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General Committees

Debated on Monday 27 June 2022

Delegated Legislation Committee

Draft Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Consequential Provision) Regulations 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Virendra Sharma

† Anderson, Stuart (Wolverhampton South West) (Con)

Cox, Sir Geoffrey (Torridge and West Devon) (Con)

† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)

† Hardy, Emma (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)

† Hinds, Damian (Minister for Security and Borders)

† Lamont, John (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (Con)

† Lynch, Holly (Halifax) (Lab)

† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)

† Mullan, Dr Kieran (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)

† Offord, Dr Matthew (Hendon) (Con)

† Oswald, Kirsten (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)

† Pawsey, Mark (Rugby) (Con)

† Qureshi, Yasmin (Bolton South East) (Lab)

Smith, Cat (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)

† Tomlinson, Justin (North Swindon) (Con)

Trickett, Jon (Hemsworth) (Lab)

† Vickers, Matt (Stockton South) (Con)

Huw Yardley, Lilian Zeitelhack, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

First Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 27 June 2022

[Mr Virendra Sharma in the Chair]

Draft Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Consequential Provision) Regulations 2022

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Consequential Provision) Regulations 2022.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair this afternoon, Mr Sharma.

Following the horrific terrorist attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019, the Home Secretary commissioned the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, to review the multi-agency public protection arrangements—commonly known as MAPPA—which are used to supervise terrorist and terrorism-risk offenders on licence in the community.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 established three new powers for counter-terrorism policing: a personal search power, a premises search power, and an urgent power of arrest. These powers were taken in response to recommendations made by Mr Hall following his review of MAPPA. The draft regulations relate to the new power of personal search, the creation of which was also recommended by the Fishmongers’ Hall prevention of future deaths report. The personal search power was inserted into the Terrorism Act 2000—it is new section 43C of that Act—by the 2022 Act. The new search power commences tomorrow, 28 June.

As the Government set out during the passage of the 2022 Act, the new search power will apply across the UK, enabling the police to stop and search terrorist and terrorism-connected offenders released on licence who are required to submit to the search by their licence conditions. The officer conducting the stop and search must be satisfied that it is necessary to exercise the power for purposes connected with protecting members of the public from a risk of terrorism.

The Government are clear that sensitive powers of stop and search should be subject to a code of practice setting out the basic principles for their use. Section 47AA of the Terrorism Act 2000 imposes a requirement on the Secretary of State to prepare a code of practice containing guidance about the exercise of search powers that are conferred by that Act. The draft regulations amend section 47AA so that it extends to cover the new search power inserted into the Terrorism Act by the 2022 Act. Subject to Parliament’s approval, this consequential amendment will create a requirement for the Secretary of State to prepare a revised code of practice that includes guidance on the exercise of the power conferred by new section 43C.

In anticipation of section 47AA being amended, I can confirm that we are already in the process of engaging relevant stakeholders and updating the code of practice to reflect the new section 43C stop-and-search power. We plan to lay an order next month, alongside the draft revised code of practice itself, for Parliament’s consideration and approval. As such, Parliament will have the opportunity to review and debate the revised code and its contents in due course.

The draft regulations being considered today simply relate to the technical and consequential matter of whether to amend section 47AA of the Terrorism Act 2000 to enable the Government to update the relevant code of practice in the manner I have outlined. I very much hope that hon. and right hon. members on both sides of the Committee will be able to support them.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mr Sharma. I thank the Minister for his opening remarks. I hope that he will be relieved to hear that we recognise and agree with much of what he said.

As the Minister has already outlined, the proposed changes follow recommendations by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, as part of his review of the multi-agency public protection arrangements. The independent reviewer’s work will always carry a great deal of weight with the Opposition, and we treat his recommendations with the utmost seriousness. The proposed changes also follow a recommendation from the inquest into the horrendous Fishmongers’ Hall attack in November 2019. As always with such attacks, it is important that we make a detailed review of our processes and legislation in order to plug any gaps that could be exploited by those wishing to do us harm. On that basis, we are keen to see the draft regulations enacted.

Of course, with any such extension of powers there can be unintended consequences or missed opportunities, so I look forward to Jonathan Hall considering the effect of these powers once they come into effect. We will continue to consider their effectiveness to ensure that the right balance has been found. We also look forward to seeing the revised code of practice in the coming days.

Overall, the Opposition are satisfied that the changes are proportionate to the security challenges we face and necessary if we are to reduce the risk of future attacks. I will not delay proceedings further as we support the proposals in the national interest.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Sharma. It will probably be helpful for me to be clear about the SNP position on the 2022 Act. I think our opposition is well understood, as is our opposition to the UK’s Government’s clamping down on the right to protest. Despite those regrettable moves, we need to consider matters such as these in the most sensible and pragmatic way.

