HC Deb 22 April 1983 vol 41 cc538-40
Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I beg to move amendment No. 43, in page 14, line 30, leave out from 'Act' to end of line 31 and insert '(except this section) shall come into force on such day as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State acting jointly may by order made by statutory instrument appoint, and an order under this subsection may appoint different days for different provisions or different purposes. (2A) An order under sbubsection (2) above may include such transitionals or savings as appear to that Minister and the Secretary of State to be necessary or expedient in connection with the provisions brought into force by the order, but nothing shall be so included if it would conflict with subsection (2B) or (2C) below. (2B) The definitions of "infected" and "infected waters' contained in section 10(1) of the 1937 Act immediately before the coming into force of section 4(6) above shall continue to have effect on and after its coming into force (subject to any order made, after its coming into force, under section 13 of the 1937 Act). (2C) The coming into force of sub-paragraph (1A) of paragraph 5 of the Schedule to this Act shall not affect the punishment for an offence committed before its coming into force.'. The amendment is designed to ensure a reasonably smooth change to the new provisions of the Bill. The amendment is in four parts. The first part will provide for the Act to come into force by appointed day order, and the order may appoint different days for different provisions or purposes. This will mean that, instead of the Act coming into force two months after Royal Assent, which is the usual practice, it will be possible for Ministers to have flexibility over the commencement date. However, no order can be made to bring the Act into force before two months after Royal Assent.

The second part of the amendment, 2A, allows for the appointed day orders to include any transitionals or savings as Ministers consider appropriate to facilitate the change to the provisions of the Bill. This power will be especially useful when the Act comes into force, as it will then be possible for any action taken under the 1937 Act to be preserved for such time as specified in the order and so avoid any vacuum in restrictions before the new provisions of the Bill can be applied. That is obviously sensible when bringing in new legislation to replace that already in existence.

The third part of the amendment in 2B is a "savings" provision, and is necessary because section 13 of the Diseases of Fish Act 1937 provides for the notifiable diseases to be modified by Order in Council. Under this section, two statutory instruments — 1973/2093 and 1978/1022—have been made to specify those diseases that are notifiable and come under the definition of "infected". However, section 13 of the 1937 Act is amended in clause 4(6) of the Bill to replace the slow and cumbersome Order in Council procedures with the quicker and more efficient order-making by negatve resolution procedures. Because of this amendment, the statutory instruments referred to above will fall, and with them all the notifiable diseases brought in to be covered by the 1937 Act. The amendment therefore retains or "saves" —hence the use of the technical term "savings" — the present definition of "infected" until such time as an order is made under section 13 as amended by the Bill.

Fourthly, part 2C of the amendment is required because, with the increase in penalties provided by the Bill, it is necessary to ensure that those increased penalties are not applied to offences committed before the provisions come into force. This is in accordance with normal practice.

I have dealt with this important amendment in some detail, because it provides guidance for those who may be affected by the Act, or by orders laid under it when it comes into force. The amendment also details the procedures that will be followed, especially where new orders will replace existing powers. The amendment not only clarifies the Bill but gives me an opportunity to explain the Government's intentions. I hope that the House will accept it.

Mr. Corrie

This is an excellent amendment and I thank my right hon. Friend for moving it. As this is mostly enabling legislation, will my right hon. Friend keep in close contact with the industry, which is delighted to see this legislation? However, there are slight worries about its operation and it would do much good if discussions took place as new orders were being considered.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I am delighted to give my hon. Friend those assurances. As he knows—I commend him for it—the Bill gives Ministers much more flexibility in dealing with fish diseases. Such flexibility has been urged upon us by the industry because fish diseases create not static but developing situations. Experience has shown that we need flexibility to deal with new diseases, and I welcome the powers given by the Bill.

Equally, having been granted that flexibility, the responsibility is on Ministers to ensure that those powers are exercised responsibly and in the best interests of the fish farming industry. I give the assurance that they will be. We have in the past consulted the industry fully on these matters, and we consulted it fully on the Bill. It is my intention, and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends in other Departments who will be associated with the Bill, that its powers will be exercised only after the fullest possible consultation with the industry.

Amendment agreed to.

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