HL Deb 29 June 1994 vol 556 cc778-843

3.7 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Strathclyde.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Schedule 6 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Betting on Sundays]:

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 98:

Page 20, line 7, leave out subsection (3) and insert:

("(3) After section 31 there shall be inserted— "Betting workers: Sunday working Rights of betting workers as respects Sunday working. 31A. Schedule 5A to this Act shall have effect for the purpose of making provision about the rights of betting workers as respects Sunday working.'"').

The noble Lord said: As the Committee will be aware Clause 17 was agreed in another place. There are a number of amendments which deal with some technical matters to correct the drafting in Clause 17. The first is Amendment No. 98, which amends the section introducing the new schedule conferring protection on betting workers so as to make sure that the section reflects the scope of the schedule. In addition, it moves the new section to a more appropriate part of the proposed parent legislation. I beg to move.

Lord Peston

These Benches support this amend-ment as we shall support quite a few of the other technical amendments relating to the protection of shop workers. Perhaps I may say to the Committee, and in particular to the Minister, that I hope that he will not find it discourteous if I do not pop up and down every so often merely to say that I agree. I hope that he may simply explain the amendments and allow us to proceed to perhaps slightly more exciting matters.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 99:

Page 20, line 14, leave out ("4") and insert ("5").

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 99 is a technical amendment designed to ensure the correct positioning of the new Schedule 7 in the existing legislation, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 17, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 100:

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

Sporting events and activities on Sundays

(". The entertainments and amusements to which the Sunday Observance Act 1780 applies shall not include any sporting event or activity.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 100 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 183, which is consequential. This new clause, to be inserted after Clause 17, disapplies the Sunday Observance Act 1780 to Sunday sporting events and activities. That will allow the exacting of admission charges to places used for sporting events and activities on Sundays as well as the advertising of such events and activities for admission to which a charge is to be made. We bring it forward now in response to the acceptance, on free votes first in another place, of amendments aimed at making possible Sunday betting on racing.

Disapplication of the provisions of the 1780 Act is by no means new. The Act was modified as long ago as the 1930s principally to allow the public to be charged for admission to a wide variety of entertainments and amusements on Sundays. As Members of the Committee will doubtless have noted, the new clause goes further than simply making provision for admission charges and their advertising at racecourses and greyhound tracks on Sundays and would disapply the provisions of the 1780 Act to sporting events and activities in general.

I hope that the new clause will meet with the approval of the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Peston

I support this amendment most warmly. I am always worried when an Act of Parliament which has stood for 214 years of our country's history is amended, but this matter has been considered in some depth. In particular, I am glad that the amendment is as broad as it is and not limited simply to the one sporting event we shall be discussing in due course. I therefore support the new clause as strongly as I possibly can.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Howell moved Amendment No. 101:

After Clause 17, insert the following new clause:

( "Betting

  1. .—(1) The Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 ("the Act of 1963") shall be amended as follows.
  2. (2) In Section 1(6), there shall be inserted after "approved horse racecourse" the words "or dog racecourse".
  3. (3) In Section 4(2), the words "otherwise than on a track" shall be omitted.
  4. (4) In paragraph (c) of section 16(1), the words "on that day" shall be omitted.
  5. (5) In Section 16(1), after paragraph (c) there shall be inserted—
  6. (6) In Section 19, after "bookmaking" there shall be inserted the words "on races taking place".
  7. (7) The following provisions of Schedule 5 are hereby repealed—
    1. (a) in paragraph 4A, the words "on the track" in both places where they occur;
    2. (b) in paragraph 8—the words "subject to paragraph 9 of this Schedule"; and
    3. (c)paragraphs 9 and 10.
  8. (8) After paragraph 1 of Schedule 5, shall be added the following paragraph—
  9. (9) Paragraph 10A of Schedule 5 shall be amended by deleting the words "by the accountant and notified by him to the operator" and inserting in their place "by operator and notified by him to the accountant within seven days".
  10. (10) After paragraph 12 of Schedule 5, there shall be added the following paragraph:

The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 101 concerns the unfair discrimination against greyhound racing which now exists as a result of all that the Government and Parliament have been doing in recent times. The effect of the amendment will be to enable a pool to be established in greyhound racing totes which, unlike the Tote itself, is a series of totes individually owned by greyhound racecourses. They are now discriminated against because, first, the national lottery is being introduced. That is a significant factor. Members on both sides of the Chamber support it and wish it well. It will produce a pool of a considerable amount of money offering astronomical prizes. Likewise, the Tote itself is very properly improving betting on its jackpot facilities which again will be another new attraction against which normal greyhound racing will have to compete. It seems right, therefore, that those anomalies should be dealt with.

The history of the matter is that four years ago the Government decided that the case was justified and they would consult local authorities to see whether the proposals I am making today could be enshrined in legislation. That consultation took place 18 months ago. So far as I am aware, not a single local authority in the country made any adverse comment and therefore one would assume that it was now time to proceed. But still nothing is being done. The Government say that they must wait for a further round of consultation, a further Bill or further proposals to follow on from this general deregulation Bill.

The only possible point of opposition that can arise in the minds of Ministers—either in the Department of Trade or the Home Office—is the fact that a bet placed at, say, Walthamstow and transferred to the tote at Wembley (where, incidentally, I am a director and therefore perhaps ought to declare an interest) would not be properly regulated and the public not properly protected. If that were so I would understand the delay, but it is not. If a bet is placed on a pool at Walthamstow and finds itself in the pool at Wembley—with computers and telephonic communications that can happen in a second or two—it is the Wembley pool which is controlled and regulated by that local authority. Therefore, the protection which I understand the Government want to ensure for punters already exists.

In fairness to the excellent pools, which provide a degree of entertainment for large numbers of people but which now face formidable opposition, the Government should stand on all fours with what has happened in recent years: that is, first, the deregulation of matters in the interests of bookmakers; secondly, the deregulation of matters for the benefit of the Tote; and, thirdly, the establishment of the national lottery. I fully support all those matters but in fairness, I am sure the Government will agree, there should be no further delay. They should either accept the amendment or, if the drafting is deficient in some way, bring forward an amendment of their own at a later stage.

We must not miss the opportunity that the deregulation Bill provides to put matters right. It would be almost unforgivable to wait another year or 18 months, which would expose totes on excellent greyhound tracks to all the formidable competition that I outlined. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

As chairman of the Horserace Totalisator Board I strongly support the amendment. Matters have moved extremely fast in the electronic field since arrangements were made to prevent greyhound totes betting across to other greyhound totes on different courses. We now possess machinery of such speed and security that bets can be flashed in an instant without any danger to the public of fraud or of their bets being tampered with. The benefit to greyhound racing which, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell, said, is faced with competition from the national lottery, and so forth, would be enormous.

On ordinary racecourses the course-to-course betting we do every day raises the entire turnover by around 12 to 13 per cent. If the 20 or 30 greyhound tracks were allowed to do the same they would experience the same effect and be greatly strengthened. We can help them with our expertise. It is working triumphantly well on our racecourses and could work just as easily on greyhound tracks.

Lord Kimball

I support the amendment and in so doing I should perhaps first declare an interest. My job is to collect the 0.25 per cent. of the betting duty that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says should be given by the off-course bookmaking industry to the sport of greyhound racing. The only way I can collect more money is for the off-course betting turnover to be increased. That is my interest in the amendment.

It will not have escaped the attention of Members of the Committee that the Home Affairs Select Committee Report contained a statement by Sir John Wheeler, who said, Much of the legislation governing greyhound racing has its origins in the 1930s. It is now time to update it in some areas in order to remove unnecessary restrictions and to respond to improvements in technology. We have made recommendations designed to deregulate the on course betting market, and allow bookmakers and totalisator operators the freedom to compete on even terms". This is all that the amendment actually does. It seeks to redress some of those inequalities, which is exactly the type of thing that the Bill is designed to allow to happen.

The 1930 regulations insist that at every greyhound track which runs its own totaliser a qualified accountant has to be present throughout the meeting to be absolutely certain that the tote, which is owned and run by the track, is working out the odds correctly. Over the past 18 months I have had the privilege of visiting 32 of the 39 tracks, and in every case I found the accountant sitting there doing absolutely nothing—because with today's modern technology there is absolutely nothing for him to do. He cannot interfere with the computer —and all the odds are worked out by computer. The punters know perfectly well—and it is actually declared on every single track's race card—the percentage of the tote that is being retained by that particular track.

So could we please have an undertaking from the Government, when they come to reply to this amendment, that this absurd, wasteful and out dated restriction of having an accountant with a quill pen looking at a computer with all its electronic gadgets should no longer be a legal necessity at every track at which totaliser betting takes place?

All that the amendment seeks to do—having got rid of the accountant—is to allow inter-track and track-to-track betting. It will allow advance betting and —although it is not covered by the amendment—when the Government come to reconsider this amendment on Report they must bear in mind the need to allow betting shops to take advance betting on the track totes. That is the third leg of what is needed.

The turnover of greyhound racing is now equal to one-fifth of that of horse racing. Greyhound racing, at the moment, faces the problem of the night opening of betting shops and it also faces, as does every other betting industry, competition for the betting pound from the arrival of the national lottery. To say, "We are going to do this once the deregulation Bill is law", is not really satisfactory. What we really want is this amendment on the Marshalled List so that we know that at least the totalisers at the greyhound tracks will be given a chance. For the last three years we have been told that we are going to get this concession. Now is the time to give it to us—not to tell us that they are going to give it to us, because we are getting fed up with that story.

Lord Peston

I support this amendment with great pleasure and as strongly as I possibly can. It is not a party political matter, and in some sense on these kinds of matters we all speak for ourselves. As far as I am concerned I am still speaking as strongly as I can with whatever weight I can bring to bear. One reason is that my late father was a devotee of dog racing and kept many a bookmaker in business, and was extremely helpful to the tote as well. I can still recall the countless happy days that I spent with him at the White City, Haringey, Wembley, and indeed at every dog track in London at one time or another. Little did he or I realise that many years later I, his eldest son, would be speaking from the Opposition Front Bench—albeit in a personal capacity—and helping to solve a problem in order to make dog racing more viable. I am sure that my late father is looking down on me from Heaven and bursting with pride.

But it is more than filial piety which prompts me to speak on this subject. I favour this amendment as a matter of logic and fairness. We have been helpful to horse racing in making it more viable on Sunday, and I am sure that we must now be as helpful to greyhound racing as we possibly can. I was a little taken aback by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, about the Report stage. I do not want this dealt with at Report stage; I want the amendment accepted at this very minute, now. I think that that is exactly the purpose of the Bill. If the Bill has any purpose at all—and noble Lords know my view of the Bill in general—if it has any value, this is exactly the area in which we can do something useful and helpful. I hope very much that the Minister will simply get to his feet, not waste any more of our time and say that he accepts the amendment.

Lord Denham

Before my noble friend replies, the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and my noble friend Lord Kimball have dealt fully with the amendment and I do not propose to repeat any of the arguments that they have given. I fully support the amendment and I hope that my noble friend will accept it, at least in principle. I do of course appreciate that Her Majesty's Government have been entering into full consultation on the area covered by the amendment, and it may be that my noble friend will say that order-making powers already exist to enable his right honourable friend to implement such a thing at any time in the future. But the greyhound racing industry will very shortly have to compete with the national lottery and the evening opening of betting shops, and surely it would be wrong to let the opportunity presented by this Bill slip by.

Lord Strathclyde

The Committee will be aware, with so many distinguished Members of the House having taken part in the debate and speaking in favour, that it would be difficult for me to refuse the amendment entirely. I can therefore confirm that the Government are entirely in agreement with the spirit of this proposal. The Government wish to take this forward, but I have to say that our preference is to take it forward in the deregulation order-making power once it is enacted. That is one reason why I was particularly pleased with the support given to this measure by the noble Lord, Lord Peston, because this is precisely the kind of area in which we would wish to use the deregulation order-making power, the power which only a few days ago he said was a constitutional outrage.

Lord Peston

I think that the noble Lord, as always, makes my case for me much better than I do. The point is that the Government can deal with this matter—this is a classic example—without this constitutional outrage. They can do it at this minute, although we will wait to hear what the noble Lord has to say in addition. My whole point is that we do not need to waste time or effort: we can do it.

Lord Strathclyde

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, sees the point.

In page 23 of the document Deregulation: Cutting Red Tape we mention this particular proposal, where we have published a measure which will permit all that is being sought here. I have to say, however, that some further consideration is needed on particular points of detail. I have already said that we are committed to bringing forward deregulatory changes to the law on betting on greyhound racing. We accept that there is a strong case to relax the outdated restrictions on greyhound totes. There have been constructive discussions with the industry, and we shall work with it to draft an order which will allow the freedom that the industry is seeking while continuing to safeguard punters' interests. We are at the same time conscious of the need to maintain adequate safeguards to protect the betting public. We very much appreciate the industry's desire for speedy change, but we must ensure that a sensible minimum of controls are in place to protect the betting public.

Some proposals are straightforward. Most of us will have no difficulty in agreeing in principle that we should be able to place tote bets for races at other tracks. We see no reason why bets should not be placed the day before the race. It is also eminently sensible to remove the outdated requirement for the local authority accountant to be physically present at the track, the point made by my noble friend Lord Kimball. But there are other matters which will require careful consideration— inter-track betting is a case in point. We are committed to bringing forward a measure which will allow tracks to pool together to make larger pools with more attractive winnings, but we need to give more thought as to whether additional safeguards are required.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Howell, will readily concede that the clause as it stands is defective in several respects, and that the drafting of a provision in this regard will require a great deal of hard work by the parliamentary draftsmen and, indeed, further consultation. I repeat again that we are committed to bringing forward legislation, and I fully understand the concern of the industry to see speedy changes. Constructive discussions are taking place on those changes to the law. In our document on deregulation we have explained that this is one of the priority measures that we aim to bring forward under the deregulation order-making power.

I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Howell, in his summing up, to accept the very strong commitment the Government have made today, and to accept that this could well be a most suitable subject for the new deregulation powers.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

I am very pleased to hear what my noble friend has said from the Front Bench. I was slightly sorry that he did not rejoice to have the opportunity of accepting the proposal from the noble Lord, Lord Peston. But he did not seize it. I wonder whether he could say a little more about the timing of this. I was a little anxious when he said that some further consideration and a great deal of hard work is necessary. Such phrases can indicate that a vast passage of time will be required. I hope my noble friend will be able to set our anxieties on this point at rest. Everyone is agreed that this is a sensible thing to do and I do hope that the possibly formidable barrier of a great deal of hard work will prove to be easier to overcome than might first appear.

Lord Strathclyde

I am glad that my noble friend recognises that I am trying genuinely to be helpful in this matter and that I should like the matter resolved as quickly as he does. But I cannot give any firm commitment to timing. It would be impossible for me to do so at this stage. Of course the quicker we deal with the rest of the Bill, the quicker the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will become an Act. We can then put the deregulation order-making powers into a proper process.

Lord Howell

I am most grateful to all those who have taken part in this fascinating discussion, and I am grateful to the Minister for the spirit of his reply if not actually for the content. It has been an extraordinary debate not least because we now know that my noble friend Lord Peston gained all his acumen on the dog tracks of London which enabled him to become a professor of economics. I am sure that succeeding generations of his students have benefited from the earthy experience which he has had.

I have to say to the Minister, echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has just said, that for 11 years I was Minister for Sport and I had to suffer the consequences of this department of the Home Office, which was located in one of its deeper recesses and occupied by people who, it seemed to me, were never going to be —I say this to them with great respect—responsible for high-flying policy in the Home Office. They were nevertheless doing a reasonably good job there but were not necessarily the sort of people who were dynamic when it came to taking decisions to liberalise various aspects of sports policy. I say to the Minister from my own experience that it is not good enough to say that we are going to have another one-and-a-half years of consultation. He said that we have to have consultation and that constructive discussions are going on He has not told us with whom they are going on. All the discussions with local authorities have taken place. All the discussions with the industry have taken place and have been concluded. Can he tell us with whom other constructive discussions now have to follow?

I do not want him to give us an actual date on which he would make the order because, as he said, he does not know the date on which the Bill will be on the statute book. But it would be reasonable to say that within three months of getting it on the statute book the Government would make such an order. That is what any Minister who really genuinely wants to help in this case—I believe that the Minister does want to help—ought to be able to say to the Committee.

I conceded in my opening statement that the drafting might not be quite right. My advisers have done their very best with it; but if we have not exactly got it word perfect now we are very happy for the Government to take it away and to come back on Third Reading. If we can get the drafting right and if there are no other constructive discussions to take place—I do not honestly believe that there are—there really is no excuse for the Minister not being able to say one of two things: "We shall put it right on Third Reading"; or, "I give the Committee an undertaking that within three months of the Act being on the statute book we shall make the necessary order". It is an order which all parts of the Committee want the Government to make as soon as possible.

Having said that, I rest my faith in the Minister that he will listen to the reason he has heard from all sides of the Committee and understand our very strong feelings. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 7 [Schedule to be Inserted in the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 after Schedule 4]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State., Department of Employment (Lord Henley) moved Amendment No. 102: Page 84, line 8, leave out ("4") and insert ("5").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Strathclyde, if it is convenient to the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 102 I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 103, 159 to 162 and 164 to 166. The effect of these amendments is merely to tidy up the numbering and ordering of certain references in the schedule. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 103: Page 84, line 9, leave out ("4A") and insert ("5A").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 104: Page 84, leave out lines 15 and 16.

