Clause 12 - Restricted premises orders

Part of Tobacco and Vapes Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:45 pm ar 9 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Preet Kaur Gill Preet Kaur Gill Shadow Minister (Primary Care and Public Health) 2:45, 9 Mai 2024

We support the introduction of restricted premises orders for breach of age of sale laws on nicotine and vaping products in the same way that they already exist for tobacco. A repeat offender should know that there are serious consequences for breaching age of sale legislation, so I strongly support the principle of providing a strong deterrent to any retailers that would break the law. The threat of enforcement action cannot be seen as the cost of doing business.

I have a few questions about how the orders work in practice. The Bill introduces a requirement for trading standards authorities to consider whether to conduct a programme of enforcement at least once a year. That is not a strong requirement. There is nothing to say that local teams must conduct any enforcement action within a two-year period on the matter, even if they receive complaints, and many trading standards teams are woefully under-resourced. Therefore, the requirement for the powers to be used for “persistent” offences, meaning at least two breaches within a two-year period, suggests to me that the orders will be very seldom used.

That is not to mention the question of how the orders would be enforced once granted by a magistrates court, or indeed the backlogs before that. Can the Minister say how many times restricted premises orders have been used in relation to tobacco in recent years, or even in the last decade? We heard from trading standards at the evidence sessions that boots are needed on the ground to make this work. My understanding is that of the money that the Government have announced for enforcement, only £10 million will go to trading standards. Will the Minister confirm whether that is correct?

At the same time, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute is warning that its profession is in jeopardy because of a lack of investment. Its funding has been cut by 50% over the past decade, and it estimates that around the UK as much as half the workforce is set to retire over the next decade. Has the Minister heard any of those concerns? What conversations has she had with colleagues and other Departments about staff retention and investment?

I am foregrounding one of my amendments to a later clause, but I am of the view that the proposed fixed penalty notice powers will be a more effective mechanism to enforce compliance on age of sale, particularly given the clause on use of proceeds, if we do not have strong reassurances that trading standards will get the necessary resources from central Government.

We strongly welcome any measure that will aid authorities in cracking down on the sale of tobacco, vapes and nicotine products to children. However, I urge the Minister to look again at whether the new regulations will be coupled with the enforcement action needed on the ground. Without it, they will not achieve what we need them to, and more young people will fall prey to addiction.