Clause 12 - Records of dealings

Scrap Metal Dealers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:30 pm on 11th September 2012.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 6:30 pm, 11th September 2012

I beg to move amendment 35, in clause 12, page 7, line 2, leave out from ‘allows’ to end of line 3 and insert ‘the information and the scrap metal to which it relates to be readily identified by reference to each other.’.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 12, in clause 12, page 7, line 7, leave out ‘2 years’ and insert ‘3 years’.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

This is a rather comical amendment. Clause 12(6) states:

The information…must be recorded in a manner which allows each of the items of information to be readily connected to the scrap metal to which they relate.”

There was concern in drafting terms that that may be interpreted as the paperwork’s being literally connected to the scrap metal by means of a nail, for example, or a staple—[Interruption.] Or Sellotape. The information needs to relate in administrative terms, rather than being physically connected to the scrap metal. I am sure that Committee members will regard that clarification as helpful, if they thought it was insufficiently clear to start with.

Amendment 12 may find some favour with the Committee. In the collegiate spirit, the record-keeping period is stipulated as two years because that is the period under the 1964 Act. All existing scrap metal dealers have therefore become accustomed, possibly over decades, to keeping their fiscal records for two years. Perfectly reputable and honourable people have done that in a way that works well for them, and it was thought an undue burden would be placed on them if they were required to keep records for longer.

My only concession—not in Government Minister terms, but in debating terms—to the right hon. Member for Delyn is that the licence period in the Bill is three years, so one could argue that a record-keeping period of three years would be consistent with that. One could also argue that two years is quite a sufficiently onerous administrative burden, and why increase the burden when it is not the matter of concern? We would not be legislating for that in isolation. By requiring perfectly honourable people who keep their records for two years to keep them for three years, we may create a pinch-point that does not have much, if any, impact on those who we are seeking to disadvantage. I do not feel strongly about the issue. The two-year period comes from the 1964 Act. However, if my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South or the right hon. Gentleman, or the Committee as a whole, feel that three years would be superior to two years, I would not regard it as a failure in my political career to have prevented him from making that change.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:45 pm, 11th September 2012

The Minister has outlined the reasoning behind amendment 12. The licence period is three years and yet the record-keeping period is two years, which seems to be an inconsistency. If we have a three-year licence period, records should be kept for the period of the licence, so that those records can be checked.

I have been a Member of Parliament for 20 years. I had five years in opposition before 1997 and have had two and half years in opposition since 2010. In all my seven and a half years in opposition, not once have I had an amendment that I proposed accepted by a Government Minister. He could really break a long duck if he accepted the change from two years to three. As a Minister for 13 years, I did accept amendments from the Opposition, even though he is doing what we did, which was to look at them again and replace them  in our own fair and gentle hand. There is not much that the Minister can do with the number 3 to make it more acceptable to the parliamentary draftsman. If he is willing to accept the change, I would be delighted to have an amendment accepted after seven and a half years of opposition. It would be a major achievement and would certainly cheer me up no end. If he is willing to do that, I accept his graciousness, but if he is not, I will happily withdraw the amendment.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I am overwhelmed with the success of the hon. Gentleman and the Minister in accepting my amendment. Every scrap metal dealer can call that third year “Hanson’s year” in future.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

All the ones who do not like it can write to you.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I will live with that consequence. I appreciate the efforts of the Minister and the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

This is so unique that it is presenting a little difficulty for the Chair.

Amendment 35 agreed to.

Amendment made: 12, in clause 12, page 7, line 7, leave out ‘2 years’ and insert ‘3 years’.—(Mr Hanson.)

Amendments made: 36, in clause 12, page 7, line 9, leave out ‘comply with’ and insert ‘fulfil’.

Amendment 37, in clause 12, page 7, leave out lines 13 to 18 and insert—

‘() any person who, under arrangements made by a person within paragraph (a) or (b), has responsibility for fulfilling the requirement.

‘(10) It is a defence for a person within subsection (9)(a) or (b) who is charged with an offence under this section to prove that the person—

(a) made arrangements to ensure that the requirement was fulfilled, and

(b) took all reasonable steps to ensure that those arrangements were complied with.’.—(Mr Browne.)

Clause 12, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.