Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport
This written statement is laid under Standing Order 30: “Notification in relation to UK Parliament Bills”. It relates to provision in the Energy Bill (the Bill) made by amendment, which modifies the Welsh Ministers’ functions, but does not require a Legislative Consent Motion under Standing Order 29.
The UK Government’s stated policy objectives for the Bill are to deliver a manifesto commitment to continue to support the development of North Sea oil and gas; change the law so that local authorities decide onshore wind applications in England: and end any new public subsidy for onshore wind, specifically in relation to the Renewables Obligation.
The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 9 July 2015. The Bill makes various provisions including establishing the Oil and Gas Authority as an independent regulator.
The relevant amendment, tabled by Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, is amendment number 10 in the “Marshalled List of Amendments to be moved on Report” found on the Parliament website which can be seen in the link below:
Lords Amendments: Energy Bill [HL]
The relevant amendment, to Clause 3, modifying Welsh Ministers’ functions, would enable the Oil and Gas Authority and the Welsh Ministers to enter into an agreement enabling the OGA to exercise functions on behalf of the Welsh Ministers.
The Bill also makes provisions for the Oil and Gas Authority to disclose information to the Welsh Ministers for the purpose of facilitating the Welsh Ministers exercise of their functions.
The draft Wales Bill, published on 20 October, includes provisions to devolve powers for onshore oil and gas licensing to the Welsh Ministers in respect of Wales. The amendment ensures that the Oil and Gas Authority can, if required, exercise functions on behalf of the Welsh Ministers. This will enable the Welsh Ministers to enter into an arrangement with the Oil and Gas Authority following the transfer of functions that will help to ensure continuity of provision.
At present the Oil and Gas Authority exercises functions on behalf of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and is the regulator for both onshore and offshore oil and gas operations in the United Kingdom. The Energy Bill will formally establish the Oil and Gas Authority as an independent regulator which will take the form of a government company. The Energy Bill will transfer regulatory powers and functions to the Oil and Gas Authority and provide it with new powers.
It is considered appropriate for these provisions to be made by means of the Energy Bill, because the provision could not be made by Assembly Act.
This statement is being laid during recess in order to comply with Standing Order 30, which requires that a written statement must be laid normally no later than two weeks after a relevant amendment has been tabled in the UK Parliament. However should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Assembly returns, I would be happy to do so.