Clause 5 - Further provision about licences

Scrap Metal Dealers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 11th September 2012.

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

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

I do not wish to detain the Committee, but I want to know something. Clause 5 indicates that under paragraph 2 of schedule 1, the authority may vary the licence. In doing so, are the local authorities going to, bound to, or entitled to charge a fee for the varying of a licence? There would be an additional cost to the local authority in varying that licence. The local authority can charge for issuing a licence, but what is the procedure for varying a licence? Does it have the ability to recharge the costs of that licence?

Photo of Richard Ottaway Richard Ottaway Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee

The clause provides that schedule 1 has effect. Schedule 1 sets out the procedural issues relating to the licence—in particular, the terms of the licence, the application process, the offence of making a false statement and the appeals process. Within the schedule is a fee-raising power. One of the limitations of the existing registration scheme in the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 is that it does not allow local authorities to generate any funds, so all activity associated with administering the scheme and ensuring compliance must be funded by the local authority. As a result, activity in relation to the current scheme is barely adequate at best. Recognising that issue, the Bill rightly includes a fee-raising power to allow local authorities to recover the cost of administration and compliance activity in relation to the Bill.

The Local Government Association believes that providing funding through the licence fee will ensure the integrity of the new regime. The Home Office has discussed this facet of the Bill with representatives of the scrap metal industry, who accept that that is a small price to pay for a scheme that works and removes illegal operators from the industry. The Home Office has worked with the LGA to estimate the likely cost of a licence, but costs will be determined locally. It believes that this is a reasonable and proportionate process. Throughout the process, the views of the scrap metal industry and the LGA have been sought.

A key element of the new regime is to ensure that only businesses and individuals who are considered as being suitable should be permitted to operate as scrap metal dealers. The application will require information on key business personnel, other held licences and permits, relevant convictions, wider business issues and the procedures in place to comply with the cash prohibition. They will all contribute towards painting a picture about the suitability of the operator. A criminal offence of providing false information has been created to ensure accuracy.

Although the Bill is prescriptive about the information that it requires, schedule 1 permits local authorities to request further information as appropriate to consider fully each application. That will therefore equip local authorities with the information that they need to ascertain fully the applicant’s suitability. As far as the specific inquiries made, no particular note has come my way at the moment, so I have to confess that I do not know the answer. If something turns up later on, I will find a way to work it in, to give the right hon. Gentleman the answer that he is after.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:00 pm, 11th September 2012

I would be grateful to the hon. Gentleman if at some stage, perhaps with assistance, he dropped me a note to that effect, just so we have some clarity. I would not want a situation in which local authorities did not accept or understand their powers.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.