HC Deb 18 June 1974 vol 875 cc383-6

Amendment made: No. 52, in page 12, line 20, leave out from ' 50' to end of line 24 and insert 'regulations may be made under this section for any of the general purposes of this Part (and regulations so made are in this Part referred to as "health and safety regulations")'.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 53, in line 30, leave out from the' to end of line 32 and insert existing statutory provisions;'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this, we are to consider Amendments Nos. 54, 58, 84, 95, 110 and 114.

Mr. Walker

These are purely drafting amendments. They do not alter the substance of any provision. They are desirable because experience in Standing Committee and elsewhere has shown that people have not found it very easy to decipher the precise import of references to "the relevant statutory provisions" in various clauses of the Bill.

The relevant statutory provisions are all-important to Part I of the Bill; they are the enactments which are the basis of the new system of health and safety law, and which are to be administered by the new health and safety organisation. They comprise not only the existing enactments listed in Schedule 1, and their subordinate legislation; but also the provisions of Part I of the Bill, and of health and safety regulations made under the Bill.

Several clauses in the Bill treat differently the two categories of relevant statutory provision; that is, the existing provisions, and those in or to be made under the Bill. To ease drafting prob lems, therefore, and to aid comprehension of what is meant in the context of each clause which mentions the relevant statutory provisions, these amendments describe the existing enactments and their subordinate instruments as "existing statutory provisions"—which makes for simplification in cases where it would otherwise be necessary to talk about, for example, the relevant statutory provisions other than those contained in this Part or in health and safety regulations". I hope that the House will agree that these amendments help to clarify the drafting of the Bill in this rather important respect of conveying precisely what legislation the Bill is referring to in each clause where "relevant statutory provisions" are mentioned.

Amendment agreed to.

Further amendment made: No. 54, in line 35, leave out from 'the' to end of line 36 and insert 'existing statutory provisions;'.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 55, in page 13, line 16, leave out subsection (6) and insert: '(6) Health and Safety regulations—

  1. (a) may provide for any specified defence to be available in proceedings for any offence under the relevant statutory provisions either generally or in specified circumstances;
  2. (b) may exclude proceedings on indictment in relation to offences consisting of a contravention of a requirement or prohibition imposed by or under any of the existing statutory provisions, sections 2 to 9 or health and safety regulations;
  3. (c) may restrict the punishments which can be imposed in respect of any such offence as is mentioned in paragraph (c) above'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment we can consider Amendments Nos. 80, 83 and 97.

Mr. Walker

This revision of Clause 15(6) and its consequentials is largely consequential upon the deletion of Clause 41, but the opportunity has been taken to simplify the drafting of the subsection.

First, therefore, new paragraph (a) makes the amendment which I promised in Committee when we deleted Clause 41, which was the general defence of due diligence. This revised paragraph now enables the provision in regulations, where necessary, of defences in respect of any of the relevant statutory provisions, including those in Part I.

Secondly, paragraphs (b) and (c) have been reworded in line with the drafting amendments that I moved earlier so as to refer here more simply to "existing statutory provisions" than to relevant statutory provisions not contained in this Part". Thirdly, the revised draft deletes the whole of paragraph (a) which states that health and safety regulations may make provision as to who is to comply with and who is to be guilty of an offence against health and safety regulations. This deletion is really consequential on the amendments which I moved in Committee to what was then Clause 14(6).

Regulations can state who is to comply with them. The old paragraph (a)(i) was put in to cover existing statutory provisions which the Committee agreed should not be done in such regulations and is no longer necessary. However, I am advised that the pruning has been a little too drastic and that a further amendment may be needed to the subsection to restore what used to be paragraph (a)(ii). This will make clear that regulations will be able to state who is to be guilty of an offence in the event of a contravention as, for example, in the Mines and Quarries Act. I hope that, if necessary, this further Amendment can be made in another place. I hope that that will meet with approval.

Mr. Michael Latham

The amendment is an improvement on the previous drafting of the Bill. However, I am still unhappy about the wording of the proposed paragraph (b) which gives the Minister power to exclude proceedings on indictment in relation to offences which deal, in effect, with the whole of the basic principle of the Bill in Clauses 2 to 9, which contain the general statement of intent about health and safety. I hope that this power will be used only in exceptional cases. We do not want exclusions of this kind. If a situation got to the stage of proceedings on indictment something very serious must have happened. I mentioned in Committee that this kind of dispensing power led to James II losing his throne and William of Orange coming to it. I hope that the Minister will not feel obliged to use it too often. Per haps he may care to comment on that matter in reply.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 57, in page 14, line 14, at end insert: '(8A) The power to make health and safety regulations shall be exercisable by the Secretary of State, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or the Secretary of State and that Minister acting jointly'.—[Mr. Harold Walker.]

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