Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Fifteenth Report


Memorandum by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food


  1. The Joint Committee considered the above instrument at its meeting on 23 March 1999 and requested a memorandum on the following point:—

    Regulation 4(1)(a) requires any person to supply such information as the Minister may reasonably require for the purpose of calculating the SRM charge or of notifying an occupier or owner of it. Explain what provision is made for notifying the "owner" of the charge and, if there are circumstances in which the "owner" will be notified also, what those circumstances are.

  2. As the Joint Committee recognises, the instrument contains no provision requiring the owner to be notified of the charge. Regulation 3(1) obliges the Minister to send the occupier notification of the charge and regulation 3(2) refers to the notification made to the occupier in accordance with regulation 3(1).

  3. Once the charge has been notified to the occupier, both he and the owner will be jointly and severally liable for it: regulation 3(2).

  4. Despite the fact that, as stated above, there is no provision in the Regulations requiring the owner to be notified of the charge, it is felt by the Department that, for the reasons set out below, the reference to "owner" in regluation 4(1)(a) is appropriate.

  5. Since the owner will be legally liable as soon as the charge has been notified to the occupier, the Minister clearly needs to let the owner know what the charge is. Regulation 4(1)(a) (which enables the Minister to require persons to supply him with information for the purpose of, inter alia, notifying an owner of the SRM charge) will be particularly relevant where the identity and/or address of the owner are not known to the Minister. For the purposes of the Regulations the owner and the occupier cannot be the same person: see the definition of "owner" in regulation 2. It was decided to make the occupier and owner jointly liable for the charge to maximise the possibility of the Minister recovering it.

  6. Clearly the owner will not be in a position to pay the debt he owes until it has been notified to him. Indeed, notification will be necessary before any debt recovery proceedings can be started. Thus, inclusion of the phrase "or owner" in regulation 4(1)(a) is necessary if regulation 3(2) is to work properly where the Minister is ignorant of the identity and/or address of the owner.

  7. While, as explained above, the Department believes that the current text of regulation 4(1)(a) is appropriate in view of the fact that regulation 3(2) provides that both the occupier and the owner are jointly and severally liable for the charge once the occupier has been notified of it, it is nevertheless felt that when the time comes to amend or replace the Regulations, regulation 4(1)(a) could, subject to paragraph 9 below, usefully be amended along the following lines—

    (a)  "such information as the Minister may reasonably require for the purpose of—

      (i)  calculating the SRM charge

      (ii)  sending an occupier notification of it in accordance with regulation 3(1) above, or

      (iii)  notifying an owner that he is liable for the amount of the charge as a debt in accordance with regulation 3(2) above;".

  8. The advantage of such a revised text is that it distinguishes very clearly between the notification to the occupier made pursuant to regulation 3(1) and letting the owner know that following that notification he is liable for the debt under regulation 3(2).

  9. The Department accepts, however, that there should be an obligation to notify the owner of the SRM charge for which he is jointly and severally liable with the occupier and undertakes to look at this aspect again. If it is decided to create such and obligation, that would have an impact on any amendment to regulation 4(1)(a).

  10. This memorandum has been agreed with the Department of Health, the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office.

26 March 1999

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