Lord Hanningfield (Shadow Minister, Local and Devolved Government Affairs; Conservative)
The thrust of these amendments is to tease out a little more about guidance for the enforcement and inspection regime and the resulting costs to local authorities.
Subsection (1) states:
"The appropriate national authority may give guidance".
It is clear that guidance does not have to be given, which is why we suggest in Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 that it "will" give guidance. The appropriate national authority would therefore be under a duty to give guidance rather than merely having the power to do so.
Amendment No. 26 would add paragraphs (e), (f), (g) and (h). Paragraph (e) would make transparent the training expected of environmental health officers. It is clear what the roles to be undertaken under the new system will require but one ought to be specific about what is required of local authorities rather than the rather vague provision in the Bill as it stands.
Paragraph (f) is proposed because certain specifications are expected of local authorities. Paragraphs (g) and (h) also add to the guidance. We are trying to expand the degree of guidance needed so that the time and cost implications for local authorities are much clearer and more quantifiable. We want the situation to be clear so that authorities know what the costs are, and so that the Local Government Association can make representations to the Government for proper funding.
Amendment No. 27 would ensure that any guidance issued under this section is properly scrutinized by both Houses of Parliament rather than simply being published by the Government.
Amendments Nos. 35 and 38 would provide an avenue for a local authority to seek suitable guidance in regard to the issuing and contents of prohibition orders from the appropriate national authority.
We are attempting to probe the Government's thinking a little on the system that the Bill envisages. It would surely be preferable to have a system that is easily understood, with uniformity throughout the country. There appears to be nothing at present that restricts one local authority from interpreting this part of the Bill significantly differently from a neighbouring local authority. Circumstances will obviously change from area to area and, indeed, from district to district whatever the Government do. Surely allowing each local authority recourse to the national authority is a sensible step. I beg to move.