The noble Lord said: If it would be convenient to the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 104, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 107 and 108. These amendments are matters of drafting and do not affect the substance of the schedule. The schedule contains definitions of "betting office", "bookmaker" and "track". Two of these terms—"bookmaker" and "track"—are expressly defined in Section 55 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, and no further definition is required. The third, "betting office", is not in fact used in the schedule and is therefore unnecessary. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 105:

Page 84, line 16, at end insert:

('""betting work" means—

  1. (a) work at a track in England or Wales for a bookmaker or totalisator operator on a day on which betting transactions are effected at the track by the bookmaker (whether on his own account or as servant or agent to any other person) or totalisator operator, and
  2. (b) work in a licensed betting office in England or Wales on a day on which betting transactions are effected at the office;").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 106,112, 114 to 118, 120 to 145, 150 to 156, 184, 190 and 191. The principle of the schedule is clear: to protect those betting workers who do not wish to work on a Sunday. The purpose of these amendments is to clarify the scope of the legislation.

Amendment No. 105 defines betting work. It states that this is work for a bookmaker or totalisator at a track in England and Wales on a Sunday on which betting transactions are effected, or work in a licensed betting office in England and Wales which is taking bets on a Sunday. The effect of this is that all employees at a licensed betting office in England and Wales which is open on a Sunday will be covered. This means that, as in the provisions of the Sunday Trading Bill, ancillary workers in betting shops, such as cleaners, will be covered as well as those people who are instantly recognisable as betting workers—the counter staff and managers who are actually involved in taking bets.

At a racetrack, the rights apply only to those who work for a bookmaker or tote operator. This means that those employed by others—employees of the racecourse such as turnstile operators, employees of independent caterers and so on—would not be covered.

The remaining amendments are needed to secure that the references throughout the Bill to "work" relate to betting work. The amendments are necessary to remove an ambiguity in the present definition of "betting worker" which may have had the result that betting workers had the right to refuse to do any work on Sundays, and not just work at the track or in the betting office. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden

We offer no objection to these amendments which seem to us to be admirable in their thrust.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 106 to 108: Page 84, line 18, leave out from ("to") to end of line 21 and insert ("do betting work or may be required to do such work;").

Page 84, leave out line 22.

Page 84, leave out line 37.

The noble Lord said: I have spoken to these amendments already. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 109: Page 85, line 14, after second ("if) insert (", sub-paragraph (1A) or (1B) below applies to him. (1 A) This sub-paragraph applies to any betting worker if—").

The noble Lord said: It may be convenient to the Committee for me to speak also to Amendment No. 110. These amendments concern the position of betting workers who are employed after the new law is brought into effect but who are not required, under their contracts, to work on Sundays. As it stands, the schedule provides no specific protection for betting workers employed after commencement who are not contractu-ally required to work on Sundays but who may later come under pressure from their employers to do so.

The amendments deal with this anomaly by extending the definition of protected worker to include betting workers whose contracts of employment do not require Sunday working. Such workers will therefore enjoy automatically the protections against unfair dismissal and other detrimental action afforded by the schedule. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 85, line 22, at end insert:

  1. (a) is not, and may not be, required to work on Sunday, and
  2. (b) could not be so required even if the provisions of this Schedule were disregarded.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 111:

Page 86, line 3, after ("etc.)") insert ("or under regulations made under paragraph 20 of that Schedule (reinstatement or re-engagement of dismissed employee)").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment to close a small gap in the provisions of the schedule. It replicates an amendment made to the Sunday Trading Bill during its passage through your Lordships' House. This amendment ensures that such an individual is not prevented from being a protected betting worker because, through no fault of his own, he was not employed on the day before commencement. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 112:

Page 86, line 11, at end insert ("do betting").

The noble Lord said: I spoke to this amendment earlier. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 113:

Page 87, line 6, after ("absence") insert ("of evidence").

The noble Lord said: It may be convenient to the Committee for me to speak also to Amendments Nos. 119 and 146 to 149. These amendments are necessary because one or two errors have crept into the Bill in transcription, and these amendments seek to put them right. For example, the amendments insert the words "of evidence" into a sentence, the meaning of which would elude me were they omitted. They insert the small but important word "not" into a section about detrimental action. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 87, line 14, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

The noble Lord said: I have spoken now to Amendments Nos. 114 to 156. I wonder whether it is convenient to the Committee to move them en bloc. I beg to move.

The Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham)

There are certain other amendments to be put separately, but I can take certain numbers in sequence en bloc, if that is the wish of the Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 115 to 118:

Page 87, line 23, at end insert ("do betting").

Page 87, line 27, after second ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 88, line 22, after second ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 88, line 26, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 119:

Page 88, line 37, after ("has") insert ("not").

The noble Lord said: I have spoken to this amendment and all the other amendments up to Amendment No. 156. If possible I should like to move the remainder en bloc. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 120 to 156:

Page 88, line 40, leave out ("worked") and insert ("done betting work").

Page 88, line 48, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 88, line 49, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 89, line 14, leave out ("office").

Page 89, line 21, leave out ("as a betting worker and") and insert ("under a contract of employment under which you").

Page 89, line 22, leave out from ("required") to end of line 23 and insert ("to do Sunday betting work, that is to say, work—

at a track on a Sunday on which your employer is taking bets at the track, or

in a licensed betting office on a Sunday on which it is open for business.").

Page 89, line 25, after second ("to") insert ("do Sunday betting").

Page 89, line 26, leave out ("on any Sunday").

Page 89, line 31, after ("to") insert ("doing").

Page 89, line 31, leave out ("working") and insert ("betting work").

Page 89, line 33, after ("Sunday") insert ("betting").

Page 89, line 35, after ("to") insert ("do Sunday betting").

Page 89, line 35, leave out ("on Sundays").

Page 89, line 41, after first ("to") insert ("do Sunday betting").

Page 89, line 41, leave out ("on Sunday").

Page 89, line 41, after second ("to") insert ("doing").

Page 89, line 41, leave out ("working") and insert ("betting work").

Page 89, line 42, after ("to") insert ("do such").

Page 90, line 5, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 90, line 7, after ("with") insert ("betting").

Page 90, line 12, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 90, line 13, after ("with") insert ("betting").

Page 90, line 27, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 90, line 29, after ("with") insert ("betting").

Page 90, line 34, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 90, line 36, after ("with") insert ("betting").

Page 90, line 42, leave out ("a protected") and insert ("an opted-out").

Page 90, line 43, leave out ("a protected") and insert ("an opted-out").

Page 90, line 45, after ("into,") insert ("had given her employer an opting-out notice before that time and").

Page 90, line 45, leave out ("a protected") and insert ("an opted-out").

Page 90, line 51, after ("with") insert ("betting").

Page 91, line 3, leave out ("worked") and insert ("done betting work").

Page 91, line 7, at end insert ("betting").

Page 91, line 9, after ("to") insert ("do betting").

Page 91, line 16, leave out ("worked") and insert ("done betting work").

Page 91, line 21, after second ("to") insert ("betting").

Page 91, line 25, after second ("of) insert ("betting").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 157:

Page 91, line 38, at end insert:

("Restrictions on contracting out of Schedule

16A.—(1) Any provision in an agreement (whether a contract of employment or not) shall be void in so far as it purports—

  1. (a) to exclude or limit the operation of any provision of this Schedule, or
  2. (b) to preclude any person from presenting a complaint to an industrial tribunal by virtue of any provision of this Schedule.

(2) Sub-paragraph (1) above does not apply to an agreement to refrain from presenting or continuing with a complaint where—

  1. (a) a conciliation officer has taken action under section 133(2) or (3) of the 1978 Act (general provisions as to conciliation) or under section 134(1), (2) or (3) (conciliation in case of unfair dismissal) of that Act, or
  2. (b) the conditions regulating compromise agreements under the 1978 Act (as set out in section 140(3) of that Act) are satisfied in relation to the agreement.").

The noble Lord said: It may be convenient to the Committee for me to speak also to Amendment No. 163. The first amendment ensures that a provision in an agreement between a betting worker and his employer cannot generally exclude the provisions of this schedule or prevent a betting worker from pursuing a complaint under it.

The second amendment provides that the remedy by way of complaint to an industrial tribunal in respect of the right not to be dismissed for refusing Sunday work, set out in paragraphs 7 and 8 of this schedule, will not be replaced by the provisions of a dismissal procedures agreement designated by the Secretary of State for Employment under Section 65 of the 1978 Act. These amendments mirror similar provisions which were introduced in your Lordships' House to the Sunday Trading Bill, and therefore keep the provisions for betting workers in line with those for shop workers. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 158:

Page 91, line 38, at end insert:

("Transitional modifications relating to maternity cases

16B.—(1) Where—

  1. (a) an employee exercises a right to return to work under Part III of the 1978 Act (maternity), and
  2. (b) because amendments of that Part made by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993 (in this paragraph referred to as "the 1993 Act") do not have effect in her case, her right is a right to return to work in the job in which she was employed under the original contract of employment,

(4) In this paragraph and in paragraphs 1 and 2 above as modified by sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) above, "original contract of employment" has the meaning given by section 153(1) of the 1978 Act as originally enacted.").

The noble Lord said: This is a technical amendment. It will ensure that all betting workers who are subject to the statutory provisions on maternity absence, as unamended by the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, will not inadvertently fail to have protected status under the schedule, when they return to work, by virtue of being temporarily employed under a different contract to their normal contract. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendments Nos. 159 to 166:

Page 91, line 41, leave out ("sub-paragraph (ii)") and insert (""or" at the end of paragraph (i)").

Page 91, line 42, leave out (" or (iii)") and insert ("(ia)").

Page 91, line 43, leave out ("4A") and insert ("5A").

Page 91, line 43, after ("1963") insert (", or").

Page 91, line 43, at end insert:

("Dismissal procedures agreements

17A. In section 65 of the 1978 Act (exclusion in respect of dismissal procedures agreement) in subsection (4), after "section 60A(l)" there shall be inserted "or the right conferred by paragraph 7 or 8 of Schedule 5A to the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963".").

Page 91, line 46, leave out from beginning to ("arising") in line 47 and insert ("after "or" at the end of paragraph (a) there shall be inserted—

(aa)") .

Page 91, line 48, leave out ("4A") and insert ("5A").

Page 91, line 49, after ("1963") insert ("; or").

The noble Lord said

I have already spoken to these amendments with previous amendments

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 167:

Page 91, line 49, at end insert:

("Application of certain other provisions of 1978 Act

19. In the following provisions of the 1978 Act—

section 129 (remedy for infringement of certain rights),

section 141(2) (employee ordinarily working outside Great Britain), and section 150 and Schedule 12 (death of employee or employer),

any reference to Part II of the 1978 Act includes a reference to paragraph 10 of this Schedule.").

The noble Lord said: At last we come to the end of these groups. This is a technical amendment. Its purpose is to apply some of the supplementary provisions of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978, which would automatically apply to those parts of Schedule 7 which deal with unfair dismissal, to paragraph 10 of the schedule which deals with the right not to suffer a detriment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 167A:

After Clause 18, insert the following new clause:

("Repeal of sections 26 and 27 of the Broadcasting Act 1990

  1. .—(1) Sections 26 and 27 (which together establish a funding formula for the Channel Four Television Corporation) shall cease to have effect.
  2. (2) Subsection (1) above shall not come into force until the Secretary of State is satisfied that the Board of the Channel Four Television Corporation has put in place adequate financial safeguards to ensure its continued viability, compatible with its remit under the Broadcasting Act 1990, without recourse to public funds.").

The noble Lord said: Before speaking to this amendment I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, and the Government for the amendments that they have just moved which give really admirable protection for workers who do not wish to work on Sunday. I believe that they will set a standard for any future problems which we may have of that kind.

This amendment stands in the name of my noble friend Lord Donoughue, the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, and myself. It deals with a matter which is very much in the news. We introduce it in the spirit of deregulation. I shall make a few remarks on the amendment and certainly my noble friend Lord Donoughue, as our heritage spokesman in this House, will fill out a great deal more of the relevant detail.

All of us who watch television are impressed by Channel 4 and the standards it sets for itself and achieves. I wish I could say the same about ITV, but I shall not give the Committee my views about its low and declining standards as I do not want to provoke a debate which we do not need now but on which we might care to reflect at some time.

Channel 4 sets an extremely good standard. I believe that we all agree that, for the most part, Channel 4 has a sensible structure. Therefore, we wish to see that channel move towards independence. At the same time, we wish it to maintain its remit which enables it to make a vital contribution to public service broadcasting. No one should ever underestimate the great contribution that our country has made in that area. Nowadays, when we might wonder where we have achieved, that is an area where we were the best and continue to be the best.

The independence which Channel 4 is seeking is not a move towards privatisation, which would not be welcomed by that channel, but towards independence, which is a different matter. Perhaps I may quote my honourable friend the shadow National Heritage Secretary in the other place. He said that Channel 4's success demonstrates the effectiveness of organisations operating commercially from a public sector base.

Before commending this amendment to the Committee, I believe that it will be of assistance if I quote from a letter that I received from Channel 4 which establishes even more strongly its commitment to standards in its part of the industry. Channel 4 says that it has given, a firm pledge that if the formula were abolished all the money [saved] would be spent on European production specially commissioned for our audiences".

In particular, it says that it would give, a considerable boost to the UK film industry by doubling our spending on Film on Four to £20 million per annum".

It also says—I believe that this will commend itself to all of your Lordships— this extra investment in film and television programmes should directly produce around 1,000 jobs in the sector"—

that is, in its own sector—and presumably more jobs still within the rest of the economy which is connected with that sector. It believes—this is something that appeals to me given the position from which I speak —that, It would also greatly assist the balance of trade in audio-visual works since the commissioned programmes would replace imports".

Equally, those programmes would be exported and would therefore also improve the balance of payments on that side.

Finally, Channel 4 states that its subsidy to ITV gives it (the dominant player with 75 per cent. of the market) a non-competitive advantage. It runs counter to the DTI initiatives on competitiveness and by penalising success runs counter to the central thrust of the government's current industrial policy".

Therefore, I make no apologies—quite the contrary —for introducing the amendment which I commend strongly to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Donoughue

If the Committee will bear with me, I should like, in supporting the amendment, to expand a little on the excellent points that have been made by my noble friend Lord Peston. I begin by stating our basic position from which we begin. We begin from the view that the Broadcasting Act 1990 was a monstrous error and needs overall review. We need a new broadcasting Act, including a review of the bidding system which has severely reduced the funds available for programmes on ITV.

Therefore, we look sympathetically at any proposed revision of that Act because it was such a pig's breakfast and so damaging to the finances and quality of British television. We opposed the Act at the time for those reasons and because of the flaws that we saw in it. Those flaws are leading to the disintegration of the Act before the Government's eyes.

As regards Amendment No. 167A, we think that the case for change in relation to Channel 4 is substantial. I do not say that it is total, and I shall explain why, but it is certainly substantial. The safety net formula is now operating in ways, and producing distortions, which are hard to defend and which are certainly a disincentive to success at Channel 4. In hard cash terms, the impact of the funding formula is that Channel 4 will pay ITV— will subsidise ITV —which is its main competitor and over three times its size, a subsidy of over £50 million this year alone. By the end of the 10 years' franchise, if that continues at the present rate it would appear that the subsidy will amount to getting on for £0.5 billion. Already over £10 million has gone to the merged Carlton/Central operation, which is currently our largest. Very little goes to the smaller regional companies, the survival of which concerns us. That haemorrhage goes out of a public service broadcasting company and straight into bottom line profits for commercial shareholders. Instead, we strongly believe that it should be spent on programmes.

The ITV companies are presenting a forceful case against change. That is understandable. They must be reluctant to give up that bonanza. In their shoes I imagine that Mr. Grade, always an impressive publicist, would be putting up stiff and loud resistance to the changes. However, let us look at ITV's arguments. ITV argues that it is unfair to change the rules under which the ITV licences were awarded. They say, "We've got the rules of the game so don't change the goal posts". I am not sure about that in its simplest form because the Government themselves have already changed the rules, unstitching the ownership arrangements last November and allowing mergers. Some of the larger companies benefited from the changes and I do not recall them complaining at the time about changing the rules.

The Government are now considering further changes on cross-media ownership for which some ITV companies are pressing. Those companies are not complaining against the proposed changes to those rules. There have also been changes in the advertising sales rules, allowing a reduction in sales points from 13 heading now down towards four. There are not many complaints about that either. So, we are not dealing with a fixed and static situation. It is already fluctuating and further changes are proposed.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, we support changes to a bad Act, so we are not impressed by the status quo argument. There is more weight in the argument that the 1990 Act was a complex web of arrangements from which various partners took advantages and disadvantages. It was meant to balance out. I refer, for example, to the arrangements for providing a regional dimension to broadcasting, and to the arrangement whereby ITV should buy its news from ITN and is not allowed to go elsewhere for cheaper news. Those arrangements burden the ITV companies more than Channel 4, as did the 1990 imposition of financial bids for the licences which virtually ruined some ITV franchises and which did not apply to Channel 4.

I accept that there is an argument that Channel 4 should not be allowed to cherry-pick—that is, to be exempt from the disadvantages imposed on its operations while leaving the ITV companies with theirs. I have considerable respect for that approach. However, I do not accept the other argument that has been used, which is that ITV has already factored the funding formula into its financial forecasts and that it is dangerous and unfair to change it now. The ITV companies have factored in about £100 million of possible receipts in 10 years. In fact, it has already received getting on for that amount, and it will certainly have received it in another 12 months. Therefore, I do not think that argument seriously stands up.

If the funding formula is also removed, ITV will not suffer any further potential liabilities from the safety net, which it has presumably factored in on the down side. That side of things is already settled and is no longer a serious argument.

More serious is the question of Channel 4's reserves, which are currently filled from the funding formula. It is our firm view that they must remain sufficient and secure. Any future change to the formula must leave adequate reserve provision. If things go wrong for Channel 4 in five years' time or so, it must never become a liability on the public purse. In any future changes I trust that we can look to the Treasury to guarantee that. It should certainly be part of any arrangements.

