Clause 50 - Penalty receipts

Anti-social Behaviour Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:00 pm ar 20 Mai 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 5:00, 20 Mai 2003

I beg to move amendment No. 244, in

clause 50, page 38, line 8, leave out from 'authority' to end of line 9 and insert

'may use any sums it receives in respect of penalties payable to it in pursuance of notices under section 48(1) (its ''penalty receipts'') only for the purposes of functions of its that are qualifying functions.

(4) The following are qualifying functions for the purposes of this section-

(a) functions under section 48, and

(b) functions of a description specified in regulations made by the appropriate person.

(5) Regulations under subsection (4)(b) may (in particular) have the effect that a local authority may use its penalty receipts for the purposes of any of its functions.

(6) A local authority must supply the appropriate person with such information relating to its use of its penalty receipts as the appropriate person may require.

(7) The appropriate person may by regulations-

(a) make provision for what a local authority is to do with its penalty receipts-

(i) pending their being used for the purposes of qualifying functions of the authority,

(ii) if they are not so used before such time after their receipt as may be specified by the regulations,

(b) make provision for accounting arrangements in respect of a local authority's penalty receipts.

(8) The provision that may be made under subsection (7)(a)(ii) includes (in particular) provision for the payment of sums to a person (including the appropriate person) other than the local authority.

(9) Before making regulations under this section, the appropriate person must consult-

(a) the local authorities to which the regulations are to apply, and

(b) such other persons as the appropriate person considers appropriate.'

The clause currently requires a local authority to pay to the appropriate person-the Secretary of State in England or the National Assembly in Wales-any sums that it receives in respect of fixed penalty notices issued for graffiti and fly posting. The amendment would remove that provision and allow the local authority instead to retain the receipts and use them for qualifying functions, which are the issuing of fixed penalty notices under clause 48 and such other functions as may subsequently be specified in regulations. Those could include wide functions

relating to graffiti, such as cleaning up the mess caused in the first place.

The intention behind the amendment is to encourage local authorities to use the power. I told the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole that there were other circumstances in which local authorities could issue fixed penalty notices. Those are littering and dog fouling, which are detailed in the Local Government Bill, which is further through its parliamentary stages than this Bill. Those powers will not be available until that Bill receives Royal Assent.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath

May I make a couple of points on the amendment and also touch on the clause, because I imagine that we shall not need a stand part debate? I am slightly puzzled that such a long and detailed amendment needed to be made now. I wonder whether the Minister could enlighten us on whether the matter was missed when the Bill was originally drafted. I am sure that the mistake was not his, but given that the amendment is much longer than most Government amendments-it is certainly longer than the others tabled to this Bill so far-I wonder whether there has been a change of mind, a mistake or whatever.

In relation to penalty receipts and what happens to them, there are to be public service agreements between the Government and various authorities-in fact, such agreements might even already exist. Although I appreciate that the Minister will not be able to give me details today, will he write to me and to any other members of the Committee who are interested and set out the terms of the public service agreements that are being made? Perhaps he can also give some examples of what happens between the Home Office and local and other types of authorities.

It would be useful to know because the way in which funds are transferred is a matter of interest, as evidenced by the attention being paid in all parts of the House to the changes that have been made to the rules on hypothecation. In the past, Her Majesty's Treasury has been reluctant for money to go anywhere other than back to the Treasury. I have always believed that Government funding can operate more sensibly if hypothecation is allowed. I have argued that many times, and the Minister has heard me doing so. I hope that he will be prepared to give some examples. If he is able to write to me in that respect, it will be very helpful.

Photo of Mr Matthew Green Mr Matthew Green Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol, Ludlow

I am delighted that lamp posts are protected by two different Bills. They are protected from human antisocial behaviour by this Bill and from dogs by the Local Government Bill. Lamp posts will be delighted, but I wonder why the provisions could not be in the same Bill.

The amendment is a good step forward. I hope that the principle will apply to other sections and that the provisions relating to education and truancy will be reviewed, because the money from the local education authorities could be used against truancy. As a general principle, it is good for the money from fines to be used to tackle the problems in relation to which they have been levied-so long as it is not seen as a quick

route to solving local government financing problems. The cost of administering fixed penalty notices will probably vastly outweigh the receipts from them; nevertheless, they are a good thing. I hope that the Government can reassure us that the principle will be applied to the fixed penalty notices that are issued in other circumstances.

Photo of John Randall John Randall Ceidwadwyr, Uxbridge

I welcome the amendment and the clause. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath has a point-perhaps even the Minister is human and cannot always bring his wonderful powers to bear immediately.

There are two questions that I would like to ask the Minister. He keeps mentioning that the appropriate person is the Secretary of State. Perhaps I am being incredibly dense, but I wonder which Secretary of State.

The other point is that, as Committee members will have understood, I have a deep and intimate knowledge of the retail sector in Uxbridge. Not long ago, one of its well-established companies had a bit of graffiti on one of its walls. That was removed at considerable expense; as the hon. Member for Ludlow said, it is not that easy to do. Although a company-or a private individual if it is on the side of a house-will, albeit not happily, accept that such removal has to be paid for, if it knows that the fine is going to the local authority, it will be less than impressed if the local authority does nothing in return. I hope that, in the wise words of the Minister, some way can be devised-not in the legislation-to enable local authorities to report back, and that some measure of guidance will be issued. If they are going to be in receipt of the funds, the authorities should provide a service for their ratepayers, whether businesses or council tax payers.

Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Secretary of State to whom I have referred is the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As for why the measure has been proposed in an amendment, we consulted local authorities not only about the power but about the fact that they were interested in keeping the moneys collected. It took more time to reach a conclusion on the latter point than on the former one. We can effectively hypothecate the money and use it to as an incentive to the use of the powers.

On the issue of education fixed penalty notices, it is our intention to allow for hypothecation, again by regulation. We must be mindful of the point that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath raised about the degree to which we hypothecate both ring-fenced money and money without restrictions. The hon. Member for Uxbridge also raised that point. Where there are public service agreements and excellent councils, one would wish to offer more flexibility. We decided to deal with issues relating to education through regulation. There is, as is widely recognised, a far greater propensity to hypothecate these days. That is particularly true of recovered assets, which are hypothecated for use against criminal activity. There has been movement in Government thinking in that area. I think that that has to be welcomed.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 50, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.