Clause 60

Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 19 June 2008.

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Consultation: general

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

We have heard a significant amount about consultation in the debate, and it is an important part of the requirements of the Bill. The clause relates to other clauses that we have discussed or will come on to. Subsection (1) states:

“Before making an order under this Part the relevant authority must consult the following...the regulator to which the order relates...such organisations as appear to the relevant authority to be representative of persons substantially affected by the proposals”.

That could be a business group, which may represent a number of small businesses or other such persons. It is important that consultation is part of the machinery for which we are legislating, and there is a broad definition under subsections (1)(a) to (c) of who should be consulted. That will rightly ensure a high level of public scrutiny of the decision to award a regulator new sanctioning powers.

If there are substantial changes to any part of the proposals as a result of the consultation exercise, subsection (2) requires the Minister to undertake further consultation on the revised proposals, as he considers appropriate.

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

Clause 60 is important and the process of consultation is essential if sanctions are to work as part of the Bill. Subsections (1)(c) and (2) are particularly important in the context of consumers. Quite understandably, we have discussed the principal relationships between regulator and regulatee, but it is important to recognise a third significant group—consumers. The Minister is nodding.

It is extremely important to ensure that the interests of consumer organisations, such as the National Consumer Council or the Consumers Association—better known as Which?—are included in the process as those organisations do an excellent job of representing consumers’ interests. They represent the interests of many of our constituents, so it is extremely important that the measure is not simply confined to a narrow relationship between  the regulator and regulated—I think that is probably better English than regulatee; it is important that the provision goes further than that. We welcome that addition to the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 60 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 61 ordered to stand part of the Bill.