The central point of our support for the amendment is that in so far as Channel 4 would benefit financially from the change, the extra money must be made available for Channel 4 programmes. As has been said, the best safety net is high quality popular programmes which Channel 4 must be able to fund in production. Channel 4's record is already quite good. I am sure that all Members of the Committee will agree that it is not possible to praise too highly Channel 4's racing coverage. We must congratulate it on gaining the coverage of Cheltenham, which it greatly deserves compared with the competition.

Despite the near perfection of its racing coverage overall, it is spending a great deal on improving its film presentations. I note that most of the films are American and one would look to its commitment to spend more on productions in Europe, as my noble friend Lord Peston mentioned. Any change in the formula must build in a guarantee that the money saved by ceasing to subsidise ITV goes to programmes and to secure reserves. Without that we would not support a change in the formula. We are pleased that Channel 4 has given the pledge quoted by my noble friend.

Furthermore, we must make it absolutely clear that we shall not support any change which promises or threatens to alter Channel 4's remit as a public service broadcasting body, in particular to prepare the way for privatisation. I can understand that executives in any corporation are attracted to privatisation. According to the examples of water, electricity, gas and so forth, everyone seems to become a millionaire almost overnight for doing the same job not very well. But the Channel 4 board has stated publicly and honourably that it opposes privatisation. I cannot improve on its words. It states: Privatisation of the channel would be an act of vandalism … It would change its priorities since its first duty would be serving shareholders and increasing profits rather than serving viewers … Money would simply have to go out of programmes to pay dividends". We in government will hold it to that statement and I hope that it holds the present Government to it in the meantime.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to support the amendment and to raise this question. My noble friend Lord Peston and I have tried to set out the reasons why we sympathise with change to the appalling 1990 Act. In relation specifically to Channel 4, the funding formula provides a bonanza subsidy for ITV and punishes success at Channel 4. But we do not support cherry picking by Channel 4. We believe that the ITV companies have grounds for a review of their own position, conditions and liabilities. Above all, we would insist that any moneys saved by Channel 4 go to programmes and to secure reserves and that the vandalism of privatisation should be denied by the Government. I look forward to hearing the Minister deny that there will be any privatisation, and to deny it as it has been denied by the board. I support the amendment.

4 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Donoughue, on the grounds that they have put forward. The Broadcasting Act 1990 was intolerably bad and cynical and has turned out to be even worse than pessimists at the time predicted. Therefore, the idea that it is any way sacrosanct is wholly indefensible.

The record of some of the companies has been vigorously condemned by the ITC in its review. When it states that broadcasting in the UK is a high-quality, successful business it is obviously not referring to the large companies such as Carlton and GMTV which were condemned for their programme records by the ITC itself. Therefore, we should not take that too seriously.

We need to take seriously the fact that this money should be paid out by Channel 4 and therefore be removed from use for financing programmes and films. I believe that the proposal by the noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Donoughue, is desirable and should be supported. We look forward to hearing what the Minister says, not least because standards in broadcasting depend almost entirely on the BBC and Channel 4. We cannot expect broadcasting standards to be maintained by the other companies; still less can we expect them to be other than degraded by Sky in the hands of Mr. Kelvin MacKenzie. One of the Government's achievements is that they have allowed Sky Television the privileged position, which is totally indefensible on any grounds of equity and which was used quite ruthlessly in the interests of News International.

Lord Strathclyde

There is no doubt that this is a most important topic. The uncertainty is what it has to do with the Bill before us. This Chamber is of an unpredictable nature in that I had thought that today the clauses dealing with Sunday racing would be of the greatest interest and not the new clause dealing with Channel 4. However—

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may interrupt the Minister because we had this on Monday from his noble friend Lord Henley. Although I am always in a good mood in this Chamber, occasionally I become a little irritated. First, any amendment that is accepted is an amendment within the terms of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, told us, "Their Lordships regulate their own affairs. This is an interesting amendment. It is a suitable vehicle, and that is why it is there".

Perhaps I flattered myself that the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, was listening to me. I tried to explain that the Bill helps a part of the private sector by reducing its regulations. Therefore, it falls firmly within the Bill and within the Government's policy.

I shall not pop up again if we have further examples of the Minister deciding that only he can choose what goes into the Bill and the rest of us cannot. I simply wish to emphasise the point that I believed that I had an argument that was made in the spirit of the Bill. I would like the Minister to respond in those terms, if he would be so kind.

Lord Skelmersdale

Before my noble friend pursues this point, perhaps I may intervene. Surely the noble Lord, Lord Peston, is wrong. Any amendment that is accepted is fair game in any Bill. There are rules not so much of scope, which apply to another place, but of relevance to the Bill in question. I understand that this Bill is all to do with the deregulation on business. If the noble Lord believes that the British Broadcasting Company, Channel 4 or anyone else is a business within the terms of the particular Bill that must be wrong.

Lord Peston

I do not want to waste time so let us have the row now. If the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, will read the Bill he will see that it defines the matter in terms of persons. I went to some length to have clarified the fact that that means anything that we care to talk about in terms of possible decision-making units. That is separate from the fact that Channel 4 would wish to claim that it comprised businesses.

If Members of the Committee wish to take the next hour—everything else has gone through fairly quickly —to debate what we can or cannot debate within the terms of the Bill they will find that I shall participate fully and I shall not be surprised if other Members do the same. One of our rules is that we treat each other with considerable respect and courtesy. When I move an amendment I expect the Minister to say, "Thank you very much. It is very interesting, it is relevant and now I shall explain why I disagree with it." That is how we proceed and I should like us to continue in that way rather than indulge in carping, which I dislike intensely and which does not help us.

Lord Strathclyde

I am distraught that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, should have taken my very mild words as surprise. They were aimed far more at the fact that we did not have a great debate about Sunday racing but that now we are having one on Channel 4. It has nothing to do with relevance to the Bill. The Clerk of the Parliaments usefully explained the question of relevance in a letter to the noble Lord, Lord Williams. I had no intention of entering this great argument. In fact, the very next comment that I was going to make was how much I admired the eloquence of the case put forward by the noble Lords, Lord Peston, Lord Donoughue, and, indeed, the noble Lord on the Liberal Democrat Benches—

A noble Lord

Lord Bonham-Carter.

Lord Strathclyde

Yes, the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. I was about to muddle him with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I have done that once before and the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, became very upset about that. I dare say that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter was also upset.

Perhaps I should now turn to the matter in hand; namely, Channel 4. I shall not follow Members of the Committee along the path of discussing privatisation or Sky television and so on.

The amendment invites precipitous action in relation to a funding arrangement which has been in operation for only just over a year. The Broadcasting Act 1990 itself introduced a new framework for the regulation of commercial broadcasting. The Act and its working have frequently been discussed by your Lordships and the Government continue to keep the operation of the Act under review.

Your Lordships will be aware of the campaign that Channel 4 has launched recently to try to persuade the Government to abolish the funding formula. Last week, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage met Sir Michael Bishop, the chairman, and Michael Grade, the chief executive of Channel 4, and listened with great interest to their views. The Secretary of State is now reflecting on what was said to him.

Until 1993, Channel 4 and the Welsh Fourth Channel, S4C, received income from the ITV companies in the form of a "fourth channel subscription" from each of the ITV contractors. In return, the ITV companies sold Channel 4's airtime, and collected the advertising revenue.

Since January 1993, Channel 4 has sold its own airtime. But it has a statutory remit to govern its programmes, with particular emphasis on educational programmes, programmes for minorities and innovative programmes. To protect that programme remit, it has been given a financial safety net. Under the terms of Sections 26 and 27 of the Broadcasting Act, Channel 4's prescribed minimum income for any year is set out at 14 per cent. of the total television advertising and sponsorship revenues received by all Channel 3 licensees, Channel 4 and S4C. The safety net formula in the Act requires that all revenue earned by Channel 4 above 14 per cent. of terrestrial qualifying revenue should be divided so that 50 per cent. is paid to ITV and 25 per cent. to a Channel 4 reserve. Conversely, if Channel 4's revenues fall below 14 per cent. of the total terrestrial qualifying revenue, the ITV companies will have to support Channel 4 up to a maximum of 2 per cent. of total terrestrial qualifying revenue; that would be obtained through a levy imposed by the Independent Television Commission. The threshold figure may be amended by order, but not before the end of 1997. There was wide consultation about that formula, which, as your Lordships will recognise, affects not only Channel 4 but also other television companies.

When the funding formula was arrived at, the Government expected that Channel 4 would be paying out surplus revenue in the first few years, but that towards the end of the decade, its advertising revenue would decline as it competed against a growing number of channels. Channel 4 believes that it is now financially secure. However, that ignores the effect on other broadcasters, which the Government have to consider.

As I have said, the Secretary of State is listening to what Channel 4 has to say. Of course, he has to listen also to the views of others, including the Independent Television Commission, which licenses both ITV and Channel 4. The changes in the amendment would not simply affect Channel 4 funding, but would have implications for other broadcasters. This amendment would prejudge proper consideration of complex issues.

Members of the Committee who have spoken have helpfully furthered the debate. Those issues will be taken up quite rightly by the Secretary of State. In the light of this short debate, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Peston

I thank the Minister. I should apologise to him because in the heat of the moment I forgot to say that there was one thing that he said with which I agree. I too had been fully expecting long debates on bars in licensed premises, betting on Sundays and Sunday opening of certain licensed premises in Scotland. At the moment on my desk there is a great wodge of speech material which will now never see the light of day.

Perhaps I may say to the Committee that I did not raise that subject because I agree with those three clauses of the Bill. I was definitely not looking for trouble by encouraging anybody else to raise the issue. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord and thank goodness we managed to move quickly from that subject to this one.

I agree that this is a difficult and technical matter. It is not easy. Matters have turned out differently and, as the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said, worse than we expected under the 1990 Act. That is why my noble friend Lord Donoughue, the noble Earl, Lord Stockton, and I thought that we should place the matter before the Committee. In a way, the Minister confirmed that by saying that the Secretary of State had had discussions. I was not clear from what the Minister said as to whether he was referring to the Heritage Secretary or the President of the Board of Trade. I take it that it is the Heritage Secretary who is talking and listening to those people. That must mean that he is at least thinking that this is a serious matter at which we need to look again.

I was particularly anxious about the surplus revenue point. We must scrutinise in some detail the noble Lord's reply. Also, it would not do us any harm to have some contact with the Secretary of State for Heritage to see how his mind is working. Perhaps we shall return to this matter on Report, within the ambit of the Bill. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.15 p.m.

Clause 19 [Repeal of Part I of the Shops Act 1950]:

Baroness Young moved Amendment No. 168: Page 20, line 27, after ("closing)") insert (", and sections 22 and 23 (Regulation of Sunday employment in shops) of that Act").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to three consequential amendments —Amendments Nos. 218, 221 and 222.

As the Committee will be aware, when the Sunday Trading Bill was going through your Lordships' House, I did not support the final decision that was reached. But having reached the decision that we are to have Sunday trading, I really believe that it is very important that Sunday trading should work in a sensible way, both for employers and employees.

To that end, my amendment seeks to repeal Section 22 of the Shops Act 1950 and, consequentially, Section 23. If it is not repealed, Section 22 would be in conflict with the new regime of legalised Sunday trading and the statutory right not to work on a Sunday. There are three reasons for that.

In the first place, a shop worker working for more than four hours on a Sunday is prohibited by Section 22(1) (a) (i) from working for more than three Sundays in each month. After all, a month may contain four or five Sundays. I assume at present that many workers are in breach of that general provision just as many retailers are in breach of the provisions with regard to Sunday trading. But I assume further that when the Sunday Trading Bill becomes law, those provisions will be enforced effectively. Why should volunteers be limited in the number of Sundays that they can work and why should companies be required to operate very complicated work schedules?

Secondly, Section 22(1) provides further that a day's holiday should be given to those working for more than four hours on a Sunday, and half a day's holiday for those working fewer than four hours, and that that should be taken either in the week following or preceding the Sunday work. Those are to be in addition to statutory half day holidays already provided by Section 17 of the Shops Act.

However, it is difficult to see what purpose, either in terms of health and safety or for any other reason, the provision for the alternative holiday serves when all Sunday working is voluntary by law, whether in addition to or as part of a five-day week. The practical difficulties of not deleting the requirement for a day's holiday would mean, first, that a day's holiday must be a day upon which the employee would be otherwise contracted to work. That makes sense where Sunday working is occasional and additional to the normal contractual week. However, where Sunday working is regular and part of the contractual week, it is difficult if not impossible to construct a working arrangement that includes Sunday working and gives a day's holiday.

Moreover, if an employer cannot offer a contract for more than five-and-a-half days' work in each week but, where this includes Sunday, the employee can repudiate Sunday work at short notice, the employer would be left with a four-day or four-and-a-half-day contract which would provide great difficulties for staff scheduling. It seems that the best arrangement for both the employer and the employee would be for the employee to choose between a five-day contract without Sunday or a six-day contract including Sunday. The employee is protected by statute if he or she does not wish to work for more than five days. The employer would be left with a five-day working cover if the employee repudiated Sunday working.

Thirdly, Section 22(3) of the Shops Act 1950 requires retailers to keep detailed records of the Sundays worked by employees and of the specific days off that they are given in respect of each Sunday worked. Under the new Sunday Trading legislation, it seems that there would be no benefit in monitoring alternative days off when Sunday working becomes legal.

All three requirements apply to Section 22 of the Act which would appear to be redundant and would interfere with the rights of those who want to work on Sunday. It would also be an administrative burden for employers.

I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept the amendments and that Section 22 will be repealed. Section 23 of the Act extends similar effects to employment in retail trading elsewhere other than in shops. The same arguments would apply. Therefore, I also hope that my noble friend the Minister will feel that it is right to repeal that section.

The provision seems to me—I am sure that the same is true of the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, who has put her name to the amendment—to be something which is against the interest both of employees and employers in the future. I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will look seriously at the matter. It has been put to me by all the major retailers; that is, both those who have always been in favour of Sunday trading and those who have preferred another alternative. What we have here is a loophole which I believe has been overlooked. I beg to move.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

It is characteristic of the good sense of my noble friend Lady Young that she has put down and spoken to such an amendment. I say that because one recalls—as I am sure does my noble friend —that when we were discussing Sunday trading generally my noble friend's attitude, unlike mine, was rather against the relaxation of a good deal of the limitations. However, my noble friend has obviously and most sensibly accepted the decision of this Chamber and that of another place and wants to see Sunday trading going forward in an efficient and tidy way.

There is no doubt that the various provisions with which the amendment seeks to deal are now rather an untidy relic of a different system. It would be much more efficient and produce a more workable situation if we were to make the necessary amendments. Therefore, I have particular pleasure in supporting the amendment.

Baroness O'Cathain

Likewise, I rise to express my support for the amendment to which I have attached my name, despite the fact that the noble Baroness and I were on opposite sides during the Sunday trading debate. The noble Baroness has outlined the technical details in a very lucid way. However, I should like to elaborate for a few moments on the actual implications on staff and employers of the current situation if it were allowed to prevail under the new Sunday trading laws.

I have with me details of two anecdotes. One relates to a man who works full-time in stock control in a supermarket. He presently lives with his mother, but would like to get married soon. Obviously, he is trying to earn as much money as possible. He works thirty-six-and-a-half hours at present on a Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He likes to work the same hours each week because he helps to run a youth club which meets most nights of the week. He is also keen on sport and plays for a local five-a-side football club. Therefore, the way that he has organised his working pattern actually helps him enormously.

Since the store where he works has opened on Sundays, that young man has been able to work every Sunday at premium rates. That will enable him to get married next year. However, if Section 22 (the five-and-a-half-day week) is enforced, he would still be able to work on Sunday but he would either have to be contracted to work, which would reduce his wages from the amount he presently receives each week, or he would have to change his hours. For him to be able to work overtime on a Sunday and to earn as much, he would have to work extra hours each day and then just work the hours before 1.30 p.m. so that he gets a day off; or, alternatively, he would have to start work at 1.30 p.m. and work a late night one day a week. That would ensure that he only works five-and-a-half clays and would cause all sorts of problems as regards running the youth club and his five-a-side football playing.

Either way, that young man would have to disrupt the department so that he can work overtime on Sundays. He does not think that his supervisor would be prepared to do that as the department runs quite smoothly at present. He would also only be able to work three Sundays out of every calendar month, so his wages would be less over the year than they are at the moment. I am sure that it is not the intention of the Sunday trading legislation that the people who wish to volunteer for work on Sunday should be jeopardised and disruption caused to employers as regards staff scheduling.

My second anecdote relates to a lady who is a check-out operator. She works four mornings a week and all day Saturday. She also works overtime on a Sunday. However, those hours would be contracted when Sunday trading becomes law. As she is a single mother, her current schedule works really well as her son goes to playschool every morning and goes to stay with his father at weekends However, if she becomes contracted to work on a Sunday and can only work three Sundays in every calendar month, she will then have a problem because those hours cannot be moved to any other day of the week because she is not able to work any more hours than she does already. The result could be that she would lose part of her pay because she is unable to change her hours on a regular basis. I am sure that there is not one Member of the Committee who thinks that such a situation should prevail following the implementation of the Sunday Trading Act. I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I have no strong feelings about the amendment. However, what bothers me is that, if there is not a change as indicated by the amendment, the provision could actually prevent people from receiving premium payment. Because it could do so, I am inclined to support what both noble Baronesses have said. So far as concerns Sunday trading, quite obviously we on this side of the Committee would have liked rather more protection. Indeed, I moved amendments which did not find favour with this Chamber stipulating that there should be an arrange-ment guaranteeing premium payment.

