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Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent): As my right hon. Friend will have seen, considerable penalties are to be levied on people who contravene the provisions of the Bill, which implies some public education or training programme for the citizen. No doubt, for example, there will be an increase in the

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number of people working in the citizens advice bureaux so that advice may be given before Guy Fawkes; that will end up as a charge on local authority finance.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Not only is he right to point out a possible increase in the number of people, say, in the advice bureaux, but he implies that there would have to be an advertising effort. This Government, like the previous Government, are keen to inform people about the implications of legislation of this kind, especially if people will be subject to a financial penalty or something worse. Therefore, there is an implication in the Bill of a likely expenditure on informing the public of its provisions and possible penalties.

That would be bad enough, but there is still the matter of compensation. However, I can find no reference to it in the Bill. I assume that we will get a detailed explanation of the matter before the House is asked to approve the money Resolution. Will the Government tell us what compensation is envisaged for small retailers carrying stocks of fireworks in good faith, that may overnight be rendered illegal by the provisions of the Bill?

Those are the smallest of businesses, family businesses and community businesses, which have stocked up with fireworks. Those are perfectly in order within the existing regulations, but may be quickly rendered illegal and subject to penalties by the Bill. Before we can contemplate approving the money resolution, we need to know how much money might be involved in the payment of compensation to those small retailers as a direct result of the Bill.

I am merely sketching out the possibilities. Goodness knows what would be involved, were I to go into detail, which I suspect that the House may not want at this stage. I simply wanted to give a flavour of the difficulties that I see arising from the Bill, however well-intentioned it may be. Numbers of police, trading standards officers and staff in citizens advice bureaux may have to be increased, and there will be expenditure on informing the public. As if to rub salt in the wound, under the heading "Financial effects of the Bill", we are told:


That is not good enough. It is not good enough for legislation, particularly private Members' Bills, to be brought before the House and for us to be asked to give a blank cheque or a rubber stamp. When we come to the next items on the agenda--after we have thoroughly considered this one--hon. Members will see that the same argument applies with even more force. Time and again, under the heading money resolutions, the House is asked to vote indeterminate or unspecified sums for unspecified purposes contained in private Members' Bills.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. At this stage we are debating a money resolution--singular. We are not dealing with money resolutions, just the money resolution before us, relating to the Fireworks Bill.

Mr. Forth: Indeed, Mr. Martin. I am grateful for that guidance. I had strayed a little because I wanted to reinforce the point about the additional importance, as I

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saw it, in private Members' Bills generally for us to be fully aware of and properly to scrutinise the money implications.

Mr. Rowe: My right hon. Friend is right to consider general matters, but there is a particular matter that requires comment. Under the heading, "Effect of the Bill on public service manpower", it is stated:


However, clause 10 includes provision


    "for the Secretary of State to recognise or license bodies for the purpose of providing training in the use of fireworks."

Unless--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I must be firm. We are discussing the money resolution, not the Bill.

Mr. Forth: I imagine that my hon. Friend was implying that the provision of additional training personnel would have financial implications. [Interruption.] We need guidance on whether and how far the increased numbers of personnel--police, trading standards officers, training personnel or whatever--have financial implications. It is no good implying--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I must appeal to Members on the Treasury Bench to be quiet when an hon. Member is addressing the House.

Mr. Forth: I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I assume that Members on the Treasury Bench are discussing the detailed response to the questions that my hon. Friends and I have raised. I look forward, therefore, to a more detailed and comprehensive reply as a result of their discussions, which I forgive.

I hope that I have persuaded the House that it is a key part of the Opposition's responsibilities properly to scrutinise such measures and to seek an explanation at this stage of what is in the Government's mind when they are asking us to vote this money before we proceed to approve it. That is what I am asking for in order that I may make my own judgment.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): I have similar concerns. If this measure has a monetary effect, will the Government compensate Poole borough council, which has a capping limit?

Mr. Forth: My hon. Friend raises an important point--the implication for local authorities of this measure. After all, trading standards officers are employees of local authorities, and many of the other enforcement mechanisms hinted at in the Bill will also fall to local authorities. In so far as they are capped, that suggests that at the very least there would have to be a reordering of priorities within local authorities. Which of the other local authorities' activities will have to be curtailed in order for them to implement the Bill? There may not be an increase in expenditure--I am grateful to my hon. Friend for

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pointing that out: it may simply be that schools will have to be closed or refuse not to be collected in order for the legislation to be enforced.

There, in brief terms, are some of the questions that occur to me about which I want to be satisfied before I even consider giving the money resolution my consent.

10.18 pm

The Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs (Mr. Nigel Griffiths): People who know the Conservative Government's record on fireworks will know that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) should hang his head in shame. Some five years ago, he stood at this Dispatch Box in my job and did absolutely nothing to promote firework safety.

The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors presided over a doubling of the number of fireworks injuries. The sad fact is that even in 1998 the Opposition have not learnt that money is not everything. We have had a tirade from the right hon. Gentleman, sadly supported by the new hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms), who I hope will learn better--

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand from your ruling that we are discussing the money aspect of the Bill, not the merits of the Bill. May we ask that the Minister addresses the money aspect?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is a valid point. The Minister should keep his remarks to the money resolution.

Mr. Griffiths: All my remarks were concentrated on money--on an Opposition who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

If the right hon. Gentleman, when he was adding up the so-called costs of the measure, had done as I did in the last firework campaign and visited people in hospital who had lost their fingers through firework injuries, he would not be talking now of the burdens of money. No amount of money will compensate the young man whom I visited in the midlands who has lost his fingers. He lost his fingers because the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues not only did nothing but did not care. They counted the pennies on everything and did not mind the fact that people were at risk because of their abysmal policies. The right hon. Gentleman has made it clear that the Opposition simply do not care about safety. They care only about the cost. They should hang their heads in shame. We, as the Government, are proud of the measures that we have taken.

Question put and agreed to. Resolved,



(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of--
(a) any expenses incurred by a Minister of the Crown or government department in consequence of any provision of the Act, and
(b) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable out of money so provided under any other Act, and
(2) the making of payments into the Consolidated Fund.

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Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. McFall.]


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