I note the confirmation on page 3 of the explanatory memorandum that, on this occasion and in a welcome departure from an awful lot of other occasions, the devolved Administrations were consulted and agree that the regulations are sensible. On that basis, we will fall into line on that and endorse what the hon. Member for Halifax said.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. My observation does not relate to the draft regulations, which are a good idea, but I want to bring something to the attention of the Minister and those present from the Department. When the code is being prepared, I hope that one of its component parts will be that both the ethnicity and faith of anyone being searched will be recorded, and that that information will be available to the public on an annual basis.

I thank the colleagues who have spoken. I acknowledge what the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire says about the importance of consultation with the devolved Administrations. To the hon. Member for Bolton South East, I say simply that we are committed, as she knows, to tacking terrorism in all its forms. This power to conduct a search will apply to any terrorist offender who is subject to the relevant licence condition, which is irrespective of someone’s religious background or ethnicity. The legislation is clear that such searches cannot be conducted unless the police officer is satisfied that the search is necessary for the purposes of protecting members of the public from the risk of terrorism.

I thank the hon. Member for Halifax for her comments. I echo what she says about the importance of the work of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, and I assure her that the effectiveness of such legislation is continually reviewed.

In conclusion, I thank all colleagues for their presence here at this important scrutiny session—

Maybe I misheard the Minister, but did he say that when somebody is searched, that search will be recorded, and also that the records will show the ethnicity and religion of the person? That is the information I was talking about. Perhaps I misunderstood him, but I would like clarity on that.

Of course, the code itself will be laid before Parliament in due course and the House will have, in a session such as this, the opportunity to debate it. I can assure the hon. Lady that that sort of recording is indeed part of the process.

I reiterate that the regulations provide a technical consequential amendment to section 47AA of the Terrorism Act to reflect the introduction of the new personal search power and to ensure it is governed by a code of practice. I emphasise again that today’s regulations will not amend the content of the relevant code of practice, and our draft revised code, as I was just saying, will shortly be laid before Parliament subject to its approval. As such, I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Customs (Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Yvonne Fovargue

† Bacon, Mr Richard (South Norfolk) (Con)

† Baynes, Simon (Clwyd South) (Con)

† Coutinho, Claire (East Surrey) (Con)

† Dinenage, Dame Caroline (Gosport) (Con)

† Duddridge, James (Rochford and Southend East) (Con)

† Eastwood, Mark (Dewsbury) (Con)

† Frazer, Lucy (Financial Secretary to the Treasury)

† Gardiner, Barry (Brent North) (Lab)

† Grant, Peter (Glenrothes) (SNP)

† Hamilton, Mrs Paulette (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab)

McDonald, Andy (Middlesbrough) (Lab)

† Mak, Alan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Murray, James (Ealing North) (Lab/Co-op)

† Robinson, Mary (Cheadle) (Con)

† Trott, Laura (Sevenoaks) (Con)

Turner, Karl (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)

† Twist, Liz (Blaydon) (Lab)

Ian Bradshaw, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 27 June 2022

[Yvonne Fovargue in the Chair]

Customs (Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2022

I beg to move that,

That the Committee has considered the Customs (Amendments and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2022 (S.I. 2022, No. 615).

The regulations update the UK’s tariff schedule and correct minor errors in previous secondary legislation. Specifically, this statutory instrument amends existing tariff legislation that was laid before the House on 16 December 2020 and through which the UK’s first independent tariff schedule was implemented on 1 January 2021.

I want to highlight two aspects of the instrument. First, it updates a number of commodity codes—the classifications of goods within the tariff schedule—as laid out in a set of tariff reference documents. These are routine technical changes, which are needed to ensure that traders access the correct codes when trading in goods. Secondly, the instrument rectifies a small number of administrative errors in connection with three tariff lines for goods relating to chemical dyes used in pharmaceutical manufacturing, carpets and textile floor coverings. The errors relate to missing tariff duties on those goods in the legislation. For context, that is three out of about 16,000 tariff lines. Although traders were previously charged tariffs on the goods at the rates intended, and as traders expected, it was done inadvertently, without the three rates being set out formally in the tariff reference document.

After that was discovered during a review, systems were changed, so that traders were no longer charged tariffs on the goods, thereby ensuring that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs was acting lawfully in the interim while the error in the legislation was corrected. This instrument inserts the intended rates into the legislation, allowing HMRC to collect these rates properly and lawfully from now on.

As trade did take place on the lines before the legislation was corrected, HMRC must reimburse traders who were charged rates that were not reflected in the legislation. It is in the process of doing so. More broadly, I emphasise that the vast majority of customs duties are being collected as intended.

Can the Minister give us the gross figures for the total amounts overpaid and underpaid before the error was corrected?

We are in the process of reimbursing a total of £1,382,000.90 to 601 traders incorrectly charged as a result of these errors.

