Clause 8 - Notification requirements

Scrap Metal Dealers Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 6:00 pm on 11th September 2012.

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Amendments made: 26, in clause 8, page 4, line 31, leave out from ‘business’ to first ‘the’ in line 33 and insert ‘under a trading name,’.

Amendment 27, in clause 8, page 4, line 34, leave out ‘the trading’ and insert ‘that’.—(Mr Jeremy Browne.)

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

I beg to move amendment 28, in clause 8, page 4, line 38, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

‘() any notification given to the authority under subsection (2) or (4),’.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 29, in clause 8, page 4, line 39, leave out ‘paragraph 2’ and insert ‘paragraph 3A’.

Amendment 30, in clause 8, page 4, line 40, at end insert ‘and

() any revocation by the authority of a licence.

‘(6A) Notification under subsection (6) must be given within 28 days of the notification, variation or revocation in question.’.

Amendment 31, in clause 8, page 4, line 41, leave out ‘of a change or variation’ and insert ‘under subsection (6)’.

Amendment 50, in schedule 1, page 12, line 21, leave out paragraph 2.

Amendment 51, in schedule 1, page 12, line 28, leave out from ‘renewed’ to ‘must’ in line 30 and insert ‘on an application, which’.

Amendment 55, in schedule 1, page 13, line 28, leave out sub-paragraph (5).

Amendment 56, in schedule 1, page 13, line 31, at end insert—

‘Variation of licence

3A (1) A local authority may, on an application, vary a licence by changing it from one type to the other.

(2) If there is a change in any of the matters mentioned in section 2(4)(a) to (c) or (6)(a), the licensee must make an application to vary the licence accordingly.

(3) But the power to amend the name of the licensee does not include the power to transfer the licence from one person to another.

(4) An application under this paragraph—

(a) is to be made to the authority which issued the licence, and

(b) must contain particulars of the changes to be made to the licence.

(5) A licensee who fails to comply with sub-paragraph (2) is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

(6) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this paragraph to prove that the person took all reasonable steps to avoid committing the offence.’.

Amendment 58, in schedule 1, page 14, line 7, after ‘paragraph 3’, insert ‘or 3A’.

Amendment 59, in schedule 1, page 15, line 5, at end insert ‘or 3A’.

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

This is a rather long string of Government amendments. For the record I will explain, with reasonable brevity, the purpose of each of them. For those who are not following our deliberations in minute detail—perhaps on television, but not in the Chamber—the most practical effect will be to create a framework for local authorities to inform the Environment Agency. There is a requirement for the Environment Agency to hold a central list, but there is not a standardised procedure in terms of timings for local authorities to convey the information to the Environment Agency. The agency would not necessarily be able to hold an up-to-date list, because the authorities will not have given it to them, so we are trying to make practical changes to which I find it hard to believe any member of the Committee would object.

Government amendments 50, 51, 55, 58 and 59 give effect to Government amendment 56, which would insert new paragraph 3A in schedule 1. That would permit the local authority to vary a licence, including any of its particulars, and the licence type. However, licences cannot be transferred from one person to another on the grounds that that may circumvent the suitability test.

Amendment 56 also creates a criminal offence of failing to comply with the requirement to apply to vary a licence in circumstances where the individual is required to make the application to vary. That offence is needed so that the local authority is kept informed of all changes to a licence, ensuring that information remains accurate and up to date. Circumstances that will necessitate a licence being varied include changes to the site manager and the sites that a site licensee operates from. The ability to vary a licence necessitates clause 8, which relates to notification requirements. Clause 8(6) requires the local authority to supply any information in relation to licence variations to the Environment Agency—the point I was making.