However, after looking at what the amendments imply, it seems to me that, if they are not agreed to, we could well have a situation where people would have to take days off rather than have a premium payment which, in many instances, is what they would prefer. In those circumstances, I await with interest to hear the Minister's response.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Skelmersdale

I, too, support the amendment. As my noble friend said, quite clearly the current situation under the Shops Act is inappropriate when taken with the measures that we recently considered when discussing Sunday trading. However, I wonder whether the amendment is rather on the modest side. I know that my noble friend is very interested in Sunday trading as regards the amendment, but there are three other sections of the Shops Act 1950 which are still on the statute book. I wonder whether they are still sensible in terms of today's work patterns—a point brought out most strongly by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain —in relation to Sundays.

For example, I have in mind Section 17 of the Act. That requires employers to give shop assistants one half-day holiday per week, with the holiday to be taken during the afternoon. That is hardly appropriate these days when part-time working is very common. I understand that it was practically non-existent in 1950, although I must confess that I was not around at the time to study the situation because I was about five years old. As I have said, the provision would hardly be relevant to part-time workers. There is also Section 19, and indeed part of the third schedule, which provides that shop assistants be allowed intervals for meals unless they are members of the occupier's family. Quite why they should be impoverished, and have been impoverished since 1950, as part of the family firm, I do not understand. But that perhaps does not matter. The third schedule details the lengths of the various mealbreaks allowed.

My daughter is currently on vacation from university, as so many other young people are. She is trying to get a job for afternoons only. I do not see why she should have as it were a statutory mealbreak, and more importantly, neither does she.

I turn now to Section 21 which provides that, as regards shop assistants engaged in the sale of refreshments on the premises, employers may operate an alternative regime in place of that in the previous two sections to which I have just referred. The regime is, however, in its turn, restrictive. It places an upper limit on the working hours of the shop assistants in question and lays down specific provisions on the number of holidays to be taken on weekdays and on Sundays each year, and prescribes in detail the length of mealbreaks.

Over previous weeks we have had long discussions on the subject of relationships between employers and employees. I have no doubt that that will continue in terms of other legislation but as regards the three extra sections, as it were, of Part II of the Shops Act to which I have referred, these are matters which would be far better dealt with by consultation between employer and employee than by law. I hope that my noble friend, in considering the matters raised by my noble friend Lady Young, will consider the three other sections in Part II. These five sections are the only ones in the whole of Part II which have not so far been repealed.

Lord Rochester

I rise briefly to support the amendment from these Benches, having listened to the arguments advanced both by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and other noble Lords who have spoken. It may be that as both the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, have said from their different perspec-tives, the provision might cover a wider area than appears to be the case but so far as it goes, as I say, I am happy to support it.

Lord Henley

I also am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. I was rather surprised to hear her support since she also seems to have a Motion down that the clause should not stand part of the Bill which seems slightly to contradict her motives in supporting this. Nevertheless, we shall get to that in due course. I offer my congratulations to my noble friend Lady Young on her foresight in introducing her amendments to remove these outmoded restrictions on Sunday working. I also say to my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale that I was very interested in what he had to say, particularly about parts of the Shops Act 1950, and the parts which have not been repealed. I think he referred to Sections 17, 19 and 21.I certainly think that the suggestion that all the outmoded employment measures in that Act be repealed is something that we would be prepared to consider. We readily acknowledge the merits of my noble friend's amendments and certainly we will look at the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale.

I think it is obviously wrong to retain regulations dealing with terms and conditions which should best be decided by the employers and workers concerned. Only they can know—as we made quite clear during the Sunday Trading Bill—what terms are appropriate for their own local labour market. I do not believe that there can be any argument for preserving any anachronistic employment measures that remain in the Shops Act. My noble friend said that he was only five at the time of the 1950 Shops Act. I was not even born! There may have been some perfectly good reasons for their introduction in 1950, but I think it is very difficult to find any justification for retaining them into the 1990s and beyond, because, again, employers and workers in retailing should no longer be covered by regulations on conditions of employment that in other trades and industries are fixed, as I said, by the parties themselves in the light of local circumstances.

I think it is clear that interest in the Shops Act goes beyond just the provisions of my noble friend Lady Young's amendments relating to Sections 22 and 23 of the 1950 Act. While we fully support the objective of doing away with such provisions, I would prefer to ask my noble friend not to press her amendments at this stage so that we in the Government can take further soundings within the retail industry and bring forward our own amendments at Report stage. That amendment —I can give the assurance to the Committee—will achieve exactly what the noble Baroness wishes to achieve in her amendment and also, as far as is possible, remove any other outdated regulations which have certainly outlived their usefulness, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale.

Baroness Young

I thank my noble friend very much for his reply. I am happy to withdraw this amendment and I will be glad to see what comes forward at the Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Viscount Bridgeman moved Amendment No. 169:

Page 20, line 27, leave out from ("shall") to end of line 28 and insert ("be amended as follows.

(2) For sections 1 to 3 there shall be substituted—

"Hours of closing.

  1. 1.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, a relevant authority may by resolution determine that shops in its area shall be closed for the serving of customers from such hour and for such period on a weekday or a Saturday as it may consider appropriate.
  2. (2) No determination shall be made subsection (1) above such as to require any shop to close earlier than nine o'clock in the evening or to remain closed beyond five o'clock in the morning.
  3. (3) A determination made under subsection (1) above may apply in relation to all shops or any class of shops in the whole or any part of the area of a relevant authority.
  4. (4) For the purposes of this section, a relevant authority—
    1. (a) in relation to England and Wales, means the council of any district or London Borough; and
    2. (b) in relation to Scotland, means an island or district council."

"Offences etc.

14. Where any shop is open for the serving of customers otherwise than in accordance with a resolution made by a relevant authority under section 1, the occupier of the said shop shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 2 on the standard scale."").

The noble Viscount said: The Committee may recall that I briefly raised some concerns about Clause 19 of this Bill on Second Reading. The amendment tabled in my name, and in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, is designed to try to find a practical solution to what we believe are some of the unfortunate practical consequences of Clause 19 which, as the Committee will be aware, abolishes Part I of the Shops Act 1950 and thereby will allow 24-hour shopping. This amendment will be subsidiary to any of the provisions of the current Sunday trading legislation.

First, I should very briefly explain the purpose of the amendment, although I hope that it is reasonably self-evident from the text. Quite simply, what we are seeking to do is to amend Part I of the Shops Act 1950 so that the current blanket requirement for shops to close at 8 p.m. on weekdays is amended allowing opening times, within certain important limits, to be set at the discretion of local authorities. However, a local authority will only be allowed to require shops to close after 9 p.m. and before 5 a.m. Outside those hours opening times will be entirely a matter for the shops themselves. The amendment also proposes that where a shop breaches a resolution of a council in this respect, it will be subject to a fine not exceeding Level 2 on the standard scale; namely, £500—the level of fine that currently applies for breaches of the Shops Act.

Let me make it clear from the outset that I do not oppose the principle of 24-hour shopping, nor indeed do the local authorities or their associations with whom I have been in contact, principally the AMA and Westminster City Council. It seems to me that in most circumstances there is probably no good reason why shops cannot stay open for as long as they wish. Why should the Government, through national legislation, restrict shopping hours? That said, it must be recognised that if shops are allowed to stay open all night, and if they choose to take advantage of this, there may be a direct impact on local residents who live above shops or who live in close proximity to them. This is essentially the nub of the issue: seeking a balance between a proper need to allow businesses the freedom to operate in a deregulated environment, and an equal need to protect the legitimate interests of local residents.

It may be argued that in certain respects my amendment is more restrictive than the Shops Act in that the amendment will allow local authorities to keep some shops closed until 5 a.m., whereas the current provisions of the Shops Act enable shops to open immediately after midnight. This issue in many respects gets us to the heart of our concerns. Let me make it clear that the amendment will only apply where a local authority has a concern about a shop opening all night. The amendment is purely discretionary and I fully imagine that most shops will be unaffected by it. However, at the moment all shops are legally required to close between 8 p.m. and midnight. In that sense therefore the amendment is less restrictive than the Shops Act precisely because it is discretionary. I stress that it will not apply to any shop unless a local authority so chooses.

That brings us to another issue; namely, the way in which local authorities will exercise that discretionary power. It may be argued, for example, that a local authority will choose to apply the amendment to all shops in its locality. I have to say, however, particularly in the light of my discussions with the AMA and also in the light of the correspondence from local authorities that I have seen, that I do not believe that that will occur. The fact of the matter is that all local authorities have many discretionary licensing powers, including dis-cretionary powers over other commercial outlets such as cafes, restaurants and so on. No one has explained why those establishments should be regulated while shops are not.

There is little evidence that those powers have been applied in any discriminatory way and I see no reason why local authorities should use the discretionary power proposed in the amendment in anything other than a fair, reasonable and practical manner. I am satisfied that local authorities want to control the opening hours of only some shops in a small number of locations simply in order to protect the interests of residents who live above those shops or very close to them.

It may be argued that since we do not oppose 24-hour shopping in principle the additional regulatory burdens will take effect regardless of the amendment. I do not wish to overstate the issue but there is a practical point. Where a local authority is perfectly content to allow shops to stay open for 24 hours, it will be because they are satisfied that it will have little adverse impact on local communities and that therefore the need for enforcing parking restrictions, noise control and so forth is minimal. But where 24-hour shopping might have an adverse impact on residents, a local authority can expect a significant increase in the number of complaints and therefore a greater need to take enforcement action.

The specific concern is that shops staying open into the early hours of the morning will generate noise and disturbance for local residents, thus affecting their quality of life. In addition, local authorities may need to extend existing parking restrictions and make greater provision for refuse collection, trading standards enforcement, and so on. So the effect is likely to be that a national deregulatory measure will impose additional regulatory requirements on the authorities. Those will not be entirely new regulatory issues, merely an extension of existing powers of control and enforce-ment. Nonetheless, at a local level, the regulatory burden may well be extended.

I am sure that the Minister will explain that the Government do not believe that the majority of shops will take up the new opportunities to stay open for 24 hours. I acknowledge that argument, not least because many shops will find it uneconomical to do so. The Minister may well argue that as shops must currently close at 8 p.m. and are free to open again at midnight, the repeal of Part 1 of the Shops Act is in reality of little consequence. The practical point, however, is that it is altogether different to go to the trouble of re-opening rather than simply to remain open, given the difficulties that there would be in letting your market know that you would be re-opening. Local stores, which are a feature of many residential communities, will surely find it attractive to remain open for longer since the cost of doing so will be minimal and there could be significant additional passing trade. And in particular localities— Queensway and Earl's Court Road in London have been mentioned as specific examples—where there are a significant number of small shops, it is perfectly possible to envisage that a particular street will, in a sense, never close down.

We must therefore consider the practical implications of Clause 19. I know that it has been argued that local authorities already have powers to deal with noise, parking, and so on, and that they therefore already have the means to deal with the problems that may be created by 24-hour shopping. However, with regard to noise, I understand that the Environmental Protection Act empowers local authorities to deal only with certain types of noise. But the interpretation of nuisance from noise is not easy and assessments have to be made by an environmental health officer, taking into account frequency, loudness and timing of the noise, to determine whether or not there is a problem. Moreover, I am advised that there are no powers to deal with transient noise such as that from shoppers, delivery vans and so forth. I have also been advised that local authorities receive many complaints where the noise cannot be classified as statutory but is nonetheless a nuisance to local residents.

Perhaps I may trouble the Committee with one further consideration. I refer to parking control. Local authorities have powers to designate parking bays and yellow lines and the hours in which they operate. The Road Traffic Act 1991 covers the enforcement of all parking regulations by local authorities. The policy of most local authorities is to protect the ability of residents to park near their homes. Residents' parking bays are reserved for residents during the hours when economic activity would otherwise make it difficult for them to park. It is possible, therefore, that in some locations residents would find it difficult to park late at night because shops remained open. That would impose additional parking enforcement requirements on local authorities, with the need to employ traffic wardens at hours when they would otherwise not have to do so, and on an ongoing permanent basis. I hope that those two examples demonstrate why it is possible that deregulating shopping hours could actually increase the regulatory burden on local authorities. If that were to happen, it would seem an unfortunate consequence of the Bill.

I have also been advised that the police are concerned that 24-hour shopping will provide additional oppor-tunities for petty crime. That is clearly a difficult area since I believe that it would be absurd to claim that 24-hour shopping per se will directly affect crime levels. I merely say to the Minister that some police authorities have expressed an anxiety and I hope that due regard has been given or will be given to those concerns. I raise the anxieties of the police having seen a letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers which expresses anxieties at the practical implications of Clause 19, including the extra demands that will be placed on the police. I hope that the Government will listen attentively to the police's anxieties.

It has also been argued that the amendment may cause some confusion since local authorities may apply the power differently, with the result that competitors, who happen to be on different sides of a local authority boundary, are treated differently. Again, I respond to those concerns by saying that it is not a major problem under the existing licensing regimes for other establishments. There is indeed a fundamental point: different localities have different problems and require different treatment regardless of the local authority concerned.

I have one final but important point to which I have briefly referred. I understand that the Department of the Environment has developed a policy aimed at bringing back into residential use flats over shops which are currently vacant. That seems a worthwhile and credible policy and part of a consistent attempt to help the regeneration of inner cities and to bring back life into cities and town centres. I suggest that people might be less happy about moving into a flat above a shop if they were worried that that shop could be trading for 24 hours. I cannot for the life of me see how the DoE's initiative would be advanced if another measure might actually deter people from buying up those vacant units.

Many local authorities have genuine anxieties over the practical implications of the clause. I live in London, and I have approached the issue very much from that background. I do not believe, however, that it is simply a London issue. Indeed, I am advised that it is not just central London authorities which have concerns. They range from Kingston, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Wandsworth and Newham to Oldham, Solihull, Tyneside and Stockport. I have also seen letters from the London Fire and Civil Defence Authority, the Greater Manchester County Fire Service the Merseyside Police Authority, and the Association of Chief Police Officers, to which I have already referred, expressing concerns about some of the implications of 24-hour shopping.

What we are trying to achieve in the amendment is some degree of balance between, on the one hand, the extremes of the Shops Act which simply outlaws 24-hour shopping, and on the other hand, the extremes of Clause 19. It seems to me that it must be possible to find some sensible balance which allows local authorities discretion to decide that in some locations 24-hour shopping would be undesirable because of the impact that it would have on the local community. Indeed if, as I imagine, the Government argue that it is not appropriate for them to regulate shopping hours, is it not reasonable to suggest that local authorities who are responsible for looking after local communities should have some degree of discretion themselves?

The amendment seeks a practical solution to what is believed to be a practical problem, and even if the Minister finds the amendment, for whatever reason, unacceptable, I hope that he can give some reassurance that he and his colleagues will reconsider the matter urgently and, if at all possible, come back with some alternative solution. I beg to move.

Baroness Turner of Camden

I support the amendment moved by the noble Viscount and apologise for the absence of my noble friend Lord Stallard who also put his name to the amendment. I should perhaps explain that, as with Sunday trading, this is an issue upon which I am not speaking officially for the Front Bench but we are taking an individual conscience attitude to the whole question of shop deregulation.

There has been a lot of talk about consumer choice, but we must ask ourselves: what are regulations for? Of course, we want to do away with those regulations that are unnecessary and impose bureaucratic restrictions. But regulations are sometimes necessary to protect the interests of people, even quite a small minority, who might otherwise be disadvantaged. We are all consumers, but people are other things as well as consumers. They are employees and there is nothing, so far as I can see—and we shall come to that later—to protect the rights of shopworkers if we deregulate completely in this way.

People are also householders. I happen to live in a road leading off one of the busiest shopping centres in north London. I do not particularly relish having shops open at all hours and deliveries and all that goes with them in operation at all times. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has dealt with the noise and hassle that can attend shop opening in a detailed way in his opening submission.

It seems to me that local authorities are best placed to make decisions about what is appropriate for their area. They are, of course, subject to election regularly if they make unpopular decisions. We have already had legislation that will enable shops to open for a large part of Sunday. Different local authorities have different problems. To take my own area, I have received a letter from the Camden authority. I mention it because it seems to me to be an important point which has not been touched on in great depth. The letter states: Part of our successful clampdown on drugs trading in Kings Cross has been to close cafes from I a.m. to 5 a.m., an action much appreciated locally as providing 'time out' and reducing the legitimate reasons for people to loiter or gather in the area. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Paul Condon specifically praised Camden's action. 'The Deregulation Bill (Clause 19) abolishes our right to close cafes. The AMA, ALA, Camden and Islington Borough Councils, local MPs … the police anti-drugs campaign in Kings Cross all support an amendment likely to be moved by Lord Bridgeman … We also understand the Association of Chief Police Officers shares our view. This is quite a strong line up. I hope you [will do all you can to] add your weight to this campaign". Surely that is an important consideration in a particular area of London.

Local authorities are aware of their local problems and are the appropriate people, it seems to me, to make the decisions in this area. As I said, we have already had legislation that will enable shops to open for a large part of Sunday. To allow them to open at all times without any restriction whatever seems to me to be going much too far. I hope that the Committee will accept the amendment.

Lord Monson

On the grounds of noise, nuisance and general disturbance to residents, I have some sympathy with the amendment. But I believe that it goes much too far in that it would permit local authorities to require shops to close as early as 9 p.m. on weekdays. After all, pubs, restaurants, cafés, hamburger bars and so on remain open until 11 p.m. or even midnight and in one or two cases even later. By and large, those establishments emit more in the way of noise, smells and so on than do shops of a similar floor area

If the noble Viscount thought it might be appropriate to withdraw his amendment today and come back at Report stage with the words "11 p.m." or, better still, "midnight" substituted for "nine o'clock", I think that I could readily support that, but I could not support the amendment as it stands.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

The amendment seems designed to reverse, to a considerable extent, a decision which your Lordships' House took a few days ago on the hours of shop opening. Therefore, it is of considerable importance. I find the suggestion that a local authority should be empowered to close shops in its area on a wide basis difficult to accept. It was the whole subject matter of our recent debates on shop hours which we discussed at such length and with great care over a considerable period in the recent past.

