HC Deb 28 July 1982 vol 28 cc1143-4
Mr. John MacKay

I beg to move amendment No. 80, in page 20, line 15 at end insert '(1) or (3A)'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendments Nos. 81 to 85.

Mr. MacKay

It has been represented to the Government by the trade that the provisions relating to the issue of exemption warrants based on an annual turnover exceeding £100,000 do not cater for new businesses where capital and potential turnover would, in normal circumstances, have enabled the dealer to apply for an exemption warrant. Amendment No. 83 enables the licensing authority to issue a temporary exemption warrant if satisfied that the person applying has not been carrying on business as a metal dealer. The duration of the temporary warrant is 18 months, which is sufficient for the dealer to establish that he meets the criteria in clause 29(1) and to make an application for an ordinary exemption warrant. It is, if one likes, 12 months trading and six months in which to get his accounts made up and to go to the authority and ask for a normal exemption warrant.

A condition of a temporary exemption warrant is that a dealer can deal only with trade sources and not with the man in the street. Failure to meet this condition could result in the temporary exemption warrant being revoked by the licensing authority. Amendments Nos. 80, 81 and 82 are paving amendments for amendment No. 83, and amendments Nos. 84 and 85 are consequential.

Mr. Dewar

I am grateful for the Minister's explanation. I approached amendment No. 83 in some puzzlement. I could not understand what the temporary exemption warrant was. I now understand. It seems a strange concept. The whole idea of an exemption warrant is that someone is one of the big boys with a proven track record, which means that he has a turnover in excess of £100,000. I should be interested to know of those who are likely to start from scratch in the manner suggested with no turnover, but able to establish that they will get into that situation.

I should not have thought that there was any real difficulty. If the firm is not in business and not operating, I cannot see that it can establish that it will have a turnover of £100,000 immediately and therefore be exempt from all licence regulations. This seems to me a danger. I am not sure what the test will be. Does the Minister think that the firm will be respectable and plough in a large amount of capital? What is the criterion? It seems to fudge the edges of something that was neat and tidy, which was that one had a turnover above a certain amount in the previous financial year. Perhaps the Minister will say a word or two more, because it is not satisfactory to say that the trade wanted it.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Has this matter been agreed with COSLA and the chief constables?

Mr. John MacKay

I do not think that there will be many occasions on which somebody will apply for a temporary exemption warrant. The local authority has to be satisfied, by the evidence that the person brings, that he has the premises, capital and business know-how to achieve the £100,000 turnover that is required. If somebody comes to the business with that kind of background and is able to persuade the licensing authority that he has that potential, he will have the exemption, but he will not deal with the man in the street, which is an important part of the amendment.

In those circumstances, it would be unfair to prevent that person achieving the exemption. If we leave the Bill as it is, we are dealing with the trade as it exists and we are not taking into consideration anybody who comes new to the trade. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) that it will not happen very often. As the House knows, and as the Committee knew, because it heard me say it often enough, the purpose of the licensing provision is crime prevention. We have underlined that by not allowing trading with the man in the street.

The temporary warrant with the provisions on it will be enough of a safeguard, and local authorities and licensing authorities will be able to judge sensibly whether a person is likely to come into this qualification.

I cannot answer the question of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown), but I shall inquire and let him know.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 81, in page 20, line 17, leave out 'as an exemption warrant' and insert 'respectively as "an exemption warrant" and "a temporary exemption warrant".'. No. 82, in page 20, line 19, after 'warrant', insert 'or temporary exemption warrant'.—[Mr. John MacKay.]

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