Clause 66

Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 19 June 2008.

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Compliance with regulatory principles

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

I beg to move amendment No. 45, in clause 66, page 32, line 6, at end add—

‘(2) Where the regulator is a local authority or authorities, prior to the provision being made the relevant authority shall consult the LBRO as to whether the authority or authorities are fully compliant with the said principles and will continue to act in accordance with those principles.

(3) Notwithstanding subsection (2), the relevant authority may proceed to make the provision in subsection (1) with the condition that the LBRO is satisfied that any authority that is not fully compliant will become fully compliant within one year of the provision being made.’.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 3—Duty to secure observance of Code of Practice—

‘Where any local authority has been granted powers under Part 3 of this Act, the LBRO shall have the duty or reviewing and, if appropriate, certifying every three years whether local authorities are compliant with the provisions of any Code issued under Section 22 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006.’.

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

I want the new clause to be regarded as a distinct element. If the Minister embraces both proposals warmly, the matter will be resolved, but if not, we may  wish to press them to a Division. It would be appropriate to hear his response, but we might wish to deal with new clause 3 separately.

Amendment No. 45 would insert two subsections into the clause. It relates to local authorities, and it would reinforce the need for all regulators to be fully compliant with the Hampton principles. We have debated them, so I shall not rehearse them now. The amendment stems, as does new clause 3, from worries that have been expressed by business. I am particularly grateful to the British Retail Consortium for bringing the issue to my attention. It is worried that this part of the Bill does not explicitly state roots in the Hampton principles, and it wants consistency in the compliance of regulations with those principles. It says that not only when regulators begin their process should they be seen to be compliant, but that there should be a process by which that is made consistent throughout their operation.

The amendment would provide the Government with a compromise. It would allow the powers to proceed as the clause envisages, even if some authorities are not currently compliant. It would give the Local Better Regulation Office a role to ensure that such authorities become compliant in a year. It would make sure of the opportunity to achieve Hampton compliance. We can all think of local authorities that may achieve that at a particular point, but we believe in the principles and want the whole system to be skewed towards ensuring that the maximum number of authorities are compliant, and thus able to participate.

New clause 3 would ensure that other regulators who can use the administrative penalties are also consistently compliant with the Hampton principles. As the Minister  knows, the Macrory report was clear that the use of administrative penalties should only be for regulators who are consistently compliant. As drafted, the Bill does not seem to secure ongoing compliance. It requires an assessment prior to the first allocation of the powers, but not thereafter. It may well be that with the vast range of resources behind him, the hon. Gentleman can identify the fact that such a provision is embedded in another part of the Bill. Unless he can show that a consistent compliance provision exists, the new clause would strengthen the Bill’s Hampton credentials. Consistency is just as important as being compliant at the beginning, so if I may I shall move the amendment and new clause 3.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

We shall come to new clause 3 formally later, but we can debate the two provisions together now.

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

I agree with the sentiment behind the new clause. So many companies will feel frustration if they are encumbered with a local authority that is not working within the spirit and the law of the Hampton principles. The new clause would give the LBRO auditing powers to see that local authorities comply with the Hampton principles and the ability to certify them as compliant every three years. I should be grateful if the Minister would elucidate on whether such matters are catered for elsewhere in the Bill or whether the proposal would introduce something new that would be helpful.

It being twenty-five minutes past Ten o’clock, The Chairmanadjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned till this day at One o’clock.