Clause 72 - Nomination of key-holders

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 27th January 2005.

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

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

This is a small point for clarification. Clause 71 creates a new offence and on conviction a person is liable to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale. I assume that it will be the responsibility of the local authority to ensure that the provisions of the clause are brought to the attention of those who may fall under them. What happens if the responsible person, as described in subsections (4) and (5), has delegated his responsibility? What if there has been a change in the person who is responsible for complying with the provisions of the clause? Is it the   responsible person himself, the key holder or the owner of the premises if it is a dwelling or the tenant if it is business premises?

Subsection (3) states:

''A person may be nominated as a key-holder in respect of premises'' only if he meets the criteria that are set out. In the event of a disagreement where it is not clear who that person is, who interprets that part of the subsection and the other provisions of the clause?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

On the last point, such issues will be dealt with in a common-sense way by the local authorities. It will issue guidance and make it clear to those to whom a notice is given of the designation of an area exactly how they must carry out their requirements. It is the responsibility of the responsible person to do it properly. Clearly if the local authority spotted that it was not being pursued in the right way, it would raise that with the individual. Responsibility must rest with the responsible person.

The clause essentially provides the back-up provision to deal with those who are casual about their responsibilities and flout the interests of the local community by failing to do what they are supposed to do. I would be extremely surprised if a local authority did not first point out to someone who was failing to comply with the requirements that they were subject to a criminal conviction and invite them to comply, not least because that would avoid the cost of undertaking a prosecution. An authority could go straight to a prosecution if someone was flouting the law and clearly had no intention of complying. The court would take account of the circumstances in deciding whether a person should be found guilty and what punishment should be given out. I am certain that the proportionality of our system of prosecution would deal with those issues.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

The newspapers have been full recently of the case of a lady who was stopped for eating an apple while driving. I think the case cost well over £10,000 in the end. Is that the proportionality and reasonableness that we would want to see in the clause?

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I have referred in the past to the time when the current leader of the Conservative party was attacked by the newspapers when someone was fined for the so-called ''mere dropping'' of a crisp packet. The circumstance of the case turned out to be quite different. I will not be driven by references to a lady eating an apple while driving when I do not know the circumstances. I certainly do not believe everything that I read in the newspapers. I am certain that in general proportionality applies. There is the odd case, which is the exception. Often with odd cases the description in the newspapers has nothing to do with the actual circumstances. I counsel the hon. Gentleman, whether dealing with arms or apples, to be sure of the facts.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 72 ordered to stand part of the Bill.