HC Deb 13 March 2003 vol 401 cc448-9

Queen's recommendation having been signified

1.26 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Miss Melanie Johnson)

I beg to move,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Fireworks Bill, it is expedient to authorise—

  1. (a) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of—
    1. (i) any expenses incurred by the Secretary of State in consequence of any provision of the Act, and
    2. (ii)any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act, and
  2. (b)the making of payments into the Consolidated Fund.
It has been said in the past that money resolutions attaching to private Members' Bills deserve more consideration than those attaching to Government or public Bills. I am not sure that I entirely agree with that position but I agree that this important Bill requires full and proper consideration at all stages, including the money resolution.

On Second Reading on 28 February, it became clear that the Bill has universal support not just from within the House but from many other bodies. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, the Trades Union Congress, the British Medical Association and the National Farmers Union have all indicated broad support for the Bill's intentions. The diversity of that very small—I hasten to add—selection of the Bill's supporters shows how broadly its effects will be felt. Every one of us in England, Scotland and Wales could be affected by the Bill either directly or indirectly, whether through less noise and nuisance from fireworks, through better regulated firework displays or through buying fireworks from a properly licensed retailer.

The Bill contains enabling powers to make regulations dealing with a wide variety of matters relating to fireworks. As such, its full financial effects will depend on the content of such regulations. It would be foolish to try to second-guess at this stage exactly the shape and nature that those regulations may take. However, when regulations are made, normally, offences are created. The regulations that will follow the Bill will be no different. For example, there will be potential for creating offences for non-compliance, breaches and preventing enforcement of the regulations. Therefore the Bill will have certain financial implications for central and, perhaps more especially, for local government.

The Bill is unlikely to impact on central Government staff numbers, and it is likely to have a direct financial effect on central Government finances only while it progresses through its various development stages. It is more likely to have an effect on local authorities, whose trading standards and perhaps environmental health officers may have new or different roles. The police already have some enforcement responsibilities under existing legislation. Those could change under the Bill, but it is not envisaged that any revised role would require more officers or more time dealing with fireworks issues.

The Bill will have some implications for the court and legal aid system, so we must consider carefully the likely number of new cases that will have to be dealt with, and estimate the time that they will take up and how many appeals the courts may need to hear. That will all become clearer if the Bill makes progress and we get to the point of considering regulations to enforce it.

As I said on Second Reading, much of the detail needs to be thrashed out not only in debate in Committee but when the regulations are introduced and in light of the way in which such regulations should be constructed. Only then will the financial implications of the Bill in detail become known and better understood. I believe that this money resolution is drafted clearly and broadly without being drawn too widely. I commend it to the House.

1.30 pm
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

I understand that it is customary to table a money resolution such as this for a private Member's Bill, but I welcome what the Under-Secretary said. The Opposition concur on the likely costs. We welcome the Bill, and certainly its spirit, but we are slightly concerned about the lack of substance in it. We look forward to strengthening it in Committee.

Our constituents have real concerns about the proliferation of noisy fireworks throughout the year. I trust that the Bill will help them, and reduce the distress, disturbance and noise and the real fear that many people—especially the elderly—and their animals experience.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

The Liberal Democrats wish the Bill a fair wind and this short debate provides the opportunity for the House to discuss the funding and the support that it will need for its full implementation in due course.

Question put and agreed to.