HC Deb 12 May 1982 vol 23 cc896-8
Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

I beg to move amendment No. 26, in page 31, line 30, at end insert— '(4) For the purposes of subsection 3(a) above, "Act' includes a harbour revision order, a harbour empowerment order and a harbour re-organisation scheme (coming into operation after the passing of this Act) as respectively defined by sections 14,16 and 18, of the Harbours Act 1964 and, accordingly, those sections shall be construed as enabling such an order or scheme to provide that a person convicted of an offence under that order or scheme shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine (not being a daily fine) not exceeding a specified level on the standard scale other than level 5". I hope to present the case briefly. I am encouraged to be brief by the hope that the amendment will be acceptable to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister or that it will at least evoke a sympathetic response from him. I acknowledge immediately that the authorship of the amendment belongs to the British Ports Association, which represents all the ports of commercial significance, and other ports, in the United Kingdom. It has played its role with considerable professionalism and responsibility, especially since the demise of the National Ports Council.

The object of the amendment is to try to reduce certain serious anomalies that could be created by the Bill in its present form. The House will be aware that the Bill provides for the increasing, standardisation and indexing of fines that may be imposed under Acts of Parliament, including local Acts. However, in its present form the Bill does not provide similar indexation or standardisation of penalties under harbour revision orders and schemes that may be made under the Harbours Act 1964. This is despite the fact that it seems always clearly to have been the intention that all orders and schemes made under that Act should achieve exactly the same objective as full Acts, of Parliament, and full local Acts which may have been introduced by port authorities.

As I understand it, it was intended that the object of harbour revision orders was to render unnecessary the more expensive alternative of promoting local Acts of Parliament. Port authorities have been actively and consistently encouraged to promote such orders and schemes in preference to local Acts of Parliament. They have been assured that all such orders and schemes are in all respects equivalent to full Acts of Parliament. Prior to 1964 the penalty provisions were contained in full legislation. They will now be subject to the inflation-proofing provisions of the proposed legislation that is before us.

Orders that are introduced after 1964 will, in effect, be downgraded by the effect of inflation. I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that that is an undesirable anomaly. Harbour authorities might well be encouraged to proceed by way of local Acts in future rather than by orders or schemes under the 1964 Act. I cannot believe that that is something that the Government wish to encourage. The object of the amendment is to try to ensure that schemes and orders under the Act can be inflation proofed.

I am advised that there are strong technical difficulties in trying to inflation-proof penalty provisions under existing harbour orders, but the amendment provides that future harbour orders will be inflation proofed, which will ensure that future schemes will not be inferior to a local Act.

It may seem that this is a technical and complex matter. There may be technical difficulties in the way of proceeding in the manner suggested. However, I suggest to my hon. and learned Friend that the standardisation of subsidiary legislation of this sort in the manner that I am suggesting could produce considerable advantages to the Government and considerable savings of time and expense in the- preparation and updating of subsidiary legislation. Those who, like me, have served on the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments will welcome anything to reduce the volume of statutory instruments. I suggest that the amendment offers one way forward. It would save much time and expense.

I hope that my hon. and learned Friend can offer some hope for progress in this area generally, and specifically in regard to harbour revision orders. There is a strong and unique case for dealing with these orders in the manner suggested in the amendment. I hope that at this stage, or at a later stage, my hon. and learned Friend will be able to incorporate this provision or a similar one into the Bill.

Mr. Mayhew

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) for tabling this important amendment and for the way in which he moved it. As he knows, there are technical and practical difficulties in attempting to apply the measures in the Bill to maximum penalties in subordinate legislation.

I appreciate that there would be some advantage to those concerned with the management of ports if we were able to make an exception in relation to harbour revision orders and similar instruments that have been brought into effect in the interests of convenience. I am generally sympathetic to the objectives that underly the amendment.

2 am

We cannot take the amendment on board—to use a suitably nautical metaphor—in the Bill, but I assure my hon. Friend that we shall take the matters that he has raised into account in the further work that the Home Office and other Departments will be undertaking on penalties in subordinate legislation.

We are grateful for my hon. Friend's efforts. I think that they will bear fruit in the work that we have to do. I hope that that assurance will justify the trouble that my hon. Friend has taken and will enable him to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Moate

I welcome the prospect of further study of the subject and, in the light of that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Bendall

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I tabled amendment No. 27, in clause 32, page 34, line 27 at end insert—

  1. '(7A) Notwithstanding subsections (5) and (7) above, the specified amount in respect of any bye-law made by virtue of section 9 of the Airports Authority Act 1975 relating to the selling or distributing of anything, the offering of anything for sale or hire or the making up of any offer of services by any person without permission of the British Airports Authority, shall be increased to Level 4 on the Standard Scale.'.
I have been in correspondence with my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State on this matter and he has given me assurances that it could be considered in another place. There are one or two anomalies about which I am still a little unhappy, but in view of the assurances I do not wish to move the amendment.

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