another example of the oil and gas industries being massively undercharged, in spite of their negative impact on the environment and highly polluting practices.

I salute the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, too, for his enthusiasm and optimism about carbon capture and storage. He is absolutely right that it would be a fantastic thing if we had it, and action is vital now—but we do not have it. So why not take another route, which is to make the oil and gas industries pay their fair share, not only of what we allow them to have but for the pollution that they cause? I can well imagine that no representations were received from the industry. If my fees were being increased from £190 to £197 I would probably not complain either, because the increase is negligible. Why are the Government doing this? Quite honestly, I think that this is a ridiculous SI. What we should have in front of us is something that actually reflects what is happening in the world in terms of the climate crisis.

I have a question here that I would like an answer to. Can the Minister outline what changes the Government will seek at COP 26 to make sure that fossil fuel companies stop getting a free ride, so that their financial costs reflect their true environmental and social costs? We heard an Oral Question today about a government guidance document, Aligning UK International Support for the Clean Energy Transition. We have some cheek talking about this sort of thing and proselytising about it when we are actually subsidising polluting oil and gas industries. What I would very much like to know is: how on earth are this Government ever going to live up to the sort of standards that we expect to see from a responsible Government?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his clear explanation of this SI, which, on the face of it, seems pretty uncontroversial. Given that his department is responsible for the environmental regulator—OPRED—and aims to recoup the costs of its regulatory activity from the industry rather than from taxpayers, which I wholly support, it seems as if the increases in cost that we are being asked to approve today fit with that aim.

Protecting the environment and controlling our emissions and discharges into the sea are hugely important for the future of the planet, the future of our country, the future of our children and future generations. However, I wonder whether I could follow on from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and ask one or two questions about the rationale for the pricing structure that is being applied to what are, in effect, qualified technical specialists in environmental matters. Rather low fee rates seem to be being applied here. Even with the increases, we are talking about something like £1,400 a day. Daily rates for lawyers or specialist consultants are more like double that, or even more. Even for the non-specialists, we are talking about perhaps £700 to £750 a day.

I understand that we do not want to destroy or damage an industry that literally keeps the lights on in our country, but I want to ask my noble friend the Minister something particular; I do not expect him to have the answer to hand, but I would be grateful if he could write to me. To what extent are the employees—I assume they are public employees—who are doing this very important work members of public sector pension schemes? Have the true costs to the taxpayer of those pension contributions and ultimate pension payments been factored in to the costs being charged to these oil and gas companies?

Clearly, we must control air and sea pollution. The industry itself has accepted this regime. Again, I understand that the department may not wish to rock the boat—if noble Lords will excuse the expression—but it is important that taxpayers do not subsidise the cost of regulation for this industry in any way. In the current environment, the costs of a public sector pension scheme are more like 40% to 50% of salary on top of actual earnings. I would be interested to know whether this has been reflected in the new charges or the old charges.

I have one final question. I believe that the Government are doing marvellous work, and I commend my noble friend the Minister, his department and Defra for what they are aiming to do to control environmental damage. However, it is important, and I would be grateful if my noble friend could give the Committee some idea of the measures being taken to encourage the offshore oil and gas industry to rapidly diversify away from fossil fuels, abandon new developments because there is risk of stranded assets down the line and invest in alternative energies, such as offshore wind and solar power. That could replace some of the activity and jobs that are otherwise potentially at risk in areas that have become so dependent on our very successful oil and gas industry.

I support the measures but have some further questions and concerns, and I would be grateful to hear my noble friend’s response.

I am delighted to welcome the regulations before us this afternoon—certainly as far as they go. I thank my noble friend for his clear introduction to them.

My concern follows directly from the plea of my noble friend Lady Altmann to look more to offshore wind farms—that is what concerns me. Paragraph 13.2, on page 6 of the Explanatory Memorandum, says:

“It is crucial that all businesses operating offshore, regardless of size, are subject to the same regulatory regime to ensure that they continue to provide a high level of protection for the marine environment.”

If my understanding is correct and the regulations before us this afternoon refer only to the offshore hydrocarbons industry, which regulations from his department, which I understand will be the regulatory authority, actually apply to offshore wind farms?

I mention this because we did a piece of work before the EU Sub-Committee was disbanded at the end of the period of its supervisory authority. I quote what one of the witnesses said about how we mitigate the offshore wind pollution of our shores:

“It is fair to say that offshore wind is still a very new sector. It has been around for only the last 10 years. It has, throughout that period, innovated and continues to do so. It is probably fair to say that the focus for that has been more on construction impacts, and potentially pre-construction impacts, and less on the overall operation. Moving forward, we need to bring together the cumulative and ongoing impacts from servicing of the wind farms, for example, and the additional disturbance from vessels that are regularly attending.”

