Third Reading

Part of Deregulation Bill – in the House of Lords at 7:15 pm on 4th March 2015.

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Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour 7:15 pm, 4th March 2015

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hanham, for bringing this amendment back. I did not have the benefit of attending the meeting that she had with the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, but presumably his explanations of why the Government were doing this crazy thing were not sufficiently compelling to persuade the noble Baroness not to bring back the amendment.

The Minister has to answer some very simple questions if he is to persuade anyone that this is a good idea. The first is: what is the problem that the Government are trying to solve? What is wrong with the scheme under the London Local Authorities Act 2007? What is failing in that scheme? What is the evidence that that is not working or that people are being unnecessarily penalised for a first-time offence? It looks as if the Government have brought forward a Deregulation Bill and have decided not to deregulate something in London but to complicate the regulatory process by introducing extra stages, processes and bureaucracy. If I thought I understood anything about what this Government were trying to do, it was that they believed in simplifying red tape and eliminating wasteful form filling and processes. However, the Government’s proposal makes this area more complicated, not less. The Minister needs to explain why that is the case and why this is an additional regulation Bill rather than a Deregulation Bill.

The Minister needs to explain another thing. I thought the Government believed that localism was another important principle, but the London local authorities have come together and developed a scheme which is working well—unless the Minister can produce evidence at this 11th hour of a whole series of problems of which nobody else was aware. However, we now have an example of the heavy-handed bureaucracy of the Department for Communities and Local Government, and the Minister’s right honourable friend Eric Pickles saying, “I want to put the dead hand of central government authority on to London local authorities”. How does this square with the Government’s policy on localism? I suspect that this measure was dreamt up for reasons of simplicity without anyone looking at the details, and now nobody is prepared to admit that they got it wrong. However, the reality is that it imposes additional regulation, goes against the principle of localism and we will end up with more bureaucracy and problems to solve a problem which does not exist.