In conclusion, this instrument updates the tariff schedule and makes limited corrections to address administrative errors. I hope that colleagues will join me in supporting the regulations, which I commend to the Committee.

Thank you, Ms Fovargue, for the opportunity to set out the Opposition’s position on this statutory instrument.

As we heard from the Minister, this instrument intends to correct subordinate legislation previously made under the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018. It seeks to amend errors and update tariff reference documents that detail the classification and duty of rates on goods included in the UK’s tariff schedule.

We recognise that the areas covered by the statutory instrument are fairly specific, and as the Government are correcting errors, we will not oppose it. While we recognise that corrections and amendments need to be made where defects or errors have occurred, however, it is important that the Government support businesses and minimise further inconvenience, in particular at this difficult and uncertain time.

While we will not oppose the regulations, I want to clarify the impact on the businesses affected. In particular, as the Scottish National party spokesperson said, the explanatory memorandum makes it clear that until the errors were identified, importers may have been under the impression that the import duty was being lawfully applied and in line with stated policy. The notes confirm that HMRC is planning to refund affected traders who have consequently overpaid. Will the Minister expand on her response to the earlier intervention and explain the process by which affected traders will be refunded? Will the refund take place automatically, or will traders need to apply for it? I would also be grateful if the Minister set out in further detail exactly how many traders have been affected by overpayment and over what period, and how much overpaid revenue has been approved or needs to be funded.

Although the Labour party will not oppose the statutory instrument, it is important that we get clarity on exactly how those overpayments will be refunded and on how that refund will operate.

I am happy to respond to those points. As I mentioned, those 601 traders were incorrectly charged a total of £1,382,000.90. We have contacted all traders who are owed, and we are in the process of reimbursing them. I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman on the one question of his that I have not answered.

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman will not oppose the statutory instrument. Of course, a small part of the SI deals with the three errors that have been identified in the 16,000 tariff lines—I emphasise that those are small errors. The instrument not only deals with those small errors, but updates the code as a whole, so it was necessary to bring it before the House. For all those reasons, I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Like the main Opposition party, the SNP will not oppose the regulations, because we actually think it is a good idea for Governments to admit when they have made a mistake and correct it at the earliest opportunity. The Government seem to be quite selective about which mistakes they admit to and are willing to correct.

The Minister can point to the fact that there were only three very small errors for the number of lines that we are dealing with, but £1.3 million was overcharged. That is an average overcharge of £2,000 for 600 traders. We do not know what size those traders are, but a lot of the traders in my constituency—even some of the quite big ones—barely made a £2,000 profit last year. That amount of money might look quite trivial in the context of the total customs bill for the year, but it could be significant to traders who have been overcharged.

I asked earlier about underpayments, and the Minister did not answer my question. Have there been underpayments as well, and if so, of how much were they and what is happening with them? Will other traders be told that they have to pay more than they had expected, or will that amount be written off at public expense?

The Minister concentrates on the small percentage of errors in the legislation, but this is not the first time that I have spoken in a DL Committee through which the Government are attempting, for the second or third time, to correct errors in Brexit legislation. It is quite clear that the Government catastrophically misunderstood and underestimated the amount of work needed to put Britain back where it was before it left the European Union.

We cannot blame civil servants—they are human beings and make mistakes, especially when under pressure—but if this is what happens now, when the civil service is close to full staffing, how on earth do the Government think they will get by with 90,000 fewer civil servants? Where will those civil service cuts be made? I have not yet seen a Government Department perform anywhere near the standards that they should reach, and for most of them, that is partly because they are understaffed, so I genuinely do not know why the Treasury or any other Department thinks that it can cut staffing by 20%, 30% or 40% without opening the door to errors that are much more catastrophic than the ones before the Committee.

I now have the answer for the hon. Member for Ealing North, which will save us from writing letters. HMRC has written to all the traders, so there is no need for them to apply.

Let me respond to a couple of the points made by the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Glenrothes. We should have put a figure into the schedule, but we did not. Traders would have been expecting to pay the amount that would have been due in the ordinary course, but because the legislation does not include that figure, we cannot legally claim it. Those are amounts that traders would, in the normal course, pay to the Government. It is not that they have overpaid something that was incorrect or that they have been charged an excess amount; it is just that we cannot legally collect the sum, and that is why we are paying it back. I hope that answers his question about underpayment and overpayment.

Yes, we are paying back £1.3 million in respect of those errors, but the total tariff income that the statutory instrument deals with is £4.5 billion, so the errors are minor in the context of the whole. I commend the regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.

