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Mr. Edward Davey: As the hon. Gentleman has just suggested, this is a significant power. It is interesting to see how the parliamentary process sometimes works. In Committee, we were unable properly to analyse the charging and trading provisions in chapter 1 of part 8 of the Bill because of lack of time. We wanted to make some of the points that were made in the other place in order to try to examine the framework around trading companies that the Government were introducing. I am delighted that Baroness Hamwee was able to make those very sensible points in Committee, and the Government have reacted to them by going much further.

The amendment certainly deals with some of our concerns about local authority trading by making sure that local authority companies will have to abide by proper accounting practices; indeed, the Government now have the power to ensure that they do so. That is important, because it will put to rest the concern of small businesses that such companies will be trading unfairly against the private sector. Some small businesses are still sceptical about what the practice will involve, but the provision does help them, because they can be reassured that the Government have the power to intervene if any local authority is trading unfairly through its trading arms.That point of detail has now been met, but it is interesting to note that the provision is wider and therefore affects the entire system.

Mr. Hammond: I am not sure that I understand that point. We are not talking about a provision that will give the Government the power to intervene if they thought that a local authority company was trading unfairly; rather, it will pave the way for consolidated accounts to be produced, which will prevent local authorities from using companies for inappropriate purposes. I doubt whether it will give the Government the power to intervene to prevent unfair trading.

Mr. Davey: The hon. Gentleman rightly picks me up—I think my use of language was slightly loose. There could be examples of unfair trading that are not covered by the new power. Some representations from small business organisations that I received related to how the accounts of these small companies will be drawn up, and how they will relate to local authority accounts; however, that concern appears to be covered. I can imagine contracts being given in an unfair way that is, however, completely unrelated to accountancy practices, so the hon. Gentleman makes a fair point.

On how this wide power will apply more generally, as a veteran of the Committee that considered the Government Resources and Accounts Bill—GRAB, as it was unfairly known—I can tell Members that this power was included then. The power was welcomed on both sides at the time as it applied to central Government Departments, so there is a corollary to read across—that it should now be applied to local government. I am sure that the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and other bodies will welcome it.

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8.30 pm

Will the Government comment on a point of detail? When we debated the Government Resources and Accounts Bill in Committee in 1999, we obviously devoted time to the views of the Accounting Standards Board and its role in the UK's generally accepted accounting practice. We also talked about the Financial Reporting Council, an independent body set up to advise the Government on the adoption of resource accounting for all Departments. That relates to Government accounts, and the body has to take account of the special circumstances that apply in the public sector. Although GAAP is sensible for many aspects of public sector activities, some fall outside normal commercial pressures and considerations. That is why the body was set up—to ensure that public sector accounting standards and practices take into account the special aspects of the public sector.

We raised in Committee the classic example of how to value an account for nuclear weapons. Some assets belonging to local authorities would not be marketised, so GAAP would not necessarily apply. The private sector has never considered accountancy practices as they relate to such assets. Will the Government comment on that problem and explain the inter-relation between the amendment and clause 21, to which the Minister referred? Those parallel provisions are designed to achieve different objectives. They do not necessarily compete with each other, but it is important to be careful about how Governments use the two different powers, because one could envisage them coming into conflict in certain circumstances.

Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) raised some interesting questions relating to trading, but I have to say that I am advised that his concerns are unfounded because trading will have to be carried out through a company. As he knows, that is the provision in this part of the Bill, and anything done by a company will be caught by companies law, which provides the essential safeguard. The new clause will not change it. Group accounting comes in at a later stage when a local authority amalgamates its accounts.

I have explained that we originally believed that clause 21 would provide us with powers to achieve the wider aims that I mentioned in my opening statement on the amendment. I went on to explain that, in the context of the application of the whole of Government accounts exercise and other potential changes that might arise, we were conscious of potential needs that went beyond the powers contained in clause 21. That is why the additional powers in the amendment were necessary and why we want to include them in the Bill.

Lords amendment agreed to [Special entry].

After Clause 119

Lords amendment No. 28

Phil Hope: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this, we may discuss Lords amendment No. 44.

Phil Hope: The amendments meet a Government commitment to give local authorities outside London

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specific powers to regulate cosmetic body piercing and micro-pigmentation businesses. London local authorities already have such powers under private legislation.

The new clause would amend the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to bring cosmetic body piercing and micro-pigmentation businesses under the regulatory framework of registration and byelaws that already applies to ear piercing, tattooing, acupuncture and electrolysis. Under that framework, local authorities would be able to require cosmetic body piercing and micro-pigmentation businesses to register with them and observe byelaws on hygiene and cleanliness in order to prevent the transmission of infection. For example, businesses would be required to use sterile instruments for each client. It would be an offence to trade without registration or to breach byelaws.

The term "cosmetic piercing" is used to include cosmetic body piercing and ear piercing, which are both forms of skin piercing to allow the insertion of jewellery into the skin. That is the approach taken in the London legislation. "Semi-permanent skin colouring", which means the insertion of semi-permanent colouring into a person's skin, is used to include micro-pigmentation and related activities such as semi-permanent make-up and temporary tattooing. The use of that umbrella term should stand the test of time if further activities of this type come into fashion.

