Clause 17 - Effect of sections 14 to 16 on byelaws

Part of Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:15 am on 27th February 2001.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 11:15 am, 27th February 2001

Again, I tend to the Government view. The effect of the legislation will be to enable local government to make decisions to implement national legislation. It will therefore effectively render otiose the existing procedure, which is the making of byelaws. That will not impinge on local authorities' rights, because they will still have the right to implement the legislation. The proposal is good, because there should be as little legislation as possible cluttering up the statute books. Byelaws are fine up to a point, but it is very difficult to find out which byelaws exist, and even to get into the place where they are recorded. In my experience—we have probably all had similar experiences—it is even more difficult to find out what the byelaws are than it is to find out what the current legislation is. It is hard enough to access law easily in an up-to-date, word-processed form that takes into account the codification and tidying-up of the law. Byelaws do not relate or cross-refer to one another or legislation, so anyone who is intelligently trying to hunt through them to find relevant regulations is in difficulty. The legislation provides a way of making them easier to discover.

There would be some merit in providing an easily accessible venue for anyone, including the public, who has an interest in knowing what orders are made by local government under legislation. That would apply to other aspects of law, and certainly to the matters under discussion. We should have a facility to log into the orders made under regulations by the London borough of Southwark, to discover the legislation that it seeks to implement and the way in which it seeks to do so. That is especially important when there is discretion, which will result in differences. There will inevitably be differences in this case, as it depends on local government around the country.

My final point touches again on our discussions of fixed penalty notices. If there are different parking regimes, fixed penalty regimes, tariffs and hours, we must try to make the law as comprehensible as possible. Earlier, the Minister expressed a view about the clarity of some wording in the Bill, and I agree with him. We should all make a perpetual effort to make as few laws as possible and to make them as simply drafted, accessible and up to date as possible. We should make as little cross-reference as possible to legislative provisions that no one in their right mind would want to spend a lot of time looking for on a Saturday afternoon in his or her local library.