Lords Amendment: No. 16, in page 22, line 16, at end insert:
Provided that if the contravention is capable of remedy by or on behalf of the holder the authorisation shall not cease to remain in force unless such contravention has not been remedied within the period specified in the notice or any extension thereof which is reasonable having regard to all the relevant circumstances appertaining to the notice.
§ Mr. John Smith
I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.
That is not quite as bad as it sounds from the Opposition's point of view, because I shall ask the House to accept the Government amendment in lieu of the Lords amendment, the basis of which is a difference in wording.
The Lords amendment seeks to import into the Bill a principle to which we have very little objection, but we feel that it insufficiently covers a number of points. It does not define what constitutes a remedy. For example, a major consequence, that is to say, large-scale pollution, could flow from failure to observe proper standards of maintenance. Clearly, in such a case revocation would be the right penalty, but it could be argued that the breach could be remedied by taking steps to improve maintenance. I do not say that it would be a valid 494 argument, but it might be used, if for no other reason, as a means of preventing the Secretary of State from taking the action which every reasonable person would agree ought to be taken.
The amendment precludes the option of immediate revocation where a breach can be remedied, but there could be cases in which an opportunity for remedy might not be appropriate—for example, a flagrant disregard of safety requirements. The Lords amendment does not adequately deal with the possibility of repeated breaches.
We have tried to meet these points by rewording, and I hope that the House will disagree with the Lords in this amendment.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
The Under-Secretary of State argued in his most beguiling way that we should accept the Government's wording rather than that which the other place sought to put in the Bill. On the whole, he made out a good case. It is wise to give the holder of the authorisation a locus poenitentiae, so that he can put right what has gone wrong without the Secretary of State's having an automatic right of revocation.
It is a pity that a similar power has not been written into the schedules, in relation to the revocation of a licence or part of a licence. That was argued in another place, but it was resisted on grounds which are equally applicable to pipelines authorisation. I remind the Government that under the provision in the schedule they have power to amend the model clauses without an elaborate parliamentary procedure, and I ask the Under-Secretary of State to examine this again. It seems right that in a matter which could be even more important than an authorisation for a pipeline, namely, the exercise of rights under a licence, the same opportunity to put matters right should be given. At the moment it is not. The statutory relief which the Government amendment gives for pipelines does not exist for licences.
§ Mr. John Smith
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments on the Government amendment. The issue he raises is another matter, and the test I can do is to undertake to consider it further. The Government will re-examine the position in the light of 495 the concession that has been made on this branch of the Bill. We shall have to look at it with some care to see whether the case is genuinely on all fours, and this we shall do.
§ Question put and agreed to.
Amendment made to the Bill in lieu thereof: In page 22, line 16, at end insert:
'; but the Secretary of State shall not serve such a notice on the holder in consequence of a contravention if the Secretary of State considers that, having regard to the nature and consequences of the contravention and to any previous contravention, it would be unreasonable to terminate the authorisation in consequence of the contravention and that the holder has taken adequate steps to prevent similar contraventions in future'.—[Mr. John Smith.]