Clause 16 - Repeals

Scrap Metal Dealers bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 12th September 2012.

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Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department 9:30 am, 12th September 2012

I beg to move amendment 38, in clause 16, page 9, line 24, at end insert—

‘(2) In Schedule 3 to the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 (enactments specified for the purposes of Part 1 of that Act), for “Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 (c. 69)” substitute “Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2012”.’.

This is a tidying-up exercise. Government amendment 38 seeks to correct an earlier omission whereby the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 was not included in the list of existing pieces of legislation that needed to be repealed or amended by the Bill. The 2008 Act, to which I have just referred, makes reference to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964. The amendment would remove the reference to the 1964 Act and replace it with a reference to this Bill.

The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 is designed to provide more consistent enforcement of regulations across local authority boundaries, better co-ordination between local authorities and central Government, and more effective enforcement of regulations. The 1964 Act is referred to in the 2008 Act as one that should be considered for the purposes of the Act. People with a keen eye for such details have spotted this minor problem. I have brought it to the attention of the Committee, in the hope of speedy support of amendment 38.

Amendment 38 agreed to.

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

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

This is a small comment, but I am afraid I cannot help myself. It is just habit. I raised the matter on Second Reading. I am slightly chiding the Home Office on the handling of the regulation of scrap metal dealers.

Clause 16(f) of the Bill sponsored by the hon. Member for Croydon South, with Home Office support, would repeal sections 145 to 147 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. That part of the Act was brought about by Home Office amendment earlier this year. That Act received Royal Assent only a few weeks before the Bill we are discussing received its Second Reading in the House of Commons. I am not even sure whether that part of that Act has been implemented. I believe it was not to be implemented until December this year.

There are lessons in the handling of this matter by the Home Office. We live in a bit of a bubble, but outside the bubble real people are planning their lives and businesses on the basis of legislation we pass. In January this year there was no effort to regulate scrap metal dealers, despite the fact that the Opposition pressed for it. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn had a private Member’s Bill arguing for it and the Government resisted. The Government then brought forward amendments to a Bill that received Royal Assent.

Now in this Bill, only three months later, the Government, with the support of the hon. Member for Croydon South, aim to repeal part of an Act passed—following Government amendment—early this year. That is not a good way to legislate. I could not resist; I could not let the moment pass in which to say that this matters to people outside. It is great fun and games for us in here but people are planning their businesses, lives, regulations and preparing for what happens in December.

We do not know—with respect to the hon. Member for Croydon South—whether the Bill will complete its passage following consideration and comment by other Members of the House. There is still uncertainty around whether something passed only this year will be implemented in December. That is not a good way to legislate. It is worth placing on record this mishandling of the approach to this topic by the Government over the past nine months.

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

With my long record at the Home Office, it falls to me to explain what happened. The right hon. Gentleman has placed an uncharitable interpretation on how events unfolded. Following representations from  all political parties and our constituents, the Government recognised that this was a serious problem. There was an opportunity, by putting forward those amendments, to act speedily. We did not, at that stage, know that a Member would bring forward a private Member’s Bill that would deal with the problem more comprehensively than the amendments were able to do. If the Bill is enacted, those amendments will have proved to be an interim measure. Many people might regard them as a useful interim measure to be replaced by something even better and more comprehensive.

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

I recognise that the Minister was abroad on Government business at the time, but he will recall, if he reads Hansard, that we had tabled amendments along the lines of the Bill, but they were rejected by the Government during consideration of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

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

It will not be the first time in my, albeit fairly short, experience of being a Member of Parliament that the Government have thought that their ability to craft a precise wording is superior to that of the Opposition.

The intention was to deal with the issue through legislation as speedily as possible. We are delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South has promoted a Bill that the Home Office felt was so well drafted that it was able to support it, with a few modest amendments that I have brought to the Committee. That is why we feel that the initial actions can be superseded by this more comprehensive and superior Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 17 ordered to stand part of the Bill.