Amendments 28, 29 and 30 seek to strengthen the requirement for the local authorities to inform the Environment Agency, including adding a time limit: the Environment Agency should be informed by local authorities no later than 28 days afterwards of any variations to a licence or whether a licence has been revoked. The Environment Agency is required under clause 8(7) to amend the national register accordingly, which will ensure that the register is kept as up to date as practicable. We are trying to strengthen the national register and to make sure that there is a requirement for speedy conveyance of information so that those who wish to look at it online or, indeed, to book an appointment on the second Tuesday of each month or whatever other arrangements are arrived at, can be satisfied that they are inspecting an up-to-date register when they do so.

Amendment 28 agreed to.

Amendments made: 29, in clause 8, page 4, line 39, leave out ‘paragraph 2’ and insert ‘paragraph 3A’.

Amendment 30, in clause 8, page 4, line 40, at end insert ‘and

() any revocation by the authority of a licence.

‘(6A) Notification under subsection (6) must be given within 28 days of the notification, variation or revocation in question.’.

Amendment 31, in clause 8, page 4, line 41, leave out

‘of a change or variation’

and insert ‘under subsection (6)’.—(Mr Jeremy Browne.)

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

I beg to move amendment 32, in clause 8, page 5, line 5, leave out ‘and exercised all due diligence’.

Photo of Joe Benton Joe Benton Labour, Bootle

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 33, in clause 10, page 5, leave out lines 25 to 31 and insert—

‘() any person who, under arrangements made by a person within paragraph (a) or (b), has responsibility for verifying the name and address.

‘(5) It is a defence for a person within subsection (4)(a) or (b) who is charged with an offence under subsection (4) to prove that the person—

(a) made arrangements to ensure that the metal was not received in breach of subsection (1), and

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

Amendment 9, in clause 10, page 5, line 27, at end add—

‘(d) the employee who receives scrap metal.’.

Amendment 34, in clause 11, page 6, leave out lines 10 to 16 and insert—

‘() any person who makes the payment acting for the dealer.

‘(5) It is a defence for a person within subsection (4)(a) or (b) who is charged with an offence under this section to prove that the person—

(a) made arrangements to ensure that the payment was not made in breach of subsection (1), and

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

Amendment 10, in clause 11, page 6, line 12, at end add—

‘(d) the employee who receives scrap metal.’.

Amendment 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.’.

Amendment 16, in clause 12, page 7, line 14, at end add—

‘(d) the employee who receives scrap metal.’.

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

The amendment relates in part to tightening up requirements on individual dealers on a site. We kicked off our deliberations two and three quarter hours ago by discussing this issue. I hope that this provision will reassure those who participated in or listened to that part of our debate.

Clauses 10, 11 and 12 create three requirements in relation to the scrap metal dealer’s conduct of business: to verify the supplier’s identity; to prohibit the dealer purchasing scrap metal for cash; and to keep records of all business. Each clause also creates a criminal offence to cover any breaches of the requirements which currently apply to the scrap metal dealer, the site manager and the manager.

Government amendments 33, 34 and 37 seek to widen these offences, so that front-line workers, employees whose direct actions result in the requirements being complied with, are also included. I hope that this point will find favour with the hon. Member for Hyndburn. Amendments 9, 10 and 16 seek to achieve the same result, but they will not work in practice as individuals responsible for tasks such as paying for the metal may not be receiving the metal. We seek to provide greater clarity on the term “receives,” which may seem a straightforward concept, but receiving the metal might mean taking it off the back of a van or receiving the payment for it. Therefore, we seek an unambiguous requirement for compliance.

To reflect different working practices, Government amendments 33, 34 and 37 seek to address employees who have been delegated responsibility by the scrap  metal dealer to comply with particular tasks such as keeping records on a particular day or making payments. We need to guard against management passing the buck and delegating liability to lower-grade members of staff. Where an employee clearly acts in a way that leads to offences being committed under clauses 10 to 12, however, it is right that that individual employee is held responsible, even if they are not the site manager.

