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Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 17 June 2008.

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Enforcement priorities

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

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

This clause is also important because it deals with the priorities for regulation at a local level. Over the years, different priorities have been given to local authorities to enforce. Local authorities have said to us in the past, quite fairly, “We are being asked to do a lot of different things. A list of things that we are asked to do by all the different Departments would be long.” With that in mind, the Government recently asked Mr. Peter Rogers to conduct a review of the different local authority enforcement priorities, and to give some sense of priority to the priorities, if I may put it that way. He produced an extremely valuable list, and the clause will ensure that it is updated over time.

It states:

LBRO must...publish...a list specifying matters to which a local authority...should give priority when allocating resources” and that local authorities

“must have regard to the appropriate list”.

Of course, rightly, subsections (5) and (6) state:

“LBRO may not publish” such a list

“without the consent of the Secretary of State” or, when relevant,

“without the consent of the Welsh Ministers”.

I do think that this is an extremely—

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

On a point of order, Mr. Chope. The Minister is referring to a list of lists. It sounds fascinating, but I am not privy to it, and I do not know whether other Members are, including the hon. Member for Solihull. We are not aware of what is on the list of lists, and it would helpful if it could be made available to the Committee.

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

Absolutely. This is a public document, so I am happy to furnish the hon. Gentleman and other members of the Committee with the fruits of Mr. Peter Rogers’s work.

The clause is important because it was a valuable piece of work. Local authorities will welcome some sense of what they are expected to concentrate on. The clause gives LBRO the job of ensuring that the list is kept up to date, but I am happy to furnish the hon. Gentleman with a copy of Mr. Rogers’s report.

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

I am grateful to the Minister for agreeing to provide us with that report, not least because one of my questions was how prescriptive such a list would be. Clearly, the Minister is ahead of the legislation.

I agree that clause 11 is important, but will the Minister say where there could be dilemmas? In particular, if a local authority has chosen to focus on a particular problem in its area, why should the LBRO interfere, and how would it do so? That question would certainly be asked by some of our constituents.

Let us take, for example, Wolverhampton, given that it is familiar to the Minister. If the good burghers of Wolverhampton felt that sorting out bad licensees was their No. 1 priority, how would the requirement to “have regard to” a national list work? Who resolves whether or not Wolverhampton is completely ignoring the aforementioned list of lists because it is determined to resolve bad licensees? How does Wolverhampton allocate its resources to square the circle that the Minister described? On the one hand, it must be able to deal with the problems that it faces in its own area and, on the other, to “have regard to” what would clearly be national priorities. Who resolves such a conflict?

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

The phrase “have regard to” is the key to the problem. The measure is not a power of direction like the one we discussed in our debate on clause 7. It says to local authorities, “The Government understand that you are often asked to do many different things by different Departments. We hope it will be helpful if we publish a list of all the things that we want you to have particular regard to, to give you some sense of priority.”

The hon. Gentleman used the example of the fine city of Wolverhampton and circumstances when a Wolverhampton council would wish to prioritise licensing. As coincidence has it, licensing is one of the areas highlighted by Peter Rogers. The others were air quality, hygiene of food businesses, improving health in the workplace, fair trading, and animal and public health. I do not wish to rest the case just by saying that the example that he cited happened to be on the list. Let us  say that Wolverhampton wished to do something that was not one of those six priorities.

We are not talking about the power of prohibition, but the list is a welcome guide to Wolverhampton city council and other local authorities saying, “Of all the different things that central Government ask us to do, what do they really think that we should be spending our time on in enforcement?” It does not prohibit a local authority from looking beyond the list and saying that the six areas are fine, but they have a problem with area No. 7. The list is not a prohibition. It is something that may change and evolve over time, which is why clause 11 is part of the Bill.

Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk Shadow Minister (Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) 12:15, 17 June 2008

I am grateful to the Minister. When focusing on the delightful city of Wolverhampton, it is such a pleasure to hear the gentle lilt of the Wolverhampton accent.

As for Wolverhampton’s priorities, one of the issues that we looked at under clause 7 was the power of direction. Can the hon. Gentleman confirm that that power does not relate to anything under clause 11?

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

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the local football team in Wolverhampton is called the Wanderers, so perhaps I am not the first wanderer to have arrived in the city.

Clause 7 does not apply to the Rogers list. It is not a power of direction. It does not apply in that way. I shall not go over the ground again. The Rogers list and that sort of exercise is valuable to local authorities, and the provision is about making sure that that value is maintained as time goes on.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 agreed to.