Third Reading

Part of Deregulation Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:14 pm on 4th March 2015.

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Photo of Baroness Hanham Baroness Hanham Conservative 7:14 pm, 4th March 2015

My Lords, I do not think that I need to delay the House too long on this, but I want to draw attention again to an issue that involves overriding what London is doing, which is becoming quite a concern. It relates to how waste disposal penalties are going to be put forward. London has been running its own waste penalty system since the London Local Authorities Act 2007; it has its own system set up and runs a very tight way of dealing with this, which is the forerunner of what is being proposed for the nation as a whole.

If London was being scooped into a system that was exactly the same as the one it has, perhaps we would not be so perturbed. But Schedule 12, which we are seeking to remove along with subsection (6), seeks to implement the most bureaucratic and byzantine scheme of penalty charging that I have seen. The basis of this is that London was the leader, forerunner and developer of the scheme of decriminalisation of penalty charges for people putting out their waste, dumping waste or putting it out inappropriately. Before that, it was done under the Environmental Protection Act and the fixed penalty notice, which of course is a criminal penalty.

So London led the way on decriminalising that and having a penalty charge notice scheme. Ten years later, the Government suddenly caught up with the fact that that was happening and saw that it would be a very good idea in the rest of the country, so that is what this clause tries to implement. It takes five pages of the schedule and the clause to put in a penalty scheme for the rest of the country, with the implication that London is now part and parcel of that scheme, instead of leaving it with the system that it has up and running, leaving it alone and letting it carry on doing what it is doing. It already has an appeals system and a penalty charge notice system that has been decriminalised.

What the Government are doing, in these five pages of legislation, is byzantine in its detail. If an enforcement officer identifies something inappropriate, they cannot just issue a penalty charge notice; they have to give a written warning. So there is a written warning that says, “We are about to think about giving you a penalty charge notice”. Having done that, they have to wait a bit longer and then issue a notice of intent to issue a fixed penalty notice, which is issued with 28 days in which to make representations. To be fair, the proposed scheme gives, as the London scheme does, three months in which to answer that. But then a final notice is issued with a penalty charge; then there is an appeal to an independent adjudicator, who can either uphold the penalty charge or turn it down. By the time that the whole process is finished, anybody who has done it will either have left the country or be untraceable.

On Report, I complained about all this, and I am extremely grateful to the Minister because he took time out to meet the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and me, and go through our concerns. We were very grateful for that. It gave me the opportunity to bring this back for another look, to see whether the Government, if they want to do this long, protracted and difficult scheme that they have set out in the rest of the country, could just leave London to do what it is doing, carrying on as it is doing and working in its own way. That would not detract from any actions that are taken and would make the process very much shorter, as well as leaving London doing what it set out to do itself.

This takes me back a bit to what I said on the previous amendment. There is a tendency for London local authorities to be overridden by changes to their legislation. They put forward private Bills on an ad hoc and sometimes annual or biannual basis. They are supported by all the local authorities—they have to be—and are financed by all the local authorities. They therefore comprise specific legislation referring to difficulties in London or the way that things need to be done there. It seems to me to be moving away from what we were talking about earlier in terms of localism and doing things the way they should be done and from devolution, which is happening all the time now, to making all local authorities act in entirely the same way.

London is a leader in this area. I believe that it should be left to get on with it. If the rest of the nation wants to follow the requirements in the six or so pages of the relevant schedule detailing how this issue should be resolved, let it get on with it, but my amendments would relieve London of the necessity of doing so. I beg to move.