I find it a little depressing that once again we should be considering giving power to close shops by order, in this case of the local authority. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend the Minister will firmly reject this attempt to reverse the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Baroness Hamwee

I am in great sympathy with the objectives of the amendment and, by and large, would like to support it. I shall not repeat the arguments made by the two movers, save to say that in suburban areas as well as the inner cities to which they referred, I am well aware of the intrusion of noise from people who close car doors, possibly quite quietly but nevertheless causing considerable disturbance to residents who have to suffer that on a sequential basis, quite late through the night.

It is because I am aware that this arises from the restaurant trade that I, too, have anxiety about the amendment which I would like to air without detracting from my general support of it. I wonder whether it is appropriate to require some shops to close at an earlier hour in an area where restaurants and other establishments can trade as a result of licensing provisions and planning decisions until after nine o'clock.

I am also concerned as to whether it would be appropriate for shops to be able to start trading after nine o'clock. As the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, said, the local authority knows its area best, but the local authority may perhaps at a later stage take a decision that some shops should close at an earlier hour. I wonder whether this will be disruptive to the traders and perhaps confusing to consumers. More particularly, it will be difficult and perhaps rather unfair for traders who may not know where they are.

I have one final point not previously mentioned, which is the offence created by subsection (4) regarding the fine. Most local authorities have discovered, in attempting to enforce the Shops Act 1950, that fines have not had any great effect and injunctions have had a greater effect. However, injunctions are often expensive to run and are by no means straightforward. I wonder whether the fines proposed by the section would be a sufficient sanction.

Lord Skelmersdale

I am afraid that I am not nearly as complimentary about this amendment as I was about the last amendment of my noble friend Lady Young. It seems to me that my noble friend Lord Bridgeman is trying to re-enact a form of Section 8 of the current Shops Act, but without the one essential safeguard. Perhaps I may quote from the beginning of that section: An order (in this Act referred to as 'a closing order') made by a local authority … may fix the hours on several days of the week at which, either throughout the area of the local authority or in any specified part thereof, all shops or shops of any specified class are to be closed for serving customers". The safeguard that I purposely left out of that rather selective quotation was that the orders that are made by the local authority have to be confirmed by the Secretary of State in the manner provided for by the Shops Act. It occurs to me to wonder at the very least, first, how many times in recent years local authorities have applied to the Secretary of State under this existing provision, and secondly, how many times the Secretary of State has agreed to them. I suspect that the answer is a very, very small number indeed.

The other point that worries me about the amendment, and indeed the provision in Section 8 that I have just quoted, is the likelihood of the the provisions being brought into exactly the same state of disrepute among all areas of the population as we have found over the years with the Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act? I see this provision operating very unfairly —not only, as happened with the Sunday trading provisions of the Shops Act, between different local authorities but, as my noble friend explained, within different areas of the same local authority area. That seems to me a great mistake.

5 p.m.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

I pick up the point that my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter made earlier. It seems to me that having discussed the freedom of traders—your Lordships' House, during the passage of the Sunday Trading Bill, made great matter of the ability of small shops to open and be free to trade and indeed compete with the larger stores—my noble friend should not seek to reduce that opportunity by way of this amendment. I have to tell him that I could not possibly support him.

Even were the amendment to be altered fairly dramatically, it seems to me wrong that local authorities should have the power to do certain things without any appeal process and without any collective responsibility —a local authority could close down a shop between certain hours on one side of the street while a local authority on the other side would not—and without the necessity of giving any reason whatever. That seems fundamentally wrong.

Secondly, I do not believe that in the quietude of the Chamber on this late afternoon one can envisage the kind of disturbance that some Members of the Committee have suggested might occur. Most of the noises come from late cafe's, night clubs, restaurants and so on. Local authorities have perfectly adequate power to deal with those matters. It seems abundantly wrong. The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff and the noble Baroness opposite shake their heads. There are instruments in place to deal with noise, parking and such matters. If those instruments are inadequate, then local authorities should bring to Parliament powers that meet that necessity or that demand, rather than my noble friend producing a blanket regulation to deal with the matter.

Lord Tordoff

The noble Lord noted that my noble friend and I were shaking our heads at the first part of his remarks. I draw his attention to the fact that we were nodding our heads over the latter part of his remarks.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Obviously, therefore, I withdraw the part of my remarks that caused concern and argument. I merely underline that what I say receives the approbation of some noble Lords. I must be nearer right than I am wrong. One could go on with this kind of argument. I have explained my main reasons for objection. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will resist the amendment.

Lord Henley

I start by dealing with the point that my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale made about when the Secretary of State last exercised his powers in confirming an order under Section 8 of the 1950 Act. I have to say that I took advice on the matter. I am advised that we have no record of the Secretary of State ever having confirmed such an order. It is possible that no such order has been made since 1950.I did say earlier that I was not even born in 1950; the power has existed since 1911. Those whose memories go back further may possibly recall some particular examples of orders being confirmed under earlier legislation. But, as I said, we have no record as such. If any is found I shall let my noble friend know.

My noble friend Lord Bridgeman—I appreciate his openness —confirmed that he was not worried about 24-hour opening and the sort of fears expressed on occasion. Obviously, merely giving shops the power to open 24 hours a day is not going to make them open 24 hours a day. That will be a matter for the shops to decide for themselves according to market needs. My noble friend is of course not so much concerned with shops selling things; I think his concern is largely one about possible noise, disturbance and so on.

We believe that local authorities already have pretty wide-ranging powers to deal with such concerns. For example, they may issue noise abatement orders, restrict parking and control traffic. In addition, one must make the point that the police may use any of their public order powers against any rowdiness or crime that may result from people shopping at convenient shops at 10 o'clock as opposed to 9 o'clock. I have to say that I believe that that is distinctly unlikely.

I believe also that the amendment provides somewhat over-stringent regulation. It makes no exemptions whatever for emergency needs. The 1950 Shops Act provides that off-licences, for example, can sell alcoholic drink in the evening. Some Members of the Committee may not consider that buying a bottle of gin, or whisky for that matter, is an emergency need. Others may consider that it comes close. The 1950 Shops Act also provided for pharmacies to sell medicine and garages to sell motor supplies. I fancy that most Members in this Chamber would consider a provision of that kind to be necessary.

Perhaps I may also remind the Committee that the Sunday Trading Bill is nearing the end of its parliamentary passage. I believe that it returns to this Chamber tomorrow. It has already been considered in detail both in Committee and on Report. If this amendment were carried it would mean that once the Sunday Trading Bill takes effect shops could open for longer on a Sunday than on any other day of the week. Most Members of the Committee will accept that that would be a somewhat anomalous position.

Aside from the lack of exemptions, the amendment also provides local authorities with a discretion on whether to close shops after 9 p.m. I can well imagine that in a few years' time we could possibly find ourselves, as I believe my noble friend Lord Lucas made clear, with a patchwork of weekday opening varying from one local authority to another with only Sunday opening having any kind of national consistency. Indeed, the patchwork could be even more complicated as the power could be applied simply to part of a local authority area. Retailers would not feel that that was fair and the public would find it extremely confusing. A convenient store on one side of the street might be able to open, but its competitor on the other, happening to be in a different local authority—obviously that could happen very often in London—might be forced to shut. Ironically, such a patchwork would itself lead to increased environmental problems as customers are forced to drive from one area to another.

Lord Tordoff

I wonder whether I could suggest to the noble Lord that that might be defined as "subsidiarity".

Lord Henley

I do not think so. Perhaps I may also touch briefly on the point about housing made by my noble friend Lord Bridgeman. He referred to the Department of the Environment's over-the-shop initiative and suggested that it might do badly if there were 24-hour shopping or shops staying open late. Housing associations are encouraged to take over mixed residential and retailing blocks. We shall continue to encourage that. But obviously, as landlords, they can require the tenant shops to close in the evenings. There can be nothing wrong in them so doing. I do not believe that it requires a statutory provision of this kind to bring the local authority into the matter.

I believe that the amendment, if carried, would be an invitation to retailers to break the law. I am sure the Committee will agree that we need laws which are both respected and enforced. The noble Lord has foreseen problems relating to the repeal of Part I of the Shops Act which do not in fact exist. I believe that the amendment is neither necessary nor practical. I hope therefore that my noble friend will consider withdrawing it.

Lord Peston

Would the Minister clarify one part of his answer, which I found extremely interesting? He said that were there to be detriments to the local public —it is a point that was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas—the local authority and others had plenty of other powers to deal with them. I am sure that he is right to say that.

However, Clause 19 repeals Part I of the Shops Act 1950. Do the other powers include the ability of local authorities, or anybody else, where shops are causing a nuisance, to say, 'Therefore you must close" or are they powers simply to say, "Stop causing a nuisance"? That is a genuine question and I should like to know the answer to it.

Lord Henley

I am sure that all the noble Lord's questions are genuine. Obviously, local authorities would not have power to close down a shop. But, if a nuisance emanates from it, the local authority or anybody else affected by that nuisance could seek the appropriate remedy from the court in order to have that nuisance abated. It would then be up to the shop to abate the nuisance. If it failed to be abated, further remedies might have to be considered. I do not believe that one needs give a power to local authorities to close shops.

Baroness Turner of Camden

With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may come back on one point. I have already read out part of a letter which I received from the local authority in Camden, which said that it was able to close cafes from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. I gather that those cafés of themselves were not causing a nuisance but the mere fact that they were there gave: legitimate reasons for people to loiter or gather in the urea". It is an area which has a particular crime and drug problem. I wondered whether the Minister had any comment to make on that.

Lord Henley

Clause 19 of itself will not take away any powers to close a troublesome café. My advice is that cafés and take-aways are permitted to trade under the 1950 Shops Act. I do not know about Camden but Westminster had certain powers—I presume by its own private legislation—to close cafes through night caf6 licences and will be unaffected. It will not be affected by the repeal of Part I of the Act.

Baroness Hamwee

Perhaps I may pursue this point for one moment longer. It is an important matter for those who are affected by the nuisance caused by these establishments. Does the Minister agree that, although a local authority may have powers to deal with a particular establishment, it does not have powers outside that establishment? For instance, there is the example that I used earlier of people who leave the establishment, close car doors loudly and generally are noisy. It would be helpful to have some clarification on this matter. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that, if there is another way to address the problem, it should be found.

Lord Henley

Perhaps I may take advice on that point. I do not believe that going back on the repeal of Part I of the 1950 Shops Act, as this amendment seeks to do, is the right way forward. If there is a general disturbance from people slamming car doors outside fish and chip shops and it needs to be dealt with, possibly we could consider the situation. Whether it requires new and additional powers for local authorities is another matter. I have some doubts about it. Certainly I am prepared to have a look at the matter but I do not believe that this amendment will solve that problem.

Viscount Bridgeman

I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate on this amendment. I must voice the concerns of the local authorities to whom I have spoken. I am grateful to the Minister for his offer to review the question of noise. The problem of noise is of paramount concern to those authorities. I am grateful to the Minister and perhaps I can explore that matter with him. I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 19 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Turner of Camden

I rise to oppose the Motion that Clause 19 should stand part of the Bill and to explain exactly why I do so, having already spoken to Amendment No. 168. Clause 19 simply repeals Part I of the 1950 Shops Act, which relates to hours of closing.

As we know, once the Bill is on the statute book shops will be able to open all the hours they choose —all night if they so wish. We recently had a long debate in this Chamber about Sunday trading. The Sunday Trading Bill contains some protection for shop-workers who for whatever reason do not want to work on Sundays. As I said this afternoon in the debate on another part of the Bill, in my view that protection is insufficient. But at least it is there. So far as I can see, this Bill provides no protection whatever for shop-workers who decide that they are unable to work unsocial hours.

The Minister may very well tell us, as the other place were told, that no formal protection is necessary in this Bill because adequate protection exists already against unfair dismissal. Even accepting that—and we all know that rights are difficult to enforce anyway—the protection does not apply to people with less than two years' service and, in the case of part-time workers, to those with less than five years' service. Yet in the retail industry there are large numbers of such employees. Many of them are women and no doubt many might find it difficult to work protracted hours if that were suddenly demanded of them.

So some protection had to be written into the Sunday Trading Bill when we were discussing trading on Sunday. Otherwise, the coalition responsible for the ultimately willing support for the preferred six-hour option might not have come into existence. There was a great deal of controversy and a long campaign over the whole issue of Sunday trading. It is probably correct to say that, without the protection for shop workers which was written into that Bill, progress towards so-called liberalisation of the laws concerning Sunday trading could not have been achieved.

But in this Bill we have seen nothing about the protection of shop workers so far as concerns deregulation. Therefore, in speaking to this Motion, I hope that I shall be able to persuade the Minister to look again at the whole issue. Amendments have already been agreed earlier this afternoon to another section of the Bill, when my noble friend Lord Peston commended the Government on having introduced amendments which gave protection to employees. I totally agree with him. There are strong arguments for providing some protection for people who work in shops and who may suddenly be called upon, come deregulation, to work unsocial or different hours. That might particularly affect women. Many women may not want to work in the evenings, may find it very difficult to work later or may not like going home late at night with inadequate public transport. It seems to me that there are all kinds of reasons for providing additional protection.

It is not my intention to press this Motion to a vote this afternoon. But it seemed to me that opposing the Motion that the clause should stand part of the Bill would give me the opportunity to raise these items with the Minister and suggest to the Government that they look again at this whole question, perhaps with a view to producing some amendment at Report stage. I do feel that a genuine case exists for it.

Lord Rochester

The noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, earlier came under strictures from the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for supporting the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and at the same time putting forward this Motion. Those strictures may equally be applied to me, but I hope briefly to show that my attitude is a consistent one.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, I put my name to the Motion as an indication of my concern that, in contrast to the position in relation to Sunday trading where a specific right is granted to employees who refuse to work on Sunday, under this Bill, no such protection is provided in the case of weekday workers. In other words, although an employer cannot oblige an employee to work on Sunday, there appears to be nothing to stop an employer requiring an employee to work any number of hours on weekdays.

When the Minister replies I shall be grateful if he can tell me why it is that, in the Bill dealing with Sunday trading, the Government were willing to provide for employment protection in various ways but, in drafting Clause 19, without any qualification, they were not prepared even to consult with the representatives of employees who will be affected by the measure. Having made that point, and in the light of discussions on earlier amendments, like the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, I do not think that it would be right for the Motion that Clause 19 should stand part of the Bill to be opposed.

Lord Henley

The noble Lord is very generous to come to the defence of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. I was not trying to make any hard criticism of the noble Baroness by suggesting that she was supporting one amendment and also seeking to have the whole clause, whether amended or not, struck out. My comments were more by way of a gentle tease.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord will have to accept that we feel that the positions of Sunday shop workers is special and, similarly—that is why I moved a whole string of amendments earlier—those working in the betting industry. We do not see a case for extending those special rights. Those working in the evenings will benefit from all the ordinary protections from which staff working in the retail trade benefit. It is not likely that they will be forced to work overlong hours. Most stores will continue to operate a variety of shifts. It is a matter for the individual retailers. Many people who work in the evenings in the catering and transport sectors, for instance, work quite happily without the special protections which the noble Baroness is seeking to extend to those working in the retail sector in the evenings.

My philosophy and that of the noble Baroness are completely different on these matters. My feeling is, as far as possible, to deregulate and that is certainly what we have been doing with regard to the labour market. The deregulation and liberalisation of the labour market has led to major changes since those of the 1980s.

I end with one brief point. As the noble Baroness will accept, we have seen unemployment reduce over the past year or so by 300,000. That has taken place at a much earlier stage in the recovery than anyone predicted was likely. I suspect a great deal of that was due to the liberalisations of the labour market and the liberalisa-tions made in the mid-1980s. It would not be right therefore to bring back some of the rigidities that over-protecting can bring. For that reason I oppose any further extension of the rights and privileges that the noble Baroness wishes to extend beyond Sunday shop workers and those in the betting industry.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 agreed to.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 170:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Offences under section 63 of the Charities Act 1992: creation of statutory defence

(" .—(1) Section 63 of the Charities Act 1992 (which makes it an offence to solicit property for an institution while falsely representing that it is a registered charity) shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted— (1A) In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (1), it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that he believed on reasonable grounds that the institution was a registered charity. (3) In subsection (2) (meaning of "registered charity") for the words "subsection (1)" there shall be substituted "this section".").

The noble Viscount said: For the convenience of the Committee, in moving Amendment No. 170 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 185 and 223. The new clause and corresponding amendments respond to a proposed recommendation of the 8th Deregulation Task Force. The amendments provide for a statutory defence of reasonable belief to the offence in Section 63 of the Charities Act 1992. That section of the Act provides that it shall be an offence, when asking for donations of property, to say that an organisation has the status of a registered charity when it does not. The Government continue to believe that there is ample justification for such an offence. It provides important protection for donors.

There is a need to ensure that unscrupulous organisations and individuals who attempt to mislead the public into believing that their donations are going to a reputable charity by falsely claiming that an organisation is registered with the Charity Commission, are subject to the law. However, the person who requests the donation may not be the one who deliberately sets out to deceive. He may have been lied to. He may have been shown false evidence purporting to show that the organisation is registered when it is not. Where the person asking for the donation believes on reasonable grounds that he is correctly describing the organisation to which the donation will go as a registered charity, then we believe that there should be a defence on which they can rely. This amendment will provide such a defence. The consequential amendments to Clauses 29 and 71 provide, respectively, that the extent shall apply to England and Wales only; and that the amendments take effect on Royal Assent.

