Clause 11 - Interpretation

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:45 pm on 6 May 2003.

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Amendment made: No. 190, in

clause 11, page 7, line 41, leave out subsection (1) and insert—

'(1) References to a controlled drug and (however expressed) to the production or supply of a controlled drug must be construed in accordance with the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.'.—[Mr. Bob Ainsworth.]

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

On a point of order, Mr. Cran. I am slightly puzzled because my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire and I did not see amendment No. 190 on the selection list. We may have been in error, but it does not appear to be on our selection list.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

If the hon. Gentleman looks, he will find it.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I beg to move amendment No. 42, in

clause 11, page 8, line 28, leave out 'of the fee simple'.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Cambridgeshire has now spotted amendment No. 190 under clause 1, so the mystery is solved.

It may be my cynical mind, but whenever I see a Government Bill that is printed in one typeface apart from one part of one page, which is in a completely different typeface and involves specific legal language with which I am familiar, it occurs to me that it might be what people in the film industry call a last-minute cut-and-paste job. I wonder whether one of the Home Office draftsmen suddenly realised that there may be a technicality relating to land law and rushed off to the relevant bit of the Treasury Solicitor's Department for a specific definition of ownership. Other than those of us who had to fight through exams on land law as part of our legal qualifications, one does not often see phrases such as

''other than a mortgagee not in possession, who is for the time being entitled to dispose of the fee simple of the premises''.

I would be fascinated to hear the Minister describe his understanding of fee simple, but at this time of night it would be unfair on him, hard though I know he works. I want just to know whether he has a simple explanation for it.

Photo of Shona McIsaac Shona McIsaac Labour, Cleethorpes

The hon. Gentleman will notice that the passage in question is not in fact in a different typeface, but in a different type size.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's correction. I should have said that it is a different type size; nevertheless, it looks different and immediately jumps off the page. It was obviously included at a different time and I am interested in what the Minister has to say about it.

While I am on my feet, Mr. Cran, I would like to query a matter of order. We were disappointed that our proposed new clause 1 was not selected for debate, because we hoped that this Bill was an appropriate vehicle for our proposals on proceedings against drugged drivers, which are contained in a measure currently being debated in another place and due to come to this House in July. Will you advise me at some point before we finish tonight about whether its non-selection means that it could still be referred to on Report? I wanted to raise that before we ran out of time on this part of the Bill.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

I have found a good use for the hon. Member for Surrey Heath. I must admit that not only am I not an expert on land law, but I had not noticed the different size of print. His devious mind has alighted on something that may be right.

The amendment has highlighted the difficult question of the owner of a property. The correct identification of the ownership of the property is a concern and legal definitions can appear complicated. As currently drafted, the subsection identifies the freeholder of the premises as the owner, and it may be desirable also to include the leaseholder in cases in which property is subject to a relatively long lease.

We shall give the issue further consideration with a view to introducing an amendment on Report if necessary. I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing to the Committee's attention a potential difficulty that must be addressed. I ask him to withdraw the amendment so that we can do that.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am glad that the Minister has found my raising the issue helpful, and given that he has continued to examine what I acknowledge are difficult issues, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Labour, Gedling

Clause 11 brings us to the end of the first part on an important new power, of which we have listed the different interpretations. I know that it is a concern to the Minister and his colleagues to ensure that all the bodies that have the new power available to them know that it is available. We have found that although we pass powers in this place, many people have no idea about them. If we are passing the powers, we must ensure that such people know about them so that they can be used.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 7:00, 6 May 2003

My hon. Friend is right. Simplicity is always a good thing, but some of our legislation has to be complicated. It grows up over time and is not used to the extent that it should be. We often find ourselves passing new laws when there is potentially an answer or redress in existing law, so communicating the new powers will be important. We will have to join in that communication at every level.

Concerns about certain aspects of the power have been addressed in Committee today, and there is broad agreement that it is needed. That agreement should help us in hammering home the necessity of using the powers whenever appropriate. We will have to examine what we do as a Government, both in the Home Office and in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, to communicate the need to use the powers. I give my hon. Friend the assurance that we will do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr James Cran Mr James Cran Conservative, Beverley and Holderness

On the matter of order, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath will know that such decisions are made by the Speaker and his advisers. I cannot say much more about that, except that perhaps that the hon. Gentleman should keep close to the Clerk after the sitting, as he might be able to help him more than I can at this stage.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Adjourned accordingly at one minute past Seven o'clock till Thursday 8 May at ten minutes past Nine o'clock.