The Government amendments also provide a defence for scrap metal dealers if they can prove that they have made arrangements to ensure the requirements in clauses 10 to 12 are met and that they have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the arrangements are complied with. That is right because it would not be fair for a manager to be held liable for a rogue employee’s actions if they are not in line with the approach taken by the company. We do not intend to define “reasonable steps” owing to the different activities that the term could describe, but evidenced training courses, written and visual material, and new procedures to seek compliance could all be considered by the courts as reasonable defences for the site manager.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons) 6:15 pm, 11th September 2012

The Minister is right in his submission that I am sympathetic to the amendments, although they are a halfway measure compared with what we discussed earlier. How would he guard against the rogue employee dismissed by a business who discreetly seeks employment in the industry elsewhere? That scenario is likely because such people would want to remain in familiar employment.

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

I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that the amendments are not as all-encompassing as he envisaged with amendment 62, which would have individually licensed every person employed in the industry, but I hope he recognises that the amendments cover the transgressions of individual employees, rather than just the site manager. As he acknowledged, that is a step in the direction he favours, even if it does not reach the destination he would have liked.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

Before the Minister sits down, will he answer my final question? What safeguards are there to stop a rogue employee from being employed elsewhere in the industry?

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

My understanding is that a rogue employee would self-evidently have difficulty applying for a collector’s licence because he would be applying as an individual. Were he to seek a job within another site or business, I imagine the site manager applying for the licence or appealing against the licence’s revocation would need to explain why he thinks that employing a person with a proven record of transgression is consistent with his continuing to have a licence. I accept that individual licensing creates a system where it is easier to track each individual, but as I said earlier, it places a considerably greater burden on local authorities, which is why we were reluctant to go down that path. As I said, I hope that the measure will move in a direction that satisfies.

Photo of Graham Jones Graham Jones Opposition Assistant Whip (Commons)

May I provide some assistance? Yes, there is deep concern that it would then affect the new site owner who took on the rogue employee or several  rogue employees, as we know happens in the industry. What would happen then? How would the local authority be able to judge the new site licence if one or two rogue individuals had been taken on from a former site from which they might have been dismissed? How would the local authority know that, and how could it vary the licence if it found out such information?

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

I am not sure that I have more to add to what I have already said. We are trying to create legislative circumstances in which an honourable, law-abiding site manager will not be punished directly if he is doing everything that he reasonably can to comply with the requirements of the Act, but in which a rogue employee working for him can be targeted and caught if that employee behaves inappropriately, without the site manager automatically losing their licence.

We are trying to get a balance in which wayward behaviour is caught in the net but respectable, honest site managers and employees are not punished as a consequence of inadvertently employing someone who behaves improperly without their knowledge. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point. I suppose that that person could then go and work in all kinds of sectors of the economy where criminal inclinations might cause difficulty in one regard or another. It is hard to put every safeguard in place. The requirement that we seek is perhaps more tightly prescribed than that, but I hope that the Committee will think it a reasonable measure.

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

I will speak briefly to amendments 9, 10 and 16. I am grateful to the Minister for tabling his amendments after ours. The purpose of my tabling amendments 9, 10 and 16, poorly drafted though they are, was to highlight the fact that the Bill, as currently proposed, simply makes the scrap metal dealer or site manager liable in legislation for the failure to abide by the licence conditions.

As ever, there will be rogue employees who might seek to subvert the law and provide an outlet for stolen metal. There might be poorly trained employees who do not abide by the site managers’ and scrap metal dealers’ rules. I wanted to establish a principle of employee liability, so that everybody working on the site knows that if they transgress the regulations of the Act, they are liable for a fine of the magnitude set out in the Act.

I know from personal experience that if my constituents working in supermarkets sell alcohol to under-18s, the manager is not responsible; they are personally liable at the point of sale. From my perspective, a similar principle should apply here. The Minister’s amendments meet that, as do his remarks, so I am happy not to press any of my amendments and to support the Minister’s objective that all people who deal with applications on site are liable to prosecution in the event of failure.

Amendment 32 agreed to.

Clause 8, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.