Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Deregulation Fourteenth Report


Reform of Deregulation and Contracting Out Act— Examples of uses for the amended power


  Repeal of Section 68 of the Food Act 1984 which requires Ministers to draw up and estimate spending on an annual programme of sugar beet research work and empowers (but not requires) them to set out the programme in an order and arrange for it to be financed by a levy on beet growers and processors. Following consultation Ministers decided that this near-market research would best be handled by the industry itself. Although the minister can stop making orders and so not set a levy on the industry he will still be required to draw up and cost an annual programme until Section 68 of the Food Act can be repealed.

  The Companies Act 1985 (section 707A) obliges Companies House to keep paper copies in paper form for 10 years of all documents received. Given that many documents are now received in alternative forms Companies find the obligation to keep paper records an unnecessary burden which is costly for the taxpayer (they currently have over 32 kilometres of shelving to hold the records).

  Section 23(2)c of the Road Traffic Act Regulation Act 1984 requires a Local Authority to inform the Secretary of State before it establishes a pedestrian crossing. This is a relic of earlier controls (long since removed) on the provision of pedestrian crossings and serves no useful purpose where the crossing does not affect a trunk road.

  The DETR report "Efficiency Scrutiny of Central Consent Regimes for Local Authorities" recommended that some 44 consent powers be removed and that a further 90 be amended or substituted. The inability of the present DCOA to directly tackle burdens on the public sector, together with pressure on Parliamentary time has so far precluded action on these recommendations. Two examples of items for which it is felt that Secretary of State's consent is no longer needed are the approval of an LEA's curriculum complaints procedure (central oversight is not needed and inhibits up-dating), and the confirmation of orders restricitng vehicular access to streets in the City of London (this power has now been superseded).


Incorporation for charities

  There is a common law restriction on the ability of members of the public to form incorporated legal entities without the authority of the Crown or Parliament. A relaxation of this restriction on terms of compliance with the conditions of legislation setting out the framework on the constitution, operation and regulation of charitable incorporated institutions would be helpful. Although charities can incorporate under existing law the incorporation regimes were not structured with charities in mind and can create operational and regulatory difficulties where they are used by charities.

  If somebody in Scotland writes a cheque with insufficient funds in their account the bank has to put the available funds into a suspense account and carry out various antiquated administrative procedures to resolve matters between the customer and the payee of the cheque. These procedures benefit neither the banks nor their customers but add to costs. Treasury are having to use a handout bill to remove the burden.


  The Licensing Act 1964 is unclear as to whether a voluntary organisation which offers a bottle of wine as a prize in a raffle has to obtain a liquor licence. Every organisation which does so without a licence risks prosecution. Until the courts make a judgement the situation will continue to be uncertain, yet small organisations cannot afford to go to law over this issue and so it is unlikely to be tested in the courts.

  It is unclear whether the law allows the payment by credit card for liquor in licensed premises. This dates back to the Licensing Act 1964 which prohibits the use of a "slate" and there is a question as to whether a credit card counts as a credit arrangement with a pub landlord.


  Because Departments know that they cannot use the present order-making power for post 1994 legislation they tend not to bring forward proposals. However, we have picked up one example of the need to amend recent legislation.

  The Sexual Offences (Protected Material) Act 1997 creates a statutory scheme for supervising the defendant's access to victim material in sexual offences cases and is intended to ensure that this material cannot be circulated as a form of pornography. Under the scheme supervision will normally be carried out by the defendant's legal representative. The Act makes it an offence for the defendant to have unsupervised access to the material or for any other person to whom the material is given to breach the requirements of the scheme. It appears that (because of a genuine oversight when drafting the legislation) the practical arrangements needed for passing the protected material to counsel means that counsel would be criminally liable for a breach and this is likely to cause practical difficulties for defence counsel. Could probably have used a deregulation order to correct had it been pre 1994.

30 March 1999

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