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 Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate 11:15 am, 27th February 2001

I hope that the Minister can restrain himself from screaming about a Tory split, but I do not agree with my hon. Friends' amendments, as is clear from my amendment, No. 129. I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me. Two principles are conflicting and, as a Conservative, there is a judgment to be made about which side of the argument to take.

My hon. Friends have properly said that the matter should be decided by local authorities, and that it is not for us to tell them how to deal with byelaws. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey has made the equally proper counter-argument that the law should, as far as possible, be simple for the public to understand. Local authorities can probably use the powers through byelaws if they want to, as can be seen in the example of the constituency of the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood. However, as we are to use a vehicle of national legislation, I come down on the side of the argument made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey, which was that it is better to have only one frame of reference—the national legislation. The rules should come into force through that vehicle, set up under the regulations and guidelines put in place by the Government under secondary legislation.

Frankly, we should get on with that process. For that reason, I hope that the Minister will accept amendment No. 129, which would reduce from 10 years to five years the handover period, in which the public will be confused as to where the authority is coming from. Once the legislation is on the statute book, it would be perfectly proper for local authorities to have a five-year period in which to examine their byelaws and the confusion of rules made in the past, to consider problems that are a nuisance to local people, such as alcohol abuse, and to decide whether they want to clear away byelaws and put the legislation in place. Ten years is too long to subject the public to the confusion of two systems running alongside each other; five years is enough. We must either get on and use the national framework created by the legislation—which means that the Minister will accept amendment No. 129—or accept amendments Nos. 64 and 65, which allow this to remain a matter for local authorities. We have to judge which of those conflicting principles is appropriate.

If we believe that the issue is a matter for local authorities and that they should be able to make extra regulations, we must accept my hon. Friend's amendments. If not, why should we allow 10 years? Byelaws should be reviewed as soon as possible; five years should be the longest time allowed for local authorities to review them and I see no case for 10.