With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
“within 60 days of the passage of this Act.”
This amendment specifies that regulations prescribing a maximum monetary penalty must be made within 60 days of the Bill being passed
Amendment 12, in clause 10, page 7, line 21, leave out “may” and insert “must”.
This amendment, together with Amendment 13, would require the publication of regulations in matters to which the enforcement authority must, or must not, have regard in exercising its powers within 60 days of the passage of the Act.
Amendment 13, in clause 10, page 7, line 23, at end insert
“within 60 days of the passage of this Act.”
See explanatory statement to Amendment 12.
Clause 10 stand part.
I rise to speak to amendments 11 to 13, which relate to clauses 9 and 10. Clause 10(1) states that:
“The Secretary of State must, by regulations, prescribe a maximum penalty for the purposes of section 9”.
Clause 9 states that an enforcement authority may impose a monetary penalty on someone if they do not comply with the provisions of the Bill. Similarly, clause 10(2) states that:
“The Secretary of State may, by regulations, make provision about matters to which the enforcement authority must, or must not, have regard in exercising its powers under section 9”,
which refers to the power to impose monetary penalties.
The regulations set by the Secretary of State will be highly consequential, because they will show how the sharper elements of the Bill, which we have already discussed, will interact with the rights and freedoms of individuals. They will outline the monetary penalty, but also what the enforcement authority—most often, the Secretary of State—will weigh in making a decision. As drafted the Bill does not specify when the Secretary of State must make these regulations and when they will take effect. That leaves a degree of ambiguity, and a gap where people will be waiting to see when the provisions start to bite.
The Minister previously talked about measures being necessary and proportionate. It is necessary to have an enforcement regime, and proportionate for the shoe to drop at some point; otherwise there is no point in having the legislation. Also, having made a significant number of points around Henry VIII provisions, and, at length, been quite displeased by some of them, even someone with my hard heart would say that it is proportionate for those to be set by regulations, because they will change over time.
The quid pro quo for that is what I have set out in amendments 11, 12 and 13, which remove some of the ambiguity and has the Government say when they intend to set the regulations. These probing amendments—I will not press them to a Division—set out what ought to happen within 60 days of Royal Assent, which would give a degree of clarity for those who are getting their decisions in order and understanding when the provisions are likely to fall. I think that is proportionate. If 60 days is too short or long a period, I hope the Minister will say when the Government intend to do this. I suspect they want to get on with it, but people ought to have that clarity.
Amendment 11 would require the Secretary of State, via regulations, to set a maximum fine that can be imposed on public authorities in breach of the ban within 60 days of the Bill being passed. The suggestion by the hon. Member for Nottingham North to set a deadline of 60 days for the Secretary of State, while well intentioned, is inappropriate.
It is crucial that the threshold for fines is carefully decided in consultation with enforcement authorities, including the Office for Students and The Pensions Regulator. Since that will also be done by the affirmative procedure, the measure will need to go through both Houses. It will need to go through the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee in the House of Lords, and it would need to be debated in both Houses. Clearly, it is a piece of legislation that the Government want to be implemented, so I give the Committee my word that we will do this as expeditiously as possible. It is wrong, however, to commit to 60 days.
The same arguments apply to amendments 12 and 13. We agree that expediency in setting out details of the enforcement regime is important, but we need to take into account proper consultation with the regulators and enforcement authorities, as well as due scrutiny in both Houses. For that reason, I ask the hon. Member for Nottingham North to withdraw the amendments—I know that he said they were probing amendments.
I am grateful for that answer from the Minister. I am happy to withdraw the amendment on that basis. The point about consultation is important, so I hope that is a full consultation, both with potential enforcement authorities and those who speak for those that are going to fall under the provisions, such as the Local Government Association.