Clause 32

Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 17 June 2008.

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LBRO support

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

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

The clause is an interesting addendum to what we have been talking about. Subsection (1) states:

LBRO may do anything it considers appropriate for the purpose of supporting the primary authority”.

That is quite a wide statement and, while we do not want to be nonsensical, given that it is in the Bill and we are dealing with an unaccountable, non-departmental public body, it is questionable whether it should be able to do anything that it regards as appropriate. There is no requirement, for example, for the LBRO to act in a proportionate fashion. The clause does not say that it should act in an open and transparent manner. It would therefore help if the Minister clarified matters.

I am worried because it feels as though the clause has been inserted quickly and without due consideration. That feeling is reinforced by the fact that, having given us large, sweeping potential power under subsection (1), the clause suddenly realises that it may have gone a bit far, and suddenly we get subsection (2), which says, “Oh, and that includes making grants”. There is the impression that the clause has not entirely been thought through. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can reassure me about that.

Fine, I accept that the LBRO has the power to make grants. On what basis? For how much? Where will it work? What will the grants pay for? The clause is not well drafted. It gives a wide, sweeping range of examples and then someone has tacked in grants at the back of it as an afterthought. It does not feel like a coherent thought. I should be interested to know what the Minister believes would not be appropriate, so that we can understand how far the LBRO can extend itself.

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 is an enabling clause. We talked this morning about LBRO’s budget, which has been set at about £4.5 million a year. That is a relatively modest amount with which to carry out its functions. It would enable it possibly to give some support to local authorities in respect of functions that it asks them to do, which is why the clause includes making grants to local authorities. The Bill does not prescribe the circumstances in which LBRO may do that and it will ultimately be for its board to decide whether it wishes to exercise the functions. It is sensible to allow LBRO such a power to ensure that it  is able to carry them out. It is sensible flexibility to provide the support that, as an independent body, it should provide.

There are constraints on LBRO’s expenditure within the normal Treasury rules. We talked this morning about the presentation of accounts to Parliament. That discussion was about time limits, but the normal Treasury rules would apply to expenditure. We think that it is sensible to have some flexibility to support local authorities in the work that we are asking them to do in this part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.