It might be helpful for me briefly to set out the Government's intentions as regards the commencement of Part II of the 1992 Act. With the inclusion of this amendment and those changes already in the Bill we believe that Part II will be ready to bring into force. We will very shortly publish a revision to the draft regulations and guidance issued for consultation last year, and now intend to bring Part II fully into force from 1st March 1995. It is intended that the regulations be made in November. That would meet in spirit the Deregulation Task Force's recommendations to leave six months or more from the making of regulations to their coming into force.

I commend the new clause and amendments to the Committee. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

As the noble Viscount said, the amendment adopts a recommendation of the Deregulation Task Force regarding Section 63 of the Charities Act. Not all the recommendations of the task force were adopted by the Government and we have tabled later amendments to deal with what we feel are omissions. The amendment is eminently reasonable and we are pleased to support it.

On a general point regarding the Charities Act I noticed that, curiously, there is no mention in the Deregulation: Cutting Red Tape booklet of any intention to amend the Charities Act. I was a little intrigued as to why that was not included. Perhaps it is because this amendment is a long way from deregulation. Are the Ministers certain that it is relevant to the Bill?

Lord Monkswell

I listened to the Minister and, while the aims of the amendment seem entirely laudable in the sense of providing protection for what are effectively innocent parties, I am concerned that the wording of the amendment may enable perpetrators of what we would all agree is an offence—the conning of people out of property or money under false pretences —to get away with the offence if they operate through innocent parties by misrepresenting to those innocent parties the status of the supposedly charitable organisation. The innocent parties would effectively have this defence while actually carrying on the business of deceiving people into providing their property for what they thought was a charity. The guilty party, if I can put it like that, would not be prosecutable because it would not be the party which was soliciting the property. It may be that my interpretation of this section is rather different from that of the Minister—it obviously is—but I am concerned, the way I read it, that it would enable guilty parties to get off scot free.

5.30 p.m.

Viscount Goschen

In answer to the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, it is important to point out that all our proposals do is provide the statutory defence of reasonable belief to the offence under Section 63 of the Charities Act which he mentioned. Where the person asking for the donation believes, on reasonable grounds, that he has correctly described the organisation to which the donation would go as a registered charity, then we believe that there should be a defence on which he or she can rely. What the provisions do not do is completely to remove the offence; they merely provide a defence where the person asking for the money has acted on reasonable grounds and believes on reasonable grounds that he or she is acting in good faith, as I have described. The Government continue to believe that there is ample justification for the offence as described, which does provide important protection for donors, as the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, has mentioned.

To answer the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, concerning the absence of charity provisions in the Cutting Red Tape booklet, my understanding is that the reason for that is that the report of the task force on charities had not yet been published. With those explanations I commend the amendment to the Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Viscount Goschen moved Amendment No. 171:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Applications for permits to conduct public charitable collections: time-limits

(". In section 67 of the Charities Act 1992 (applications for permits to conduct public charitable collections) paragraph (b) of subsection (3) (which provides that an application shall not be made more than six months before the relevant day) and the word "but" immediately preceding it shall be omitted.").

The noble Viscount said: It may be convenient to the Committee if, in moving Amendment No. 171,1 speak also to Amendments Nos. 186, 219, 224 and 230. This new clause and the corresponding amendments concern Part III of the Charities Act 1992, which is intended to replace existing 1916 and 1939 legislation in relation to the licensing of public collections. It will remove the provision, in Section 67(3) (b) of the Charities Act 1992, that a permit from a local authority for a public charitable collection may be applied for no more than six months in advance.

The Government's policy was—and remains—that charities should not reserve the most favourable dates for public collections a long time in advance, perhaps even years ahead. The time limit sought to secure that by setting a maximum advance period for applications.

Prior to bringing Part III of the Act into force, we are consulting carefully with some of those involved in administering collections, and a persuasive case has been put to us that six months is too short. Some local authorities currently operate an annual programme with applications received by, for example, November, decided in December, with dates then awarded for the whole of the next year. That would require a period of at least 14 months for some applications.

We believe that there is no magic figure that exactly separates a reasonable advance period from an unreasonable one in all cases. These views were endorsed by the 8th Deregulation Task Force. Moreover, we are willing to accept, in the light of representations that we have received, that the timetable for the granting of permits is a matter which can be left to local judgment, as it is at present. This amendment would therefore remove the statutory limit. This will, I hope, be welcomed by charities and local authorities. We do however intend to issue guidance that will emphasise the importance of not allocating permits too far in advance.

It may also be helpful if I set out the Government's intentions generally in relation to Part III. As I have said, we place real importance on consulting effectively before deciding exactly how and when to bring Part III into force, and initial efforts have revealed some practical issues which we must examine further. The six-month limit was one such issue and was endorsed by the task force.

In the light of those explanations of the Government's attitude to Part III of the 1992 Act, I beg to move.

Lord Carter

This is a very sensible proposal. As the noble Lord said, it was recommended by the task force and we are pleased to support it. I know that the amendment will be warmly welcomed by the voluntary sector. It will allow, as the noble Viscount the Minister said, the charities and the voluntary organisations to plan their public collections effectively in the future. It will also allow the local authorities who will be issuing the permits to plan and regulate collections in a more efficient manner. I think the idea that the Government will be issuing guidance is a good one.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 172:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Annual audit or examination of charity accounts

(".—(1) Section 43 of the Charities Act 1993 (annual audit or examination of charity accounts) shall be amended as follows. (2) In subsection (3) (which requires a charity's accounts for a financial year to be audited or independently examined if its gross income and total expenditure in that year, and each of the two previous financial years, is £100,000 or less) after "a charity" there shall be inserted "and its gross income or total expenditure in mat year exceeds £10,000". (3) In subsection (8) (power of Secretary of State to amend sum specified in subsection (1)) after "(1)" there shall be inserted "or (3)" ").

The noble Lord said: If it is convenient to the Committee, in speaking to Amendment No. 172, I would like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 173, 174, 182, 187 to 189, 220, 225 to 229 and 231. This new clause and amendments deal with charities legislation. They implement recommendations made by the 8th Deregulation Task Force. The task force has now completed its work and we expect its report to be published very soon. The task force proposes that the reporting provisions affecting smaller charities, those with income and expenditure not exceeding £10,000 in any financial year, should be replaced by a "light touch" band of reporting requirements.

I hope that these are the kind of amendments that will be immensely welcomed by those who deal with the smaller charities, and that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will also voice his support. I beg to move.

Lord Carter

Of course we do welcome this. It will help the smaller charities and it will also help to bring into focus the other measures which will be needed to help the medium and larger charities, so that we end up with a coherent supervisory regime for all charities. We think that we are well on the way to that, but we have some amendments which we hope will also help the process along.

There is just a small point of understanding. I hope I understand correctly that the stipulation in Amendments Nos. 173 and 174 that: neither its gross income nor its total expenditure exceeds £10,000", means, to put it in layman's language, that each side of the income and expenditure account has to be below £10,000 for this to bite; if either the income or the expenditure exceeds £10,000 then it does not. There is some ambiguity here. I have tried it on my colleagues, and we are not quite sure that we understand it correctly.

Lord Strathclyde

The way that the noble Lord has explained it is the correct version. I am sorry that it is not clear, but no doubt it is entirely due to the way that the clause is drafted.

Viscount Mountgarret

I too am slightly concerned about this. I am sorry to press my noble friend, but I find this amendment rather ambiguous. Does it mean, in words of one syllable, that if a charity has an income of £10,000 or less, or an expenditure of £10,000 or less, it is not required to follow the provisions of Amendments Nos. 172, 173 and 175, but that if either figure is higher than that it must? That alters what I believe was passed and agreed after considerable debate on the Charities Act, where I think I am right in saying the figure for the cut-off limit was £25,000. May I ask my noble friend what has given rise to the change in this figure?

Lord Strathclyde

What we are introducing here is a new regulatory band, a new light touch regulatory band, which has not been in existence before. It is for those charities which have annual income and expenditure not exceeding £10,000 in any financial year. We could not have discussed this matter when the Charities Bill was going through the House because at that stage we did not have a deregulation task force. What has happened over the course of the past 12 months or so is that we have had a number of task forces. One in particular—the 8th Deregulation Task Force—has looked at the whole area of charities law and has come up with a number of recommendations. We are hoping to publish the report of the task force very shortly, but we have taken some of the recommenda-tions and put them on the face of the Bill quickly because we do not have the deregulation order-making power to deal with the matter. The figure has to be below £10,000 in terms of both income and expenditure. I hope that deals with my noble friend's point.

Lord Avebury

Is it satisfactory to have fixed amounts written into the Bill which are not variable from one year to another? Does the noble Lord not agree that it might have been an idea to have had an order-making power so that the amounts which trigger off these processes could be varied if, let. us say in 10 years' time, a figure of £10,000 looks unduly small and brings into the net a large number of charities which common sense would require to be exempted?

Lord Strathclyde

I always welcome the opportun-ity to have an order-making power to deal with these issues. I understand that the amount can be varied. It can either be varied in the base legislation—through the Charities Act—or, if it were over-burdensome, it could be dealt with under the deregulation order-making power. I am advised that there is the order-making power in the long string of consequential amendments to which I have spoken.

Viscount Mountgarret

I am sorry to ask my noble friend again but I recall that in the debate on the Charities Bill the Government said that no annual report or annual accounts would need to be submitted to the Charity Commission if a charity's income was £10,000 or less. There was considerable debate on the matter.

My noble friend Lord Ferrers was answering for the Government, and the noble Lord, Lord Carter, was there as well. In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, can probably help me and, if necessary, correct me. We raised many points to show that a figure higher than £10,000 should be adopted. To our great delight—I was not representing the National Association of Almshouses but was certainly trying to give it a hand —my noble friend Lord Ferrers, on behalf of the Government, agreed that the figure should be increased to £25,000. Is it really the case that if the income of a charity is £10,000 or more it will be required to have independently audited annual reports and accounts? If so, I am very concerned.

Lord Peston

It is certainly my judgment that £10,000, which is less than the salary of a secretary, is a fairly small sum. A charity would be a fairly small charity if we were talking about a much larger sum than that. One does not want to discuss that kind of detail at this time, but I feel that the noble Viscount has a point which is worth reflecting on in so far as the Bill is intended to remove really idiotic burdens. We are not here dealing with burdens in the sense of Part I of the Bill, but we are trying to take away quite idiotic burdens from very small charities. I should have thought that the Minister might like to reflect at some point—we do not need anything now—that a larger number, a number corresponding to a realistically small charity, might be worth thinking about. It is a point worth reflecting on.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Monson

I am afraid I missed the Minister's opening remarks: we arrived at this series of amendments rather more quickly than I thought we were going to do. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, rightly pointed out that there was the possibility or indeed probability of inflation over the next few years and asked why the new clauses have a fixed sum. The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, pointed out that the Secretary of State would be able to amend the terms; and indeed that is so. But once again we have the ghost of Henry VIII hovering over us.

Amendment No. 174 states: The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1 A) above by substituting a different Sum for the sum for the time being specified there". The operative word is "different". Why not a "higher" sum? A "different" sum could lead to all kinds of difficulties, in that before the end of the century we could have a government of a very different political persuasion from this one, doctrinally opposed to deregulation. The then Secretary of State could lower the amount from £10,000 to as little as £100, which would be highly undesirable. I hope that the noble Lord will have a look at this before we come to the next stage.

Lord Strathclyde

I am always grateful to have the opportunity to clarify one or two items that have been raised. My noble friend Lord Mountgarret is correct that there is a limit of £25,000 which was agreed when the Charities Act was passed. However, that was a different limit dealing with different types of accounting procedures—not this new very light touch regime which we are seeking to pass today. I admitted earlier that I omitted to mention the order which exists in Amendment No. 174, as read out by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. That is where, if there is a problem and representations are made, the amount can be differed. This is important. If there is tremendous abuse of this special light touch regime—if there is fraud and so on —the option should be left in to remove the ability of smaller charities to have this right. I think that is the responsible way forward. I recognise that it was generally welcomed by noble Lords opposite, and I hope that the amendment can now be agreed.

Viscount Mountgarret

I shall read very carefully what my noble friend has said. Will he be kind enough at least to take this matter back? There is no complaint about the amendment as it stands; but the figure of £10,000 appears to me, and I suspect to every noble Lord who took part in the proceedings on the Charities Bill, to be too low. I ask my noble friend very sincerely to study the arguments put forward during the Committee stage of the Charities Bill, which was not taken on the Floor of the House—and a very successful Committee stage it was—and also the arguments put forward on this matter at the Report stage. It may be mat I have got all this wrong, in which case I apologise to the Committee. I shall not oppose the amendments at present, but I reserve the right to look at the matter most carefully at the Report stage.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 173:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Annual reports of charities

(".—(1) In section 45 of the Charities Act 1993 (annual reports) in subsection (3) (automatic duty to transmit annual report to the Commissioners) for the words from the beginning to "a charity" there shall be substituted "Where in any financial year of a charity its gross income or total expenditure exceeds £10,000, the annual report required to be prepared under this section in respect of that year".

(2) After that subsection there shall be inserted—

(3) In subsection (4) of that section, for "any such annual report" there shall be substituted "any annual report transmitted to the Commissioners under this section".

(4) In subsection (5) of that section, for "subsection (3) above" there shall be substituted "this section".

(5) In subsection (6) of that section, for "subsection (3) above" there shall be substituted "this section".

(6) At the end of that section there shall be inserted—

(7) The charity trustees of a charity shall preserve, for at least six years from the end of the financial year to which it relates, any annual report prepared by them under subsection (1) above which they have not been required to transmit to the Commissioners.

(8) Subsection (4) of section 41 above shall apply in relation to the preservation of any such annual report as it applies in relation to the preservation of any accounting records (the references in subsection (3) of that section being read as references to subsection (7) above).

(9) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (3) or (3A) above by substituting a different sum for the sum for the time being specified there.

(7) In section 46(7) of that Act (application of section 45(3) to (6) to annual reports under section 46(5)) after "section 45" there shall be inserted "(as originally enacted)".

(8) In section 49 of that Act (penalty for persistent default in relation to certain requirements) in paragraph (a), after "45(3)" there shall be inserted "or (3A)".").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Strathclyde moved Amendment No. 174:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Annual returns by charities

(" .—(1) Section 48 of the Charities Act 1993 (annual returns by registered charities) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) (duty to prepare annual return) at the beginning there shall be inserted "Subject to subsection (1A) below,".

(3) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted—

(1A) Subsection (1) above shall not apply in relation to any financial year of a charity in which neither the gross income nor the total expenditure of the charity exceeds £10,000.

(4) At the end there shall be inserted—

(4) The Secretary of State may by order amend subsection (1A) above by substituting a different sum for the sum for the time being specified there."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 175 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List. ]

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 175A:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

("Offences under section 5 of the Charities Act 1993; creation of statutory defence

. —(1) Section 5 of the Charities Act 1993 (which makes it an offence to issue or authorise the issue of or sign any document which fails to state that a charity is a registered charity) shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (5), there shall be inserted—

The noble Lord said: This amendment seeks to alter Section 5 of the Charities Act 1993. That section makes it an offence for a charity to fail to disclose its registered status on all official documentation. I emphasise the word "all". As it stands, volunteers working in a charity shop could risk prosecution for a criminal offence if they issue a receipt for £1.50 which did not include the charity's registered status. They would have no grounds for a defence even if the charity made all reasonable efforts to prevent it happening. It is obviously an extreme case that I have quoted in order to make the point, but it is one which illustrates the fear of a criminal prosecution which faces this sector.

It was a very firm recommendation of the task force, and the Government have accepted a number of its recommendations. It is not clear why they have not accepted this one. I ask the Minister to explain why it has not been adopted. This amendment is eminently sensible and it removes a burden. The wording of the amendment states that the accused has, to prove that he acted reasonably and without an intention to deceive".

With the improvements to the Charities Act and the references to a lighter touch, I shall be interested to know the reason why the Government are not accepting the recommendation of the task force in this respect Perhaps they intend to return with their own amendment at Report stage. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

The Government think it is right for the charities task force to have focused on this issue, and consider it right to provide a defence or an element of mens rea for the offence in Section 5 of the Charities Act 1993. This amendment: offers a new defence. We believe there is, however, a need to consider the issues further. In addressing the recommendations of the task force—of which there are a great many—we have focused attention on those which could only be achieved using the Bill itself. The Government's amendment which we have now agreed was one such recommendation.

Sections 5 and 73 of the Charities Act 1993 (which the task force recommended should similarly be modified) are in force and in principle could be modified by use of the order-making power in Chapter 1 of this Bill, considered and approved earlier in this Committee's proceedings. We would like to consider this matter further and in particular to consider how best such a provision could be drawn. A connected question, which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will also wish to consider, is a recommendation also made by the task force that the threshold for the application of Section 5 to a charity should be increased. That being so, I hope that the noble Lord can withdraw his amendment.

It is not that we are against the issue in principle, but we believe that there is a little more work required. I welcome the opportunity of being able to put that on the record.

Lord Carter

I am grateful to the Minister. Will he be returning at Report stage with an amendment or is he saying that more consultation is necessary?

Lord Strathclyde

I said that I hoped that this was the kind of operation that can be dealt with by the order-making power in the first four clauses of the Bill. Therefore, I am not making a commitment of any kind to come back with this matter at Report stage. The matter needs to be considered very carefully and that is what we are proposing to do over the course of the next few months.