The schedule will allow a smooth transition when local authorities adopt the new legislation. The transitional provisions provide that the amendment does not affect businesses already registered for activities covered by section 15 of the 1982 Act—tattooing, ear piercing and electrolysis. The amendment does not affect pending local authority resolutions to apply section 15 of the 1982 Act in its area. If a local authority has already resolved that section 15 of the 1982 Act should be brought into force in its area for tattooing, ear piercing and electrolysis, the local authority will be automatically enabled to apply the registration and byelaws regime to cosmetic piercing and semi-permanent skin colouring. A person and premises already registered for ear piercing shall be counted as registered for cosmetic piercing until cosmetic body piercing is subsequently provided, when a new registration would be required.

Mr. Hammond: I am grateful to the Government for eventually managing to introduce this provision, but I have some questions about the way in which it will work. I noted that the Minister referred to registration of persons and premises, and I may wish to probe him further on the distinction between the two.

I first raised the issue in Committee when I attempted to insert an admittedly clumsy new clause that sought to extend the London Local Authorities Act 2000, which was private legislation and not susceptible to such extension. I have been getting some strange looks from colleagues ever since, but I assure the House that I have nothing to hide and no personal direct interest in the matter. I regularly pass through airport metal detectors without any trouble.

I do not claim to be a great expert on the subject, but I was alarmed by the more revelatory nature of the remarks made by Lord Rooker in the other place last

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week. He confirmed that he keeps a catalogue of body adornments, as he describes them, which he collected some years ago. Therefore, he said, the prices were out of date. While one can understand a passing interest in such an item, one is bound to say that keeping it on one's bookshelf for several years raises a few questions—certainly in my mind. Lord Rooker also told the other place that as it is a family place—I suppose it still is, in a sense, although it may not remain so much longer—he could not give their lordships full details of everything that was available in his catalogue.

The serious point is that whether we subscribe to body piercing and semi-permanent skin colouring or not, many people undergo it and it is an invasive procedure. It involves piercing the body and thus creates an obvious risk, at the least, of infection.

The matter first came to my attention through a constituency case, of which I became aware about this time last year. A constituent was concerned because her daughter, who was under 16, had been able to get her navel pierced without parental consent. After visiting the establishment that carried out the piercing, my constituent made some investigations and discovered that there was no system of control in place. She felt that that was wrong. Indeed, when I checked what Ministers had said, I discovered that Health Ministers—most recently, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper)—had made clear statements on several occasions that the Government intended to legislate to allow regulation of such practices to be extended to local authorities outside London. The current state of the law is rather curious. In London, local authorities have that power, but local authorities in the rest of the country do not. All that we want to do is to create a level playing field and to address some of the concerns that have arisen.

After the case in my constituency was brought to my attention and I had already agreed with my colleagues that we would table an attempt at a new clause in Committee, a tragic case in Sheffield was reported. As a result of body piercing, a 17-year-old man died in unusual circumstances. He suffered from a congenital heart abnormality and was unaware that it made him especially vulnerable to septicaemia. He died over Christmas last year, which gave additional poignancy to the calls for new legislation.

I freely admit that our amendment was clumsy, but the Government were on record as saying that they intended to legislate on the matter as soon as a legislative opportunity arose. The Bill offers such an opportunity, yet I am bound to ask the Minister what arrangements exist for cross-departmental liaison when Bills such as this one are being drawn up. When Ministers—in this case, Health Ministers—give commitments that they will implement legislation of this nature when an opportunity arises, there needs to be a simple database recording such commitments so that they can be included when another Department draws up an appropriate measure. It should not be left to Opposition Members to draw the attention of Ministers in one Department to the fact that commitments given by Ministers in another Department can appropriately be incorporated in a measure. There needs to be some joined-up government. Indeed, the Minister is in an

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ideal position to spearhead such an initiative and ensure that his colleagues are properly up to speed as to their responsibilities.

When we raised the issue in the Standing Committee, and when it was raised in the House of Lords, I was slightly alarmed by the Minister's reluctance to commit the Government to the measure that they have now introduced. Indeed, we were kept on tenterhooks until Third Reading in the House of Lords, so I am delighted that the Government have taken action. However, it would have been a disgrace if they had not introduced the provision, given that the Bill offers a perfect vehicle for it and that Ministers have made commitments to do so on several occasions.

The new clause will provide a registration regime by including premises and people carrying out cosmetic body piercing and semi-permanent skin pigmentation under the provisions for tattooing and ear piercing in the 1982 legislation. The issues that most concern me are, first, hygiene standards, although I know that they fall within the scope of the legislation into which the provisions will be inserted; secondly, checks on health background, emphasised by the problems in the Daniel Hindle case; and, thirdly, consent.

I have seen various premises that operate with proper hygiene, follow-up procedures and consent forms. They have rules that require a parent to be present if the patient is under a certain age. However, many operators do not conform to such standards. The effectiveness of the new clause in achieving a resolution to the issues that I have raised, and to which other Members have subsequently drawn attention, will depend on the conditions that local authorities are able to impose prior to registration.

It seems to me, from my reading of the 1982 legislation, that local authorities can make byelaws only in respect of hygiene in registered premises. Of course, hygiene is very important and aseptic procedures are vital where such invasive procedures take place, but that is only one of the issues. I very much hope that the Minister can confirm that it will be possible for local authorities to introduce a requirement to adhere to some form of code of conduct before they are required to register premises to carry out such procedures; otherwise, the problems encountered by Daniel Hindle will not be addressed at all. A mechanism is needed to require people who submit themselves to such procedures to answer a basic set of health questions.

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