Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Twenty-Fourth Report




Thank you for your Committee's careful scrutiny of the delegated powers within the Anti-social Behaviour Bill. We were very pleased to hear that you feel that each of the delegations are appropriate and subject to an appropriate level of Parliamentary scrutiny. I am writing to respond to the three areas where you raised questions in your report.

Clause 39 (3)

As was stated in our previous memorandum, the possibility of the introduction of penalty notices for disorder means that a power is necessary to allow parents or guardians to be liable for that penalty. As their parents have a responsibility to take proper care and control of them it is therefore appropriate for parents to assume the responsibility for the payment of the penalty.

The Government understands fully the Committee's concerns about including safeguards for parents who may be faced with payment. I would like to reassure the Committee that the procedures will include safeguards similar to those in section 137 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. The parent or guardian will therefore have the opportunity to request a hearing in any provision which we make for them to be liable for payment.

Clause 49 (11)

This section refers to the setting of the level of penalty for a fixed penalty notice for graffiti or fly-posting. The Committee has suggested that a maximum limit for the notice is set, similar to that contained in section 3 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001. We do not consider it appropriate to consider such a limitation.

The power contained in clause 49(11) is consistent with other legislation giving powers to local authorities and others for the issuing of fixed penalties for environmental crimes: notably, sections 88(6) and (7) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in respect of littering offences, and (applying those same sections) the Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996 in respect of dog fouling.

We wish to ensure that a similar power is available in respect of fixed penalty notices in respect of minor graffiti and fly posting offences so that the Government applies a fair and consistent approach to the issuing of fixed penalty notices for all such environmental offences. Such a consistent approach will also be beneficial to local authority staff, Police Community Support Officers or other 'Accredited Persons' who would be responsible for the issuing of such penalties.

Clause 23

The penalty notice in clause 23 is an alternative to prosecution for the offence of failing to secure regular attendance at school of a registered pupil. Payment of the penalty will discharge any liability for conviction for the school attendance offence to which the penalty relates. The Committee have suggested that there should be some limitation on the level of penalty, again we do not feel this is appropriate.

Prosecution for the offence can lead to a fine of up to £1000 but in practice we believe that most fines imposed are in the region of £50-100. Our intention, in setting the level of penalty (£25-£100) was to reflect the usual levels of fine imposed by Magistrates Courts.

We consider that the penalty notice scheme will only work satisfactorily if there is a reasonable relationship between the penalty and the level of fine normally imposed and, as the Committee intimated in the context of clause 49, this will of itself impose a ceiling on the penalty. Consequently we do not consider it necessary to have an express limitation in the Bill.

I am copying this letter to the members of the Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform.

8 September 2003

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