Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [Lords]

– in a Public Bill Committee at on 17 June 2008.

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[Mr. Christopher Chope in the Chair]

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch 10:30, 17 June 2008

Before we begin, I have a few announcements to make. The hon. Member for Stafford has asked me informally whether people may remove their jackets, should they so wish. That is certainly all right by me. Will hon. Members ensure that their mobile phones and pagers are turned off or switched to silent during our proceedings?

Copies of the money resolution connected with the Bill are available in the room. I remind hon. Members that adequate notice should be given of amendments. As a general rule, I and my fellow Chairman do not intend to call starred amendments, nor do we intend to call amendments that are not signed by members of the Committee because we presume that they would not be moved.

I remind hon. Members about the procedure at the start of today’s sitting. The Committee will be asked first to consider the programme motion on the amendment paper for which debate is limited to half an hour. We shall then proceed to a motion to report written evidence before starting clause-by-clause scrutiny.

Photo of Pat McFadden Pat McFadden Minister of State (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) (Employment Relations and Postal Affairs), Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I beg to move,

That—

(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday 17th June) meet—

(a) at 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 17th June;

(b) at 9.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. on Thursday 19th June;

(c) at 11.00 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 24th June;

(d) at 9.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m. on Thursday 26th June;

(e) at 10.30 a.m. and 4.00 p.m. on Tuesday 1st July;

(2) the proceedings shall be taken in the following order: Clause 1; Schedule 1; Clause 2; Schedule 2; Clauses 3 and 4; Schedule 3; Clauses 5 to 28; Schedule 4; Clauses 29 to 37; Schedules 5 and 6; Clauses 38 to 62; Schedule 7; Clauses 63 to 77; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;

(3) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 p.m. on Tuesday 1st July.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Chope. I am sure that I say on behalf of the whole Committee how very much we are looking forward to your guidance in our deliberations. When I first glanced at the membership of the Committee and saw your name beside a little passport-sized photograph, I thought we would be in for a long, hot summer—we might still be. I then realised that you were in the Chair, which I thought was a bit like Barcelona having Ronaldinho as the referee rather than leading the attack.

I thank all those who have been involved in the Bill’s deliberations so far. We have had extensive consultation with businesses, regulators and those in many local authorities—all of whom have contributed extensively, for which we are grateful. The Bill was also subject to extensive and constructive debate in the other place and it comes to us improved by the work of colleagues there. It will change how we enforce regulations throughout the country, and it will create an expert body for the improvement of regulations at local level. It will create a framework for a more targeted and proportionate sanctioning of non-compliance with regulation, and it will assist in the reduction of the imposition of unnecessary burdens by our regulator. I am sure that we shall debate all such matters in significant detail over the coming weeks, and I look forward to those deliberations.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Minister (Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform)

I add my welcome to you, Mr. Chope. I know that you will provide us with firm and fair guidance from the Chair as we consider the matters before us. I also welcome the Minister. I am sure that we shall have a positive dialogue, and I hope that we can provide him with some relief from the endless debates on post office closures that have, I suspect, been a darker period for him. I hope we can provide him with a little relief from that in our social responsibility role on the Conservative Benches. I welcome the fact that no knives or guillotines are contained in the programme motion and I know that as a staunch parliamentarian, Mr. Chope, you will welcome the fact that there are no such limits on our ability to consider the matters in their full. That is important because sometimes Labour Members take a heavy-handed approach, which can limit our ability to explore the unintended consequences of such issues.

As the Minister said, the Bill began in the other place and, to use his words, it has been improved. The Government have been forced to accept more than 12 major concessions, and I put on the record my sincere congratulations to all the Members of the other place who participated in that process, particularly my Conservative colleagues who engaged actively in that scrutiny and did their job extremely well. However, there remain some worries and the Minister referred to one or two of them, which is why the programme motion is important.

There are concerns about the powers and scope of the Bill, about accountability, about the potential for injustice in what might be seen as a parking fine approach to regulation in part 3 and about whether the Bill can achieve what Ministers are promising. However, given the concessions already made in another place, my aim in the debate is to be precise in my scrutiny and concise in my remarks, so I have no intention or wish to oppose the motion.

Photo of Lorely Burt Lorely Burt Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party

Last but not least, I welcome you to the Chair this morning, Mr. Chope. I add my thanks to the bodies that so kindly advised our team, including the CBI, the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services and the British Retail Consortium; they have helped us tremendously in understanding some of the practical implications of the Bill. As my Conservative colleague said, the Bill has been much improved in the Lords. The contribution of my colleagues in the Lords has been a valuable help in  making the Bill stronger, so that it will balance the needs of business with the local requirements of enforcers on the ground—at the coal face—and the practical requirements with the needs of local democracy.

I am looking forward to a concise debate on the outstanding issues that we have to discuss. The Liberal Democrats have tabled only a small number of amendments and we look forward to taking the debate forward in a spirit of constructive criticism.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chairman, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—[Mr. McFadden.]

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Copies of any memorandums that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room. We now proceed to clause-by-clause scrutiny.