Clause 108 - Commencement

Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 1st February 2005.

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Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 121, in clause 108, page 79, leave out line 22.

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

I referred to the amendments a few minutes ago because they change the proposed commencement arrangements for clause 68 on stray dogs. Instead of coming into force two months after the adoption of the Bill, it will be commenced by order of the Secretary of State. The reason for the change is very simple: it is the assurance that I gave to the Committee.

When we discussed clause 68, I gave an assurance that sole responsibility for stray dogs would not be transferred to local authorities without an appropriate transfer of resources. I also indicated that discussions on the amount to be transferred are in progress. Although I do not expect there to be any problems or delays, it would be wise to cater for the remote possibility that they might occur. The amendments would enable us to ensure that local authorities do not take on sole responsibility for stray dogs until the necessary funding has been transferred. Commencement will be by order of the Secretary of State, rather than the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales, because responsibility for police matters has not been devolved. In this case, the Secretary of State is the correct designation. I need not delay the Committee any longer. As the amendment delivers the assurance that I gave, I am sure that it will be commended on all sides. 

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

May I commend the Minister's openness and helpfulness? He gave the Committee an assurance, and responded to our real concerns that the transfer of resources would not take place. He was good enough to tell us that the discussions were ongoing. When he moved the amendments, I understood him to say that police matters had not been devolved. Can he clarify whether he means that they have not been devolved as of today, or that they are not being devolved under the provisions of the Bill?

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

Police responsibilities are not being devolved. There are local authority responsibilities that lie with the Secretary of State in England, or with the National Assembly for Wales, and police responsibilities have not been devolved. That is why the commencement powers lie with the Secretary of State—in this case, the Home Secretary.

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

That is very helpful. Without pressing him too far on the point, which is obviously pertinent to clause 109, can the Minister give an indication of what he thinks the pertinent start date under clause 68 will be? When does he believe that the Secretary of State will be able to bring forward orders in that regard?

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

Very simply, those are conversations between two Departments—the Home Office and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister—to which I am not party. However, everybody agrees about the principle of transferring the responsibilities and therefore the resources. I do not expect a long delay. Perhaps the amendment that I moved this morning was not necessary, but it merely makes it certain that the undertaking that I gave earlier would apply, and that, if there were any delay, the provision would not automatically be enforced before the resources were available.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 121, in clause 108, page 79, leave out line 22.—[Mr. Michael.]

Clause 108, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.