Draft Local Authority and Combined Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Dame Maria Miller

† Amesbury, Mike (Weaver Vale) (Lab)

† Badenoch, Kemi (Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities)

Blomfield, Paul (Sheffield Central) (Lab)

† Dines, Miss Sarah (Derbyshire Dales) (Con)

† Fletcher, Colleen (Coventry North East) (Lab)

† Greenwood, Margaret (Wirral West) (Lab)

† Hollern, Kate (Blackburn) (Lab)

† Hollinrake, Kevin (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)

† Lavery, Ian (Wansbeck) (Lab)

Maynard, Paul (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con)

† Offord, Dr Matthew (Hendon) (Con)

† Poulter, Dr Dan (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con)

† Richardson, Angela (Guildford) (Con)

† Russell-Moyle, Lloyd (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab/Co-op)

† Skidmore, Chris (Kingswood) (Con)

† Smith, Henry (Crawley) (Con)

† Young, Jacob (Redcar) (Con)

Bethan Harding, Jillian Luke, Committee Clerks

† attended the Committee

Third Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 27 June 2022

[Dame Maria Miller in the Chair]

Draft Local Authority and Combined Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Local Authority and Combined Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. These regulations, which were laid before the House on Monday 6 June, seek to amend local election rules to account for the new disqualification criteria introduced by the Local Government (Disqualification) Act 2022, which comes into force tomorrow. That Act updates disqualification criteria for local authorities to disqualify individuals convicted of sexual offences who do not receive a custodial sentence. The regulations make the necessary changes to election processes to ensure that future mayoral candidates continue to correctly declare that they are eligible to stand in elections.

Local election rules require candidates to declare that they are not disqualified by signing a consent to nomination form. The format and wording of those forms is prescribed in secondary legislation. These regulations will update those forms to add references to the new criteria for mayoral elections inserted by the 2022 Act. Further, they will require that copies of the relevant new sections of the 2022 Act are reproduced in full and appended to the forms. The regulations make sure that both candidates and electoral administrators have clarity when making those declarations. Implementation of the regulations should not be delayed, as the Act’s provisions come into force tomorrow.

These amendments follow statutory consultation with the Electoral Commission, which supports the need to implement the provisions of the 2022 Act by bringing forward the regulations as soon as possible. The Electoral Commission has updated its guidance to take note of the new disqualification criteria, and will update its nomination packs containing the consent to nomination forms once the regulations are approved. The Government committed to seek legislation that would disqualify sex offenders from local government in our 2018 response to a public consultation on the matter.

To support the Act, I have already amended equivalent election rules for all tiers of councils, the London Assembly and the Mayor of London through the Local Authority and Greater London Authority Elections (Nomination of Candidates) (Amendment) (England) Rules 2022 on 30 May, under the negative procedure. Today’s regulations are the final stage in delivering on that commitment and fully implementing the disqualification of sex offenders.

To summarise, the regulations are necessary for full implementation of the Local Government (Disqualification) Act 2022. No community should have to tolerate a convicted sex offender standing as its local mayor. I commend the statutory instrument to the Committee.

It is a pleasure to once again serve under your chairmanship, Dame Maria. I thank the Minister for her detailed explanation of the instrument, which will update the candidate consent to nomination forms to reflect the very welcome changes introduced by the Local Government (Disqualification) Act 2022, to which the Minister has referred.

It is vital that we uphold the best standards in public life at all levels of government. An overwhelming majority of local councillors, mayors and mayoral candidates do so, serving their communities to the best of their abilities in the spirit of public service and public duty. I did so for 11 years as a councillor in Manchester, and other Members present will have done the same. However, when individuals fall short of the standards we expect from elected representatives, we must ensure that action can be taken to remove them from office and, importantly, prevent them from standing in the first place. The previous loophole identified by the Minister in other parts of the body politic has allowed local government elected members who were convicted of sexual offences, but were not given custodial sentences, to remain in office. That has caused unacceptable situations that degrade and undermine our local democracy.

As such, we owe our thanks to the hon. Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) for using his bite at the legislative apple to ensure that people put on the sex offenders list cannot be elected or remain in their elected post—the absolute bare minimum that all of us on this Committee would agree the public should expect. Given that we are all in agreement today—it is great to have some cross-party agreement on what is quite a sensible thing to do—I will go further. As the Minister has referred to this issue in the past, I ask her to use her experience and her Department to advise on Northern Ireland’s implementation of similar reforms.

I thank the hon. Gentleman and the Opposition for supporting today’s SI. Regarding his comments on Northern Ireland, we will work on that issue with devolved Administrations and with Members of this House who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the sponsors of the Local Government (Disqualification) Act, as the hon. Gentleman has just done, by thanking my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) and Lord Udny-Lister for their work to progress that Act here and in the other place.

To conclude, the electorate in a modern democracy have a right to expect that their mayoral candidates should be of good character. The Government consider that there should be consequences where candidates fall short of the behaviour expected in an inclusive and tolerant society. We must fully implement the disqualification of sex offenders from local government office, and these regulations are the final step in delivering on the Government’s commitment to legislate on this important matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee rose.