Lord Peston

The amendment is also in my name. I hear what the noble Lord says. This House is full of noble Lords who are involved with charities. I hope that the Minister is not saying that, if we try to persuade him, he would rule out entirely a sympathetic consideration of this matter by Report stage. One charity with which I am indirectly involved is very concerned about this issue. A great many people involved with small charities are essentially amateurs, as we all are. Although they try to act as well as they can, on the whole—and this is the point—they would like to say "I know I have made a mess of this, but I did try to act reasonably without any intention to deceive". I do not want to press the noble Lord too much. I hope that he will not rule out entirely —if we persuade him—dealing with the matter slightly ahead of whatever he has in mind

Lord Strathclyde

The other point that I wish to make is that the deregulation task force made a great many recommendations and all are of basically equal validity. We could spend a great deal of time putting those recommendations into the Bill. Once the Bill is passed we shall have a very good system of dealing with these kinds of issues. Of course I am happy to listen to further representations on this matter, but I hope that these are the kinds of issues that can be dealt with by the power when we have it.

Baroness Hamwee

Can the Minister clarify one point arising from what he said? I have made a note to myself on the Marshalled List to ask why the Government are bringing forward these various provisions in primary legislation instead of using the order-making power which they have given themselves under Part I of the Bill. I assumed that it was because these provisions are about charities and might not fall within the words, carrying on of any trade, business or profession or otherwise contained in Part I. I had read "or otherwise" as being similar to "trade, business or profession". I went on to think that perhaps the Minister has made this comment in connection with the issuing of invoices and so on because that is a business part of the activities of a charity. I confess that I have become more and not less confused as to the extent of the powers under Part I.

Lord Strathclyde

We have every intention to use the power to remove regulatory burdens on charities. That would be immensely helpful. The reason why we brought forward the amendments which we have just passed is that we have not got an order-making power. There is urgency and consensus in principle on the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Carter, but not on the detail. That is what we have to sort out. I hope that we shall have done so when we have the order-making power. It will then be most appropriate for that power to be put to use.

Baroness Hamwee

I am sorry if I am testing the patience of the Committee. Another very important point has been made. The provisions in the Bill are those which have general consensus. There are certain deregulatory provisions which quite clearly do not have consensus. We shall come to those later in the Bill.

Lord Strathclyde

It is for me to apologise for trying the patience of the Committee. I entirely accept that other parts of the Bill do not have consensus, but very often they are the ones which would not apply as regards the use of the deregulation order-making power. The point is that on the whole the charity's staff will have the consensus particularly as regards the amendments which we have passed.

Lord Carter

Some things are in the Bill under primary legislation and some are concerned with the order-making power which proves the point that we have made that this is a funny old Bill. What the Minister has said is extremely helpful. I know that he is aware that there is urgency and consensus in this matter. In the light of his remarks I shall withdraw the amendment, but we may return to it at Report stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter moved Amendment No. 175AA:

After Clause 20, insert the following new clause:

Provision for a single permit for London-wide collections

. —(1) Section 65 of the Charities Act (which makes provision for public charitable collections) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (4), the words "of a London borough" shall be omitted and replaced by ", in relation to the Metropolitan Police District the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis." ").

The noble Lord said: We find it hard to understand why the Government have not accepted this recommen-dation of the task force. Under the system which we now have, the voluntary organisations wishing to undertake a London-wide collection will have to make at least 37 different applications for licences and will have to secure agreement from each individual London borough before such a collection can take place. At the moment only one such application has to be made, but when the change comes about it will be necessary to make 37 applications. That will lead to enormous extra cost in administration, and confusion. What will happen if the 37 applications are not all agreed and, say, only 29 are approved? How does one police that and make sure that the collection only takes place where the applications have been agreed and that it is not taking place in other boroughs?

The point is an obvious one. We are advised that the proposed system has a potential to create enormous confusion out of which the opportunities for abuse will become much easier. It is ironic that the current system of regulation which operates in London is the most efficient and effective throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that existing effective and efficient procedures for regulating public collections are maintained. It is obvious that that will be easier and it would certainly reduce the burden. It is extremely hard to understand why the Government prefer the new system if they reject the amendment. The new system is complicated and expensive and not the simple system which is proposed in the amendment. The Metropolitan Police would be the authorising authority. This amendment is extremely sensible and I hope that the Minister will feel able to accept it. I beg to move.

6 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

This is another example of the variety and importance of the recommendations that have been made by the task force, particularly those relating to arrangements for public charitable collec-tions in London. I have to say, however, that the issues are not straightforward. The amendment would be quite a significant change to Part III of the Charities Act 1992.

The Government intend to publish a consultation document on Part HI of the 1992 Act very shortly. I can confirm that that will identify the co-ordination of collections in London as an issue that requires particular attention, and I would encourage those with a view on the matter to reply accordingly to the Home Office. We will therefore be looking very closely again at these and related matters.

Having assured the noble Lord of the importance and seriousness that we attach to this issue—I agree with a lot of what he says about the current potential for confusion in London—I am sure that he understands that, as a great many people would be affected by the change, we must ensure that the solution is the correct one.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may intervene since the amendment stands also in my name. I listened carefully to the Minister, who was endeavouring to be helpful, but one part of his answer absolutely staggered me. Is he telling me that this is a big deal? It is a minor matter. I do not want to prolong the debate since there is a good chance that we can all get home reasonably early today, but I am staggered that the Government see major difficulties with this. I should have thought that it could be done with the greatest of ease. I am certain that I know what to do—and my noble friend Lord Carter pointed it out. Am I to understand that somewhere in Victoria Street a large group of industrious civil servants is now working out how to enable us to have a London-wide charity collection? I am sure that the Committee will forgive the cliché, but the mind really does boggle.

Lord Strathclyde

It is always easy to legislate in haste and we have no desire to repent at leisure over such a change. We changed the law on charities reasonably recently. We have said that we need to take another look at this particular aspect. Other issues arise in relation to Part III of the Charities Act 1992 on which the amendment could have far-reaching effects. Although I share the surprise of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I am advised that matters are not quite as simple as they may appear.

Lord Carter

I suggest that the Government remember the old saying: "If it works, leave it alone". Obviously, we shall read with care what the Minister said. It appears that we shall not be given an answer by Report stage, although that looks like being some time ahead. In the meantime, however, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Carter had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 175B:

Before Clause 21, insert the following new clause:

("Meat Hygiene: conditions for exercise of powers

. —(1) The powers contained in paragraphs 1-5 of Schedule 7 to this Act shall be exercisable subject to the requirements of this section and no such exercise shall be undertaken before the expiry of 12 months from the date of Royal Assent.

(2) Before making any regulations under that Schedule, any Minister of the Crown therein referred to shall lay before Parliament a statement containing—

  1. (a) an undertaking that no agency or body to which functions of local authorities may be transferred will thereafter be made the subject of market testing;
  2. (b) an assessment of the benefits arising from the regulations; and
  3. (c) proposals for the maintenance of the quality of the meat hygiene service.").

The noble Lord said: Although I do not propose to move the amendment, I understand that it will be in order for me to explain why. Amendment No. 175B and the three related amendments, Amendments Nos. 175C, 175D and 175E, relate to the new meat hygiene service and the welfare and slaughter provisions.

I was advised earlier this afternoon that the amendments are defective in some respects and that, if accepted, they would not achieve their intention. I do not wish to correct them on the hoof, as it were, as that might confuse the Committee. Therefore, with the agreement of the other noble Lords in whose name the: amendment stands also, I do not intend to move Amendment No. 175B, but shall return to the same issue on Report.

[Amendment No. 175B not moved.]

Clause 21 agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Slaughterhouses and Knackers' Yards: Uniting of Enforcement Functions]:

[Amendments Nos. 175C to 175E not moved. ]

Schedule 8 agreed to.

Clause 22 [Building regulations: power to repeal or modify provisions of local Acts]:

Lord Clinton-Davismoved Amendment No. 175F:

Page 21, line 18, at end insert:

("subject to the requirement that any proposed modification has been the subject of consultation conducted by the Secretary of State with such persons representative of local authorities and other persons as appear to be concerned.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment stands also in the name of my noble friend Lord Peston. I can be brief. It is worth referring to the words of the Minister in another place when a similar amendment was debated there. At col. 486 on 10th March, the Minister said: I am prepared to consider what has been said because we attach a great deal of importance to appropriate consultation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will seek leave to withdraw the amendment which, as I have drawn to his attention, has several serious shortcomings".—[Official Report, Commons, Standing Committee F, 10/3/94; col.486.]

So be it, but the Minister was directing the attention of that Committee to the issue that had been raised.

Perhaps I may summarise the position. Clause 22 deals with the overlap between building regulations and local building Acts, providing a power to enable provisions in local Acts passed before the enactment of the Bill to be modified or repealed if they conflict with the national building regulations. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that certain protections are incorporated into that provision. As I understand it, the local authority organisations support that proposition.

What was welcome in the Government's explanatory guide to the Bill was the provision that: Detailed proposals for repeal or modification of particular provisions would be the subject of consultation".

We are seeking to ensure that that commitment is written onto the face of the Bill.

Therefore, I should like to ask the Minister a number of questions. First, can the noble Lord give an indication to the Committee today of how he envisages that the power will be used? Will it be used in an incremental sense or does he envisage a comprehensive review of the overlap and a comprehensive repeal modification process?

Secondly, can the Minister give an indication of the way in which he envisages that such proposals would be the subject of consultation? Presumably he envisages that the consultation would be with the authority responsible for local legislation and with local government and other interested parties nationally. I hope that he will be able to spell that out and to indicate what other parties would be subject to the sort of consultation that he has in mind. I beg to move.

Lord Strathclyde

I started by being a touch confused by the noble Lord and his amendment. I think that that was my fault rather than his. The noble Lord is right to raise this issue. The noble Lord quoted from the Committee proceedings in another place, but I suspect that he is not aware that an amendment was brought forward on Report to deal with that issue. Clause 22(2) provides that: the Secretary of State shall consult—

  1. (a) the Building Regulations Advisory Committee,
  2. (b) such persons or bodies as appear to him to be representative of local authorities, and
  3. (c) such other bodies as appear to him to be representative of the interests concerned".
Therefore, the inclusion in the Bill of this amendment (which would have the same effect but which is drafted differently) could lead only to confusion.

I feel that the noble Lord and I are united in this matter. If that is the case, it gives me great happiness and on that basis, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Clinton-Davis

It is an unusual state of affairs, is it not? As we are united on the matter—and I must take the Minister's word for it—I certainly do not want to pursue this matter further and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 22 agreed to.

The Earl of Lindsaymoved Amendment No. 176:

Before Clause 23, insert the following new clause:

("Recovery of scrap metals

. The Secretary of State shall by Regulation prescribe that section 33(1) (a) and (b) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 shall not apply in relation to the carrying on of activities involving the recovery of scrap metals or the storage in a secure place of scrap metals by scrap metal dealers as registered under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964").

The noble Earl said: My noble friend Lady Strange has been caught out by the speed at which the Committee has transacted business. I am introducing this new clause because of the environmental and commercial benefits which will accrue. They are benefits which are otherwise unreasonably threatened by existing proposals.

Last year the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment stated in its third progress report: Significant environmental benefits could be achieved … if commercial and industrial waste … were targeted for recycling".

Indeed, very significant energy and resource savings are available wherever metals are recycled rather than being obtained from primary manufacture.

In the White Paper This Common Inheritance, the Government point out that when aluminium is recycled energy costs can be reduced by 95 per cent. Similarly, there is a 60 per cent. energy saving when copper is recycled. For every 1,000 tonnes of steel produced from recovered metal rather than from original ore the energy saving is equivalent to 140,000 gallons of petrol.

Of course, metal recycling does more than save energy resources and reduce the pollution associated with energy generation and energy use. It also reduces the demand for finite mineral resources. If better practices towards the environment are to be encouraged within commercial activities it is of the utmost importance that recycling remains free of needless regulation, inappropriate financial penalties and disincentives. It is inept to seek a more sustainable practice with one hand while carelessly discouraging it with the other. Yet this may be what is about to happen.

Paragraph 13.12 of the White Paper on competitive-ness states the Government's explicit determination to ensure that further regulation does not place unnecessary burdens on business. Yet such good intentions risk being subverted by a regulatory regime for metal recycling which may be not only unnecessarily burdensome and costly but also damaging in terms of the environmental benefits and international competitiveness forgone.

One must ask why. No one doubts the standards needed to be addressed at the unscrupulous end of the landfill industry. But metal recycling is not the landfill industry and secondary metals are not waste. It is an entirely different business which vastly reduces the total waste stream. Only about 1 per cent. of material delivered for metal recycling ends up in landfill; the other 99 per cent. remains in the commercial arena. It costs some £1,000 per tonne to buy in this material and it generates some £3.8 billion-worth of turnover, of which £1.3 billion is in exports. As a result of its value, fly tipping is virtually unknown in the industry and it relies largely on compact and secure sites.

My noble friend the Minister will surely understand the fundamental distinction between metal recyclate and waste, which lies at the heart of this amendment. His ministerial colleague in the DTI certainly has done so. On June 23rd in another place, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Technology was addressed by an honourable Member on the problems facing the scrap metal industry. The Minister, referring to the honourable Member, responded thus: He told us that it is not waste, and he is absolutely right; it is an important component. He is also right about the importance of recycling those materials. They are not waste; they are materials".—[Official Report, Commons, 23/6/94; col. 440.]

In keeping with that ministerial assessment and with the Government's White Paper commitment to avoid burdening business with unnecessary regulations, some of the previous deregulation task force's key recommendations would save metal recycling from the threatened regime. I refer Members of the Committee in particular to recommendations 234 and 235. Let us hope that the new deregulation task force announced in the White Paper follows up on the clear but unimplemented recommendations of its predecessor.

I refer the Committee also to paragraph 13.14 of the White Paper. It recommends the removal of duplication in enforcement at national and local levels. The proposed regulatory regime for metal recycling threatens the reverse as there are already environmental controls under COPA and the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. Paragraph 13.15 states: Where regulations apply internationally, under-enforcement in other countries can be as damaging to UK industry as over-enforcement in the UK".

Article 11 of the European framework directive allows specifically for recycling to be exempted from licensing under subsidiarity. As regards the recycling of metals, those exemptions exist in many other countries. However, I believe that it is the intention of this country to over-enforce the directive. That possible contradic-tion in policy is somewhat sharper when one reads paragraph 13.16 of the White Paper. There the Government talk of, a burden-minimising approach to EC legislation".

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will accept the spirit and common sense of the new clause. It is, as I have shown, faithful to the Government's declared intentions. It will help to promote recycling; it will encourage practices which are not only better for the environment but which are commercially sustainable and internationally competitive; and it will help to conserve both finite mineral resources and energy usage. My noble friend may even be grateful for such a sensible amendment. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I support the observations made by the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, in moving the amendment. I start from the proposition that anything that may impair prospects for recycling must be examined with great care. I understand that to be the source of his anxiety and of the British Secondary Metals Association as regards the possible effects of Clause 23.

I understand that consultations are proceeding and perhaps the Minister will elucidate on those. I agree with the noble Earl that such anxieties need to be allayed, if possible by amending the Bill appropriately. There are statutory requirements which affect the Secondary Metals Association and its members; namely, the Scrap Metal Dealers Act. Therefore, they are already subject to certain controls. I understand that their complaint is that the provisions of the Bill are not deregulatory but impose on them a more draconian regime. Therefore, the case is the converse of the purpose of the Bill.

I take the view, as, I know, do reputable people in the trade, that good regulation is important. There are certain tendencies—one can define them simply as "the cowboy tendencies"—which must be appropriately regulated. Perhaps the Minister agrees; it appears to be the main, ultimate purpose of what he is seeking to achieve. The difficulty is that the association and its members believe that there is a misunderstanding about the nature of their business. The phrase "scrap metal" tends to suggest something that will be discarded at the end of the day. In fact, the business is about utilising materials in the best possible way through recycling.

The noble Earl made a sound point which requires elucidation by the Minister in terms of Article 11 of the European directive on waste, 91/156/EEC. It provides for recyclers to be exempt from licensing. In a sense, subsidiarity has taken over. We therefore have a strange notion that it is for member states to decide on exemptions: that is a little bizarre. It is apparent that trade in waste is a matter of trade. It is a matter in many respects fundamental to the internal market. Of course, there are certain environmental impacts. I would have thought, however, that the Government would urge a move towards harmonisation. That has not been the case. It is one of the defects of the doctrine of subsidiarity applying to something which has a practical importance. But there it is. That is the way in which the European directive works.

The Government then go on—perfectly reasonably in principle—to say, "Right, as we have the ability to decide the exemptions ourselves, we shall operate fairly rigid provisions because we are concerned about safeguards being applied in an industry where perhaps safeguards are more important than ever". But the difficulty is that it puts our responsible operators in an invidious position vis à vis their competitors in Europe. At present an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs applies because of the operation, in that context at least, of the exemptions. Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands all have licensing systems, although I do not believe that they are dual systems in the way that our system is; Italy abolished its licensing system a year ago and all residues destined for recovery are not classed as waste; different systems operate in Belgium depending on whether you are in the Walloon or Flemish part of the country; in Germany there is a different regime altogether; and so on.

The Minister should tell us why the Government supported the idea of departing from the principles of the internal market with regard to a trade which is as important as this is, although, unfortunately, it is now a fait accompli.

As I understand it, the Government now seek to impose greater burdens on the responsible operators than has been the case hitherto and at a time when the European Commission has not finalised its thinking with regard to a definition of "waste". Perhaps the Minister will indicate the current thinking on that.

As the noble Earl said, the Government's deregulation task force recommended that the DoE should examine the scope for recyclate not to be included in the waste management regime —that was Recommendation 234—but that advice appears to have been rejected. No reasons have been given for that rejection and it would be interesting to hear the Minister comment on that.

The association says also that the implementation of that form of licensing will be more costly than the Government's officials have assessed it to be. Duties already exist under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act, which will continue. Records will have to be maintained in parallel with the requirements of that particular piece of legislation.

