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13 Mar 2003 : Column 447—continued

13 Mar 2003 : Column 448

Fireworks Bill [Money]

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,

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.

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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.


Queen's recommendation having been signified—



13 Mar 2003 : Column 450

Flood and Coastal Defence Policy

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Jim Fitzpatrick.]

1.31 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley) : I am pleased to open this debate, which gives hon. Members an opportunity to discuss flood defence, a subject of particular importance to many people—[Interruption]—including, belatedly, the Opposition.

The Government have a good story to tell on flood and coastal defence, and a good record. Given the nature of our country—the number of our rivers and the fact that we are an island—we have effective structures in place. The Environment Agency, our lead body, is an effective organisation, and our system is based on river catchments, which is the most appropriate way of ensuring the delivery of flood and coastal defence, but we also integrate our approach effectively with issues such as the forthcoming water framework directive, environmental issues, diffuse pollution issues and biodiversity.

I pay tribute to all staff involved in the recent flooding incidents—most notably that of January 2003—including those who work for the Environment Agency, local authorities, internal drainage boards, British Waterways, our emergency services and many local community groups. Many of them worked through the holiday period and gave incredible support, dedication and unstinting service in dealing with those floods.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West): I concur with my hon. Friend's tribute to staff at the Environment Agency, community groups, parish councils and volunteer search and rescue people, but does he agree—I raised this matter with him in Westminster Hall on 4 February—that there is a question concerning the amount of resources available to emergency planning officers throughout the country? I would contend—as would the Local Government Association—that there is a total lack of funding within the civil defence grant. I understand that the total civil defence grant—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I would contend that that is overlong for an intervention. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will catch my eye later to develop his point more fully.

Mr. Morley: I understand the gist of what my hon. Friend says, and he did make that point in Westminster Hall. I said at the time that he was absolutely right: there is a need to overhaul and review the procedures for emergency response, which is a Home Office lead responsibility. The co-ordination of flood events and other civil emergencies is part of its responsibility. I know my hon. Friend's concerns about this and that he has been working with his community groups. I will draw his points about the need for adequate funding to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Home Office.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire): The Minister mentioned that it is Government policy to have catchment areas and integration on rivers, but that is

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not happening at present. There is a massive flood prevention scheme at Bewdley on the River Severn that has shoved all the water down to my constituency. The Minister has not got there yet; what he says may be an aspiration, but when will it become reality?

Mr. Morley: It is reality because it is based on catchments. There are three key criteria applied to any flood defence scheme. The first is the impact on the environment. The second is technical: whether the scheme works effectively and, within that, whether there are any implications for other communities in the area that must be taken into account. The third is a cost-benefit analysis. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the implications of one scheme for other communities are taken into account.

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