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The Minister should be able to ban such devices, as Ministers in the past have been able to do. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and I, who have both had responsibility in this sphere, often had to act quickly to ban particular products. The first action taken by my right hon. Friend on becoming Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs was to ban a particular product. In such circumstances, we would say, "We will ban the product without having to go through the delays engendered by the affirmative resolution procedure in Parliament, but then we shall give the industry a chance to discharge its burden of proof and, in that way, we shall determine whether the product is safe." At least we could act quickly in such circumstances.

What worries me is that, because Parliament is rightly concerned about the Bill's wide-ranging powers--in a sense, that is the devil in the legislation--Parliament is circumscribing the Minister's power to act quickly when public safety is at stake. On the other hand, I can understand why my hon. Friends feel that it is necessary for Parliament to be involved through the affirmative resolution procedure. I understand and support their argument that, because the Bill is so wide-ranging, it can almost reinvent itself in the sense that it can give ever wider powers to Ministers to determine what is or is not a firework. My hon. Friends do not want to give such power to Ministers.

Mr. Jenkin: My understanding, and I might have misunderstood, is that, in the normal course of events, and unless provision is made for emergency regulations, any regulations laid on the Table cannot come into force until they have lain on the Table for 40 days. Therefore, the amendment would not engender any further delay. If my understanding is incorrect, I hope that my hon. Friend will enlighten me.

Mr. Leigh: I have tried to think through in my mind whether or not the amendment would engender further

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delays. My personal understanding might be wrong and my hon. Friend's right, in which case the debate will have produced a proper outcome and I shall be satisfied. I simply wish to press the point, which is worrying to me, even though I understand why, because of the nature of the Bill and the way in which it is drafted, hon. Members want these matters to be brought before Parliament and the Minister to be obliged to explain--albeit in a truncated and often unsatisfactory debate--what is or is not a firework.

In Committee, hon. Members mentioned issues such as distress flares or bird scarers. The Minister might consider a distress flare to be a firework, especially given that, some time ago, an appalling act of homicide caused by a distress flare took place on the football terraces. Whether such flares should be included in the ambit of the legislation might be precisely the sort of issue that the Minister might want to discuss with Parliament.

The other problem is that distress flares are also used to protect lives at sea and on mountainsides, and therefore play a very positive role. In the case of an appalling incident such as the one that I described, in which a hooligan used a distress flare and caused injury, there would immediately be great public pressure on the Minister to bring the product within the ambit of the Bill.

Our concern about the amendment is that Ministers will be able to act very quickly. Of course, they would want to act properly, and would not take action without advice from officials, but occasionally Ministers and officials make mistakes and Ministers are put under pressure. If there is not a time for calm reflection and the matters cannot come before Parliament, a mistake may be made. We are worried that a product may be banned and that--although that may deal with a problem such as that which I described, which engendered public pressure forcing Ministers to act--there might be unforeseen consequences.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have calmly reflected and decided that the hon. Gentleman is in danger of repeating himself.

Mr. Leigh: I shall not deal further with that particular case.

Mr. Jenkin: I may inadvertently have given the House misleading information. Having taken informal advice on statutory instruments, I understand that, unless the parent statute signifies that a statutory instrument cannot come into force immediately, a Minister may table a statutory instrument and it can come into force immediately, whether it is required to lie on the Table or requires affirmative resolution. Therefore, the amendment places no restriction on how quickly a new regulation can come into force.

Mr. Leigh: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I respect his judgment, but I hope that he will forgive me if I say that I should like the Minister to confirm that point.

Mr. Jenkin: The Minister is not here.

Mr. Leigh: I do not understand why the Minister is not here, when we are discussing matters of public safety. I

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am not sure that the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who is present, is the appropriate Minister and capable--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That is very interesting and amusing, but it has nothing to do with the amendment before us.

Mr. Leigh: I understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I was intervened on.

Other matters might cause the Minister to act, such as pesticidal smoke cartridges; shotgun cartridges; magnesium blocks, which are sold to help to light fires in emergencies; Hilti guns, which fire heavy-duty bolts and nails in the construction industry; alarm mines--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying too far from the substance of the amendment, which concerns the simple question whether the affirmative resolution procedure should be used.

Mr. Leigh: I am coming to the end of my points, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In going through that list, I was showing you and the House that there may be doubt about whether or not numerous devices are fireworks, because of the nature of the explosive charges they contain. It is right that such matters come to the House to be considered properly and for the Minister to have to justify his actions.

Mr. Leigh: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It would be nice if the Minister could now reply to the debate.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Jeff Rooker): For the avoidance of doubt, the Government accept the amendments sent from the other place.

Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:--

The House divided: Ayes 50, Noes 0.

Division No. 328
[1.53 pm


Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Austin, John
Bradshaw, Ben
Brand, Dr Peter
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burnett, John
Caplin, Ivor
Collins, Tim
Colman, Tony
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Fearn, Ronnie
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flynn, Paul
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Heald, Oliver
Hill, Keith
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Kemp, Fraser
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Lepper, David
McFall, John
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McNulty, Tony
Paice, James
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Purchase, Ken
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Rooker, Jeff
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Stunell, Andrew
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Wallace, James
Walter, Robert

Tellers for the Ayes:

Angela Smith and
Mr. Patrick Hall.


Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Edward Leigh.

Question accordingly agreed to.

3 Jul 1998 : Column 696

Lords amendment agreed to.

Mr. Colvin: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the fact that the Bill is largely an enabling measure, it would assist the House greatly if we knew the Government's line on the various measures in it. Is it in order for the Minister to remain seated for so long in this debate, when an intervention early in the debate, with a clear statement about the Government's view on the various enabling proposals, would have facilitated progress? Why have we been denied a statement? Is it in order for the Minister to remain seated for as long as he has?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is certainly not a question of order as to which hon. Member, whether on the Government Front Bench or not, contributes to a debate in the House. We are considering a private Member's Bill which is being piloted by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mrs. Gilroy).

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