It concerns me that we are seeing a 10-gigawatt increase in one year alone—so we are literally upping the renewable source of offshore wind farms. Yet it is staggering to think that, as I understand it, no research at all has been done into the effects of not just, as the lady witness said, the construction phase and the ships going out to deliver materials but the operational phase and, for the purposes of these regulations, decommissioning. I presume that each wind turbine will have a life of some 10 or 15 years. This urbanisation of the sea, as the witnesses in that hearing called it, has specific ecological impacts on the maritime environment.

If my further understanding is correct, the maritime environment and marine ecology are not included in the Environment Bill, so we have two omissions: no research on the ecological and environmental impacts, in terms of not just noise but disruption to marine life. We have to ask ourselves: why are dolphins, porpoises and whales beaching in increasing numbers on our shores? I would like to think that it is not because of offshore wind farms, but we honestly do not know. I take this opportunity to ask why hydrocarbons, a very important part of the economy, have been singled out for this particular type of regulation? Which regulation covers offshore wind farms? Is there a similar regulation to what is before us this afternoon in relation to the recovery of the charges?

So how do offshore wind farms relate to the comparative structure and fee structure in the regulations before us relating to hydrocarbons? Also, mindful that there will be a rising degree—10 gigawatts in one year— of noise pollution in both the construction and operational phases, will my noble friend put my mind at rest that some research has been done over the period and that the regulatory regime is akin to that before us this afternoon?

With those concerns, I endorse the regulations before us. I am absolutely concerned that any regulatory regime should apply to all protections for the marine environment, whether in relation to hydrocarbons or to offshore wind farms.

My Lords, this SI has been prepared by BEIS, which explains that its purpose is to increase the hourly rates used to determine the fees payable by the offshore oil and gas industry and the Oil and Gas Authority to BEIS’s Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning—OPRED—for certain activities undertaken by OPRED in relation to the environmental management of the offshore hydrocarbons industry.

We are told that the instrument is subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. It contains enabling powers that are both negative and affirmative. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 makes provision for the affirmative procedure to take precedence over the negative procedure where there is a combination of instruments. To enable OPRED’s new hourly rates to be introduced from 1 July 2021, the instrument will enter into force on the day after it is made, which will be beyond the common commencement date of 6 April 2021.

As the Explanatory Memorandum says, the increases in eligible costs to be charged to the offshore hydrocarbons industry and the Oil and Gas Authority were identified following a review of the cost base for the current OPRED fee schemes. The increases, which will allow OPRED to recoup the costs for the provision of regulatory services, are not alterations to reflect changes in the value of money. The territorial extent of this instrument is the United Kingdom.

I support this SI and particularly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, said about bringing in wind and solar energy procedures to replace those for the current sources of energy.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing this statutory instrument with his customary clarity. My starting point is a certain scepticism about this SI similar to that expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. Personally, I think the SI should be unnecessary, because the industry should be paying all the costs of the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning. If it were not for the activity of the industry, that regulator would not need to exist, and given the profits which the companies concerned have made over the years it is unclear to me why the taxpayer is picking up any of the cost. I note that the description of the role of OPRED on the GOV.UK website includes

“protecting the taxpayer from bearing the full cost of decommissioning”.

Can the Minister tell us why we are paying any of this cost?

I also note the contrast between the way in which the oil and gas companies are treated, paying only part of the cost, and the way in which, for example, people who wish to become British citizens are treated; they pay not only the full cost of processing their application but many multiples of it, because for some reason they alone of British citizens are regarded as an easy touch to pay a supercharge for the cost of our border and immigration system as a whole. The oil and gas companies must have some very important friends to have achieved an outcome where they not only do not pay the full cost of decommissioning but they continue to receive huge subsidies to exploit fossil fuels that imperil the future of our planet.

On the increase in fees to which this statutory instrument gives effect, can the Minister clear up some issues? First, can he clarify the total amount of revenue raised by the fees which the SI relates to? The Minister gave us a figure of 1,243 hours as the figure representing an average of hours per annum spent on potentially cost-recoverable activity. If we take the average of the specialist and non-specialist hourly rates, it comes out at £152.50 per hour. If that was multiplied by the number of hours, it would come to—if my maths is correct—about £189,557. Is that the correct figure raised by the fees levied under this SI? If it is not the correct figure, can the Minister tell us what it is and how it is calculated between specialist and non-specialist hours, because the Explanatory Memorandum and the SI do not give the breakdown?

