National Energy Regulator Bill; Madrid Protocol & Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement: briefing & adoption

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Meeting report

ECONOMIC AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS SELECT COMMITTEE
13 October 2004
NATIONAL ENERGY REGULATOR BILL; MADRID PROTOCOL AND GENEVA ACT OF THE HAGUE AGREEMENT: DEPARTMENT BRIEFING AND ADOPTION

Chairperson:
Ms N Ntwanambi (ANC, Western Cape)

Documents handed out:
Memorandum on Ratification of Madrid Protocol and Geneva Act of Hague Agreement (offsite link)
Department of Minerals and Energy presentation on the National Energy Regulator Bill
National Energy Regulator Bill [B 9B-2004]
National Energy Regulatory Bill Grammatical Amendments

SUMMARY
The Department of Minerals and Energy briefly summarised the essence of the National Energy Regulatory Bill. The Bill would save costs and increase efficiency in regulation. The Committee asked questions of clarity on terms used in the Bill, and then accepted all clauses and amendments. The Department of Trade and Industry then gave a short summary of the Madrid Protocol and Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement. The Committee asked questions of clarification before voting to accept all the amendments, and to recommend ratification to Parliament.

MINUTES

National Energy Regulatory Bill
Dr T Surridge (Department Director of Coal and Gas) and Dr R Crompton (Department Director-General of Hydrocarbons and Energy Planning) from Minerals and Energy gave a brief summary of the Bill and emphasised that the aim was to combine the three existing regulators into one National Energy Regulator.

Discussion
Dr Surridge said the Bill referred to people being of 'unsound mind'. Some Members had felt that this term was too negative. The term has been used in 176 pieces of legislation and was commonly understood. The term, 'offence involving dishonesty', had been used in 94 pieces of legislation and the legal community was familiar with the term. He thus suggested that the terms remain in the Bill. He then went through corrections to the minor grammatical errors.

Mr D Gamede (ANC, Kwazulu-Natal) referred to the Promotion of Access to Information Act, and asked how transparency would fit into the Bill.

Dr Surridge said the Act had been passed in 2000 under the South African Constitution and he was not aware of any conflict with regard to transparency in the Bill.

Mr K Sinclair (NNP, Northern Cape) asked whether there were any benefits to the Bill.

Dr Surridge said the Bill would lead to cost savings and increased efficiency in regulation.

Mr D Mkono (ANC, Eastern Cape) noted that the term 'unsound mind' had been used several times in the Bill. He asked if there was a more user-friendly term.

Dr Surridge said the issue of 'unsound mind' had been debated extensively and another term had not yet been found.

Mr Sibiya (ANC, Limpopo) asked who would determine when information was too sensitive.

Dr Crompton said the relevant Committee Chairperson would normally determine whether information was too sensitive to reveal to the public in open meetings. If a Member disagreed with the decision, s/he would be able to take the matter to court.

The Chairperson referred to Clause 5(6)(d) on vacancies on the Energy Regulator, and asked whether the Minister could appoint a person in the case of such vacancy.

Dr Surridge said the Minister could appoint a person temporarily for 12 months in a time of crisis.

The Chairperson asked the Committee whether they accepted all the clauses and amendments of the Bill. The Committee voted unanimously to pass the Bill with amendments.

Department briefing on Madrid Protocol and Geneva Act of Hague Agreement
Mr M Moeletsi and Mr M Netshitenzhe (Directors) from the Department of Trade and Industry gave a short overview of the Madrid Protocol and Geneva Act. The aim had not been to ratify the Madrid Agreement. The Department only requested the ratification of the 1960 Madrid Protocol and 1999 Geneva Act. The benefits had been discussed at previous meetings.

Mr Moeletsi emphasised that people with overseas property would benefit the most.

Mr Sibiya asked whether the Budapest Treaty had been of any relevance to the Geneva Act and Madrid Protocol. Mr Netshitenzhe said there was no legal connection between the three.

The Chairperson asked the Committee whether they agreed with the Geneva Act, the Madrid Protocol and Explanatory Memorandum. The Committee agreed to recommend that the South African Parliament ratify the Geneva Act and the Madrid Protocol.

The Chair said the Committee's next meetings would be the following Tuesday 19 October on Public Enterprises and on Wednesday 20 October on Economic and Foreign Affairs.

The meeting was adjourned.

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