Then there is the whole question of the impact of the discovery of historic pollution which gives rise to considerable difficulties because, as I understand it, the banks are extremely reluctant to be committed to paper on the problems which they may cause their customers. The BSMA has asked the Department of the Environment to set up a working party which would include representatives of the banks but the Government are not accepting that advice. It would be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say as to the reason for that.

This issue is causing great anxiety. Paragraph 2.14 of the consultation paper indicates that the industry feels that moves which uncover environmental liabilities for the private sector in that context: could damage their ability to finance their activities". It is alleged that there is no environmental benefit from the imposition of the intended regime on metal recyclers. If there is no environmental benefit, one must ask what is the purpose of the whole concept.

At all events, I hope that the Minister will be able to elucidate on the current state of affairs concerning the discussions taking place with the industry. Is there any possibility that the Government may be prepared to offer exemptions from licensing to some processes involved in the recovery of secondary metals? If that is the case, it would be welcomed. I stress that the association which has written to me about this matter is not inclined to the view that essential regulations should be abolished. Indeed, as I said before, sensible regulations are essential and the association supports that idea. But this amendment will enable the Committee to understand whether the Government consider that there is room for flexibility in that direction. For those reasons, I support the amendment because it gives the Government an opportunity to state their case more fully than they have done in the past.

Baroness Strange

I apologise to the Committee that I was not in my place when the amendment was moved but I believe that my noble friend has probably spoken for me and has done it very much better than I could have done.

First, I should like to pay tribute to my right honourable friend Robert Atkins who has already granted a welcome five months' delay in incorporating scrap metal recovery into the waste management licensing regime pending further representations from the relevant trade bodies and, presumably, from us. This will allow the Government time to probe this new clause.

As the noble Lord said, it is designed to remove recycling of metals from the waste management licensing system. It is not an attempt by waste management metal recyclers—or, as I used to call them, "scrappies"—to escape from their environmental responsibilities. They are already subject to the environmental controls of COPA and the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964.I made a mistake and the amendment on the Marshalled List refers to 1960. Without that exemption, many scrap merchants would be forced out of business by the increased costs—not least from having constant inspections which they would have to pay for. The net result would not be beneficial to the environment because there would be more scrap lying about with less people willing and prepared to recycle it.

Basically, there are three points that I would emphasise on the amendment. The first relates to deregulation and subsidiarity, to both of which our Government are committed. Article 11 of the European Framework Directive on Waste specifically allows for an exemption from licensing to be given to recyclers. Those exemptions are considered a matter for subsidiarity. As far as I can find out, there does not appear to be any licensing in Italy, Germany or the Flemish region of Belgium. There is, I believe, licensing in France, but it does not appear in any way to interfere with anyone's activities. And if our European partners did not have to pay the added costs which inspections would put on our metal recyclers, they would have an unfair trade advantage. This is clearly a case where subsidiarity must be made to work for us.

My second point is that in order to continue in business, or sell their businesses, or simply cease trading, metal recyclers will have to have an expensive assessment of their ground quality. If pollution is detected, then expensive remedial works will be required. But here we are talking about non-ferrous metal recycling, which is not motor cars and baths, and fridges and that sort of thing but lead and copper piping and old aluminium saucepans—something much smaller and indeed more valuable at £1,000 per ton or £1 per kilo. That is why metal recyclers keep their stock in locked buildings and not loose heaps. But those buildings are understandably on old waste areas where there may have been historical industrial activity so that they may have to remove someone else's pollution, even though an industrialist on the next door site, equally historically polluted but not inspected, may carry on regardless. That is unfair. It is Henry VIII in reverse.

My third and last point is this. Scrap metal dealers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some employ many people; some only themselves. When I was first married and lived in Kensington, there was an old scrap merchant who used to tour the area with a black and white pony and a cart. I remember being woken up by the sound of "Aiyoo, aiyoo", which, being translated, means "Any old iron". That is at the small end of the scale. But small or large, they are all metal recyclers; they all pay for what they use and, in consequence, are hardly likely to fly tip something for which they have paid good money. At the end of the day they reduce waste while recycling much of it. They are not fly tippers, but merchants engaged in the process of buying and selling. Therefore, on those arguments, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to consider the proposed new clause.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Tordoff

Members of the Committee will be grateful to the noble Baroness for waking them up so effectively and also for repeating most of the arguments that they had already heard from the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, and the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. We quite understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, was not able to be in her place at the time; indeed, this Committee stage has progressed much faster than most of us expected. No doubt the repetition of the arguments has had its impact on the Government Front Bench.

In accepting the premise which the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, put forward and in drawing the distinction between waste disposal and recycling—a very important distinction to make—I should like to introduce a slight caveat into the debate. When dealing with such recycling, one has to be most careful because it is not as straightforward as it might seem. Even when apparently ferrous metals are being recycled, there can be a wide range of what one might call other "contaminants" which can be extremely dangerous. I refer not just to metallic contaminants, but also to cutting oil contaminants and residues of various kinds. I just wanted to enter a note of caution that the trade is not quite as simple as the amendment seems to suggest.

When I heard the noble Baroness, Lady Strange, suggest that we were talking about non-ferrous metals, I was slightly puzzled because I do not see anything in the proposed new clause that restricts it to non-ferrous metals. That being so, I believe that part of the noble Baroness's argument tends to fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will pick up such points in their response.

Lord Strathclyde

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for introducing a caveat into the debate. I can assure the noble Lord—and, indeed, other Members of the Committee—that I was under no illusion as to what the issues were having heard three very full speeches on the subject. Of course it is right that they were full because we are dealing with complicated issues and ones of great importance.

Waste management licensing under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 was brought into force on 1st May 1994, just a few weeks ago. However, as has been pointed out, the commencement order which did this provides that the new system does not apply to any licensable activity involving scrap metal or motor vehicle dismantling until 1st October 1994. The specific purpose of the five-month period is to provide the industry with further time to consider the details of the licensing regulations that we have made; the guidance that we have published; and, most importantly, to make a case for the exemption of scrap metal from the licensing system. No doubt the scrap metal merchants have taken the opportunity presented by the Bill to brief Members of this Chamber on how to put forward their case.

For their part, the Government have given assurances that they will consider carefully any representations which the industry may make. We have discussed with the industry the basis on which exemptions may be provided. We will need to ensure that any exemptions are consistent with the terms of Article 11 of the EC framework directive on waste and do not breach the requirements of the directive. Under Article 11, we must adopt general rules for each exempted activity laying down: the types and quantities of waste; and the conditions under which an exemption is provided. We must also ensure that any exemptions provided are consistent with the objectives of Article 4 of the framework directive and the need to avoid endangering human health or harming the environment.

The question of subsidiarity is not an issue. The framework directive on waste was adopted by the Council of Ministers in 1991 and member states are required to implement it. We have already provided a large number of exemptions for the recovery or re-use of waste under the terms of Article 11 in the directive and have also issued guidance to waste regulation authorities on proportionality. We have advised authorities that they should not take action or impose standards which are disproportionately rigorous in relation to the threat posed to the environment or human health.

Further, we are aware of the industry's view that the materials in which it deals are valuable commodities. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord Clinton-Davis

Before the Minister moves on, I have a point to make. On the question of the disparate regimes that exist at present and which will, apparently, continue to exist under the provisions of the framework directive, does not the Minister see that situation as being likely to lead to considerable differences of approach between member states which could perhaps be to the detriment of responsible elements within the British industry?

Lord Strathclyde

I regard the matter with great concern. As the noble Lord knows, the British Government cannot be responsible for what happens in other countries. However, I understand that there is a common European definition of "waste" in place. All member states are required to implement it. Further, I understand that the European Commission is now considering guidance on the interpretation of that definition. It is possible that we may eventually, in that rather convoluted way, achieve a fair and equitable regime throughout the Community.

Scrap metal is waste and remains waste until it has been "recovered" within the terms of the framework directive. I understand that that view is shared by all our Community partners and by other bodies such as the OECD. My honourable friend in another place made the comment that scrap is not waste, but, of course, he was not referring to the legal definition. Scrap metal is waste until it has been recovered. The point that my honourable friend was making was that It can be a valuable material and that there are a number of aspects to recycling industries which make them substantially different from the waste disposal industry. The Government are trying to recognise that fact in their implementation of waste management legislation.

Unfortunately, the fact that a material can be recycled does not mean that it does not have the potential to endanger human health or harm the environment. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff. I suspect that that view is also shared by my noble friends Lord Lindsay and Lady Strange and by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis. However, we recognise the separation between the disposal and recovery of waste in the framework directive and agree that the activities of the scrap metal industry are those of recovery. In that context, we are prepared to consider any case for exemption made by the industry. The onus rests with the industry to present that case to us.

I shall deal now with the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, as to whether or not there is room for flexibility. The answer is, yes. We very much hope to continue our discussions with the BSMA during the course of the next few months to see whether there is any room for any further flexibility. In view of my response, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Tordoff

Before the noble Earl decides what he wishes to do, I have a few further comments to make. When considering such matters, I hope that the Government will also take into account some of the problems which occasionally arise from the export of such products in an unrecycled state. Indeed, one hears horror stories of, for example, lead batteries being shipped to Indonesia where they are causing severe environmental damage. Therefore, in the course of the whole examination, I hope that such matters will also be taken into account.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord has again put his finger on a most important point. The whole area of waste regulation is fraught with problems which are partly to do with exports. Of course, if we do not recycle our waste in this country or in Europe, it is very often taken to third world countries to be recycled. Although there are a number of international conventions to deal with that possibility, no doubt there are also loopholes. We wish to find a solution to the problem and one which is fair not only to European scrap metal operators; we also wish, however, to make sure that we preserve world resources and that we recycle as much as possible.

Baroness Strange

I thank my noble friend for his very kind speech and for his very helpful suggestions. I apologise again for sounding like a very indifferent echo to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, my noble friend, and the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, but perhaps having it in triplicate will make it easier for my noble friend to be able to consider the print when he gets to representations. In the light of what he has said most helpfully, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Noble Lords


The Earl of Lindsay

I think probably the bottom line of my reply will be exactly the same as that of my noble friend. I would just stress one or two points. One is that I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis for giving some more background on this issue. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who referred to an important area. It is an area that those who are involved in the industry do not want to duck in any way. They are conscious of the regulations and they are conscious of the fact that for their industry to survive and to thrive, they must safeguard themselves as regards the environment. They must protect their industry against those who operate using unscrupulous practices. They are as enthusiastic as the noble Lord on that point. But, most of all, I thank my noble friend the Minister for his full reply and for the summary he has given of the flexibility that the Government have shown towards the industry in giving it between now and 1st October to make its case. Those involved in the industry are seeking the fair and equitable regime that my noble friend the Minister mentioned. They perhaps resent the fact that they are, as it were, guilty until they can prove themselves innocent but nevertheless they will set about doing that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 [Amendment of duty of care etc. as respects waste]:

Lord Clinton-Davismoved Amendment No. 176A:

Page 21, line 25, after ("transfers") insert ("within any period of twelve months").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 176A, I suggest that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we consider at the same time Amendment No. 176B, both of which stand in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Peston. The background to this —I shall have to take a few more moments over this than we took with the previous amendment—as I understand it (the Minister will correct me if I am wrong) is, effectively, that Clause 23 amends Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The effect of Section 34(1) (c) (ii) is to require a person who, imports, produces, carries, keeps, treats or disposes of controlled waste or, as a broker, has control of such waste",

to ensure that when controlled waste is transferred there is, such a written description of the waste as will enable other persons to avoid a contravention of that section and to comply with the duty under this subsection as respects the escape of waste".

Of course a breach of this duty constitutes a criminal offence.

The detail required by a transfer note was specified by the Environmental Protection (Duty of Care) Regulations 1991 but neither the Environmental Protection Act nor the regulations make it clear whether or not a transfer note is required for the transfer of each stage of a transfer—that is to say, if a consignment of controlled waste has to be moved from A to B to C to D, or where there are a number of transfers between the same parties of the same kind of controlled waste (for example, a number of lorryloads over a period of time).

However, the Department of the Environment issued Circular 19/91, of which paragraph 21 states that nothing in the regulations requires each individual transfer to be separately documented. The paragraph goes on to say that the view of the departments is that it would be reasonable for a single transfer note to cover multiple consignments of waste transferred at the same time or over a period not exceeding one year. A code of practice was issued by the three relevant departments in 1991 but that does not address this problem, as I understand it.

The purpose of Clause 23 of the Bill seems to me to be to give statutory force to the view of the Department of the Environment in paragraph 21 of Circular 19/91. The practical effect of this would seem to be dramatically to reduce the number of transfer notes required and therefore the duty to keep such transfer notes for a period of two years after the transfer has taken place. Thus the proposed new section of the Environmental Protection Act would have —as I see it —the following effects.

First of all, it will require only one transfer note even though a transfer of waste in a number of stages is to take place with the transfer note being required only at the first stage of the transfer. Also it will require only one transfer note when there may be hundreds of transfers between the same parties of wastes of the same description over a period of time not limited to one year.

The outcome of that would seem to be that a waste producer could transfer hundreds of lorryloads of the same kind of waste to the same waste tip with only one transfer note. There will thus be no adequate method for any regulatory body to check whether or not a particular lorryload does indeed contain waste of the same description as that described in the original transfer note. The only method of enforcement by a regulatory body would be by physical inspection. Given the fact that some transferors and some transferees are not over-scrupulous about the type of waste which is to be transferred and buried, the effect of the amendment is likely to be, first, that abuses will continue, and, secondly, to make it more difficult for a regulatory body to enforce the law.

Clause 23(2) and (3) continue the effect of Clause 23( 1) by making the provisions retrospective except for criminal prosecutions in existence at the date of commencement of the 1994 Act, but in any event providing a retrospective defence to any such criminal proceedings. Presumably the argument that the Minister will seek to adopt is the extent of the paperwork which a transferor and transferee will need to keep if multiple loads of a controlled waste are being transferred. I suggest that the answer to that is as follows. First, in practice, delivery notes are already kept by the transferor and transferee of each shipment of controlled waste. That is done for normal book-keeping purposes. A transferor and a transferee will need to know the weight of a particular shipment to determine payment. What is required by the 1991 regulations is simply some more detail about the individual load.

Secondly, the public interest in protecting the environment by ensuring that controlled waste is disposed of at sites licensed to receive the specific controlled waste delivered to them is greater than any alleged bureaucratic requirement. Therefore the aim here should, in my submission, be to eliminate cowboy operators and ensure that the transfer of controlled waste is only carried out by responsible operators and that such waste is received by licensed site operators. I believe that the amendment I am moving seeks to achieve those purposes. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde

The noble Lord's amendments go rather further than I think he anticipates. What we have provided in this clause is that anyone may write only a single piece of paper to cover a sequence of waste transfers—in effect a season ticket. That season ticket may cover either the transfer of a large quantity of waste in batches or repeated consignments. However, a transfer from place or person A to B to C, is clearly two distinct actions. Each of these requires a separate transfer note and description. Clause 23 naturally does not affect this. It only concerns transfers between the same parties. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, will agree with that. The first of these two amendments, Amendment No. 176A, is an attempt to write into primary legislation something that is already the subject of advice in a statutory code of practice. The Government have no essential quarrel with the idea that 12 months is a reasonable normal maximum life for a description of waste. But I suggest that this is the sort of detail more appropriate to guidance than to statute.

I have listened carefully to the arguments advanced for this amendment, but I hope that I can reassure the Committee that it is not necessary. Amendment No. 176A would put an upper limit of 12 months on the transfers of waste which may be covered by a single description. Our view is that a year's waste is a reasonable stretch for a single description to cover; it fits well with invoicing and contract arrangements of many firms. Indeed, in the code of practice we advise that it would be reasonable for a description and transfer note to cover multiple consignments over a period not exceeding a year. That would be good practice. I would not wish to rule out a longer or shorter period. The Government's conclusion is that the time limit on a description is not a matter that should be set hard in statute. Rather, as has already been done, it is more appropriate for it to be a code of practice.

The other amendment does not merely hamper deregulation; it would require a great deal more than is required by the Environmental Protection Act as it stands. However, taking the spirit of the amendment —the amendment is not entirely correctly drafted—it does not seem to add any worthwhile requirement to the existing law. The regulations made under Section 34(5) of the 1990 Act already require every transfer note to specify the quantity of waste transferred and the time and place of transfer. In cases where "season ticket" notes are used, that necessarily means an estimate of the time and the quantity, whether measured in volume, weight or number of lorry loads.

The only completely new requirement of the amendment would be that the consignee should carry a copy of the transfer note with him. I have to say that I consider a statutory requirement to carry a particular piece of paper to be oppressive. It is something that is not required by present law and I do not believe that it is necessary. The present regulations made under Section 34(5) of the 1990 Act provide that any party may be obliged to produce a copy of a description or transfer note within seven days of being requested by a waste regulation authority. That, I believe, is quite sufficient.

Nor do I see any merit in requiring a record of the number of the consignment. Even the amendment recognises that at the outset it is only possible to "estimate" how many consignments there will be. If no one knows how many consignments there are in total, it is difficult to see the point in checking on the number of an individual load.

I hope that my answer has not been over full, but that it gives the noble Lord the information that he requires. I hope therefore that he will not take the amendment any further.

Lord Clinton-Davis

I am obliged to the Minister for that response which I shall have to consider with care, and decide whether we come back to the issue later. However, I am grateful to him for the positive assertion, as I understood it, that the Government are considering a code of conduct or guidelines, and that these ideas, to some degree at least, might be incorporated in them, although leaving out some of the concepts which the Minister found to be too draconian. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 176B not moved.]

Clause 23 agreed to.

Viscount Goschen

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.