The Explanatory Memorandum tells us that the calculation of the costs charged to the industry

“removes the hours spent on leave, bank holidays, staff management etc.”

Why are those excluded given that they are clearly staffing costs?

Can the Minister also tell us the total cost of running the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning? I think he told us in his introductory remarks that the fees and other charges outside the ones we are discussing in this SI raised £6.2 million. Does this cover the entire cost of running the regulator? If not, what is the deficit?

Can the Minister remind us of the total level of subsidies provided by Her Majesty’s Government to the oil and gas industry in the last year for which figures are available? I hope that the noble Lord will not try to tell us that the Government do not provide any subsidies, because that sort of dissembling is exactly what has got the UK ranked joint bottom for transparency on these issues among the G20 nations.

The noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, raised some important issues about how we get the industry moving towards transition rather than the existing policy of maximum economic recovery, which makes no sense in the context of our climate goals. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, raised some interesting issues about wind farms and the marine environment.

I await with interest the Minister’s response on those and his response to my questions. I do not oppose the increase in charges set out in this SI, but I strongly object to the continued subsidies that are pumped annually to an industry that poses an existential threat to life on this planet.

I, too, thank the Minister for his introduction to the regulations before the Committee. It was necessarily detailed. The Explanatory Memorandum was fulsome in listing all the various regulations under various Acts of legislation where cost recovery is now embraced as part of government policy and fee schemes are introduced. His department is to be commended for the coherent analysis of fees payable by the offshore hydrocarbon industry and Ofgem to the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning—OPRED—for certain activities. I now understand better the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance on the methodology of cost-recoverable activities.

I have very few questions about these regulations. However, to start with, can the Minister confirm whether OPRED is entirely cost neutral to the taxpayer and that all its costs are recoverable? I thought I heard him say that its full budget of £6.2 million was recovered from industry. I think that is correct and that OPRED prevents a lot of possible pollution occurring.

The cost recovery system appears entirely non-judgmental—that is to say, there appears to be no analysis of the cost increases against any parameter. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, called the increase negligible. However, I note that the cost increase of £7 per hour for both specialist and non-specialist staff in tandem is slightly above the rate of inflation. As the increase is in tandem to two different rates, it is not by any defined percentage consistently. Will the cost recovery system in the department in this instance be reviewed on any regular basis? I would not expect the policy to be changed into a profit centre.

From this, it can be asked whether and by what means costs are controlled. No doubt it is by the wages policy undertaken by public bodies such as OPRED and under the influence of HM Treasury. I am sure that any validation of cost increases across any organisation is not necessarily a smooth process. As the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, expressed, the future of the infrastructure on the continental shelf will become very important for the urgent development of CCUS and hydrogen. With that, I am happy to approve the regulations today.

First, I thank all noble Lords for their valuable contributions to this debate. It is not often that I come along with charging instruments to have people complain that we are not increasing the fees enough but, as always, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, provides a contrary view to established practice in this House. Nevertheless, it was an interesting debate.

As I said during my opening remarks, the fees regulations will enable OPRED to recover its costs for the provision of regulatory services under the offshore oil and gas environmental legislative regime, as opposed to such costs being passed on to the taxpayer. In response to the noble Lords, Lord Oates and Lord Grantchester, let me set out the position on OPRED’s budget and fees income. As they both said, OPRED’s annual fees income is £6.2 million on average. This represents around 65% of the cost of running its environmental operations unit. The total costs of around £10.6 million a year include that of the office in Aberdeen and corporate support provided from London.

On chargeable activities, OPRED considers the environmental implications of all offshore oil and gas operations before issuing permits and consents covering areas as diverse as seismic surveys, marine licences, oil pollution emergency plans, chemical permits, oil discharge permits and consent to locate permissions for offshore installations. To this end, OPRED reviews around 5,000 applications for permits and consents annually. In addition, there is a regular programme of monitoring and inspection to ensure compliance with the environmental regulations.

As the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said, in line with Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance, OPRED does not charge for policy work—for example, the enacting of new, or revisions to existing, offshore environmental legislation. Nor is OPRED able to charge for enforcement activity, such as prosecutions. Let me also point out that OPRED had originally planned to implement the changes to its hourly rates through the Oil & Gas Authority (Levy and Fees) Regulations 2021, which were laid before Parliament under the negative resolution procedure and entered into force on 1 April 2021.

However, OPRED is relying on a power that requires an affirmative procedure. This is because the increases allowing it to recoup the costs for the provision of regulatory services are not alterations to reflect changes in the value of money. The OPRED provisions were therefore not suitable for the Oil and Gas Authority’s regulations, hence the proposal to introduce these fees regulations.

In response to my noble friend Lord Bourne, who asked about UK progress on the deployment of carbon capture and storage, let me highlight the following. CCS will be essential for meeting the UK’s 2050 net-zero target, playing a vital role in levelling up the economy, supporting the low-carbon economic transformation of our industrial regions and creating many new, high-value jobs. In November 2020, we announced a £1 billion CCS infrastructure fund, which will provide industry with the certainty required to deploy CCS at scale.

In addition, CCS will play an important role in the Government’s industrial clusters mission, which sets out the ambition to establish the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040, backed by £170 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with the spend profile running between January 2021 and March 2024. In February this year, BEIS published a consultation seeking stakeholder input on a potential approach to determining a natural sequence for locations to deploy CCS. Close to 100 responses to the consultation were received and BEIS recently published guidance for organisations wanting to take part in phase 1 of the CCS cluster sequencing process, which helps to meet the Government’s commitment to capture 10 million tonnes of CO2 per annum and have 5 gigawatts of low-carbon hydrogen capacity by 2030.

In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, who asked why the costs were rising by such a very small sum and appear, as she said, to be subsidising the industry for government service, I remind her that, as I said earlier, the fees are calculated in accordance with Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance, of which I am sure the noble Baroness is a great supporter, and any revisions to OPRED’s charges that result from annual reviews can cover only the actual cost of providing its regulatory services. OPRED is not permitted to make a profit under Treasury rules. I know that the noble Baroness will be a strong supporter of Treasury rules, so our hands are tied in this regard.

When conducting future annual reviews of the fees-charging regime plus associated functions, OPRED will ensure that the fees being charged fully reflect its regulatory activity and, in turn, the level of offshore operations in any given year. It is important to emphasise that, while the offshore oil and gas industry transitions to a net-zero basin, a comprehensive environment regulatory regime will be applied to its operations to ensure that a high level of protection for the marine environment is maintained. As we move towards net zero, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, will also no doubt be delighted to hear that oil and gas will play a smaller role in meeting UK energy demand; however, it will still continue to play a role.

In response to my noble friend Lady Altmann, OPRED is an integral part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is based in Aberdeen and currently has 97 staff. Those staff are civil servants. The calculation of the fees includes the full economic costs of the staff, including superannuation costs, which are also taken into account.

Questions were asked by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Oates, about decommissioning costs. They are recovered through separate fees regulations. Currently, about 50% of the cost of running this unit is recovered through fees, and a consultation opened on 24 May on a proposal to increase fees recovery to around 80%.

My noble friend Lady Altmann also asked about transition. I would like to mention the North Sea transition deal, which will help significantly to reduce emissions, ensuring a net-zero basin by 2050 and supporting our goal of decarbonising the wider economy. Commitments in the deal will help to achieve a reduction in UK greenhouse gas emissions of 60 million tonnes, including 15 million tonnes through the progressive decarbonisation of UK production over the period to 2030. If the UK stopped producing gas, we would then need to import it and would therefore have little control over the carbon intensity of those inputs while losing the benefits of a domestic natural resource.

In response to the points made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, I am sure that she is well aware that the wind farm fee regime is not part of these regulations. I will write to her on the main points she asked about. The North Sea transition deal will harness the existing skills of the offshore oil and gas sector supply chain to help to deliver our new low-carbon technologies, such as hydrogen and carbon capture usage and storage, helping the UK to meet its net-zero targets.

I think I answered the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, in the early part of my speech.

On the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, the fee increase mainly comprises two elements: an increase in staff costs as a result of a pay award and an increase in corporate costs relating to IT, HR, finance et cetera, which is allocated on a per head basis. As I explained earlier, it is all in line with the Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance, which does not allow OPRED to make a profit on its activities.

In response to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, although it might be helpful to the industry to have a form of indexing, again, this would fall foul of the favourite document of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones: Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Managing Public Money guidance regime, which provides that charges should be set to recover the full costs of the service being provided. This approach is intended to ensure that the Government neither profit at the expense of the industry nor make a loss for taxpayers to subsidise. OPRED’s fees are reviewed annually to ensure that, year on year, the full costs of the service are recovered. If costs were to reduce, the fees would also reduce; however, if the costs increase, the fees will also increase so that the burden does not fall on the taxpayer but remains on those benefiting from the service.

I think I have dealt with most of the questions asked by noble Lords and I therefore commend the regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.